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.

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Serenity (2019)

Serenity(2019)

Directed By: Steven Knight
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Charlotte Butler, Rafael Sayegh, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C

Baker Dill, a charter boat captain on idyllic Plymouth Island, lives a quiet life taking tourists on fishing trips and wiling away his free time doing odd jobs for other residents on the island. One night, however, Baker’s life is thrown for a loop when his ex-wife appears and offers him $10 million to kill her current husband, who she claims is abusing both her and the child she shares with Baker. As Baker contemplates the tempting offer, he finds himself being lured back into day-to-day life by the residents of the island, as well as the promise of catching the one fish that has eluded him for years, which he has named Justice. After Baker has made up his mind about his course of action, he discovers a surprising secret about his life and home.

Despite very much wanting to be a high-quality noir thriller, Serenity falls short in many respects. The initial story of a man being approached by a woman asking him to kill her husband, while hardly original, is presented well enough to be interesting, and if the filmmakers had simply stuck to that, they might have turned out a decent B-quality movie. However, the unnecessary addition of a slight sci-fi element manages to take away any importance and impact that the main plot may have had. McConaughey and Hathaway have decent chemistry, and Clarke seems to be making a career out of playing assholes. For some reason, Hathaway made the choice to spend the majority of her screen time purring all of her lines in an attempt to sound like a 50s femme fatale, which takes some of the emotion out of her performance.

The special effects vary throughout the movie, but for the most part they’re fairly decent, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Unless you’re a die-hard fan of one of the actors in the movie, then you probably won’t want to spend money to watch this movie. It’s not completely terrible, but it’s also not very good, and requires a little more attention than most people would probably be willing to devote to it after the first hour or so.

Serenity is currently available free to stream through Amazon Prime, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

The Kid Who Would Be King

KidWhoWouldBeKing

Directed By: Joe Cornish
Starring: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Denise Gough, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Rebecca Ferguson, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart, et.al.
Rating: PG
Grade: B-

Twelve-year-old Alex and his best friend Bedders spend most of their days trying to escape their bullies, Lance and Kaye. However, one day, they stumble upon an abandon construction site and finds what appears to be a sword sticking out of a piece of stone. Believing a weapon would better his chances, Alex pulls out the sword. The next day, a new student at Alex’s school approaches him and tells him that Alex is a descendant of King Arthur, and that by taking Excalibur from the stone, the evil sorceress Morgana has awakened to wreak her revenge on Arthur’s line and the people of England. Using the story of ‘The Once and Future King’ as a guide, Alex recruits Bedders, Lance, and Kaye to be his knights as they attempt to defeat Morgana before the pending solar eclipse when she will reach full power and destroy them all.

When undertaking an update of a classic tale, there is always a problem of balance, and finding a way to modernize the story without losing its heart. Surprisingly, this adaptation manages to avoid those issues and delivers a surprisingly charming and enjoyable movie. Despite the fantasy elements, the story itself is relatable to more than just children, and, while the idea of a child finding out they’re actually more special than they were led to believe, if it’s well approached like this movie is, then it’s not as bothersome as some attempts tend to be. The kids all work well together and the actors playing the children show promise with their talents.

The special effects are all pretty good for a mid-budget children’s movie, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

This movie should appeal to almost everyone. The story is light-hearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and everyone involved appears to be having fun. Those who don’t enjoy fantasy may not want to watch it over and over again, but they probably won’t regret watching it at least once.

The Kid Who Would Be King is currently unavailable 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.

Mortal Engines

MortalEngines

Directed By: Christian Rivers
Starring: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae Kim, Ronan Rafferty, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Steven Lang, Colin Salmon, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B-

In a distant, post-apocalyptic dystopia, humans have abandon stationary dwellings, and have rebuilt their cities to move on wheels. As resources continue to dwindle, only the biggest and fiercest cities can survive and often overtake the smaller cities and towns which roam the countryside. After Hester Shaw sets herself on a city about to be overtaken by London, one of the most fearsome cities in Europe, she sets out her plan to assassinate Thaddeus Valentine, the man who murdered her mother years earlier and left Hester horribly disfigured. When her plan fails, she flees into the bowels of the city in an attempt to escape, where she is followed by Tom Natsworthy, a man who works with Valentine’s daughter in the museum. Before jumping from the city, she gives Tom a message, which he relays to Valentine when he arrives moments later. Realizing Tom knows too much, Valentine pitches Tom overboard in an attempt to silence him, which was witnessed by an acquaintance of Tom’s, unknown to Valentine. Having survived their falls from London, Tom and Hester enter into an uneasy alliance to get back to the city. Their journey, however is hampered by the dangers of Outlands, the mysterious figure in pursuit of Hester, and the terrible weapon that Valentine is crafting which threatens to destroy anyone who might stand in his way.

One of the latest YA dystopian movies, this is hindered both by having much of the material excised to make a palatable movie length, as well as being released at the end of the dystopian YA craze. Though neither one of those really has an impact on the quality of this surprisingly not awful movie. I always feel that these sprawling fantasy series would be better served by a television series so that less information is lost in translating them from book to screen. That said, the movie itself isn’t all that bad. It manages to escape many of the tired tropes that audiences have come to expect from YA movies (the ‘special’ girl who isn’t traditionally pretty; a love triangle between two vastly different boys, one of whom rarely/never takes an interest in girls; etc.) Robert Sheehan and Hera Hilmar have a decent chemistry, and Hugo Weaving always seems to be having fun when he plays a villain.

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

This should appeal to most people who enjoy sci-fi/fantasy movies. The storyline is interesting enough that the underlying fact of it mainly being a teen movie shouldn’t hamper one’s enjoyment of it. Most of the scenery is beautiful and makes it worth the watch. The movie is also good enough that it probably won’t grate on anyone’s nerves upon rewatching it.

Mortal Engines is currently unavailable 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.

Happy Death Day 2U

HappyDeathDay2U

Directed By: Christopher Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis, Charles Aitken, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B+

After surviving the events of a time loop which made her repeat her birthday over and over again until she’s murdered by a mysterious figure in a baby mask, Tree Gelbman is ready to start living her best life with her boyfriend, Carter. However, her happiness is short-lived when Carter’s dorm mate, Ryan, shows up in their shared room freaking out and talking about how he thinks he may have already lived through the day. Intrigued, Tree asks Ryan to walk her and Carter through the events that happened the previous ‘day,’ and discovers not only why Ryan reset, but why she was affected in a similar manner the day before, however, when a school official interrupts a test of the machine responsible for the time loops, Tree is thrown into a parallel universe where most things are the same, but a few, small, important details have changed. Tasked with trying to figure out what went wrong, Tree soon has to decide whether she wants to go back to her own universe, or stay in the one she landed in.

While marketed as a horror movie, this sequel to 2017’s surprisingly enjoyable slasher flick is more science fiction than horror. While there are still people being murdered, it’s no longer Tree’s life that’s in constant danger, though she does go through a sequence of increasingly outlandish ways to commit suicide, and the main plot is trying to fix the device that sent her into a parallel universe. That aside, this movie is also quite enjoyable. The small changes between the two universes Tree experiences helps her gain further closure with plot points from the first movie, and lets her have experiences she wouldn’t have been able to have.

A couple of the effects used are noticeable, but most aren’t, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

If you enjoyed the first movie, then you’ll probably like this one as well, and with the lack of gore, anyone who’s not a fan of horror movies should also like it. There’s a small recap at the beginning of the movie, which means people new to the franchise don’t necessarily need to watch the first installment. It’s also enjoyable enough that one should be able to rewatch it without getting bored too easily.

Happy Death Day 2U is currently unavailable 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.

Crazy Rich Asians

CrazyRichAsians

Directed By: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Harry Shum, Jr., Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A

When NYU professor Rachel Chu agrees to accompany her boyfriend, Nick Young, to China to attend his best friend’s wedding, and meet Nick’s family in the process, she has no idea what to expect. However, even in her wildest fantasies she couldn’t have imagined that her boyfriend comes from one of the wealthiest and oldest families in China, or that Nick himself is Asia’s most eligible bachelor. Upon arriving, Rachel has to not only contend with Nick’s extremely disapproving mother, but also the scheming socialites who believe that he would be better off with ‘one of his own’. With some help from a friend from college and one of Nick’s outcast cousins, Rachel does her best to outshine the glittering jewels of Singapore high society and show them that wealth doesn’t always equal worth.

I rarely see Romantic Comedies in theaters since they all seem to be better off viewed from the comfort of one’s own couch, but I made an exception for this movie. Crazy Rich Asians is one of the few major movie productions to feature an entirely Chinese cast since 1993’s Joy Luck Club, and its rampant success has since helped make small steps toward more diverse casting choices in Hollywood productions, which is always a good thing. While the storyline itself is rather simple and typical for a RomCom, it really is the cast that makes this movie a standout. From Michelle Yeoh’s understated disapproval, to Awkwafina’s scene-stealing and Gemma Chan’s almost ethereal presence, the actors all work wonderfully together and bring Kevin Kwan’s book to life beautifully.

The few special effects are fairly good, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone who can tolerate Romantic Comedies should enjoy this movie, since it doesn’t quite follow the cookie-cutter pattern that plagues most ones made these days. The refreshingly somewhat original story and delightful cast also keep the movie from grating too much on rewatches.

Crazy Rich Asians is currently not available free to stream anywhere at the moment unless you have HBO, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Aquaman

Aquaman

Directed By: James Wan
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Randall Park, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B

Born to a human man and the Queen of Atlantis, Arthur Curry has grown up always knowing he was of two vastly different worlds. In the aftermath of joining the Justice League and assisting them, Arthur has been helping fight crimes in the oceans and seas, earning himself the name of Aquaman. However, after a woman named Mera arrives and tells Arthur that his younger half-brother, Orm, is planning on taking control of the divided factions of Atlanteans and waging a war on the surface world, Arthur begrudgingly accepts that the time has come for him to take his place among the Atlanteans and try to protect the surface world he loves.

One of DC’s attempts to build an integrated world in the same vein as the MCU, Aquaman is surprisingly not terrible. While it’s not perfect, it’s definitely a step in the right direction for the DCEU. The storyline is decent, and makes for a good introduction to the character, which was glossed over in his ‘Justice League’ debut, though there is an unnecessary subplot involving a character some have guessed to be the planned villain for the eventual sequel. While I’m not a huge fan of Amber Heard, she seems to do a decent job here and she has chemistry with Jason Momoa. Nicole Kidman does a good job with her small role as Arthur’s mother, Queen Atlanna, which is her first comic book role.

The special effects aren’t the best I’ve ever seen, but they’re not the worst either, and the background filler is not noticeable.

Despite the somewhat unnecessary subplot, this movie is still enjoyable. The biggest problem is that this movie came after ‘Justice League,’ which was DC’s attempt to catch up with the MCU in terms of a centralized, integrated universe, which, honestly, someone could fill a book about. Still, as more of the individual movies are made, DC gains a bit more traction back. Since it doesn’t rely heavily on previous installments, it can be watched without having seen the other ‘Justice League’-verse movies.

Aquaman is not available free to stream anywhere at the moment unless you have HBO, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Glass

Glass

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Luke Kirby, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A

After former security guard David Dunn tracks down and aids in the capture of The Horde, the savage alter ego of Kevin Wendell Crumb, he himself is arrested and placed in a mental institution with not only Crumb, but Elijah Price, the man who attempted to murder him nearly 20 years earlier. As the three are held, they are interviewed by Dr. Ellie Staple, who attempts to convince them that they do not, in fact, have super powers, and that the amazing feats they have accomplished are merely a coincidence.

The final movie in M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy is an excellent addition to the writer/director’s rocky filmmaking career. While his ending twist isn’t quite as shocking as his Sixth Sense reveal, it’s still enough to make you stop and think for a little while. Jackson and Willis slip easily back into the roles they haven’t played in two decades, and McAvoy again gives a scene-stealing performance as someone with multiple personalities. Sarah Paulson’s performance as the therapist tasked with convincing the others that there is no such thing as superheroes is well done and infused with just enough insistence to make you wonder if there’s something she’s not telling you.

The special effects are well done, and the background filler is not noticeable.

As stated before, this movie is a step towards Shyamalan’s previous status as a masterful storyteller. After years of missteps, he seems to be getting his feet back under him. Anyone who liked the previous two installments of this trilogy, ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’, should like this movie, though it’s not really necessary to watch them to enjoy it as they do a quick review of them in the movie. It should also appeal to anyone who’s a fan of the main actors, as well as anyone looking for slightly different type of action/drama.

Glass is 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.

Everything, Everything

EverythingEverything

Directed By: Stella Meghie
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, Danube Hermosillo, Dan Payne, et. al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B

Seventeen year old Maddy has been raised in near-isolation due to having a compromised immune system. With her entire world thus far consisting of her mother, nurse, on-line support group, and the books she reads, she becomes drawn to Olly, the boy who has moved in next door. At first only communicating with him through text messages and e-mail, Maddy quickly finds herself falling in love. After several weeks of messages and short meetings when her mother isn’t around, Maddy decides that she’s tired of only reading about the world, and asks Olly come with her when she runs away to experience life for herself. However, after becoming ill on her trip, Maddy receives news that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her life and her illness.

While the basic storyline is typical of most YA novels and the movies made from them, this movie does a good job of showing just how far some parents will go to keep their child safe, and gives an eerie portrayal of Munchausen-by-proxy. Beyond that, the story is a typical boy-meets-girl trope that one finds in nearly every teen book/movie. Stenberg and Robinson, both rising stars in their own right, do a good job with the material they’re given to work with, and manage to make you care about their characters. The reveal toward the end of the movie is somewhat surprising, though you can sort of see it coming if you look for the signs.

What few special effects are used are pretty good, and the background filler goes unnoticed.

Like most adaptations of YA novels, this movie is more likely to appeal to teenage girls than anyone else. While the story is interesting and well the movie is well-made, it’s still something that won’t appeal to most people. Those who do enjoy it will likely be able to watch is more than once without tiring of it.

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

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

NancyDrewHidden

Directed By: Katt Shea
Starring: Sophia Lillis, Zoe Renee, Mackenzie Graham, Andrea Anders, Laura Wiggins, Sam Trammell, Linda Lavin, Andrew Matthew Welch, et. al.
Rating: PG
Grade: A-

After moving to River Heights from Chicago following her mother’s death, Nancy Drew struggles to fit in. After one of her friends is bullied on-line, her plan to humiliate the culprit goes awry when she’s caught and forced into community service for the rest of the summer. However, she soon meets Flora, an eccentric older woman who claims that her house is haunted. Not one to ignore a mystery, Nancy agrees to look into the haunting for Flora, despite learning that her granddaughter is the girlfriend of the boy who humiliated Nancy’s friend. After experiencing the haunting for herself and finding evidence that a person is behind it, Nancy becomes determined to find out who is harassing Flora and what they want from her.

This version of Nancy Drew is far better than the previous attempt to translate the classic tween novels into a movie. It portrays Nancy as fallible and more human, instead of slightly obnoxious, overachieving perfectionist who’s always right. While it does make some significant changes from the novel (in the books Bess and George are cousins and Hannah is an elderly housekeeper instead of Carson’s sister) the movie is based on, they don’t detract from the story as a whole and shouldn’t bother anyone unless they’re a die-hard fan of the books.

The special effects are decent, and the background filler goes unnoticed.

Just about everyone should enjoy this movie. The story is interesting, and while it certainly won’t win any awards, it’s definitely better than it might seem on first glance. They manage to balance out modernizing the classic series and maintaining the mystery of the original source material. It’s also interesting enough that it shouldn’t grate on repeat viewings.

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase is currently not available free to stream, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.