ALNM Rating: 5/5
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.
Available to watch: In theaters now
Review: I’m going to be straight forward. This is one of the best movies Marvel has ever come out with and one of the best movies I have seen in a while. I’m sure we will be talking about this on the podcast in the near future, and I’ll try to be spoiler free, but this film was able to successfully combine a strong self-contained story, charismatic characters, and (finally) a complex memorable villain in a way Marvel often isn’t able to do. I could devote an entire episode of the podcast to Michael B. Jordan, his portrayal of Erik Killmonger, and how he and Chadwick Boseman stand shoulder to shoulder as compelling leading men. The women of the film are complicated and badass and deserve all the movies, short films, and comics Marvel can devote to them. What really drew me in was the way this fantasy film was able to tie itself into our real world and its real issues in order to make it feel grounded and to make us feel emotionally invested. On a superficial level, the movie is gorgeous. The special effects, hair, makeup, costumes, and sets all deserve praise for their depth and beauty. We could go on for days about how this is a movement beyond just another superhero movie. But we can’t forget that this is also on its own a great movie. This helps upend the misguided Hollywood belief that a film needs a straight white cis male protagonist in order to be successful. This is a movie you have to see.
ALNM Rating: 4.5/5
Directed by: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Walton Goggins, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Lofland, Katherine McNamara, Barry Pepper, [redacted], Rosa Salazar
Available to watch: In theaters now
Review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure is exactly the movie fans of the series have been waiting for for over two years. I'm not going to delve into too much detail here, because we'll be devoting an episode of the podcast to this, but rest assured it is worth the price of admission. The action sequences have taken a serious step up from the previous two films starting from the very first scenes of the movie. The growth of Dylan O'Brien's range as an actor is on full display, and it is clear that Rosa Salazar is a star in the making. As always, Thomas Brodie-Sangster brings a special kind of heart to the film with his seemingly effortless transformation into Newt while Ki Hong Lee brings the kind of intensity you want in an action hero. Some of my favorite comedic beats involve a certain surprise character I won't mention here. All in all, the movie was thrilling from beginning to end. But head into the movie prepared, because there were several significant moments I found myself wishing I had brought some tissues.
by Kelly Lee
ALNM Rating: 5/5
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, and Connie Nielsen
Available to watch: Anywhere you can purchase or rent movies
Review: In this movie that inspires ladies of all ages, Gal Gadot steps into the Wonder Woman boots as Diana of Themyscira who courageously protects her people and travels with stranded American soldier Steve Trevor onto the battlefront of World War I to find Ares, the God of War. Prior to its release, this film received much hype and definitely delivered an epic superhero movie filled with great acting and female empowerment. Diana’s termination, drive, and bravery are shown through Gadot in a role that she was born to play. Diana learns much about the world around her and the people she had never encountered before. This film is not to be missed. If you didn’t get a chance to see it in cinemas, I highly recommend renting, buying, or watching it in any way that you can!
P.S. You’re welcome, Christina. I *finally* did that Wonder Woman review you’ve been asking for since last summer.
by Kelly Lee
ALNM Rating: 3.5/5
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Rhys Darby, Bobby Cannavale
Available to watch: In cinemas since December 22, 2017
Review: Although this looks like a really goofy movie from the trailers, you have to admit that anything with The Rock in it has to be at least a little bit entertaining. With the help of Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, and comedians Jack Black and Kevin Hart, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is fun, hilarious, and just the kind of movie you need to have a carefree holiday season. For fans of the original Jumanji film from 1995, there is a beautiful tribute to Alan Parrish (who was played by the late Robin Williams) in the film as well. There are a few other nods to the original film and a few from the book by Chris Van Allsburg, too. If you need a little escape from reality and a good laugh, this is a movie that is not to be missed!
ALNM Rating: 4.5/5
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy
Available to watch: At home
Review: Dunkirk is an incredible feat of visual storytelling. I'm sure it was even more of a masterpiece in theaters. I understand why some people considered it on the slow side, but this was a war movie built on small moments of humanity rather than action and explosions. This is the type of movie you hold up as an example when you want to talk about well-crafted films. There was not a weak performance in a cast of award winning veterans, like Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance, and promising newcomers, like Fionn Whitehead. Definitely a must watch.
What is it: In the third try for a successful Spider-Man movie, Tom Holland (The Impossible, Billy Elliot) steps into Spidey’s blue and red tights as 15-year-old Peter Parker. The story picks up directly after the introduction of Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. Fast forward two months and Peter is back in New York living with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei, The Big Short, Crazy Stupid Love) and working nights as Spider-Man, calling it an internship with Tony Stark. With the help of his best friend, Ned (newcomer Jacob Batalon), Peter must take on the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton, Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, Batman) as well as the trials and tribulations of being a freshman in high school with a massive crush on the most popular girl in school.
My experience: I was lucky enough to be able to see this movie with two best friends, once in 3D and once in regular format. As I am not a fan of 3D, I enjoyed the regular format much better and was able to catch more things the second time around. Tom Holland gave a convincing performance as the youngest Peter Parker onscreen, but my favorite was Donald Glover who played Aaron Davis, the uncle of future Spider-Man, Miles Morales. His comedic timing and love of his nephew really add some great moments to the movie, despite the fact that he has such a small part. I am hoping that he will play a bigger role in future films.
Why you should see it: This movie has been out for awhile. In fact, if you’ve been listening to our podcasts, Christina has been bugging me to finish this movie review for about two months now. If you haven’t already seen the movie, I’m sure you’ve heard all about it. However, it is coming to DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital HD very soon and if you missed it, I suggest you see it right away! Definitely a summer movie that should not be missed.
The future: There is already a sequel set for 2019 with Tom Holland, Jacob Batalon, and Zendaya attached. In the meantime, you can catch Tom Holland in next year’s Avengers: Infinity War alongside Homecoming castmates Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Michael Keaton will be starring in 2019’s live-action version of Disney’s Dumbo as V.A. Vandermere and Donald Glover has two huge roles in the next few years, first playing the young Lando Calrissian in 2018’s A Star Wars Story: Han Solo and then Simba in Disney’s live-action version of The Lion King set for 2019. Don’t worry, there will be lots more from all of these actors in the future!
What Is It: The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the 1960 western starring Yul Brynner and Steven McQueen, which itself was a remake of the 1954 Akira Kurosawa classic Seven Samurai. These seven are an updated multiracial cast for a modern America, lead by Denzel Washington and directed by Antoine Fuqua. The basic premise of seven guns for hire coming together to protect a town remains the same.
My Experience: I have been anxiously awaiting this movie since it was announced way back with a completely different cast. I love the original film and even the two season television series on CBS very few of you probably watched. I love westerns. However, this was the first western I had seen in theaters and was a little startled by the audience being a much older demographic than I'm used to. The movie had technical issues to begin, so we were treated to a trailer for Deepwater Horizon with audio from an ad for the Metropolitan Opera. But the action sequences on the big screen were definitely worth the wait.
Why You Should See It: If you like westerns, this will not disappoint you. There isn't a complicated plot or a ton of character development, but it's fun. The characters are mostly likeable and all interesting. Chris Pratt of course rides in with swagger and charisma to spare. It really plays out like a superhero film set in the old west with a good and a bad side fighting it out in one big battle. The stunts are something to behold though. The entire film is visual eye candy.
The Future: The original The Magnificent Seven film inspired some awful sequels, but there's been no word yet on whether Sony will be taking the same route with this one. Hopefully it does inspire a resurgence of the Western genre.
On April 14th, I saw a smart, well crafted, action packed movie that delved into the practical and moral complications of increased government oversight. Also crucial to the film was the storyline of a war hero attempting to protect his best friend from those who want to punished him for acts committed while he was a tortured and brainwashed prisoner of war.
Oh yeah, and there were superpowers.
Captain America: Civil War is a great film. I’m not sure how big a grain of salt you should take that with considering I am a completely unabashed Captain America fan. But judging by the reactions of the audience in my theater, Marvel has a huge hit on their hangs. It’s a movie with a plot rooted so firmly in basic human emotion that it could work without all the enhanced beings. But because it is these superheroes we have grown to care about since Robert Downey Jr. made his debut as Iron Man in 2008, the emotional punches the movie throws have even more of an impact. The movie counts on you caring about Captain America not because he’s an icon, but because he’s a human being you can relate to and have been relating to for years.
STAR WARS - EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (SPOILER-FREE) REVIEW....and yes, we promise it's SPOILER-FREE
What Is It: The Force Awakens is the seventh film in the ongoing Star Wars saga. It picks up 30 years after the events of 1983's Return of the Jedi where the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker has gone missing and the First Order has taken over and they are desperate to find and destroy him. General Leia Organa has the help of the Republic behind her as she sends her best pilot to the desert planet of Jakku in search of her missing brother.
My experience: Yes, I'm one of those people who saw this movie in costume on opening night and I had been waiting for this momentous occasion for years. In case you haven't already guessed from our entire episode devoted to Star Wars, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. Seeing this movie opening night with all the fans is truly an experience that cannot be described. From cheering filling the theatre at the sight of the opening logos to the genius music of John Williams and the opening crawl, excitement never dwindled. There were cheers for the return of old characters like Han Solo and Chewbacca as well as excitement for the new characters like Rey, Poe, Finn, and little BB-8. By the time the climax of the movie happened, the entire theatre was at the edge of their seats, anxious to see what would happen next. And, of course, when the film finally ended, no one wanted it to. Now we just can't wait for the next one.
Why You Should See It: The Force Awakens is already smashing box office records: most tickets sold on Fandango ever, biggest opening night, fastest from $100M to $200M, and, of course, highest grossing opening weekend. It blew the record previously held by this summer's Jurassic World out of the water and is now poised to be the highest grossing movie of all time. It has currently made $238 million in the US alone and $517 million worldwide. If that's not impressive enough, just talk to your friends, co-workers, and fellow nerds and they are sure to tell you that it will not disappoint. The Force Awakens had so many hopes riding on it and in my personal opinion, J.J. Abrams did his best to please the fans and it has been well-received. We were not only flocking to the theatre this weekend, but some of us are already going back for our second, third, and even FOURTH viewings of the movie. Suffice it to say that this holiday season, this is the movie that everyone at your family dinner will be talking about. If you haven't seen it yet, you're bound to get it spoiled or be shunned at family dinners.
The Future: Disney has really taken the Star Wars franchise and run with it, promising to release a new adventure every year until at least 2019. The first spin-off film Star Wars: Rogue One is due out next year on December 16, 2016. It is directed by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and stars Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), and Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler). And in only 521 days, Star Wars: Episode VIII will be released on the 40th anniversary of the release of A New Hope. It will be written and directed by Looper's Rian Johnson. We wish him the best of luck. J.J. Abrams really hit it out of the park. We can also look forward to Episode XI and a Han Solo origin story already in the works.
What Is It: Spectre is the twenty-fourth James Bond film from Eon Productions and the fourth with Daniel Craig in the title role. Returning characters include Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw), and M (Ralph Fiennes). The plot is driven by Bond attempting to determine the secrets behind an unknown organization with a sinister agenda while M struggles with keeping MI6 relevant in the modern age of drones and cyber warfare.
My Experience: I can honestly say I haven't been in a theater that crowded probably since I saw the midnight showing of Star Trek: Into Darkness. It was the opening weekend and the theater was nearly packed. The average age of the crowd skewed a bit older than most of the movies I see, but that's to be expected of a James Bond film. Most of the jokes seemed to land, which was something else I haven't seen in the theater in a while, and the audience appeared appropriately awed by the admittedly impressive cinematography. I didn't feel much of a draw to any of the new characters, but the returning characters from previous films came back stronger than ever. Unfortunately for me I wasn't impressed by Christoph Waltz's villain. The relationship between Bond and Léa Seydoux's Dr. Madeleine Swann also felt forced in most of the film.
Why You Should See It: One of the best compliments I can give the film is that, despite being two and a half hours, it never felt long. I'm sure there were some harsh editing choices that could have been made, but I was completely fine with the length of the film. It was an enjoyable outing by Bond even if it wasn't as game-changing or well formed as its predecessor Skyfall. Daniel Craig finally getting to embrace some of the more comedic parts of Bond and the expanded role of Q were particular high points for me.
The Future: What we know is the franchise will continue and development on the next film will begin early next year. Whether Daniel Craig will be returning and what the film will be about is still up in the air.