Rough Night

RoughNight

Rough Night

Directed By: Lucia Anellio
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Galzer, Kate McKinnon, Paul W. Downs, Ty Burrell, Demi Moore, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: C

Five friends get together for a bachelorette weekend in Miami. Just as the night is getting started, however, they accidentally kill the stripper hired for the party, and spend the rest of the night attempting to cover it up. All the while, their friendships are tested and truths are brought to light.

As hard as it tries, Rough Night just isn’t that funny. The moments that are supposed to show the women as wild and/or quirky, but mostly they come off as immature. Despite the fact that the actresses have a decent chemistry, most of the humor falls flat, especially since the characters are supposed to be in their 30s at the time. The few humorous moments that do appear are mostly courtesy of Kate McKinnon, who seems to be one of the few bright spots in the movie since she puts her all into her role. Scarlett Johansson, for all of her dramatic and action talents, doesn’t handle the comedy well, and she and Zoe Kravitz seem to wish they were anywhere but in the movie. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore phone in their performances as the oversexed, open-marriage neighbors, and seem to have put the majority of their time into making the other actors as uncomfortable as possible.

There are no obvious special effects in the movie, with most of it being used as background filler.

Unfortunately, Rough Night isn’t very good. It got a few bonus points for Kate McKinnon’s performance, and a sweet side story involving the main character and her fiancee, who mishears part of a phone call and, thinking she wants to break up, rushes down to Miami to win her back. However, it’s still not quite enough to warrant spending a significant amount of money on this one.

Rough Night is not available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Girls Trip

GirlsTrip

Girls Trip

Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Mike Colter, Larenz Tate, Kate Walsh, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A

When four estranged friends reunite for a weekend trip to New Orleans during the Essence Festival, they rediscover their old wild ways, and attempt to strengthen their failing friendships. Also on the trip, they discover new love, and find out that their lives and the lives of their friends aren’t as perfect as they seem.

Girls Trip is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while. The comedy tends to shift between physical, situational, and actual jokes. Everyone handles the comedy well, and the actresses who play the four main characters have a decent chemistry. Tiffany Haddish definitely stands out, though. She has great comic timing, and manages to pull off some of the more outrageous comedic moments. There are a couple moments of bathroom humor, but the movie manages to avoid it for the most part. There’s also a little drama added in, and it works well for the storyline, with the more emotional, dramatic moments evening out the general, overall humor used.

There are no obvious special effects in the movie, with the most noticeable instances used in a couple of concert scenes, with the rest used as background filler.

Anyone looking for a laugh should like Girls Trip. The story is incredibly well done, and the actors all work well together. It doesn’t require much attention to follow the storyline, but it should hold your attention anyway.

Girls Trip is not available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Lady Bird

LadyBird

Lady Bird

Directed By: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson wants nothing more than to be extraordinary and live a life filled with adventure, glamour, and art. Unfortunately, she feels like the way she’ll achieve that is to leave her hometown of Sacramento as soon as she graduates high school in the fall. She spends most of her senior year trying to figure out how to go to one of her dream colleges on the East Coast while attempting to navigate her family and friendships.

Lady Bird is an honest, earnest coming of age story told beautifully through the eyes of Saoirse Ronan’s titular character. A perfectly imperfect typical teenager, Lady Bird is selfish, self-centered, a bit more than slightly rebellious, and nowhere near as cool as she wants to be. Setting the movie in 2002 is a bit odd, especially since there wasn’t anything particularly special about that year, but it doesn’t detract from the story in anyway. It’s not really noticeable until you start hearing outdated songs since hair and clothing styles haven’t changed all that much since then. The acting is superb. Ronan perfectly captures that teenage desire to be accepted by everyone while trying to behave like she’s above it all, and Metcalf’s loving exasperation is spot on.

There are no obvious special effects in the movie, just typical background filler.

If you don’t mind a slow drama, then you’ll probably like Lady Bird. The story is incredibly well done, and the actors all work well together. And, while it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of attention to follow the storyline, it’s compelling enough that it grabs your attention anyway.

Lady Bird is available to stream with an Amazon Prime account, and it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

Winchester

Winchester

Winchester

Directed By: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
Starring: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Tyler Coppin, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B-

Loosely based on the story of Sarah Winchester, who believed so firmly that her family was being haunted by the victims of the Winchester rifles, that she bought a house in California and had 24/7 construction done on it from the day she moved in until the day she died. In this movie, the firearms company board sends Dr. Eric Price to evaluate her mental stability and determine whether she is fit to maintain her seat on the board. Shortly after arriving, Dr. Price learns that there is more truth to Sarah’s beliefs than he originally thought.

More of a dramatic thriller than a horror movie, Winchester is spooky at times, with a few genuine jump scares. The real Winchester house is fascinating in and of itself, so I found that aspect interesting. The reasons behind the constant building and rebuilding (constructing the rooms where people were killed with Winchester rifles and tearing them down once the spirits have passed on) was one of the main plot points, which focused on a particularly vengeful spirit wanting to end the Winchester legacy. I actually found the dramatic bits more interesting than the horror aspect. The history behind the house is a point of interest, but the movie doesn’t have the time to delve into just how oddly-constructed the house was.

The effects are fairly decent, mostly dealing with creating ghostly effects, and haunting-type imagery, none of which are too terribly obvious as CGI and/or practical effects.

Winchester should appeal to anyone who enjoys dramatic horror movies, and doesn’t strictly watch horror for blood and gore. If a lack of gratuitous death scenes is a nonstarter, then you may want to avoid this movie. It’s not a bad movie to watch, but it’s also not fantastic either. It serves its purpose as a not-too-scary scary movie that one can enjoy with popcorn on a Sunday afternoon.

Winchester isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

The Final Girls

FinalGirls

The Final Girls

Directed By: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Ackerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Devine, et.al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

After losing her mother in a car accident, teenager Max is convinced to attend a screening of the movie that her mother was most famous for. While there, the theater catches fire and forces Max and her friends to try and escape through a door behind the screen, and unwittingly end up in the movie they’re watching. Once there, the group rallies the film’s counselors (including one played by Max’s mom) and tries to defeat the film’s villain.

The Final Girls does its best to parody 80s slasher movies, and for the most part, it succeeds. One of the few places the movie falters is in its PG-13 rating. 80s slasher movies are mostly known for excessive amounts of blood and sex, and this movie doesn’t have much of either. There are a couple smatterings of blood, some kissing, and two watered-down stripteases. Despite the lack of defining elements from the genre it’s supposed to be parodying, the movie overall is enjoyable. The actors all have decent chemistry, and they seemed to be having fun while making the movie.

There aren’t a lot of noticeable effects in the movie. There’s a slight daylight over saturation when the teens enter the world of the movie, but that disappears once the sun goes down. There’s one explosion and a few practical effects, and anything else isn’t easily identifiable.

Since The Final Girls is PG-13 it should attract a larger audience, but horror/comedy is a tough genre to get right. For the most part, the movie succeeds, but the rating forces restraints on the horror aspect that may alienate hardcore horror fans. All in all, though, this is a good movie, and recommend it to anyone who can handle a horror in their movies.

The Final Girls isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

The Shape of Water

ShapeOfWater

The Shape of Water

Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Hewlett, et.al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

At a government facility in the 1960s, Elisa, a mute cleaning lady, and her friend discover that their facility is housing amphibian creature. Elisa quickly becomes both fascinated by and enamored with the creature, and when she learns that it’s being tortured and will be killed simply so they can study it, she risks everything to set it free.

The Shape of Water is a rare movie. It’s a high-concept, high-art, science fiction film, and therefore won’t appeal to everyone. The actors all have decent chemistry, and Sally Hawkins does an incredible job playing Elisa, the mute woman. Her facial expressions are masterfully done, and you can almost hear what her character is thinking. Doug Jones, who plays the creature, also deserves special mention, since he manages to display emotion through the layers of costume makeup he wears.

The visual effects are beautifully done. Though there aren’t a lot of obvious CGI sequences, the creature makeup, as well as the color timing to give the film a slightly greenish tint, all add to the slightly fairytale-like feel of the film.

This movie is something of a passion project for director Guillermo del Toro, and as with most of his passion projects, this falls into a similar kind of niche. Not many sci-fi/fantasy movies involve a somewhat touching inter-species romance. As such, this movie won’t appeal to everyone. If you are willing to give it a try, you’ll likely be sucked in by the beautiful cinematography. I would definitely recommend at least giving the movie a try, unless you can’t stand sci-fi movies in any capacity. It won’t be for everyone, but someone might be surprised by how much they enjoy it.

The Shape of Water isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

Game Night

GameNight

Game Night

Directed By: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemmons, et.al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

When hyper-competitive married couple Max and Annie let Max’s over-achieving brother Brooks hold a kidnapping mystery for their weekly game night with friends, they vow to finally outshine him. As the teams investigate the “kidnapping” they slowly realize that Brooks was taken by actual kidnappers instead of the actors hired by the adventure company. Their efforts to retrieve Brooks from his kidnappers send the friends on a chase across the city and puts them in increasingly wild and dangerous situations, and they soon realize that things are not what they seem.

Game Night is a fun, funny movie that should appeal to a broad audience, and there are some genuine surprise twists as the story progresses. The actors all work well together, and they all look like they’re having fun making the movie. Like with most broad comedies, the storyline isn’t that plausible, but that doesn’t really come to mind while actually watching the film.

There aren’t many noticeable effects in the movie, with only one or two sequences having anything obvious. Everything else seems to just be background filler.

As stated before, this movie should appeal to pretty much anyone looking for a laugh. There’s nothing too over the top, and it doesn’t rely entirely on bathroom humor for laughs. There’s an added bonus of an actual story to follow, so the movie doesn’t seem like a long setup to a punchline.

Game Night isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

Annihilation

Annihilation

Annihilation

Directed By: Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Benedict Wong, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A+

Loosely based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation follows Lena as she attempts to figure out what happened to her husband when he mysteriously reappears in their home after being missing for nearly a year. When her husband falls ill almost immediately after reappearing in their home, Lena is brought to a military base stationed near an iridescent veil of non-earth origin called The Shimmer, which she learns her husband was exploring when he went missing. Lena, a military-trained biologist, volunteers to explore what’s beyond The Shimmer, and joins a group of four other females, including a psychologist, a surveyor, a linguist, and an anthropologist. Once inside, the group quickly realizes that everything inside The Shimmer is being affected by it, including themselves.

Annihilation is more of a psychological thriller than it is a sci-fi monster movie. You can almost feel the tensions rising as the group goes further into The Shimmer. The actresses all have a decent chemistry and play well off one another. The story remains taught and tense right up to the end, and while the brief flashes to the past and future can be a bit jarring, but they don’t detract from the overall story. As with most psychological thrillers, there isn’t really a specific villain, per se, at least not until the last 15 or so minutes of the movie, and even then you’re not quite sure it’s real. You’ll definitely want to pay attention while watching.

The effects are fantastic. Nearly everything inside The Shimmer posses an otherworldly quality and seems to be a tad bit over saturated. While there aren’t a lot of big explosions or giant creatures, much of the movie has touches of CGI, though I suspect that much of it was achieved through set pieces as well.

If you’re a sci-fi fan or just like intense psychodramas, then this movie is definitely for you. There aren’t a lot of laughs, and the action is low-key, but the powerful, intelligent story keeps viewers interest held until the end, which leave just enough wiggle room that they could make a sequel based on the next book in the series.

Annihilation isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

Black Panther

BlackPanther

Black Panther

Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Bozeman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Letitia Wright, Angela Basset, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, et.al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A+

Black Panther, the latest home video release from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, follows T’Challa, who was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, as he attempts to settle into his new role as King of Wakanda.  Shortly after returning from a failed mission to capture Ulysses Klaue (pronounced claw), an arms dealer introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron who stole a valuable mineral, Vibranium, and set off an explosion that killed several Wakandans, T’Challa is challenged and overthrown by a man named Erik Stephens, who calls himself Killmonger, and is a long-lost cousin T’Challa never knew he had.  After his defeat, T’Challa must fight to regain his thrown and stop Killmonger from using Wakanda’s advanced technology to devastatingly attack cities across the world.

Black Panther is a great movie.  Since the MCU began their endeavor over 10 years ago, they’ve managed to change comic book movies from story-lite, action-heavy popcorn fare into compelling, character-driven stories about the (usually) human beings behind the super hero personas.  The result is a ground-breaking movie like this.  While the main villain may be a little one-note (revenge, while a common and easy motive, is a tad bit overused and is no longer as compelling as it once was), Michael B. Jordan gives his all to inject as much pain and humanity into Killmonger as he can, and for the most part, he succeeds.  All of the actors clearly have a blast in the movie.  While not filled with the cheeky humor of Thor: Ragnarok, they still get to have fun, usually at the expense of Martin Freeman’s CIA agent Everett Ross.  From what I can tell, the only main actor in the movie using their native accent is Michael B. Jordan, though my admittedly untrained ears didn’t notice anyone stepping on the ones they use.

The effects are well-done.  Marvel/Disney always make sure their graphics are top-notch, and this movie is no exception.  The CGI blends well with the scenery, and isn’t overly obvious.  They even manage to turn a horse into a rhinoceros without much difficulty.

I definitely recommend seeing this movie.  Not only is it a record-setting example of why representation in cinema matters, but it’s also an enjoyable story that’s accessible to everyone.  Those who hate comic book movies might not like it, but the general public should.  And anyone worried about not know what’s going on should breathe a sigh of relief, since this is the first Black Panther movie, and most of the characters are making their debut.

Black Panther isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

Peter Rabbit

PeterRabbit

Peter Rabbit

Directed By: Will Gluck
Starring: James Corden, Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Daisy Ridley, Sam Neill, Sia, Colin Moody
Rated: PG
Grade: B

Peter Rabbit is a modern-day telling of the stories of Beatrix Potter.  In the movie, Peter and his family live in a wooded area just outside the small British town of Windermere, where they spend their days sneaking into the vegetable garden of Old Mr. McGregor, or spending time with their human friend Bea.  After Old Mr. McGregor dies and his nephew, Thomas, inherits the property, they face a new challenge in that Bea appears to be developing feelings for the young Mr. McGregor, which incites a rivalry between Peter and Thomas.

On the whole, this movie is enjoyable.  It’s definitely more geared toward children, and they’ll probably enjoy it more than adults will, at least for the first 3/4 of the movie.  The voice actors, James Corden (Peter), Margot Robbie (Flopsy), Elizabeth Debicki (Mopsy), Daisy Ridley (Cotton-Tail), Colin Moody (Benjamin), and Sia (Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle), all play computer-generated forest creatures who interact with Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, and Sam Neill’s live-action human characters, and Robbie’s Flopsy also serves as the film’s narrator.

As stated before, adults might have a hard time getting into the movie.  There were times I found myself not rooting for the rabbits, and questioning some of the logistics of the plot, like why Bea, who’s so insistent that the rabbits and other forest creatures be able to wander wherever they please and raid the local gardens, doesn’t seem to have a garden of her own to provide for them.  Toward the end, however, once Peter and Thomas have set aside their differences, the movie becomes more enjoyable and emotionally rewarding.  Most of the animals who speak don’t seem to do it in front of humans, and much of the movie implies that the animal language isn’t even understandable to human ears, aside from a brief scene near the end in which one of the characters begins to question their sanity after hearing Peter talk.  Children will love this movie, and while the parents will only have a handful of entertaining bits until the end, it’s ultimately worth the watch, just for the adorable ending.

Live action/CG mix is a difficult thing to get right, but animation studios have made great advances since the concept was first introduced.  While the animals don’t look terribly realistic, they look real enough to not be an eyesore while watching.  Aside from said animals and a series of explosions toward the end, there aren’t any obvious special effects, though I’m sure there were some used.

Ultimately, I would recommend seeing this movie.  Your kids will most likely enjoy it, and there are a few enjoyable niblets for adults to tide them over until the end.

Peter Rabbit isn’t available to stream anywhere, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service.