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      RAVE & RAGE
Jamie Foxx & Channing Tatum
Shane Acker "9"
Minor Childers & Leland Orser
Craig Robinson & Clark Duke
Kelsey Mann - Pixar
Channing Tatum
Andy Dickler
Marmaduke
Richard Hatch
Sam Bass
Peter Lord
Nicholas Sparks
Stan Lee
Jarrod Hess
Morgan Spurlock
Peter Briggs
Kevin Sorbo
Carrot Top
Scott Waugh
Jonny Weston
Martin McDonagh
Anna Hutchison
Ming-Na Wen
Paige O'Hara
Robert Carlyle
Martin Papazian
Martin Blunder
David Koechner
Spongebob!
Gabriel Iglesias
Scott Mantz
Ben Lyons
Gil Bellows
Kevin Pollack
David MacKenzie & 
Gil Birmingham
GHOST STORIES Brings Jumps and Twists Just the Way We Love Our Scares!

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to select theatres this May and currently available on VOD from writer/directors Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman and IFC Films are stories that will tingle spines with GHOST STORIES.

Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) has made a life out of uncovering psychics who are frauds on his television show Psychic Cheats. He receives a package from Charles Cameron (Leonard Byrne), a man Goodman saw as an example of how to find phonies and frauds, and he wants to meet with him.

Thrilled to meet someone he thought long dead, Goodman is shocked to discover that things haven’t been easy for him. He only wants one thing from Goodman, to investigate three cases for which he has no answer for. 

The first person affected is a night watchman Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse) who is the security guard in an asylum long since abandoned. Lights blinking and doors slamming have him investigating every nook and in the dark things have a way of catching up with you, as it does him. 

The second person affected is Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther), a young boy who finds himself on a deserted road in the woods and distracted by his father screaming at him on the phone. Hitting an object, what he sees is horrifying and has put his life into a world of absolute fear.

The third person he speaks with is Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) who doesn’t seem at all moved by the story he has to tell. A wealthy man, he has a beautiful home and recently he and wife Maria (Emily Carding) have created a beautiful nursery for their unborn child. While Marie is in the hospital, something happens in the home nursery that is beyond reason. 

What do these three men have in common is what Professor Goodman is about to find out.

Nyman as Professor Goodman is a man with a past that brings him to calling out those who fraud the public about being psychic. What he doesn’t expect is that the man who he considers the reason for his line of work would pop up out of no where to solve these cases. Nyman’s character is a skeptic yet there are moments where he begins to question his own non-beliefs.

Matthews as Whitehouse is the first man affected and he absolutely starts the creepy trail rolling. I give him points for keeping his fear in check because I would have lost it completely. Lawther as Simon is a young man locked inside his own fears and with absolutely every reason to be. Lawther has the unique ability to ooze fear out of every pour of his being and he does so with ease.

Freeman as Priddle calmly walks into the story and steals it from Nyman briefly. He is cold, intense, affected, a judge and nothing expected. Of course I am thrilled to see Freeman because he is such an amazing actor who seems to chose roles that he manipulates into absolute stunning works of art. This is such an interesting role because of the twists and turns but Freeman walks away with a giggle.

Other cast include Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Father Emery, Deborah Wastell as Mrs. Goodman, Daniel Hill as Mr. Goodman, Christine Dalby as Beth Hooper, Maggie McCarthy as Jean Hooper, Joe Osborne as Mr. Rifkind, and Maria Major as Mrs. Rifkind. 

GHOST STORIES is what I absolutely adore about this genre – absolute twists, turns, not covered in gore and out of control cgi. Instead, we are given a thriller that embodies that word – it thrills from beginning to end. This isn’t a story that is easy to figure out or even easy to digest but in fact a story that is going to keep people talking.

This film is cleverly written, beautifully put on film with a cast that give stellar performances that had me from go. Filled with eerie creaks, flashing lights, and things that go bump in the night, GHOST STORIES is everything and a bag of spooky that I watched in the dark and would do so again.

In the end – the brain sees what it wants to see!

BEIRUT Tells a Deeper Story

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres from director Brad Anderson and Bleeker Street Media is a story with twists that lead to truth while in BEIRUT.

Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) is a diplomat in Beirut keeping his finger on the pulse of what is happening around him, or so he thought. During a party, Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino) comes to warn him that the young boy Karim, who the family has practically adopted, is going to be taken in for questioning. His older brother Abu Rajal (Hicham Ouraqa) is a Palestinian terrorist involved in the massacre at the Munich Olympics

Before that can happen, the party is terrorized as bullets fly and Karim is grabbed. In the midst of the firefight, Skiles wife Nadia (Leila Bekhti) is killed. Fast forward a few years and Skiles has reached rock bottom as a labor negotiator job he barely cares about and swimming in alcohol.

Sitting at a bar with his favorite drink, Skiles is approached to take money and a plane ticket back to Beirut to lecture at the university. Never wanting to return to Beirut again, something tells him to get aboard the plane. Once there he is met by Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike), Donald Gaines (Dean Norris), and Gary Ruzak (Shea Whigham) who finally tell him why he’s really there – Cal Riley has been taken and the kidnappers only want to negotiate with Skiles.

Discovering it is a grown Karim (Idir Chender) who is calling the shots and only trusts Skiles to make the exchange happen. An exchange is demanded, Riley for Karim’s brother who seems to have disappeared. Believing that it is the Israeli’s who have him, Skiles investigates and also discovers the PLO minister is keeping secrets as well.

In the middle of this is a war in a war torn country that is getting more and more out of hand by the minute. No one can be trusted and deception seems to be the order of the minute. 

Crowder is trying to keep up with Skiles as he slips through the city discovering that there is more at play here than just Riley’s kidnapping. There are others in the governments involved and their seedy agenda becomes clear. 

Both Skiles and Crowder are going to make the exchange happen but on their terms. 

Hamm as Skiles begins as a man who seems to have the charming ability to move in a crowd and do what needs doing. Once the world he thought he knew was shattered, there didn’t seem to be any purpose to anything Skiles does. That is until Riley is taken does he slowly come out of the daze and snaps back into discovering he is the absolute right person to get the job done. Hamm’s performance is intense yet his character takes a moment to remember in the middle of rubble how all of the events came to be. 

Pike as Crowder wants to believe that Skiles is right for the job and that’s the dilemma. Knowing someone is right for a job and seeing the state they are currently in means never being quite sure if they can be trusted. Pike shines as a woman who not only takes her job seriously but knows that playing the international game of cat and mouse puts her right in the middle of danger. 

Chender as Karim is caught up in the what is happening in Beirut. Finding a life with Skiles as a young boy he enjoyed being with them. The moment he is taken it is clear that studying and being part of the family will quickly become a distant memory. When the time comes to trust someone, that may be the one thing Karim knows to be true about Skiles. Chender gives his character such complexity in a situation none of us could possibly understand. This is the life mixed with what was and what became of a young life.

Other cast include Dean Norris as Donald Gaines, Shea Whigham as Gary Ruzak, Douglas Hodge as Sully, Jonny Coyne as Bernard Teppler, Leila Bekhti as Nadia, Kate Fleetwood as Alice, Alon Aboutboul as Roni Niv, Sonia Okacha as Sondrine and Mohamed Zouaoui as Fahmi.

BEIRUT is a film that is a reminder of the fragile peace and intense wars in the Middle East that are waged with others calling the shots. Their agendas may seem up front but for everyone to get what they want, deals are made and deals are brokered in 1982.

The cast are quick with a storyline that is constantly in flux and never once give away which way the chase will go or how it will end. The cinematography is flawless and adds another depth to the very intense story being told. 

In the end – Beirut of 1982 and the Paris of the Middle East is burning!

TOMB RAIDER

Jeri Jacquin


In theatres this Friday from director Roar Uthaug and Warner Bros. Pictures is the beginning adventure of Lara Croft becoming the Tomb Raider.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is a young woman trying to find her place by making it on her own. She really doesn't need to since her father Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), who has been missing for seven years, left his daughter an inheritance. When family friend Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas) bails Lara out of a problem, she is told it is time to sign the papers legally declaring her father dead.

Agreeing to finally do so, family lawyer Mr. Yaffe (Derek Jacobi) is presented with a puzzle and in it is something that sets Lara off on a quest for answers. Finding clues to the last place her father went, she discovers a diary and maps along with a cryptex with a story about a Japanese Queen and a power that has the capability of world destruction. 

Lara makes her way to the Far East in search of a man named Lu Ren, instead she finds the son, also Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) who is shocked to learn that they have something in common. Explaining that they both need answers about their fathers, Lu and Lara head off to a dangerous island that shows them no mercy.

So much so that the ship is grounded and Lara is washed ashore only to be taken by Mathias Vogel (Walton Coggins). He is thrilled at the new island arrival because she holds the answers he has spent seven years looking for. Lara has no plan on letting Vogel get away with what he is doing and manages to escape. In an adventure within an adventure, she is surprised to find someone else on the island she hasn't expected to see.

Vogel finds the tomb and along with his well weaponized mercenaries forces Lara to go in first and lead them to the final resting place of the Queen of Death. The horror that awaits them is nothing they are prepared for but that isn't going to stop Lara from doing the right thing and save the world!

Vikander as Lara shows the beginnings of Lara Croft and how hard headed and yet still an adrenaline junkie she is. Wanting to avoid signing the papers declaring her father dead, she is told by Ana that if it doesn’t happen, Lara will lose everything that her father built. Vikander literally jumps into action and I can clearly see why she was chosen to be a younger Lara Croft. 

Coggins as Vogel has made being a bad guy so deliciously easy. All balled up with anger at being forced to live in a dangerous place for seven years, he isn’t very forgiving. Looking for the one thing that can bring him home means nothing or no one, not even Lara Croft, is going to get in his way. Coggins is an actor who can play a good guy (or gal), a mediocre guy and a bad guy – all with such skill. Can you tell I’m a fan?

Wu as the younger Lu Ren is a boat owner who doesn't want to get involved with Lara's mystery. Talking him into it isn't hard and after being thrown on the island with Lara, he jumps into the action when seeing how wrong everything around him is. Of course I am a serious fan of Wu and if you've seen the AMC series Into the Badlands where he plays Sunny, you'd be hooked on him too. 

West as Lord Richard Croft raises his young daughter but leads a very secretive life. As Lara gets older she accepts her father's 'business' trips with ease knowing that her father loves her. West takes the role of Richard and gives the audience a little more back story and experience the father-daughter relationship.

Thomas as Ana has been keeping Croft Holdings up and running for Lara but knows its time for decisions to be made so she doesn't lose what her father has left behind. I have to say I love seeing Thomas taken on a shady character.

Other cast includes: Alexandre Willaume, Tamer Burjaq, Adrian Collins, Keenan Arrison, Andrian Mazive, Milton Schorr and a cameo by Nick Frost. 

Okay, time to get real and announce this is where there may be a few spoilers because there is no way to talk about the film without letting things slip here and there. So if you don't want to know - check out right here - still here? Then prepare for a rant.

I want to be taken away and go on an adventure when I'm watching a movie that is suppose to be, well, an adventure. Then a scene takes me completely out of it and I'm spending the rest of the time seeing nothing but what's wrong. Let’s begin being hit by a car, I realize she is Lara Croft but, um, yea, a car usually puts people out of commission for a day at least. Then again I suppose that's what one does when there are daddy issues in the mix.

Then there is a camera left behind seven years after Richard Croft's disappearance. Lara finds it and - low and behold - it works. Really? REALLY? My cell phone can't hold a charge for more than a day and this frikken camera is still working after seven years? Also, knowing a thing or two about keeping a house - is it me or shouldn’t there be more dust and cobwebs in an office that has been left untouched for seven years. I mean not a single cobweb? 

Onward trying not to shake my head, the next jaw dropper - I could be wrong but when a tree stabs you in the side and you get sewn up, do you (less than 8 hours later) run top speed through the jungle like Katniss Everdeen hunting President Snow? It could be she is a descendant of Legolas from Lord of the Rings with the ability to run and shoot rapid arrows at close range. Maybe it’s Indian Jones figuring out the traps so that she can get her hands on the Grail? That can’t be possible since Dan Brown has taken care of that faux cup right? Professor Jones must feel sheepish.

I mean seriously we have had the Grail, Priory, Illuminati which, by the way, the original Lara Croft’s father was a part of. Since that’s been covered, it’s on to the new secret sect of crazies called the Trinity. My head is spinning.

Yes, I am completely over it which once again proves to my stubborn self that there is no reason to redo films that are perfectly okay as they are. The thought process should have been this; how about saving millions of dollars and have a Lara Croft: Tomb Raider marathon of the original films and pocket money without out really spending millions. Oh I know, I'm going to get garbage about how old the other film is or how a "new generation" needs a revamp of the story. I'm calling b.s. on that Hollywood.

And as far as the theme song does it really have to be 'Survivor'? This song has been played into the dirt and this is the best you could come up with? What's with calling the film TOMB RAIDER as if Lara Croft is an after thought. Did you think that leaving it off would mean people wouldn't IMDB it to see that this is a remake, rethink, reimaging or anything else re?

So here is the deal - is the film heinous? No, it's just annoying and I hate being annoyed. Is it a good cast? Yes, and in lies another dilemma for me. I don't have issue with the cast at all, I am a Vikander, West and Wu fan and am completely in love with anything Walton Coggins does. I mean really, any guy who can pull off the ever so lovely Venus Van Damn with a heart of gold to sway Tig from Sons of Anarchy fame works for me completely. That’s where my thumbs up ends.

Come on studios! Are you going to rely on Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuaron and Spike Jonze to do all the original film heavy lifting forever? 

In the end – her legend begins.

THE LEISURE SEEKER Take a Life Trip

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Paolo Virzi and Sony Picture Classics is a film about the journey’s we sometimes need to take to appreciate our lives with THE LEISURE SEEKER.

Stopping to check on her parents, Jane Spencer (Janel Moloney) discovers her parents are not at home. Calling brother Will (Christian McKay), it becomes quickly clear that not only are the folks gone – but so is their motor home called The Leisure Seeker. Family friend Lillian (Dana Ivey) is in a panic wanting them to be found quickly.

But Ella Spencer (Helen Mirren) and husband John (Donald Sutherland) are focusing on their trip. Making one stop to call home to reassure them that everything is fine, Ella does her best to explain that they just want a few days for themselves.

Ella is the commander-in-chief of the road trip and it is clear that something is wrong with John. Once an college professor, he now has moments of forgetfulness and random walks that keep her on high alert. Yet down the road they go remembering their lives together. Stopping at campgrounds they spend evenings with one another and even unexpected events on the road are hilarious.

But, with all trips down memory lane, each of us remember things differently and Ella learns that perhaps some memory’s are best left unspoken. 

Mirren as Ella is a woman with the patience of a saint. As Ella and John reminisce about their lives, she is clearly happy with the journey they shared together. That’s not to say there aren’t times of frustration, but their memories and joys are solid in her heart. Mirren is such a fantastic actress and watching her bring this character with such depth and emotion smack forward is a privilege to watch. 

Sutherland as John is a man who has lived in a world of knowledge and that world changes daily. The trip with Ella brings back the memories of their own children growing up and the many students he taught. Feeling that things are slowly becoming out of his control, it takes one sentence to bring out a secret that could fracture them. I love Sutherland’s humor mixed with the snide one liners from Mirren, it is a dance they do with such finesse.

Moloney as Jane starts off worrying but slowly listens to her mother Ella say they need time together. Backing off, she tries to convince Will to let them have some time. McKay as Will isn’t as thrilled about the road trip as his sister. Ivey as Lillian has been a friend of the family since their younger years. She believes the trip is insane as well!

THE LEISURE SEEKER is a film that touches every fiber of a human being. The connection for each of us is that this could quite easily be the story of our own parents. For the parents, it could easily be the story of trying to make life easier for their children.

These two elderly parents want to hit the road and feel the wind on their faces. They want to remember the good that has been their lives and come to terms with the not so good moments. Sutherland and Mirren are perfection forcing me to stop and truly listen to the color of their moments. 

This film will break hearts because we are witnessing the story of a couple who has seen so much in their lives. Clearly they both have medical issues and yet in the midst of that there is humor that can only be portrayed by these two amazing actors.

I love the music of THE LEISURE SEEKER that adds not only to their attempt at moments of fun but also the amazing love when things go a little wrong. This is a story that I will truly carry with me for a long time to come.

In the end – a once in a lifetime road trip they will never forget!

NOSTALGIA is the Thin Thread Between Our Mementos and Memories

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from writer/director Mark Pellington and Bleeker Street is the story of lives, love and loss all wrapped around NOSTALGIA.

Ronnie Ashemore (Bruce Dern) is an elderly man who is surrounded by his life of the written word and when visited by insurance agent Daniel Kalman (John Ortiz). Having a look around at the behest of Ronnie's granddaughter, the elderly gentleman makes it clear that there is no reason for him to leave his home. Daniel listens as Ronnie makes it clear that although he is surrounded by the life he shared with family, others might see it all as trash.

Daniel next meets Helen Greer (Ellen Burstyn), a widower who he finds sitting in the midst of ashes where her house once stood. Recalling the events of the fire, Helen explains the irony of the things she chose to save before the firemen came in to save her. One such item is a baseball that belonged to her late husband and she can't explain why she saved it.

Staying with her son Henry (Nick Offerman), Helen feels the pressure he is placing on her to consider assisted living. Helen feels the need to break away and packs the saved belongings and heads for Las Vegas to meet Will Beam (Jon Hamm) to talk to him about the ball. Their conversation turns nostalgic on the power that personal possessions have over each of them.

Will is off for the weekend to help his sister Donna (Catherine Keener) clear out their family home since their parents have moved to Florida. Making trip after trip to a dumpster outside the house, each decides they will take a few things but get rid of everything else. Donna wants daughter Tallie (Annalise Basso) to go through the attic but the young girl makes it clear that this is Donna and Will's history - not hers. Instead, Tallie wants to be with her friends and live in the now.

All of that comes to a screeching halt as Donna, husband Patrick (James LeGros) and Will come to terms with the memories of childhood, places we live, objects held dear and the technology that has changed the feeling of nostalgia.

Burstyn as Helen is an absolute treasure and every time she is on screen I stop in my tracks. In this role she is a widower who has been living on her own but all of that changes in a split second. Watching Burstyn take this character so deep kept me absolutely invested and put my heart through the ringer. Everything she said and every emotion poured out is believable because it is life and even the character Helen knows we don't get out alive. The scene between Helen and the insurance appraiser in the soot is just a true and brain-twisting as her realizations with Will and a baseball. Thank you Ellen for an endearing realistic perspective like no other.

Hamm as Will is a man who hides loss behind his collectables yet how could he know that the moments with Helen would prepare him for what is to come. Going through his parent’s home, this character takes the attitude that he's there to clean out, reminisce a little with sister Donna and move on. Hamm gives such a strong performance and makes it look amazingly easy but let me say when Hamm gets teary eyed - it hurts. Keener as Donna is a woman who is watching her teen daughter grow up so very quickly, has been taking care of her parents and now seeing her childhood close down for the last time. If that isn't enough, life has thrown her the cruelest hit of all. Keener doesn't hold back and she certainly gave me reason to think on her role for several days - she is that powerful.

LeGros as Patrick is a husband who has to be the shoulder his wife needs but also deals with the reality that there was once a time when photographs were everything. Now with cell phones, if that is destroyed then so are the pictures people would normally have as photographs on paper. Dern as Ronnie has a smaller role but it isn't any less impactful. He also understands the life he has lead and those he spent his life loving making no apologies for either.

Other cast includes Bella Pellington, Tamar Pelzig, Romy Rosemont, Amber Tamblyn, Ashlyn Williams, Jennifer Mudge, Chris Marquette, Mark Marcarian, Anna O'Bryan, Joanna Going, Lindsey Kraft, Beth Grant, Patton Oswalt and Hugo Armstrong.

NOSTALGIA is a film that is going to challenge everyone's perception of life. It is true that people of my age hold things dear because that is how we were raised. I was shown how to preserve photographs, baby books, family bibles, baptism gowns and family heirloom jewelry because they are a piece of history that I wanted to pass on to my children. Fortunately, my children are the same and often one will ask if I have something specific from their childhood and are thrilled when I do. 

The pull between the objects and our emotions creates a bond that can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. The blessing is for family members who are thrilled to get beloved items and the curse are the family members that don't share the feelings and waste no time in turning everything over for donation fodder. 

The film brings out the issue of how easy it is to lose mementos because we have become a world of snapping pictures with our phones or shooting video thinking we will download them later - but rarely do. In an instant the memories we took the time to 'preserve' are lost with a phone dropped in water or just a lost phone period.

NOSTALGIA also brings us into the lives of these characters that are so relatable because everything they are experiencing, we have all experienced with no exception. The loss of parents or loved ones, getting older and looking back means holding the items that represent milestones in our lives and the lives of those we love, and deciding when it is time to let the weight of those things go to find a freedom we didn't know possible. 

In truth we are such emotional pack-rats, some of us just let what's inside leak out into our closets, storage rooms and lives.

I love this film, absolutely love it and am unapologetic for it. The cast is completely fascinating and sheer perfection bringing it all together beautifully, sadly and stunningly. The story is real, authentic and so damn emotional that for a moment I wasn't thrilled to feel so much so fast. That's life right?



In the end - it is the memories of the lives lived.

THE VANISHING OF SIDNEY HALL is Stunning Storytelling!

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week from writer/director Shawn Christensen and A24 is a film that allows us a look inside of a life of secrets with THE VANISHING OF SIDNEY HALL.

Sidney (Logan Lerman) is a young man who sees the world differently than his classmates. He finds solace in writing and is encouraged by his teacher who sees something special in him. Sidney also has a little mystery in his life when a girl who lives across the street lets a bit of her feelings show.

He introduces himself to Melody (Elle Fanning) and they begin a deep relationship that Sidney knows is life changing. What becomes life-altering is when school jock Brett Newport (Blake Jenner) asks Sidney to hold something for him and to tell no one. Happy to oblige, he is also curious about what had Brett so nervous.

What happened between the two young men becomes the subject of Sidney’s book that sky-rockets him to literary stardom. The fame becomes a whirlwind that begins to affect his relationship with Melody and when it all begins to fall apart – Sidney disappears without a trace.

That’s when a detective (Kyle Chandler) begins searching for Sidney who is wanted for a series of fires set in places where there are books. Trying to follow the clues, the detective hopes it will lead to Sidney and answers as to what happened to push this young man toward a path filled with pain.

Lerman as Sidney carries this story and film brilliantly in a way that kept me wondering how much more one life can take. I literally couldn’t take my eyes off his performance because his character is so dedicated to everything he pursued that the pitfalls just crushed my heart. All of that emotion is because of Lerman’s portrayal which is a thing of true beauty.

Fanning as Melody clearly enjoys life, sees the beauty past the pain and loves Sidney. Her character sees the best in Sidney and supports when it all becomes too much for him. Trying to be his support comes at a price that Melody seemed more than willing to pay until it was no longer just she that would pay.

Chandler as the Detective is absolutely amazing in this role. Watching him take each crime scene apart piece by piece to ‘get his man’, it also gives the viewer the same opportunity to go back into Sidney’s life and see what might have gone unnoticed because, like our own lives, it is all in the eye of the beholder. I loved this performance by Chandler but then again if you’ve seen the series Bloodline, you know this actor was certainly up to the challenge in this role. 

The must-see breakout performance is Jenner as Brett Newport. This BMOC senior jock walks the hallways of high school in his letterman’s jacket without a care in the world. Sometimes what we think is so true of someone can turn at a moments notice. Jenner’s character brings harshness mixed with a sadness that feels so real for this young man.

Another shout out to Nathan Lane as Harold! Although his role isn’t large, Lane has the unique ability to make every second he is on screen count and playing Harold is no exception. As Harold, Lane is brash, bold and I loved it. 

Other cast include Michelle Monaghan as Mrs. Hall, Janina Gavankar as Gina, Margaret Qualley as Alexandra, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Duane, Tim Nelson as Johan, Michael Drayer as Max, Christina Brucato as Jeanine, Alex Karpovsky as Bauer, Darren Pettie as Gerald Hall and David Basche as Senator Dale.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE VANISHING OF SIDNEY HALL four tubs of popcorn out of five. I know it is early in the year yet I feel like I’ve seen something stellar, heart felt wrapped in an honestly original story. Filled with a weaving of time periods that is done with such ease and yet so compelling to watch.

This is a cast that envelopes every moment of screen time stretching my emotional core and just when I thought I could take a deep breath – twist! Isn’t that what we want from good storytelling and good filmmaking? That’s what this film is all about, testing us all to our emotional limits and rooting for each to release the memories that hold them down.

Trust me when I say there is so much more to the film that I will not put in this review. I truly want everyone who sees this film to experience each moment for themselves and jaw drop at the twists that are nothing short of brilliantly done. The cinematography is equally well done and if you thinks places in the world are just geography – think again.

In the end – it’s all about beginnings.

BLACK PANTHER Follows the Marvel Super Hero Formula

Jeri Jacquin

The story is ready to be told as director Ryan Coogler, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures brings the tale of BLACK PANTHER.

The death of now King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his kingdom of Wakanda in Africa but not before making a pit stop with General Okoye (Danai Gurira) to pick up ex-love Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). 

Standing before the other factions, Zuri (Forest Whitaker) asks if there is anyone who would challenge for the throne. After a brief altercation with M’Baku (Winstone Duke) it becomes clear that T’Challa would rule Wakanda. His mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and technology wiz kid-sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) join in the ceremony as they watch T’Challa’s victory.

But there is something that needs his immediate attention when friend W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) wants the capture of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who has stolen some of Wakanda’s source of technology. Klaue however is not alone as Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has a score to settle with Wakanda.

Looking for Klaue as well is CIA Agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and isn’t happy when he sees T’Challa, Nakia and Okoye at a sting operation in an underground casino in Asia. Trying to strike a deal on who gets Klaue, chaos breaks out and the chase is on.

It soon becomes clear who Killmonger is when he makes his way to Wakanda with one goal in mind – to get backing which he finds in W’Kabi and to take the throne. When the challenge goes horribly wrong, Nakia, Shuri and Ramonda are on the run and find an ally in the most unlikely place. Now the tribes begin to see the destruction of their world!

T’Challa learns that all families have secrets but that secrets don’t always stay hidden and sometimes it is the sons that pay the price!

Boseman as T’Challa aka Black Panther carries himself with the elegance that makes it totally believable that he is royalty. Trying to keep the traditional and secretive ways of Wakanda, especially about the unearthly vibranium, he becomes conflicted when it is suggested by ex-love Nakia that they could do so much more for the world. Unfortunately that falls far down his royal agenda as conflicts and bad guys need to be taken care of to stabilize the country and tribal factions. Boseman wears the suit and the position well.

Gurira as General Okoye is the only lady that could pull of a fight scene while wearing a stunning and flowing red gown. What I’m saying is that if I ever get into a fight in an underground dressy casino – I want Gurira on my side. Okoye is loyal but certainly conflicted. Nyong’o as Nakia wants to do as much as she can for the world outside of Wakanda much to the dismay of T’Challa. Don’t let the fact that Nyong’o’s character is quiet in nature because when she needs to talking isn’t necessary – action does!

Jordan as Killmonger is the man with the attitude and it’s not a good thing. Dealing with the death of his own father, he becomes a highly trained killer with only one goal – make everyone pay for what has made him hostile. Jordan gives every ounce of a bad guy in his performance. Kaluuya as W’Kabi is the friend you don’t ever want to deal with. It seems there is a strong bond between he and T’Challa yet when things don’t go in his favor he flips the script and Kalyyua makes it stick. 

Gollum and Bilbo are reunited for another round of good vs. evil! Freeman as the CIA Agent wants to help the people of Wakanda and definitely gets his chance. He might be a mild mannered agent but stands up for his new friends. Serkis as Klaue gets to be as evil as he wants to be and nothing seems to bother him and I have to admit to chuckling once or twice.

Whitaker as Zuri has a story to tell and I’m going to let him be the one to tell it so no spoilers from me. Bassett as Ramonda is the Queen who sees the kingdom in turmoil but would throw it all away for the safety of her family and people. Duke as M’Baku is big, bad and knows that things are changing and he must choose.

Special shout out goes to Letitia Wright as Shuri! She is her own brand of bad ass being smart, beautiful and very funny. She is the technology of Wakanda and Wright gives this character everything and then some. I just enjoyed what she brought to the story and embracing her characters dedication to family, country and science. There is more to her story as well but you didn’t hear it from me.

Other cast include Florence Kasumba as Ayo, John Kani as T’Chaka, David S. Lee as Limbani, Nabiyah Be as Linda, and Sterling K. Brown as N’Jobu.

BLACK PANTHER is the reason fans flock to the theatre to experience an adventure, good story and characters that have jumped from page to screen. I have no doubt that Marvel fans are biting at the bit to be the first in the theatres and I am secure in saying they will get their money’s worth.

That being said (here comes the screams), BLACK PANTHER falls absolutely into the Marvel universe. The formula of conflict, family, bad guys and loyalty is found in every Marvel story and BLACK PANTHER follows it to the letter. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the film; on the contrary, it was what we all go to the movies for right? Popcorn, friends and fun – well on that note BLACK PANTHER delivers.

Is there anything that absolutely blows me away about the film? Not really but let me say that isn’t necessarily bad. It just means I saw exactly what I thought I would see and other than the ethereal Lion King moment I went for the ride. It has action, adventure, tekkie stuff, special effects, music and eye candy for all so take that and run. The cast bring the story everything it needs to crowd please.

So pack up the gang and make it a great Marvel/Disney night at the movies!

In the end – long live the king!


FIFTY SHADES FREED Closes Out the Thriller/Sexual Trilogy

Jeri Jacquin

Climaxing this Friday from Universal Pictures and director James Foley is the final film in a trilogy that brings us FIFTY SHADES FREED.

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) has received a ring from the unusual man of her dreams Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). After a beautiful wedding the two jet off to Europe for a honeymoon of sun and spending time as only these newlyweds can. Back in Seattle, someone is trying to sabotage Christian's family when files are stolen and a fire is set.

The Grey's immediately return and as Christian investigates what is happening, Ana returns to her job to discover that she has been given a promotion. It's important to her because the person responsible for what is happening is Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) who clearly has an agenda to bring down the Grey's.

Realizing her life has been a whirlwind, Ana reconnects with Kate (Eloise Mumford) spending time together over the watchful eye of her bodyguard Sawyer (Brant Daugherty) while Christian is out of town. Upset with Ana, he understands that she misses the company of her friends. Arranging time with Kate, Jose (Victor Rasuk) and his siblings Mia (Rita Ora) and Elliot (Luke Grimes) they learn an unexpected surprise.

Relaxed and back to work, it isn't long before Jack's back! Being attacked is more than Ana and Christian can take and after more surprising family news; the couple's next event is staggering. Ana must now make a decision without Christian that is dangerous and could cost her everything.

Johnson as Anastasia is much stronger in this film and it's nice to see. I think my favorite part is when she puts architect Gia Matteo on the hot seat by staking her claim to the house Christian has bought for them and being called 'Mrs. Grey'. She also lets her new husband know that their life together is important, but so is working and friendships. Christian is discovering that his new wife is much stronger than he ever gave her credit for. I think I like Johnson in this film the best.

Dornan as Christian begins to show his weaker side in this film and that's not a bad thing. For a character that spent two films being in control of everything, it was only a matter of time before the cracks would begin to show. Those insecurities lead Christian to make some seriously dumb decisions and this stronger Ana gives him what-for in no uncertain terms! Dornan's Christian is in new territory but the women in the audience adore both the character and the actor so forgiveness flowed in the theatre.

Eric Johnson as Jack clearly is still angry over his firing, Ana's quick rise in the publishing world and a few secrets that Christian is determined to find out. Let's be honest, crazy people do crazy things and Jack lives up to that and does so in plain site. His goal is one thing, to make Ana pay for what he believe she has done and give the Grey family reasons to be nervous.

Mumford returns as Ana's friend Kate with a few surprises in store for her, Grimes as brother Elliot shares a little of Christian's childhood and sees that he is finally happy, Ora returns as sister Mia who is still protective of her adoptive brother. Harden returns as Christian's mother Grace who believes in her son and is supportive when things go a little awry.

Other cast includes Max Martini as Taylor, Jennifer Ehle as Carla, Bruce Altman as Jerry Roach, Arielle Kebbel as Gia Matteo, Callum Keith Rennie as Ray, Robinne Lee as Ros Bailey and Marcia Gay Harden as Grace Grey.

FIFTY SHADES FREED brings the story of Anastasia and Christian full circle and pushes a little past for those who truly want to know how their life plays out. I heard a woman next to me at the screening say she was a little sad there wasn't more of the wedding shown and, as with TWILIGHT films, everyone wants to see more of the beautiful dress.

The story does take off fairly quickly not giving much time for the couple or the audience to settle in. Jack returns to make sure to put a kibosh on a happy newlywed beginning. Honeymoon is over when security guards become part of the Grey's new married life. It was nice to see Ana return to a job she obviously loves but also make it known that she wants a life of friends and normalcy. 

Of course the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY films give audiences their soft core sex scenes that haven't been shy in any way since it first hit screens in 2015 and FIFTY SHADES FREED is no exception. What is new in the films is the insecurities Christian can no longer hide from. In the first two films he is calm, cool and a bit on the controlling side. This film he throws a few tantrums that made the women in the audience gasp a little but that's what happens when all that control starts slipping away.

Erika Mitchell wrote under the pen name of E.L. James when writing her Fifty Shades trilogy. There is also Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian novel that was released last year. Possible there could be another Fifty Shades film? I think there are fans who would like to see that happen.

I have no doubt that those who love the Fifty Shades books will gather up like minded gals for a fun night at the movies. Have dinner, a few drinks and cheer the new couple on their alternative life together. Nothing wrong with a little Friday night Grey!

In the end - Mrs. Grey will see you now!

It's Time for Some Serious POOP TALK

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this February for a squat near you is director Aaron Feldman, Comedy Dynamics and Party of Seven Entertainment's idea of POOP TALK.

First of all let me say this review is probably like none that I have ever done before because someone has finally decided to go where no camera, other than a colonoscopy cam, has ever gone before. Letting the lights, camera and action focus on what we don't talk about - poop.

Let’s be honest folks, we all try to avoid that awkward conversation about one of the most natural things in the world - going to the bathroom. This docu-comedy decides to break the toilet paper ceiling and let is all loose. Who better to get the conversation rolling than people who make us laugh about everything (sometimes until we pee), oh and a few experts in the field.

Starting with stories of their growing up and the family feelings toward pooping to how it affects relationships between men and women, there isn't a moment that won't make you laugh. Sharing their most embarrassing moments to the verbiage used to describe their experiences - there is no restroom barrier!

But the poop talk doesn't stop there, now that the bathroom door is open we also get a look inside to discover if these funny people are one-ply, three-ply, baby wipes or even a bidet users not to mention Adam Carolla's use of the brushed nickel toilet paper cover. The pride begins to slide out with descriptions of warming toilet seats, the temperature of bidet water and convenient remotes to be extra comfy on the porcelain throne.

Come on - there are ads that tell us to ‘enjoy the go’ and ads featuring spray to cover up poop smell, or how about the 'squatty potty' complete with prince and unicorns? 

Comedians like Kumail Nanjiani, Nicole Byer, Adam Carolla, Rob Corddry, Nikki Glaser, Pete Holmes, Eric Stonestreet, Randy and Jason Sklar, Nick Swardson and Dr. Drew Pinsky are just a monkey's handful of people who openly share where they 
have pooped and where they absolutely won't.

Comedy Dynamics is one of the largest independent comedy production and distribution companies producing Kevin Hart's GUIDE TO BLACK HISTORY, Animal Planet's ANIMAL NATION with Anthony Anderson and HISTORY'S JOIN OR DIE with Craig Ferguson. Working with such comedic talent as Kevin Hart, Jim Gaffigan, Katt Williams and many more you can see what more they have to offer at www.comedydynamics.com.

Feldman says, "This film has been a labor of love. Done with friends and family help and support. The Sklar's Jason and Randy, our Executive Producers are amazing and without them this could not have been made. I want to thank them for the faith in a vision and 
a seemingly high brow approach to a low brow subject."

POOP TALK really does bring humor to a topic that shouldn't cause us all to get backed up or stressed but still does. Seriously, if you are a human being and you eat then you are going to end up, as Rob Corddry would say, working it out. This is the best docu-comedy I’ve seen in some time!

In the end – it’s comedy that goes right in the toilet!

BILAL: A New Breed of Hero

Jeri Jacquin

Coming soon from directors Khurram H. Alavi, Ayman Jamal and Barjaoun Entertainment is a story of family, hope, survival and breaking the chains for freedom with BILAL: A New Breed of Hero.

Many generations ago surrounded by his sister and mother, Bilal is a young boy who dreams of being a great warrior. In a fraction of a second Bilal and sister Ghufaira watched in horror as they are separated from their mother and become slaves to the vicious overlord Umayya (voiced by Ian McShane).

Told to always take care of his sister, Bilal is now the servant to Umayya and his narcissistic son Saad (Thomas Ian Nicholas) who clearly enjoys finding ways to hurt Bilal. As the years go by, Bilal (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) watches as the other slaves suffer and Umayya demands loyalty as well as coin but focuses on taking care of Ghufaira (Cynthia McWilliams).

One day Bilal stops a boy from doing the wrong thing that could have gotten him beaten and it catches the attention of Al-Hakam also called the Lord of Merchants (Al Rodrigo). Asking why Bilal saved the boy, he explains that it was to help the boy. The conversation turns to being free and he remembers his own mother telling him something similar as a 
child.

It wasn't until Bilal saw Hamza's (Dave B. Mitchell) reaction to the poor treatment of slaves that he realizes that there is more to life than being a slave. During an evening serving Umayya, Saad makes it known that Bilal is part of a group that believes in 
freedom. When confronted, Bilal lets it be known that he is an equal to every man in the room which causes him to be tortured much to the delight of Saad.

He is rescued by Al-Hakam who buys Bilal's freedom and takes him to a place where he would be safe. Unfortunately, Bilal discovers that Umayya has given Ghufaira to Saad who has no intention of giving her up. Now Bilal must train to fight for the freedom of others until he can come to Saad face to face to reunite his family.

Bilal learns that he must control his anger and pain to 'not let the weapon dictate decisions' and although he has plenty of reason to be angry, he learns it serves nothing. As the years go by Bilal and his people finally come back to where it all began and Bilal 
makes one more decision that could change his life.

Understanding and forgiveness is everything.

The voice of Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the adult Bilal is powerful, strong, beautiful and verbally expresses so much emotion. Struggling with who he is and what his place is in the world, Akinnuoye-Agbaje offers up a vocal performance giving this historic character strength and beauty.

McWilliams as Ghufaira as well as McClain give their voice of caring and even fear knowing that Saad truly wants to hurt them both. She is such a lovely character who knows that their childhood was filled with pain but constantly strives to be a support for her brother Bilal. That is an endearing sentiment to share between siblings and these two ladies do a fantastic job of portraying that.

McShane as Umayya is a voice that I recognize without ever having to see his face. The amazing thing about this actor is that as much as I adore seeing him on the big and small screen, he has the unique ability to bring emotion with just his voice. He has the ability to be evil, charming, a bit sarcastic and even funny when called for. In the vocal role of Umayya, it is pure evil and has no difficulty making us believe that he has no care for anyone other than himself.

Nicholas as Saad is a chip off the ole block as a boy who has definitely learned how to be an angry and vindictive 'master'. He relishes in the fact that people fear him for who his father is and delights in making Bilal suffer by using the love for his sister as a weapon 
all its own.

Mitchell as Hamza is the man who sees what Bilal's mother saw when he was a child. Although it is at times difficult to reach Bilal because of his anger, Hamza does not give up. Instead, he takes the time to explain how Bilal is responsible for his own life and all the decisions that come with that. Letting him know that even a free man must deal with the consequences of his actions, Bilal begins to transform before our very eyes. Mitchell's voice is strong yet unwavering in conveying the belief that all men are free!

Other cast include Michael Gross as Okba, Jon Curry as Soheib, Mick Wingert as Safwan, Al Rodrigo as Abu Al-Hakam Ghufaira as a teen China Anne McClain, Jacob Latimore as Bilal as a teen, Andre Robsinson as Bilal as a child.

BILAL: A New Breed of Hero is a wonderful story that is told exceeding well in this animated film. The characters are well developed in such a way that the viewer has time to understand the era of time in the Arabian Peninsula. Fourteen hundred years ago the city of Makka was being controlled by a man who clearly believed that all were inferior - perhaps even his own son. Finding a way to fleece all and put the fear of a made up religion in their hearts is a story told time and time again throughout the world at this 
time.

The animation is absolutely stunning with its brilliance in bringing the story even more life and reflection. The scene where Bilal sees himself in the sand is breathtaking. There is so much detail in everything from the eyebrows to the hair on the horses that adds such depth to an already deep story.

From the life of Bilal ibn Rabah who was a slave known for a beautiful voice, he would also grow to be a loyal friend of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Chosen to be a muezzin he would call people to prayer with his voice. That is an amazing part of his life but trust me when I say everyone should read more about this person's existence because he had the choice to be a product of the heinous things that happened to him but instead chose another path. In other words, he made his mother's words proud.

BILAL: A New Breed of Hero is a solid and original story along with visually stunning animation that I enjoyed very much. This is an opportunity for families to learn a little history and grasp on to the universal beliefs of family, doing what is right and always 
standing up for those who may not be able to do it for themselves. I always find it beautiful when these stories are shared that are set in 'ancient' times but aren't so ancient at all.

In the end - a legend breaks free!


HOSTILES is the First Epic of 2018

Jeri Jacquin

On the vast plains of the 1800's from writer/director Scott Cooper and Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures comes a story of redemption between HOSTILES.

Capt. Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) has spent his military career fighting both wars and himself. Making it clear he has no compassion for Native Americans, he is shocked when the outpost Colonel instructs him by Presidential order to take Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family home to Montana after serving seven years in prison. Being defiant, Blocker tells his superior that he refuses the order but is forced to realize that a court martial is possible.

Along with a detail including Lt. Kidder (Jesse Plemons), Wilks (Bill Camp), Corp. Molinor (Stafford Douglas), and Corp. Woodsen (Jonathan Majors), they lead Chief Yellow Hawk and his family Black Hawk (Adam Beach), Elk Woman (O'orianka Kilcher), Little Bear (Xavier Horsechief) and Living Woman (Tanaya Beatty) across the plains to Montana.

Preparing to stop for the night they come across a burned out home and while investigating discover Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) who is in shock over the death of her family. Capt. Blocker and the men are immediately struck to the bone by what they 
see and what she has been through knowing they must accompany her fragile self to the next town.

Chief Yellow Hawk knows that the men who caused the chaos are not far away and tries to get the Captain to understand that they want to help but the mistrust is intense. Continuing on their way, the group is attacked by renegade Comanche’s who don't care who is in the group. Trying to reach Montana safely the group is now unsure of how they will survive the attacks from all sides.

In the next town, Capt. Blocker asks that the post Lieutenant to see that Mrs. Quaid is taken care of but that's not what she wants. Feeling safer with Blocker, she makes it clear that the journey to Montana is something she needs to see to the end. The Lieutenant asks Blocker to escort a prisoner to the next town stop to be turned over for trail after 
committing murder. 

He agrees but is equally surprised at who the prisoner turns out to be.
Getting closer their destination, the two sides begin to see the pain and sadness each has experienced and in one moment Capt. Blocker sees his world shift in the most unexpected way.

That’s what happens when you walk a mile in real life.

Bale as Captain Blocker is an angry man who lived his military life surrounded by heinous acts. When those acts begin to reflect back onto his life, watching Bale slowly take in every bit of it is something to experience. There is not a lot of dialogue for his character but instead being continually riveted by the duality of how he handles each step towards Montana.

Studi as Chief Yellow Hawk is the calm in the middle of a storm. I adore when Studio shines on the screen in this way and having spent more than his fair share of time portraying Native Americans, this portrayal is stunningly beautiful. He also has little dialogue but when he does speak it is from the heart of a wounded people. There is something to be said for quiet strength but don't get me wrong; Chief Yellow Hawk still has fight left in him.

Pike as Rosalie is a pioneer woman who has ever reason to be broken, fearful and angry. Finding a sense of security with Capt. Blocker, she also begins to understand the people considered the enemy because of a honorable gesture. Pike grows with each mile they put behind them and doesn't hesitate to pick up a weapon and make her feelings known.

Beach as Black Hawk follows the wisdom and ways of his father Chief Yellow Hawk wanting to do what's best for his family. It is good to see Beach once again in a film that does him justice. Kilcher as Elk Woman takes in everything going on around her making 
sure to protect her son. Horsechief as Little Bear is thoughtful, smart, and embraces everyone with a gentle smile and my heart just melted ever scene he was in.

Plemmons as Lt. Kidder turns in a performance that keeps me believing that he is such an under utilized actor. Here his character experiences events that jolt him but it doesn't change the part of him that is wants to do what's right. Camp as Wilks is at the end of his career and throwing unexpected events toward Captain Blocker. Camp's performance is stoic and heartbreaking at the same time.

Other cast also include Rory Cochrane as Master Sgt. Metz (Rory Cochrane), Timothee Chalamet as Pvt. DeJardin, John Hickey as Capt. Tolan, Robyn Malcolm as Minnie McCowan, Peter Mullan as Lt. McCowan, Stephen Lang as Col. Biggs Paul Anderson as Corp. Thomas, David Midthunder as Buffalo Man, Ryan Bingham as Sgt. Malloy and Ben Foster as Sgt. Wills.

HOSTILES will give audiences a experience with a story that I believe offers up the question of 'who really are the hostiles?' The cinematography is stunning with a wide open view of the elements giving the characters space to truly bring the story and the wide spectrum of human emotions.

Bale carries the load of a man fighting between the hostile man he's become towards Native Americans and now being confronted with that hostility. Studi's character of Chief Yellow Hawk sees the pain Capt. Blocker is in and understands it more than the military 
man realizes. These are two men who have seen and done things towards one another and it is fitting that they must stand face to face, accept and forgive. 

HOSTILES has already received attention from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association with a nomination for Breakthrough Film Artist Timothee Chalamet and has won the Capri Photoplay Award for Masanobu Takayanagi by Capri, Hollywood. 

In the end - we are all hostiles.


THE POST will be in the Oscar Race!

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox is a story of dedication to the truth in print from THE POST.

It is the 1970's and Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) is the woman who owns and runs The Washington Post with Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) as her editor. Knowing that there are those who don't support or trust her running of the paper, Kay takes in what is happening around her to find her voice. 

When it comes to their attention that there is someone who has documents that expose the governments plans in Vietnam, The Post wants them. There is a problem, the man who photocopied the papers, Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) has gone into hiding and slivers of the information have also been shared with The New York Times. 

What is in the papers? That the United States government was not being truthful to the American public about involvement in the Vietnam War. The papers also show the level of involvement went through Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) all the way up to the president.

The New York Times looks for advice about publishing the Pentagon Papers and the government wants an injunction against any further papers be published. In the meantime, reporter Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) from the Post finds Ellsberg and is given boxes of papers and Kay must decide whether to go forward before they are also stopped by the courts. 

Bradlee gathers his writers and the clock is set to beat anything or anyone that wants to get in their way. Kay begins to feel the weight of what she is up against and realizes that she knows people that are involved and now must decide what the right thing is. Pressed by the papers all-male board, she realizes that the paper her father build is now 
Kay digs in deep and knows that Bradlee will follow her lead.

The truth is worth fighting for!

Streep as Kay Graham once again turns in a performance of a woman who is seen as a lovely decoration to the Post with men telling her what is important and what isn't for the paper. Of course her insecurities are clear and Streep portrays the era with perfection. Gaining strength throughout the film, I cheer the hardest when she realizes that if the board of the paper wants to play tough - then she must learn to as well. Nothing wrong with telling the good ole' boys club that it is 'her' paper and that's how she is going to run it. Streep always gives everything to these roles and makes them not only believable but exceptional.

Hanks as Ben Bradlee is perfection and yes I'm being hugely Hanks-struck. I adore this actor and find him to be the absolute best of Hollywood and that includes the much misunderstood film TURNER AND HOOCH! Of course I wondered how he was going to portray this character since I do have Jason Robards' version of Bradlee from the 1976 film ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN stuck in my head. I had no reason to worry! THE POST is a perfect film to watch first and then take on the 1976 film because it is a history lesson about the government's shenanigans from The Washington Post's articles portrayed by two amazing actors.

Odenkirk as Bagdikian is on it to find the man with the papers. Knowing that this is the most important thing he will work toward, there is a moment where all of it might fall apart and Odenkirk keeps it straight. Rhys as Ellsberg has the worst case of paranoia I've ever seen and with good reason. He has what the government is looking for so he's not about to let go if the information isn't made public.

Greenwood as McNamara is a man trying to keep his head above water yet Greenwood makes it look smooth and controlled. That's what I love about Greenwood, whether he portrays a good, bad or indifferent character, he makes it look ridiculously smooth. The scene between Greenwood and Streep is hard to watch and strong for both of them in the scheme of the storyline.

Other cast include: Sarah Paulson as Tony Bradlee, Tracy Letts as Fritz Beebe, David Cross as Howard Simons, Zach Woods as Anthony Essaye, Bradley Whitford as Arthur Parsons, Alison Brie as Lally Graham, Carrie Coon as Meg Greenfield, and Jesse Plemons as Roger Clark.

THE POST is already high on the nominations for awards and deservedly so. This is a story that needed to be told for so many reasons especially with what is going on in government now. I am an avid watcher of films based on history and THE POST 
not only falls into that category but totally served me up a history lesson. 

The caliber of actors and actresses in this film make it extraordinary bringing it to a level that can't be touched. That is what makes this film for me - a cast that seems to dive right in and take no prisoners mixed in with totally absorbing the time period of the 1970's. 

Watching each character take on their own beliefs about why they do what they do comes into play and it can't be hidden in the film. Spielberg takes his own risk bringing the real news story to the attention of a fake-news world. He keeps the storyline crisp and doesn't sugar coast anything about what it takes to hold the government accountable when caught lying to its own people.

What this should do for the press is remind them that people do want to know the truth about their government and that not only is that government accountable but so is the press that reports it. I can't imagine that anyone who reports the news of the world not finding an amazing place in their hearts for the papers/editors and reporters who came before.

In the end – truth be told!
12 STRONG: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers Brings Two Sides to the Same War

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Nicolai Fuglsig and Warner Bros. is the a story of a group of soldiers who are dedicated to doing what is necessary by being 12 STRONG.

Cpt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is ready to settle into a different military job that would allow him to be home with his wife and daughter. That is until September 11 as he sees on television what almost every American would see as the World Trade Center is under attacked. Knowing that he must return to his Special Forces team, he enlists the help of Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon) to get him back into the fold.

Quickly a team is sent to Afghanistan as Cpt. Nelson and his team including Sgt. Sam Diller (Michael Pena), Sgt. Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes), Sgt. Pat Essex (Austin Hebert), Sgt. Bill Bennett (Kenny Sheard) and more arrive with gear in tow.

Now, Cpt. Nelson must convince Col. Mulholland (William Fichtner) that his team is ready to meet with Northern Alliance General Dostum (Navid Negahban) to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It becomes quickly clear that this will be a struggle as Cpt. Nelson makes contact with General Dostum and there are immediate trust issues that are understandable on both sides.

Another surprise for the Cpt. and men is that this war is going to be fought in a way they could never imagine - on horseback! To get across the desolate land to meet up with 
other fighters, there is another leader bringing his own brand of despicable destruction that affects the General deeply.

What is necessary is that two men who have no reason to trust one another learn that they need each other and by working together it may not solve the war's problems but does bring a surprising understanding of two unlikely leaders.

Hemsworth as Cpt. Nelson is a man dedicated to doing whatever he can, along with his men, to stop those responsible for the terror on American soil. His need to do so means he must say goodbye to his family once again with the belief that he will be returning home. Hemsworth gives a strong performance of a leader who cares about his men but also begins to understand that what he and the crew want are the same thing General Dostum wants. Trusting each other in a short amount of time proves to be frustrating as Cpt. Nelson's goal is to finish the mission and bring the men home.

Negahban as General Dostum is equally as dedicated as his American counterpart. Believing that there is only one way to fight the enemy who is taking over his country, he tries to believe that the American soldiers mean well but trust on both sides is slowing them down. The cultural misunderstandings are swift and bring about quick reactions from these leaders, as Negahban's character begins to share the feelings of the Afghani people, he explains that they want the terrorists just as gone as Cpt. Nelson and his men do.

Shannon as Spencer believes that the mission can only succeed if Nelson is with them. This is a strong character and what I mean by that is the person of Spencer fights through so much to be there for mission success. It is intense when the group realizes that getting help is difficult where they are embedded in the mountains. This role is a departure from the crazy mean character of Strickland in the stunning THE SHAPE OF WATER.

Pena as Sgt. Diller is another character who brings a little bit of laughter with his quick wit and straight delivery. At the same time Pena can put on a game face that is not to be messed with but also this isn't his first go around playing characters close to war with 
his role in LIONS FOR LAMBS and WORLD TRADE CENTER. I believe that Pena is such an under utilized actor and with every role he confirms it.

Fichtner as Col. Mulholland has to be convinced to send in Cpt. Nelson and his men in for a mission that could prove to be a disaster. Once he sends them to meet with General Dostum, it is one step at a time filled with intensity that there are so many pieces to the 
fight.

More of the 12 STRONG include Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Ben O'Toole, Austin Stowell, Kenneth Miller, Kenny Sheard, and Jack Kesy as well as Elsa Patasky, Max Bowers, Marie Wagenman and Rob Riggle.

12 STRONG is a totally different look at the war in Afghanistan after 9/11 because it gives both sides of the fight through a story that deserves to be told. The American soldiers made their feelings quite clear as to why they wanted to go for a dangerous mission in Afghanistan but we also learn that General Dostum and his men have a view as well. 

To me that is a fantastic way to bring this story to the screen and see why each leader and their men mistrust. From the moment the two men arrive at the meeting point, the tension and mistrust is so thick on the screen. That is where the duality of emotion for the viewer kicks in because of course it is understandable that the American soldiers and Afghani soldiers each would be on high alert toward one another. 

As the film continues and the Afghans explain what life has been like for them and their people - a change happens, not just between the characters on screen but the audience as well. There are such amazing scenes that either had my jaw dropped or found that I was holding my breath. 

That's what 12 STRONG does, takes you inside an unexpected war to learn about people who are trying to survive terror themselves and come together in unexpected ways.

Doug Stanton is the author of the book HORSE SOLDIERS and he says, "I wanted this to be a book that you would read about guys surviving a harrowing situation. They were told very little about their mission except to attack terrorist camps but not told they would have to ride a horse to do it".  

Also to celebrate these brave soldiers who fought on horseback, sculptor Douwe 
Blumberg created the bronze statue De Oppresso Liber located in Liberty Park in New York guarding the attack site.

In the end - on September 11, 2001 the world watched in terror and on September 12, 2001 they volunteered to fight!
THE COMMUTER Rides on Rails!

Jeri Jacquin

Get your tickets ready to board the train as director Jaume Collet-Serra and Lionsgate take us all on a thrill ride following THE COMMUTER.

Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) is a man that has fallen into a routine of life. Getting up, spending morning moments with wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern) and family and jumping on the train to get to work is how he sees his life. Having spent the last ten years working for an insurance company, his life is about to change in ways he never saw coming. 

Meeting up with friend Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson), he has a chance to vent about things. Running into former colleague Hawthorne (Sam Neill), Michael and Alex have nothing nice to say about their working relationship or the good ole days. 

After having a few beers, Michael boards the train going home feeling a 
little defeated. Trying to forget life for a moment in a book, he is interrupted by Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who sits and starts a hypothetical conversation that intrigues Michael.
The problem is - it is turning out not to be so hypothetical. 

Joanna wants Michael to find someone who is on the train and obtain a little something they are carrying. The problem is - even Joanna doesn't know who it is. He is shocked to 
learn that Joanna knows about his problems, wife and son and is stunned when he is offered a large sum of money for his services.

When he discovers that murder is happening on the train, Joanna makes it clear learns his family could be next. Now he must walk back and forth on the moving commuter train to find out who doesn't belong and figure out who Joanna really is and what it is she desperately wants.

Time is clicking away faster than the wheels spinning on the train!

Neeson as Michael is once again proving that not only does he still got it but more over we all want to see it. Before going into the theatre, I heard so many conversations of the audience members (of all ages by the way) that they couldn't wait to see the film 
because it was Liam Neeson. That is one heck of a following to have and I absolutely count myself as one of them. Neeson has the voice, swag and willingness to take hits as this character comes to terms with where he is in his life. That being said, when enough is enough Neeson does what he does best - flip the tables and the audience lost its mind cheering. Neeson has become an absolute treasure and I love it.

Farmiga as Joanna is a woman who got Michael's attention and kept it all through the film. This character basically has me totally rethinking anytime anyone says "let's just say hypothetically speaking" and Farmiga delivers that line so well. Wilson as Alex is a friend Michael turns to when everything begins to go crazy. It's hard to know who to trust when the wheels are turning and time isn't on your side. It's interesting to see Farmiga and Wilson in the same film together without there being a creepy doll or possessed house in the mix.

The cast of commuters is so well done and I'm not going to give a breakdown because this is a train ride I want everyone to be part of for themselves. It is an intense who-done-it or in this case who-is-it and watching Neeson's character try to remain calm and work it out kept my brain busy. Good luck figuring it out!

Other cast includes Jonathan Bans as Walt, Killian Scott as Dylan, Shazad Latif as Vince, Andy Nyman as Tony, Clara Lago as Eva, Roland Moller as Jackson, Florence Pugh as Gwen, Ella-Rae Smith as Sofia and Jonathan Banks as Walt.

THE COMMUTER is a fun thrill ride for the beginning of the new year. This is the type of film, especially for Neeson fans, to gather up a bunch of friends for a night at the movies. I love it when eating popcorn that there is more time with popcorn in your hand up to an open mouth than actually eaten. That's what a fun thriller like THE COMMUTER is.

Of course it is centered on the inside of a train which one might think would confine the story but you would be wrong. There is so much action and different compartments of the train that the action is constant. I'm throwing up tons of props brining intensity and adventure to a moving train and with a storyline of twists.

In the end - lives are on the line!

INSIDIOUS: The Last Key Brings Jumps for the New Year

Jeri Jacquin

Preparing to bring thrills and chills Friday in theatres from director Adam Robitel and Universal Pictures is good ole fashion fright from INSIDIOUS: The Last Key.

Elise (Lin Shaye) is plagued by dreams of the childhood house she once lived in with a violent father Gerard (Josh Stewart), endearing mother Melissa (Spencer Locke) and little brother Christian in 1952. When she receives a telephone call from a man named Ted (Kirk Acevedo) pleading for help, Elise is shocked when he gives her the address.

It is the house she left so many years ago in New Mexico. Knowing she must return to face what ever is spiritually infesting the house, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) aren’t about to let her go without them.

Almost immediately the house begins to reveal its secrets that Elise had blocked out for so many years. She also tried to meet up with her brother Christian (Bruce Davison) and Elise meets two nieces Imogen (Caitlin Gerard) and Melissa (Spencer Locke). Christian obviously holds hard feelings toward his sister.

The house wants what the house wants and now it becomes a family affair when Elise must go deeper into ‘The Further’ than she ever has before discovering horrifying secrets and to save the ones she loves.

But, will KeyFace allow that to happen!

Shaye as Elise has taken this character in so many different directions but I’m thrilled that she returned to tell her own story. I have always been a fan of Shaye as an actress and equally thrilled that the storyline let her continue to bring us the hauntingly spooky journey of this parapsychologist who isn’t afraid of much. Not saying her nerves don’t get rattled but she sucks it up and charges in!

Whannell as Specs also jumps right in and makes sure that Elise is covered and protected. Thought a little goofy, Specs is more sweet than nerdy. The hilarious nerd prize goes to Sampson as Tucker because I could not stop laughing at everything he does. Elise has her hands full reining him in when he gets sidetracked.

Gerard as Imogen is a little standoffish to meet an Aunt she didn’t know she had but that changes when stepping inside her father’s house once again. Locke as Melissa is thrilled to meet Elise and admits that she doesn’t know the history her father is so upset about.

Davison as brother Christian is holding a grudge and its one heck of a long grudge. It’s good to see him on screen again and although his role is small, it works. Javier Botet takes on the role of KeyFace and totally rocks it. The keys on the fingertips is a little unnerving but hey, it kept the audience on their toes.

Other cast include Amanda Jaros as Mara Jennings, Marcus Henderson as Det. Whitfield, Aleque Reid as Anna, Ava Kolker as young Elise, and Pierce Pope as young Christian. 

For the first scary movie of the year, INSIDIOUS: The Last Key doesn’t disappoint. The audience jumped, yelled, scared each other and even took time to laugh to shake away the frights. That’s what I love about the INSIDIOUS films, just having a good time without tons of ridiculous slashing or gore.

Director Robitel keeps the feel that previous INSIDIOUS director James Wan set up as a successful roadmap to follow. Of course the title of the film is The Last Key and I’m hoping, no matter how much I think the films are cool, that there is a realization that it’s time to stop although I don’t think it will happen. Let’s go out on a high note shall we?

So after a very busy holiday season INSIDIOUS: The Last Key is a great film to go and just have some jumpy fun. Grab popcorn (hold with both hands), a few friends who just want to have a little theatre fun and enjoy the jolts, jumps and laughs the film will bring.

In the end – fear comes home!

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres for Christmas from director Ridley Scott and TriStar Pictures is the true story of greed and kidnapping when you have ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD.

John Getty II (Andrew Buchan) and wife Gail (Michelle Williams) are raising their children under the shadow of being related to the richest man in the world, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). When their finances become difficult, Gail suggests that John write a letter to his father and mend their relationship.

To their surprise, Getty sends a telegram asking them to come to Rome and for John to work with him. The older Getty takes a liking to his grandson Paul and encourages him to be a part of the family business and spending time learning about their history.

As the years pass, John falls hard into drugs and Paul is brought back home to Gail. The relationship with the elder Getty is back to where it was before and they all have little contact with him. Paul has a wild side and he tends to come and go as he pleases and Gail doesn’t know how to deal with it.

One night, as Paul (Charlie Plummer) walks the streets of Rome, in an instant he is kidnapped. Gail receives a telephone call informing her of it and that she is to pay a hefty ransom. Reaching out to Getty, she does not get the response of a grandfather concerned about his grandson but instead, the response of a penny pinching old man.

Getty does one thing however, brings in Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to work with Gail in trying to locate who might have Paul. Working with the Italian police, Chase isn’t sure he is getting the whole story about the kidnapping or the family.

Paul deals with the kidnappers, especially Cinquanta (Romain Duris) who believe that the ransom will be paid. Phone call after phone call begins to anger them as Gail tries to explain that it is not she who has the money. 

This is what happens when greed meets a man with an iron will because one way or another – everyone is going to pay!

Williams as Gail is a mother who knows the dynamics of the family but isn’t about to let her son die. It would be easy to see that she might be considered a tad cold but I also understand her more than I thought I would. As each phone calls comes in and each new threat is given, Williams thought process is quite clear.

Wahlberg as Chase is a man who clearly has worked with Getty on other issues but this one is different. Trying to understand why Getty just plain refuses to participate in what is clearly a serious matter stuns Chase. Wahlberg’s character begins to invest more of himself in what is happening and doesn’t care what his employer thinks. He puts on his usual badass and makes it known that what is right is right – no matter how much money you have.

Duris as Cinquanta is a kidnapper with a weird conscience. Between a rock and a hard place, it is clear he knows the difference between right and wrong. I’m not defending the guy in the slightest but Duris gives the character his moments.

There are two winners in this film and both of them have the last name of Plummers. First, Charlie Plummer as Paul is a young man who was going through life with a strange chip on his shoulder. There is a disconnect with his parents that just has him feeling as if nothing can touch his free spirit. He is also smarter than his kidnappers give him credit for. Plummer’s performance is everything I’d expect and still pleasantly surprised.

Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty is absolute and stunning perfection! From the moment he is on screen, Plummer portrays the richest man in the world with such a range of non-emotion emotion. What I mean to say is when he is angry you know he is although he’s not screaming, when he doesn’t care about something it is clear that it’s not on his to-do list and when it comes to money he clearly can talk about it with such believeability that it’s jaw dropping. Plummer has always been on my list of performers to watch but in ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD he deserves an Oscar!

Other cast include: Timothy Hutton as Oswald Hinge, Marco Leonardi as Mammoliti, Giuseppe Bonifati as Giovanni Iacovoni, Nicolas Vaporidis as Il Tamia, Andrea Bodini as Corvo, and Guglielmo Favilla as Piccolino.

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is a journey through this family’s story in the middle of a kidnapping heard round the world. I knew about the young boy being taken but there is so much more than I didn’t know. That’s what makes this film even more interesting is that it kept my attention with one jaw drop after another.

It is an interesting look inside a family that proves money doesn’t buy happiness. The performances are brilliant but, as I said, it is the two Plummer’s that steal the entire film. Director Ridley Scott delivers with solid storytelling and gives us a thriller, drama and suspenseful look deeper inside a true story.

In the end – J. Paul Getty had a fortune and everyone else paid the price!

My Christmas Has Arrives with STAR WARS: The Last Jedi

Jeri Jacquin

What can be said about STAR WARS: The Last Jedi other than Christmas came early for me. From writer/director Rian Johnson based on characters created by George Lucas and Walt Disney Studios comes the next installment on this epic adventure.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a remote island and is trying to convince him to help the Rebellion once again. General Leia (Carrie Fisher) is being followed after their attack on General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) with one goal, to destroy what is left of the rebel fighters on orders from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) must find a way to save the last of the fighters. Learning they are being tracked, Poe and Finn must find someone who can help them. Rey isn’t having much luck either with Luke as he has makes it clear that he is staying right where he is. As the two get to know one another, Rey feels a mysterious connection to Kylo Ren and Luke sees it as well.

Finn meets Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) who sees him as a hero for the cause. Wanting to help she discovers that there is much more to being a fighter than she realized. Up against Kylo Ren, General Hux and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), the minutes are ticking away to save what is left of the rebel fleet.

Once again a brother and sister face their fate, friends rely on one another and the force is there for them all!

If you were looking for spoilers than you came to the wrong writer. There is no way in hades that I am or even thought of giving anything away. Of course the above description of the film is generic but with the disaster of last years leaks I will not be responsible for any of it.

That being said, this is the STAR WARS fans have always loved. For me, well, I was giddy the moment the music cued and the scrolling of the yellow words upward into space began. From that moment on I was riveted and thrilled to once again to be in the galaxy far, far away.

Ridley as Rey takes on her next challenge which is to learn from Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Discovering that the process is the balance of mental and physical, she gets to add the grumblings of an island hermit. It has taken me some getting use to the character of Rey but with this film she is definitely cementing her place in the Star Wars franchise.

Driver as Kylo Ren is going through serious intensity in this chapter of the saga. Driver has the ability to show nothing and yet everything about what his character is going through. Still dealing with the death of his father, his confusion about Rey is apparent.

Boyega as Finn still feels the sense of responsibility for Rey and isn’t about to let anyone stop him. Now he has the chance to once again pair up with Poe as they put their plan for the rag tag left over fleet into action. Isaac as Poe is hard headed and strong willed. He wants to jump in first and not think through the consequences. The good news is that General Leia sort of has a soft spot for him.

Tran as Rose is the newest fighter for the rebellion and although not trained she fits right into the gang. Christie as Captain Phasma seems to have one goal – to get her hands on Finn. I just love Christie in this role because it feels like the bad side of Brianne of Tarth. 

Gleeson as General Hux just wants to destroy everything in the name of Supreme Leader Snoke and don’t think for one second he and Kylo Ren are going to be bffs! Speaking of the Supreme Leader, Serkis once again lends his voice to a twisted character with facial problems.

Now, onto my two beloved characters of Luke Skywalker and General Leia. Mark Hamill has a scene in this film that reminds me of why I fell so hard for this franchise and the character of Luke Skywalker. Everyone will know it when they see it because it is stunningly beautiful and moving bringing back every emotion felt in 1977. Hamill’s return is such a joy for me and seeing him just as aged as myself is fun and nostalgic at the same time.

Fisher as Princess/General Leia is wonderful and still a wound in my heart. As Leia she has always been a strong and, pardon the pun, a force to be reckoned with. Making decisions to save what is left of the rebellion means sacrifice and courage which is everything Leia has stood for. Fisher has given us an iconic character that will last forever and anyone who wants to challenge me on this need just bring your light saber and we’ll duel it out in her honor.

Other cast include Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo, Benicio Del Toro as DJ, Justin Theroux as Slicer, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Jimmy Vee as R2-D2, Tim Rose as Admiral Ackbar, and Billie Lourd as Lt. Connix. 

That is all anyone is getting from me for now. In a few weeks after everyone has had the chance to see the film then I’d be more than willing to discuss more about how I feel. There is so much to experience with this film and it doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. 

Of course there was concern by fans that the world re-created by J.J. Abrams might be a problem for director Rian Johnson. There isn’t a moment’s concern for me as the cinematograph captures the world we have all come to know. The recognizable music never lets the audience forget where they are – as if it could.

The next installment is too far away for fans yet there are other stories that will be told about the world created by George Lucas. Keeping with the theme of Star Wars, the characters are jumping to light speed with their destinies and we are all just willingly along for the ride.

In case you are at all wondering, I will be seeing STAR WARS: The Last Jedi more than a few times! Get the popcorn ready because there will always be a seat with my name on it in any theatre I walk into. Gather up a crowd and join in the experience that has captured generations.

In the end – the force is with them all!

​THE SHAPE OF WATER Brings Unconditional Love

Jeri Jacquin

This Friday from the masterful writer/director Guillermo del Toro and Fox Searchlight comes a story that captures the heart when becoming a part of THE SHAPE OF WATER.

In 1962, Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a young mute woman living in a quiet world of her own. Living her life day to day in a repeating pattern, it includes visiting her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) for a little television and being watched over at work by friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer).

Working as a cleaning lady in a government facility, one day a strange container arrives. Being fairly invisible, Elisa is curious about what they are working on. Hearing that whatever is in the container is highly-classified, it doesn’t stop her from taking a look for herself. 

That’s when she discovers a creature (Doug Jones) submerged in a tank pool, yet not truly afraid of what she sees. Instead, Elisa seems to sense that the creature is afraid and she discovers ways to put it at ease. Through patience, Elisa and her webbed friend begin to have a friendship that is quietly beautiful.

Keeping an eye on the laboratory is the very aggressive Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) who is feared by most everyone. Watching over the experiments is Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) who isn’t a fan of Strickland’s either and has his own secrets to keep.

Elisa sees that her creature friend is suffering and decides she is going to do whatever it takes to help. Enlisting Giles proves to be a challenge and a plan is made. What surprises Elisa the most is who comes out of no where to make sure the plan works perfectly!

Strickland becomes even more hostile and ballistic and is about to make sure every human being within his earshot suffers until the creature is found. There is no mercy for anyone as he investigates every person working at the laboratory. Elisa knows that time may not be on their side but can’t turn away from her feelings.

It is a friendship that embraces their differences!

Hawkins as Elisa is absolutely endearing, lovely, heart wrenching, soulful, playful and a dreamer of epic proportions. Every part of Elisa’s character is in her eyes and smile which brought smiles to my own face before I could help myself. In the life she has created, finding someone who is also mute yet full of emotion, Elisa just dances over this film effortlessly. Hawkins is on my list for any award she wants – yes, including an Oscar.

Jenkins as Giles is such a lovely man who is creative in a time when things are ever changing. He loves his old movies and the friendship with Elisa and even though he might be a tad afraid of the unknown, he is challenged by Elisa’s will to be humane. Jenkins can portray characters that are so sweet and harmless and Giles is such a character done so well.

Spencer as Zelda is funny, no-nonsense and protective of Elisa. I love her monologues while mopping with Elisa and straight faced one liners and quips when up against Strickland. I mean seriously, would expect anything less from Spencer? Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler is definitely a conflicted character and for reasons you will discover for yourself. I do love his performance because I have seen Stuhlbarg be both good guy and bad and here he mixes the two and I adore the outcome.

There are two actors in this film that we must discuss, first Shannon as Richard Strickland is as frightening as I know he can be. There are so many dimensions to Shannon as an actor and he always manages to surprise me. Yes, he can be the scariest and meanest badass ever to grace a film but Shannon never does it the same way twice or even three or four times for that matter. Here Strickland is a complex hater of a human being and only Shannon could have done it – and done it right.

Second, the every amazing and continually exceptional work of Doug Jones as the creature. Jones has been at the forefront of some of the most amazing characters and yet never seeing his face. In the 2004 film HELLBOY he was Abe Sapien, teaming up with Del Torro in the 2006 film PAN’S LABYRINTH he was the Pale Man, in 2007 he starred in FANTASTIC 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer as the Silver Surfer, in 2010’s LEGION he was the Ice Cream Man (creepier than all get out people!) and back with Del Torro in the 2015 horror offering of CRIMSON PEAK.

Let us not forget television when in 2014 he played one of my favorite characters in the series Falling Skies as Cochise, gave us a new vampire in the FX series The Strain as one of The Ancient’s and is now part of the trekkie family with Star Trek: Discovery. 

Now, in THE SHAPE OF WATER, Jones once again portrays a character that is all about the physicality of storytelling. Over all that costuming, a persona comes to life that is easy to love and want to protect. That’s what Jones brings out in us all with this performance. In case you might be wondering, I had the opportunity to speak with Doug last year when he was promoting the space film SPACE COMMAND. All I can say is that he is lovely, charming and funny so perhaps I have more of a bit of a soft spot for his portrayal of this endearing creature. Amazing performance Doug and congratulations for making us all fall in love with love again! 

Other cast include David Hewlett as Fleming, Nick Searcy as General Hoyt, Stewart Arnott as Bernard, Nigel Bennett as Mihalkov, Lauren Lee Smith as Elaine Strickland, Martin Roach as Brewster Fuller, Allegra Fulton as Yolanda and John Kapelos as Mr. Arzoumanian.

THE SHAPE OF WATER is a film that is so magnificently shot with nuances that I couldn’t get enough of. The story is one of beauty, loneliness, fear, courage, music, caring, anger, betrayal, secrets, friendships and about every human emotion on the spectrum. 

It is just a beautiful story that is covered in a cast that makes every moment theatre worthy. Crafted in the del Toro magic, there is so much to enjoy and not necessarily garbled with words but instead pure emotion and an endless supply of love

In the end – it is a fairy tale for troubled times!

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is Oscar Worthy!

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from writer/director Martin McDonagh and Fox Searchlight Pictures is the story of a mother who isn’t giving up using THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI.

Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is a woman dealing with a lot in her life. The painful loss of a murdered daughter, ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes) who has anger issues and chief of police William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) who she believes doesn’t care about catching her daughter’s killer. 

Driving home on a small stretch of road are three dilapidated billboards and Mildred gets an idea. Responsible for the billboards is Red (Caleb Jones) who takes her down payment on all three billboards with a message to the chief of police. The first to see them is deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who immediately tells Willoughby.  

Everyone soon learns of the billboards and son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) is feeling the impact of what his mother is doing. Worried how this will all affect her chief of police husband, Anne (Abbie Cornish) is assured that it will all pass. Wanting to protect Mildred is James (Peter Dinklage) who Charlie takes a pot-shots at. Instead of it passing, things get out of hand as the insanity of Dixon and Mildred’s anger start a town war.

Small town living just got a little dicey!

McDormand as Mildred is spectacular, amazing, brilliant, moving, shocking and every bit of a woman tired of the b.s.! Feeling unheard by the police and thrown away by an abusive husband, one idea gives this character the remarkable strength to say, without a word, ‘I will be heard or else!’ Every moment McDormand is on the screen I am completely riveted and engrossed with anticipation as to what she would do next. Nominations are in McDormand’s future and I, for one, will be cheering her every step of the way.

Harrelson as Willouby is an understanding and tolerant man. He knows that Mildred is still riddled with grief and now feels the pressure even more that he hasn’t found the killer. He is also dealing with Dixon who is making matters worse with his antics. Spending time with his wife and kids is becoming more important as his secret hasn’t been a secret for quite some time. Harrelson is endearing and is impeccable with his character humor. This is the second time in the last few months that Harrelson has impressed me as his film LBJ should also be seen!

Rockwell as Dixon gets to bring out the inner complete douche bag of this character. Feeling he has the right to do what ever he wants to who ever he wants because he has a badge is an embarrassment to pretty much everyone in town. Deciding he isn’t going to stop being a jerk, Dixon once again takes matters into his own hands and it’s nothing but disaster. It sure doesn’t help that Momma Dixon (Sandy Martin) is stoking the fires.  

Hedges as Robbie is a young man who understands what his mother has been through but doesn’t agree with how she handles things. Living the same pain about his sister every day as well, he watches her actions and can’t seem to make Mildred understand that nothing good can come of it all. Jones as Red is a laid back kid who sees everything the town is about and when it comes to his door a choice has to be made.

Dinklage as James is a good hearted guy who seems to have a soft spot for Mildred. He wants nothing more than to protect her – oh and date her. Hawkes as Charlie thinks that he can be as abusive as possible towards Mildred and the ex in ex-husband isn’t going to stop him and is certainly is a different role for Hawkes.

Other cast include Zeljko Ivanek as the Desk Sergeant, Amanda Warren as Denise, Kerry Condon as Pamela, Riya Atwood as Polly, Selah Atwood as Jane, Christopher Berry as Tony, Jerry Winsett as Geoffrey, Kathryn Newton as Angela, Samara Weaving as Penelope, Clarke Peters as Abercrombie, Malaya Drew as Gabriella, and Darrell Britt-Gibson as Jerome. 

TUBS OF POPCORN: THREE BILLBOARDS IN EBBING, MISSOURI deserves without a doubt five tubs of popcorn out of five. This film has every range of human emotion possible and isn’t shy about making you feel it. A combination of the darkest of comedy mixed with jaw dropping twists and drama that is engrossing is what makes this film from start to finish. 

There isn’t anything apologetic in this film and each character has a life of its own. McDormand is powerful and doesn’t skip a beat in leading the film to its chuckling conclusion. Harrelson and Rockwell are polar opposites which is what makes their characters work and there is no surprise in what these two actors accomplish in this film.

The film does a dance with the viewer’s emotions and even sets of a shock or two but after seeing director McDonagh’s previous work such as IN BRUGES and a personal favorite SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS could anyone not expect this film from him? I met McDonagh during his press junket for SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS and I knew after speaking with him that I’d love anything he did. His sense of humor and way with characters comes out in every second of the film. 

Writing the screenplay with McDormand in mind for the lead role, I am equally thrilled that he did so because she rules the screen as Mildred. This is a powerful film with exceptional performances that can not and should not be missed. 

In the end – welcome to Ebbing, Missouri!

ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. is an Acquired Taste

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres for Thanksgiving weekend from writer/director Dan Gilroy and Columbia Pictures is a different look at the law from the eyes of ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.

Roman (Denzel Washington) is a lawyer who doesn’t go into the courtroom but instead is responsible for writing the briefs for employer Jackson. Going to work and being in a routine is what works for Roman.

That is until his boss of 30 years has a heart attack and daughter Lynn (Amanda Warren) announces that the office will close and the clients will be taken by George Pierce (Colin Farrell). Roman can not comprehend what is happening but George steps in and offers him a job at his firm.

Wanting to try something different, Roman meets Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo) who is responsible for a volunteer law service. There meeting is strained and Roman has no choice but to take the job with George.

Their first case is a young man named Derrell (DeRon Horton) who is involved in a store robbery and murder. Roman tries to work the case himself to make a deal with the D.A. in exchange for information regarding the other man who is wanted by police. When that goes wrong, George is furious and Roman spirals.

Doing the unthinkable, he decides to do for himself and experience life outside of the law. When it all becomes too much, Roman does what he has always done – what works for him.

Washington as Israel is a character locked into his ways and has no problem giving his opinion – even if it makes other uncomfortable. His verbal confrontations put him in situations that has consequences and Washington’s performance brings each on head to head on a level that can be dizzying.

Farrell as George wants to do the right thing by Roman but at times you get the feeling he is doing it for his own financial gain. The thing about Farrell is that he has this amazing ability to give us a character that might be a little bit douchey but the performance is worth it. A sharped dressed lawyer seems to suit Farrell and it must be said the women around me had no problem with looking at him.

Ejogo as Maya is a little surprised by Roman’s behavior yet there is something uniquely honest that draws her. They both try to understand one another yet there is still a thin line of disconnect. Jackson as Amanda knows that Roman is an important part of her father’s work and tries to be understanding when Roman has to deal with death.

Other cast includes Lynda Gravatt as Vernita Wells, Hugo Armstrong as Fritz Molinar, Sam Gilroy as Connor Novick, Amari Cheatom as Carter Johnson, Nazneen Contractor as Melina Nassour and Tony Plana as Jessie Salinas.

ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. is a film that deal with several issues of law and the criminal court system. The character of Roman is definitely set in his ways and doesn’t suffer fools. When he feels that the system isn’t fair and those who claim to defend the helpless are not doing just that, Roman strays and Washington takes him to levels that are questionable yet riveting.

Of course this film will be a hard sell I think because the way the character speaks might be just a tad much. I will be honest and say my head was spinning at certain points and the story is fairly predictable as well.

Director Gilroy is sort of a hit and miss for me because I absolutely love the 2014 film Nightcrawler and theatre goers went crazy for Kong: Skull Island. Then there is a lull with other films so I wouldn’t mind having a conversation with him about it all.

In the end – all rise!

Three Men Come Together Again for the LAST FLAG FLYING

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from writer/director Richard Linklater and Amazon Studios is a journey bringing the past and the present today for the LAST FLAG FLYING.

It is 2003 and Larry Shepherd (Steve Carell) walks into the bar of Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) who at first doesn’t recognize him. Eventually Sal realize he is talking to Doc, a man he served with during the Vietnam War they are both happy to see one another. After a night of drinking, he asks Sal to join him on a little adventure.

That leads both men to the doorstep of a church where Rev. Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) much to the amusement of Sal. When the three have dinner with the Reverend and his wife, Doc asks the two men if he will go with him to retrieve the coffin of his son who was recently killed in Iraq. 

Absolutely stunned, the two men agree and on their trip the discussion of what happened to the three of them in Vietnam is hinted at. Arriving at Dover Air Force Base, Doc learns from Larry’s buddy Washington (J. Quinton Johnson) how his son died. That changes everything as Doc decides to take his son home for burial much to the aggravation of Col. Wilits (Yul Vazquez).

It is on the train ride home that Sal and Mueller talk about what happened in Vietnam, Doc keeps himself together and Washington escorts Larry home. The thirty years between Vietnam and Iraq brings about conversations that needed to be had and closure to souls wounded by it all.

Some friendships go on forever.

Carell as Doc is absolutely stunning and that’s the only word for it. There isn’t a lot of dialogue for his character but then again I wouldn’t expect there to be. Every emotion that pours out of Carell is heartbreaking and endearing in different ways. As a man who has lost a son, it isn’t the only thing he has lost in his life. There doesn’t seem to be a resentful bone in his body and even when he shows a moment of anger, it is justified.

Fishburne as Mueller is a Reverend who has embraced a different life. Once a wild Marine, he is now a settled man with a wife who holds him true to the collar he wears. There are moments where Fishburne completely lets loose and it sends the audience into fits of laughter. When he embraces his faith, he reaches out to Doc and shakes his head at Sal.

Cranston as Sal is completely out of control! He doesn’t like it when people play games, believes in shooting straight from the hip and doesn’t give a damn if he drinks from dusk till – well dusk again. Thrilled to be with his Vietnam buddy Doc, he is shocked to discover the life that Mueller chose after their time in war. He calls everything out, embraces the insanity of life and finds that he has been missing out once he gets his hands on a cell phone. As Carell is the emotion of the film and Fishburne is the spiritual guide, Cranston is all the chaos with no filter in between the two men and he rocks it from start to finish. 

Johnson as Washington is a young soldier that is trying to do what is right both as Larry’s best friend and as a Marine. He gets to know Doc, Mueller and Sal which helps him understand so much more about being a soldier. Vazquez as Wilits is a man on his own mission who clearly doesn’t understand what being a parent is all about. 

Other cast include Deanna Reed-Foster as Ruth, Graham Wolfe as John Redman, Jeff Monahan as O’Toole, Richard Robichaux as Anorak and an appearance by the wonderful Cicely Tyson. 

LAST FLAG FLYING is an emotional roller coaster and I am not kidding. One minute the audience is laughing so hard they are crying to the next minute of crying so hard they can’t breathe. These three actors are so different yet in this film are perfection with the story they are telling.

The heartbreak that the character of Doc experiences can never be understood and I don’t think I could even try but that doesn’t stop us all of embracing every bit of his love, anger and laughter. Asking two men he hasn’t seen in 30 years to join him doesn’t require an explanation because I personally feel that all is revealed as it should be in the film. 

One of the two best scenes of the film is when they are all in the back train car and the laughter is strangely contagious with Carell’s Doc having a laughing fit that had me in tears. The second is the scene as Sal convinces Mueller and Doc that it’s time to come to terms make that one event in Vietnam and make it right.

Of course I’m not being specific because the entire film is an experience that drains every emotion and I gave every bit of that willingly. LAST FLAG FLYING reminds us that war, no matter how many years in between changes young men that eventually become older men with regrets.

These three actors couldn’t have performed any better if they tried and LAST FLAG FLYING is beautifully told and excels in every way.

In the end – their last mission wasn’t on the battlefield.

JUSTICE LEAGUE

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres Thursday from director Zack Snyder, DC Comics and Warner Bros. is the next superhero grouping that can only be called JUSTICE LEAGUE.

The world is still mourning the death of Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) aka Batman knows there is something coming. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) aka Wonder Woman knows it too when an ancient fire is lit that her people know she will recognize as a warning. 

Coming is Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) who is looking for the three separated boxes that once put together create the ultimate power of destruction. Knowing that Batman and Wonder Woman can not do it by themselves, the enlist the help of a begrudging Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the eager to learn Barry Allen aka Flash (Ezra Miller) and cyborg created Victor Stone (Ray Fisher).

The first box Steppenwolf took from the Amazons and the second was taken from Aquaman’s people. That left the third box which was given to humans to guard and the hunt is on. 

It soon becomes clear that the group is going to have to dig deeper than they could have ever imagined as Steppenwolf’s powers become stronger and stronger. So strong that the group decides on an idea that is not only dangerous but could have consequences that add to the destruction of the human race.

The tough decisions are needed when the world looks to the Justice League!

Affleck as Batman is dark in this film in that he obviously feels a deep sense of responsibility for Superman. Knowing that he doesn’t have time to deal with those emotions, he focuses what can happen if Steppenwolf isn’t stopped. He puts on the straight tough face but Affleck has a way of delivering little quips that I enjoyed.

Gadot as Wonder Woman is also dealing with the loss of Superman with now adding the destruction of her people when Steppenwolf takes the first cube. In JUSTICE LEAGUE she finally comes to many realizations about who she is and her protectiveness of the group is strong.

Miller as Flash is a young man who clearly has spent too much time alone. When he meets Batman, it takes a matter of seconds when Flash jumps in wanting to be part of being a superhero. I loved his sense of humor and a bit of innocence he has when realizing that being a superhero means getting in the mix no matter how dangerous.

Fisher as Cyborg is the darkest of the characters as he deals with being rebuilt by his well meaning father Silas (Joe Morton). Even though he started out with these changes, the system he is now attached to continues to grow and so does his knowledge about Steppenwolf. Fisher spends most of his time closed off but with a little help from Arrow, that is a unique new friendship that I enjoyed.

Momoa as Aquaman is clearly the eye candy of the film. Built like you would expect him to be (come on – think Drago from Game of Thrones physique wise and triple that!), he isn’t impressed by Batman or anyone else for that matter. When Steppenwolf comes to his neck of the ocean he has a change of heart and joins the group. His sense of humor comes out here and there and the audience loved it.

Cavill as Superman has made his mark in the DC universe and, like the two iconic actors who played the man of steel prior, will be remembered for this work. Momentarily there is a dark side to Superman that was interesting to see and Cavill can smile those pearly whites with the same evilness as not.

There are also appearances by Amy Adams as Lois Lane who is as straight forward as ever, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Billy Crudup as Henry Allen, David Thewis as Aries, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Robin Wright as Antiope, Amber Heard as Mera, and Jeremy Irons as Alfred.  

JUSTICE LEAGUE brings heroes together for a two hour ride. Batman and Wonder Woman lead the pack with the intro of Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg and working together is the best the film has to offer. The downside is there seems to be a weird disconnect in each of the characters storyline that leaves me a little unsure. 

It is as if there was more to the story that needed to be told and shown but might have been left on the cutting room floor. I almost felt the need to get out paper and pen with all the questions I had. Of course the film had action and of course each super hero got to show the best of their skills but I am also a story person.

I think those deep in the comic world will have no problem with the film. Look, I get it; there is something amazingly special about seeing comic books come to life so you don’t need a character outline. Of course by doing that you leave the rest of the theatre audience trying to figure out plot points that I think might just be important. 

Coming in at two hours, you can also expect DC to throw in a few surprises and it was enough to bring the audience yelling with excitement. JUSTICE LEAGUE is a darker telling coming on the heels of the highly successful THOR Ragnorok so it will be interesting to see which batch of heroes will win the weekend.

In the end – you can’t save the world alone!

Get Ready for THOR: Ragnarok!

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres from director Taika Waititi, Marvel Entertainment and Walt Disney Pictures is the next adventure from THOR: Ragnarok.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is once again in a predicament but once the hammer is back in hands there is one place to go – Asgard. Knowing that brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been hiding behind the image of their father Odin, they both go looking for him. Not where Loki left him, they get a little unexpected help.

Thor and Loki speak with Odin and discover that they have sister named Hela (Cate Blanchett) and she is an angry individual and extremely powerful. He tells them about Ragnarok which is the destruction of Asgard by the hand of Hela. When she arrives unexpectedly, Loki panics bringing the gateway and Hela hitches a ride.

Pushing both Loki and Thor out into another world, Thor lands in a pile of junk on a planet that has piles of junk. Captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), he is taken to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who has a little fighting arena to keep the masses entertained. Surprised to discover who he will be fighting, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) bring entertainment to the masses.

Back on Asgard, Hela has found a new lackey in Skurge (Karl Urban) who is guarding the door of their world. Heimdall (Idris Elba) is now considered a traitor and no one knows where he is. The destruction of the beautiful civilization of Asgard has begun and the people are all looking for safety.

As Thor, Valkyrie, Loki and David Banner escape from the Grandmaster, their eye is on Asgard and nothing is going to stop them from saving what is left of their world! 

Oh yea Hela, it’s on now!

Hemsworth as Thor is physically still ripped (didn’t think I’d miss that did you?), expands his humor and keeps Loki in check and all while still calling him brother, and twists the Hulk/Banner to do what is right for Asgard. Is it me or does he smile a heck of a lot more in this film and join in on the jokes? I think cutting his hair made Thor much more at ease with being the God of Thunder. All of that just gives Hemsworth everything he needs to be the one and only Thor. 

Hiddleston as Loki is hilarious, saucy, charming, unpredictable, edgy and although still full of mischief, finds that helping can also be self serving to his way of thinking. I adore Hiddleston, there, I said it. He is so fun as Loki because lets be honest, it is fun watching him have fun being Loki. There are moments where the expressions on his face are just pure magic. I keep thinking ‘when will Loki get his own gig?’ but maybe just having him mischievous in the right amounts works just as well.

Blanchett as Hela is the opposite of Lady Galadriel from LORD OF THE RINGS. Hela is angry, sarcastic and certainly doesn’t walk away from a fight. Knowing her brothers aren’t about to embrace her takeover, she spends her time looking for Heimdall and using Skurge to get what she wants. Blanchett turns on her badass and has no intention of letting anyone find the off switch. It must be said – she is stunning!

Ruffalo as Hulk/Bruce Banner has been stuck being the big green guy for quite a while. He doesn’t want to get involved in any other skirmish but knows what the right thing to do is. Ruffalo also gets to be part of the humor that this film brings out and the audience loved it. 

Thompson as Valkyrie is a disillusioned Asgardian who just needs a little push to remember her honor. Goldblum as the Grandmaster is perfection with his zany outlook on things and I’d hire him to be a DJ at my party any day. Hopkins as Odin deserves to be Odin and every time I see this actor on screen it is such a joy. 

Urban as Skurge wants a position of importance in Asgard but serving a scary goddess means doing what he’s told and keeping his distance when she’s a bit upset. Elba as Heimdall isn’t about to let anyone get the sword, especially Hela since her plan is universal destruction and domination. 

I’m throwing a shout out to director Taika Waititi as the voice of Korg who I think is my newest funny creature. He is laid back yet tells it like it is and when things go wrong, well, he is the last to get all upset about it. Just know that we all could use a good Rock-guy on our side! I think he needs his own Funko actually. 

More cast include Rachel House as Topaz, Clancy Brown as the voice of Surtur, Tadanobu Asano as Hogun, Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, and Zachary Levi as Fandral.
Cameos include Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, Charlotte Nicdao, Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Damon.

THOR: Ragnarok is a wild ride from beginning to past the credits end! The story is strong, the special effects are pretty frakken cool and I don’t mind since it is part of this universe. The characters are absolutely amazing and the cross over in the film brought the audience to its comic book knees.

There was serious laughter, cheering and the screening audience were like kids in a candy store. I will say it here and now, I had so much fun watching THOR: Ragnarok. There is non-stop action with a cast that brought their adventure A-game. This film is the reason people go in packs to the theatre, buy huge buckets of popcorn and come out feeling like they have just had an experience worthy of the price of admission.

In the end – No hammer? No problem!

LBJ Reveals an Inside Look at a Man Who Became President

Jeri Jacquin

This week in theatres from director Rob Reiner and Electric Entertainment is a story about a man few knew and this is a moment in history with LBJ.

Lyndon B. Johnson (Woody Harrelson) is a Texan who is sought out by John F. Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan) to be his Vice President. After the election and the business of the country begins as LBJ tries to find his place in the administration. It is clear that LBJ struggles with the issues of his party and the President’s brother Robert F. Kennedy (Michael Stahl-David).

The President tries to give his Vice-President things to do but Johnson pushes to help the president with his civil rights agenda. Much of what he says falls on deaf ears making the situation even more uncomfortable. That would all change in Dallas on November 22, 1963. On the plane returning to Washington, LBJ with his wife Lady Bird (Jennifer Jason Leigh) by his side, he is sworn in as the next President of the United States.

Immediately LBJ sees the struggle of being compared to the Kennedy’s knowing that a country is grieving. Privately he is a man coming to terms with who he is as well as what he can do to bring a broken country together.

Going to those in the administration who don’t want to serve him or can’t see this new president carrying the torch of a dream, LBJ speaks to the country with a heartfelt message. In that is the start of his own presidency but helping to finish the presidency of another.

He wanted the healing to begin.

Harrelson is astounding as LBJ with his one liners, his staunch belief in what he has to offer and the man with human flaws. I am in awe of Harrelson’s performance and after seeing this film there could be no other actor to have done this. 

Leigh as Lady Bird is stunning in her prosthetics because I didn’t realize who she was at first. This is a role, Lady Bird comes from a time where the world was changing and she knows her husband must come to grips with his own changes. Donovan as Kennedy, although a smaller role, explains the pensive relationship between Kennedy and LBJ.

Stahl-David as Robert Kennedy makes it clear he isn’t going to make things easy for LBJ. Even when LBJ becomes President he reaches out to Bobby but it’s hard to get help from someone who is grieving a lost dream.

Other cast include: Bill Pullman as Ralph Yarborough, C. Thomas Howell as Walter Jenkins, Michael Mosley as Kenny O’Donnell, Richard Jenkins as Senator Russell, Rich Sommer as Pierre Salinger, Wallace Langham as Arthur Schlesinger, Judd Lormand as Robert McNamara and Brian Stepanek as Rufus Youngblood.

LBJ is a startling look at a man who is in a position to either stay stuck in a time of fear or be a part of a vision to make the world a better place. What makes this film so amazing to watch is that Harrelson gets lost in the makeup and LBJ comes to life. 

Historically there hasn’t been a film that tells the story of how LBJ became Kennedy’s choice for Vice President and what purpose did it serve to do so. Watching Harrelson take this character from candidate to President is riveting in the frustration LBJ felt in wanting to make a difference, appeasing those who wanted the status quo and being compared to a fallen president.

Making a name for himself, the story of LBJ’s own journey of breaking with tradition, breaking with history and even breaking with friendships to promote what the country needed makes this film relevant.

LBJ didn’t have a problem being blustery and saying exactly what he meant – even if it was followed by twisted Texas saying which had me cracking up. I wouldn’t be surprised if Harrelson caught himself chuckling more than a time or two. Reiner captured the moments where letting the lines of LBJ stun the audience that equals the same stun when LBJ shows emotion.

I actually think that LBJ would have been a stellar mini-series because there is so much more to tell about this man and his presidency. I would have definitely signed up for that series! The cinematography is beautifully done and the costuming is impeccable. The set designs bring the White House of the 60’s to us. 

In the end – he is about to change more than himself!

MARK FELT: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Peter Landesman and Sony Picture Classics is the story of the man only known in 1974 as Deep Throat in MARK FELT: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.

Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) is a man dedicated to his work with the FBI. Serving under the Hoover administration as Assistant Director, he knew what was expected of him and demanded the same of everyone he worked with. Living in Washington D.C. with wife Audrey (Diane Lane) he is comfortable and satisfied with his life. 

Notified of Hoover’s passing, Felt takes immediate action to remove any files belonging to Hoover to protect the Bureau. Also having a belief that he would be next to take charge of the FBI, Felt is shaken when the position is given to Pat Gray (Marton Csokas) by President Nixon. It is clear that changes are happening and not to the benefit of the Bureau. He stays close with Charlie Bates (Josh Lucas) seeing him as a likeminded agent.

Giving Gray a chance to see how the department works, Felt is notified when the Watergate Hotel is broken into. Almost immediately he begins to see people involved in the investigation that shouldn’t be, particularly Bill Sullivan (Tom Sizemore). Felt has never experienced the level of deceit and makes a decision to stop it if he can.

Reaching out to Sandy Smith (Bruce Greenwood) of Time and Bob Woodward (Julian Morris) of the Washington Post, Felt begins to plant the seeds of inquiry. Everyone knows there is a leak of information that carries the weight of a cover-up that goes to the highest office in the land and all orchestrated by a man hiding in plain sight.

Neeson as Felt is just a bad ass stone cold FBI man who doesn’t let his composure slip for one second. Even when he is disappointed he keeps a straight face that almost says ‘you will not break me’. Of course this is Neeson we are talking about here and in this film his certain set of skills is the stare of a man who isn’t about to let anyone mess with his beloved bureau. He’d rather take apart the highest office in the land than see one brick of the FBI’s building damaged in any way. I just loved watching Neeson take this role and run with it!

Lane as Audrey is a wife of the man she believed should be the head of the FBI. When that doesn’t happen the alcohol flows and so does the realization that she has given everything to Washington D.C. 

Lucas as Bates is clearly a man who believes in Felt and does not hesitate to follow any order given. Even when this man that he trusts is clearly doing something Bates can’t even fathom, he never does anything to undermine what Felt is trying to do. Sizemore as Sullivan comes on strong as a man that can not be trusted and continues it until the bitter end. The character of Sullivan is that guy who walks into the room and immediately everyone shuts up because he isn’t to be trusted with anything. The resentment of that is what drives Sullivan and Sizemore makes sure we are all officially creeped out.

Greenwood as Smith only has a little air time but let me tell you something, I love me some Greenwood. The scene between Greenwood and Neeson in the diner is one for the books because nowadays it would be impossible to meet in such a way without the world not knowing about it. Greenwood’s character knows what all of the Watergate scandal is going to cost Felt and is a little scared for him.

Other cast include Tony Goldwyn as Ed Miller, Maika Monroe as Joan Felt, Kate Walsh as Pat Miller, Michael C. Hall as John Dean, Wendi McLendon-Covey as Carol Tschudy, Ike Barinholtz as Angelo Lano, Noah Wyle as Stan Pottinger and Brian d’Arcy James as Robert Kunkel. 

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give MARK FELT: The Man Who Brought Down the White House four tubs of popcorn out of five. First off it must be said that I can not go past a channel if ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN is on. I will watch it every single time (thanks Redford and Hoffman!) and that’s how I feel about this film.

The story takes its time in the telling and when the craziness began all I could see in Neeson’s portrayal of Felt is ‘keep your head when all others are losing theirs’. Once Felt sets things in motion, the story doesn’t flinch.

Mark Felt is a man who kept all of this a secret and even when he was tried in 1980 for violating the civil rights of those individuals from the Weather Underground for which he only paid a fine, even then, almost no one knew he was Deep Throat. 

Not until 2005 when a Vanity Fair article came out did the rest of the world discover who Mark Felt was and the role he played in bringing down the highest office in the land.

In the end – one man brought it all down!

ONLY THE BRAVE Brings Bravery and Heartbreak to Theatres

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres from director Joseph Kosinski and Columbia Pictures is a story of bravery, camaraderie and heartbreak that comes with ONLY TO THE BRAVE.

In Prescott, Arizona, Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) is a young man has no direction except drugs and can’t seem to handle his life. Discovering that he is going to be a father and being kicked out of mom’s house, he finally makes a decision. 

Marsh (Josh Brolin) aka Supe runs a Wildland Firefighting team and his goal is to be certified as a Hotshot crew. Venting to Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges) who can help make that goal happen, Marsh wants what is best for his crew.

These two come together when Brendan applies with Station 7 and comes face to face with Marsh and his questions. Not so happy to have Brendan aboard if Chris MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) believing the new guy has nothing to offer the team. 

That team includes Travis (Geoff Stults), Andrew (Alex Russell), Scott (Thad Luckinbill), Wade (Ben Hardy), Clayton (Scott Haze), Anthony (Jake Picking), Travis (Scott Foxx), Dylan (Robert Caldwell), Sean (Kenneth Miller), William (Ryan Cook), Garret (Brandon Bunch), Joe (Matthew Van Wettering), Kevin (Michael McNulty), John (Nicholas Jenks), Grant (Sam Quinn), and Brian (Howard Ferguson). 

Immediately the team must come together on a fire that is also finally being observed in order to finally certify Station 7 as an elite Hotshot Crew. Finally, the Granite Mountain Hotshots come together and the they all celebrate with family and friends.

Brendan finally finds a connection with his baby daughter that brings him to wondering if he can continue with the crew. Now roommates, Chris has also taken an uncle role to Brendan’s daughter. Marsh is also dealing with family matters when wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) decides she wants to have a family.

It is their final fire together that brings the bravery and heartbreak to families and the only survivor.

Brolin as Marsh is a tough Supe who wants more than anything to have his crew become an elite Hotshot crew. His own past issues give him an understanding when hiring Brendan. Brolin is masterful at taking this role to the audience to show what it takes to be responsible for 19 other men and a keen knowledge on firefighting. His presence is strong and I am all in with this role. Brolin was actually a volunteer firefighter in Arizona, trained and fought some wild-land fires in Mescal in his earlier years. 

Teller as Brendan is a man clearly out of control with his life and on a path of self destruction. Choosing to change for the little life that comes into his own motivates him to reach for a goal. Even walking in to meet Supe, Teller’s portrayal of Brendan is a broken man that is reaching out to become something bigger than himself. Watching this character grow, Teller doesn’t hesitate to show the difficulties that Brendan faced and the emotion of confusion and loss. Kitsch as Chris starts out as a guy who is going to make Brendan’s life difficult, that is until the brotherhood kicks in and a deep friendship happens that brings a lightness to the film– so much so that he’s practically an uncle to Brendan’s daughter. 

Connelly as Amanda has her horses while husband Marsh is gone on long stretches. Having the deal of no children starts to become an issue for the couple causing a strain that adds to an already stressful job. Bridges as Steinbrink clearly cares about Station 7 and Marsh and is always there when anyone needs him. The cowboy hat and southern drawl seems to be Bridges new type role and I say hey, if it works.

Other cast includes Natalie Hall as Natalie Johnson, Forrest Fyre as Mayor Worthington, Jenny Gabrielle as Desiree Steed, Nicholas King as Caden Steed, Barbie Robertson as Marsena Thurston, Jade Kammerman as Stephanie Turbyfill, Pell James as Claire Caldwell and Andie MacDowell as Marvel Steinbrink.

ONLY THE BRAVE is a film that is challenging, humorous, heart thumping and heart breaking all rolled into 133 minutes. It is told with a mixture of the harshness of being a firefighter in all categories from structural to Wildland to Hotshots to the gentleness of their homelives. Not a job for everyone, these men and women do what ever is necessary to save life and property asking for nothing in return.

In that lies the bravery of what these men and women do. Far be it from to tell anyone how to say thanks but I personally make it a point to do so because I respect anyone who can do what most of us can not for whatever reason. The story is based on true events and the article in GQ by Sean Flynn called No Exit.

Watching ONLY THE BRAVE I felt such intensity of emotion and what makes that so is knowing that there is no changing the outcome of the film. There is also no way to leave this film without choking back the tears or waves of emotion. The iconic photograph of the team in front of the town’s beloved juniper tree is not just a photo, it’s a glimpse into a brotherhood of men who not only did what they loved but did so with bravery.

In the end – it’s not what stands in front of you but who stands behind you!

MARSHALL

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week from director Reginald Hudlin and Open Road Films is a case that would bring a name to life with MARSHALL.

Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) is a graduate of Howard University and now a lawyer with the NAACP who takes cases to help those who need it the most. One such case takes him to Connecticut to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), an African American who is accused of raping Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson) - a white woman.

Not a lawyer in the state, Marshall must work with Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a Jewish attorney who isn’t happy to be a part of the case. Trying to make introductions and slowly slip away, Judge Foster (James Cromwell) isn’t about to let that happen.

Prosecutor Loren Willis (Dan Stevens) is satisfied when Judge Foster allows Marshall to stay but he isn’t allowed to cross-examine witnesses or basically do anything inside the court room. Marshall is furious and has no choice but to make sure that Friedman stays with him on the case.

As each witness comes to the stand, it becomes clear that Spell might not have been honest about everything with Marshall. Now he must work with Friedman on how to present the case and not let anything get in the way of securing Spell’s freedom.

Neither of them could have known what they would discover and how it would end!

Boseman as Marshall gives the audience the angrier side of Thurgood Marshall. From the moment his character is up on the screen it is easy to see he isn’t going down without a fight – on anything. Trying to keep his cool, Boseman spends a lot time pursing his lips and squinting at the judge but once of the courtroom makes it clear he has a lot to say. Unfortunately the anger is aimed at Friedman who takes the lumps quietly. 

Gad as Friedman is a lawyer who just wants to take the simple town cases and enjoy his career. When Marshall comes to town, a sense of fear starts to take over as his family becomes a target for those upset with his new partner’s attitude. At one point he makes it clear that he and his family still have to live in the town once Marshall takes off for his next case elsewhere. Is does take time for Friedman/Gad finds the fighting lawyer in him!

Brown as Spell is a man in a situation that doesn’t have an easy way out. He sticks to his story and clearly has no animosity towards the woman who is accusing him. As the trial gets further and further along, it becomes clear that the truth might not be that easy to tell. Brown is coming off a high with the successful television series This is Us, of which I am a huge fan, and it’s nice to see him take on the bigger screen.

Hudson as Strubing is a very beautiful woman who is also in a situation that has no good ending. The questions are harsh and her story is uncomfortable at a time in the country when a jury is unforgiving of such a crime. Stevens as Willis takes great pleasure in making sure Marshall stays quiet and knows that his case is not only a strong one but can only have one outcome.

Cromwell as Judge Foster is not a man to be trifled with in the slightest. He makes it clear before a jury even sets food in his courtroom that Marshall is under a gag order. He watches every move Marshall makes and doesn’t allow for any wiggle room – period.

Other cast include Keesha Sharp as Buster Marshall, Roger Guenveur Smith as Walter White, Derrick Baskin as Ted Lancaster, Barret Doss as Bertha Lancaster, John Magaro as Irwin Freidman, Ahna O’Reilly as Mrs. Richmond, and Jussie Smollett as Langston Hughes. 

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give MARSHALL three tubs of popcorn out of five. I know, I’m going to get grief for this but here is my problem with the film. First, out of all the cases that Thurgood Marshall was a part of and made history with, this is the story the filmmakers chose to tell? Really? Not one other case stood out and made a greater impact worth telling on film? That was disappointing to me.

This is supposed to be a film about Thurgood Marshall yet I found the journey of Gad’s character of Friedman more compelling. Here is a Jewish lawyer who wanted to fly under the legal radar and completely happy doing so until he is pushed into situation where he excels! He comes out of a shell and lets Marshall know that he understands how it feels to be calls derogatory names and have stereotypes thrown at him. I am all for that storyline but isn’t this a movie about Marshall?

I wish I understood Marshall’s life more in the film instead of the bits and pieces thrown that flash by so fast. The relationship with his wife is another story that just seemed odd, thrown in quick and ripped away and on to the next scene. The quick flashes of relationships with Langston Hughes or the Lancaster family and I’m still not sure if they had a purpose and I just missing it.

I read a lot about Thurgood Marshall over the years and his career is remarkable leading to becoming the first African American Supreme Court Justice. His cases are stellar and his career a brilliant one and I’d rather read a good book about his life than see a film that misses the mark. That’s just my opinion folks!

In the end – his name means justice!

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from director Hany Abu-Assad and 20th Century Fox comes a film of survival with THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US.

Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is a photographer trying to get to her own wedding! Bad weather is keeping her away when noticing that doctor Ben Bass (Idris Elba) is also trying to desperately get to his destination. 

She offers to help get him there by sharing a ride on a smaller two-seater with pilot Walter (Beau Bridges) and his dog. After brief introductions, they both look out at the beautiful scenery of mountains and snow. Noticing that the storm is shifting course, Walter attempts to make adjustments when the unthinkable happens.

The plane goes down deep in the high mountains as Ben checks on Walter and Alex for wounds. Immediately he goes into survival mode trying to keep the unconscious Alex warm and taking care of Walter – and the dog. Time goes by and Alex wakes up with a badly hurt leg and realizes they need to leave right away.

Walter wants to stay behind and wait for a rescue but is reminded by Alex that no one would know how to find them. After an encounter with a wild animal, it becomes clear to her that going down is the only way to survive. Along with the dog, they bundle up and begin a trek that is dangerous and soul crushing at times.

The two must come to rely on one another and being equally as stubborn come head to head on how they are to survive. 

Winslet as Alex is head strong and makes rash decisions but in all of it knows they have to get off the mountain. She doesn’t understand Ben’s resistance to the idea and takes it upon herself as if to say ‘stay then…I’m outta here!’ I have to give her props for that because there are moments I’m wondering why Ben is so obstinate – then I remember he’s a guy! (Just kidding guys!)

Elba as Ben has a ton of issues and the plane crash just seems to enhance them. As he gets to know Alex he starts to understand that whatever is keeping him so balled up could possibly be the reason they will die. There is something about Elba’s presence that is just smooth and endearing which helps since the movie is fairly predictable but enjoyable with him in it.

The winner here is – Walter’s dog! I love this dog! He is smart, he is brave and puts up with the two humans who, at times, don’t have a clue what it is they are doing. If I was lost or stranded anywhere I want this dog with me…of course I’d give him a better name than ‘Walter’s Dog’. He deserves better!

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US is beautifully done in the way of cinematography. The mountains are stunning and every scene brings more beauty in the midst of human tragedy. I have to admit that if I found a cabin in the woods I might be tempted to stay just to take it all in.

The relationship between Alex and Ben is inevitable as fear and survival bring about human frailties. Being together kept them focused in the sense that when ever one of them felt it was over; the other would push to continue. Winslet and Elba are strong and difficult in character and it seemed almost a challenge to each other to survive. It is a beautiful story with an ending that the audience wants to happen.

In the end – what if your life depended on a stranger?

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from director Hany Abu-Assad and 20th Century Fox comes a film of survival with THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US.

Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is a photographer trying to get to her own wedding! Bad weather is keeping her away when noticing that doctor Ben Bass (Idris Elba) is also trying to desperately get to his destination. 

She offers to help get him there by sharing a ride on a smaller two-seater with pilot Walter (Beau Bridges) and his dog. After brief introductions, they both look out at the beautiful scenery of mountains and snow. Noticing that the storm is shifting course, Walter attempts to make adjustments when the unthinkable happens.

The plane goes down deep in the high mountains as Ben checks on Walter and Alex for wounds. Immediately he goes into survival mode trying to keep the unconscious Alex warm and taking care of Walter – and the dog. Time goes by and Alex wakes up with a badly hurt leg and realizes they need to leave right away.

Walter wants to stay behind and wait for a rescue but is reminded by Alex that no one would know how to find them. After an encounter with a wild animal, it becomes clear to her that going down is the only way to survive. Along with the dog, they bundle up and begin a trek that is dangerous and soul crushing at times.

The two must come to rely on one another and being equally as stubborn come head to head on how they are to survive. 

Winslet as Alex is head strong and makes rash decisions but in all of it knows they have to get off the mountain. She doesn’t understand Ben’s resistance to the idea and takes it upon herself as if to say ‘stay then…I’m outta here!’ I have to give her props for that because there are moments I’m wondering why Ben is so obstinate – then I remember he’s a guy! (Just kidding guys!)

Elba as Ben has a ton of issues and the plane crash just seems to enhance them. As he gets to know Alex he starts to understand that whatever is keeping him so balled up could possibly be the reason they will die. There is something about Elba’s presence that is just smooth and endearing which helps since the movie is fairly predictable but enjoyable with him in it.

The winner here is – Walter’s dog! I love this dog! He is smart, he is brave and puts up with the two humans who, at times, don’t have a clue what it is they are doing. If I was lost or stranded anywhere I want this dog with me…of course I’d give him a better name than ‘Walter’s Dog’. He deserves better!

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US is beautifully done in the way of cinematography. The mountains are stunning and every scene brings more beauty in the midst of human tragedy. I have to admit that if I found a cabin in the woods I might be tempted to stay just to take it all in.

The relationship between Alex and Ben is inevitable as fear and survival bring about human frailties. Being together kept them focused in the sense that when ever one of them felt it was over; the other would push to continue. Winslet and Elba are strong and difficult in character and it seemed almost a challenge to each other to survive. It is a beautiful story with an ending that the audience wants to happen.

In the end – what if your life depended on a stranger?

THE CRUCIFIXION

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Xavier Gens and Lionsgate is a film inspired by true events and the story of THE CRUCIFIXION.

Nicole Rawlins (Sophie Cookson) is fascinated by a case that has made headlines in Romania. A priest named Demetrius has been arrested for the death of a young girl named Adelina and Nicole knows there is more to the story. Deciding to investigate the situation, she convinces her editor Phil (Alexis Rodney) to give her support. 

The story she learns is that a young girl has been supposedly possessed and that the priest accused of murder was in the middle of an exorcism when it was stopped. On her way to the hospital she died but also under more mysterious circumstances. Nicole knows she must go back to the beginning and visit the locations and speak to those who may know more than they are telling.

She turns to Father Anton (Corneliu Ulici) to explain the process that led to the girl’s death. Telling Nicole the process of how demons possess and how it’s possible to go from one person to another, she looks once again at the photos from the crime scene. Speaking with her sister Vaduva (Brittany Ashworth), Nicole learns that Adelina went to Germany and on her return dealt with the death of a Father Gabriel who she was fond of.

Only getting worse, Nicole knows there is something mysterious that isn’t being said. 
Just when she is about to give up the story – something pulls her to keep searching leading her to a boy name Tavian (Florian Voicu) and his father Amanar (Radu Banzaru)!

Prepare to be challenged!

Cookson as Nicole has just the right amount of skepticism and scare in her role. She is curious, not easily swayed and has her own set of beliefs. The more she looks the more the world she doesn’t understand gets closer to her. Ulici as Father Anton seems to be an unsung hero in the story. He continually tells Nicole what she needs to do to find answers and to be safe at the same time. 

Voicu as Tavian holds the key to helping Nicole find the answers. Reaching out to Father Anton it is all about to happen once again. 

THE CRUCIFIXION is a story from the creators of ANNABELLE and THE CONJURING so you know it’s going to be filled with jumps and twists. October is the month to be jumpy and this film will happily oblige.

The story unravels slowly and when it all blows apart, prepare for anything to happen. In the vein of religious horror films, THE CRUCIFIXION falls in the hands of Nicole and Father Anton. Stuck in a barn the demon is going to take on anybody that comes near and it doesn’t have a preference towards its next host. 

The special effects are what one would expect and the cinematography is beautiful with the small country town feel. The ending is a bit abrupt but the viewer isn’t left wondering what happened to the priest and nuns who were accused of murder. 

Cookson does a good job of carrying the majority of the film which is difficult enough to do and she does it with the right amount of twisted creepiness. Ulici is the spiritual cheer leader and although his role isn’t prominent, he does have an impact on the story’s conclusion.

In the end – be careful what you pray for!

LET’S PLAY TWO Pearl Jam Live at Wrigley Field Gives us the Band We’ve Been Missing

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres from director Danny Clinch and Falco Inc. is a concert film from one of the legendary bands with LET’S PLAY TWO Pearl Jam Live at Wrigley Field.

During the Chicago Cubs historic 2016 baseball season, the band Pearl Jam has a chance to perform on my home turf, Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Hometown boy Eddie Vedder has the chance to pay the music of the bands 25-year musical career. The mixture of a returning band and a team trying to break a 108 year streak is about to blow up the big screen.

The footage also gives fans an opportunity to look at behind-the-scenes at the Wrigleyville neighborhood and exclusive interviews. Using both past and present, it is a journey with the band and their relationship of the Chicago Cubs and Pearl Jam. Along with band mates guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron – this is Pearl Jam at it’s finest.

Spending time in Wrigley field, lead singer of Pearl Jam talks about being a Cub fan during the World Series calling it being abused in a humorous way. He calls the fandom “a community that comes together based on not glory in winning but comforting each other and it’s been that way for quite a long time”. 

Watching his excitement of once finding field sod to a trip through the old and new clubhouse, I was even a little giggly. Yes, a proud Chicago gal right here!

It is the eternal hopes “with the hope arm to prove it” of Cubs and Pearl Jam fans!

What an absolutely amazing look at a band that I have always continued to keep an eye out for. Pearl Jam rehearsing on the rooftop has to be one of my favorite parts of this film. It is a relaxed setting and yet the song and music are still filled with emotion and feeling.

A mixture of the tension of the Chicago Cubs and the excitement of Pearl Jam brings people together and it is generational. The man from Australia wearing the awesome Pearl Jam shirt is like a kid waiting for the candy store to open.

Vedder’s voice is still sultry, sexy and full of rage emotion that is not only exceptional but beautiful to hear. Added to that the unforgiving guitar riffs that demand closed eyes and a slowly shaking head to take it all in, what more could I want right? Well, Vedder singing ‘Take Me To The Ball Game’ for the Cubs might do it!

The Wrigley field concert is filled with fan favorites such as Alive, Crazy Mary, Release, Better Man and the very recognizable and still stunning Jeremy, the live performance is just frakken amazing. I certainly don’t mind cheering and reliving my Cubs once again (and it still gives me thrill-chills) while rocking out to a band I hope someday to see live.

In the end – experience two of the best Chicago has to offer! 

ABUNDANT ACREAGE AVAILABLE Deserves Your Consideration

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from writer/director Angus MacLachlan and Gravitas Ventures comes the story of siblings and history with ABUNDANT ACREAGE AVAILABLE.

Jesse (Terry Kinney) and his sister Tracy (Amy Ryan) are in mourning over the recent death of their father. Deciding to bury him in the middle of the crop field, Tracy wants her father to be in a fitting place and not a cemetery. Jesse tries to understand her reasoning’s and agrees to let it happen as long as when spring comes they take him to the cemetery.

A few days later Tracy discovers three elderly men sleeping in a tent on their farmland. Introducing themselves as Hans (Max Gail), Charles (Steve Coulter) and Tom (Francis Guinan) it becomes clear quickly that these men once lived on this very same farm. Jesse is fascinated with the men and their story but Tracy is immediately on edge. 

Jesse decides without discussing it with Tracy that he wants to return the farmland to the brothers. Tracy is absolutely livid believing that he is making the decision for hurtful reasons. Trying to explain herself to Charles, they seem to have a connection of people who have spent their whole life taking care of other people.

Hans and Jesse spend a lot of time getting to know one another, especially when it is clear that both he and brother Tom aren’t in the best of health. Tom manages to shock every chance he gets with his outbursts of language that sets Tracy on edge. That’s when she speaks with Hans who wants one thing – for he and Tom to be buried with their father in the same way Tracy and Jesse buried their own father.

Still not knowing what decision Jesse will make, Tracy agrees to do what Hans asks. Finally Charles brings his family home to the farm and his decision gives Tracy hope, that is until Jesse lets her know that he has made his own decision as well.

Ryan as Tracy is absolutely fantastic and riveting to watch. She is a woman surrounded by men making decisions about her life when her whole life has been that way. The frustration and lack of respect for her feelings goes continually unnoticed or she is placated by the wants of the men around her. Overruled by her brother, her life is once again on hold. Ryan gives every ounce of that in her performance and it is painfully beautiful to watch.

Kinney as Jesse has issues of his own that are just crazy to my way of thinking. He makes decisions without consulting Tracy for reasons that are pure jaw dropping. It is almost as if he placates her to keep the peace but has no problem with continuing a course of action that is completely nuts. Kinney’s character is what I call quietly underhanded taking control of his sister instead of releasing her to live a life she has missed.

Gail as Hans watches the exchange between Jesse and Tracy but continues with his own plan of bringing the family ‘home’ as it were. In a final effort to reach Tracy, he lays in a field with his brother Tom begging to know that their wishes will come to pass by her hand. Guinan as Tom is the one character in this film that is never predictable and doesn’t have an agenda. He is remembering what he can of his childhood and throwing in a few moments of Tourette’s for good measure. This character brings out uncomfortable laughter in a situation that is already amazingly uncomfortable.

Coulter as Charles understands the frustrations that Tracy is feeling. There is almost a connection between the two and brothers Hans and Tom both see it. Wanting the best for their brother, they seem to push the two together wanting both Charles and Tracy to perhaps have a life together that both have missed.

ABUNDANT ACREAGE AVAILABLE is a slow paced story that takes every frame and makes the viewer beg to know which way it will all go. There is unpredictability and sadness in the story line that needs to be felt and boy did I feel it. Of course I sided with Tracy and not because she is the only woman in the film but because of how her family feelings were just set aside because of where she came from.

When I thought all hope for anyone understanding her was gone – the final scene is everything glorious. It is said that carrying the weight of pain and fear will break backs and Tracy has a moment of clarity releasing it all and I cheered for her…literally got up and cheered! Brava Amy Ryan, Brava!

Shot on a wide open farm with only five characters in a worn farmhouse forces us to strip back anything like cgi or effects and deal with the humanity and history of these siblings. Nothing like raw emotion!

In the end – a legacy comes home!

VICTORIA & ABDUL is Perfection

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Stephen Frears and Focus Features is the story of an unlikely friendship between VICTORIA & ABDUL.

Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is a clerk in a prison in India and his life is about to change. Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is to be given a tribute coin and Abdul is the tall man for the job. Along with a shorter Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), they sale toward England and Abdul is very excited.

There is no time for looking around much as Abdul and Mohammed are given a crash course on how to present to the Queen. Sir Henry Ponsonby (Tim Pigott-Smith) lets the two men know that everything is to be precise and quickly. 

During the dinner, Abdul and Mohammed make their way toward Queen Victoria and after a quick nap the presentation is made. Walking backwards, Abdul does the unthinkable and makes eye contact and gives a smile to the Queen and what turns into one moment becomes an unlikely friendship.

Much to the horror of Sir Ponsonby and Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon) as well as her ladies Lady Churchill (Olivia Williams) and Miss Phipps (Fenella Woolgar), the Queen begins to prefer the company of Abdul. They inform the Queen’s son Bertie (Eddie Izzard) and a plan is formed.

Queen Victoria asks Abdul about his land, language and his story as they share walks and private times. It is clear that Abdul cares very much for the Queen and she for him, especially discovering he is married and demanding he get his family and return. That doesn’t stop the Queen’s staff, along with Dr. Reid (Paul Higgins), from looking into Abdul’s past. Believing they can stop him with what they know, it only manages to infuriate the Queen in Abdul’s favor.

Including a knighthood which sends the entire palace into a tizzy and a decision that will not only put their loyalty in question but show how Queen Victoria wasn’t napping any longer. 

This is a friendship that is filled with understanding, forgiveness and even unspoken love.

Dench once again proves why she is a queen in her own right. She is smart, strong, delicate, wistful and a woman who sees so little to move forward for. Once the Queen’s inner light is ignited, Dench shines every moment of the film. I quite honestly could not take my eyes off her performance and the ending brought me to tears.

Karim as Fazal is a man who doesn’t see the world in such an aggressive way as those around him. A simple jail clerk who happens to know how to write is sent across the world to do one simple thing and it turns into a friendship. Fazal delivers his lines with the innocence I see in Abdul in that how one sees the world is clearly different than the Queen. There are moments where he is clearly confused, moments of profound joy and deep sadness and Fazal gets every drop of emotion out of the audience who is just as enraptured as the Queen.

Izzard as Bertie is just the worst that a son could possible be. Instead of being happy for the emotional reviving of his mother, he sees Abdul as an interloper and acts like a spoiled child instead of a future ruler. Izzard just pours it on and gets the reaction he wants!

Akhtar as Mohammed just wants to go home, and when he sees that the Prince and others want to use that against his friend Abdul – his response is epic! Pigott-Smith as Ponsonby is confused by the relationship between the Queen and Abdul but at the same time has a faithfulness to the way things ought to be done. Higgins as Dr. Reid is just another lackey who isn’t happy about Abdul’s presence and finds himself faced with the wrath of the Queen. Gambon as Salisbury wants one thing only – for Abdul to be gone and the crown to go back to normal.

Williams as Lady Churchill isn’t happy to have the Queen’s ear and convinces Miss Phipps to do the extortion deed. Woolgar as Phipps has a moment in front of the Queen that is nerve wracking to watch but awesome to experience. 

Other cast include Julian Wadham as Alick Yorke, Robin Soans as Arthur Bigge, Ruth McCabe as Mrs. Tuck, Sukh Ojla as Mrs. Karim, Kemaal Deen-Ellis as Ahmed and Simon Callow as Puccini.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give VICTORIA & ABDUL five tubs of popcorn out of five. There is nothing about this film that goes wrong with me. The story between Queen Victoria and Abdul is delightful, funny, testing, sad, misunderstood and heartbreaking. 

Mixed in with that is the ugliness of those around the Queen with their jabbing, back biting, underhanded, and horrible treatment of Abdul and Mohammed. Instead of embracing the cultural differences of these two men, they found ways to cut them to the quick – and right to their face in some cases. 

The cinematography is amazing and it is a period piece which is going to grab me from the word go. I absolutely adore the costuming which is always an important part of a period piece because it adds such a richness to the storytelling. 

I’m warning anyone who sees the film to keep a Kleenex handy because for the ending you are going to need it. The chemistry between Dench and Fazal is everything I wanted for this story to be told – thank you both for making me laugh, smile and shed a tear.

In the end – this is a friendship based on a true story…well, mostly.

STRONGER

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week from director David Gordon Green and Roadside Attractions is the story of a journey that has the ability to make anyone STRONGER.

Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) works at Costco and enjoys hanging out with his friends for a beer and baseball. When he sees ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany) in the bar to raise money for her Boston Marathon run, Jeff can’t help but do what he can to show support. It is apparent he still has feelings for Erin and promises to be waiting at the finish line for her.

Erin doesn’t really believe he will show up since in their relationship she felt he never showed up when it was important. Determined to prove him wrong, Jeff is at the finishing line the next day with a big sign waiting for Erin. 

That is when his world changes as a bomb goes off right next to where Jeff is standing. Immediately the city goes into rescue mode to help all those that are injured by both bombs. Jeff is taken to the hospital and his family is notified. Mom Patty (Miranda Richardson), Uncle Bob (Lenny Clarke), Aunt Jenn (Patty O’Neil), Big Jeff (Clancy Brown), Aunt Karen (Kate Fitzgerald) are all at the hospital with friends Sully (Richard Lane Jr.), Big D (Nate Richman) and Kevin (Danny McCarthy).

When Erin sees a photo of Jeff on the news helped by a man named Carlos (Carlos Sanz), she races to the hospital to be with him and be with the family. After surgery, Jeff eventually wakes with a revelation that puts the police on high alert and sets off an immediate manhunt.

Erin takes Jeff home from the hospital and that is when the real work begins. Wanting to renew his relationship with Erin, she moves in with Jeff and his mother Patty. The tension in thick and Jeff must find his way back to the life and love he always wanted.

But to do that Jeff must become stronger.

Gyllenhaal as Jeff has once again embraces a role that is powerful and physically demanding. Everything about Jeff Bauman comes from every pore of this actor. There are challenges that Gyllenhaal tackles and doesn’t shy away from in any way. That is what will bring the audience further into this emotional story. Time and time again Gyllenhaal proves he is an actor who chooses stories that deserve to be told and then stands back to let that story shine.

Maslany as Erin is stepping back onto the big screen as her television role in the BBC hit series Orphan Black has come to a close (trust me I’m not happy about that). She takes on this role and gives Erin warmth, understanding, guts and knowing that sometimes you have to step away to step forward. 

Richardson as Patty is incredibly full of mouth, smoke, a few drinks too many and stunning. This is the mother who would drive us all crazy yet the same mother who we wouldn’t have any other way. Afraid to lose her son in more ways that just his legs, Richardson gives Patty a craziness that Mom’s everywhere can relate to. I better see her name on award nominations or else!

The small role that rises up big is that of actor Carlos Sanz. He plays Carlos Arredondo, the rescuer who helped Jeff immediately after the bombing. The scene between Carlos and Jeff when they meet is something to behold and yes, bring tissue.

Other cast include: Michelle Forziati as Jill Hurley, Sean McGuirk as Bill Hurley, Karen Scalia as Lori Hurley, Judith McIntyre as Michele Kerr, Cassandra Louis as Maya, and Jim LeBlanc as Larry.

STRONGER brings amazing performances from actors that are worthy of the recognition. This is a difficult story to tell and each of the actors make it clear by their performances that the truth, not matter how harsh, can translate from page to screen.

That being said, the film of Jeff Bauman is based on the book STRONGER that documented his recovery. Released in 2014, it was released one year after the anniversary of the bombing. 

STRONGER is a story of struggle, pain, belief, and horror all rolled into the lives of Boston. Jeff Bauman’s story gives the audience just one small glimpse of what happened that day in Boston at the finish line. It is also a cautionary tale of being celebrated as a hero and placed so high that the fall can be as devastating as the initial trauma. 

This is one story out of the 264 people affected by the events that day; Gyllenhaal gives us a performance that makes seeing 263 more stories like this impossible to bear. 

In the end – strength can define us!

The Lego Ninjago Movie Brings Fun for all Ages!

Jeri Jacquin

Get ready to get your Zen on as directors Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan and Warner Bros. bring the fun with THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE.

Ninjago is an island filled with townsfolk of all kinds and all walks of life. At the local high school, Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco) is constantly being harassed for the simple reason that his father is Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Who is Garmadon you ask? Well, he’s ‘The Worst Guy Ever’ who is always finding ways to use his mechs to wreak havoc on the streets of Ninjago. 

The only way Lloyd can handle being the son of the worst guy ever is to become part of a group of high school secret ninja warriors. Taught by his under Master Wu (Jackie Chan), the group consists of Kai (Michael Pena) the Fire Ninja, Cole (Fred Armisen) the Earth Ninja, Jay (Kumail Nanjiani) is the Lightening Ninja, Zane (Zach Woods) is the Ice Ninja and Nya (Abbi Jacobson) is Kai’s sister leaving Lloyd as the Green Ninja.

When Garmadon unleashes Mewothra, Lloyd and the gang must go on a journey to find a way to stop the destruction of Ninjago. The problem is that after showdown between brothers; Lloyd is stuck dealing with his Dad!

It is a trip to save their island but Lloyd and Garmadon discover that for all their years apart, father and son might just have a chance to make up for lost time. Well, that and dealing with a giant Meowthra still tearing up Ninjago!

Franco as the voice of Lloyd is a kid who has lived in the shadow of Garmadon but finds some relief in being the Green Ninja. Everybody loves the Green Ninja and his flying dragon - it’s too bad they don’t know it’s the kid they ignore. One thing is sure, when it comes to stubbornness, the Lego doesn’t fall far form the tree!

Theroux as Garmadon is just completely hilarious and worth every laugh this character gets. Yes, I realize it’s just his voice but the delivery is epic and the animators bring it all together and so much so I think I developed a bit of a soft spot for Garmadon. He’s just another misunderstood evil warlord who happens to have a magazine rack full of unresolved issues.

Chan as Master Wu is funny, smart and tolerant and all three make this character a lot of fun to watch. He wants what is best for his nephew but isn’t going to make the journey an easy one. Did I mention he’s funny?

Pena, Armisen, Nanjiani, Woods, and Jacobson know that it’s rough to be the son of Garmadon. They are supportive of their friend Lloyd and, it must be said, they do so enjoy putting on their costumes and using the cool gear. Getting to know Garmadon is just a bonus for them.

Other vocal cast include: David Burrows as Fuschsia Ninja, Alex Kauffman as the Ninja Computer, Todd Hansen as General Omar, and Douglas Nicholas as General Jolly.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE four and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. I mean come on there people! This is fun, full of laughs, great characters and has everything LEGO. There is something for everyone and outrageous humor from start to finish. Watching these Lego characters is an epic joy every minute the animation is on screen. 

Leave it to Jackie Chan’s Master Wu to gives us a few valuable lessons on accepting ourselves, finding the path that best fits us and believing that all things are possible. It is all wrapped nicely in another LEGO adventure.

To be honest here, I knew I would love LEGO NINJAGO because THE LEGO MOVIE (2014) and THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (2017) still have me laughing. I think I might be a tad partial to Batman but only a tad more. The humor in these films is nothing short of sharp and there isn’t anything not to like.

Get the family together because this is definitely a film that is a reason to make visiting your local movie theatre worth every bite of popcorn. 

In the end – find your inner ninja!

KINGSMAN: The Golden Circle

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from writer/director Matthew Vaughn and 20th Century Fox is the next level epic to save the world and at the helm is KINGSMAN: The Golden Circle.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is back and continuing to work with Merlin (Mark Strong) and Arthur (Michael Gambon) with Kingsman. Having a life outside of his work, Eggsy is in love with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom) and planning to meet her parents the King and Queen of Sweden.

There is a problem however, former Kingsman trainee Charlie (Edward Holcroft) wants to take out a bit of frustration on Eggsy. After a knock down drag out, he heads for dinner with the royals with the help of Roxy in his ear. Everything is going as planned until rockets are launched at Kingsman headquarters leaving only Eggsy and Merlin alive!

Their new enemy is Poppy (Julianne Moore), a slightly psychotic gal who lives in the jungles of Thailand in a 50’s theme compound. She has also created a condition that affects people who partake in recreational usage. Oh, and she’s also the only one who has the cure!

Eggsy and Merlin learn that they must go to the United States and find Statesman, their American agent cousins. Their first introduction is to Tequila (Channing Tatum) who isn’t about to make their visit easy, Ginger (Halle Berry) who is the American Merlin and Champ (Jeff Bridges), the Statesman’s leader. 

That isn’t their biggest shock – it’s who they have been taking care of. Harry (Colin Firth) is alive and Eggsy needs his help. Knowing they have to follow leads for the cure, Champs insists that Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) go along for back up.

Time is not on their side as the created disease is spreading and Poppy wants to cut a deal with the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood). He agrees to her terms but also happily houses the infected, including his own Chief of Staff Fox (Emily Watson)! 

In a final attempt to save the world, Eggsy and Harry put on their best suits and load up to take on Poppy with a little help from a English feathered friend!

Eggerton as Eggsy jumps right back into this role and doesn’t miss a beat. He is smooth, a little mouthy, in love and thrilled to see Harry. Looking good in the Kingsman suit, he drives, fights and drinks with the coolness of a proper agent. Honestly, I just like this kid and he sings so there’s that to add to his resume, like he needs it right?

Firth as Harry is back and a little off kilter. Firth is such a strong Kingsman that when there are moments that are “un-Harry” like, he keeps a straight face while I am cracking up. I couldn’t ask anything more than a straight-man who looks awesome doing it. Strong as Merlin is to die for and I have women in the audience to back me up on that statement. He is calm, cool, collected and doesn’t get worked up about anything. Instead, he is the steady that keeps Eggsy from going off the rails. 

Moore as Poppy is just completely bonkers and I love it. She is that kind of crazy where a smile and sweet talk scare me more than a crazy with a weapon! Poppy has an agenda and nothing is going to get in her way as Moore looks like she is having more fun than anyone else in the film.

Tatum as Tequila is off his barrel a little bit as the out of control gun toting Statesman agent. Okay, so he’s hilarious too which is a bonus! Barry as Ginger is stuck behind a computer when she’d rather be out in the field. Bridges as Champs is just cool for the sake of being cool. 

I have to throw a thumbs up at Bruce Greenwood and his crazy depiction of the President. Since he has played the Commander-in-Chief before in the 2007 film NATIONAL TREASURE: Book of Secrets and the 2000 film THIRTEEN DAYS – both serious Presidents – this is his chance to throw caution to the wind and be all out bonkers. He manages it quite well actually.

Other cast include Mark Arnold as General McCoy, Bjorn Granath as the King of Sweden, Lena Endre as the Queen of Sweden, Tom Knight as Angel, Sophie Cookson as Roxy, Keith Allen as Charles, Tobi Bakare as Jamal, Thomas Turgoose as Liam, and Calvin Demba as Brandon.

KINGSMAN: The Golden Circle isn’t rocket science! This is a film that is meant to be fun and a no brainer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to the movies with a tub of popcorn, a soda and not having to analyze ever moment. Instead, this is grab the group and go out together for some serious laughs.

There is action, comedy, unexpected surprises and laughs that just keep coming. The twist on spy films wrapped up in pretty awesome tailored suits works for me and I don’t mind saying it loud and proud. KINGSMAN: The Golden Circle is the reason popcorn, friends and theatre going were invented. 

In the end – it’s a save the world kind of situation – again!

AMERICAN ASSASSIN

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from director Michael Cuestra, CBS Films and Lionsgate brings action and suspense with the AMERICAN ASSASSIN.

Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is vacationing with his girlfriend in a blue water tropical paradise. In an instant shooting begins as terrorists walk the beach killing tourists, including Mitch’s girlfriend.

Wanting revenge, Mitch goes out on his own to try and find the man he saw kill his girlfriend. Going online to reach out to a terrorist organization, he doesn’t know that the CIA see’s everything he is doing. When he finds his target, the CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) sends in a crack team of military to save him.

Angry that his goal is thwarted, Director Kennedy brings in Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a Cold War Vet, to train Mitch as a black ops recruit. Out in the woods, Mitch works with others on what it takes to go on dangerous missions. That is when the CIA receives word that someone is putting together the parts to build a bomb.

Hurley, Mitch and other agents arrive in the Middle East and Annika (Shiva Negar) is their contact when they discover they are looking for a Ghost (Taylor Kitsch). Almost immediately they believe they are on the trail of the scientist who is helping to build the bomb. Hurley knows something about Ghost but instead of sharing it with the team, he becomes frustrated because Mitch isn’t taking orders.

When Hurley is kidnapped by Ghost, Mitch kicks it into gear to find his mentor and stop a bomb from starting a war!

O’Brien as Mitch is a brooding, sarcastic and perfect person to train even though he does take matters into his own hands. I write it off as rambunctious youth and I don’t mind it. His mind is constantly on the move and his body follows throwing caution to the wind. I really enjoyed O’Brien’s performance and can even see a few more films coming out of this character.

Keaton as Hurley is equally brooding, sarcastic and the perfect person to train Mitch. He is a strong character in the film and fast in his reaction to situations. Now, I have to say there is a scene (no, I won’t tell you which one but trust me when I say you’ll know immediately when you see it) between Hurley and Ghost where I almost sat on the edge of my seat waiting for Keaton to say “You want to get nuts! Let’s get nuts!”.

Lathan as Kennedy sees something in Mitch and knows how to use the pain that he has endured. From the loss of his parents to the murder of his girlfriend, she knows that using it all to become a black ops specialist will make him perfect for the job. 

Kitch as Ghost just plain doesn’t give a damn about anybody or anything except making the world pay. His story is a mystery for most of the film but he eventually makes it clear why he wants to watch the world burn. There is a crazy Kitch manages to give that made me nervous! Negar as Annika is an agent who, like Mitch, has personal reasons for wanting to bring down Ghost and she’ll do anything to make that happen.

Other cast include Scott Adkins as Victor, Joseph Long as General Rostami, Navid Negahban as Minister Behurz, Trevor White as Dr. Frain, David Suchet as Director Stansfield, and Shahid Ahmed as Adnan Al-Mansur.

I had a good time watching AMERICAN ASSASSIN! It is fast paced, takes no prisoners, and basically takes us on a roller coaster ride of espionage, mystery and a big ending. The film is basically effortless in keeping viewers attention because this is exactly why many go to the movies – to be taken away with a big bowl of popcorn and no analyzing or figuring out anything.

O’Brien and Keaton are pretty cool together because their characters share more in common than either will admit. Playing off of one another they played into the films twists and turns with ease. The film is one hundred and eleven minutes long and there isn’t a moment that doesn’t have something going on. 

The films as of late have claimed promises of stories that weren’t kept which makes AMERICAN ASSASSIN so much fun. You get what you pay for and happily pay for the ride. This isn’t just a ‘guys’ film, it is a gather-up-the-gang and go out for a good time at the movies and don’t forget a huge bucket of popcorn for everybody. 

In the end – assassins aren’t born, they are made!

J.D. Salinger’s Story Comes to Life in REBEL IN THE RYE 

Jeri Jacquin

This Friday from writer/director Danny Strong and IFC Films is the life of an author who wrote himself into history as the REBEL IN THE RYE.

The film begins with J.D. Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) stating “Holden Caulfield is dead”! That being said, a young Salinger is trying to find out where he belongs in the world. Convincing his parents that he wants to be a writer, Jerry enters Columbia University where he meets Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey). Immediately testing his professor, Burnett challenges Jerry to become the writer he is.

Wanting to become published, Jerry’s learns that to be published means giving up what he believes is the heart of his work. He also finds love with Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch) and the war comes into his life. Burnett sees this young writer with great potential leave for battle asking that he continue writing stories with the character of Holden Caulfield.

War is more than he can take as Jerry retreats into himself mentally telling the story of Caulfield. Trying to find his way back to the world, The Catcher in the Rye is born and the book explodes. Jerry and wife Claire (Lucy Boynton) find a cottage in the woods but it is only a matter of time before the world expects another masterpiece from him. Even Burnett reaches out and Caulfield isn’t keen on going farther than the fence on his land.

It is what happens when you ‘write and get nothing in return’.

Hoult as Salinger is absolutely stunning. He brings to the character frustration, heart ache, stubbornness, fear, challenges and all of it leads to Salinger being reclusive. He takes the character step by step but doesn’t take his foot off the gas. I loved every moment of Hoult on screen and probably because I have always loved Salinger’s work. He gives Salinger to us with the good, bad and the ugly and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So well done and thank you.

Spacey as Burnett, I mean really, do I need to say it? Spacey gives this character a sly sense of humor and cutting wit but behind it is such insecurity and fear equally Salinger’s own. Watching his protégé move forward without him, Spacey’s Burnett is struggling to reconnect with what he believes is a young man with immense talent. Spacey is once again outstanding and beautiful in this role.

Paulson as Olding is an agent who believes in her client. She continually struggles to get his work published, especially when they want rewrites, but always does what Jerry wants. Boynton as Claire tries to understand what Jerry is going through but he makes it difficult when he spends more time writing than with their marriage and children. Deutch as Oona makes Jerry happy until she doesn’t and her marriage to someone else is in the tabloids and still talked about to this day.

Other cast include Brian d’Arcy James as Giroux, Victor Garber as Sol Salinger, James Urbaniak as Gus, Adam Busch as Nigel, and Jefferson Mays as William.

The film’s director Strong writes the screenplay with Kenneth Slawenski who wrote the biography J.D. Salinger: A Life. Together Strong and Slawenski give the audience some insight to the life of Salinger.

THE REBEL IN THE RYE is cinematically beautiful with the era costuming that adds another depth to the story telling. Hoult and Spacey together are stunning playing off each other with a friendship that becomes a struggle for Salinger. The scene between the two trying to reconnect really broke my heart a bit and I loved it at the same time.

That’s really what this film does, takes us on a blink of an eye journey through the life of a writer that has captured the hearts and minds of millions – and continues to do so. After seeing the film I came home to find my copy of The Catcher in the Rye and within a few days came away with a deeper love of the book and a deeper joy from the film.

Discover Salinger in a different way with REBEL IN THE RYE.

In the end – it is a battle between writing and the writer!

MOTHER! Brings More Questions than Answers

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres from writer/director Darren Aronofsky and Paramount Pictures is a test on the eyes and brain when it comes to MOTHER!

Jennifer Lawrence is in the title role of MOTHER! as a young woman who is living in a secluded and large house. Along with her acclaimed poet husband played by Javier Bardem, she is redecorating their home while he fights writer’s block for his next book.  

When a mysterious man (Ed Harris) shows up at their door, she is immediately suspicious of who he is and what he could possibly want. Just as fast, her husband seems enthralled with their visitor and offers him a room for the night. Their guest also seems to have health problems that keep her husband occupied late into the night.

By morning there is another knock on the door and she is surprised to be introduced to their mysterious guest’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). She is once again upset that her husband now invites the wife to stay as well saying that having people around invigorates him.

That is until the couples two grown sons (Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson) show up to argue with their parents about the contents of a will. A fight breaks out with horrific results leaving her home while the others run to the hospital. When he returns home, more people show up at the house, and more, and more. She can take no more and demands that everyone leave her house and confronts her husband.

That confrontation leads to a night of passion that brings the joy both had been waiting for. Pregnant, she works more on the house and believes she finally has found happiness. Even more so is that her husband can’t stop writing and a new book is well received. So well received that people show up at their door bringing chaos and disaster – or do they.

Lawrence as Mother is a woman who dedicates herself to redecorating the home she shares with her husband. Constantly supportive, it isn’t until the arrival of the stranger that she begins to feel passed over and at the same time threatened. Lawrence’s character begins the film strong, but, like the film’s turning point just ends up a hot mess (once you see the film please no there is no pun intended).

Bardem as the husband is a man who seems to need constant emotional catering to and a half hour into the film I was over it. There is no chemistry between Bardem and Lawrence which makes his behavior even more annoying to watch. By the time things come around to the last few minutes I lost total interest. 

Harris as the mystery man wouldn’t make it five seconds in my house. Arrogant and ignoring Lawrence’s characters wishes, it is an odd character placing and I suppose I’m going to have to think about it more yet I don’t want to. Pfeiffer as the mystery man’s husband actually had spunk, is mouthy and chugs down her special lemonade which makes her even more mouthy and challenging. That being said, there is only so much you can take of that as well.

Other cast include Amanda Chiu as Damsel, Patricia Summersett as Consoler, Eric Davis as Bumbler, Stephen McHattie as the Zealot, Jovan Adepo as the Cupbearer and Kristen Wiig as Herald.

I wanted to like MOTHER!, I was excited about this film and followed all the buzz. So, it is crazy to me that I just don’t know who the audience is for it. Of course Aronofsky is known for his complex films and it’s like a roller coaster ride with him. I was intrigued by THE FOUNTAIN, didn’t like NOAH, adored his directing in BLACK SWAN and JACKIE and now we are back to ‘meh!’ with MOTHER!

This is a film that is absolutely going to have to be experienced but I don’t know who would want to. Quite honestly it was all in for me the first five minutes of the film followed by all the subtle hint dropping throughout the film then, it turns into an experiment in torture (both of myself and the film’s characters). 

I’m sure that Aronofsky knew what he wanted to show the viewer but I don’t think he thought of the viewer much. He is asking them to sit through a film that has amazing cinematography and talent but also asks them to figure out what his vision is. He had the makings of a good thriller and it starts out absolutely that way.

I followed along waiting for the “thing” to happen and instead I got thrown into the garbage shoot and I can’t wash off the gunk. Oh well.

In the end – seeing is not believing.

IT Isn’t Clowning Around

Jeri Jacquin with Vince Munn

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Andy Muschietti from horror novelist Stephen King and New Line Cinema comes a circus of another kind headed by IT.

In the Maine town of Derry, it becomes clear that kids have become the target for disappearances. Know one knows that better than Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) when his little brother Georgie is taken –but by who or what? Supported by friends that include the wisecracking Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) and Eddie (Jack Grazer), he makes it day by day.

Adding to their group calling themselves the Losers Club is Ben (Jeremy Taylor) who becomes part of the group when a band of town bullies marks him, Beverly (Sophia Lillis) who is living her own hell at home and Mike (Chosen Jacobs).

School is out in the summer of 1989 and Ben has been spending his summer in the library learning about Derry and the disappearances. Sharing his information with Bill who renews his sense of finding Georgie, they all agree to help even if somewhat reluctantly. It also becomes clear that each of them has seen the clown known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) and are terrified.

When Pennywise takes one of their own, the rest know where he can be found and make it their mission stop the demonic clown. 

Friendships can make you brave!

Lieberher as Bill is a strong young man in the face of the hardest thing that can happen to a family. Yet he still holds out hope to find his brother and be that family once again. Lieberher’s character has the ability to talk his friends into danger and as much as some may complain, they are with their friend in all things. A strong leader to this very diverse group.

Lillis as Beverly is the young woman who lives this excruciating life at home yet when with the gang doesn’t hesitate to jump into danger. This young lady is someone to keep your eye out for in the future. Taylor as Ben is the historical brains of the operation by finding solace in the library he has the key to finding Pennywise. Taylor gives his character a sweet personality and emotion that include poetry.

Grazer as Eddie is the sick kid that is being suffocated by his helicopter Mom. He wants to be with his buddies but is sometimes swayed by his mother’s neurosis. Oleff as Stanley just wants to be a kid and hates what is happening – clearly. Jacobs as Mike is the last edition to the Losers Club and fits right in to a group that is anything but losers.

Oh my goodness, Wolfhard as Richie had me laughing when I felt like I shouldn’t have been laughing yet still laughed. Follow that? He is the kid with a line for everything and nothing is off limits meaning a filter is not one of his gifts. I love this kid!

Other cast include: Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers, Jake Sim as Belch Huggins, Logan Thompson as Victor Criss, Owen Teague as Patrck Hockstetter, Stephen Bogaert as Mr. Marsh, Stuart Hughes as Officer Bowers, and the adorable Jackson Scott as George Denbrough.

In 1990 I saw the mini-series of IT and was totally taken with the story. Set in the 1960’s, it had the look and feel of a time I could easily relate to. The story then was told by the adults who had returned to Derry to face Pennywise once again. By the way, Pennywise was then played by Tim Curry and he was absolutely fantastic scaring and haunting everyone’s nightmares.

So here we are in 2017 and the film is set in the late 80’s and even if you didn’t realize the year, the movie marquee in the film would remind you. This time the story begins with the kids, how they come together through circumstances and the end result. I’m sure that’s being saved for the next IT film.

There is CGI, scares, moody music, all sorts of era references and humor that mixes in with the creepiness of a clown terrorizing a town. To add more for any possible IT trivia game later, in Stephen King’s book IT, Pennywise comes to town every 27 years. The mini-series aired in 1990 and here we are again in 2017 – 27 years later! Feel the willies?

How do I feel about this new updated version? Well, I asked my friend Vince Munn to join me for the screening of IT and weigh in on the film with me because this IT telling is definitely meant to be a shared experience.

Jeri: I have to admit that it’s been a long time since I read the book IT. Look, I don’t mind the new version because the kids are absolutely fantastic. I don’t mind giving props to a cast and these kids get it definitely. The cinematography of small town living and the touches of the era were also well done. 

Vince: As a long time fan of Stephen King, this is one of my favorite books that he has written, as well as the mini-series that nurtured my fear of clowns. This movie gets to delve deeper into parts of the book mostly its graphic description of violence against children, more so than the series ever could.

Jeri: True, but IT was pretty dang graphic for television of that time. I still remember thinking it was horrifying and couldn’t remember anything that scared me as much back then. Of course the graphics then were considered pretty cool and the CGI is definitely heavy in this version.

Vince: The power of the budget is there and you can see every dollar on screen. The film is well paced and shot. 

Jeri: What did you think of the cast?

Vince: The cast is superb. There are no big stars in this so it makes relating and believing the characters easy. The kids get along and you believe their relationships and camaraderie.

Jeri: Like we talked about last night, I wasn’t really thrilled with the gaps in the story and that makes me a little nuts. That being said, IT certainly delivers on creepiness and unexpected scares.

Vince: Atmosphere is everything in horror and the film nails that. IT knows the audience that will be there so there is scare music and good jumps. 

Jeri: I think Richie steals the show in a lot of places. He is that comic relief when things are getting to tense. Maybe I just like the fact that he’s quick on the mouth even in the face of fear.

Vince: The nice reverse to that is the use of humor and levity after the fear. Perfectly timed and never distracting. This is a good solid horror with a balance of gore and mood.

Jeri: So now we have to wait to see how they take the kids story and meld that with the adult story. That’s going to be important if IT is to sit neatly with its original version.

Vince: That is the hard part for this, the connection of the kids to the adults that we will se down the road. I trust director Andres Muschietti to show me. Go see IT, laugh, scream and enjoy the movie!

Jeri: I had a good time watching IT but have my problems with Pennywise – or maybe I’m just a loyal till I die Pennywise/Curry person. That being said, this is definitely a film to gather a group up to go see together. Take people who love clowns and mix it up with people who hate clowns because when it’s all said and done – everyone is going to have a good time. 

In the end – you’ll float too!

India Finds It’s Independence and the Final VICEROY’S HOUSE

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Gurinder Chadha and IFC Films is the story of the last viceroy of India with VICEROY’S HOUSE.

It is 1947 in New Delhi as everyone is preparing for the arrival of Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Lady Edwina Mountbatten (Gillian Anderson). Newly appointed, Mountbatten is also the last viceroy of India and the great-grandson of Queen Victoria.

His job is almost immediate in the attempt to give India its independence. It isn’t going to be easy from the start. Lady Edwina sees the suffering of India’s people from the streets and wishes to waste no time in helping with their needs.

At the Viceroy’s Palace, Jeet (Manish Dayal) was a one time Hindu police officer and now wishes to be of service to the new viceroy. He sees Aalia (Huma Qureshi) who he has been in love with from the moment they met. When her father Om (Ali Rahim Noor) was jailed, it was Jeet who protected him. Wanting Aalia to understand his feelings, she reminds him that he is Hindu and she Muslim in a time of conflict between the two peoples.

As Mountbatten meets with leaders Nehru, Jinnah and the Mahatma Gandhi, a plan is being formed to allow two nations to be formed without further incident. Lady Edwina takes it upon herself to learn as much about the people of India as she can to help her husband understand their needs. 

When meeting after meeting brings more challenges, it is the people of India who are suffering. When Aalia and her family have to leave New Delhi, Jeet is devastated and realizes that everything is being torn apart. Soon after the violence begins and people are fleeing to New Delhi looking for help from the Viceroy. 

Mountbatten needs a little help of his own when he discovers that his position isn’t what he believed which could easily destroy the relationships he has tried to hard to cultivate. Those he trusted, Gen. Lionel Hastings Ismay (Michael Gambon), Cyril Radcliffe (Simon Callow) and Archie Wavell (Simon Williams) seem to know something deliberately kept from Mountbatten.

Brother turning on brother, this story tells the heartache of a country and its people who were not prepared for what was to come.

Dayal as Jeet is such an amazing actor. I first saw him in THE ONE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY and was brought into a story that was so beautifully told (and I can’t pass it by when on cable). Here he is a young man who falls for a beautiful Muslim girl while caring for her father. He holds his love for her so dear that nothing – not even culture or religion can change his heart.

Bonneville as Mountbatten arrives with every intent to work with Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah to make the transition. Perhaps a bit naïve that it would happen without incident, Bonneville gives his character true heart and the vision to believe that working together could accomplish everything equally. He is an actor who has the uncanny ability to draw me in and rally for the character. Yes, I’m a Downton Abbey fan but that only adds to liking this character. 

Anderson as Lady Edwina is a no-nonsense character who knows what must be done and isn’t going to let anyone stand in her way of getting it done. She also is an amazing support system to her husband and doesn’t mind calling out a General or two when they overstep their boundaries. I just loved her attitude from start to finish and forgot she was Gillian Anderson – that’s how well done her character is.

Qureshi as Aalia is a young woman caught between two worlds. Ever the dutiful daughter, she keeps her feelings for Jeet aside when her father is pleased to marry her to a soldier returning from England who is Muslim. The pain is believable and Qureshi’s performance made me very sad and I won’t say any more.

Other cast include: Nicholas Blane as Sir Olaf Kirkpatrick Caroe, Samrat Chakrabarti as Mohsin, Arunoday Singh as Asif, Lily Travers as Lady Pamela Hicks, Lucy Fleming as Lady Wavell, Denzil Smith as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Terence Harvey as Sir Fred Burrows, Tanveer Ghani as Jawaharlal Nehru, Jas Deol as Duleep Singh and Neeraj Kabi as Mahatma Gandhi.

VICEROY’S HOUSE is visually stunning with all the finery and costuming done up brilliantly. That is so important to me when a film asks me to take a little time travel journey into a story. I am taken in by the pageantry and traditional clothing of that era. The cinematography is equally as stunning with the richness of colors that the story brings with it. 

This is a story I did not know about the independence of India. I know the story of Gandhi very well and own the film by the same name made in 1982 with Ben Kingsley in the starring role. VICEROY’S HOUSE could easily slide right next to GANDHI and add to the richness and more detail of a story that many might not have known before.

The mixture of history with a personal story of Jeet and Aalia is heartbreaking. Jeet played by Dayal is caught between loving someone he is told he can’t have and breaking with traditions against someone he respects – her father. 

This is a majestically told story and breathtaking film that needs to be experiences. This week please head to the theatres and be part of VICEROY’S HOUSE.

In the end – it is the end of an empire and the birth of two nations!

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD 

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres today from director Patrick Hughes and Lionsgate is a pairing whose time has come with THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD.

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) was the world’s top bodyguard, Triple-A rated in fact. Notice I said was! In the blink of an eye Bryce’s life went from the best of everything, including girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Yung) and a nice car to, well, not so much the best.

When a client is taken out on his watch, he is now driving a small set of wheels and shaving has literally taken a back seat. Bryce’s boring life is about to change thanks to Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), former country leader who is being prosecuted by The Hague for war crimes.

In order to hold Dukhovich responsible, prosecutors have a key witness in Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) who was captured and has agreed to talk. Bryce’s ex-Amelia heads a tactical group in charge of getting Kincaid to court before time runs out. Unfortunately there are those who are going to make that difficult.

Part of the deal in talking is that Kincaid’s wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) would be released from prison which is just fine with Renata Casoria (Tine Joustra) and Jean Foucher (Joaquim de Almeida). 

On the way the caravan is attack with Amelia and Kincaid surviving running to the nearest safe house. Knowing that getting to The Hague is imperative, Amelia calls Bryce for help. The moment Bryce and Kincaid meet it is clear these two hold grudges but not punches.

Yet a bromance begins that takes them through firefights, chases, moles, one-liners, realizations, if you can believe it – talks of love!

Reynolds as Bryce does this duo-comedy proud, but then again this isn’t rocket science. Reynolds has timing and a way of delivering a line that is sheer hilarity and, on occasion, becomes memorable. He has a razor sharp wit (have you seen his tweets?) and a sarcasm many wish they had. THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is a laughing-notch in his comedic belt in the role of Bryce as the uptight and resentful bodyguard who isn’t exactly thrilled with helping an ex or a criminal.

Jackson as Kincaid is doing what Jackson seems to do best, be wild and crazy. Kincaid is a criminal who took the bait getting caught and has no problem making a deal, not for himself but his love Sonia. Once out in the world however, he knows exactly how to take care of himself and have a good time doing it. Kincaid is the huge thorn in Bryce’s side and enjoys that too! There is absolutely no way Jackson didn’t have a blast doing this film because his character was certainly enjoying himself. He gets to swear, use a gun, talk smack and claim love – a well rounded acting gig if you ask me.

Hayek as Sonia is hysterical and gives her the chance to show her verbal badassness while looking pretty good in a jail cell. Again, she seemed to be having a great time. Rousell as Yung has a history with Bryce but that doesn’t stop her character from throwing him into the fray.

Oldman as Dukhovich gives his best crazy despot who doesn’t mind killing his own people and trying to get away with it character. It feels a bit like an older version of his crazy terrorist who doesn’t mind killing anyone as Ivan Korshunov in the 1997 film AIR FORCE ONE. Always love me some Oldman so no complaints from me. 

Other cast include Tsuwayuki Saotome as Kurosawa (remember that name), Rod Hallet as Professor Asimov, Yuri Kolokolnikov as Ivan, Barry Atsma as Moreno, and Richard E. Grant as Seifert.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD five tubs of popcorn out of five. I do this pretty much for one obvious reason, I laughed – and laughed hard! That is a big thing for me since most of this movie year I’ve been crying and bitching. This film took all that laughter I have been saving and shook it all right out of me. 

Okay, I will also admit here, and see it as a warning in advance, don’t drink and laugh. There is a particular moment between Reynolds and Jackson that caused me to shoot Dr. Pepper right outta my nose – yes folks, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD produced an asner of epic proportion. 

Yes, this is a buddy movie, yes there are a lot of those but are they as good as this? A few are and THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is setting a new high for finding the right duo to pull it off. Reynolds and Jackson are epic together and verbally go mouth-to-mouth with wit, sarcasm and song.

So group up and head to the theatre for a serious good time with laughs provided by two of everyone’s favorite crazy people with THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD.

In the end – everyone is out to get them if they don’t kill each other first!

WIND RIVER Brings a Winter Chill to a Dark Story

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from writer/director Taylor Sheridan and The Weinstein Company is the mystery and murder on WIND RIVER.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a Fish and Game Agent who sometimes must hunt down animals that kill ranchers’ herds. While following the tracks of a mountain lion, Lambert comes across human tracks. Following them he finds the body of a young girl.

On Native American lands, Lambert calls Ben (Graham Greene) the local law enforcement who also calls federal officer Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen). Clearly not ready to take on a case like this, she asks Lambert to assist in finding out who is responsible.

Lambert agrees but only because the young girl, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille) is the daughter of his dear friend Martin (Gil Birmingham). He understands his pain all to which makes him promise Martin that the murderer will be caught. Banner looks to Lambert who begins to put the pieces together but in an unconventional way.

What becomes clear is that the truth with far more shocking than anyone could imagine.

Renner as Lambert is an introspective person but that’s brought on by tragedy of his own. His character finds solace being a tracker and Renner gives Lambert a stoic disposition that keeps him focused. The scenes between Renner and Birmingham are absolutely stunning, moving and their relationship becomes even clearer to the audience taking my breath away. Renner always brings something memorable to his characters and in WIND RIVER it is heart.

Olsen as Banner is a young FBI officer who isn’t prepared for the case or the weather. This is a character that is tested in every way and isn’t very welcomes by the indigenous people on the reservation. Their trust in the outside world has been filled with disappointments and lies which puts Banner immediately at odds with them.

Greene as Ben is the law enforcement that has a wicked and biting sense of humor. Feeling as if the case is going to get mishandled, he is with Lambert almost every step of the way to ensure justice is done – even if that justice is tribal. I love that Greene is in this film and with a face that doesn’t give anything away, he adds to the mysteriousness of it all.

Birmingham as Martin has another fantastic role of a father dealing with not only the death of his daughter but feeling helpless about their situation all together. He knows that Lambert understands him and knows between his friend and Ben – something will get done. This isn’t Birmingham’s first go around with a Taylor Sheridan film playing Alberto Parker in HELL OR HIGH WATER, another amazing role. 

Other cast include Julia Jones as Wilma, Teo Briones as Casey, Apesanahkwat as Dan Crowheart, Tantoo Cardinal as Alice Crowheart, Eric Lange as Dr. Whitehurst, Althea Sam as Annie, Tokala Clifford as Sam Littlefeather, Martin Sensmeier as Chip, Tyler Laracca as Frank, Blake Robbins as Tim, Norman Lehnert as Dale, James Jordan as Pete, Matthew Del Negro as Dillon, Hugh Dillon as Curtis, Ian Bohen as Evan, Austin Grant as Carl and Jon Bernthal as Matt.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give WIND RIVER four tubs of popcorn out of five. First of all, the cinematographer is amazing set up in the wilderness and harsh setting of winter. It sets the stage for the harshness of the story that is being told drawing you in completely. There is an innate sadness in it and once the story takes off, it becomes clear that there is another story wrapped in.

Renner and Olsen are in it completely character wise and it is such a pleasure to see Greene, Apesanahkwat and Crowheart brought to the screen. Portraying Native American characters called for one thing absolutely – that they should be portrayed by Native American actors to which I give Sheridan much appreciation.

That story is Native American women are attacked so much more than anyone has ever been made aware of. That becomes clear by the end of the film along with the injustice and hopelessness those living on the reservations live with. From drugs to the taking of their land by, in this case, an oil company, Sheridan makes it clear that none of this should continue to be ignored.

WIND RIVER has a few bumps here and there but nothing that bothers me in the slightest. The performances stand out and the story is harsh and believable from start to finish. Capturing it all in the rough setting gives the film another character that doesn’t need to say a word – it is quite clear.


In the end – nothing is harder to track than the truth!

THE DARK TOWER

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from director Nikolaj Arcel and Columbia Pictures is a novel to screen with the highly anticipated THE DARK TOWER.

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young man dealing with the loss of his father. Continuing to have bad dreams, he tries to explain them to his mother Laurie (Katheryn Winnick). She and Jake’s step-father have been sending the young man for professional help but only he knows that it’s not needed.

He dreams about the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and a world that includes a gunslinger named Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). The Man in Black named Walter is looking for a way to take down the Dark Tower and cause an apocalypse that reverberates into several worlds in the service of the Crimson King. 

Jake holds the key with his ability known as ‘the shine’ and Walter wants it badly because it’s the only way to bring down the tower. Constantly fighting to stop it, Roland loses his father causing him to only focus on revenge in Mid-World.

When Jake puts together the pieces from his dreams, he finds his way to into Roland’s world. Roland takes the boy to a seer to discover what his dreams and drawings mean and if they can lead them to Walter. Instead, the two need to run into Jake’s world or as Roland calls it Keystone Earth to think of a plan that will get them swiftly to the Man in Black and stop his plan.

But the shine is calling out to Walter making it easier to find the two leading to a showdown where the two worlds work together to survive!

Taylor as Jakes gives the performance of a young man who is torn about the death of his father and the nightmares that plague him. There isn’t anyone who truly believes what he is drawing and even his therapist isn’t on board. Taylor’s character is withdrawn and sullen looking for answers but I think I saw him smile once.

Elba as Roland plays the troubled gunslinger that is angry about what is happening in his world. When revenge takes over, others begin to wonder if he is the gunslinger after all being the only one left. Elba says little except when reciting a creed taught to him by his father and keeps a brooding feel throughout the film which kind of bums me out because there isn’t ‘acting’ in his act. 

McConaughey as the Man in Black is pretty much evil down to his core yet keeps his cool every moment. There is something between he and Roland that keeps his ‘magiks’ from penetrating the gunslingers mind. McConaughey has the perfect ensembles and hair while performing his evil deeds and Walter doesn’t mince words but that’s about it.

Winnick as Laurie wants to believe her son but with the pressure from hubby she believes that sending him away for the weekend could help things. Jackie Earle Haley as Sayre is the yes-man for Walter having one of the portals between worlds. 

Other cast includes Jackie Earle Haley as Sayre, Abbey Lee as Tirana, Nicholas Hamilton as Lucas Hanson, Dennis Haysbert as Steven Deschain, Michael Barbieri as Timmy, Claudia Kim as Arra, Fran Kranz as Pimli and Joe Suniga as Dr. Hotchkiss. 

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE DARK TOWER three tubs of popcorn five. It is definitely an adventure and I can see how there could be more to it all which means I might have to read the books. Elba and Taylor work so well together even though that means the basically brood together. They are the yin and yang of each other which plays out.

I suppose my only problem with the film is that I expected so, so, so much more. The running time is about 90 minutes yet there was nothing that really wow’d me, made me giggle a few times but no wow at all. They called Jake’s gift ‘shine’ which is a nice homage to the young boy Danny from 1980 film THE SHINING and the tower looks much like the tall residence of both Saruman and the Eye of Sauron from LORD OF THE RINGS. 

There is also reference to Excalibur which made my head do a questioning shake of “whaaaaa?” Maybe it’s that I had the film figured out from start to finish the moment Jake ran away which is irritating since I haven’t read the books. 

Okay, perhaps I’m just getting cranky wanting more from Hollywood in general and THE DARK TOWER is a prime example of why. Lets be honest, there is no character development really which would have been nice for those of us who haven’t had the time to delve into the printed page. 

There are so many references to other Stephen King films that if I wanted to see them I’d just stay home and watch – well – Stephen King films! I really hate it too because I’m a King fan (not to be confused with the Crimson King like I know who that is) from years and years of reading so it sucks to write a so-so review. Then again, it’s not like he’s going to lose a dime over this person’s opinion of the film.

A far more interesting tidbit is that THE DARK TOWER began with a book written by Stephen King based on a poem by Robert Browning called Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. 

In the end – in a world of superheroes there is only one gunslinger!

BRAVE NEW JERSEY Takes on War of the Worlds

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres and On Demand this Friday from writer/director Jody Lambert and Gravitas Ventures is a town you will come to know as BRAVE NEW JERSEY.

It is 1938 small town New Jersey, USA and everyone is getting ready for a fun town gathering for Halloween. Lorraine Davison (Heather Burns) is helping her husband Paul (Sam Jaeger) by being the perfect homemaker. Happiness doesn’t seem to be part of the formula of their marriage but Lorraine does what she can to make family life easy.

Daughter Ann (Grace Kaufman) just wants to be free of babysitting her Polish cousin Ziggy (Harp Sandman). The fact that he doesn’t speak English gives her leeway to complain but Mom isn’t having it. 

Teaching school is Peg (Anna Camp) who is being courted by Chardy Edwards (Matt Oberg) who believes she has her place and it’s by his side. Clark Hill (Tony Hale) has lived in this small town and believes it is the perfect place to be, even if he has a secret of the heart he is keeping.

Reverend Rogers (Dan Bakkedahl) is all about the town and keeping his flock coming every Sunday. His sermons are straight to the point and reach to the heart of his parishioners that include Helen (Erika Alexander) and Stan (Leonard Howze). 

That was the intent until the towners turns on their radios and discover that the Martians are invading the world! Running to the church for a meeting, Sheriff Dandy (Mel Rodriguez) doesn’t seem to have any answers either. The one person who wants to immediately plan to defend their town is Captain Collins (Raymond Barry).

In the middle of the preparations, town’s people begin to reevaluate their lives and what is important while waiting for the Martians to arrive. That means being honest about how they feel and, as Captain Collins put it ‘what would you do if you had only one more day to live?’ 

Martians are the least of their worries!

Burns as Lorraine is the stereotypical woman of the era in that it doesn’t matter what she wants because her job is to keep her husband and family well taken care of. As the invasion comes closer and closer, Lorraine realizes there is more to her life than cooking and cleaning. Hale as Hill is such a lovely character and I rooted for him every step of the way. His inability to speak his heart is running out of time if the Martians have a say in it.

Camp as Peg is the sweet schoolteacher who manages to hide her true feelings under her cute smile. As each moment brings the town closer to what they think is their doom, Camp gives Peg a pair of lady-balls and she let’s loose going against the era grain. 

Jaeger as Paul is just everything women now would absolutely cringe about yet he does it with a Don Draper (Mad Men) glittering smile. Rogers as Bakkedahl is a pastor who apparently needs said aliens to get mouthy with God! The scene in the church is actually quite funny. Alexander as Helen calls on the Pastor to explain why this is all happening plus Howze as husband Stan has completely lost it!

Barry as Collins doesn’t care if there are Martians or not, this is the chance of a lifetime to put on his uniform and command the troops. Rodriguez as the Sheriff doesn’t seem to know much about anything except following the townsfolk.

Kaufman as Ann is a young girl who doesn’t believe everything she hears. Deciding to roam the town with her cousin and watch how the adults deal with their fear. I love how she has little fear (except maybe the Captain for a second) and takes a moment to realize that perhaps what was heard on the radio might be something else.

Other cast include Adina Galupa as Shannon, Sandra Lafferty as Farm Lady, Evan Jonigkeit as Sparky, Bill Coelius as Mac, Noah Lomax as Peter, Patrick Miller as Mr. Pepper and Gabriel Landis as Jimmy.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give BRAVE NEW JERSEY four tubs of popcorn out of five. First of all I love that the film looks exactly like the era from the clothing, behaviors and the town. That’s what drew me into the story immediately plus the fact that the cast captures it all.

The comedy is mixed with an awakening for its female characters not only in what was expected of them in marriage and relationships but it didn’t take some long to grab a gun! I was laughing, then ‘awwwww’ing’ which was followed by more laughing and I don’t mind that one little bit.

I’m keeping a little mum about the story because this film is just so dang cute that going any deeper into it isn’t cool. Just see the film and enjoy every minute of it!

The storyline is pretty cool with how I would have thought people reacted to the 1938 Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. Performed Halloween night on The Mercury Theatre on the Air, Welles directed and narrated the story that supposedly caused mass panic. By the way, that event still remains high on my list of the most brilliant things ever done. 

In the end – it is an alien comedy with no aliens!

Prepare for an ATOMIC BLONDE

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday with a kick and a bang from director David Leitch and Focus Features is the ATOMIC BLONDE.

It is Berlin and the Cold War as Lorraine (Charlize Theron), a British agent with MI6 and a mean set of skills. Interrogated by Gray (Toby Jones) and Chief C (James Faulkner), they want to know about the mission to retrieve information stolen from another agent.

It is a list of top secret information that can hurt agents everywhere hidden in a watch. Landing in Berlin, Lorraine makes contact with Percival (James McAvoy), a twisted agent living a life more like a bohemian who is good at getting things. Under the cover of retrieving the agent killed, Lorraine begins to poke around given bits and pieces by Percival.

One thing she learns is that there is someone named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) who has memorized the information. That brings more curiosity to Lorraine and she wants to know what other secrets everyone is keeping from her. Meeting Delphine (Sofia Boutella) might be the key to so very much more.

It is a game of cat and mouse with a high body count when dealing with an ATOMIC BLONDE!

Theron as Lorraine is not anyone I’d ever mess with. Focused, strong, smart and highly aware of her surroundings, she takes a beating but gives just as much in return. Theron doesn’t need tons of dialogue to get the job done. Her eyes and face are expressive until they are not. I love seeing her tear up the screen, not just physically but her intense presence.

McAvoy gets the chance to be sleazy once again. Trying to fit into the scene of Berlin he buys information with Jack Daniels and Jordache jeans (if you don’t know that name kids, ask your grandparents). McAvoy gives the slick chain-smoking character the right amount of angry charm that I enjoyed watching. He’s getting good at being bad!

Jones as Gray wants to know every detail of what happened to the mission yet doesn’t seem shocked at the answers. Goodman as Emmett gets the suspicion of Lorraine from the moment he steps into the room yet there is more to it than just being American.

Marsan as Spyglass is a timid man who knows a little too much about everything and uses it to try and save his family. Boutella as Delphine is the mysterious woman who captures Lorraine’s attention as she watches the chess pieces move all around the board.

Other cast includes Roland Moller as Alekander Bremovych, Bill Skarsgard as Merkel, Sam Hargrave as James Gasciogne, Johannes Johansson as Yuri Bakhtin, Tig Schweiger as the Watchmaker and John Goodman as Emmett. 

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give ATOMIC BLONDE four and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. Why? Simply put it’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch, the soundtrack is smokin’, the cinematography is fantastic and the action is none stop from start to finish. It truly is the reason we go to the movies!

The story isn’t geared toward any one demographic as it plays to its strengths and not the political correctness of it all. There just isn’t anything about ATOMIC BLONDE that I didn’t like. Theron is absolutely beautiful and coming off of THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS where she is a real bad gal, in ATOMIC BLONDE she is another type of real bad gal and this one I’d want on my side.

The soundtrack includes a few awesome songs such as 99 Luftballons performed by Nena (remember that video?), Father Figure by George Michaels, Der Kommissar by After the Fire, The Politics of Dancing by Re-Flex, Voices Carry by Til Tuesday, I Ran by Flock of Seagulls and Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie. I spent a lot of time lip-synching while watching Theron drop kick a few bad guys!

ATOMIC BLONDE is taken from the Oni Press graphic novel series The Coldest City by Antony Johnston who also authored Wasteland.

In the end – she’s about to go atomic on summer!

DUNKIRK is Astounding!

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from writer/director Christopher Nolan and Warner Brothers is a story that tells of the dangers, the ravages and the bravery of those at DUNKIRK.

Let’s begin with a tad bit of history behind the film’s story. It is World War II in 1940 and the Germans have pushed their soldiers into Northern France and Belgium. Allied forces are trapped on the beach as bombardment comes from both land and sea. There are almost 400,000 troops on the shores with no where to go.

The larger military vessels were under constant attack and sunk with devastating losses of life. Across the channel were smaller boats consisting of fishing boats, merchant marines, personal boats, speed boats, ferry’s and even life boats that took to the call to rescue soldiers. Over 800 of these boats made it to the beaches of Dunkirk and a mass evacuation would come to be known as the Miracle of Dunkirk. 

Christopher Nolan has brought this incredible story to the screen and it is grand, beautiful and heart stopping. The audience is taken into the story from land, air and sea as filming began in Dunkirk, France. In his style, DUNKIRK is filmed in IMAX 70 mm film with the score of the incredible Hans Simmer.

On the beach, Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) is the ranking officer attempting to get the men off the beaches of Dunkirk along with Colonel Winnart (James D’Arcy). As each ship leaves, it is met with either U-boat fire or planes dropping artillery either killing the men or putting them back in the water. 

Soldiers Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles) attempt time and time again to find a way off the beach. Finally making it onto a ship, they do not get far before they are back in the water and headed to shore where bombs are going off.

In the air is Collins (Jack Lowden) and Farrier (Tom Hardy), two Royal Air Force pilots who are hell bent on keeping the enemy off their fellow soldiers. Their fuel consumption is of concern but they will not stop until they take out the danger.

Across the channel, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and their family friend George (Barry Keoghan) take off for Dunkirk. Knowing what needs doing, Dawson has the knowledge not only of the Channel but of how to handle the enemy. The crew finds their first shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy) sitting on the turned over hull of a sunken ship. D’Arcy as Col. Winnart follows by example keeping the soldiers as calm as possible. 

From air, sea and land the struggle for survival is moment by moment under circumstances that are unimaginable.

I have to start with Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson; there is something about this actor that I believe from the moment he speaks. As this character, Rylance is the strong silent type who knows what needs to be done and doesn’t need to be told how to do it. Watching how he explains things to Peter and George, this character gets every ounce of the audiences trust. When they have their own problem on board, Mr. Dawson keeps the atmosphere calm in the emotional storm.

Hardy as pilot Farrier is straight on point and although I had a Bane moment (please stop putting stuff over his face!), it is a minor point because everything you need to know is found in this actors eyes. The message is clear ‘do what you must to save as many as you can’ and his actions are evident. Lowden as pilot Collins is equally as powerful to watch and gives a suspenseful scene that needs to be talked about later.

Whitehead as Tommy and Styles as Alex are two very young men that are trying anything to get off the beach. It just breaks the heart to see these two young men and as clever as they are, it is living from one moment to the next. Well done performances by both of these young men.

Branagh as Commander Bolton stands tall for his men even when he knows that the clock is ticking – literally. Having to change tactics quickly, he is the strong face for the men to follow. Murphy as the shocked soldier is intense and frightening because of his unpredictability. Glynn-Carney is strong as Peter as he learns the price of war along with Keoghan as George playing a character I can’t even begin to talk about.

Other performances that need recognition are Damien Bonnard as the French Soldier, Aneurin Barnard as Gibson, Lee Armstrong as Grenadier, Will Attenborough as Second Lieutenant, Richard Sanderson as Heinkel Spotter and so many, many more.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give DUNKIRK five tubs of popcorn out of five. There isn’t a massive amount of dialogue and I didn’t need it. The ensemble of actors brought out every emotion without saying much at all. DUNKIRK is an intense experience as the volume, literally, of the film is pure cinema. 

Yes, it is a film of war and there is no doubt in every flicker of film of it being anything else. Nolan meshes the inescapability of war with the human story with a cast that gives the audience a heart stopper that will not stop from start to finish. 

I tell you now that the film is so powerful and strong that you will leave the theatre drained both physically and emotionally. The visceral moments that take us so deep that there was one moment during a water scene when I realized I was holding my breath! 

Hans Zimmer brings on an epic score that will not let us all get away. At the screening I saw for myself what an amazing score does to people. There is a moment where a clock is ticking, which by the way is the sound of Christopher Nolan’s watch, and people were putting their hands on their chest or over their mouths knowing something was coming.  

DUNKIRK is cinematically stunning and beautiful which seems weird to say considering it is a war film with human causalities. In that is the exquisite gift that director Nolan seems to have and I hope he never changes it. His films give us a duality we are forced to reckon with. DUNKIRK gives us that with the defeat of battle but the pyrrhic victor of humanity.

In the end – when 400,000 men couldn’t get home, home came for them!

VALERIAN and the CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Luc Besson and STX Entertainment from the comic book by Jean-Claude Mezieres is VALERIAN and the CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS.

There once was a planet of alien beings that lived peacefully taking care of one another and giving back to the planet that provided for them. A little creature on their planet provides pearls that are important to their existence and powerful. Their idyllic life comes to an apocalyptic end when ships crash on their planet taking the life of a Limai Princess.

It is the 28th century and a city known as Alpha floats in space. Filled with thousands of cultures and thousands of languages, they must all work together for the survival of the ship and its crew. Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen) is doing what ever he needs to ensure that it all works.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sgt. Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are sent on a secret mission. The assignment from the Minister of Defense is to retrieve a one-of-a-kind creature that is sought after by unknown forces. Once Valerian and Laureline find it, they also have to fight there way back to Alpha city with it.

Back on duty, the two soldiers are set to protect Command Filitt but it all goes wrong when they are attacked and he is taken. General Okto Bar (Sam Spruell) takes over and isn’t happy when Valerian takes it upon himself to go after the ship with the Command inside. Laureline does what she can to track him but Valerian is lost in the Dead Zone. It is a zone where anyone that goes in does not come back.

But Laureline won’t take no for an answer and finds a way to Valerian. Immediately captured by alien creatures, Laureline now needs rescuing herself. He meets Bubble (Rihanna) who has the ability to shape shift which is a neat skill especially when it may be the only way to rescue Laureline.

General Bar begins to believe what Valerian told him about the alien beings on the lost planet beginning to investigate. What he finds will not stop what the Commander has planned all along but it may be the destruction of Valerian, Laureline and a race thought to be extinct!

DeHaan as Valerian plays a straight forward action hero who has a past with the women but wants a future with his partner. Always looking for answers, the Major isn’t going to let anyone or anything stop him from discovering the truth. DeHaan jumps right in action wise yet his character finds a moment here and there to remind Laureline that she’s the one.

Delevingne as Laureline, oh gawd I know I’m going to get it for this, just drove me absolutely nuts. I wish I had a clicker to count how many times she said ‘Valerian’ per scene. I know one scene that’s all she said and when the camera cut away I couldn’t have been happier about it. I’m sure her character is meant to be an example of female empowerment but I didn’t see it. Instead I saw a girl trying to be standoffish yet always felt the need to rescue someone who isn’t her man that she wants as her man but pretends she doesn’t want her man. Yea, that’s about how I felt.

Spruell as General Bar doesn’t care for his commander very much so it’s not surprising that he’s willing to listen to Valerian and not make extremely hasty decisions. Owen as Commander Filitt gets a chance to be secretive and down right devilish. It’s an interesting look for him even if his role is sporadic. 

Director Luc Besson is responsible for some of the most memorable films such as THE BIG BLUE and my family’s favorite THE FIFTH ELEMENT. There are several things in this film that remind me of THE FIFTH ELEMENT which means VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS will probably end up being a cult classic. 

Other cast include Haban Limai (Elizabeth Debicki), Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke), Aymeline Valade as Haban-Limai, Kris Wu as Sgt. Neza, Diva Cam as Maatri, Alexander Willaume as Captain Kris and Rihanna as Bubbles. 

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is an interesting sci-fi film with special effects for days. Besson brings bright colors, crazy aliens, space ships and special effects like an oven on broil. There is so much to visually take it that it’s almost a story within itself.

The film takes an air of predictability with a few things I am calling out. So, I felt like I was watching a bit of other sci-fi films over the years and a bit of THE FIFTH ELEMENT mixed with characters that are changed up. When seeing the film tell me that you see Jessica Rabbit because I swear I did. 

That’s probably the part of the film that I liked the most – the special effects and characters that were created. Of course I’m probably a little bias since I think most ‘human’ roles are overplayed and overly spent acted. Bring on the colorful aliens!

If anything it is certainly a film about loyalty and accountability no matter what species you associate with. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

In the end – a universe without boundaries needs heroes without limits!

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES 

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres now from writer/director Matt Reeves and 20th Century Fox is the epic ending to a world ready for WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. 

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the ape clan are trying to stay out of site from any humans while looking for some place else to live. Attacked by a military group led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), it becomes even more imperative that they find a new home.

Caesar welcomes the return of his older son with news of a place that will suit them all. Winter (Aleks Paunovic) is a gorilla anxious to leave right away but orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary), and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) want to make a safe plan.

Later in the night, an attack on the sleeping clan brings such anger in Caesar that he sends everyone on the road to their new home. He doesn’t join them but instead believes the only way they will survive is by taking out the Colonel. Maurice, Rocket and Luca won’t let him go alone as they trail the soldiers.

On the road they discover a young girl, Nova (Amiah Miller) and Maurice takes it upon himself to care for her. They also find Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), another talker who has a story to tell about a human zoo. Caesar realizes that’s where they need to go and when they reach the facility only horror awaits them.

Caesar’s mind is even more made up that the Colonel is a dangerous man but also learns a secret that could end humanity as they know it. Coming from the North are more soldiers that have a war of their own to wage with the Colonel and the apes are in the middle.

Now the apes must come together stronger than ever if they are to survive.

Serkis as Caesar spends a lot of time in this film being righteously angry or with eyes full of tears. Highly emotional (with cause to be) Caesar fights one more battle against a human who has a plan of his own that doesn’t include the survival of the apes. Carrying the vocals of his clan, it is still clear to see why he is still their leader but even a leader has his breaking point. Serkis has taken the character of Caesar from birth to the promise land.

Harrelson as the Colonel is a man on a mission to destroy Caesar and his clan. Even though Caesar continues to offer ways out of war, the Colonel continues his barrage of attacks with his own agenda at hand. Harrelson’s portrayal is of a straight forward soldier who believes in what he is doing and rules with fear. He isn’t hysterical or outrageous which means his insanity looks normal!

Konoval as Maurice believes in Caesar but fears for them all when he seems to be led by anger and revenge. Maurice’s relationship with Nova is absolutely beautiful. Notary as Rocket is a faithful friend and when Caesar is in trouble, puts himself in the line of fire to support their leader. Adamthwaite as Luca is a gorilla that will fight if Caesar wishes it and protects him whether Caesar wants it or not. 

Zahn as Bad Ape is the comic relief of the film but in that comedy is an ape that clearly has seen the worst of humanity. Living away from everything and everyone, his fear is valid and the cause of a few loose screws. 

Miller as Nova brings an amazing performance without a single sentence being uttered. Her fears are put to rest immediately and the connection with Maurice is what Caesar has always wanted with the humans. Every move she makes is because of a friendship created by a caring species not her own.

Other cast includes: Gabriel Chavarria as Preacher, Judy Greer as Cornelia, Sara Canning as Lake, Devyn Dalton as Cornelius, Alessandro Juliani as Spear, Max Lloyd-Jones as Blue Eyes, Mercedes Zerda as Lang, Chad Rook as Boyle, Ty Olsson as Red Donkey and Toby Kebbell as Koba.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES brings the story full circle. I won’t hesitate to say that I am a huge admirer of the original 1968 PLANET OF THE APES. I believe the five films in the original franchise are absolutely spectacular in the telling, the filmmaking, the effects and make up brought to life by amazing talented actors. Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans and Linda Harrison set up a franchise that to my mind can never be touched.

There is no way to stop Hollywood from “reimagining” films and the 2001 Mark Wahlberg puts a pin in why remakes should never happen. Of course that didn’t stop the re-attempt in 2011 with the release of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES followed by DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES in 2014. The story twists and turns bringing only glimpses of the 1968 story-glory. The newer versions invite a generation into this ape-human storyline but I’d rather they experience the original. Oh well, you can’t have everything. 

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES gives fans of this trilogy more special effects, a big battle and a finality that is nothing short of an epic promised-land ending. There are moments here and there where things get a bit too dramatic with waves of orchestra tugs at the human heart strings. There are also nuggets all over the film that will either make you say ‘oh no they didn’t’ or ‘oh isn’t that great’ as nods or homage’s are strewn about. 

With that said, the film does have a few thought provoking moments, loads of tears, war and anger, redemption on many levels and characters that must act to be believed. My purest heart is still with Heston and McDowall whose portrayals will always stop me during channel surfing to experience how it all began. 

In the end – for freedom, family and the planet!

SPIDERMAN: Homecoming is Going to Spin a Web of Success this Weekend!

Jeri Jacquin

The anticipation builds as this Friday in theatres from director Jon Watts, Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures is SPIDERMAN: Homecoming.

It has been a while since Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland) had his experience with the Avengers. Now he’s back home with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) living the life of a teenager. Watching him is Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who gives Happy (Jon Favreau) the babysitting gig.

In school Peter finds himself love-struck by Liz (Laura Harrier) who is also part of the debate team. Hanging out with best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) is just as nerdy as Peter in some ways. By day he is anxious for the night when he can dawn his Spiderman persona and search for ways to help fight crime.

When the opportunity to hang with Liz at a party comes about, both Peter and Ned are ready to mingle with the cool kids. Promising that Spiderman would make an appearance, that would fall through when busting up a crime is more important. More so than Peter could have imagined when he finds a piece of their equipment that has incredibly technology not seen before.

Not about to let him take it, Peter meets Vulture (Michael Keaton) who puts a thrown down on the young superhero. If that isn’t enough, best bud Ned discovers what Peter has been up to. That’s going to have to wait because Peter is on his way to Washington D.C. with the debate team to compete. 

Of course that’s the side story he tells Aunt May but with Ned’s help they begin to locate who is responsible for the technology in the weapon Peter found and who is the Vulture! Taking it upon himself, it only takes one mistake before Tony Stark comes calling and brushes away Peter’s big cobweb dreams.

Once again back to his high school life, Peter is taking Liz to the dance. When he shows up with his flowers looking dapper – it is who opens the door that set in motion an epic test of good versus evil.

Holland as Peter Parker is just frakken amazing. I will be honest from the get-go and say that I rolled my eyes time and time again thinking how awful another Spiderman would be. I was even more grumpy when I learned Holland took the role. I felt this way mainly because Holland captured my attention completely in 2012 with the film THE IMPOSSIBLE.

I said then that Holland “is a tremendous talent ... with the amazing capability of showing such strength of character” and nothing, I mean nothing has changed my mind since. My only worry (as all Mom’s have them) is that he will be sucked into the superhero universe leaving little time to expand is resume. This is an actor to keep an eye on when he’s out of the suit as much as when he’s in it. Well done young man, well done.

Keaton as Toomes is a man irritated with the system that tried to rob him of a business. Finding a way around that is what keeps everyone on their toes. I absolutely love Keaton so to see him once again doing what we all know he can do is a treat scene after scene. Yes he and Adam West are my Batman but I’m willing to cut him a little slack for his character in the film.

Batalon as Ned is the buddy we all should have in our lives. He’s a bit goofy, a lot nerdy, and scary when it comes to keeping secrets but we wouldn’t change him for anything. His loyalty to Parker is without questions and helping makes him outrageously happy.

Zendaya as Michelle is that girl everyone is irritated with one moment and laughs with the next. Her one liners are pretty good. Harrier as Liz is lovely and plays her storyline well. Tomei as May Parker is a bit scatter brained and pops in and out of the storyline, it is good to see her again.

Downey Jr., as Tony Stark just continues to cause cheers in a filled theatre. Fans love him and there will never be another Tony Stark like this (so don’t try to recast it for at least 100 years okay?). He keeps his eye on Peter Parker in the oddest ways as his inner father-figure kicks in. Favreau as Happy is irritated to have to babysit but also has a soft spot for the kid. These two actors bring in the comedy in the most bizarre places yet I love it.

Other cast includes Donald Glover as Aaron, Tony Revolori as Flash, Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz, Tyne Daly as Anne Hoag, Abraham Attah as Abe, and Hannibal Buress as Coach Wilson.

SPIDERMAN: Homecoming doesn’t need my tubs of popcorn because it’s going to blow up the screens. So much so that you might forget the other incarnations of the webbed kid and believe they may have finally gotten it completely right. Holland gives us teen angst, a bit of teen hero-rebellion, loyalty to friends, battles that are worthy of the webbed one and moments of a kid trying to be a kid. 

In case you are wondering, of course I’m not telling you things about the film. Seriously, why would I do that? I’m not into spoiling fun! Fans are going to be leaving the theatre giddy and probably buying tickets to see it again with more friends who are fans. With ComicCon right around the corner I am expecting to see more Spidey suits than ever before because of this film. 

There is excitement, action, laughs, surprises and a cast that bring it all together in such a way that it’s almost a bummer when it’s over. As for what happens after the credits, well, I guess you’ll have to make sure you stay in your seat for a few minutes longer than normal (insert grin here). SPIDERMAN: Homecoming is completely epic without being full of itself and I’m refreshingly okay with that. 

In the end – he’s just your friendly neighborhood Spiderman!

BABY DRIVER Rides in on Rails!

Jeri Jacquin

Racing into theatres this Friday from writer/director Edgar Wright and Tri-Star Pictures is the song mix of the summer with BABY DRIVER.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a quiet young man who has the uncanny knack for calm driving in intense situations. That is exactly what boss man Doc (Kevin Spacey) consistently counts on. Using Baby’s wheel talent for heists, it quickly becomes clear that Doc is using him.

Taking car of a worried Joseph (CJ Jones), Baby lets him know that one more job will get him free of Doc. Using music to keep his focus, it takes lovely waitress Deborah (Lily James) to pull out the ear buds.

Finishing his last job with Doc, Baby wants to be part of life without fear. Taking a job in pizza retail, even Joseph is happier. Taking Deborah out for a grand dinner to celebrate, Baby freaks when he sees Doc who sways him in for one more go by threatening through charm.

Putting a plan into action, Doc recruits Buddy (Jon Hamm), his gal Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) and Batts (Jamie Foxx) for the most intense and brazen score. Keeping focused, Baby is about to turn left while everyone else goes right and all to the beat of his own iPod.

Never mistake being quiet for being a pushover!

Elgort as Baby is brilliant! Everything about this character, Elgort makes look so seamless and easy. From his smooth walking, music choices and quirkiness, Baby is somebody you watch intently and cheer on with an evil grin. Also, Elgort is as cool as an outsider can possibly be and I loved every minute of his performance. Can someone explain to me why isn’t he Han Solo?

Spacey as Doc is just impeccable because, as everyone should know by now, you don’t mess with the Spacey! This actor has brought roles of badness to a level no one can touch. As Doc he once again plays outside the good guy lines with a gleam in his eye all the way.

Jones as Joseph cares so much about Baby and it is in their relationship that a deeper understanding of his story comes to light. James as Deborah is charming, sweet and knows Baby isn’t all he seems yet she doesn’t hesitate to be all in. 

Foxx as Batts is intense and out to get all he can. Having a problem with Baby from the moment they meet, Foxx has no problem showing his edgy side. Gonzalez as Darling is into her man and the money they get together. At the same time she certainly isn’t shy about cutting someone down who gets in her way.

Hamm as Buddy just rocks the screen. This is such a dark character and Hamm certainly embraces every scene and aspect of his character. There is one particular moment where his character just goes deep dark and the change happens right before our eyes. Absolutely fantastic!

Other cast includes Sky Ferreira as Baby’s Mother, Lane Palmer as Baby’s father, Flea as Eddie, Lanny Joon as JD and Jon Bernthal as Griff.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give BABY DRIVER four and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. Giving Edgar Wright the props he totally deserves, this film has saved my film sanity. Depressed at the ridiculous franchise films, superheroes being jammed down my throat and lack of imagination elsewhere in tinsel town, BABY DRIVER gave me story, action, cinematography and music for months to come. 

The audience was yelling, cheering and laughing from start to finish. There is something to be said for sitting in a theatre and to be taken on a ride in so many storyline directions. Does it hurt to have a cool ass cast and awesome soundtrack? In this case, not one dayyuum bit!

In the first five minutes of the film I was happily hooked and like a kid, I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat wanting more. Translated…I was having fun. Using music across so many eras allowed something for everyone to lip-synch too.

Car chases, underlying stories, sweet romance, good guys, bad guys and the lines between them blurred, BABY DRIVER is a mash-up of what summer fun at the movies is all about. Grab a group of cool, a large bucket of popcorn, sit middle seat dead center and mentally buckle up for 113 minutes of awesome.

In the end – all you need is one killer track!

DESPICABLE ME 3 Expands the Family Fun!

Jeri Jacquin

Get the family together because coming to theatres this Friday from directors Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda and Pierre Cofflin along with Illumination Entertainment is DESPICABLE ME 3. 

Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are on their next mission for the Anti-Villain League going after Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a once child star who took his role into adulthood. With his keytair and 80’s dance moves, Bratt gets away with a diamond as large as his head!

Returning to the AVL headquarters, Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) announces that he will be stepping down. Taking his job is Valerie Da Vinci (Jenny Slate) and her first move is to fire Gru. Lucy threatens to walk if she follows through with the firing and now both are out of a job. The Minions aren’t happy when Gru refuses to return to villainy and stage a walk out.

Going home to explain it all to Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel), the parents assure the girls it will all work out. That’s when a stranger shows up and announces that Gru has a twin brother names Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell). Not believing it Gru forces his Mom (Julie Andrews) and he learns the truth about his family.

Packing the family up, they fly to Dru’s luxurious estate and Gru learns more about who his father was. He also learns that Dru wants to be villainous and it’s Gru’s chance to capture Bratt while Lucy works on her Mom-skills. Bratt isn’t about to make anything easy as he has plans for tinsel town.

In their efforts to strengthen their family, Gru, Lucy and Dru along with the girls learn that love of family is amazing and there is no bad guy big enough to break them apart!

Recently at CinemaCon, Steve Carell spoke about his iconic work as Gru saying the DESPICABLE ME franchise is filled with “characters that are funny for adults as well as kids and that’s what has made it all successful”. How did the voice of Gru come to be? Carell says, “I tried voices on my daughter and when I did the voice of Gru they told me that was the one. Gru’s voice was like I flew over Eastern Europe and Dru’s voice had to be different. It had to be very fun, free and giddy in a way”.

Wiig as Lucy is trying her best to be a good Mom and it takes being herself to let everyone know that no one messes with Mama Bear! I just think the character of Lucy is crazy cool. Cosgrove, Gaier and Scharrel as Margo, Edith and Agnes are just girls growing up in a different household that is filled with unexpected adventure and they roll with it.

Parker as Bratt had me cracking up! His shoulder pads, keytar and dance moves along with a balding mullet and bubblegum means he isn’t about to let Gru, Dru, Lucy or anyone else stop him from a little Hollywood payback.

DESPICABLE ME 3 is going to give families everything they have come to love about Gru, the girls and even the minions. This may not be the average family but it sure is one filled with love, excitement, understanding and fun. One would have thought that completed the family.

Of course not, Illumination expands their family with Dru and a unicorn, well of sorts, which means a double dose of excitement. There are the usual jokes with the minions trying to be jail house rockers but they know where they truly belong. The animation is strong, vibrant and has such creativity that I am always surprised yet not surprised.

Gru and Dru have found one another which means Lucy and the girls have their hands full. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing but if Illumination wants one more story line I have a few ideas that I wouldn’t mind sharing!

So gather up your own minions and head to the theatres to begin your summer with family fun of a different kind with DESPICABLE ME 3.

In the end – ohhhhhhhh brother it’s good to be bad!

THE BEGUILED

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Sophia Coppola and Focus Features is a story of love, jealousy and one man in the middle of THE BEGUILED.

It is Virginia at the time of Civil War as head mistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) keeps the students of her girls school hidden away from war. Teacher Miss Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) gives lessons to the young ladies Alicia (Elle Fanning), Amy (Oona Laurence), Jane (Angourie Rice), Marie (Addison Riecke) and Emily (Emma Howard).

Foraging in the woods, Amy finds Confederate Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) wounded up against a tree. Instead of alerting the Union soldiers, she takes him back to the school. Alarmed at what Amy has done, Miss Martha still takes the soldier inside being reminded it is the Christian thing to do. Tending to McBurney's wounds, a decision is made that he will stay until well enough to be turned over to the Union Captain.

Immediately McBurney's presence begins to have an impact on the women and girls of the school. McBurney takes a keen interest in Miss Edwina and she shares her desire to be gone of the school. Miss Martha is also affected by his presence but she maintains an air of Southern hospitality and charm. It is Alicia (Elle Fanning) who makes it clear to McBurney that she is smitten with him.

As he begins to heal, McBurney helps around the grounds with gardening and fixing things. The tensions begin to rise when McBurney and Miss Edwina get closer but one slip brings disaster to the entire house. One fateful error brings a group decision that will change everything each of them thought about themselves and each other.

Kidman as Miss Martha is cool, calm and steadfast - even when her own womanly desires kick in. I love when Kidman puts on a corset and tight chignon and makes it clear that no one is going to mess with her, especially a Confederate soldier with an Irish brogue.  

Farrell as McBurney is charming, dark and doing what ever it takes to survive. Lets be honest, he smolders on screen whether he wants to or not which adds to the intensity in many scenes. Dunst as Edwina is a woman clearly unhappy with life and feeling trapped inside the school. Her performance gives the faraway wants of this character on point.

Fanning as Alicia is the teenage temptress who pretends to follow along with the rules but in fact is trying to find ways to break every one of them. Laurence as Amy wants to believe the best about McBurney and convinces everyone else to do the right thing. Rice as Jane is a mini-Miss Martha with Riecke as Marie and Howard as Emily round out the young girls trying to feel safe in the middle of a war. 

In 1971 director Don Siegel brought THE BEGUILED to the screen with Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page and I loved every frame of that storytelling. That's what makes the 2017 version so difficult for me. Cinematically it is beautiful although I'm not sure how many shots of moss dangling from trees and the sounds of birds I could take over and over again. 

The cast is amazing and I wouldn't have changed a thing about that portion of the film. However, that being said, there is something greatly missing and I can't even tell you what that is. I want to say it seemed the film just went through the motions but that would be insulting Farrell, Kidman, Dunst and the cast that clearly put their all into the film. It is probably my disappointment in the film being remade when the original stands on its own.

I am not a fan of remakes, retellings, rethinkings, or reimaginings as anyone who knows me will tell you. I have said it over and over that the creativity seems to have gone out of Hollywood. Instead of presenting movie goers with new and amazing stories, it seems the decision makers believe that no one will complain if they just recycle (oh look, another "re"!) that they can get by.

This version of THE BEGUILED is a Saturday afternoon relaxing in front of the television type film that will lull the senses and for that I'm saddened. The costuming is stunning which adds a dimension of richness to southern sensibilities.

In the end – innocent until betrayed!

THE MUMMY Needs to Stay Wrapped

Jeri Jacquin with Vince Munn

Coming this week from director Alex Kurtzman and Universal Pictures is the rise of evil with THE MUMMY.

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is in the middle of the desert with sidekick Chris (Jake Johnson) looking for antiquities. With the help of Col. Greenway (Courtney B. Vance) and a well place bomb that has unearthed something huge, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) sweeps in to take over.

Down in a cavern they find signs of an Egyptian tomb with something evil that is being protected. Nick jumps right in and with one bullet a sarcophagus rises out of a pit of mercury and the mummy of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) resides inside.

Taking the find to London, Jenny knows only one person who knows what to do. Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) is a collector of all things malevolent. The princess has other plans when the plan carrying them all comes down mysteriously.

Discovering that the dark force is looking for a knife with a special stone, Jenny and Nick (with the help of a weirdly decomposing Chris) must stop the princess from completing a ritual that started hundreds of years ago. 

Unfortunately Nick is part of that ritual that changes everything that is to come!

Jeri Jacquin: So, I once again invited my friend Vince to weigh in on THE MUMMY. I do so because although I started out giving the film a chance not wanting to be grouchy, I once again should have trusted my initial instincts. Am I right Vince?

Vince Munn: Sadly, while the film starts with great promise, it trips over the bandages of its title character on their way to the conclusion. Universal is following in the footsteps of Disney and Warner Bros, making a connected universe of characters that they own. 

JJ: So for readers who don’t like spoilers and I try not to do it normally, I feel I have to on this one. Seriously? Egypt, Iraq, the Templar’s and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Are you kidding me? Now you know I became totally disconnected when the last was brought into this film – none of these things are connected and I checked out of the film.

VM: Unfortunately the characters they are using really seem to have no reason to share a connected universe. Taking the classic Universal Monsters by bringing them in to the modern world and connecting them with a secret society of scientists and monster hunters is a ridiculous idea. 

JJ: If this is how the studios see the “Dark Universe” then we have a problem going forward. This was supposed to be an intro into the concept and it is totally a hot mess. I don’t care if you put Tom Cruise in the lead, and he doesn’t do a horrible job, it’s just a horrible script. 

VM: Tom Cruise is getting older. Mission Impossible aside, he doesn’t need to be doing this film. I am just glad that for now it’s not the Van Helsing reboot we were threatened with. The rest of the cast (Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Sofia Boutella, and Russell Crowe) do a serviceable if not forgettable job. 

JJ: Don’t put evil in the air talking about a Van Helsing reboot! I think Crowe as Jekyll/Hyde is not right for this role at all. I can’t even imagine what they were thinking. Then again I didn’t care one wit for the character and actually tried to finish the film not thinking about him again.

VM: Had he been cast as anyone else aside from Dr Jekyll I would be more at ease. He comes off too thuggish and tough as tough Hyde is the dominant mind much like Bud White in LA Confidential. 

JJ: What I came away with after the torture of watching THE MUMMY is that Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz are safe in my heart and mind of being the coolest version of THE MUMMY. The time period is fantastic and I immediately care about the characters and feel like I’m on a fun trip with tons of craziness. Going home to my DVD of the 1999 THE MUMMY, Rick and Evie made it all better.

VM: Had this been set in the same period as the 1999 reboot, this would be a better film. If you want good popcorn fodder and escapism at its minimum, this is one for you. 

JJ: Well, go to http://www.darkuniverse.com and see what the Dark Universe is. Notice there is nothing modern in this piece and yet watching every piece of this clip is just fantastic. It can not be duplicated and I wish they would stop trying. I’d rather see these films once again in theatres than any ridiculous remake, reimaging, rethinking or retelling (all words for ‘hey, lets waste millions on nothing’).

VM: I wanted more and am now nervous about what is to come in this Dark Universe.


That last statement says it all! Nervousness is being kind as I truly don’t think those in charge of creating this Dark Universe know what they are doing. Fans love their Gods & Monsters but when you mash them up and change their look – you’ve slapped fans in the face. THE MUMMY may be spectacular with its special effects and double-iris evil but it is not enough – at least not for me.

I want story, I want to care about the characters enough to cheer for them and throwing a gold book for 2.5 seconds on a library floor expecting me to be happy just don’t do it. Thanks Vince for sharing popcorn with me on this one!

In the end – ancient evil returns without Rick and Evie to save us all!

TRANSFORMERS: The Last Knight

Jeri Jacquin

Landing in theatres once again tomorrow from needing-to-be-stopped director Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures is the next loud landing of TRANSFORMERS: The Last Knight.

Well, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is still floating about somewhere in space while Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is rescuing Transformers where he finds them. While roaming about he comes across an ancient Transformer who entrusts him with a medallion. It comes alive and won’t let go of Yeager.

It is a relic from the time of King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) and Merlin (Stanley Tucci). The Autobots were part of the round table helping the humans as they were needed. The medallion needs to seek out a knight that will help find the staff of immense power keeping it out of the hands of evil.

While trying to save the Transformer he meets Izabella (Isabela Moner), a young girl without a family who has a knack for fixing Autobots. They all end up back at Yeager’s home station where Jimmy (Jerrod Carmichael), Bumblebee (Erik Aadahl), Drift (Ken Watanabe), Hound (John Goodman) and Daytrader (Steve Buscemi) hide from the government agency TRF.

When they are discovered, Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) sends his ‘butler’ Cogman (Jim Carter) to take Yeager to England. Along with Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), Burton explains the history of the medallion Yeager has and how Vivian is the only one that can handle the staff of power.

Which is more important now that a nasty wench named Quintessa (Gemma Chan) wants to return Cybertron to its former glory – but not in a good way. When Optimus Prime arrives to discover things are chaotic, he becomes part of Quintessa and Megatron’s (Frank Welker) plan to retrieve the staff and take over Earth. Yeager, Burton, Wembley, Cogman and Col. Lennox (Josh Duhmel) push themselves to save the planet once again.

Because the Decepticons aren’t going to get it without a fight!

Wahlberg as Yeager is once again running around without a story. His relationship with Bumblebee is an awesome one and there are humorous moments with the other Autobots. The thing is I don’t really care about this character because it’s the same metal clanging… different day but not really. There are quipps back and forth with Hopkins, Cogman and Vivian that are chuckle worthy but not enough to sustain the story.

Hopkins as Burton is a curious character and I do love me some Anthony Hopkins but really? Your giving one of our greatest actors a story to tell that involves King Arthur and the Autobots? I think I laughed more at that garbage because it was only a few weeks ago that I sat in the same theatre watching Guy Richie’s version of KING ARTHUR. 

Duhamel as Lennox is a character that is all muddled from beginning to end. I wasn’t sure what side he was on but then again does it really matter? He shows up guns blazing hoping it all works out for the best. Moner as Izabella is, and I’m going to get crap for saying this but a totally unnecessary character. Really? Your going to throw this kid into a war zone and she gets out without a scratch? Suspension of disbelief…poof…gone.

Haddock as Wembley is clearly a Megan Fox look alike and that’s sad because it isn’t that her role is bad, just whatever. Cool to be related to a historic figure but I didn’t buy it for a second which means, yep, don’t care about her character in the slightest.

Carter as Cogman is hilarious and his recognizable “yes my lord” brings back the heady days of Downton Abbey Sundays and good television over crappy film. His language was a little testy but I don’t think its going to stop parents from bringing their kids. 

The recognizable voices of Goodman, Buscemi and Watanabe are funny, especially since they argue and wrestle around like metal-brothers-from-another-Autobot. Bumblebee still wins hands down and the storyline brings in some weird ‘he once was a soldier for England’ story which just falls flat. Not your fault B!

Other cast includes Santiago Cabrera as Santos, Martin McCreadie as Lancelot, Rob Witcomb as Percival, Marcus Fraser as Gawain, John Hollingworth as Tristan with Stanley Tucci as a drunken Merlin and John Turturro as Agent Simmons.

TRANSFORMERS: The Last Knight is a two and a half hour metal clanging story that gives Bay a reason to waste $217 million dollars. That’s right folks, enough to save a small town or education thousands of kids is vying for your dollars. Of course if it doesn’t do well here there is always the overseas market waiting to gobble this up. 

Look, I’m tired…tired of a story that lasts into five films that tells the same story beginning and ending with Optimus Prime boring monologue about how the Autobots are there to save the human race. Didn’t Wonder Woman just do that? Or Batman, Superman, the Justice League, Thor, or any of those others?

It was easy to entertain myself with thoughts like ‘doesn’t that robot look like Darth Vader’s fighter?’ and ‘Wow! They used pieces off the alien ship from THE ABYSS for decoration’ and ‘They stole an Imperial Walker – I wonder if Grand Tarkin knows?’ and ‘Is Robocop going to show up?’ and ‘Stonehenge? Oh the Queen isn’t going to like this’.

I swear if I listen to Optimus go into his schpeel I’m going to strain my eyes from the constant rolling and the hand gestures of ‘blah! blah! BLAH!’ Honestly I lost interest once Shia decides to exit stage right although the film does touch on the Witwicky family tree. He brought comedy of a different kind that broke the monotony of the metal banging. 

Seriously, I miss the cool rantings of Mom and Dad…and I miss Mojo the dog! Oh well, I can always not wait for Transformers 6, trust me, someone will give Bay the money to do it.

In the end – they have been here forever…and ever…and ever…(yawn)…and ever!

CARS 3 Revs Up Their Engines for the Weekend!

Jeri Jacquin

Racing into theatres this weekend from writer/director Brian Fee, Pixar Animated Studios and Disney is everyone’s favorite racers with CARS 3.

Lightening McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) has been a winner on the track race after race. That is until one day a big race that he felt was a win suddenly changes when a new generation car speeds past to take the win. Shocked, McQueen meets Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), a new race car that is all teched out and he isn’t sure how to deal with it.

When an event on the track happens, McQueen goes back to his little town to basically hide. That is until his friends Sally (Bonnie Hunt), Luigi (Tony Shalhoub) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) convince him that he needs to reach out Rust-eze, the sponsor who is now owned by Sterling (Nathan Fillion).

Sterling gives McQueen trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) who makes her duty to get him up to speed, literally, before the next big race in Florida. Wanting to go back to training the old-school way, McQueen and Cruz begin to understand one another.

But there is still one more thing McQueen needs to do and that’s return to where his mentor Doc (Paul Newman) lived and discover what motivated him! He meets Smokey (Chris Cooper) who introduced him to old-school racers who push McQueen.

When they arrive in Florida, McQueen begins to realize that the racing world is changing and it might be time for him to change too!

Wilson as McQueen once again brings humor and fun to his vocal role. This is a character that just continues to grow, even if he doesn’t understand why he has to. Wanting to be the best for as long as he can isn’t a new concept in life and McQueen eventually shows us all that being the best only changes when we realize change can be oh so good!

Alonzo as Cruz is a young lady car that absolutely needs to know her worth. As McQueen begins to understand her drive, he realizes that he can either help his new friend or be part of the problem. I love Cruz’s get up and go but also her dreams.

Cooper as Smokey brings in the old school gang to straighten out McQueen letting him know that Doc has always been with him. Those scenes are extremely touching. Hammer as Storm is a car that plays to the cameras but his wit even though it is stingingly aimed at McQueen. The addition of Fillion as Sterling is an owner that seems committed to McQueen but, of course he’s only in it for what he can get out of it and not the love of racing. 

Larry the Cable Guy as Mater is till the sweetest and sometimes smartest car of them all. He wants what is best for his friends, believes in them and will drop everything to help them. He helps McQueen in ways that even Mater doesn’t realize. Larry will always be Mater! 

Other cast includes Ray Magliozzi as Dusty, Kerry Washington as Natalie Certain, Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass, Margo Martindale as Louise Nash, Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip and Isiah Whitlock Jr. as River Scott. 

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give CARS 3 four tubs of popcorn out of five. It is fantastic that Pixar and Disney have returned to the original formula that made the original CARS so much fun. Having come full circle with the inclusion of Paul Newman’s character just brought a tear.

The story gives each character an added depth of loyalty, belief in one another, can-do attitude and even when feeling defeated the uplifting of friends. It is thrilling that the original cast came together bringing all the comedy and laughs I felt missing in the second film.

Everyone in the audience truly had a great time and with school ending it is a great beginning to the summer family movie going experience. Lightening McQueen and the gang have brought their story full circle and it is nothing short of well done and fun. 

Grab the family and head to the theatre this weekend for an amazing story from beloved friends who just happen to be CARS. 

In the end – It’s not over until lightning strikes!

THE HERO is an Absolute Winner

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres from writer/director Brett Haley and The Orchard is a performance that brings us THE HERO.

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is an out of work actor who is about to discover his mortality. Given medical news that requires almost immediate action, Lee isn't sure what he wants to do.

Sitting with fellow out of work actor Jeremy (Nick Offerman), Lee has an opportunity to share the news with someone. Instead he tells Jeremy that he is getting ready to make another movie. He also meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon), a younger free spirited woman who happens to be a stand up comic. They take a liking to one another but Lee is distracted dealing with life.

Visiting his ex-wife Valarie (Katharine Ross), he tries to tell her as well but ends up asking about their daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter) who seems to be avoiding him. Lee tries to invite Lucy to be his date to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award but receives a cold response. So he takes Charlotte who introduces Lee to a night of induced fun.

Charlotte invites Lee to see her stand up comedy stylings. He is devastated by what he hears and a tail spin ensues as Lee being to feel every moment of his life on his shoulders. You can run or swim in any kind of bottle through life and Lee learns that the hard way.

To his surprise there is a great potential for forgiveness, friendship, love and a chance to make his life a good one.

It is never too late to see the love!

Elliott as Lee is everything audiences have come to love about this actor and more. His magnificent slow cowboy drawl and full on mustache has always been recognizable. From his debut in the 1969 BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID to THE SACKETTS in 1979 his cowboy persona wins. His side-eye and mischievous grin has become iconic and even more so in the 1989 film ROAD HOUSE.  

Elliott was quoted as saying, “I think I might have been a more interesting actor, had more of a career earlier on, if I had more formal preparation”. Not taking away how you feel there Sam but audiences continue to be thrilled by past performances and are going to be stunned with THE HERO. 

Prepon as Charlotte is an interesting woman who sees past Lee’s age. To her there is a mystery too be unraveled about Lee but at the same time embraces her free spirit. That being said, he ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude is also a bit of a façade.

Offerman as Jeremy is the relaxingly baked comic relief yet a gentle spirit for Lee. Enjoying Lee’s company since he was a young actor seems to be enough for him. Their scenes together are both funny and touching.

Ritter as Lucy has a years worth of bones to pick with her father and she gets her chance. The problem is, as in life, wanting to call someone out on their flaws doesn’t always feel as good as you think it will and Lucy learns that. Ross as Valarie is still stunning and I personally was thrilled to see her back on the screen across her husband.

Other cast include Doug Cox as the Doctor, Max Gail as Gary Babcock, Jackie Joyner as Betsy, Patrika Darbo as Diane and Frank Collison as the Man in Dreams. 

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE HERO five tubs of popcorn out of five. Elliott gives a powerful, intense, funny, charming and heartfelt performance without special effects, cgi or sappy music pulling the audience into the story. Instead, we go willingly into Lee’s life because the journey is one we all have faced.

Owning up to past mistakes, Elliott gives the character every bit of the complexities we understand and care about. We also get treated to knowing that no matter what age, we all can still do crazy stuff and be surprised by life.

The one moving piece of THE HERO is that redemption maybe painful but it is a fleeting pain in comparison to the compassion and love that can follow. THE HERO is beautifully filmed, stunningly cast and had the screening audience thrilled to have experienced every moment.

THE HERO was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and nominated Best American Independent Feature Film by the Cleveland International Film Festival for Brett Haley. The film won Honors for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking for actor Sam Elliott at the Newport Beach Film Festival. 

Take a moment to experience a film that will bring out every human emotion we share in this journey through life.

In the end – this is where the past and his mortality collide!

47 METERS DOWN Brings Teeth with Little Bite

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from writer/director Johannes Roberts and Dimension Films comes blood in the water when you are 47 METERS DOWN.

Lisa (Mandy Moore) is dealing with a broken heart while on a trip to Mexico bring along sister Kate (Claire Holt). Deciding that Lisa needs more excitement in her life, Kate shows her sister the fun side of a night out. Meeting Louis (Yani Gellman) and Benjamin (Santiago Segura), the two men talk the girls into shark diving.

Knowing Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) and for one hundred bucks the girls have the opportunity to go in a case surrounded by sharks. Lisa isn’t sure about doing any of this but is swayed by Kate to do something exciting in her life.

Taking an outboard to a larger ship, the girls watch as Javier (Chris Johnson) chums the water and Louis and Benjamin get into the cage lowered into the water. Lisa and Kate watch in excited nervousness as 20 foot sharks swim around the boat.

When it’s the girls turn, Lisa still isn’t convinced and once again has to be convinced by Kate. Once in the water however, Lisa loosens up to see the beauty becoming excited by it all. It is all fun and games until a cable comes loose and the girls are sent screaming 47 meters down. 

Immediately they realize that they will soon be out of air, Kate knows that the weak signal in their headsets means she has to get out of the cage. Reaching Taylor at the boat, he tells them help is on the way and to stay in the cage.

The sharks have other ideas as the girls deal with air, depth of water, potential bends, and fear of what is swimming in the deep.

Moore as Lisa is a young woman who is dealing with the breakup of a man she thought was her life. Swayed into letting her hear down a bit, she goes one step to far into the waters. Holt as Kate is the fun loving sister and Lisa makes a point of saying so. Both of their performances brought the audience into a blood frenzy of their own (which I will explain later). 

Modine as Taylor has a small role as the rusty boat captain and it was because of him that I chose to see the film. Call it supporting a fellow one-time IB’er as my motivation to see his performance. Hey, no matter how big or small, bad or good, there is something to be said for small town supporters! Gellman, Segura and Johnson are the supporting shark-bait potentials. 

I’m not going to put a rating on 47 METERS DOWN because there is a duality here that I need to write about. First of all, this is the best-worst-best shark film I’ve seen in a long time. The dialogue is horrible and the story line totally unbelievable. From the moment the cage goes down it’s an epic underwater sh*tshow. Everything is wrong with it and sitting in the theatre I have to say biting my tongue became impossible. Come to find out I wasn’t the only one having that problem.

Here is where it gets good-bad; the audience began to participate in the film verbally! There were hollers from the upper seats, popcorn being thrown at the screen coming from every direction, really loud head smacking, serious belly laughs, loud groans of frustration and the phrase, “oh hell no!” every 2 minutes. 

There is one scene where Kate picks up an underwater flashlight and turns it on to which my friend Vince sitting next to me says out loud, ‘Turn the light off! Jeeeez!’ and sent the crowd cheering. During another scene I became so frustrated with the character Lisa I said, not as loudly, ‘you deserve to get eaten!’ and the lady behind me spit her soda laughing.

So, what happened is that 47 METERS DOWN turned into an audience participation film that was absolutely fantastic! We all became film-friends with total strangers and said out loud what each was thinking which brought even more cheers and fun to the event. I couldn’t believe what was happening around me since the last time I experienced something similar was in 1975 with THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

Look, 47 METERS DOWN, like all shark films have a difficult goal because of the 1975 film JAWS. That film is epic and although challengers to the throne come and go, it has yet to be de-toothed as the king of shark films. This film doesn’t have a hope in hades of being anything more than an under water court jester.

Now, for the cool news – there is about 10 minutes of the film that are frakken awesome. So much so that people were jumping in their seats, screaming out, hollering and yelling in such a way that you couldn’t even hear the film sound. Nicely done underwater work with sharks that I never want to see again – okay I’m going to see it again. Once again audience participation took over. Nope, that’s all you get from me on that!

Walking out of the theatre it was agreed by mostly everyone leaving that the film was an audience event that made the poor story weirdly forgivable. People were laughing and yet talking about the film in a way that is normally reserved for, dare I say, a good film. That is the duality of this film that will continue to be talked about as I see 47 METERS DOWN becoming a cult classic and fodder for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys (and please invite me to be part of that when you do guys!)

Mandy – congratulations on This is Us and I can’t wait for season two! Claire – I’ve always loved you in The Originals and glad to see you back! Matt – what can I say dude, IB’ers in this town are kinda diggin’ you no matter what so kudos!

In the end – no help above and no hope below!

MEGAN LEAVEY Speaks on Loyalty, Friendship and PTSD

Jeri Jacquin

In theaters this Friday from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Bleeker Street Media is a compelling story that needs to be seen because of MEGAN LEAVEY.

Megan (Kate Mara) is a young woman staggering through life. Unhappy with her job and unhappy living at home with mom Jackie (Edie Falco) and her boyfriend Jim (Will Patton), it seems the days just blur.

That is until she makes the decision to hop a bus and join the U.S. Marine Corps. It didn’t take long until Megan was in trouble within the Corps as well that has her cleaning the kennels of the K9 unit. 

There she meets Rex, a four legged anti-social dog who gives trainers a difficult time. Megan continues to ask Gunny Martin (Common) to become part of the K9 unit. When a situation presents itself, Megan and Rex are paired together and so begins a training of each other to become a strong unit through patience and friendship.

Sent to Camp Ramadi in Iraq, Megan and Rex are sent on missions to sniff out IED’s clearing the way for soldiers and the Iraqi people. She also meets Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez) who is also part of the K9 unit and starts to become comfortable being part of a team. 

Then a mission puts both of their lives in danger changing the path for them both. Megan knows that she can not continue on her path without Rex and with dad Bob’s (Bradley Whitford) push, she is will get Rex back at her side and will do anything to make that happen.

In that is the true meaning of friendship!

Mara as Megan portrays a young woman who clearly has problems dealing with home and family. Making a swift move to join the military, Mara’s character puts up serious walls until she creates an unbreakable bond with Rex. What is amazing is that feeling this connection and watching the story unfold between Megan and Rex; it is not surprising that they would work together so brilliantly. Mara and Rex are lovely in this film and the audience fell in love with them both. 

Common as Gunny Martin is a man who clearly doesn’t take any guff from anyone – including a pint size Megan Leavey. Testing her potential and patiently watching to see if her dedication to the K9 unit is solid, he gives us both the tough Gunny as well as a man who understands the hurt of battle.

Rodriguez as Morales is a wise cracking but dedicated part of the K9 unit in Iraq. He manages to bring down some of Megan’s emotional walls but it can take the snap of fingers to bring them back up. Patton as Jim is not someone Megan is thrilled to have around and this is a small role.

Whitford as Megan’s father Bob is a man who realizes that choices he made in his life have affected his daughter. Wanting to reach out and help her, he just isn’t sure how to do it or if it would make a difference. This is a different role for Whitford and he delivers with a lovely scene when Megan returns from Iraq.

Falco as Jackie is – well – Falco. She is an over dramatic and wildly awesome to watch as Megan’s mother. Big or small, Falco brings her best to every role she does and always manages to surprise me.

Other cast include Geraldine James as Dr. Turbeville, Shannon Tarbet as Barb, Miguel Gomez as Gomez, Jonathan Howard as Peter Walters, George Webster as Finn, Corey Johnson as Master Sergeant and Tom Felton as Andrew Dean.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give MEGAN LEAVEY four and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. It is be very easy to call this a feel good film but that would be an injustice to the story being told. There are so many issues that are handled in this story with straight forwardness, no sugar-coating and boldly done. 

It is the story of a young woman dealing with the situation her life is in and knowing at some point something had to give. Joining the Marine Corps gives Megan the opportunity to become part of something bigger than herself and not just fighting in a war but becoming responsible for Rex and the lives of everyone around her. Mara takes this role and lets us all experience the journey of this young woman until the end where we come to understand more than we ever could. 

Director Cowperthwaite says of her film, “There are so many important story threads, what about the political commentary about the war one could make or about a ton of things regarding women Marines and dealing with their situations…and to focus on this world from Megan’s perspective. You have to hone in on that relationship and how that bond gets built because that is really what the story is – loyalty and friendship.”

In regards to PTSD and returning troops she says, “Dealing with PTSD when our military come home and how we can maybe look at it different, pay attention and be better listeners I think that would be a great thing.”

MEGAN LEAVEY is a story that is well done dealing with issues that might be uncomfortable for some to see but necessary to experience. This film speaks on love, understanding, patience and a friendship that saved not only the lives of others – but of one another as well. 

In the end – a true story of a marine and her best friend!

MY COUSIN RACHEL Brings Twists and Questions

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Roger Michell and Fox Searchlight Pictures is a story of love and mystery surrounding MY COUSIN RACHEL.

Philip (Sam Claflin) loses his parents at a very young age but it blessed when Cousin Ambrose raises him. When Philip becomes a young man, Ambrose travels and becomes involved with a woman named Rachel (Rachel Weisz). As strange letters begin to arrive, Philip has no choice but to find his Uncle.

Seeking wise advice from family friend Kendall (Iain Glen) who regards Philip highly and daughter Louise (Holliday Grainger), a plan is made to find Ambrose. When the young man arrives it is to sad news that Ambrose has died. His anger wells up against his new cousin Rachel believing she is responsible.

Returning home, he receives word that Rachel is coming for a visit and Louise helps Philip prepare. What Philip is not prepared for is a mysterious cousin who tells a story of sickness and anguish. Feeling emotions he had never felt before, Philip is faced with the duality of love and suspicion.

Coming closer and closer is either a life filled with love or the brink of insanity!

Weisz as Rachel has the uncanny and fantastic ability to add so many dimensions to a character and playing Cousin Rachel is no exception. She is endearing, kind, secretive, altruistic with a history of pain yet it is up to the viewer to understand if any of it is real. I have always enjoyed this actress’s performance but especially those where she gives a turned eye as if she knows something we all don’t. 

Claflin as Philip is a young man possessed by every emotion that swings his way. Fueled by anger at first he learns that one can be fueled by the craziness of love with equal fervor. Wanting to experience life, he looks to his cousin to make that happen and isn’t quite sure how to deal with suspicion. Claflin also brings every range of emotion to his Philip.

Glen as Kendall is clearly a man who Philip as respected but even he can not talk to the young man. Being a Game of Thrones watcher, it is truly awesome to see Glen take on a role that once again is filled with sincere feelings. Grainger as Louise is a young woman with her own heart that is aching but goodness is she good at getting things done. Whether finding out the truth or make a house a home, her agenda is patience.

Other cast include Andrew Knott as Joshua, Andrew Havill as Parson Pascoe, Tristam Davies as Wellington, Louis Suc as 12-year-old Philip, Poppy Lee Friar as Mary Pascoe and Katherine Pearce as Belinda Pascoe.

MY COUSIN RACHEL is based on the 1951 novel by Daphne du Maurier. In 1952 Olivia de Havilland and a very young Richard Burton starred in the first telling of the novel in theatres. Geraldine Chaplin and Christopher Guard reprise the story with a BBC television mini-series in 1983. 

Now director Michell brings his version of the novel My Cousin Rachel adding his own sense of the complications of life. The cast brings these characters from stage to screen along with amazing costuming, locations and an atmosphere ripe for a thriller that still leaves us all asking the question – did she or didn’t she?

It’s not secret that I am an avid fan of period pieces with all the pomp, pageantry, darkness and intrigue that are not hidden behind cgi and the like. Instead, this film breaks everything (and everyone) down to its rawest form leaving the viewer to decide for themselves. That is an amazing part of storytelling and MY COUSIN RACHEL will have people still asking questions long after the film has ended.

In the end – love and madness sometimes go hand in hand.

WONDER WOMAN Gets Opposing Views

Jeri Jacquin and Vince Munn

In theatres this Friday is the highly anticipated film directed by Patty Jenkins with DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures bringing WONDER WOMAN.

Jeri Jacquin: First of all, it is no secret that I’m not the most ardent fan of super hero films, mainly because you can’t swing a tattered comic book without hitting one in theatres. I don’t need 15 super hero characters mushing up my screen time doing the same thing they always do – mainly tearing up the world that other people have to live in after. 

I’ve been told in whispers I am suppose to slobber all over WONDER WOMAN because we share the same body parts (minus the wrist cuffs and svelty figure) because the film is suppose to “empower women”. Robin Wright looked amazing in her Amazonian get up, do I get points for that? So knowing you are not going to get it out of me my irk list is extensive. 

Instead, from the get-go dear Diana is lied to by the people she is suppose to trust the most – her family, then she is lied to by a man (why should she be any different) and then ends up helping humanity save itself basically showing her altruistism. I spent more time rolling my eyes than cheering.

Yes, I’m just horrible for not feeling empowered by WONDER WOMEN which is why I am letting someone who loves all things DC do his thing and give his views on the film. Ladies and gentlemen – I give you Vince Munn, take it away!

Vince Munn: Diana (Gal Gidot), princess of the Amazons is a trained lethal warrior, blessed by the gods and raised on an island of women. When American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on their island of Themyscira, he tells of a great conflict in the outside world. Diana she seeks to travel with him into the heart of the conflict convinced she can end the threat. 

Through her journey Diana will see the dark side of man while discovering her full power and destiny. Warner Brothers and DC comics have found the bright light in their dark cinematic universe. Wonder Woman is a film with heart, humor, and forgive the pun, wonder. 

Gal Gadot reprises her role of Diana, first introduced in Batman v Superman, a highlight of that film. Carrying the film she imbues it with charm, beauty, and heroism. Were I a young girl, this would absolutely be my heroine. The core of the character is there as her motives for what she does. 

Chris Pine is solid in his role of Steve Trevor. While he is the male lead, he never steals the spotlight and supports his lead in the best way. Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, and Robin Wright round out the main cast, each filling their role with full talent and commitment - sometimes a little beyond what is necessary. 

While the villains are there, much like most Marvel antagonists, they lack the bite you want. The spectacle of the film is there as well. This is a comic book film and feels like one, but at no time does it ever wink at its audience. 

Coming out at this time in history, amidst all the politic and unrest, Wonder Woman will stand out as a beacon to women. This is a strong character and is not pandered to. A personal stand out moment is the crossing of No Man’s Land. You’ll know it when you see it. Absolutely beautiful. “I will fight, for those who cannot fight for themselves.” 

Fully enjoyable, while at times feeling its length, the only real issue is that you could shave a close 15 minutes and probably have a tighter, better film. That being said, this is a lot of fun, a lot of eye candy, and worth a second viewing.

Jeri: Thank you Vince! Although there are moments in the film that I agree with Vince it really doesn’t matter because WONDER WOMAN will earn its stop spot, at least for a week. With big films showing up week after week, each one will take its place on the top stop unless WONDER WOMAN has other super powers that can keep her there longer.

In the end – the future of justice begins with her…apparently.

CHURCHILL: The Untold Story of D-Day is an Epic Telling 

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from director Jonathan Teplitzky and Cohen Media Group is an incredible telling about the man everyone knows as CHURCHILL: The Untold Story of D-Day.

It is ninety-six hours before D-Day in 1944 and Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) arrive for the final meeting with Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery), Field Marshal Montgomery (Julian Wadham), Admiral Ramsay (George Anton) and King George VI (James Purefoy) to discuss the landing in Normandy, France.

Much to the surprise of the battle leaders, Churchill makes it clear that he does not agree with the plans made and has ideas of his own. Eisenhower does not understand why he is trying to change plans that have taken so long to prepare. Standing his ground, the leaders of the Allied Forces are shocked.

Churchill’s wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson) tells her husband that those in charge of the landing are perfectly capable. What she doesn’t know is that the internal fear is of a man who has seen thousands of young men dead on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915. 

Even friend Jan Smuts (Richard Dursen) tries repeatedly to reach Churchill explaining that he should support the Allied Forces. Secretary Helen (Ella Purnell) begins to experience parts of his personality as the hours tick by and Churchill wants the invasion to stop.

Turned down at every avenue, Churchill turns to the Almighty begging him to stop the invasion. Becoming emotionally reclusive as the hour draws near, it takes one timid voice to remind him of who he is and what his voice means to the people who need to hear its strength.

As the invasion commences, Churchill embraces what is to come and once again lifts up all within the sound of his voice.

Cox as Churchill once again brings a stellar performance that I could not stop watching. Capturing the wave of emotions from military failures to political turmoil’s, Churchill’s countrymen were not privy to his personal struggles and all seemed to plague him. Cox has captures all of it magnificently with a flawless performance. This is a performance that should be recognized for its depth – period. 

Richardson as wife Clementine is equally brilliant. She is clearly a woman who knows her husband is a difficult and complex man yet isn’t afraid to have her opinion. Richardson embraces the strength of this woman and still allows her moments of tenderness that are endearing. I absolutely love when she calls Churchill out through his bellowing to make it clear that enough is enough.

Durden as Smuts is a man who understands Churchill as a military man and tries to keep him focused. When others begin to turn away, Smuts reminds them of what Churchill means to their country and respects it. Purnell as Helen is a young woman who wants to do something important for the war effort. I don’t think putting up with Churchill’s antics was in the job description but I love her spunk.

Slattery as Eisenhower is a military man who sees the cloth Churchill is cut from but is not about to veer from a plan everyone agrees on. Never once does Slattery’s character back down and this actor does it with military understanding but only so far. Purefoy as King George VI has a brief part in the film and the most outstanding scene is explaining to Churchill that they both have a part to play to help win the war.

Other cast include Angela Costello as Kay Summersby, Danny Webb as Alan Brooke, Jonathan Aris as Mallory, Steven Cree as Captain Stagg, Peter Ormond as Briggs, and Kevin Findlay as Fanshawe.

CHURCHILL: The Untold Story of D-Day is an absolutely stellar film with performances that are rich and riveting. Cox performance of Churchill is one of a complex man filled with the demons of war and the insecurities that a man in his position isn’t allowed to show. 

Instead of this film showing the ravages of war that pretty much everyone has seen on film, it instead focuses on one of history’s leaders and gives Churchill a human side. I don’t mind learning that this man had fears and weaknesses as I would never trust a leader who didn’t, but it is how to overcome those fears that earns my respect.

In the end – it is one man’s journey through war.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Jeri Jacquin

Jack is back this week in theatres as directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg along with Walt Disney Pictures is PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is a young man who wants one thing – to see his father Will Turner permanently returned to dry land. What he needs is Poseidon’s Trident and the map that will lead him there to break the curse holding his father deep in the ocean. 

Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is a young woman who holds a map to the where the trident is and only she can read it. Basically it’s because she can read the stars where as most pirates can’t, well, read. 

Someone who can help them is Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) but he’s not having the best lucky with a crew lately. As if that’s not enough, Henry tells Jack that a ghost named Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pretty much wants his head on a platter.

Unphased by the prospect of losing his head, Jack is more focused on what he’s always focused on – getting his hands on the Pearl! When Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) comes upon the hair flowing Captain Salazar, a deal is struck to find Jack together.

Jack, Henry and Carina try to stay one step ahead of Barbossa and Barbossa tries to stay two steps ahead of Salazar. As they all get closer to the prize, there are still scores to settle and a few surprises for them all.

This is the life of a pirate!

Depp as Jack Sparrow puts a period at the end of his time as a pirate. His usual throwing caution to the wind and not being upset by much, Depp throws out lines and facial reactions that will make the audience laugh. Jack Sparrow is endearing and even to the very end he seems to be able to come out with what he truly wants.

Thwaites as Henry Turner is a young actor that is able to pull off the role of a kid who just wants his Dad back. Becoming somewhat of an expert on the legends of the sea, Thwaites is charming, caring and daring all rolled into one. Scodelario as Carina is a smart young woman who is misunderstood by, well, pirates. Looking for the trident is her mission to finding her own family.

Rush as Barbossa is his usual peg-legged self who wants to keep the money rolling in and going up against Jack is just topping on the cake. Bardem as Salazar is kind of creepy but then again he is a tad upset at Jack so we have to let him get out his frustration.

Other cast include Kevin McNally as Gibbs, David Wenham as Scarfield, Stephen Graham as Scrum, Adam Brown as Cremble, Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann. There is also a cameo appearance that had the audience cheering so look out for that!

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a fantastical journey’s we have all enjoyed with Captain Jack Sparrow. Although the film isn’t really a stretch in terms of a storyline (meaning kind of predictable or else I’m just getting really good at this) but the special effects are cool. Of course they would be in a Disney film right?

It has been an adventure from 2003 until now with characters that are memorable and have become iconic. Disney has done a good job in wrapping up this series of films (I hope it’s a wrap!) in such a way that I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.

Everyone jumps on board for another adventure and a few surprises as well. This is fun for the family for the holiday weekend with laughs, adventure, action and characters that once again having us cheer for our favorite pirate.

In the end – it is the final tale of a pirate’s life!

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol. 2 Protects in Theatres

Jeri Jacquin

Finally arriving in a theatre near you are our favorite heroes as writer/director James Gunn, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures bring GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol. 2!

Zipping through the galaxy once again being heroes, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are helping Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) keep their power source from being stolen.

After an epic saving, their reward is the one thing Gamora has been wanting – her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). On their way out the door, Rocket can’t help but grab a few power capsules thinking no one will miss them.

Not even out of range, Ayesha and her people attack Quill’s ship and they may not get a chance to jump through space. That is until an unusual craft assists them right before they manage to escape only to crash land tearing up the ship. Moments later, the same craft lands as Ego (Kurt Russell) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) introduce themselves.

Shocking Quill a tad is the announcement that Ego is his father. Trying to explain everything, Ego convinces Quill to come with him where all will be revealed. Taking Drax and Gamora, Rocket stays behind to repair the ship and babysit Nebula.

Also looking for the guardians is Yondu (Michael Rooker) as Ayesha makes it known she wants them all. Even that goes into chaos when Yondu and Rocket come together to put a traitorous band in its place.

Landing on Ego’s planet, it is a beautiful place and the story of what happened between Ego and Peter’s mother Meredith is explained. Peter also learns that he is the son of a god with powers he can call upon. Gamora knows there is something not right about it all, especially with Mantis seemly secretive. 

As the story begins show its true meaning, Peter is joined by Gamora, Rocket, Yondu and Nebula along with Baby Groot to set things right again but not without great cost. 

That’s not about to stop the Guardians!

Pratt as Quill has this role down to perfection. He covers everything from a hero to a kid needing to know who his father is and everything in between. With his Guardian family he knows they accept him for all his idiosyncrasies and the penchant for his mixed tapes (which we all are!). I just love watching Pratt go for it every moment he is on screen and listening to everyone cheer for their favorite Star-Lord.

Saldana as Gamora is keeping her emotions in check with Quill and even more so with a sister who is driving her crazy. Trusting her instincts about everything she gang is going through, it becomes clear that the history with Nebula is something that has always needed to be talked about. Oh sisters – they can hate each other but one good brawl always sets things right.

Cooper voicing Rocket is arrogant, guarded, hilarious and yet has a soft spot for all his guardian buddies. He may be a Guardian but he still has his old habits that need to be kicked. Diesel as the voice of Baby Groot, I mean really, what can else can be said here about the awesomeness that is Groot. “I am Groot” – we’re done!

Bautista as Drax has a chance to really show serious comedy here although what he laughs at isn’t as funny until he laughs about it. He is the powerhouse the group needs and he doesn’t hesitate to stand up for his buddies. I love the scenes between Drax and Mantis. Klementieff as Mantis is endearing, sweet and giggly funny.

Debicki as Ayesha is clearly a woman who has anger and power issues. Gillan as Nebula tries to work on her anger issues but when you’ve been angry as long as she has, it’s difficult. 

Rooker as Yondu brings his blue-ness back to irritate Quill and the gang. It is the scenes with Yondu and Rocket that are pretty amazing. This is a role that looks so easy for Rooker to play because he has a swagger that is distinctive and an attitude that would give anyone pause.

Russell as Ego is always a thrill to see. Nothing seems to be slowing this actor down and being the god/father to Quill finally gets to tell the whole story – and I mean the whole story. Russell gives us the charm and flashy smile to bring us into his world and I don’t mind visiting at all. 

Other cast include Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Tommy Flanagan as Tullk, Laura Haddock as Meredith Quill, Chris Sullivan as Taserface and Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol. 2 five tubs of popcorn out of five. I mean seriously, would you expect anything less? I am not always on board to all things in the Marvel Universe but the Guardians franchise is definitely worth every second on screen. 

This ensemble has brought a uniqueness that I enjoy with characters that are relatable with their flaws, awesome in their survival/fighting skills, care for one another, humor and how each one protects Baby Groot. Come on, you know that’s cute! The special effects are just amazing and add to the story instead of being used to just dazzle.

I am purposely being vague about the film because I had such a fun time that I want everyone who sees it to have a great time as well. This is an event, truly, and groups of people should see the film together. Grab everyone and make it a movie night to remember. 

It must be said that the soundtrack for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol. 2 is just as frakken awesome as the first film. There is no way, absolutely no way to not tap a foot or even sing along because each song fits the scene perfectly. Everyone in the audience during the screening was so into the music which made it all even more fantastic of a time.

I don’t know what you are doing this weekend but if it’s not seeing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol. 2 then you must be in traction! This film is funny, action packed, endearing, hilarious, and yes Baby Groot steals every scene he is in – I mean is that shocking? Hardly. 

In the end – you only get one chance to save the galaxy twice!


ELLA BRENNAN: Commanding the Table is a Delicious Documentary

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Netflix on May 1st from filmmaker Leslie Iwerks and Iwerks & Co. with theatrical release in May comes the intriguing story of ELLA BRENNAN: Commanding the Table.

Ella Brennan has made more than a name for herself as a legendary restaurateur but is a pioneer of what is now considered a food movement. After high school in New Orleans, her brother Owen wanted to open a business that would take care of her parents. In 1933, Owen hires piano player Fats Pichon plays in their club and it is a success! 

At the age of 20, Ella along with sister Adelaide take on opening a restaurant. Trying to find their niche among famous places on Bourbon Street, Ella teaches herself the business. Creating Breakfast at Brennan’s comes from her European learning trip and brother Owen wants an original dessert on their menu as well. The creation of Bananas Foster became a hit then and is still a hit today!

Brennan’s becomes a rising restaurant and Ella a rising star that is noticed by editors and food critics. the Brennan’s opened a restaurant on Bourbon Street. Food Editor Helen McCully would take Ella to New York where she meets Julia Childs, Jacques Peppin and James Beard (yes, that James Beard).

The passing of Owen and the lease on Bourbon Street property is up but Brennan’s begins again at a new location. The patrons followed eagerly with a party that Ella says, “lasted a month easily”. Never an empty table, Brennan’s continues to be successful on Royal Street in New Orleans.

The restaurant keeps her busy but Ella meets Paul, they marry and start a family with son Alex and then daughter Ti. Keeping life surrounded by family, members recall having get together’s that always included delicious food. Their marriage unfortunately leads to divorce because of Paul’s problem with drinking.

After a shocking family takeover, Ella walks away from Brennan’s Restaurant and buys a place called Commander’s Palace Restaurant and once again starts from scratch. Beginning with an idea from brother Dick, she creates a Garden District Jazz Brunch. It was instantly a smashing success!

Wanting her patrons to have an experience, Ella creates just that with crowds taking over on Saturdays and Sundays. Surrounded by celebrities of all types there were write ups constantly. Moving in with sister Adelaide, they both continued fancy and dressy party’s at their home.

Paul Prudhomme became an Executive Chef at Commander’s Palace creating menu’s with Ella that include Cajun Crusine and flavors New Orleans hadn’t brought before. A line of amazing chefs came through Ella’s kitchen from Jeremiah Tower, Danny Meyer, Emeril Lagasse, Jamie Shannon just to name a few. Each chef that came through continued to pave the way for amazing cuisine and continued success for Commander’s Palace.

When Hurricane Katrina came through New Orleans, Ella once again is faced with picking up the pieces by gutting Commander’s Palace. Committed to rebuilding, Ella says, “it breaks your heart to know what people went through in this city. This was no longer survival of yourself but survival of the city we all live in”. 

Not only did she rebuild Commander’s Palace, she helped local owner Dooky Chase rebuild her restaurant as well. Reopening thirteen months after Hurricane Katrina, they were back!

This is a family business as Ella and Dottie move into the home right next to the restaurant to be close to it all. The dedication of this woman named Ella and the Brennan family has continued to bringing the dining experience to generation after generation and I personally have Commander’s Palace on my bucket list!

Director Leslie Iwerks is an Oscar and Emmy nominated filmmaker who has brought Oscar and Tony nominated actress Patricia Clarkson on board to narrate this amazing story. Choosing Ella Brennan, family and their love of the restaurant business as a subject for her documentary is wonderful perfection.

ELLA BRENNAN: Commanding the Table has been the Official Selection for the 2017 Dallas International Film Festival, Audience Award at the New Orleans Film Festival, Official Selection of the: 34 Miami Film Festival, Houston Cinema Arts Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Tiburon International Film Festival, Annapolis Film Festival, Vermont International Film Festival, San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival and the Boulder International Film Festival.

The story is told from Ella herself along with family, friends, critics and the chefs that were a part of her kitchen which bring such a personal aspect that I was enthralled watching every moment. 

A admitted “foodie”, I am fascinated by the creative process of chefs, food and restaurants décor and how they are run. Ella Brennan was a name I had heard before so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see this documentary. I had no idea that I was in for a delicious treat with not only the food but the history of this amazing woman who created something spectacular.

ELLA BRENNAN: Commanding the Table is a must-see for everyone, whether you are a foodie or not. This documentary is a history of a family who understood and continues to understand their city and patrons. Constantly reinventing itself, Commander’s Palace has a woman at its helm who believes in what she does – and it shows. Brava Ella Brennan!

In the end – she brought grace, elegance and good taste to the nation’s culinary map!

UNFORGETTABLE Brings Love and Terror to the Screen

Jeri Jacquin

This Friday in theatres from first time director Denise Di Novi and Warner Bros. Pictures comes the twisted meshing of families that will be absolutely UNFORGETTABLE.

Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson) is packing her home in San Francisco to move to Southern California to be with boyfriend David Connover (Geoff Stults). Happy about her decision, Julia knows that there will be an adjustment with young daughter Lily (Isabella Kai Rice) and ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl).

Eager to start their life together, Julia notices almost right away the tension with Tessa. Trying to make things easier for David, she does her best to show Lily that everything is just fine. What Tessa doesn’t know is that Julia and David are planning to be married.

Getting his brewery business off the ground, David thinks its better to wait until everyone has settled to break the news. Tessa decides to take matters into her own hands and look at Julia’s past to discover that she has something that she hasn’t disclosed to David.

Putting discomfort between Julia and David, Tessa is clearly aware of every move she makes. Julia can’t seem to convince David of what is happening to their family until someone shows up at their door igniting a chain of events and there’s no turning back!

Dawson as Julia clearly wants to begin a new life with David. Trying her best to have a integrated family with Lily, Tessa is making sure that they don’t get to close. Dawson’s character eventually holds her own with Heigl’s character and it is a stand off that shocks.

Heigl as Tessa is walking perfection! From her stunning hair, impeccable clothing and steely eyed stare, I can’t recall the last time I saw a character like this and thought, ;I definitely don’t want to meet her anywhere day or night!’ This is a scary lady for the ages for sure but the apple doesn’t fall far from the three.

Stults as David is a man trying to have a new relationship while having an understanding with ex-wife Tessa. Clearly a doting Dad of daughter Lily, starting a new business means he doesn’t have time for two women who need to work it out. Trying to be understanding of Tessa’s feelings, he is caught between three females!

Rice as Lily is adorable and put in the middle of the adults nonsense. There is one scene with Heigl that totally broke my heart for her and that means she handled her character beautifully. Well done young lady! 

Other cast include Simon Kassianides as Michael Vargas, Jayson Blair as Jason Michaels, Alex Quijano as Miguel and Cheryl Ladd as Tessa’s mother.

UNFORGETTABLE is a film that is up front about every aspect of what is going on. So why does this work so well? Because it’s like being a fly on the wall watching everything unfold or like a train wreck that you can’t help but watch. I’m keeping the details to myself because this film needs to be seen first hand and remember to keep your jaw off the floor.

The audience absolutely loved the film and there are several times where people were yelling at the screen or hiding their eyes. That’s always a good sign when the audience doesn’t realize its participating!

At this years CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Heigl says of the film, “They say the things that you are most afraid of might actually happen. But what happens when one person can’t deal with it and jealousy turns to madness”.

Dawson continues by saying, “UNFORGETTABLE is a suspense thriller that harkens back to some of my favorite films but with a modern and contemporary edge. We think this film will give audiences what they want, an experience where they are on the edge of their seat!”

In the end – love makes some do dangerous things!


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