‘The Suicide Squad’ begins with our introduction to Savant (Michael Rooker), a criminal behind bars, with a talent for geometry and a mean streak when it comes to birds. He’s given the set-up for the story; he’s going to go on a black ops-type mission with a team of fellow convicts, and in return, ten years will get knocked off his prison sentence. This is explained to him by one Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who also informs him that if he tries to escape, or ditch the operation, or double-cross her in any way, she’ll detonate the tiny bomb in his head.
So if you never saw the 2016 ‘Suicide Squad,’ you’re pretty much caught up at this point – Waller uses incarcerated super villains for spy missions, and she’s not really concerned if they make it back alive. If you did see the previous film, you’ll recognize some returning faces, like military liaison Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and the inimitable Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who says she’s back in the joint for “road rage… in a bank.” Savant and the rest of Task Force X are off to the (fictional) South American island nation of Corto Maltese to destroy a science lab called Jötunheim.
It's a shame we didn't get this 'Black Widow' movie a few years ago, because it's hard to imagine that Marvel Studios wouldn't have found a different path for Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanov in 'Avengers: Endgame.' This is a satisfying spy movie set in the larger MCU, and although the baton is definitely passed, we're definitely going to miss the Black Widow that makes a final appearance in this movie.
The story starts off in Ohio in 1995, with a young Natasha and Yelena under the care of their parents, Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei (David Harbour). If you've seen 'The Americans' or 'Little Nikita,' you have a pretty good idea what's going on; the family is a cover for a Russian espionage operation that's coming to a climax. Natasha and her "family" make a narrow escape from S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and then it's off to Cuba for a reunion with the man behind the mission, Dreykov (Ray Winstone), before heading back to Mother Russia. But young Natasha is having none of it; she and Yelena want to stay in the states, but they get pulled apart, drugged, and shipped off to the infamous Red Room to become tools of the state.
It's hard to look at the 20-year-old 'The Fast & the Furious' and see the beginnings of a blockbuster franchise, but here we are. And if the series has moved past illegal street races and into heist and spy movie territory, that’s all for the better. As this rogue's gallery of street racers has become an unstoppable team of vehicle-based super agents, the movies in the franchise have increasingly raised the stakes for our heroes, physics and reality be damned. And you know what? It's worked, including the latest chapter 'F9.'
Where do you go after taking on a tank, a cargo plane, and a submarine? I won’t spoil anything here (although you’ll get some hints from the trailer), but it’s pretty impressive how director and co-writer Justin Lin takes the series to new heights while acknowledging the increasingly insane action sequences our heroes find themselves in.
Port Authority opens with Paul (Fionn Whitehead) with a suitcase, walking through the titular New York bus terminal, calling someone that doesn’t pick up the phone. No one walking through the station has seen the woman pictured on the phone, either. Paul’s on his own.
Paul briefly steps outside the station and catches the eye of Wye (Leyna Bloom), who is hanging out with her rag-tag group of dancing friends. But Paul is still too shocked to be on his own, and having nowhere else to go, he tries to sleep on a subway train. Harassed then attacked by a couple of homophobic jerks, Paul is rescued by Lee (McCaul Lombardi) who sets him up with a bed in a shelter and offers him work.
So starts the story of Paul coming to New York and eventually finding a family of sorts. The bad news is that the film is more focused on Paul and his emotional journey, rather than Wye, who is frankly much more interesting.
When "Taken" was first released, nobody thought that it would lead to anything, much less an insanely lucrative franchise. It was a modestly budgeted thriller ($25 million) that was first released overseas, in France, where its core creative team was from and where the film was mostly set. It starred Liam Neeson, who at the time was not much of a box office draw, and had a grippingly simplistic story, the kind of stuff compulsively readable paperbacks novels are made of. But then it came out and connected with people in a big way, making more then $225 million and leading to a sequel that made even more. In an era when studios are trying to artificially manufacture franchises and entire universes, "Taken" came out of nowhere and lasted much longer than anyone could have guessed.
Movies about computers or computer hackers have never been particularly exciting, at least on the big screen. Maybe that's because the act of typing something on a keyboard while little words or hieroglyphics of code appear on the screen in front of you isn't the most cinematic conceit. There's not a lot of drama or suspense to be mined from, say, checking your email or engaging in an online chat. No matter how fraught with tension these acts are in real life might seem, they rarely translate to anything even remotely gripping on the big screen. And there is a used car lot full of movies that have attempted to mine thrills from people doing things on a computer and failed miserably ("The Net," "Hackers," "Swordfish," etc.)
All of this brings us to "Blackhat," the latest film from Michael Mann, arguably one of American cinema's most visceral filmmakers. It's odd that he would choose a subject like cyber crime to sink his teeth into; this is the man who gets a raw thrill out of the ballet of broken glass, broken bones, and the way that people talk to each other, face-to-face. But of the many pleasures of "Blackhat," a movie that seems to have been instantly dismissed for reasons beyond my understanding, is watching how perfect Mann ends up being for the material. In the hands of a filmmaker less interested in the raw physicality of movies, it would have been a bore. Under Mann, "Blackhat" is positively electric.
The ad campaign for "Mortdecai," the new Johnny Depp comic caper film, is so befuddling, both opaque and overbearing, that a recent Vulture article spent several hundred words trying to decode what, exactly, the movie was and why the powers that be behind said movie were content with selling the project based on large photos of the very handsome cast (also included: Gwyneth Paltrow, Olivia Munn, Ewan McGregor) sporting cartoonish mustaches. This is a shame, because the movie is an undeniably charming, frothy affair, a zippy, inventive, frequently funny international romp that recalls both the "Pink Panther" and "Austin Powers" franchises, while somehow being considerably stranger than either.
Depp plays the title character, a kind of bone-headed aristocratic art dealer who trades in stolen antiquities. At the beginning of the movie, he's trying to screw over some Chinese gangsters, since he's in deep debt with the British government and his sprawling estate is threatened to go under. He's got a brutish man servant/personal goon named Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), who usually comes to his rescue, which in the case of this opening sequence means that he gets punched in the face a bunch of times and set on fire. (This sequence feels purposefully reminiscent of the beginning of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," fitting, perhaps, because "Mortdecai's" director David Koepp wrote the last adventure, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.")
Sometimes a movie can be doomed before it even opens.
This happens when a film is discussed openly without anyone having firsthand knowledge of (or even having seen) it, and it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy when said movie come out and underperforms, thanks in large part to countless write-ups lacking reliable sources and built on foundations of hearsay and conjecture. Most of the time, these movies are rediscovered years later because, as it turns out, they weren't that bad after all. Right now, swarms of ill will seem to be circling "Jupiter Ascending," which opens Friday, due largely to a shift in its release date, from a coveted summer-of-2014 slot to a desolate winter 2015 position. Now that it's finally here, though, reviewers are sharpening their knives in anticipation. I am here to say that those knives are not necessary; "Jupiter Ascending" is actually a delightful space epic, full of devilishly clever action set pieces, rococo production design, some surprisingly touching moments, and niftily over-the-top performances.
"Wait, what is Focus again?" This is a question that is usually fired back at me, over the past few weeks, when people ask me what I've seen recently and really liked.
Lately, when I run down the movies I've seen recently, "Focus" is always one of those movies I mention, because I really, really liked it. But then, without fail, the person I am talking to asks what "Focus" is. And then I have to explain it to them. This probably has to do with the film's nebulous title and equally nebulous ad campaign, which isn't exactly explanatory (or particularly evocative or moody). So let me tell you just what "Focus" is, exactly. And when I explain what it is, you'll probably be shocked you haven't heard more about it.
Joss Whedon returns to write and direct another massive Marvel spectacle with "Avengers: Age of Ultron," the sequel to "The Avengers," the third highest-grossing Marvel movie of all time. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Dr. Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk), Black Widow, and Hawkeye are back together again after their showdown with Loki in New York City, and this time they face an even bigger, globally minded villain: Ultron -- and two freaky, fiery, fast twins. The guys (and Natasha) love their witty banter and competitive spirit, but they're not just sitting around eating shawarma and telling jokes. They're busy trying to keep Ultron from causing an extinction-level catastrophe.
Here are five issues to keep in mind before heading off to see the latest installment in the "Avengers" franchise.
SPOILERS AHEAD! Don't read this unless you want the twist revealed.
"The Gift," a mystery-thriller released August 7, stars Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton, who also steps in as first-time director. No blood and guts in this flick, one of the many positives about the movie, which kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I watched it.
Jason Bateman plays a successful family man who moves to California with his wife, played by Rebecca Hall, after landing a new job there. Everything seems fine, life is great -- and getting better! -- until an old high-school acquaintance shows up. Unbeknownst to us, Bateman was a bully in high school and spread a nasty rumor he made up that caused Edgerton to suffer mental and physical abuse at the hands of his own father; 25 years later Edgerton comes for payback.
"The Perfect Guy" is the end-of-summer, edge-of-your-seat thriller that had grown men in the theater screaming and cowering in their seats. Starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, and Morris Chesnut, the all-star cast didn't save the "drama for yo mama" -- they brought it to the screen!
We've all heard stories about bad break-ups, but damn. This movie takes it to the next two levels. Lathan, not new to the game, who's starred in "Love & Basketball" and "The Best Man," plays a nice, sweet, highly successful working woman who breaks up with her live-in boyfriend and starts dating a new guy, which turns out to be a big mistake. The new guy turns out to be a violent, psycho stalker who makes her life a living hell once she decides to dump him and get back with her ex.
Last Friday night, local movie theaters were packed in anticipation for the space-thriller showing of Matt Damon's new film, "The Martian." The buzz was ridiculous. Regardless of the hype, I was planning on seeing the film. Who would I be kidding if I didn't see such a star-studded film that included Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, and Jeff Daniels? I know, with a cast of that magnitude its got to be a must watch... but no.
Sorry to disappoint.
"99 Homes," starring Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, and Laura Dern, is one thriller of a movie.
Based on true events about the home foreclosure crisis, this movie will have your blood boiling and you gripping the arm rest in anger knowing people really were losing their homes left and right -- and given only minutes to vacate them.
If, for some reason, you miss the superhero adaptations of the 1990s and early 2000s, “Venom” might be right for you.
It feels like a movie that is largely unaware of the progress that has been made to tell stories that are both authentic to their source material and sophisticated enough for audiences unfamiliar with that material to experience them in a real way. That it stars Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams, two of the most gifted and consistently interesting actors in Hollywood, makes it an additional curio, but one assumes that the second or third homes they purchased with their paychecks was worth the experience of making this misguided, gobsmacking mess.
Nostalgia, a friend once told me, is paralysis. But moviegoers live in the era of the “legacyquel,” when filmmakers pay tribute to the franchises that inspired them by revisiting (and in some cases resurrecting) the core elements that drove their success.
After eight convoluted (and contradictory) installments in the “Halloween” series, a remake and its follow-up, director David Gordon Green has not only pulled off the unique feat of making a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original, but in making that sense of legacy its thematic cornerstone.
There have been many movies about the space race, from “The Right Stuff” to “Apollo 13,” but none have felt as visceral, and intimate, as “First Man.”
Director Damien Chazelle puts audiences inside each capsule, and eventually (spoiler alert) on the face of the moon like no one has done before, and it is a ride worth taking -- and not just because you’re sitting next to Ryan Gosling. Rather, it’s because Chazelle’s follow-up to “La La Land” is, like its predecessors, more than the sum of its parts -- in this case, the film is a celebration of the ambition and unity of mankind built on a foundation of individual sacrifice, and in recovery from unimaginable loss.
A film so committed to accurately portraying the lifestyle and community that it depicts that you wouldn’t be surprised if the crew wore Airwalks and skinned their knees in solidarity with the cast, “Mid90s” oozes not just with period accuracy, but authenticity.
Jonah Hill wrote and directed this portrait, and tribute, to skateboarders of a certain age and the families they worried (and perhaps exasperated), and he pours everything into getting that cultural moment correct. But what resonates most in this coming of age story is not the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” bed sheets, or the Golden Era hip-hop songs punctuating each attempted ollie, but the uncomfortable -- and inescapably powerful -- truth that bad-influence kids you fall in with can sometimes do as much good in your formative years as harm.
“Quietly exasperating” is the only note I took during “Boy Erased,” but it encapsulates much about what makes Joel Edgerton’s latest film such a unique and unexpected emotional journey.
Extraordinary, nuanced performances from Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Edgerton, and especially Lucas Hedges elevates this potential issue-movie melodrama to something much more broadly relevant, humanistic, and -- most of all -- hopeful. It chronicles the good intentions and terrible impact of gay conversion therapy as filtered through the experiences of one young man coming to terms with his sexuality.
Heist movies are often compelling because of their mechanics -- the thrill (and spectacle) of watching crooks dismantle a system, outsmart the law and escape with their lives, and bounty, intact. Steve McQueen’s “Widows” offers a lot of superficial window dressing to make his heist unique -- the fact that the would-be perpetrators are the wives of “real” thieves -- but what’s compelling, even riveting, about his film is not how they are pulling it off, but why.
Bolstered by an impressive ensemble including Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, and Liam Neeson, “Widows” brings to irresistible life the determination, and desperation, of four women struggling to control their own fate within a system built upon, and preoccupied by, its own greed, corruption, and indifference.
The long-awaited sequel to “Wreck-It Ralph” is titled “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” but it’s probably more accurate to say that the internet breaks him.
After years of gameplay in the 8-bit world of “Fix-It Felix Jr.,” the character’s first foray into the weird, wild world of the Web is as cacophonous and overwhelming as you might expect. But of the many goods and services provided at the click of a button, the most dangerous for Ralph -- and the most needed -- is a mirror for his own behavior. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman return as the anchors of this delightful digital journey, but for such a vivid and energetic look inside the internet, directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston offer a shrewd and surprisingly unsentimental look at the dangers of focusing on just one thing in a world full of endless opportunities to connect.
After six “Rocky” films, “Creed” was a remarkable triumph -- what seemed superfluous at best became essential.
The first "Creed" movie is not just a great entertainment, but it is also a catharsis for one character and a vivid introduction for another. Consequently, “Creed II” only needed to be a well-deserved victory lap for Michael B. Jordan, who rocketed to stardom as Adonis “Donnie” Creed, not to mention Sylvester Stallone, whose signature series passed to more than capable shepherds. But like its predecessor, this kinda-sorta double sequel (both to its immediate predecessor and to “Rocky IV”) wrestles with powerful issues, deepens the first film’s characterizations, and resolves lingering details in the franchise’s timelines with humanity and grace. "Creed II" elevates the literal and metaphorical challenges of following up improbable success to something meaningful and eventually transcendent of the formulas that it relies upon.
Every time I see a movie like “Green Book,” I wonder how many more stories about overcoming racism Hollywood needs to tell. And then I glance at the news and realize it’s apparently a lesson that audiences keep needing to learn.
Directed by Peter Farrelly -- one half of the gentlemen responsible for “Dumb and Dumber" and “There’s Something About Mary") -- he indulges in the duo’s proclivity for road movies but otherwise restrains himself from turning the true story of a Jamaican classical pianist being driven through the 1960s Deep South by a foul-mouthed Italian bouncer into an unsuitably raunchy, lowest-common-denominator comedy. Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, as passenger and driver, respectively, form an occasionally discordant but ultimately satisfying pair as their characters’ real-life adventure offers a canny reversal of many of the tropes of movies about learning to see past skin color.
As a director, writer, producer -- and sometimes documentarian -- Alfonso Cuarón seems like he's been a fixture of the cinema for years. Indeed, it's surprising to realize he's only directed eight films since his 1991 debut, "Solo con Tu Pareja." This is possibly because his last three --"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," "Children of Men," and "Gravity" -- all in one way or another became an immediate part of the pop culture firmament, earning accolades or box office glory or supplying the world with a prescient look at humanity, technology, and the magic in between -- the magic of creation, if nothing else.
But even for a constant inventor and fearless experimenter, his latest, "Roma" is something special, something unique -- an intimate, even sometimes slight drama given poetry and emotional resonance as it's projected against the backdrop of not just Mexican history, but his own. Shot in black and white, starring a nonprofessional actress, and set in a time and place seldom explored in mainstream cinema -- that is, until a filmmaker like Cuarón has the personal investment, and perhaps more importantly, the authority to shine a light upon it -- "Roma" tells a deeply humane, enchanting story that easily ranks among the best and most indelible of 2018.
"Into the Spider-Verse" is unlike any "Spider-Man" movie or almost any superhero movie you've ever seen.
Rendered like a four-color comic book and featuring spectacle that unfolds like the most abstract and boldest splash pages you've ever seen, and produced by "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and "The LEGO Movie" filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, their latest feels like a celebration -- and perhaps overdue reminder -- of all of the things that made them such an refreshing, inventive presence to both animated and live-action filmmaking.
Bolstered by voice performances from a uniquely eclectic cast against a backdrop that defies description (and may possibly induce a few seizures), "Spider-Verse" offers a welcome new chapter that intersects and beautifully expands the series -- and cinematic mythology -- of existing Spider-films.
"If Beale Street Could Talk" is, profoundly, what happens when people of color get the opportunity to be authors of their own stories, fiction or fact, from the page to the screen.
Barry Jenkins, director of the Oscar-winning "Moonlight" returns with an adaptation of James Baldwin's eponymous novel about a young man wrongly arrested for a crime he did not commit as his girlfriend prepares to give birth to their first child. This is not a story of false hope, easy solutions, or phony reassurance. Unlike those engineered to highlight exceptional achievement and celebrate triumphant moments in black history, as so many movies about race seem to be, "Beale Street" is a story of resilience, and perseverance about black people, the ordinary and average, as they try to navigate their way through a society that is -- at best -- indifferent to their place within it, but quite frequently, and in a story crafted from fiction but feels devastatingly authentic, proves much more hostile.
The posters and promotional materials for "Bumblebee" all feature the computer-generated title character more prominently than any of the film's human actors, which is an important reminder how much of a cultural fixture Transformers has become. But Travis Knight's spin-off/ prequel to the five Michael Bay monstrosities that catapulted the franchise to worldwide box office success shrewdly -- and powerfully -- sidelines the mechanics and mythology of its predecessors to focus on the changing emotional conditions of its characters, amazingly including those that actually came off an assembly line.
Bolstered by solid performances from Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, and in a voice role, Angela Bassett -- not to mention a 1980s jukebox of pop-rock classics -- "Bumblebee" clears an admittedly extremely low bar to become the best "Transformers" movie yet made.
For all those superhero fans who miss Chris Hemsworth's earliest iteration of Thor, DC has delivered unto them "Aquaman," the story of a hard-drinking, roguish hero unprepared and reluctant to assume the mantle of leadership bestowed upon him by birthright.
James Wan, inheriting the character after his introduction in "Justice League," fabricates an operatic and often compelling origin story that oozes with contemporary resonance, both in terms of its use of environmental messages to drive the plot and its use of an actor of mixed heritage to play a biracial hero. But much like with so many movies tasked with introducing unseen worlds and great reams of brand-new mythology, Wan's contribution to the DC Extended Universe too often proves a busy, overpowering deluge of information, even if he conjures some stunning, operatic imagery along the way.
If "Saving Mr. Banks" changed the way that you look at "Mary Poppins," not only chronicling the contentious process of adapting P. L. Travers character for the screen, but exposing the deep-rooted motivations why she wrote them in the first place, "Mary Poppins Returns" wants to change it back.
Rob Marshall, one of Hollywood's most commercially successful purveyors of movie musicals, attempts to bring back the escapist magic of the original film, and with the help of award-winning composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, he very nearly pulls it off. Mileage may vary on how deeply its story resonates about the beleaguered next generation of Banks children, but buoyant songs and terrific performances from the likes of Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Ben Whishaw make for an anachronistic, enchanting homage/follow up to the 1964 original.
A lot of aging actors try to persist with or recapture their youth, but Clint Eastwood isn't one of them.
The actor-director's "Unforgiven" reflected on and eulogized a bygone way of life, era and genre 26 years ago, and his films since then have increasingly embraced both his own advancing years and the sometimes questionable perspectives of a generation that is quite literally dying out. In "Gran Torino," his most famous line of dialogue was "get off my lawn." So it comes as little surprise that his first acting role in six years is playing a man bemusedly detached from modernity and oblivious to political correctness except where he believes it can help him personally.
There is a good film to be made about superheroes existing in the "real" world, and the phenomenon, or perhaps disorder, where ordinary people believe they possess extraordinary abilities. "Glass" is not that film, despite how seriously writer-director M. Night Shyamalan takes both of those ideas, and as always, himself. An overlong, underdeveloped mash-up (or more charitably, payoff) of his brilliant "Unbreakable" and the pulpy "Split," Shyamalan tries to examine, and rekindle, the magic and intrigue of comic books in the pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe era. But he spends so much time discussing, deconstructing and still somehow indulging their now-boilerplate storytelling conventions that the end result is a movie that feels even less tethered to reality than the ones that it so snobbishly looks down upon.
Five years ago, the notion of a movie about Legos seemed ridiculous, but after $500 million in box office receipts and two successful spin-offs, "The Lego Movie 2" is a highly- and understandably-anticipated event sequel. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, returning as co-screenwriters and producers, hand the reigns of this unlikely but irresistible franchise off to "Trolls" director Mike Mitchell for a story that builds (no pun intended) on the foundation of the first in terms of its thematic complexity, while expanding its eclectic landscape with the energy and abandon of an eight-year-old building a playset out of random bricks recovered from the forgotten corners of her toy box. Though not quite as effective as the first film (due in small part to a less clear idea, but also to the growing abundance of Lego-themed movies) "Lego Movie 2" exudes a certain sort of overpowering, sensory-overload charm to muscle its way into audiences' hearts even if afterward their minds may remain a bit discombobulated by the experience.
"Alita: Battle Angel" first went into development by James Cameron in 2000, and Robert Rodriguez signed on to direct his script in 2016, but the themes of their adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's 1990 manga of the same name could not feel timelier. A story of the redeeming power of compassion and positivity, Rodriguez' film follows a young woman with more power than she realizes entering a complicated world unafraid and undeterred to fight for what she believes in. But it's also a smart, rousing adventure that resonates unlike almost anything else being made right now, utilizing incredible technology to enhance amazing performances, and most of all, eclectic, compelling and sympathetic characters who embody imagination and inspire hope.
In 2000's "What Women Want" it might have been snarkily revolutionary, if way late even then, to suggest that members of the so-called "fairer sex" are complex, fierce and formidable. But 20 years and a gender-swapped premise later, "What Men Want" advances a depressing argument that guys are with few exceptions as competitive, sexist and simple-minded as they always were -- but now, women are evidently changing to become more like them. Taraji P. Henson's fearlessly committed performance almost rescues this story of a desperately ambitious woman gifted with the ability to hear men's innermost impulses, but director Adam Shankman's predilection for the broadest and dumbest possible execution of any given idea undercuts any comedic bite, genuine insight or emotional resonance the film potentially had.
Watch Movies at Home
Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in...
When LeBron and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a rogue...
After saving the life of their heir apparent, tenacious loner Snake Eyes is welcomed...