Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Creed

Releases November 25th 2015
1 hrs 35 mins
Rated PG-13
Drama

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv554B7YHk4

Director: Ryan Coogler

Writer: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington

Cast: 

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson Creed
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
Tessa Thompson as Bianca
Phylicia Rashād as Mary Anne Creed
Tony Bellew as "Pretty" Ricky Conlan
Graham McTavish as Tommy Holiday
Wood Harris as Tony "Little Duke" Burton
Andre Ward as Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler
Gabriel Rosado as Leo Sporino

Review by Mister Goodfella's Review


Ryan Coogler has done what no one thought possible anymore, re-inventing the "Rocky" franchise, as we know it. "Creed" in my opinion is not a sequel of the "Rocky" franchise but it is however a spinoff that can successfully stand on its own without its predecessors help. I'm really impressed with what Coogler has done here; he's taken a concept so simple such as a boxing drama and mastered it. I'm a huge fan of directors who take simple concepts and elevate them but I know that it truly does stem from the actual passion for the project at hand, in this case Cooler was in love. I don't think you can walk out of "Creed" thinking that was just a mediocre boxing film because you'll be kicking yourself in the head afterwards thinking hard on it. 

    Ryan's spinoff centers on Adonis Johnson played by Michael B. Jordan, as he journeys to create a name for himself in the boxing community and drive that he does not live in his father's shadow. Along the way Adonis meets Rocky Balboa (Stallone) in the hopes that he can train him to become more than just Apollo Creed's son. Other cast members include Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad and Tony Bellew who all compliment Jordan and Stallone's performances very well. Michael B. Jordan's chemistry with Stallone onscreen has to be one of the most believable relationships between acquaintances in a boxing film I’ve seen in a long time. You really feel as though these two actors’ are great friends so much so that the performances reflect that giving you a natural flow of chemistry and not a forced one. 


Nothing-here performance wise is "Oscar Worthy", but the bar is still pretty high with Michael B. Jordan stealing the show. I've been a fan of Jordan since "Fruitvale Station", and by that performance alone I knew we had another great upcoming actor on our hands. It was also very refreshing to see Stallone returning to his boxing roots and not coming in guns blazing for once. Stallone gives a very natural performance of a man who's been through it all and is finally accepting the fact that he's older. This is the type of role that I think best fits Stallone at this point and not some drawn out mercenary guns blazing soldier in "The Expendables". 


Aside from the stellar performances, "Creed" also has fantastic directing behind it thanks to Ryan. You can truly tell that Ryan has been around the block once already and wasn't going to let this project fall into the generic boxing type film. Ryan separates "Creed" from other boxing movies by the fighting sequences alone, ranging from one of the fights in a one continuous shot motion to almost feeling like you're watching a fight on "HBO" towards its last fight. Each director who's ever filmed a boxing movie brings something unique to the table and Ryan has proved here that he can do more "Creed" sequels. One of the last things that really made "Creed" great for me was the message it left me with, it wasn't about winning a fight or losing one but more of building your own legacy.  


Sure "Creed" has its flaws but they are very minor in comparison to what this film is trying to be. I absolutely loved how simple this concept was and how brilliant it turned out to be. "Creed" is elevating boxing films to a new level in this day and age, one that I’m glad to be alive in. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Stars

The Good Dinosaur
Releases November 25th 2015
1 hr 40 mins
Rated PG
Animation

Trailer:

Director: Peter Sohn
Writers: Meg LeFauve

Cast:
Raymond Ochoa as Arlo
Jack Bright as Spot
Sam Elliott as Butch
Anna Paquin as Ramsey
A. J. Buckley as Nash
Steve Zahn as Thunderclap
Mandy Freund as Downpour
Steven Clay Hunter as Coldfront
Jeffrey Wright as Poppa Henry
Frances McDormand as Momma Ida
Marcus Scribner as Buck
Maleah Padilla as Libby
Peter Sohn as Forrest Woodbush
Dave Boat as Bubbha
Carrie Paff as Lurleane, a Velociraptor
Calum Mackenzie Grant as Pervis
John Ratzenberger as Earl

Review by Stephen M.

The Good Dinosaur follows up a tough act in Inside Out out of Pixar.  Unfortunately the cuteness of Arlo the dinosaur (Ramond Ochoa) and Spot, his pet human (Jack Bright) isn't enough to live up to that challenge.  The Good Dinosaur along with its short film that precedes it, Sanjay's Super Team is geared toward boys unapologetically.  While Sanjay's Super Team is an interesting story of a father and son mixed in with youthfulness and culture, The Good Dinosaur is just a sad imitation of many other coming of age Disney movies albeit with a twist.  The twist which you will see in the very beginning is that an asteroid that got knock into our orbit never annihilated the dinosaurs but developed into a somewhat human-like wild west society.



Arlo, the scrawny one of the litter of three dinosaurs is always a step behind his brother Buck (Marcus Scribner) and Libby (Maleah Padilla).  His life changes when he meets a "critter" in the form of a little boy and they wind up miles from their home together.  The story while having very familiar elements is not necessarily poorly told or acted.  I enjoyed the performances by each of the characters though none really particularly stands out.


And as with most Disney or Pixar movies, you do expect something to stand out and unfortunately that is the biggest problem here.  The soundtrack to the humor to the plot is quite ho hum.  The film does have its moments but they are too far and few.  The moment that stands out for me in the movie which I find abhorring in a children's animation is when Arlo and Spot seems to go on a psychedelic trip after ingesting some weird fruits.  


Overall, I would recommend the film with reservation.  It's a good animation about friendship and family, but a poor Pixar one given the high expectations you have come accustomed to seeing.  Families should be warned that there is that scene where the main characters are "high" on fruits which to mean is a no no for a children film.  For a better children's animation watch Inside Out or even better, The Croods.

Rating: 

Sunday, November 22, 2015


We were excited to attend the New Jersey Comic Expo 2015 this weekend and besides the show being small, it was a fun time for the whole family.  From the grab bag of Dynamite comics for early ticket purchasers to the Kids section full of free books, they were serious about attracting in fans.   Also having Jim Lee headling as well as a few other first timers in New Jersey like Ivan Reis and Garth Ennis helped as well.



Because of the large space afforded to the convention and limited amount of booths and attendees compared to the likes of a New York Comic Con, it was easy to move around.  Deals were plenty even given the amount of retailers that they had, like $2 sketch cover comic books.  And if you are a fan of entertainment vehicles, they had plenty like various Bat-mobiles, as well as replica vehicles from Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and Scooby Doo.




As far as celebrities signing and doing photo-ops their two biggest names were Amy Acker (Person of Interest, Angel, Dollhouse) and Drea de Matteo (Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy).  It's unfortunate Amy was only available Saturday.  Hopefully they can get more big names next year.





As mentioned before, artist alley and the exhibitors had something for everyone.  Not too many free sketches around, but there were also deals to be had.  Walter Simonson did free sketches, though a lot of fans paid their respect in the form of tips.  I had artist C. P. Wilson III do the below Hulk vs Thor sketch below for a nominal fee.  You may know him for his art in The Stuff of Legend.


 

As far as Cosplayers go, there were plenty of good costumes.  A group dressed up as different members of the Justice Society of America was cool to see.






On Sunday, the big event for me was the Jim Lee VIP session.  I had paid for the second session which was the lighter attended crowd.  Even actors Tommy Walker and Peter Shinkoda, both super friendly showed off their geek side waiting for Jim Lee to sign their Uncanny X-Men comic book.


During the Jim Lee event, fans got to each ask him a question which ran the gamut from "What does a Co Producer do?" to "How do you know that she (his wife) is the love of your life?"  He drew by lottery system two winners in each session to receive a free sketch which you can see below.  Unfortunately I didn't win.  But everyone that attended did score a limited edition Superman variant as well as getting up to ten items signed and well as pictures with Jim.  The personal interaction with Jim was also very fun.







Overall, a fun experience, and I hope to see them grow more next year as far as guests and exhibitors.  The area around the convention center is pretty dead, so if they can get some food trucks over there during that week, that would be nice.  One interesting question that was posed to Jim, was why did he chose New Jersey Comic Expo, with which he replied family.  His sister lives in Jersey for which he was coming over for Thanksgivings.  As well, he has an old and close relationship with the founder of the con, Martha Donato from when she worked at Wizard magazine.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Pay The Ghost
Released September 25, 2015 (USA), November 10th, 2015 (Blu-Ray, DVD)
1 hr 34 mins
Not Rated
Horror, Thriller

Trailer:




Director: Uli Edel
Writers: Tim Lebbon (novel), Dan Kay (screenplay)

Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Mike Lawford
Lauren Beatty as Annie Sawquin
Jack Fulton as Charlie
Elizabeth Jeanne le Roux as Mom
Erin Boyes as Emily
Alex Mallari Jr.
Lyriq Bent as Detective Reynolds
Sarah Wayne Callies as Kristen
Veronica Ferres as Hannah
Juan Carlos Velis as Morales

Review by Stephen M.

Nicholas Cage's run of movies lately has been rather lacking lately as he has now made a name for himself with direct to video movies.  Pay the Ghost follows the same model but is above average than his recent flicks in his performance and the overall movie.  The film is a supernatural thriller in which Cage plays a father that has lost his son during a Halloween festival one year with his only clue to his disappearance the term "Pay the Ghost."



While not one of Nicholas Cage's best performance, it is leaps and bounds better than his performance in Left Behind and Rage.  This is interesting in that this film shares some qualities with Left Behind in that he also played a father that lost his child.  His performance in Pay the Ghost felt more genuine and less like just another paycheck performance.  Sarah Wayne Callies who you may be familiar with as Lori Grimes in The Walking Dead plays Cage's wife Kristen.  Her performance was also good as well but with a lack of character development, felt uneven at times.  



The biggest flaw with the movie is the unbalance story telling as you really don't get a sense of what is going on till the film is halfway through.  And at that point everything is revealed to you as far as who, what, where and why within a matter of minutes.  The movie as well has some incredibly powerful scenes that gives it a blockbuster type feel but then reverts back to cheap effects and secondary characters every so often killing any momentum.


Overall, I would recommend watching the film at least once if you're a fan of Nicholas Cage.  The film has some interesting elements, but overall execution is just not quite there.  And for once at least for me, it's not because of Nicholas Cage!  The actors actually does a good job with what they're given but even with their talent is hard press to make this horror/thriller stand out enough to warrant additional viewings.
Rating: 

Jessica Jones
Releases Season One November 20th 2015 on Netflix
Running time 50-54 mins each
Not Rated

Trailer:

Executive Producers: Melissa Rosenberg, Liz Friedman, Jeph Loeb, S. J. Clarkson (episode 1)
Director: S. J. Clarkson
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg (based on Jessica Jones by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos)

Cast:
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones
Mike Colter as Luke Cage
Rachael Taylor as Trish "Patsy" Walker
Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeri Hogarth
David Tennant as Kilgrave
Eka Darville as Malcolm
Erin Moriarty as Hope
Wil Traval as Will Simpson

Review by Mister Goodfella's Reviews

From the team that brought you "Daredevil" comes the next installment in the "Defenders" series, the ingenious "Jessica Jones". I've had the honorary pleasure of getting a taste of the pilot and have to say, "Marvel" is a force to be reckoned with at this point. "Jessica Jones" on a movie platform would be very weak however since Netflix stepped in and helped "Marvel" get individual series for these characters, instead makes the weakest characters the strongest. I knew nothing about "Jessica Jones" before going into the serious other than the fact that she was in the "Marvel" universe, so for me this was going to be a treat either way. Netflix and Marvel team up to take us inside the world of "Jessica Jones" which follows a private investigator named Jessica Jones played by Krysten Ritter. 

Struggling through life, Jessica takes on a case to find a missing woman while in the process battling her intense panic attacks and visions of a man who seems to be following her. The "Pilot" episode doesn't give away too much which is fantastic, keeping us hooked and wanting more is always the key to success in these TV Series. The first episode of the series also introduces some more key characters such as "Luke Cage" played by Mike Colter and Kilgrave played by David Tennant. Taking in all aspects of "Jessica Jones", I feel as though "Marvel" has finally reached its mature peak. In the past we have seen some semi serious tones in "Marvel" films or even their latest Netflix series "Daredevil", but that’s nothing to the tone that "Jessica Jones" takes.


A gritty "Neo Noir" feel is what you get in the pilot and it really seems to carry on beyond that since I was also able to view episode 2. I do see a few minor weaknesses in the show so far such as a few onscreen "Goofs" or some pacing issues but it seems as though each episode gives the opportunity to breathe new life into the series and those issues quickly fade as you progress through to episode 2. I was highly Impressed with the directing style present in the pilot, the vibrant lighting in some of the darker shots to induce silhouette shots for noir feel were gorgeous. If the lighting wasn't enough, the camera shots were spot on for a television show. Above all else it’s the writing that really brings out the magic in "Jessica Jones" which we have Melissa Rosenberg the creator to thank for that. 

The dialogue in Jessica 's narration of her own life alone is intriguing to us seeing as how she doesn't see herself as a good person. The narrative only brings more depth to her character and when she's in the presence of anyone she might have a connection with everything flows naturally. Ritter is surely moving up as an actress and I can tell by her performance in "Jessica Jones" alone that we can expect some very good things if she's to be a lead in a dramatic role. Mike Colter also gives a very slow burn suave style to the "Luke Cage" character. Whenever Colter is onscreen you really sense that the show runners pay respects to the "Black Exploitation" vibe that Luke Cage always had, stemming from the music to the behavior around his female companions. 


I was also wowed by David Tennant's performance as "Kilgrave", to have such a collected descent into madness vibe, as the antagonist is something I adore. When Tennant is onscreen you can't help but root for him no matter what the scenario. Kilgrave is shown to be very collected but very sadistic at the same time; even though the abilities aren't what we want them to be he uses his main power of persuasion very well. All in all "Jessica Jones" is by far my favorite "Marvel" character yet, proving to be one of the more down to earth more relatable characters. I see myself binge watching this show come November 20th and I highly recommend you do the same. From the performances to the writing to the directing, "Jessica Jones" has everything needed to hold up in the "Marvel Defenders" universe and in my opinion beats "Daredevil" out by a landslide. 

Rating: 4 Out Of 4

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The Peanuts Movie
Releases November 6th 2015
1 hr 33 mins
Rated PG
Animation

Trailer:

Director: Steve Martino
Writers: Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, Cornelius Uliano

Cast: 
Noah Schnapp as Charlie Brown
Bill Melendez as Snoopy and Woodstock (from archival recordings)
Hadley Belle Miller as Lucy van Pelt
Mariel Sheets as Sally Brown
Anastasia Bredikhina as Patty
Noah Johnston as Schroeder
Rebecca Bloom as Marcie
Mar Mar as Franklin Armstrong
William Alexander Wunsch as Shermy
Francesca Capaldi as the Little Red-Haired Girl
Venus Schultheis as Peppermint Patty
Madisyn Shipman as Violet Gray
AJ Teece as Pig-Pen
Alexander Garfin as Linus van Pelt
Micah Revelli as Little Kid

Review by Stephen M.

The Peanuts Movie brings back the beloved gang of creator Charles Schulz in a fashion that would do make him proud.  Blue Sky Studios which has worked on such films as Ice Age worked closely with the Charles M. Schulz Museum in making sure the film stayed faithful to Schulz's vision and it is right on the money.  From the humor to the animation to the voice acting, the film is a delight for kids and nostalgic adults.



The film centers around two stories, Charlie Brown's crush on the new kid on the block, aka the little red-hair girl and Snoopy's foray into writing a love story.  The stories contain all the familiar elements we have come to expect from a Peanuts movie or show.  The voice acting by the young cast is great as is the use of old sounds recordings of Bill Melendez for Snoopy and Woodstock.  The animation uses a lot of cool elements combining various methods to make the characters come alive.  The 3D doesn't really pop out at you unfortunately, but still doesn't take away from the beauty of Schulz's characters and their simple neighborhood surroundings.


While there is not much to fault with the execution of the film, for those familiar with Blockhead and the gang, the film doesn't really offer much new.  It is a nice drive down memory lane with little deviation from stories and characters we are familiar with.  This is not necessarily a bad thing but for a one and a half hour long movie, you would hope for more substance and exploration of the characters that Charles and those that worked with him had not explored before.


Overall, I would highly recommend the film especially for young children and those that grew up with Sally and her "sweet bamboo," and the rest of the gang.  Some jokes never get old especially with the beautiful rendering and care that Blue Sky Studios has given them.  But in the words of Charlie Brown's teacher, the film can be summed up as "wah wah wah."

Rating: