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Archives for : Universal Pictures

Movie Review: “Nope” & “Where the Crawdads Sing”

This week I review Jordan Peele’s latest sci-fi horror, “Nope” and the film adaption of the Delia Owens’ best-selling novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing”.

“Nope” and “Where the Crawdads Sing” are currently playing in theaters.

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Movie Review: “Jurassic World: Dominion” is an Overambitious Mess

We’ve come a long way since the first “Jurassic Park” (1993). And by that, I mean we’ve gone down, WAY down. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Jurassic Park movies. I didn’t mind the forgettable third film, but it wasn’t good.

Then, director Colin Trevorrow decided to reboot the franchise with a film about what would have happened if the park actually opened, and it was a promising start. “Jurassic World” had a simple plot, it was relevant, and a whole lot of fun. However, that slight spike plummeted after the tragedy that was “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”, and now has officially crashed after the unfortunate end to this trilogy.

“Jurassic World Dominion” had all the potential with the return of original cast and the idea of what happens now that the dinosaurs from the park are out in the real world living among us. But somehow, they managed to take that potential and squander it with a convoluted plot, redundant dinosaur scares, and forced, corny dialogue.

In “Jurassic World Dominion”, we are seeing the effect of dinosaurs being part of our world.  There are basically two stories going on; one follows Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) as they try to protect their sort of daughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), from those who want to study her genetic make-up. All the while, Ellie (Laura Dern), Alan (Sam Neill), and Ian (Jeff Goldblum) unite to investigate the shady dealings at BioSyn which is now run by another Jurassic Park character, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Genetic experimentation done by BioSyn has created an “ecological disaster” that might destroy the world’s food chain.

I’m not sure how much the plot matters here. Trevorrow clearly just wanted a reason to show off the dinosaurs and provide enough nostalgia for fan service.

It seems Trevorrow bit off more than he can chew. He had all the key ingredients to serve up a satisfying conclusion, but somehow, he didn’t create the right recipe. Though I’m sure he put a lot of effort into this script, he missed a huge opportunity to better connect the original characters with the new ones; and failed to deliver a screenplay that had us invested in them. Any sort of “development” is rushed, and the emotions that are supposed to feel impactful are never earned. The cast and this franchise deserved so much more from this “grand” finale.

Though “Jurassic World Dominion” isn’t a roaring success, it does rumble out some joy. Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcom is hilarious. The man is effortlessly entertaining. And of course, the dinosaurs! The kid in me still enjoys seeing the different dinos running around and terrorizing on screen. But I don’t think this morsel of fun justifies the two and half hours of chaos and confusion.

The only takeaway from “Jurassic World Dominion” is that the franchise is ready for extinction.

Rating: D+

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You can also watch my ICTN review of the film along my thoughts of “Ozark” Season 4 in the video below!

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Review: “Firestarter” & “Candy”

This week I review the remake of a Stephen King classic, “Firestarter” and Hulu’s new crime drama series, “Candy”.

“Firestarter is currently playing in theaters and “Candy” is available to stream on Hulu.

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THE BAD GUYS – FREE Virtual Activity Kit

THE BAD GUYS is in theaters Friday, April 22, 2022. To celebrate, Universal Pictures and DreamWorks has created a FREE downloadable virtual activity kit!

Link to virtual activity kit:
TheBadGuys_ActivityPack_Complete.pdf (dreamworks.com)

Nobody has ever failed so hard at trying to be good as The Bad Guys.

In the new action comedy from DreamWorks Animation, based on the New York Times best-selling book series, a crackerjack criminal crew of animal outlaws are about to attempt their most challenging con yet—becoming model citizens. 

Never have there been five friends as infamous as The Bad Guys—dashing pickpocket Mr. Wolf (Academy Award® winner Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), seen-it-all safecracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron, GLOW), chill master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson, Hot Tub Time Machine franchise), short-fused “muscle” Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos, In the Heights) and sharp-tongued expert hacker Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians), aka “Webs.” 

But when, after years of countless heists and being the world’s most-wanted villains, the gang is finally caught, Mr. Wolf brokers a deal (that he has no intention of keeping) to save them all from prison: The Bad Guys will go good. 

Under the tutelage of their mentor Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade, Paddington 2), an arrogant (but adorable!) guinea pig, The Bad Guys set out to fool the world that they’ve been transformed. Along the way, though, Mr. Wolf begins to suspect that doing good for real may give him what he’s always secretly longed for: acceptance. So when a new villain threatens the city, can Mr. Wolf persuade the rest of the gang to become … The Good Guys? 

The film co-stars Zazie Beetz (Joker), Lilly Singh (Bad Moms) and Emmy winner Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). 

Based on the blockbuster Scholastic book series by Aaron Blabey, The Bad Guys is directed by Pierre Perifel (animator, the Kung Fu Panda films), making his feature-directing debut. The film is produced by Damon Ross (development executive Trolls, The Boss Baby, co-producer Nacho Libre) and Rebecca Huntley (associate producer, The Boss Baby). The executive producers are Aaron Blabey, Etan Cohen and Patrick Hughes.

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Movie Review: “Marry Me” Plays a Great Beat, but Fails to Make a Hit

As a rom-com lover I am so torn on my feelings for Universal Picture’s new film, “Marry Me”. I wanted this movie to give me the same feels that Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant created in “Notting Hill”. Sure, it wasn’t the most realistic plot, but their chemistry sold it. Sadly, the only spark in this film is ignited through the music.

I would like to preface this by saying, I think both Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson have done wonderful in other romantic comedies (i.e., “The Wedding Planner” & “Wedding Crashers”). Unfortunately, they just aren’t a great match.

In “Marry Me”, Kat Valdez (Lopez), a pop superstar is set to wed a sexy singer named Bastian (played by Colombian sensation Maluma) live on TV for millions of people to see. Just before the nuptials, news breaks out that her fiancé cheated on her with her assistant. She is shocked, embarrassed, and at a loss. As she stares at her adoring crowd, she spots single dad, Charlie (Wilson), holding a “Marry Me” sign. She brings him on stage for an unexpected exchange of “I do”. What follows is the most cliché rom-com formula. They give the marriage a chance for appearances and fall in love during the process. But of course, their relationship isn’t easy. Kat is more than just a famous singer. She also markets products, and is constantly being filmed for social media. Charlie doesn’t even own a smartphone, and leads a simple life as a math teacher and father.

I don’t mind that the film is predictable. Every rom-com pretty much is, and there’s great comfort in that genre because of it. However, in order to keep these movies fresh, at the very least there needs to be a sliver of a spark between the couple we’re supposed to root for. I honestly would have been fine if Kat just ended up single making hit pop songs. She seemed more passionate about that than her relationship with Charlie. And sadly, the script did not do the cast any favors. There was not enough humor, excitement, or intrigue.

Despite all the negatives I’m saying about the film, there was still some bright spots. The diverse cast at the school gave representation of all kinds of children and teachers. Sarah Silverman playing Charlie’s coworker and friend produced multiple laughs. The music was fantastic! I’ve already ordered my soundtrack (Yes, it’s that catchy). And the brightest light of them all is the charismatic JLo. She may not have sold me on her love for Owen, but she sold me on her love for herself. As a producer on the movie, Lopez also portrays a character much like the real her; divorced three times, a pop sensation, a badass dancer, and her life is constantly on display for the world. You can’t help but admire her ability to poke fun at herself, but also show her strength.

“Marry Me” may not have had me swooning over the “romance”. However, the film made me care more for Jennifer Lopez as an artist and human being. So, not quite the Valentine’s Day movie you’re hoping for, but might satisfy the JLo fans.

Rating: C

“Marry Me” opens in theaters and streams on Peacock February 11, 2022

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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

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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

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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

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