My Soul To Take

MySoulToTake

Directed By: Wes Craven
Starring: Max Thieriot, John Magaro, Denzel Whitaker, Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, Paulina Olsynski, Jeremy Chu, Emily Meage, Frank Grillo, Danai Gurira, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: D+

Sixteen years ago in the town of Riverton, on the same night a local serial killer called the Riverton Ripper died, seven children were born, several of who weren’t due for weeks or even months. Years later, those children have been raised with the rumors that they are the reincarnations of the various personalities the killer had. However, as teens are killed one by one, people begin to believe that the Ripper didn’t actually die, and that he’s attempting to seek vengeance by killing the children born the night he supposedly died.

There’s really no use in trying to mince words. This movie is not good. The characters are underdeveloped, the plot moves too quickly, there are characters and bits of plot that aren’t fully explored, and side stories that are entirely unnecessary, which considering the nearly 2-hour run time, is somewhat surprising. It honestly would have benefitted from the extra 15 or 20 minutes in order to make a more coherent movie. One of the few bright spots of the movie is Max Thieriot, who plays one of the only characters to get some kind of development.

What few special effects used appear to be decent, and the background filler isn’t really noticeable.

While I wouldn’t recommend the movie, anyone wanting a lesson in how not to make a horror/thriller should use this as their prime example. If you’re a desperate fan of Wes Craven or one of the actors involved, proceed at your own risk. This is one of the few instances in which I felt like my time had been wasted by the movie I was watching, and it’s ridiculous how easily entertained I am.

My Soul to Take is currently only available free to stream if you have HBO, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

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Shazam!

Shazam

Directed By: David F. Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Djimon Hounsou, Faithe Herman, Meagan Goode, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B+

When 14 year old foster kid Billy Batson defends one of his foster siblings from bullies, he finds himself transported into a cavern, where a dying wizard bestows a gift upon him that gives him the appearance of 30-something superhero. Pursued by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, a rejected candidate for the powers Billy now possesses, Billy enlists the help of his foster brother, Freddy, to figure out not only what his abilities are, but also how to use them. After Sivana, aided by physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins, figures out Billy’s identity and threatens his new family, Billy bands together with his siblings to stop Sivana and keep their family safe.

Another one of DC’s side properties that they made in an attempt to diversify their Extended Universe (DCEU), Shazam is well-made and entertaining. Lighter in tone than most of DC’s other current films, it’s another step in the right direction to create a diversified universe, much like the one Marvel offers. The actors all work well together, and Levi, who plays Billy’s superhero persona, has the right personality to play a teen that looks like an adult. Strong, who plays Sivana, lets his natural accent slip through occasionally, but for the most part he seems to be able to keep control of it.

The special effects are all very well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of the movies based on DC comics, and maybe most fans of comic book movies in general, should enjoy this. It’s fun and light-hearted, and while it doesn’t necessarily add to the Justice League spectrum, it’s still a good movie to watch, and it’s fun enough that it shouldn’t grate on rewatching. There are just enough references to past DC movies to remind you that they’re set in the same universe.

Shazam! isn’t currently available free to stream at the moment, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Unicorn Store

UnicornStore

Directed By: Brie Larson
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Mamoudou Athie, Hamish Linklater, Martha McIsaac, Karan Soni, et.al.
Rating: TV-PG
Network: Netflix
Grade: B-

After failing out of art school and moving back in with her parents, 20-something dreamer Kit decides it’s time to grow up. After getting an office job through a temp agency, she receives an invitation to a place known only as The Store. There, she meets the Salesman, who tells her that she has an opportunity to buy the one thing she’s always wanted to have: a real, live unicorn. As Kit makes preparations to house and care for her unicorn, she meets Virgil, a hardware store employee who’s intrigued by her quest, as well as her unwavering belief that she will actually be acquiring the mythical creature. When she’s also presented with an opportunity to advance at her job, Kit is torn between abandoning her childhood dreams and finally becoming a responsible adult.

This movie is very much What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. Aside from an almost painfully obvious lesson that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean letting go of your dreams or losing your sense of whimsy, there isn’t a whole lot of depth and hidden meaning. That said, the acting is fairly decent. Samuel L. Jackson seems to be having a ball playing the Salesman, and Brie Larson, who pulls double duty as both the star and the director, seems incredibly comfortable with Kit’s unendingly idealistic nature. Cusack and Whitford, who play Kit’s parents, do a great job of hovering between wanting their child to be happy and just wanting them to finally grow up.

What little special effects are used are pretty good, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone looking to relax their mind with harmless fluff for 90 minutes or so will probably like this. The ending is relatively happy, and, as stated above, you won’t be taxed with hidden meanings. While the movie’s humor and somewhat nonsensical storyline may not appeal to everyone, anyone still in touch with their inner child should like it.

Unicorn Store is currently only available free to stream through Netflix, with no word as to whether they plan to make it available commercially.

Escape Room

EscapeRoom

Directed By: Adam Robitel
Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nick Dodani, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A-

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, student Zoey, grocery store stocker Ben, and stockbroker Jason are mysteriously presented with a gift of a black puzzle box from someone they know. After solving the puzzle, they find an invitation to an escape room challenge, which holds a prize of $10,000 to anyone who can escape it. After their arrival at the company site for the room, they meet three others who also received the puzzle boxes, war vet Amanda, trucker Mike, and gaming enthusiast Danny. When the escape room mechanisms are triggered, they group quickly learn that the game isn’t what they first thought, and they all fight to stay alive against a system designed to kill them.

This movie was surprisingly good. I was entirely unaware of the escape room phenomenon before seeing this, so the concept seemed to be a fairly original take on a locked room mystery. Though only three of the characters get proper introductions before the action starts, they, for the most part, get some decent background instead of just being used as blank cannon fodder to increase tensions. The actors all do well with their characters, and they all have a fair amount of chemistry with each other. The puzzles themselves are all interesting, and aren’t obvious about the solutions or the potential dangers.

The special effects are fairly well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of the horror/thriller genre should enjoy this movie. While there’s very little gore, it’s actually a pretty good thriller, and while it does open with a bit of a spoiler as to who survives, there are a few decent twists along the way. Anyone wanting to watch this shouldn’t be disappointed if they have to spend money on a rental, and it’s something that can be viewed multiple times without getting too boring.

Escape Room is currently only available free to stream if you have Starz, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Long Shot

LongShot

Directed By: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis, Randall Park, Alexander Skarsgård, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C+

After quitting his job as a reporter for The Brooklyn Advocate when he believes that they have sold out, Fred Flarsky, along with his best friend Lance, attends a concert where he runs into Charlotte Field, his former babysitter and childhood crush, who is now the US Secretary of State and a potential presidential candidate in the upcoming election. Charlotte, believing her speeches need to be overhauled, hires Fred on as a staff writer to help voters relate to her more. As they reconnect and get to know each other as adults over the course of her campaign, Fred and Charlotte begin to develop feelings for each other. However, when a scandal surrounding Fred is brought to light, Charlotte must decide whether to dismiss him from the campaign and protect her reputation, or follow her heart and keep him around.

Seth Rogen seems to be one of those who can toe the line between a typical romantic comedy and the frat-style gross out comedy he’s better known for. This movie, while far better than his previous attempt at creating a hybrid gross out/RomCom, still seems to not know whether it wants to fully commit to a comedy style fully. At times it pushes into full-on RomCom territory, then slides back into gross out territory. Though, I will say, for the most part it handles to balance fairly well. Despite the fact that they seem to be an odd pairing, Rogen and Theron have a decent chemistry together, and the way the story unfolds, combined with Rogen’s strangely affable charm, it doesn’t seem entirely outside the realm of possibility that her character would be interested in his.

There aren’t many special effects used, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

It’s hard to pinpoint a demographic for this movie. Parts of it may be too romance-y for fans of frat humor, and likewise, some of it will be too frat-y for fans of RomComs. I would suggest that most fans of either genre give it a watch. At the very least, it’s worth the price of a rental, and you may be surprised by how much you don’t hate it.

Long Shot is currently not available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Hellboy (2019)

Hellboy2019

Directed By: Neil Marshall
Starring: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Daniel Dae Kim, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Stephen Graham, Sophie Okonedo, Thomas Haden Church, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B

Brought to Earth during a Nazi occult ritual during World War II, Hellboy was taken in and raised by Trevor “Broom” Bruttenhold, who, along with several of the others who were present at his summoning, formed the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, or DPRD. Decades later, a creature named Grugach makes a deal with Baba Yaga to raise sorceress named Nimue who had been defeated by Arthur and Merlin so that they can seek revenge on Hellboy for the slights they believe he has dealt them over the course of his time on Earth. Teaming up with Major Ben Daimio, a member of M11 and shapeshifter, and Alice Monaghan, a civilian and powerful medium, Hellboy hunts down Nimue to prevent her from destroying the Earth, as she had attempted in the past.

This reboot of the 2004 movie is a serviceable attempt at cashing in on making R-rated comic book movies. Aside from Hellboy, Broom, and a brief appearance by Rasputin, no other characters from the first two movies appear, though one is introduced in the last few minutes. The story itself is interesting, though it seems ill-suited to the time constraints of a two hour movie. Many of the characters and fictional organizations have their backstory glossed over, despite the actually decent running time, and the story itself lags in parts and is rushed in others. Harbour does a good job of taking over the Hellboy mantle from Ron Perlman, who played the character in the two previous theatrical releases, as well as a handful of animated movies. The actors all work well together, and McShane does a good job of acting like a paternal figure.

The special effects are for the most part decent, but some of the animation, particularly of blood and other liquids, are a little off. The background filler isn’t noticeable.

Hardcore fans of the Hellboy comics will likely enjoy this movie, as well as people looking for an atypical supernatural action movie. The movie itself manages to keep from being too comic book-y. It would probably be worth the money to rent, though depending on how you feel about violence and language, parents may want to view it before letting small children watch.

Hellboy (2019) is currently not available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Captain Marvel

CaptainMarvel

Directed By: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Ben Mendelsohn, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B+

When Kree Starforce officer Vers is taken by Skrull operatives and has her memories searched, she is shown events she can’t recall living through. After escaping, she crash lands on Earth, where she meets Agent Nick Fury. Coming to a truce of sorts, Fury agrees to help her get information about Dr. Wendy Lawson, one of the people in the memories that were searched, who was working on an experimental engine that the Skrulls were looking for. As she spends more time on Earth, she eventually learns that her name is actually Captain Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who went missing after the experimental craft she was test piloting crashed and killed Dr. Lawson. No longer certain of who she can and can’t trust, Carol joins forces with Fury in an effort to unravel the mystery behind her missing memories and the source of the extraordinary powers she possesses.

Captain Marvel is the 21st movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and is the first one to center on a female superhero. The introduction of Captain Marvel was long-awaited, and planned as far back as the first Avengers movie in 2012. The movie itself is very good, but falls a little short of amazing. Many fans have been critical of Marvel for ensuring they had a profitable idea before venturing into diversifying their leads, but wait was mostly worth it. It was interesting to see a couple of fan-favorite characters before the “official” start of the MCU, though the CGI de-aging was a bit disconcerting at times. The new characters introduced all fit into the established universe well, and Marvel continues to stock their roster of A-List actors in their movies. The storyline itself is fairly easy to follow, and while the twist near the end may not be jaw-dropping, it’s nice to see that they’re still trying to keep fans on their toes after 10+ years.

The special effects are all very well done, as is the case with nearly every Marvel movie, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of the MCU, as well as anyone looking for a movie starring a kick-ass heroine, should enjoy this movie. Since it’s an origin story, you don’t necessarily need to be familiar with the rest of the MCU movies in order to understand what’s going on. Young girls in particular will probably like a movie with a strong female lead, which, while there are more movies with them being made, there’s still a serious lack positive role models and women carrying movies.

Captain Marvel is not currently available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Cairo Time

CairoTime2

Directed By: Ruba Nadda
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig, Elena Ayana, Amina Annabi, Tom McCamus, Mona Hala, Fadia Nadda, et.al.
Rating: PG
Grade: A-

When Juliette goes to Cairo to meet with her husband, Mark, who is a UN official working with the refugee camps, she finds that he is delayed by rising tensions, and that she has been left to fend for herself, with only Tareq, her husband’s former head of security for company. Weary of exploring the city on her own, Juliette begins to seek out Tareq’s company, both as a form of protection and also so that she has someone to share the experience with. However, as more time passes, Juliette and Tareq begin to realize that their easy friendship has developed into something more.

Every now and then I watch something that seems completely off-kilter with my usual tastes in movies and television. This was one of the few times I was pleasantly surprised. A slow-burning, ultimately chaste romance story about what equates to an emotional affair between a married woman and a close friend of her husband’s. The Egyptian backdrop is beautiful to look at and adds to the romantic setting. Clarkson and Siddig have amazing chemistry, and it’s nice to have an acknowledgment that people in their 40s and 50s still have desires.

There aren’t any obvious special effects, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone who doesn’t mind a slow-burn romantic drama will enjoy this movie, and I would definitely recommend putting in the effort to find it somewhere (the only places that carry the movie digitally that I could find were iTunes and Google Play). While it may not be something you would want to watch all the time, it’s definitely something I can see people wanting to watch every now and then when they need a dose of something made by a hopeless romantic.

Cairo Time is not currently available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Assassin’s Creed

AssassinsCreed

Directed By: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendon Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dennis Ménochet, Ariane Labed, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B-

As a child, Cal Lynch watched his father murder his mother only moments before their home is invaded by unknown assailants. In the years that followed, Cal himself turned to a life of crime, eventually being executed for killing several people. When he wakes up after his execution, Cal is told by Dr. Sophia Rikkin that he is legally dead, she and her fellow scientists have brought him to their facility for an experiment. Cal eventually learns that he the last in a line of ‘Assassins’, and ancient order that has vowed to protect the Apple of Eden, and that Sophia and the other Abstergo people are descended from the Knights Templar, who have been searching for the Apple for centuries.

I’m going to start by saying I never played the video games this movie is adapted from, though I was vaguely aware of them. From my outsider’s perspective, the movie isn’t that bad. I’m sure there were some nods to the game that went over my head, but since I didn’t know to be looking for them, I can’t say whether they added to of detracted from the experience. The actors all do well with the material, though I probably could have gone the rest of my life without hearing Fassbender’s attempt at a southern accent (it’s not terrible, it’s just generally off-putting when someone considers his natural Irish one). Marion Cotillard seems a bit out of place in the movie, considering the kinds of movies she usually appears in, though she does well with the material, and her chemistry with Fassbender is spot-on. The story itself is easy to follow (a little research tells me it’s very close to the story of the original video game), and doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

The special effects are all well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

While die-hard fans of the video game series may not enjoy this movie, anyone else who likes action and/or fantasy probably will. As stated before, the storyline is easy to follow, and while it may take a minute to get used to the way the flashbacks are handled, the movie itself is easily rewatchable and probably worth the couple of bucks it would cost to rent.

Assassin’s Creed is not currently available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Bring It On: Worldwide Cheersmack

BringItOn6

Directed By: Robert Adetuyi
Starring: Cristine Prosperi, Sophie Vavasseur, Jason Rodrigues, Gia Re, Natalie Walsh, Sven Ruygrok, Vivica A. Fox, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: C

After being publicly humiliated, cheer captain Destiny is issued a challenge by a mysterious group of cheerleaders calling themselves The Truth. In order to prove that her team’s titles are deserved, Destiny and her squad must perform in a global cheer competition against not only The Truth, but also squads from countries across the world. When she is betrayed by someone she thought was a friend, Destiny recruits a group of street dancers to help her and her squad prove once and for all that they’re the best cheerleaders in the world.

The sixth installment of Universal’s Bring It On franchise should probably (hopefully?) be the last. They’re clearly grasping at plots to try and keep the movies from being too repetitive, and while there is an original element to it, it’s sadly not enough to save the movie from feeling like a repeat of the previous five installments. There’s only so many ways to show that growth and seeking out new ideas is a good thing to stay on top of your game, so to speak. Not even Vivica A. Fox’s presence can keep you from feeling like you’ve seen the story before.

There aren’t any obvious special effects, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

If you liked the previous five Bring It On movies, then you’ll probably want to watch this one (like I did). It doesn’t require much attention, so it could probably be used as background noise when working on things around the house.

Bring It On: Worldwide Cheersmack is currently available free to stream through Netflix, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.