Dark Horse

Director: Louise Osmond
Sony Pictures Classics
In Theaters: 06.17

Who doesn’t love a rags-to-riches story, especially when that unbelievable tale didn’t come out of the mind of some writer in Hollywood but was, in fact, true? Such is the case with barmaid Jan Voxes and her wild idea to convince a group of locals, later known as The Alliance Partnership, to invest in breeding a championship racing horse. With the coalition in agreement, they set in motion the procurement of their potential equestrian moneymaker, Dream Alliance. While the initial bouts were not promising, the stallion proved to have as much heart as he did might. As the company makes astonishing accomplishments, they are soon challenged with a horrific tragedy, and only the strongest of fighters comes out on top. You can’t help but smile as these “village idiots” invade the sophisticated “sport of kings” and bring all us yahoo audience members along for the ride. The sheer joy and passion that Voxes has for her horse forces onlookers to shed a tear of sadness and joy in one blink. There are few films that jolt to the core and force us to stand up and cheer, but Osmond’s feel-good account is pure perfection that’ll have you not only on your feet but jumping up and down as well. To witness some investors who have spent millions (no joke, MILLIONS) of dollars into this sport and come out with nothing but a frown on their face, and then to see the common man take one lucky shot for all the marbles and actually come out on top, is absolutely priceless. Dark Horse was released two years ago at the Sundance Film Festival, and as I’ve said in the past, if that festival has proven anything, they know a well-crafted documentary more than anyone else in the business. –Jimmy Martin

The Nice Guys

Director: Shane Black
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 05.20

First off, can we please sincerely thank writer/director Shane Black for reigniting Robert Downey Jr.’s career with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? I just wanted to get that off my chest. When I heard that Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling were pairing up for a 1970s detective caper, I was intrigued. When I heard that Black was writing and directing said caper, I was excited. Black is one of the most talented writers working in Hollywood today. His cheeky one-liners are to die for. Don’t believe me? Watch The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Good Night and get back to me. The man has a gift. In this venture, Jackson Healy (Crowe) and Holland March (Gosling) form a unique and unusual team of private detectives. They are forced to work together and find a missing woman who may be the target of a murderous plot led by the government. Once again, Black proves his unique wittiness with clever lines of dialogue delivered brilliantly by the two leads. On the other hand, The Nice Guys stumbles quite a bit on deciding what type of genre it actually is attempting to be. Is it a buffoon comedy spoofing on the 1970s or a cold-hearted drama depicting actual consequences of our actions? Someone needs to tighten the shoelaces of this endeavor and make a decision. Simple editing could solve the issue. The chemistry between Crowe and Gosling is wonderful and is a pairing I never would have thought to even try. However, even with two of Hollywood’s biggest names leading the charge, the brightest star comes in the form of the cinematography, set design and costume coordinator. Thanks to these accomplished individuals, audiences truly feel as though they are watching a film shot in the 1970s. It’s an incredible feat to witness. –Jimmy Martin

X-Men: Apocalypse

Director: Bryan Singer
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 05.27

After igniting the comic book movie genre in 2000 and delivering the most solid X-Men film to date in 2003, fans were excited to have director Bryan Singer return to the franchise two years ago for Days of Future Past. While his resurface was greeted with cheers, it may be time for the filmmaker to go dark for another decade. The plot is simple. The first mutant known to our world, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), is revived and disgusted that regular humans are in control, so everyone must die. That’s it. Obviously, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his superhuman students don’t want that to happen, so the mother of all fights must commence. The reasoning for my declaration for Singer’s departure is due to the fact that this entire production feels eerily too familiar to his last venture. All of the beats are the same, and the project feels stagnant. When Quicksilver (Evan Peters) steals the show and is once again the best scene (with a similar bit), there’s an issue there. Sure, I laughed. It’s a funny gag, but you can’t go back to the same well, back to back, without being called out for laziness. Singer actually tries to call out Brett Ratner, the director of X-Men: The Last Stand, with a line of dialogue that states that the third chapter in all film trilogies is the worst. Singer may want to speak those words to a mirror. As much as it sounds like I despised this movie, the opposite is the case. For the most part, I enjoyed it, but the franchise needs another overhaul or Singer needs to bow out and let new blood enjoy these characters. There’s possibility for great storytelling in this franchise, so let’s find someone to unearth. I think I’m just ready for an R-rated Old Man Logan tale. –Jimmy Martin

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Director: James Bobin
Disney
In Theaters: 05.27

Six years ago, I found it quite surprising that this film’s predecessor made more than a billion dollars at the box office. Granted, 67 percent of that was from foreign countries, but it still made me cock my head to the side and ponder. Director Tim Burton revealed a mesmerizing landscape, but, in the fashion of George Lucas and the Prequels, focused on technology rather than storytelling. This time around, director James Bobin attempts to rectify the issue with a time traveling tale that puts Alice (Mia Wasikowska) at the center of attention again as she attempts to save the Mad Hatter’s (Johnny Depp) life by changing the course of history that made the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) who she is today. I’ll put the honesty cards on the table and admit that any movie dabbling in time travel gets my juices flowing. There’s a flux capacitor tattooed on my leg, and I don’t mind watching Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Timecop every now and then. With that out in the open, I actually prefer Bobin’s journey to the original. Burton’s original landscape is still present, and there are some crafty effects offered with Sacha Baron Cohen’s character, Time. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Some strands of time feel clunky and unnecessary. With a running time of 113 minutes, Alice Through the Looking Glass could be easily brought down to 90–100 minutes and none would be the wiser. If you’re hoping for another elongated journey with Depp’s Hatter, don’t get your hopes up. The actor mainly lies in bed looking at death’s door rather than bobbling around, reminiscent of the original adventure. Once again, Carter is fantastic as the heartless member of the royal family, and Anne Hathaway is the perfect choice as her opposite-behaving sister. Do you think they’re acting, or does it just come naturally? –Jimmy Martin

Godzilla: King of Monsters | Michael Dougherty | Warner Bros.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Director: Michael Dougherty

Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 05.31

Godzilla: King of Monsters | Michael Dougherty | Warner Bros.The franchise behind the massive lizard-like reptile leveling major cities and fighting competing monsters for domination and superiority has had its ups and downs. With more than 30 titles since 1954, it appears that the beast is finally getting some higher-level and broader respect in the film industry, but we still do not talk about the 1998 abomination. Sure, the renditions with a man inside a costume will always have a place in our hearts, but to see the character and its opponents captured with CGI and made to be as large as mountains, we are not talking about the same playing field—or even sport, for that matter—in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters begins after the chaos from the 2014 Godzilla release, wherein the world is realizing that we are not alone, and the secret government agency MONARCH is attempting to control the rest of the discovered titans. (They all have fancy names now, like Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah.) In an attempt to communicate with the monsters, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her estranged husband, Mark (Kyle Chandler), developed a contraption that is now the sole focus of a terrorist group hellbent on world disorder. Sadly, the Russell’s daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), gets caught up in their terrible parenting skills and is brought to the forefront of multiple monster uprisings.

The most prolific issue with the 2014 production was the lack of screen time Godzilla received. Some clocked it in for as little as 11 minutes. Such is not the case with director Michael Dougherty’s endeavor, as the film comprises one gigantic altercation after another. There are times when the human element does start to become long-winded and bothersome, but give it a few more minutes, and you will have another skyscraper collapse, another out-of-this-world weapon used and another chance to cheer for the green beast. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is definitely a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen to experience that grandiose level of destruction and to hear that ear-blasting roar of victory. Hopefully gone are the days when a project of this proportion relies on terrible soundtracks and finally embraces what we have always wanted: giant monsters fighting giant monsters. It’s quite simple. –Jimmy Martin


More on SLUGMag.com:

Film Review: X-Men: Apocalypse
Movie Reviews (June 2014)

 

Brightburn | David Yarovesky | Screen Gems

Brightburn
Director: David Yarovesky

Screen Gems
In Theaters: 05.24

Brightburn | David Yarovesky | Screen GemsAs you witnessed, Superman graces the pages in comic books or soars across the silver screen, did you ever wonder to yourself, “What if, one day, the Man of Steel decided not to be a good guy?” That question is definitely answered in Brightburn, the horrific tale of young Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), whose space pod crashed near the farmhouse of Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman). Since the couple were having trouble conceiving a baby of their own, they decided to secretly adopt the new visitor and hide the truth of his origins. As years went by, life was peaches and cream for the Breyer family. But it appears puberty sucks just as bad for alien life-forms because, soon after his 12th birthday, Brandon begins to discover his true powers and an urge to defy those who stand in his way for global domination.

Essentially, Brightburn is a simple horror film without an elaborate plot—that is perfectly fine with this geek. We have all seen the god-like strength that comes with superheroes, but to witness them use it to their fullest potential for sinister purposes is not as common. Could they break every bone in your hand with a simple handshake? Yup. Would their laser-beam eyes blow your brains clear out the back of your skull? Absolutely. Director David Yarovesky, with the help of producer James Gunn, brings those grotesque visuals to life like you have never seen before.

I’ve seen many horror films and, most of the time, I am unfazed by the terrifying occurrences projected in front of me. With that said, there were multiple instances during Brightburn where I shouted and/or had to look away for a split-second to regain my composure. Detached jaws and punctured eyeballs are not meant to be seen by the majority of human beings. Sure, there are plot holes from beginning to end, and some of the brutality makes no sense, but the same can be said for some of the most iconic slasher films from the past. This is simply the story of an enraged pre-pubescent with an arsenal of abilities—and we have absolutely no chance of survival. –Jimmy Martin


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Film Review: The Martian
Film Review: Deadpool

Aladdin | Guy Ritchie | Disney

Aladdin
Director: Guy Ritchie

Disney
In Theaters: 05.24

Aladdin | Guy Ritchie | Disney
Aladdin Film Poster

Many people question why Disney continues to take their animated classics and revamp them into modern-day adaptations. It’s a silly question once you witness the box office numbers. In 2019 alone we were given Tim Burton’s interpretation of Dumbo in March, and in July, we will see Jon Favreau’s version of The Lion King. However, slapped right in the middle of those two releases is probably the most interesting conception of the trio. It’s been 27 years since the story of Aladdin became a permanent staple in the Mickey Mouse company, but to imagine Guy Ritchie—the man behind Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch—as the one to helm its creation is something on a different level.

In this rendering, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is an impoverished thief who unknowingly befriends Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) while on the streets of Agrabah. Once the princess’s true identity is discovered, Aladdin’s only wish is for them to be together, and, with the help of a lost magic lamp and an all-powerful genie (Will Smith), that wish may come true—unless the evil Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) prevents it from happening.

The surprising theme that Ritchie invokes with this tale is the low-level criminal with a heart trying to do somewhat good in this unfair world. The most effective element to this update is the revitalization of the character Jasmine. Rather than a more passive individual as she’s portrayed in the original, this time around she is courageous and has the desire to lead her people as sultan. Composer Alan Menken, who developed the score and music in the ’90s, rejuvenates the orchestral component and includes a new song entitled “Speechless,” which will easily receive award consideration. While it does take some getting used to not having the legendary Robin Williams as the genie, Smith holds his own before the credits roll. From the stunningly beautiful costume designs to the thunderous musical set numbers, Disney has once again developed a production viewers both young and old can tap their feet to with a fantastic point of view leading the charge. –Jimmy Martin


More on SLUGMag.com:

Film Review: Tomb Raider
Film Review: Alex Through the Looking Glass

 

The Curse of La Llorona | Michael Chaves | Warner Bros.

The Curse of La Llorona
Director: Michael Chaves

Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 04.19

It seems that while one section of Hollywood continues to create ever-expanding, massive blockbusters with gargantuan budgets, another portion is focusing on delivering a thrilling experience without breaking the piggy bank. With The Curse of La Llorona set in the Conjuring universe, this real or “real” (however you want to acknowledge it) urban legend based in Mexican culture is the focal point of director Michael Chaves’ attempt to make you spill your popcorn or grip your date’s arm with unanticipated strength.

The Curse of La Llorona is set in the 1970s, with Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) and her two children doing their best to move forward in life after the death their husband/father. Anna works in child-protection services, and when a known client appears to be abusing her children, they are taken away—only to be mortally taken away by the demon known as La Llorona. As items move unexpectedly on their own and shadows shift in the background, Chaves primarily uses standard jump scares to keep the audience engaged in this mild-mannered endeavor. While La Llorona continues her escapades to lure children into water one way or another (i.e., pools, bathtubs, streams, etc. …), Anna secures the assistance of rogue shaman Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz) in order to cleanse her house of evil and keep her children breathing.

Many parents ask about whether or not their children can see particular movies. I don’t have children, so I take an educated guess. While The Curse of La Llorona is rated R, it seems low-key with respect to the absence of the ultra-violence and gore we are used to nowadays with this genre. Chaves does his best in trying to connect it to the universe’s other  films, but nothing truly sticks when it comes to the slight references. It’s refreshing to witness a spooky tale in the ’70s, which was a time already typified by unsettlement, but the lack of technology makes for a slightly unnerving adventure. Will young audiences see similarly aged kids in peril? Absolutely, but it could teach them a life lesson. After all, that’s why this entire story exists—to get children to behave. So, on that note, take your offspring to see a mediocre haunt, and maybe they’ll walk away better for it—or maybe they’ll have the desire to see a truly scary horror flick. –Jimmy Martin

Longshot | Jonathon Levine | Lionsgate

Long Shot
Director: Jonathan Levine

Lionsgate
In Theaters: 05.03

It appears that whenever Seth Rogen’s name is mentioned in the cast of an upcoming film, one could easily predict that the contents will embody numerous crude jokes and an abundance of drug humor. Such is the case with director Jonathan Levine’s latest romantic comedy, Long Shot, but the aforementioned characteristics are not the only elements driving this production.

Rogen stars as Fred Flarsky, a committed journalist with a sharp wit and whose company was recently purchased by a conservative conglomerate, thus sabotaging his career path. On the other side of town, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) epitomizes success in the world of politics as the youngest Secretary of State and is among the most powerful women on the planet. When the opportunity to run for President arises, Charlotte must discover the best way to please the masses, but her lack of humor has become a noticeable hurdle. In a chance encounter, our two leads cross paths and reconnect via the fact that she used babysit him and he always had a crush on her. Charlotte hires Fred as her speech writer, but, as the two stroll down memory lane and reignite their passions for their crafts, another layer of passion brings them together even closer.

As stated earlier, Long Shot does feature the archetypical drug-infused shenanigans that come along with Rogen’s presence, but Levine, adding a much-needed sense of authenticity, puts an enormous spotlight on the realities of the ways in which women in the public eye are treated differently than men. During multiple scenes, conservative news anchors are shown being overly offensive, but the sad part about the representation is that is not a far cry from the truth.

As for the chemistry between Rogen and Theron, they surprisingly work quite well with each other. It’s a breath of fresh air to see Rogen take on a more serious character, and as for Theron (when is she ever bad?), she takes advantage of the chance to showcase her comedic abilities. Long Shot is an endearing tale that will leave you with a grin. Both of them have my vote. Lastly, if you need a local reason to get to the theater, the soundtrack incorporates Utah’s own Thunderfist, as the film opens with their song “Smoke ‘Em While You Can.” Can’t go wrong with that. –Jimmy Martin