Overt Violence at the Box Office

wick3

What to Watch in the Theater:
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (R) is in theaters now. This shoot ’em up sequel picks up right where Chapter 2 ended, during Wick’s one-hour head start before he’s declared excommunicado by the High Table, and the contract on his head is activated. The body count grows, as he tries to call in favors and establish new alliances. Winston and the Bowery King are punished for helping Wick, and there’s a major battle for control of the Continental. This movie is one long fight scene after another, stitched together by small plot points and questionable allegiances. The choreography becomes a bit tiresome after a while.
Our rating: 3.75 out of 5

poms

Poms (PG13) is in theaters now. Martha moves to a retirement community, essentially just to die, but decides to embark on a bucket list activity – becoming a cheerleader. She enlists the help of her neighbors, and they face a lot of obstacles on their road to a competition. This movie features some amusing, although almost caricature-ish older female characters, although Diane Keaton’s lead role is a bit of a disappointment. There’s a nice blend of old and new generations, and some good messages about friendships.
Our rating: 3 out of 5 

brightburn

Brightburn (R) opens today. This movie turns the traditional Superman origin story into a horror, with 12-year-old Brandon discovering his superhuman powers, along with the backstory his loving adoptive parents never shared with him before. As puberty hits, he secretly goes on a violent rampage in his small town, resulting in some serious gore (not suitable for anyone who is squeamish). This film moved briskly along and the story was compelling, with some good jump scares.
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):

Good Sam (TVPG) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. We follow TV news reporter, Kate, as she tries to learn the identity of the good samaritan who keeps leaving sacks of cash on the doorsteps of deserving individuals in need. In the process, she develops relationships with two men, who may or may not be directly involved in the case. Think of this as a Netflix Hallmark movie – not overly complex, but a pleasant enough watch.
Our rating: 3.33 out of 5

Plus box office results and our interview with Dreamworks animator, Simon Otto, about How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

A Journey with Purpose

hustle

What to Watch in the Theater:
The Hustle (PG13) is in theaters now. In this gender-switch re-imagining of the 1988 classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Josephine (Anne Hathaway) is a high class con artist and Penny (Rebel Wilson) is a small-time operator. When their paths cross in the south of France, they are adversaries, with each trying to get the upper hand. They work together, but ultimately come up with a winner-takes-all scam. Like the male version, their characters can be a bit annoying and over the top, but that’s the beauty of the con – you never get to see what the person is like on the inside, or do you? This is a fun movie with some good twists.
Our rating: 4.33 out of 5

dogjourn

A Dog’s Journey (PG) opens today. In this sequel, we rejoin Ethan and the reincarnated Bailey on the farm, with the addition of granddaughter CJ. Ethan gives Bailey a new purpose for his future lives – to keep CJ safe – and off we go, watching Bailey die and come back as a puppy again and again. The story is surprisingly fresh, given the repeat premise, with some new story points added to the mix. This one may have sparked even more emotions than the first, given the ties between Ethan and CJ, and Bailey’s desire to protect CJ from all the bad things life had in store for her. Make sure you have some tissues handy – this one, like the original, is a real tearjerker (but in a good way).
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Brigsby Bear (PG13) is available on DVD. In this quirky story, James has lived his whole life (20-something years) in a survival bunker, thinking the outside world was toxic. In reality, he was stolen as an infant, and his family has been searching for him. Upon his return, they learn he is obsessed with an educational TV show no one else has seen, called Brigsby Bear. It turns out his captor “father” had produced the show just for him. James sets out to find closure by producing his own Brigsby movie, with help from his new friends, and his family thinks he has issues. James is awkward, obsessive, and sometimes sweet in his naivete, and we were pretty distracted by Mark Hamill as the kidnapper.
Our rating: 3.5 out of 5

Wine Country (R) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. This movie reunites a bunch of SNL women, who play a group of friends that worked at a pizza joint when they were young. They get together in Napa to celebrate one friend’s 50th birthday, and we learn about their issues and personalities. It’s a little predictable that there are communication issues and bad feelings grow within the group, till they get to the breaking point. There’s a bit of raunch, a lot of foul language, and a lot less comedy than this group is capable of.
Our rating: 1.83 out of 5

Plus box office results and our interview with Annie Award-winning Dreamworks animator, Thomas Grummt, about How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

PG Fare Rules the Week

uglydolls

What to Watch in the Theater:
UglyDolls (PG) is in theaters now. Moxy is living her best life in Uglyville, looking forward to the day she finally gets to belong to a child. When she and her friends try to find the wide world, they end up at the Institute of Perfection, which is led by the evil Lou. They are bullied and made to feel that they don’t belong anywhere, but make some new friends who can see that their differences are what makes them unique. There are great messages about loving yourself and embracing your uniqueness, though they are sometimes overshadowed by the emphasis on achieving perfection. The messages are mixed, with the positivity fighting its way through, possibly a little late for young attention spans. Talented voice cast and catchy music add to the bright visuals, for an overall enjoyable ride, with a few bumps along the way.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

detpik

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (PG) opens today. After Tim learns his estranged father has passed away, he meets up with Pikachu, who can actually converse with him! Pikachu is certain his partner (Tim’s dad) is alive, so he and Tim do some sleuthing, along with a young reporter who’s been sniffing around. Their adventure includes danger, a whole lot of Pokemon characters, and some twisty-ness. We were concerned about our lack of Pokemon knowledge at the start, but were still able to connect with and enjoy the story. Plus Pikachu is just so darn cute! This one’s got everything – action, humor and heart. (Our rating would have been higher if we were Pokemon fans. Pikachu is the only one we know, so the representation of other characters is really lost on us. True fans at the screening seemed very excited about seeing their favorites on screen.)
Our rating: 4 out of 5 

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (R) is available on DVD and streaming on Amazon Prime. This story, about a young writer who disappears after finding early success, started a bit slowly, and was a little confusing because it’s told in flashback over three time periods. Once we figured that out, it became more compelling, as major plot points and surprises were revealed. Logan Lerman plays the title character well at different ages, with a strong supporting cast.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5

The Last Summer (TV14) is streaming exclusively on Netflix. This movie is about a bunch of high schoolers during their summer between high school and college. They’re a likable bunch, whose paths intertwine through relationships and the parties they attend. Of course, their actions don’t always make sense, but they make the best choices they can. It’s an entertaining story, following several plot lines over a short period of time. Popular “teen” actors, like Maia Mitchell, KJ Apa, Tyler Posey, Jacob Latimore, and Halston Sage are part of the cast.
Our rating: 3.33 out of 5

Plus box office results, movie news, what’s new on DVD and Blu-Ray, and Disney’s newly released movie slate.

Fitting the Pieces Together Nicely

endgame

What to Watch in the Theater:
Avengers: Endgame (PG13) is in theaters now. Giving a spoiler-free review of this movie is next to impossible, but we try. The first scene shows another view of the effects of “the snap” featured at the end of Infinity War, and then we see the remaining Avengers dealing with the aftermath and how to bring the rest back. Time passes, with some moving on and others finding that impossible. Then there’s a new piece to the puzzle, and we’re off on a new adventure, with renewed hope. This movie didn’t feel like it was 3 hours long. It was full of action and emotion, with some expected – and quite a few unexpected – outcomes. It serves as a fitting conclusion to 22 films over 11 years. Stan Lee would be proud. Now, to watch the entire saga again, from start to finish!
Our rating: 4.83 out of 5

longshot

Long Shot (R) opens today. The pairing of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen had us concerned, but it totally works. She’s a classy workaholic who is Secretary of State (about to announce her presidential candidacy) and he’s a shlumpy outspoken journalist. This is probably Seth’s most likable (and smartest) character to date, keeping the awkwardness but losing just enough of the stoner personality. Charlotte’s accidental reunion with Fred ignites an interesting relationship, when she hires him to write speeches for her, and accompany her on a tour to promote and environmental initiative. As their romance blossoms, we get lots of comedic moments, some great chemistry and great messages about making choices in life. This is a fun one!
Our rating: 4.67 out of 5 (Max’s 6 adjusted to 5 scale)

What to Watch at Home (Or Not):
Holmes & Watson (PG13) is available on DVD. Our team was split on this one, with two-thirds feeling this was a fun romp, and the other disliking Will Ferrell in this role. It’s definitely a silly re-telling of the Sherlock Holmes story, with Ferrell in the title role and John C. Reilly as a very put-upon Dr. Watson. Holmes is very self-centered, and Watson would like some recognition for the work they do. The latest case involves what Holmes claims is a copycat of his nemesis, Moriarty. The female characters from America add a nice touch, bringing a little distraction (and romance) to the case.
Our rating: 3.67 out of 5

The Last Movie Star (R) is available on DVD and Amazon Prime. This is Burt Reynolds’ final film, and it serves as a fitting swan song. Former box office draw, Vic Edwards, decides to accept an honor in person at a film festival in Tennessee. Upon arrival, he discovers it’s not the prestigious event he expected, and pulls out of the event. With an unlikely sidekick, Lil (played by Ariel Winter), he revisits parts of his past and rediscovers his fans. Clips of Burt’s earlier films are included, as part of the film festival, daydreams, and there’s even a clever film where Vic converses with his younger self. It’s a beautiful homage to a man who was truly a movie star.
Our rating: 4 out of 5

Plus box office results, movie news, what’s new on DVD and Blu-Ray, and what Netflix and Hulu have to offer in May.