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Jeri Jacquin aka Movie Maven and Jenise Jacquin aka Film Brat
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AVENGERS: Endgame

Jeri Jacquin

Coming this Friday to theatres is the highly anticipated finale with an iconic team from directors Anthony and Joe Russo, Marvel and Walt Disney Studios with AVENGERS: Endgame.

That's about the most I want to tell you about AVENGERS: Endgame and why is that? Well, I don't want to spoil anything about the film for those who have been waiting patiently and to back me up is this letter from the Russo brothers that circled the internet. 

It reads as follows:

To the greatest fans in the world, 

This is it. This is the end. The end of an unprecedented narrative mosaic spanning eleven years and eleven franchises. For all of you who have been on this journey with us since the very beginning, sharing every high and low with your family, your friends, your classmates, your co-workers. Investing so deeply in every character and storyline. Laughing. Cheering. Shedding tears. Giving so freely of your thoughts and emotions

In spirited dialogue, theories, fan art and fan fiction. Please know that the two of us, along with everyone involved in Endgame, have worked tirelessly for the last three years with the sole intention of delivering a surprising and emotionally powerful conclusion to the Infinity Saga.

Because so many of you have invested your time, your hearts, and your souls into these stories, we're once again asking for your help.

When you see Endgame in the coming weeks, please don't spoil it for others, the same way you wouldn't want it spoiled for you.

Remember, Thanos still demands your silence.

As always, good luck and happy viewing….

The Russo Brothers
#Don'tSpoilTheEndgame

This is important for people to read because AVENGERS: Endgame is the end of eleven years of storytelling and eleven years of a journey that has brought comic book fans to the theatres and at the same time created new comic book readers. After seeing it for myself, I agree with the Russo Brothers and ask the same of all those who are reading this.

In 2008, we were all introduced to IRON MAN, Tony Stark and the only man who will ever be this character to my way of thinking - Robert Downey, Jr. I didn't know much about this character and turned to my two sons to talk about it. I knew Iron Man's place in the world of comics and knew what he looked like but that's about it. Robert Downey, Jr. gave me a quick lesson which was not a surprise to me.

Seeing this first offering was fantastic and I remember thinking at the time that I wouldn't mind seeing more of Tony Stark. I had no idea that somewhere in the world someone else was thinking the very same thing as the universe (to be tagged the ‘Marvel Universe’) was about to get oh so much bigger.

Then came more Marvel characters with THE INCREDIBLE HULK, more IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and THOR in 2012. Then the crew of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the second AVENGERS in 2015, ANT-MAN, the return of SPIDER MAN, the introduction of DOCTOR STRANGE, and Wakanda brought us BLACK PANTHER. All of these set the stage for the 2018 AVENGERS: Infinity Wars.

Adding the final piece of the puzzle, we meet the new CAPTAIN MARVEL. All of this guiding us to this Friday's inevitable finale of AVENGERS: Endgame.

As each film came to the big screen, the crowds of people became bigger and bigger and all for different reasons. The most interesting thing about these Marvel films is that everyone's reason for becoming part of the theatre experience is different but the kid-like excitement is the same and generationally shared.

That is what Marvel has brought to everyone who has experienced the comic-book-to-screen phenomena. Each character has something that we all can relate to in some way or another. Their stories of struggle and reconciling love and loss is relatable and heartfelt. We want them to be our heroes and cheer for them to save our planet time and time again.

So, for AVENGERS: Endgame what can I tell you? The film picks up with what has happened after Thanos snapped his Infinity Stone-laden chunky fingers and what the left-over Avengers are doing in this new reality. Each is now dealing with their losses and the wish that the world were right again. That is where a plan to make that right happen is formed.

Sounds easy right? Hardly, because everything done by the Avengers isn't a straight line from chaos to success. Obstacles get in their way, twists and turns are put into play and stories have an opportunity to be told. There is also so much raw emotion in the entire three hours of the film, there are giggles, jaw drops and I do so highly suggest bringing tissue.

At the premier for the film, Chris Evans aka Captain America says about AVENGERS: Endgame, "It’s a double edged sword in that you have this wonderful fan base but also the pressure to satisfy the people who's taste is from the source material. You can't deviate too much and they deserve this."

The ever so charming and never-aging Paul Rudd says, "I can't believe we are finally going to see the movie. I'm excited for audiences to experience the culmination of these films and see where this thing has landed and have a satisfying emotional roller coaster ride experience."

I'm giving Robert Downey, Jr. the final say about how he feels with, "I'm excited, nervous and have such pride. We are fans and that is the reason this has been such a great adventure."

I have always found it difficult to watch a film where there is a huge cast because I always want to see more of one character over another, not the case with the AVENGERS films. Don't get me wrong, I do have my personal favorites in Tony Stark and Loki (I love a smart smart-ass and a smooth talking Asgardian what can I say!), but the AVENGERS cast mesh in the sense that each has a job to do and they don't screen-hog to do it.

The MCU is one of action, adventure, storytelling, lessons to be learned, friendship, loyalty, chaos, a lot of destruction, those who want to see the world burn and superheroes that make it their life mission to stop it and all of this brought to a hungry audience who want more. That's what Marvel does and will continue to do. Although AVENGERS: Endgame is a finale in this particular chapter of that MCU, there are so many more stories waiting in the wings to be shown to us on the big screen.

This weekend I suspect that theatres on our particular universe and planet will be bursting at the seams with fans waiting to spend three hours with their closest super hero friends. AVENGERS: Endgame is a film to be experienced with your family, friends and every person in what ever theatre you find yourself in. I don't think anyone who has invested so much time and emotion into these films will be disappointed.

There is so much to take in and so much to prepare for. Here are a few suggestions if I may: 1) Lay off the liquids a few hours before the film so you can have plenty of popcorn and drink during the film, 2) take a deep breath and exhale slowly from the moment the theatre goes dark and then remember to breathe often after that, 3) bring tissue…lots and lots of tissue.

They started this together and each scene attempts to bring closure for fans so embrace every moment of the film. Clearly AVENGERS: Endgame was made with love, fun and a sense that the creators wanted to give fans everything – the good, the bad, the cheering and the sad. AVENGERS: Endgame is going to give everyone exactly that.  

In the end - each of these Avengers has something to lose, something to gain and a world that needs to be set right.

His Story and Life Collide in TOLKIEN

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Dome Karukoski and Fox Searchlight Pictures comes the story of stories told about the life of TOLKIEN.

The story begins with war as Private Sam Hodges (Craig Roberts) finds a very ill Tolkien and makes it his mission to help him survive. Out in the field as bombs rage and gas explodes, he once again sees how his life began and led him to the field of inhumanity.

J.R.R. Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) was a young man living with his mother and brother in a small English house in the middle of vast fields. One day Father Francis (Colm Meaney) helps the family move to the city to start again but it doesn’t last long as once again Father Francis moves Tolkien and his younger brother to the house of Mrs. Faulkner (Pam Ferris). Becoming their guardian, she starts with the boys’ education and Tolkien dives deeper into his drawings and writings. 

Eventual Mrs. Faulkner takes in Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) and Tolkien is quite taken with her. Continuing to be watched over by Father Francis, the young man is told that he can’t share his feelings about her and still go to university. He makes the sad choice to leave her and joins childhood friends Rob Gilson (Patrick Gibson), Geoffrey Smith (Anthony Boyle) and Christopher Wiseman (Tom Glynn-Carney), also known as the TCBS, to university. 

As the group continues to meet, Tolkien is one step away from having to leave school when he discovers Professor Wright (Derek Jacobi). Sharing his story’s with the Professor, both men become thrilled at the possibilities of the story and language. Finally finding his place in school, the war breaks out and Tolkien is called up.

Before shipping out he once again sees Edith and he finds himself still smitten with the young girl. They have a chance to explain to one another the situation as it was then but their hearts never let go of one another only to be parted again by battle.

Tolkien fights to stay alive, fights to find his friends and without realizing it would soon take all the horrors of war and create one of the most iconic stories ever written.

Hoult as Tolkien takes on the monumental task of playing a character that became famous for his books and his name becomes world wide again when the films come to the screen. I will be honest, I wasn’t sure that justice could be done in the story telling of a writer who impacted my life so profoundly yet Hoult did so. The struggles of youth followed Tolkien and he could have ‘gone wrong’ as the sayings goes but instead he found a path that Hoult walks honorably.

Collins as Edith is a young girl understanding Tolkien much more than anyone else (other than his brother). She pushes him to continue to write stories because she saw something magical about the world Tolkien creates. Collins gives her character strength, dignity and a forwardness not seen by women of Edith’s day. Meaney as Father Francis takes the role of father, protector and if that doesn’t work he uses good old fashioned guilt to ‘guide’ Tolkien’s life choices. I have to say I wasn’t happy with this character and that’s probably because I’m not much for emotional bullying which means Meaney did a fantastic job!

Gibson, Boyle and Glynn-Carney as Rob, Geoffrey and Christopher are three friends I’d love to have had growing up. Although they started out prickly, the story of each of these young men would impact Tolkien in ways they would never see coming. These four actors when on screen together are gripping and I enjoyed watching their friendship grow.

Now, as for Roberts as Private Sam Hodges, I have only one thing to say – stellar and well done young man, extremely well done. From beginning to end it was the life of Tolkien that was his mission and he took it so seriously that nothing would turn him from it. Sound like a story character you might know?  

Other cast include Laura Donnelly as Mabel Tolkien, Guillermo Bedward as Hilary Tolkien, Nia Gwynne as Browen, Tony Nash as Mackintosh, Owen Teale as Headmaster Gilson, Lara Maguire as Rose, Holly Dempster as Beryl, Genevieve O’Reilly as Mrs. Smith and David Birkbeck as Porter.

TOLKIEN is well done, beautifully put on screen and gives the viewer a deep look inside what it took for THE LORD OF THE RINGS to make it to the page. Watching the story unfold is like seeing how characters were born in his mind. I caught myself a few times pointing at things I saw on the screen with an inhale and then a smile. Okay, so being a raging Tolkien fan it was like being part of a mental treasure hunt.

The cast brings together with such intensity the moments in Tolkien’s life that he held on to for dear life. The story is raw and beautiful at the same time to the point where I didn’t want it to end. The good news is that sitting on my library shelf are the books and films which are a wonderful solace brought by a man who took what he experienced in his life and shared it in the most magnificent way with the world. 

In the end – a life of love, courage and fellowship!

POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU 
Brings Laughs 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Rob Letterman and Warner Bros. Pictures is a little yellow fluff ball with a mind of his own known as POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU.

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is a young man raised by his grandmother in a world of Pokémon’s and working at a life insurance company. All of that is about to change when he receives a telephone call from Lt. Hide Yoshida (Ken Watanabe) to inform him that his father Henry Goodman has died. 

Meeting with Lt. Yoshida it is clear that Tim doesn’t want to hear about what happened asking for the keys to his father’s apartment. Arriving, Tim discovers that the room his father made for him remains exactly the same. Well, maybe not exactly the same as something is creeping around the room.

Shining a light Tim discovers Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), his father’s Pokémon and that he understands him! That’s when a story pours out of the yellow eared creature saying there is something wrong with his memory. Believing that something is amiss, Tim tells Pikachu about a vile of blue liquid that makes other Pokémon’s a little nut. 

Wanting answers, Tim finds himself caught up in Pikachu’s investigation which leads them to Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) who also believes that Tim’s father is still alive. Clifford also believes his son Roger (Chris Geere) has something to do with what is happening. 

Wanna-be reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) steps in and wants to help because she believes there is a story in all of this. At a secret lab Tim, Pikachu and Lucy discover that this is more frightening than they could have imagined. Someone is trying to let loose a chemical that will change everything. Who is who will surprise them all.

That doesn’t mean Pikachu, Tim and Lucy aren’t going to go without a fight!

Smith as Tim is a young man who isn’t too thrilled with his life. He has a thing against Pokémon’s so discovering he has to work with Pikachu to get answers doesn’t exactly thrill him. As the story of his father unfolds, Tim finds himself more and more curious about the true story. Smith is moody and definitely needs Pikachu’s comic relief.

Newton as Lucy is on the ball, has a nose for news and doesn’t grasp the concept of the word ‘no’. She isn’t about to let a story like Tim’s go without investigating and she certainly gives it her all. Newton is spunky and funny in a quirky way. Watanabe as Yoshida has a small role but I’ll take any screen time he can get!

Nighy as Clifford is an inventor who believes Tim’s father isn’t gone but just missing. Wanting to help in any way he can also means keeping his son at bay. Geere as Clifford seems to be the bad guy in this scenario with his creepy smile and ability to take out anyone that gets in his way.

Now, let’s talk about Reynolds even though we really don’t need to as far as I’m concerned. Yes, his wit and timing are absolutely astounding and yes I love him as Deadpool which means I wasn’t certain how I’d feel about him taking on Pikachu. It was a fleeting thought because as Pikachu he gets to once again be silly and the audience loved every minute of it. That basically means Reynolds can do no wrong in pretty much everyone’s eyes. 

Other cast include Suki Waterhouse as Ms. Norman, Josette Simon as Grams, Karan Soni as Jack, Diplo as DJ and Rita Ora as Dr. Ann Laurent. 

POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU is definitely a film that fans of Pokémon are going to enjoy. They are going to recognize characters from the Pokémon world and will be laughing at a lot of their antics. My kids who are now grownups are the ones I watched go through the Pokémon era so I know they are going to enjoy this film lot.

I recognized the characters and found myself giggling quite a few times. The film is fun, colorful, fast paced and did I mention fun? The CGI is pretty cool and the scene between Tim, Pikachu and their mime attests to that. 

POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU is charming and even delightful. There are a few twists and turns that I’m avoiding because I want everyone to enjoy it for themselves. So grab a bucket of popcorn with the kids and go have a good time this weekend!

In the end – the mystery is on!

It’s all Out Wrestling When FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

Jeri Jacquin

This week on Bluray/DVD and Digital from writer/director Stephen Merchant is a story of family, friends and a little bit of wrestling when FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY.

The Knight family is a little different than most families living in England. Led by Dad Ricky Knight (Nick Frost) and Mom Julia (Lena Headey), their kids Zak (Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Florence Pugh) go around the country with their own brand of wrestling to take care of the family.

Their goal is getting the WWE to watch a tape of their wrestling so that Zak and Saraya can get their shot. In the meantime they all do their part and even teach other kids about wrestling. 

One day they get the call they have been waiting for when the WWE come to town giving Zak and Saraya a chance to show what they’ve got. Getting a few pointers from The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), they are excited to begin. Judged by Coach Hutch (Vince Vaughn), it doesn’t take long before a decision is made and Saraya changes her name to Paige and heads to Florida to NXT training.

The Knight family is beside themselves and their business also begins to pick up. Paige is having a difficult time with training and isn’t sure who she is in this wrestling world as it’s nothing like back home. She isn’t getting much in the way of friendship from the other girls Jeri-Lynn (Kim Matula), Kirsten (Aqueela Zoll) and Madison (Ellie Gonsalves).

When it all seems to be falling apart, Paige must learn who to trust, who to listen to and what to believe about herself if she is ever going to be a true Diva!

Pugh as Saraya aka Paige is a fighter that comes from a family who believe in everything wrestling. They live and breathe it only wanting to be a part of something that they see as their salvation. Pugh portrays Paige as a young woman that wants to please everyone and at the same time doesn’t quite know how to fit into this world she was raised on. Her performance is strong and sweet at the same time, just like her character. 

Lowden as Zack believes in wrestling with his heart and soul. Putting everything into it and then expecting a family of his own, he wants to succeed and make their lives easier. There comes a time when he sees his life turning on him and after losing one brother to prison could quite easily follow. The truth isn’t easy but needed to be heard.

Vaughn as Hutch is a hard-ass coach who doesn’t take excuses and certainly doesn’t dish out sympathy. He has one job and that’s to make the incoming WWE wrestlers steadfast and with their eye on the prize. Vaughn gets a chance to show that he can play someone who doesn’t have the luxury of being emotional. I like him in this role. 

Frost as Ricky is a Dad who came from a questionable early life but turned it all around. He raised his family to do everything together, include wrestling, and doesn’t mind one bit if they all seem a bit different than everybody else. Headey as Julia is a Mom to beat all Moms, seeing wrestling as something that saved her life she also is a Mom who wants her children to be happy no matter what ever path they chose to follow.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson gets a chance to steal a few scenes and I loved when he was. Especially the scene when Zak and Paige meet him for the first time – a geek out moment that he responds to as only he can.

Other cast includes: Thea Trinidad as AJ Lee, Paul Wight as Big Show, Stephen Farrelly as Sheamus, Josh Myers as Bruiser, Stephen Merchant as Hugh, Hannah Rae as Courtney, Jack Gouldbourne as Calum, Elroy Powell as Union Jack, Mohammad Amiri as Ez, Leah Harvey as Hannah and a special appearance by John Cena.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.

The Bluray/DVD Bonus Features include Deleted & Extended Scenes, Gag Reel, A Family’s Passion: A Making Of, Learning the Moves, and Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Stephen Merchant.

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is a look at an unusual family I see as not so unusual. They definitely have their own style and outlook but they have found something that joins the family together. What makes me laugh the most is they don’t care who doesn’t understand their love of wrestling and personally go out of their way to explain it all and reel in almost anyone.

Each member of the family believes in the other no matter what mistakes are made and reaches out to those who see themselves as different embracing them. I just love watching Zak and Saraya teach these kids how to be part of a group, a team and don’t believe in limitations. 

It’s an amazing story about a family to be sure but also about Paige, a young girl who takes on the WWE world but takes a tough road to find her place and that makes the victory all the sweeter.

In the end – meet and outsider who changed the game!

TRIAL BY FIRE Questions Guilt

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Edward Zwick and Flashlight Films comes the story of the secrets and lies with TRIAL BY FIRE.

It is 1992 and Todd Willingham (Jack O'Connell) is in a complicated and jealousy driven relationship with wife Stacy (Emily Meade). One morning after leaving for work, Todd wakes up to his children calling him. He notices immediately that the house is filled with smoke.

Trying to get to them he becomes overwhelmed with smoke. Running outside, Todd breaks windows still trying to reach his children but the fire causes an explosion.

Dealing with the death of their three children, Todd and Stacy are pulled over after the funeral to have him arrested for murder. The town's law enforcement have investigated the fire and come to the conclusion that Todd intentionally killed the children.

After a quick trial filled with testimony that is anger filled and no defense put in place for Todd, he is sentenced to the death penalty and sent to prison. 

Elizabeth Gilbert (Laura Dern) is a writer raising two teenagers while taking care of an ex-husband. A friend tells her about writing to prisoners and Todd lands in her life. She learns he has been in prison for twelve years awaiting execution.

Visiting him in prison, she learns about who Todd was when the incident happened and how he is now. After getting a copy of the trial she realizes that everything about it was a travesty. Todd's only other 'regular' relationship is prison guard Daniels (Chris Coy) who doesn't want to befriend a prisoner but can't seem to help himself.

As Todd comes closer to execution, Elizabeth races to find help from those who also see the wrongs and try to make them right before it is too late.

O'Connell as Todd is a man with anger and jealousy issues in his marriage. The one thing that even his wife can agree with is that Todd loves his children. While in jail that is all he can think about while trying to figure out how he got behind bars. O'Connell gives a startling performance with moments of somber realizations that how he has lived his life has set the stage for those who want to see the execution go through.

Dern as Elizabeth is a woman dealing with so many things in her life of which none have to do with her. Reaching out to Todd and getting to know him starts a friendship that is based on the truths they both tell.

Meade as Stacy is a woman who doesn't know how to do the right thing. Dealing with the death of her children she is constantly being pushed in all directions by family and law enforcement to agree with the verdict handed down to Todd.

Coy as Daniels tries from the moment Todd steps into the prison to dehumanize him. As the years go on, Daniels sees who this man really is and even finds himself enjoying Todd's company. He, like Elizabeth, want someone to save a changed man. 

Other cast include: Jade Pettyjohn as Julie Gilbert, Jeff Perry as Hurst, Jason Douglas as John Jackson, Wayne Pere as George Gilbert, Katie McClellan as Margaret Hays, Blair Bomar as Sandy and Rhoda Griffis as Darlene. 

TRIAL BY FIRE is not only the story of Todd Willingham but the story of Texas, law enforcement and even then governor Rick Perry. As each step progresses from the moment Todd is arrested to the films conclusion is aimed at added another notch to the execution belt of a state that seems to have the highest in the country. 

No one in the town Todd is from all the way up the ladder seemed interested in whether the truth was told or not. That's what I took away from the film the most - the lack of concern for the possibility that the law wasn't followed.

The cast constantly brings more and more questions to the forefront of the story as the film goes on which by the end had me totally and emotionally worn out. 

Another aspect of the film is watching Todd grow as a person realizing the mistakes he made in his life. The one thing that didn't change and perhaps actually grew was this man's love of his children. The film explores his realizations and the truth behind the tragedy. Is he really innocent?

TRIAL BY FIRE is directed by Academy Award winner Edward Zwick and adapted by Academy Award winner Geoffrey Fletcher from David Grann’s article Trial by Fire found in The New Yorker. 

In the end - stand up for what is right and for what is true!


Two Hours in the Dark with JOHN WICK: Chapter Three - Parabellum! 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Chad Stahelski and Lionsgate Is the next installment on the journey of JOHN WICK.

Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still on the run especially now since it has been declared that he is 'excommunicado' for killing a man at the Continental - major boo-boo. Basically it means that all the dogs are off their leashes with a W$14 million dollar bounty and no rest anytime soon for him.

Those he has relied on now tread carefully because the Table has sent The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) to punish anyone who has helped Wick to this point. Her first task is to sentence Winston (Ian McShane), Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and The Director (Angelica Huston).

Wick knows he has only one chance, to find The Elder (Said Taghmaoul) to ask how he can make this all stop. The one person who can make the meeting happen is Sophia (Halle Berry) who isn't actually thrilled to see him at the door. Watching his every move is Zero (Mark Dacascos), an assassin who is quick and deadly. 

Making a deal with the devil, as it were, Wick returns to The Continental where an all out war is declared. 

Reeves as Wick has most definitely made sure no one else could possible take his place. He is still broody, still soft spoken and can still give a killer glare that gives nothing away. Oh, and one more thing, he can still make my heart flip-flop in that funny exciting way. What he also does is bring sympathy to a character we should all probably be afraid of!

McShane returns as Winston, the manager of The Continental who has a flare for words, for the finer things in life and has an elegant way of letting who ever know that he is going no where. His affinity for Wick is obvious but there is also a sneakiness about him that makes me give him side eye constantly. Well done!

Berry as Sophia has a history with Wick that is filled with a little rage yet she has no problem wielding a gun when wrong comes her way. Reddick as Charon keeps his concierge desk refined and run like a well oiled machine. I just love his calm demeanor, even when bullets are flying past his face.

Fishburne as the Bowery King is a rougher version of Winston running his bowery as he sees fit. He regrets nothing and is always looking at the bigger picture - that is his saving grace. Fishburne still has it and Wick should be glad he does.

Huston as The Director knows that even though there is an excommunicado order, there is one thing higher than that even if The Table doesn't want to acknowledge it. I just love when Huston plays roles like this because she is a tough broad and I love it. 

Dacascos as Zero, aka the Iron Chef Chairman, is fantastic! From the moment his character hits the screen to the very last frame he brings martial arts and twisted humor to the film. Taghmaoul as The Elder brings his own brand of justice and a plan for Wick to stop all the madness. 

A serious shout out to Dillion as The Adjudicator and let me tell you why. I have NEVER heard outcries throughout a film when one character shows up on a screen. I'll admit I was one of them yelling at the screen toward this cold hearted character who felt she was above everything and untouchable. When a room full of people react the same way to a character then listen because 1,000 people can't be wrong!

Thumbs up to Yayan Ruhian as Mad Dog, Cecep Arif Rahman as The Assassin and Man of Tai Chi as Tiger Hu Chen for taking on the Baba Yaga with admiration and humor and, of course, sweeping martial arts moves and guts for taking on the boogeyman!

Other cast include Jerome Flynn as Berrada, Randall Duk Kim as Doctor, Margaret Daley as Operator, Tobias Segal as Earl, Obin Lord Taylor as Administrator, Susan Blommaert as Librarian, Jason Mantzoukas as Tick Tock Man, Sergio Delavicci as Ruska Roma, and Boban Marjanovic as Ernest.

Lets be honest here, anyone who loves the JOHN WICK franchise won't need me to say anything to convince them to see the film. But let’s pretend there are those who haven't seen any of the films or even know who John Wick is, wait, what?

Sorry, had to shake off that thought because seriously it is almost incomprehensible to the Keanu Reeves warm and fuzzy side of my brain. Moving onward!

From the first five seconds of the film until the last five seconds of the film I think blinking didn't much happen for me. There is little downtime and since John Wick doesn't get any, then WE don't get any either. This is a ride we take with him and the filmmaker made damn sure we are exhausted by the end - or are we?

Audience participation in films can go between being a good or irritating thing. Let me tell you in the case of JOHN WICK it is almost an involuntary reflex. The gasps, the shock, the wicked (pardon the semi-pun) humor, the action, the story, the cinematography that are happening on screen create the shouting at the screen from the audience.

During this screening I heard shouting, applause, cheering, guttural reactions of groaning, hostility, actual hissing and a theatre full of people rooting for a different kind of super-hero. I can not even count how many times The Adjudicator was a target of audience wanna-be verbal assassins. People in front of me were jumping, the gentleman beside me was constantly fist pumping with a 'yesssssssssssss' and comments behind me ranged from 'they don't know who they're dealing with' to 'ouch - that's gonna leave a mark'.

We were in unison with cheering, applause and groans which makes JOHN WICK: Chapter 3 - Parabellum a group experience. This is the reason we go to the movies (at least a lot of us anyway), to be transported, entertained and walk out of the theatre alive and full of conversation that is going to last for days. 

Personally, I was completely exhausted not even realizing how much this film was slowly draining me. Yes, yes, I realize it is Reeves and the cast who worked their collective asses off to bring the story to the screen so let it be known that they drained every bit of everything out of this viewer. 

That being said it should also be stated that I may be personally exhausted but after spending two glorious hours in the dark with John Wick aka Keanu Reeves, I'd gladly do it again, and again….and again.

In the end - if you want peace then prepare for war!

DETAILS COMING SOON!
Movie Maven
Finale of GAME OF THRONES Brings Emotional Duality 
(...and a Few Worthy Memes)

Jeri Jacquin

Well, our time in Westeros has come to an end and that saddens me in a dual way. I came to enjoy my Sunday evenings all cured up with my yarn crocheting while watching (yes I can crochet without looking) the antics of heroes and villains I either openly cheered and jeered or even secretly cheered.

The cast of GAME OF THRONES is one fans have felt they have watched grow into their characters. From the first season even I wasn't sure what this was all about having not read the books but was immediately curious with each episode. I'm not sure if it was because I wanted to see if Sean Bean lived (as he tended not to do with his characters) or my love of period pieces but week after week I stayed.

The journey of the Stark clan with Ned (Bean), Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), Robb (Richard Madden), Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Bran (Isaac Wright) and the bastard Jon Snow (Kit Harington) didn't take long to be put under the thumb of the Lannisters’.

Speaking of a dysfunctional family led by Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), daughter Cersei Lannister-Baratheon (Lena Headey), along with sons Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) made sure fans appreciated their own families more. Of course dangling on that family tree was also the kid most likely to be strangled by the masses Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) amongst the rest of the kids.

Then there was this little blonde Targaryen girl named Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) who was traded to a very tall Dothraki leader in the form of Jason Momoa. Of course there is a history of craziness in her own family that she needs to come to terms with. That little marriage brought out the Mother of Dragons who flew her way into creating an army as we all cheered her on.

Of course behind the two families were such characters as Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen), Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), The Hound (Rory McCann), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Bronn (Jerome Flynn), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), Melisandre (Carice van Houten), and the beloved Hodor (Kristian Nairn).

There are so many characters to name that I just don't have enough room or time to write this all out so let’s move on and know that I am giving credit to every character as they are due with our humble thanks.

Onward, each season the story line grew bigger and bigger, so much so that I couldn't wait to go to Comic Con and sit in on the panel AND happily receive a goodie that included an awesome bag and inside a book so that I could read what I was missing, Seeing the casts on panels, it was fun to hear them talk about their time on the show as well as trying so very hard not to give anything away.

As the story unfolded season after season there was plans, survival, death, secrets, destruction, betrayal, power struggles (with family and with distant family) and all in the name of the Iron Throne and who will end up sitting on it. We began with Robert Baratheon and his friendship with Ned Stark and ended up with Joffrey being the next king (and I use a small 'k' because it fits him). Joffrey was the kind of king who would burn the wings of flies with a magnifying glass while his mother Cersei stands behind egging him on.

That's when Sansa gets put into play between the Starks and Lannisters but there is oh so much more to that story. As the houses begin to shift and loyalties become apparent, the one person who isn't loyal to anyone is Tyrion and that's when I started cheering for him. Yes, I understand that he has a problem with prostitutes and he likes to spout that 'That's what I do, I drink and I know things!' becoming his (and our) mantra.

We watched weddings, funerals, battles, enemies from far away and enemies close up fighting for supremacy, lack of love, a few crushes, women being passed on and men being passed over, magic, dragons, friendships (both faked and deserved), honesty wrapped in lies, and oh so much more in Westeros. Our loyalties, like the characters in Westeros, were solid - until they weren't.

The break between season 7 and 8 was the longest break in the show and fans believed, as I did, that it was because the last season would be epic. We bit our collective tongues when it was announced that there would only be six episodes, and we bit even harder when we learned collectively that it would be almost two years before the end would happen. Okay, we are die-hards, we can take it…right….RIGHT?

And so we all did, rumors would drop here and there and speculation about what would happen in the final season kept fans going until the first trailer dropped. I think the world might have stopped spinning for a second or two when that happened. It didn't give us much but it was something and we were raised to believe that it was better than nothing.

Then that first Sunday brought us all back, and sometimes in groups, to see who would finally sit on the Iron Throne. Bets were placed, surveys taken, and polls done with different opinions varying with Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys, Arya and Sansa being the top picks. Of course I had my pick which I will save till the end of this rant, rave or otherwise.

Each episode brought out grumbling fans who weren't to happy with how the stories were playing out. The grumblings were a bit low until the infamous 'coffee cup' screw up that hit the internet like wildfire. It started out as funny until people begin writing that this isn't the first 'ooops' that had been caught in this season and many began to see it as lack of caring. That translated into fans feeling slapped with a freshly caught trout across the kisser by the creators.

Along with that petitions started wandering around the internet demanding that the entire 8th season be redone. I actually thought that myself but in a more amused way because we all know that it would never happen. With all the complaining it was only a matter of time before creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss tried to humor there way out of the complaining. I read an article about it and laughed myself thinking 'well this is one way to thumb your nose at fans'. 

As the finale drew near, I put my favorite Westeros shirt on and filled up my Tyrion "that's what I do is drink and I know things' cup and prepared to see who would finally sit on the Iron Throne. Yet, there was a nagging feeling I couldn't shake that with the way the final season had been going, I should just take a deep breath and suck it up that I wasn't going to get what I wanted.

That's exactly what happened, I didn't get what I wanted. Now its easy to say 'well no one is going to always be happy with the way things end on a long running series', tis true enough, however - that's not what disappointed me.

What caught me was the duality of feeling regarding the final season. So here’s the pros and cons of what went on inside my head these past few weeks (insert deep breath here, a crack of the knuckles and fingers on the keys…here we go!).

Let’s start with the downers shall we? What disappointed me is just the 'lack-of' I felt in the final season. The waste of time with these long drawn on scenes of longing looks or pull back camera work instead of putting the effort into talking, telling the story and really getting in there to let the characters hands get really dirty before its all over. It felt like a lack of umph that we would never have come to expect from GAME OF THRONES.

Each episode was about an hour and a half and yet there wasn't anything there that made me feel like my subscription to HBO was worth it. I felt like, without reading the final book, that there was so much room to play out the story effectively instead of special effects. Sure, I have no idea what it takes to bring a show like GAME OF THRONES to the screen and sure I don't have any idea how much it costs but lets be honest - that's not my job and it's not the viewers job to know that.

I don't want dark battles, I don't want long battles - I get it, there's a dragon that they used sparingly and you can't kill white walkers because the Night King has a wavering hands that revives them. Did I need a whole hour and a half of that? Nope. Did I need to see and hour and a half of Cersei staring at the destruction of Kings Landing? Nope. Did I need an hour and a half of a dragon burning innocent people into ash? Nope. Such a waste of time - my time - everyone's time. THEN, the finale ends up being an hour and 20 minutes? Seriously?

My remark on Twitter that the season was "lazy" is exactly how I feel, and even more-so with the finale. The only character I was riveted by was Tyrion because Dinklage showed me something, made me feel something even if I didn't like his choice. The only character I thought had a pair was Sansa and her declaration that was basically, 'screw you all, I'm doing what I want….period…so peace out!'.

We aren't even hours after the finale when, once again, a mysterious item shows up on the screen. Behind the leg of Samwell when the leaders bring Tyrion to them at the hands of Grey Worm - a plastic water bottle. Do you see what I mean by lazy? With each mistake that is on screen the suspension of disbelief is crushed and we only went to Westeros each week to be taken OUT of reality.

On the other hand…….

What did we learn on our journey? We learned that absolute power corrupts absolutely so sometimes melting a throne is best and love doesn't conqueror all, in fact in Westeros love could get you killed and usually did. We understood many things about the trials of some characters and we embraced others who seemed un-embraceable. Twisted life lessons but lessons all the same. 

From the very beginning we all knew this was a game, a game among men and women for a throne, something that didn’t care about any of them was easily taken away. A game of life and death and there was plenty of that to go around from all the seven kingdoms.

We also learned that loyalty exists, friendships can come from the most unlikely places, that family (even dysfunctional ones) will beat each other up but let no one else do it and that magic is in the eyes of the beholder. All of these things are what makes us love GAME OF THRONES even when we are disgruntled by it. 

We will all settle in time, we will watch and re-watch until a comfortability sets in. We will wait to see if the prequels that are rumored will give us back our Sunday's evenings of being whisked away to another time, another place and another story and restore our suspension of disbelief.

In Westeros, after everything, they are beginning again. Perhaps not as they wished and not as we wish but we are left knowing that they do go on in some form or another. In our own imaginations let us hope that the choices made in the finale send them all on their way to a peace not known in Westeros for eight season.

So we should all take a collective deep breath and remember, there are always box sets coming of every season to enjoy whenever you feel the need to visit old friends and enemies. It should keep us busy until we see the first trailer to the prequel to GAME OF THRONES.

In the words of Tyrion and the truth is in it, even after everything that has happened in the years we've all invested in GAME OF THRONES, "even knowing what I know now, I'd do it again" - and we will.

HBO Brings a Riveting Series with CHERNOBYL

Jeri Jacquin

Currently on HBO is a five-part series created by Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck to tell the story of the 1986 disaster we all know as CHERNOBYL.

In April of 1986, an explosion rocks the Soviet Union in more ways than one. A nuclear power plant known as Chernobyl has exploded and from the moment it happened, no one realized exactly how devastating it would all become. 

With a cast that stars Jared Harris as scientist Valery Legasov, it is his knowledge of what he saw once called in for his expertise by Boris Shcherbina played by Stellan Skarsgard that is riveting. Adding Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk, another scientist who fills in even more terrifying news that has so far rounded out those in the know about what to do next.

Director Renck doesn’t leave a single thing out in the way of devastation both to the building and the human beings left inside trying to discover how bad it is. Once Legasov and Shcherbina comes together, they are the brain and the mouthpiece that need to convince Mikhail Gorbachev (David Dencik) that action, although late, needs to be swift.

From the moment of the explosion, reality may be in front of the eyes of the crew and firefighters with an almost instant effect, but it is those in charge who fail to accept what is truly happening. 

That is another riveting aspect of CHERNOBYL, watching the average citizen slowly become aware that something is seriously wrong and knowing at the same time it is unlikely their government would tell them the truth. One woman who isn’t about to wait around for answers is Lyudmilla Ignatenko (Jessie Buckley), wife of firefighter Vasily (Adam Nagaitis).

There is no doubt that CHERNOBYL does not have happy moments in the first few episodes because there can’t be. In fact what the first few episodes show us is nothing short of a hellish nightmare filled with not only the instant horror but the horror to come for the people living around the plant and other countries in the path of a nuclear cloud.

Harris as Legasov knows immediately what they are up against but also knows that he has a partial gag in being allowed to speak. There is a presence in Harris’ performance that is just short of him wanting to scream out the truth yet has the good sense to tread lightly. That is until its time to not treat lightly. His performance continues to astound me and I can not wait to see the final three episodes.

Skarsgard is one of my favorite actors and in this role he gets a chance to play both sides against the middle. Almost immediately believing Legasov (especially when he sees with his own eyes what has happened at the power plant), Skarsgard takes his character to a dangerous place and that is in making decisions without the direct approval of Gorbachev.

Watson as Ulana comes in before an even larger disaster takes place. She becomes the second scientific voice of reason and both Legasov and Shcherbina trust her immediately. Watson continues to choose roles that are challenging and I enjoy everything she does and CHERNOBYL is brilliant.

The cast is filled with outstanding performances that also include Paul Ritter as Anatoly Dyatlov, Sam Troughton as Aleksandr Akimov, Robert Emms as Leonid Toptunov, Adam Lundgren as Vyacheslav Brazhnik, Karl Davies as Viktor Proskuryakov, Jay Simpson as Valery Perevozchenko, Billy Postlethwaite as Boris Stolyarchuk, and Adrian Rawlins as Nikolai Formin.

Also starring Con O’Neill as Viktor Bryukhanov, Donald Sumpter as Zharkov, Barry Keoghan as Pavel, Ralph Ineson as Nikolai Tarakanov, Mark Jones as Vladimir Pikalov, Alex Ferns as Blukhov, Michael Colgan as Mikhail Shchadov, Alan Williams as Chairman Charkov and David Dencik as Mikhail Gorbachev.

The show is jaw dropping and even heart breaking in the story it tells. When looking for a show that is absolutely worthy of your time, might I suggest you tune in and see for yourself as CHERNOBYL can be seen on HBO. 



HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: The Hidden World is Stunning on Bluray

Jeri Jacquin

Flying onto Bluray/DVD and Digital this week from writer/director Dean DeBlois, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation is the return to Berk and our favorite characters in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: The Hidden World. 

Life in Berk has been busy and becoming slightly crowded as Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), Toothless and Astrid (America Ferrera) lead their friends on adventures to stop the capture of their winged friends. That is went Hiccup remembers his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) telling him the story of the Hidden World that is considered a safe haven for dragons.

Thinking they would search further out for it, Hiccup meets Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham) who finds out that after hunting all the Night Fury’s – there is one left! He tells Hiccup to turn over his dragon or watch the destruction of everything around him.

What the leader doesn’t know is that a beautiful white Light Fury has caught the attention of Toothless and he is smitten from moment one. Hiccup must tell his people what Grimmel is planning and they decide to leave Berk and look for the Hidden World together. 

Discovering a beautiful island, they rest for a short while which gives Hiccup time to plan their next move and give Toothless time to be with the dragon of his dreams. Mom Valka (Cate Blanchett) flies back towards Berk to see how long they have before Grimmel’s attack ships get to them.

Hiccup and Astrid follow toothless and discover the Hidden World and see for themselves the beauty the dragons have built for themselves. They also see that Toothless has become their leader and when they try to protect their Alpha, Toothless is forces to save his friend.

All of this has fallen straight into the hands of Grimmel who captures Toothless and Light Fury and that doesn’t sit well with dragons or the people of Berk. Friendship and loyalty come together to fight for each other!

Baruchel as Hiccup returns to finish the story he began telling us from the first film in 2010. He is now a young leader still trying to find his place and Toothless is his touchstone. Astrid is still strong on his life and he wants a bigger future with her but the crowding of the village takes precedent at the moment. My family has come to adore Hiccup as his frailties and flaws are right out front. He has become an important animated role model and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with that (just ask my granddaughter).

Ferrera returns as Astrid who has also grown in her role as a strong woman in the middle of a little dragon madness. She supports Hiccup but doesn’t forget who she is and what she has to offer the village. Blanchett as Valka is another strong warrior presence in the village even if she has an admirer that brings us all giggles.

Abraham as Grimmel is a man who just needs a hug or something. Killing off all the other Night Fury’s, he is hostile when discovering he missed one. He plots and plans to get Toothless and is patient to make that happen.

Ferguson as Gobber is still hilarious and full of wisdom in a twisted sort of way that I enjoy. Hill returns as Snotlout and has plenty to say even though I’m not sure he realizes how silly he is. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs has totally embraced dragon motherhood. Justin Rupple as Tuffnut who tries to give Hiccup marriage advice but it’s hard to take seriously a guy who fakes his beard. Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut who is tough and mouthy yet – I like her.

Kit Harington returns as Eret who fits into the Berk pack like he was always meant to be there. Robin Downes as Ack, Kieron Elliott as Hoark, Gideon Emery as Trapper and Julia Emelin as Griselda the Grevious.

How to Train Your Dragon is a twelve book series by author Cressida Cowell. The first book published in 2003 has been a huge success and the books can be found world wide. DreamWorks Animation has also brought the dragons to the smaller screen with an animated television series that kids just love. I mean having dragons more often is always a good thing!

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.

DreamWorks Animation brings amazing animated entertainment to films, television specials and series for the young and young at heart audiences around the world. For more of what they have to offer please visit http://www.dreamworksanimation.com. 

The Bluray includes the Bonus Features of Alternate Opening with Intro by Writer/Director Dean DeBlois, DreamWorks Shorts: Bilby and Bird Karma, Deleted Scenes with Intros by Writer/Director Dean DeBlois, How to Voice Your Viking, Creating an Epic Dragon Tale, How I Learned from Dragons, The Dragon Sheep Chronicles, Growing Up with Dragons and so much more and I’m telling you the Bonus Features are a must-see!

MOVIES ANYWHERE gives viewers the ability to download the Movies Anywhere App. With that you can view films by downloading or streaming to your favorite device using a Digital Code. For more information on Movies Anywhere please visit www.MoviesAnywhere.com. 

This final film in the series is beautiful and laced with everything we have come to expect from Hiccup, Toothless, Berk and the entire gang. What is even more stunning about the film is that as each of the films has gone along, so has the timeline for the characters. In this film that have each come into their own and made a memorable place in their community.

Much of the time we don’t see the progression of animated characters if there is more than one. In the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON trilogy, we have seen Hiccup grow from a young boy to a man and Toothless grow by his side (along with the rest of Berk). The series has dealt with life and death as well as everything in between when a community is as close as this one is. 

Each film has made me laugh hilariously; get teary eyed a little and even now will openly admit to moments where an ‘awwwwwww’ or two escapes my lips. Now my granddaughter and I have the opportunity to watch our favorite Vikings again and again as your family can now do. 

I am thrilled with the way DreamWorks closed the trilogy and as much as I know I’m going to miss visiting the characters of Berk, the storyline of the closure was epic and satisfying in a heartwarming way…now everyone can revisit Berk anytime.

In the end – their final quest and the friendship of a lifetime!



BOOKSMART Brings Teen Comedy in Time for Summer

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Olivia Wilde and Annapurna Pictures is the story of the last night of the first night of their lives after being BOOKSMART.

Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are two girls who have spent their years in libraries and studying. In those years Molly and Amy became the best of friends and know each other secrets and habits. Their idea of fun isn’t exactly like most seniors in high school.

Even Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) knows that about the two girls. Molly being class president and valedictorian on the class, she is making sure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before saying goodbye to the halls that educated her.  

Overhearing a conversation, Molly learns that students she thought didn’t take school seriously are attending colleges just as prestigious as hers! The thought sends her into a tizzy and tells Amy that they are not going to sit home in their pj’s on their final night.

That’s when she learns that Nick (Mason Gooding) is having a final wild party and convinces Amy that going is the only way they are going to redeem themselves. It also gives Amy a chance to hang out with Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) and Molly can visit with Nick. 

The problem is that with every move they make to try to get to the party, something else gets in their way and mayhem ensues. From Jared (Skyler Gisondo) leading them astray to Gigi (Billie Lourd) freaking them out every place they go, Molly is not going to let anything to her from getting to Nick’s.

When they finally arrive, everything changes – even Molly and Amy! Their friendship is riding on the party and put to the test. Then again…it’s only high school right?

Feldstein as Molly is the spokesperson for the dynamic duo. She knows what she wants and pretty much tells Amy every bit of it. Yet there is a believeability in the way she speaks to her friend and their relationship from beginning to end. I enjoyed Feldstein so much and she reminded me a little of someone I know.

Dever as Amy is charming, sweet and in love with someone who doesn’t know she exists. It is clear she loves her friendship with Molly and although reminding me a bit of Cameron Frye from FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. She goes along to get along and even if she’s having fun, there are moments where fun makes her very nervous.

Gisondo as Jared is absolutely outrageous yet there is something sweet about him. Perhaps it’s because he understands Molly and Amy more than he is given credit for. Gooding as Nick is the guy in school who just wants to have a good time and isn’t seen as a serious student. Sudeikis as the Principal is hilarious and in a role that totally gives him the opportunity to just totally go crazy in a great way.

Okay, it must be said Lourd as Gigi is absolutely hysterical. I just love this character but mainly because of what she says and what she does. A free spirit that’s a little bit on the nutty side and no one more than Lourd deserves to just let loose.

Other cast include Will Forte as Doug, Diana Silvers as Hope, Molly Gordon as Triple A, Eduardo Franco as Theo, Nico Hiraga as Tanner, Austin Crute as Alan, Jessica Williams as Miss Fine and Lisa Kudrow as Charmaine. 

BOOKSMART is charming, funny, silly, and gives the audience a look at pieces of their own high school days. There are the usual misunderstandings, cliques, misconceptions and chances to have one last opportunity to a make a mark that could be memorable forever.

After all, isn’t that what high school is all about? The mistakes that are made, the plans that change every other day, friendships that in some cases become life long (I happen to know a few of those) and broken hearts, oh yes, the high school broken hearts most everyone has experienced. Most of all, the pure laughs about who we were and hopefully who we all turned out to be.

In the end – getting straight A’s and giving zero F’s.

ALADDIN Brings Live Action to the Screen

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Guy Ritchie and Walt Disney Pictures is the story of a princess and a thief named ALADDIN.

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a young man who finds his way around the city of Agrabah stealing to survive along with his friend, the monkey Abu. He also sees what the people of the city endure and tries help when he can. One day he meets Jasmine (Naomi Scott) who also wants to help those in need.

Telling Aladdin that she is the hand maiden to the Princess, they outrun the guards and spend a little time together. While looking out over the city, Jasmine realizes that a new suitor has landed and makes her leave from Aladdin to get back to the palace. 

Once there she is introduced to Prince Anders (Billy Magnussen) by her father the Sultan (Navid Negahban) with Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the Sultan’s Vizier watching on. Jasmine isn’t impressed and along with her real hand maiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) and tiger Raja, she saunters away.

That’s when Aladdin makes his way to the palace to return a bracelet and is apprehended by Jafar. Sitting on the desert floor, Jafar explains that he doesn’t stand a chance with the princess but, if he does one thing for him, Aladdin could be paid handsomely. All he has to do is enter the Cave of Wonders and return a lamp – and just a lamp.

Things go awry and Aladdin along with Abu get caught in the cave. It is what comes out of the lamp that could save them – a Genie (Will Smith). Given three wishes, Aladdin tries to choose a life with Jasmine by becoming a Prince. Of course the one person who isn’t happy about this is Jafar. He has plans that don’t include the Sultan or Aladdin.

Jasmine finds herself thrilled with Prince Ali but plays a little hard to get. The Genie has an eye for someone as well so both are enjoying life. That is until it is all about to come crashing down as Jafar has his own little spy in a parrot named Yago.

In Agrabah, anything and everything is possible if you believe!

I’m sure families are going to be thrilled to see ALADDIN mainly because it is always a joy to be able to see a film that is oriented for kids. Making an afternoon of colorful characters along with song and dance is always a good afternoon. That’s what Disney has been known for and attempts with this film to follow in its history.

Massoud and Scott as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine play their roles and although difficult to break the mold of the 1992 animated version, this is cartoon come to life. The same can be said of Smith attempting to fill the role that Robin Williams made so iconic.

In the case of these three characters I applaud their attempt to embrace their animated counterparts. That being said, there seems to be a sense of detachment in their portrayals that I couldn’t get past. Massoud and Scott work well together but there are hits and misses along the way. Scott’s rendition of a woman’s empowerment tune just seemed more like a cry for help.

Smith as the Genie is blue, he sings and he is charming. I like Smith, don’t get me wrong, I just have a hard time embracing this version of him or the Genie. He also had a few missteps with his songs except obviously for the raps. Pedrad as Dalia get to throw out a few clever lines and be thrilled that a man has taken interest in her.

Kenzari as Jafar doesn’t exactly give the same frights and sense of doom as his animated counterpart but he did make me laugh. I’m not sure that was the point of his performance but he does give it a different perspective.

Other cast include Jordan A. Nash as Omar, Taliyah Blair as Lian, Aubrey Lin as Omi, Amir Boutrous as Jamal, and Numan Acar as Hakim. 

ALADDIN is colorful, filled with music, dance and filled with special effects and as I said, that’s the Disney way. The problem is that there didn’t feel as if there was a need to make it a live action film. I would have been thrilled to see the original cleaned up a little and put back on the big screen for a special engagement.

Yes, it’s fairly clear that I am not a fan of taking films that have delighted fans and families for years and feel the need to make them “live”. I know the song and dance of ‘but it’s for a new generation’ – welp, I am still here and breathing and I’d appreciate it if Hollywood would put a moratorium on remaking, retelling, reimagining or rethinking any more films for oh, say seventy-five years.

Instead, put the money where it could be better spent – on originality and new stories for the next generation to enjoy. That’s my soapbox and I’m happy standing on it.

In the meantime, enjoy ALADDIN with your family with a big tub of popcorn and sing along because you’ll know the words, that hasn’t changed.

In the end – the magic is live!

A Second Opinion and I've asked my friend Vince Munn to share his thoughts and I'm happy to say I wasn't alone in some of my thoughts!


Aladdin

Vince Munn

“Aladdin is a poor street urchin who spends his time stealing food from the marketplace in the city of Agrabah. His adventures begin when he meets a young girl who happens to be Princess Jasmine, who is forced to be married by her wacky yet estranged father. Aladdin's luck suddenly changes when he retrieves a magical lamp from the Cave of Wonders. 

What he unwittingly gets is a fun-loving genie who only wishes to have his freedom. Little do they know is that the Sultan's sinister advisor Jafar has his own plans for both Aladdin and the lamp”. 

This is a fair description of the 1992 animated film done by Disney. While the live-action remake follows a lot of the same beats, it feels hollow, without sustenance, and no more than a check mark list. 

Guy Ritchie was hired by Disney to helm this and it shows, not in a good way. The performances he asks from his two leads in Aladdin and Jasmine, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, are flat seeming more akin to line reads than actual dialogue. Of the two, Scott is the better actor and that’s not saying much. While both are fine singers nothing about their duets or individual solos stand out as great performance. 

The role of the Genie was always going to appear as a mountain of achievement that could never be attained by any actor that wasn’t Robin Williams. One of the earlier instances of stunt casting a celebrity to voice an animated movie, was knocked out of the park and opened a door to be walked thru by many choices, not all good. That being said, Will Smith is trying. While he still has the charisma and likability that made him a star, he lacks the nuance of emotion and the vocal range that the role requires. 

Director Ritchie never lets him delve into his hip hop roots. Smith does try, so hard, to carry the songs. Alas they fall flat and feel like embarrassment. Going in the vein of a comedian or improv actor would have been a wiser choice for the role. 

Marwari Kenzari as Jafar is a fun, if not hammy performance at times. He chews some scenery enough to feel cartoonish but not bad. Alan Tudyk as Iago is wasted talent and potential. 

The production value of the film is beautiful. The sets are detailed, the costuming majestic. If you’re going to do this story as live action, this is how you want it to look. But it almost all feels like it was filmed on a soundstage. The effects work on the genie is good, not great. Overall if you loved the animated version, you may like this one. Or some of the bones of it. 

Families will enjoy it, but it will feel like and unwanted sour candy in a box of sweet nostalgia.

Also coming to Bluray!