I love when a great, independent thriller comes along and surprises me. Upon hearing that Ethan Hawke would be portraying a character who abducts young boys, I was turned off, because he never plays roles like this. I also know him to be a stellar performer regardless though, so I was all in no matter what. I'm glad I could excite myself enough to see this one in theatres because I think it was well-done all around. If you're a fan of thrillers in any way, here's why I think you should check out The Black Phone.
In a small town, young boys begin to go missing, with the only similarity between every abduction being that black balloons are always found at the crime scene. The man responsible for these kidnappings is known all over town as "The Grabber". The main focus of the film is on Finney (Mason Thames) and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw). Being bullied at school and having an abusive father has made Finney very strong-minded. He is the next in line to be kidnapped as well. Captured and brought into an underground cellar, he must figure a way out.
I haven't seen Mason Thames in anything before, but for being a relatively new young actor, I think his work here was terrific. On top of that, Ethan Hawke gives a very creepy performance, which makes for some very tense scenes of dialogue between the two of them. The title of the film obviously implies that there will be a phone at some point throughout this film and the meaning behind the phone is what sold the movie to me. How it plays into everything happening was terrific. It kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat.
Overall, if I had to complain about something, it wouldn't be about any filmmaking aspects or storylines because everything is very solid here. Where I feel the film almost hurt itself is in the final two minutes, right before the credits rolled. Without giving anything away, I just don't feel that the final scene fit the tone of the rest of the film at all. It was a little silly, to be honest. I was able to look past it, but I found it to be a very bizarre choice. From the score to the performances, or the thrills to the downright unnerving sensibilities of "The Grabber", this film is simply great all around. It's simple, quaint, and yet very effective. The Black Phone is now playing in theatres, and for fans of this genre, I highly recommend it.
The Toy Story franchise is one that's incredibly close to my heart. I grew up watching the films repeatedly, and I was very close to the age Andy was when Toy Story 3 came out, which hit home as well. When I heard about this film being in development and that Tim Allen wouldn't be voicing him, I was nothing but surprised and curious what they were doing. While this film isn't nearly as masterful as the Toy Story films or even comparable/connected to them in any way, shape or form, I had a blast watching it and was emotionally invested from start to finish. If you can go into this film knowing it has nothing to do with Toy Story (for the most part), I think you'll at least like this as a Disney/Pixar, Space Adventure flick, as I did.
Lightyear follows space ranger Buzz Lightyear, as his ship and crew are stranded on a planet after a poor decision on his part. Trying to discover how to successfully accomplish light speed in order to return home, many realizations come to light. With the looming presence of a fleet of robots, commanded by another robot called Zurg, time is not on Buzz's side. This simple premise has so much more to it, especially throughout the first act, and I ate up every bit of it. The storytelling throughout the first act brought me to tears, in ways other films with similar story beats have failed to do.
I will get a major complaint I have about this film out of the way though. There is a plot twist towards the end of this film that I very much liked and it fit with this film on its own, but it's something that if you were to actually sit back and think about the second Toy Story film, it would make no sense at all. I really liked the moment in the movie, but that was the one Toy Story connected that took me out of the movie. I also wish we could've learned a bit more about Buzz's actual backstory, even though his character was still very likeable and entertaining here. This film is filled with lovable characters though, so that made up for it.
Where I can't possibly rave about this film enough though, is in the fact that it straight up feels real at times. Not just the animation style, but the "Cinematography." There were some genuinely beautiful moments of space imagery and not just for the sake of visuals. The visuals in this film complement this story very well. I honestly felt like I was watching a fun space adventure that just happened to be an animated film from Pixar. My eyes were glued to the screen out of pure enjoyment and from the visuals.
Overall, I believe that director Angus MacLane, along with his incredibly talented crew, has crafted a film that's great for all ages. There are mature themes and dark moments for the Toy Story fans who have grown up, but even younger children who have yet to see the Toy Story films will find enjoyment here, especially with the addition of Buzz's sidekick/robot companion Sox, who steals the show on multiple occasions (it kind of reminded me of Baymax from Big Hero 6 actually). I can see many viewers complaining about it not being a Toy Story film, but that's not the point of this movie at all. There are things about this film that explain how it's part of the Toy Story franchise, but at the same time, it can't be viewed as a prequel or sequel to anything. I'm being vague because I don't want to ruin what this film actually is. I had minor complaints here and there and the story is bits and pieces of so many things I've seen before, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I loved watching it. I thought Lightyear was very well done and I can't wait to give it a second watch.
While I, like the majority of film lovers, absolutely love the original Jurassic Park, I've basically felt like I've given the majority of the franchise pass, rather than genuinely believing they're great films. The only other film I genuinely think is a solid entry is the first Jurassic World (which in itself isn't original at all). I've felt that the sense of awe and wonder has been missing since the original film and with the release of the "final" installment with Jurassic World Dominion, I was eager to see how they would put a bow on the franchise at least. Sadly, I have to be honest and say this is probably my least favourite of the entire franchise. Let's dive into why I think fans should still see this movie, but with incredibly lowered expectations.
Picking up about four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, dinosaurs are now free in our world and living amongst humans and other species. From here, there are multiple storylines that pick up that are not explored in the marketing for this film, so I'll keep it brief. Maisie Lockwood, the young girl from the previous film has been living with Owen and Claire in protective custody, but she is kidnapped and a rescue mission for her begins. Not only that, but the offspring of Owen's companion Blue is also with her. We then meet the original cast, who are on their own mission. Eventually, these two missions collide, but overall, I think this entire film was a missed opportunity.
I felt as though this film spent next to zero time explaining what happened in between the events of the previous film and this final installment. This isn't even me getting my hopes up, because we've already seen dinosaurs on land before, so I truly believe a portion of this film should've been dedicated to people trying to survive or figuring out how to. With that said, there are still many unique ideas presented here that I thought were clever story developments, but I also found that the film failed to deliver on them, especially since they didn't work for a Jurassic Park film. That's also one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to massive franchises. When you present cool ideas, but they don't actually work in the context of the franchise, that just feels wildly disappointing.
On a more positive note, I'm a fan of Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum, so seeing them, all come together here was a lot of fun and some of their banter got some genuine laughs out of me. With that said, I actually believe newcomer DeWanda Wise as Kayla was the biggest standout here. Her witty dialogue and back and forth with Pratt throughout a lot of the film was terrific and I will gladly watch her performances in the future. It's always nice to have a new character added to a franchise that surprises you. If for nothing else, this was a great cast of characters to see together.
Now for the dinosaurs, which were severely lacking in this film. This franchise, even in its weaker installments, has never had a shortage of Dinosaur action. Yes, this film has plenty of action involving Dinosaurs, some of which are genuinely fun, but I have to admit that the core story of this film really came out of left field for me, and not in a good way. I'm not about to dive into the details, because these details aren't even explored in the marketing, but I'll say that the main storyline focuses very little on Dinosaurs. For the end of a Dinosaur franchise, this rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn't comprehend why this story element was even being explored. It was basically what made me dislike this film overall, even though I enjoyed moments of it.
In the end, Jurassic World Dominion isn't going to gain any new fans for the franchise, but at least the entire cast is here, having a good time, and it shows. I was excited to see Colin Trevorrow returning to direct, after working on the first Jurassic World, but even his touch didn't work here. The score didn't stand out to me either and the climax was very forgettable, especially being the "finale" of a franchise. I wish I had more positive things to say about a franchise that I have enjoyed until this point, but I honestly don't. Jurrasic Park fans will absolutely get a kick out of certain scenes so I recommend that fans still see it, but as a movie on its own, it's just not good.
When I first saw the original Top Gun, I really wasn't all that impressed. I found it to be incredibly cheesy and uninteresting. I continued to think negatively about it throughout the years but recently gave it another shot before the release of Top Gun: Maverick. I'm more than happy to admit when I'm wrong about something or when my mind changes, and I have to do that here. The first Top Gun is actually glorious for all the 80s cheese it has and the aerial scenes still hold up today. I actually had a good time with the original upon rewatching it. I was curious about this sequel, but I recently became very excited about it. After having seen it now, I can very happily say that Top Gun: Maverick is the definition of the word awesome. Here's why, even with everything working against me enjoying it over the last number of years, I highly recommend seeing it in theatres.
Picking up over three decades after the events of Top Gun, this film once again follows Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise), but this time he is brought back to the Top Gun program to be an instructor for graduates. Training the best of the best for a near-impossible mission, this film is filled with training sequences, all of which are thrilling. You don't go to a film like Top Gun: Maverick for the story, but it also delivers on that front. With just enough substance, a likeable cast, and some terrific performances in some very key scenes, I was engaged with this film from start to finish. My only issue with the film overall is the fact that it does feel like an updated version of the original (in all of the best ways possible though).
From the same musical queues to very similar scenes involving familiar characters, this film borrows many of the classic moments from the first film. It also has a similar structure to the first film and even some of the cheesy dialogue is present as well. Everything else about this sequel is so well done though that these moments all felt like they were intentional and they worked in the context of the film. Sometimes it's a little too on the nose, but I forgave that, simply because this cast sold every moment of it. This new crew that Maverick has to work with has charisma for days.
Ever since I saw Glen Powell in Everybody Wants Some!! I knew I was going to seek out anything he did next. He has the capabilities of being a real movie star and I hope he becomes more of a household name in the future. His performance as the cockiest pilot in the group really worked and his banter back and forth with Miles Teller (who portrays the son of 'Goose,' Maverick's old partner) also does a very good job here. There are many scenes between Cruise and Teller that made me tear up. The emotion is real in this film and that's why I felt so much for these characters. With that said, it's the aerial scenes that make these films stick with you and wow does this film deliver.
Every moment these planes are in the air felt real and authentic. I never once felt like I was looking at an effect. That's obviously due to the fact that this cast was in the planes as much as they were allowed to be. From the incredible sound design to the engaging action that has real stakes, my heart was pounding and my eyes were glued to the screen. This is the most thrilling, big screen Blockbuster I've seen in a while. If you're able to see it on the biggest screen possible, I suggest doing so. This movie is great, but the theatrical experience will make it so much better. Top Gun: Maverick is a true thrill ride from start to finish and I can't wait to see it again.
I very much enjoyed the first Doctor Strange film and thought his character has made a nice progression thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, WandaVision, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, I was slightly concerned about this film being able to stand on its own. Now here's the thing, it doesn't, but I still thought it was great. In fact, I think it's an even more entertaining film than the first Doctor Strange. I would even go as far as saying it would be in my conversation of the better Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Here's why, as long as you're caught up on the connected properties, this one is more than worth your time.
Picking up after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision, both of which laid the groundwork for how the multiverse is talked about in this film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes no time at all before it dives right into the action/madness. If for nothing else, I loved the pace. The film spends just enough time in the first few minutes to establish where relations are with other characters from the first Doctor Strange, but very quickly sets up how and why the multiverse is the mainline throughout the film. Without giving anything away, the reason the multiverse becomes the main plot is due to the character of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Her presence here was electric and I couldn't get enough of it, but I can't go into any details without ruining her story here.
With the introduction of a new character in America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) very early on in the film, it becomes clear that she will be a staple in future films for sure. I'm okay with that because her performance here, along with her arc throughout the film, was all engaging to me. Her abilities and how she has them needs to be explored a little further in the future, but she was a very interesting character. Her interactions with Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) throughout the film were great as well. They share some great chemistry together. With all of that said, let's dive into a couple of minor issues I think some fans may have.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding big cameos and appearances from familiar faces, and while there is definitely a small chunk of the film dedicated to just that, I can see why people are saying this film was overhyped. Personally, I didn't know too much going into it, so I was very surprised by a couple of appearances. Still, where I feel people will be disappointed is in the fact that the multiverse itself remains focused solely on Wanda and Strange throughout the entire film. A lot more could've been explored, but I found that holding back made for a better overall film. There are some fun cameos for sure, but I think they went as far as they needed to. This film benefitted from not being bogged down by needless multiverse stuff. Plus, I believe this is still just the beginning of what kind of wacky adventures are coming in the next few films.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness didn't blow my mind in ways I was thinking it would, but it was also much more of a focussed story and used the fun cameos for a purpose in a way I wasn't expecting either. This film was great in my opinion. Yes, you do need to see a few other Marvel Cinematic Universe entries to fully enjoy everything on display here, but it's worth it. I just had a blast with it from start to finish. Sam Raimi, who directed this film, has his vision on full display here and being a fan of his work for many years, that put a smile on my face. There are a few thrilling scenes that border on a bit of horror and that was also nice to see. Although other films/series have delved into the multiverse already, this film felt like a breath of fresh air for the franchise. It's not perfect and I have some nitpicks with certain things, but I loved watching it.