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Archives for : Universal Pictures

Movie Review: “M3GAN” is a Fun Start to the New Year

After so many heavy award contenders, it’s nice to have a fun palette cleanser like the new sci-fi/thriller, “M3GAN”. January is known to be dump month. So going into this film, I had no expectations but to hopefully have a good time. Luckily, the film turned out to be a whole lot of deadly fun.

Chucky, you’ve met your match. It’s the model 3 generative android, aka M3GAN for short. She is a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. She’s a life-like doll that listens, teaches, and looks after the child she has bonded with. However, when it comes to protecting her owner, M3GAN may go off program and leave a bloody mess behind.

In the film, Allison Williams stars as Gemma, a brilliant roboticist who is obsessed with her job and perfecting the AI for her company’s new toy. Unfortunately, a terrible accident leaves her responsible for her 8-year-old niece, Cady (Violet McGraw). She rushes her newest project so that M3GAN can take on the responsibilities of a guardian that she doesn’t want to be bothered with. But soon M3GAN takes her role to the extreme, and Gemma must do everything she can to deactivate the AI for good.

This hilarious, campy horror is written by Akela Cooper and James Wan; and directed by Gerald Johnstone. It has all the makings for an instant horror classic. The film provides the similar thrills and humor of “Child’s Play”, while adding its own original spin. “M3GAN” is self-aware and embraces the silliness of its premise. Though, the plot is ridiculous, the film also has a lot of heart by exploring grief and its impact on children, as well as people’s dependency on technology. There is a reason why these AI’s shouldn’t replace parents, and at some point, children need to outgrow their toys.

“M3GAN” is a comical story with some foolish scenes, but man, is it one hell of a good time! From her random dance break to her creepy spider crawl chase, you’ll be laughing and shuddering at the thought of M3GAN as your new best friend.

Rating: B+

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Movie Review: “The Fabelmans” Brings out Michelle Williams Best Performance Yet

We already knew that Steven Spielberg hadn’t lost his touch after his remarkable remake of “West Side Story”. But in his newest drama, “The Fabelmans”, he pulls from his own personal experience as he digs at the family roots that helped shape him into the iconic filmmaker.

If I am being completely honest, as a little kid, the only director I knew of was Spielberg. His films are such a huge part of my upbringing. I don’t think I even understood completely what a director did until I put a face to the creator of “E.T.” and “Jaws”. As we all know, he has an amazing resume of monumental films. So, to get a chance to peep into what started his craft and an insight into his family, is a true honor.

In “The Fabelmans”, we follow Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) from a young boy through college as he navigates family drama while chasing his dream of making movies. Without giving too much away, the biggest drama stems from Sammy’s mother, Mitzi (Michelle Williams). She’s naturally the more melodramatic member of the family. She’s an artist/pianist who encourages Sammy to embrace his creativity. Her children adore her free-spirited, performative behavior, while also admiring their father’s (Paul Dano) intelligence. They actually come off as the perfect family, until Sammy takes a closer look through his lens and sees flaws in his parents’ marriage. This and other trials and tribulations will prove to mold Sammy into a stronger man and help him find solace in his films.

The story is told through fantastic performances by the entire cast.  The standout is LaBelle, who I expect we will be seeing plenty more of after such an authentic and vulnerable portrayal of the young director. And easily one of the best performances of the year, Williams as Mitzi. Your feelings about her may be conflicting at first, but by the end, she’s the one you won’t be able to stop thinking about. Such a layered character we have the pleasure of diving into. Mitzi is a loving, and at times erratic mother whose behavior is “unique”. However, she’s absolutely mesmerizing. Williams deserves an obvious nomination, if not a win for this role.

Now, I may sound like a broken record with this one negative, but the film could have been about 30 minutes shorter and been just as effective. However, the characters are engaging enough to distract you from the runtime.

“The Fabelmans” serves as an ode to the power of filmmaking. Movies have the ability to make people feel what you want them to, and through that you can ignite emotions of laughter, fear, joy, love, and so much more. Spielberg was gifting us with his movie-magic, while also using his art as a therapeutic escape. “The Fabelmans” is a rare gem for movie buffs and an enjoyable film for the whole family.

Rating: A-

Movie Review: “Halloween Ends”

The newest “Halloween” trilogy comes to an end. This week I review reviews “Halloween Ends” and let audiences know if it’s worth the watch!

“Halloween Ends” is currently playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock.

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Movie Review: “Ticket to Paradise” is a Decent Trip w/ Scenic Sights

It’s kind of hard to say no to anything with George Clooney or Julia Roberts. But when they team up for a rom-com, I’m sold! 

“Ticket to Paradise” tells a predictable story about a divorced couple, David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts), who can barely tolerate sitting next to each other at their daughter’s law school graduation. But, when their daughter, Lily (played by Kaitlyn Dever) goes on what was supposed to be a summer trip to Bali and falls in love/gets engaged to a native named Gede (Maxime Bouttier); David and Georgia put their differences aside to stop the wedding.

Like most romantic comedies, I’m sure you see where this story is going. When it comes to rom-coms, it’s not the predictability that is the issue, it’s whether or not we are served a fresh perspective and/or a handful of laughs. “Ticket to Paradise” offers nothing new story wise and, sadly, not a whole lot of laughs.

The film’s runtime is around an hour and 40 minutes, but the pacing is a lot slower compared to other films in that genre. This is due to the lack of comedy. The best moments are when Clooney and Roberts are at each other’s throats. Their disdain for each other is funny, and the audience will crave more bitter banter as the two have wonderful comedic chemistry. I’m just shocked they didn’t utilize their humor more. We have seen Roberts go much bigger in past rom-coms, and it’s always a joy to see. That being said, it seems that, Director/Writer, OI Parker’s intentions with this film were to have more serious conversations with subtle humor verses the typical slapstick comedy tropes. I absolutely respect this choice, but also seems like a missed opportunity with these two stars.

What “Ticket to Paradise” does offer, is a stunning setting that’s its own character, and a charming, talented cast you can’t help but fall for. Dever and Billie Lourd team up again since “Booksmart” and continue to shine on-screen. Bouttier and the rest of the actors playing island natives are also a joy to watch. And of course, the whole purpose of this movie– George Clooney and Julia Roberts are magnetizing. I think we’d be entertained watching these two have a conversation about drywall.

There’s nothing wrong with the film, but in a year where there have been some fresh romantic comedies like, “Bros” or “I Want You Back”, it’s hard to get excited about this one.

However, with such a lovable cast, and beautiful location, “Ticket to Paradise” can be an enjoyable, lighthearted comedy to escape all the madness in our lives.

Rating: B-

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Movie Review: “Bros” is the Funniest Film of the Year!

Bros. CR: Universal

It’s crazy to think that “Bros” is the first romantic comedy about two men falling in love to be produced by a mainstream studio. It’s long overdue. But, if we had to wait this long, I’m glad we put it in the hands of Billy Eichner (Co-Writer) and Nick Stoller (Director/Co-Writer) to be the first ones to make it.

The film centers on Bobby (Eichner), a popular podcast host and LGBTQ+ historian who prides himself on being guarded and non-committal when it comes to relationships. He seems perfectly satisfied with his one-night stands and Grindr hook ups even though all the people in his life are in serious relationships. But everything changes when Bobby meets Aaron (Luke MacFarlane) at a night club. The two are total opposites. Aaron gives off meathead vibes, Ken doll looks, and a bro-like personality. However, the two are insanely drawn to each other. What starts off as a no-strings attached kind of fling, quickly turns into something much deeper. But like any romcom, the couple face some obstacles that will challenge their newfound romance.

In addition to the film’s historic romantic storyline, the movie also features and entirely LGBTQ+ cast. And it’s entertaining to watch some of those characters poke fun at their own current identity politics. “Bros” goes beyond the surface level romcom with its conversation about the importance of LGBTQ+ historical figures. It will likely spark a debate about what age children should learn about these figures, but the way the film handles this topic is one of my favorite parts of the movie.

“Bros” does follow the typical romcom formula with many familiar tropes, which are well done and nice to see in theaters again. What’s also great to see is the chemistry between Eichner and MacFarlane. The banter between the two of them is exciting foreplay, and the romance it leads to actually brought back the butterflies I use to feel from 90’s romcom classics. Not to mention, the two of them are fantastic actors. MacFarlane throws a nod to his “Hallmark” movies resume, but proves he deserves to be on the big screen. And Eichner is more than a supporting role or “Billy on the Street”, he’s a damn good leading man!

I should add, the film is produced by the one and only, Judd Apatow. Meaning, yes, it holds all the same magic that his previous, successful romcoms had, like “Knocked Up” and “Trainwreck”. “Bros” is just as raunchy, original, and HILARIOUS! The laugh out loud moments are greatly due to the witty screenplay.

“Bros” is an important watch for many reasons, but it’s also an incredibly fun one. I highly encourage moviegoers see this one in theaters and spread the word! Also, can we get started on a “Bros 2”?

Rating: A+

Check out my interview w/ the stars, Billy Eichner and Luke MacFarlane in the video below!

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“Bros” Interview w/ Billy Eichner and Luke MacFarlane

I got the chance to sit down with the stars of the new, groundbreaking romantic comedy, “Bros.” Billy Eichner and Luke MacFarlane discuss a time they tried to impress a significant other and what the representation in this film means to them. They also answer some rapid fire questions related to the movie in this hilarious and fun interview!

“Bros” opens in theaters on September 30, 2022.

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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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