Rss

  • linkedin

Archives for : Universal Pictures

Movie Review: “355” – Plenty of Action, Not Enough Excitement

It’s January; and in the movie world that means it’s “dump month”. After all the award contenders have released their films, a wave of big budget flops tend to make their debut. Don’t get me wrong, there’s the occasional good movie that makes it through. Unfortunately, Universal Pictures’ new action flick, “The 355”, is not one of them.

Jessica Chastain stars as “Mace”, a lonely CIA operative who has no loved ones in her life except for her partner, Nick (Sebastian Stan). They have been strictly platonic until one assignment, that has them playing husband and wife, abruptly gets them in bed together. Well, that assignment goes awry, and she loses an advanced technological device that must be kept out of enemy hands.

One thing leads to another and eventually, Mace teams up with her old friend Khadija (Lupita Nyong’o), an MI6 technological threats expert who used to be a field agent. Marie (Diana Kruger), a German operative who’s a tough, skilled fighter. And Graciela (Penelope Cruz), a Colombian police therapist, who accidently gets involved in this new mission.

Director and co-writer Simon Kinberg does a solid job shooting the film. There’s no shortage of action sequences and the movie looks great, but the screenplay (Co-written by Theresa Rebeck and Bek Smith) offers no excitement and there’s not enough depth to keep us invested in these characters. In fact, the one you care about the most is Graciela, who desperately just wants to home to her family. Cruz’s performance as an innocent and concerned mother makes hers the only relationship you hope gets a happy ending.

It’s easy to root for the team of women, who commit to their lackluster script, but they all deserved better. There are a lot of forced emotions between characters you don’t get to really know. Though Chastain, Nyong’o, Kruger, and Cruz do a fine job, the same cannot be said Sebastian Stan. He barely makes an effort with his character, Nick. There’s a lack of chemistry between him and Chastain, greatly due to his lethargic delivery.

There’s not much else to really say about the film and I don’t want to sit here and rip it apart. From the trailer, “The 355” looks like it will be a fun espionage thriller featuring an awesome, all-star cast. I’m sadden by the fact that it wasn’t. The film had all the right pieces to an underwhelming puzzle.

The powerhouse women in the movie are what make “The 355” a bearable watch, however, the story is forgettable and a missed opportunity with a talented cast.

Rating: C-

“The 355” opens in theaters January 7, 2022

Share

Movie Review: “Sing 2” is an Upbeat Musical Blast

Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures’ “Sing 2” may still play a familiar tune, but this time around, they crank up the music and add a few new beats to the story.

In the first film, koala bear, Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) was on the brink of having his theater shutdown until an open casting call (American Idol style) brought in various animals who were hiding their musical gift. The theater was saved! The group created a bond and a re-occurring sold out show in their small town.

The theme in “Sing” was about following your dreams and taking chances. Well, in “Sing 2”, these beloved characters are faced with the question of whether or not they are worthy of something greater.

After a talent scout dog, Suki (Chelsea Peretti), attends Buster’s reimagined “Alice in Wonderland” show; she tells him, he and his cast don’t have what it takes to make it in the big city. But that won’t stop an ambitious Buster. He gathers his crew to Redshore City (essentially Las Vegas), and they manage to sneak their way into an audition with the head of Crystal Entertainment, an intimidating white wolf named Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale). They surprisingly impress Jimmy with their spur of the moment sci-fi musical idea and mislead him to believe they know the reclusive rock legend Clay Calloway (U2’s Bono). Jimmy allows them to move forward with the show, but during rehearsals everyone seems to be facing their own obstacles. Housewife pig, Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) has to find the courage to take on the highflying stunts that come with her lead role. Rugged gorilla, Johnny (Taron Egerton) must stand up to a bullying dance teacher and prove he’s got the moves. And shy elephant, Meena (Tori Kelly) has to pull off an on-stage romance while managing her crush in real-life.

Director/writer Garth Jennings returns to make a sequel that doesn’t veer too far off from what we enjoyed about the first film, which was lovable characters performing sing-along dance numbers. “Sing 2” has a little more depth behind the melody.

As someone who is still trying to follow her dreams, this story struck a chord with me. When following any challenging career path, one of your greatest fears is that you will come to find out “you’re not good enough”. It was interesting to watch how everyone navigates this insecure thought in the movie.

One of the most endearing things about these films is the heart of its characters. Through their internal struggles they have formed a supportive friendship, and even though Buster is the most fame hungry of them all; his care for them comes first.

And U2 fans can rejoice in the moments whenever Bono is on screen. He makes a great addition to the cast and might even move audiences to tears during a heartwarming duet.

Sadly, I can’t say there’s much suspense or originality in “Sing 2”. It’s incredibly predictable. However, I don’t care! The film is much better than its predecessor. No, it won’t be able to compete with the more complex animated films this year like “Mitchell’s vs. The Machines” or “Encanto”, but it is just as fun. With so much crazy continuously going on in the world, “Sing 2” is the musical distraction the whole family can dance to.

Rating: B

Movie Review: “Dear Evan Hansen” Plays a Powerful Song

“Dear Evan Hansen” is the Tony Award winning Broadway musical that’s been adored by millions. But for some reason, the film adaption doesn’t seem to be translating to audiences.

Sadly, I have yet to see this musical on Broadway, but look forward to one day hearing the soundtrack performed live. I am clearly in the minority of my colleagues, but I enjoyed this movie. I went in completely blind. I didn’t know the storyline or a single song beforehand; maybe that’s why it was easy for me to fall for this film.

For those who also might not know anything about this premise, “Dear Evan Hansen” follows Evan (Ben Platt) – a socially awkward High School senior with an absentee father, a loving mom (Julianne Moore) who is constantly working, and not a single friend to sign the cast on his broken arm. In an effort to help with his anxiety, Evan’s therapist suggests he write a letter to himself, encouraging himself throughout the day.

On a random day at school, the brooding at times hostile student, Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan) decides to sign Evan’s cast. The sweet moment is short lived because he finds one of Evan’s letters in where it mentions Connor’s sister, Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever) – Evan’s crush. He angrily pushes Evan, steals the letter, and keeps it in his coat. The next day, Evan is called to the principal’s office where Connor’s parents (Amy Adams and Danny Pino) are waiting for him. Connor has committed suicide. The only note he had on him was Evan’s letter, which they believe Connor wrote for him. The letter paired with his signature on Evan’s cast convinces his parents that this was his one true friend. In that moment, Evan can’t help but go along with the lie. He has good intentions, but the events that follow can be tough to watch.

I’ll admit, when this film gets going and the talented cast is pouring their heart into a heavy conversation about depression, suicide, or internal struggles, it can take you out of the moment when one someone suddenly burst into song. Most of the time you forget this film is a musical until the singing starts again. However, once the music begins, and you’re actually listening to the lyrics, you’re pulled back in by the powerful message the songs have to tell. And I guess there’s backlash for Platt playing the role of a high schooler at age 27, but I’m not sure why? Adults have played High School teens for years in film and television. Platt looks the age and embodies the high anxiety, awkward character, not to mention, his voice is incredible. It’s a true gift for fans of the Broadway show to see Platt reprise this role.

The majority of the high-profile cast do a wonderful job. But praise should be given to Kaitlyn Dever who plays the role of Zoe so effortlessly. She excels in her delivery and emotion as a sister who struggles to grieve the brother that was so cruel to her.

The runtime of 2 hours and 17 minutes is a bit long, but I’m not sure what to cut out. Every scene felt vital to the story. It’s understanding not everyone will be able to bare the length of this somber tale, but the film does end on an uplifting note.

“Dear Evan Hansen” may not be a smooth track, but it provides a compelling message that is still relevant to teens today: be kind and make efforts to those kids in school who are closed off and have difficulty building relationships. I remember those students. At times I even felt like those students.

Though it won’t appeal to everyone, “Dear Evan Hansen” is an emotional and heartwarming musical.

Rating: B-

Movie Review: “A Quiet Place Part II” & “Cruella”

This week I review the highly anticipated sequel, “A Quiet Place Part 2” and Disney’s newest live action movie, “Cruella”. Followed by a preview of Universal Pictures’ “Spirit Untamed”. See which films are worth visiting the theaters.

“A Quiet Place Part 2” opens in theaters May 28, 2021

“Cruella” opens in theaters on Disney Plus Premier Access May 28, 2021

“Spirit Untamed” opens in theaters June 4, 2021

Share

Movie Review: “Nobody” – A Familiar But Fun Action-Comedy

Writer Derek Kolstad has graced us with the amazing “John Wick” movies; and for that I am forever grateful. If you don’t already know, John Wick is the badass who got ultimate revenge on those who murdered the dog his late wife left him. Each film has been an exciting thrill ride that leaves us wanting more. However, the same may not be said about Kolstad’s newest film, which feels almost too familiar.

Universal Pictures’ “Nobody” follows Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), a middle-aged family man who barely has any life left in him. His marriage is stale, his son thinks he’s a wuss, but his daughter seems to actually like him. 

His repetitive, mundane routine is shaken up when two intruders break into his home and trigger a surprising rage in Hutch. We come to find out that Hutch is not just some mild-mannered man. He has a violent past and bears the skills of a trained assassin. He has sworn a life of normalcy, so he takes the high road and lets the intruders leave. But when he goes on a mission to take back what they stole from him, he witnesses a group of drunk men harassing a young woman on a bus. He channels all his pent up anger on them and goes full “Wick”. Unfortunately, those men have powerful ties that are now looking to get revenge on Hutch and his family.

Director Ilya Naishuller does a fine job with this movie overall, but the film has it’s flaws. The obvious being you are continuously comparing it to “John Wick”. Aside from that, there is a slow start. The action doesn’t really come into play until nearly halfway. Even the break-in scene is underwhelming for what is essentially the catalyst to Hutch getting back into his “old ways”. It doesn’t even come close to the feeling you have watching John Wick’s innocent puppy get killed by those monsters. (I wanted them all to pay!). In this movie they almost make you have empathy for the intruders. Which makes the later scene of him attacking the harassers on the bus feel a bit forced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entertaining and fun to see the fight not take itself so seriously. But the entire time you’re watching, you’re wondering did these men really deserve such a blood bath?

However, it’s such a delight seeing Odenkirk in this role. He proves he is just as much of a badass as Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, and Denzel Washington. In fact, he’s the most realistic one. His minor injuries and reactions to pain makes him more human than the typical action star. The guy is a likeable character, which is more than I can say about his family.  With the exception of his father played by the great and hilarious Christopher Lloyd.

“Nobody” is short and sweet. There’s lots of value in it’s simplicity. It’s just hard to label the film as a stand out, because films like “John Wick” and “Equalizer” have done this story better. That being said, Odenkirk’s performance alone is enough to make this film worth watching.

Rating: 3/5

“Nobody” opens in theaters March 26, 2021

Share


Movie Review: “Freaky” & Preview of “The Last Vermeer”

“Freaky” is a re-make of the 70s hit comedy, “Freaky Friday” which features a mother and daughter who switch bodies. Except that the 2020 version is a comedy/horror movie, so there’s a lot of laughs and, well, a lot more blood. Susan Stephens says it’s not for the faint of heart, but there are some laugh out loud moments for horror fans. Keep watching for a preview of the historical thriller, “The Last Vermeer.”

“Freaky” is currently playing in theaters

“The Last Vermeer” opens in theaters November 20, 2020.

Share

Movie Review: “The King of Staten Island”, “7500”, & “You Should Have Left”

In the latest ICTN movie review, we check out the new film by Judd Apatow, “The King of Staten Island.” We also have a preview of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s intense, new thriller, “7500” and Kevin Bacon’s new horror film, “You Should Have Left.”

“The King of Staten Island” is available On Demand now.

“7500” is available to stream on Amazon Prime June 18th.

“You Should Have Left” is available On Demand June 19th.

Share

“The King of Staten Island” On Demand June 12

Universal Pictures’ big fancy announcement!

THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND will premiere on demand June 12.

Watch Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson’s announcement and download #TheKingofStatenIsland poster.

This summer, Judd Apatow directs Saturday Night Live breakout Pete Davidson in a bracing comedy about love, loss and laughter on Staten Island.  

Over his storied career, Judd Apatow has elevated a series of promising young comedy talents to their first major big-screen performance, including Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Amy Schumer and Kumail Nanjiani.

This summer, Apatow directs Saturday Night Live breakout Pete Davidson in a bracing comedy about love, loss and laughter on Staten Island.

Scott (Davidson) has been a case of arrested development ever since his firefighter father died when he was seven. He’s now reached his mid-20s having achieved little, chasing a dream of becoming a tattoo artist that seems far out of reach. As his ambitious younger sister (Maude Apatow, HBO’s Euphoria) heads off to college, Scott is still living with his exhausted ER nurse mother (Oscar® winner Marisa Tomei) and spends his days smoking weed, hanging with the guys—Oscar (Ricky Velez, Master of None), Igor (Moises Arias, Five Feet Apart) and Richie (Lou Wilson, TV’s The Guest Book)—and secretly hooking up with his childhood friend Kelsey (Bel Powley, Apple TV+’s The Morning Show).

But when his mother starts dating a loudmouth firefighter named Ray (Bill Burr, Netflix’s F Is for Family), it sets off a chain of events that will force Scott to grapple with his grief and take his first tentative steps toward moving forward in life.

The film also stars Steve Buscemi as Papa, a veteran firefighter who takes Scott under his wing, and Pamela Adlon (FX’s Better Things) as Ray’s ex-wife, Gina.

The King of Staten Island is directed by Apatow (Trainwreck, Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) from a script by Apatow, Davidson and former SNL writer Dave Sirus. It is produced by Apatow for his Apatow Productions alongside Barry Mendel. Together, the duo shared producing credits on the Academy Award®-nominated films The Big Sick and Bridesmaids, as well as This Is 40, Trainwreck and Funny People. The film’s executive producers are Pete Davidson, Michael Bederman and Judah Miller.

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow and Steve Buscemi

Directed by: Judd Apatow

Written by: Judd Apatow & Pete Davidson & Dave Sirus

Producers: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel

Executive Producers: Pete Davidson, Michael Bederman, Judah Miller

Movie Review: “The Hunt”, “The Invisible Man”, & “Emma”

In this time of Pandemic, diversions help keep us sane. Now, more than ever, we need the cinema. But we need a new cinema, a safe cinema, a Shelter-at-Home cinema; and so streaming comes of age. Watch my review of “The Hunt” and recommendations of two other new films available for home viewing now: “The Invisible Man” and “Emma”. Will anyone trade some popcorn for this fine half-roll of paper towels? Anyone?

“The Hunt”, “The Invisible Man”, & “Emma” are available on Amazon, Apple, YouTube, and other various On Demand platforms at a starting price of $19.99.

Share

Movie Review: “Good Boys” Delivers More than a Good Time

Do you remember your best friends from elementary school? Maybe you’re still friends with them, or maybe the extent of that friendship has come down to rare Facebook notifications? Whatever it may be, those friendships probably still hold a special place in your heart. For most of us, it was a time of discovery, curiosity, and tears; which is exactly the kind of relationship we see in the new raunchy, tween comedy, “Good Boys”.

Three sixth grade boys from an Illinois suburb find themselves conflicted when they get invited to one of the cool kid’s kissing party. The problem is, none of them know how to kiss. Love-sick Max (Jacob Tremblay) wants his first kiss to be with his crush/supposed future wife, Brixlee (Millie Davis). Straight-laced Lucas (Keith L. Williams) wants to help Max, but is going through his own struggles at home. And musically inclined Thor (Brady Noon) wants so badly to impress the popular kids, even if it means skipping a desired musical audition.

After an unsuccessful attempt at trying to look up “how to kiss” on the internet, Max and his friends foolishly decide to use his dad’s (Will Forte) drone to spy on the girl next door in hopes that she will be kissing her boyfriend. Unfortunately, Hannah (Molly Gordon) is hanging with her best friend (Midori Francis) and they aren’t happy when they discover they are being spied on. This leads to a domino effect of one disaster after another.

“Good Boys” comes off as a junior version of “Superbad”. Produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the two include the raunchy, laugh out loud comedy we’re so used to seeing. But their comedies always have something a little extra than just bathroom humor. They give their characters depth and relatability. Watching these three very innocent kids who have deemed themselves “The Bean Bag Boys” almost feels nostalgic. Whether they remind us of the short-term crushes, how naive we were to all sexual references, or how drinking a sip of beer was just about the wildest thing you could do; there’s something in this film that will be reminiscent of your childhood.

While the movie is 90 minutes of pure fun, there’s also the bittersweet reminder that friends can grow apart, especially when hitting a new stage in life (like middle school/high school). Different interests can lead you in new directions, and towards new friends that you have more in common with. It’s a harsh reality for “The Bean Bag Boys” face. Even if their friendship is short-lived, watching the bond between these boys is a joy that’s everlasting.

Rating: 4/5

“Good Boys” opens in theaters August 16.

Share