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


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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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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


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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

Captain Marvel | Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck | Disney

Captain Marvel
Directors: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Disney
In Theaters: 03.08

It saddens and sickens me that in the year 2019, popular criticism sites had to change their policies about users posting negative comments about a film that has not been released in theaters yet. What are people afraid of witnessing? Why does the idea of a female-led superhero adventure in the Marvel cinematic universe terrify so many? When it was a revealed Oscar winner Brie Larson would take on the role of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and she would also be the most powerful being in that collection of films, I was waiting with a bated breath and full of excitement.

Captain Marvel initially reveals Larson as Vers, a human being on an alien planet with a forgotten past and no idea about her origins. During a rescue mission to uncover secrets about her planet’s enemies, The Skrulls, and led by her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), our protagonist is captured and eventually makes her way back to Earth. Clearly, a super-powered visitor in a space suit is going to attract government officials, and that is the cue for a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and young Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) from S.H.I.E.L.D. to attempt to assess the situation and discover the truth.

The greatest aspect of Captain Marvel is young girls now have another superhero they can look up to and identify with, which can only lead to a positive outcome. Danvers upholds strong morals and refuses to let the negative individuals in her life keep her from accomplishing her goals. As for the film’s setting, the time trip back to the 1990s is quite delightful. Watching our heroine crash land into a Blockbuster Video conjured up so many fond memories. Larson is a perfect choice, and she is wonderfully assisted by an incredible ensemble cast. The only actor who gives Larson a run for her money for pulling focus is the wildly hilarious Ben Mendelsohn as the film’s villain.

The action, while entertaining with shape-shifting aliens, could use a touch-up on the cinematography and choreography. The ’90s greatest-hits soundtrack will certainly send many viewers back to their childhoods, but in some instances, it pulls audiences out of the film—just like a Stan Lee cameo (R.I.P.). All in all, Captain Marvel is a great setup of things to come, and it would not surprise me if Ms. Danvers takes the helm in future endeavors and leads the Avengers. –Jimmy Martin


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Aquaman
Director: James Wan

Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 12.21.18

It hard to believe that we live in a world where millions upon millions of dollars are spent on large-scale superhero productions that now include a shrinking criminal who maintains his human strength, a high-school student with the ability to climb walls and, now, a burly drunkard who can communicate with the creatures of the sea. The idea of an Aquaman feature has been tossed around for years. The Geek Show Podcast, which I’m a panelist on, has been joking about a comedic interpretation starring Danny McBride as The King of the Seven Seas. It was even a large plot point in HBO’s series Entourage with James Cameron helming the fictitious project.

Well, fast-forward 13 years later, and a different James, James Wan (Furious 7, The Conjuring), has brought the outrageous concept to fruition. We’ve already met Jason Momoa’s interpretation of Arthur Curry in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League. Now, the robust hero gets his own adventure as he battles his half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson), for the seat at the throne with help from Mera (Amber Heard), a conflicted princess of Atlantis. In order to take command of the waters, a lost trident must be unearthed, all while avoiding the violent attacks of Black Manta.

To a certain degree, DC has managed to pull off what Marvel did in 2015 with Ant-Man and develop an entertaining adventure with absolutely ridiculous characters and absurd storylines. Aquaman is fun, but as I’ve said in the past, you have to modify your brain to sleep mode and enjoy the silliness, as it can be preposterously idiotic at others. No one walking into the theater should expect anything more than underwater soldiers riding sharks, seahorses and whales while engaged in heavy combat.

As in the other productions, Momoa stands before the camera, muscles and all, and does his damnedest to deliver his lines seriously. It doesn’t always work. If you saunter into this summer blockbuster (that for some reason was released in December) knowing that this outlandishness that will soon be projected before your retinas, then you will experience superhero nonsense to the fullest extent—nothing more, nothing less. The floodgates are now open to allow any character in the history of comic books to grace the silver screen, and this geek will be there with welcoming arms. –Jimmy Martin

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Roma
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Netflix
Online: 12.14

For those who don’t know, director Alfonso Cuarón is known for multiple large-scale Hollywood blockbusters, including Gravity, Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but with his latest project, he is minimizing the production level and developing a more personal and grounded expedition. As an experiment in memory and storytelling, Cuarón recalls his childhood and the major events that shaped his world as a youngster in early 1970s Mexico.

While the story focuses on a middle-class family and the trials and tribulations that the parents endure with separation and infidelity, the majority of the film follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), the family’s housekeeper, as she copes with an unplanned pregnancy and a boyfriend who wants nothing to do with the situation. All while these personal events are occurring, major political and social happenings are exploding across the country.

Once again, Cuarón proves that he is one of the greatest filmmakers of our time. Whether it’s a grand-scale production like Gravity or a fly-on-the-wall observatory project like Roma, the creativity and passion that flows on the screen is undeniable. The raw emotion packs a punch that’ll leave audiences with something to ponder on the drive home. Trust me, there are visuals embedded on the celluloid that cannot be unseen, but it’s reality— and sometimes reality needs to be seen. Speaking of visuals, Cuarón also offers an assortment of fantastic cinematography. For a first-time feature-length acting experience, Aparicio demonstrates her talents from harshly dramatic to genuinely sweet. Roma will definitely be a contender in the Foreign Language category this award season, and it would not be surprising for it to earn more than one accolade. This is definitely proof that Netflix is prepared to enter the arena of original films, and the rest of Hollywood should be primed for their arrival. –Jimmy Martin

Photo Courtesy of Lionsgate

Robin Hood
Director: Otto Bathurst

Lionsgate
In Theaters: 11.21

The narration at the beginning of this film orders audiences to forget what they know about the story of “Robin Hood.” This is a different telling of the widely known tale. With that said, the general foundation still exists in director Otto Bathurst’s reimagining of the humble thief who steals from the rich and gives—oh, you know the rest of it.

At the beginning of the story, Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) immediately falls in love with Marian (Eve Hewson), but, when he is sent off to war by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) and presumed dead, the saddened maiden moves on with her life. On the battlefront, Robin attempts to halt the unwarranted slaughter of captured prisoners by fellow comrades, which earns the respect of rival soldier Little John (Jamie Foxx).

As years pass, the two cross paths once again and concoct a plan to overthrow the corrupt government by robbing them blind and enticing the lower class to revolt against the tyranny. While there are still many similarities to the previous productions (honestly, how could it not?), the modernization comes in the form of Bathurst’s intense action sequences, which come across more like a current military operation rather than medieval combat. Egerton portrays an adequate hero (at least there is not a terrible Kevin Costner–style accent) because he comes across as the “everyman” whom audiences can relate to. Foxx adds the drama/redemption with the loss of his son and his determination to take down those responsible. The hindrance comes with multiple downtime scenes that lose interest and instill sheer boredom, and Hewson’s acting abilities do not meet those of her counterparts. The story is an origin tale, which ends with a nod to a certain sequel. After witnessing the project, I’m willing to take another spin with these characters and style of filmmaking. –Jimmy Martin

This time around, the boogeyman has been incarcerated for 40 years, but on that special night of Oct. 31, he makes his escape in search of the one who got away along with her daughter and granddaughter. Photo: Ryan Green

Halloween
Director: David Gordon Green

Universal
In Theatres: 10.19

Soon after graduating the sixth grade, I told my father that I could barely remember the school year because it went so fast. He said, “Wait until you get older. Life only starts moving faster.” He wasn’t kidding. Such is the case with the ongoing struggle between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle) that has now been going on for more than four decades. While the legendary John Carpenter helmed the original production, this rendition—which completely tosses out the incredibly terrible storylines of the sequels after the 1978 launch—is directed and cowritten by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) and comedian Danny McBride. This time around, the boogeyman has been incarcerated for 40 years, but on that special night of Oct. 31, he makes his escape in search of the one who got away along with her daughter and granddaughter. Rather than tinkering with a more psychological thriller, Green sticks to the basic style of jump scares. However, times they are a-changing, because the level of violence that is considered acceptable nowadays has certainly been heightened. If there was a drinking game established for every neck broken and knife penetrating a victim’s skin, you’d pass out half way through the flick. If ultraviolent killings make you squeamish, you may want to sit this one out. Curtis definitely brings her game as a badass who has been waiting in the shadows for her revenge moment, but it’s Judy Greer who shows the audience a performance they have not seen from the nonstop busy actress. Was this chapter worth a 40-year pause? Honestly, I was hoping for more due to the waiting period, but the audience still gets a typical horror film with all of goofy tropes and irrational characters with abysmal decision-making skills.