All posts by Kit

How to Q&A: ‘Conjuring 2’ Stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson


The Conjuring 2 stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have been friends for years and their easy and effervescent chemistry is so evident on screen, playing paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Conjuring 2 follows the Warrens, just coming off the Amityville case, in which they are labeled by some as charlatans for believing the house was possessed by a demon. Lorraine wants to pull back on their work because she has visions of something horrible happening to her husband. But a case across the pond in Enfield, north of London, brings them back into the demon fold. They are sent to investigate claims that a malicious spirit is plaguing the home of a single mother, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), and her four children living there. Particularly affected is 11-year-old Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe), who seems to be the conduit for the spirit. Let’s just say this… it’s just as scary as the first one!

At the recent press day, Wilson and Farmiga the chemistry continued as they talked about the love between the Warrens, working with director James Wan and their thoughts on Ouija boards. Continue reading How to Q&A: ‘Conjuring 2’ Stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson

How to Watch: ‘Now You See Me 2’


Step 1: Realize some of the original magic has been lost in Now You See Me 2, but it provides a requisite amount of fun when it needs to.

Step 2: Set up the trick. The story takes place one year after the Four Horseman pulled off their big trick and exposed the big bad businessman, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) for all his greediness, and spread his wealth to the masses. They are now awaiting instructions from the all-powerful Eye so they can come out of hiding and start doing their Robin Hood magic again on stage. Leader Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) is the one most chomping at the bit and almost ready to just chuck the anonymity and go out on his own. Actually, Henly (Isla Fisher) already did that. She couldn’t wait anymore, and now she’s gone. But hypnotist Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and card-shark Jack (Dave Franco) are still around, and they are joined by quippy newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), who is a breath of fresh air in this quartet. Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is still working both ends, as a FBI agent trying to keep the bureau off the Horsemen’s trail but also keeping the Horsemen in check with The Eye

Step 3: Watch things go off the rails. When the Horsemen are finally allowed to appear again, this time to take down a tech millionaire, whose invented a chip that can spy on any device or computer anyway, but it turns out they are set up by one Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) who exposes Dylan and wants them to steal the chip. Lots of other twists and turns happen after that, including Daniel’s supposed nemesis Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) and Arthur’s return, but to give too much else away would spoil it.

Step 4: Get a crew that works. The camaraderie with the returning cast still works, with the pleasant addition of Caplan, who really takes the “female” role in a whole new, spunky direction. Her Lula is a snarky trickster who has a real knack for cutting off her body parts and for proving she’s actually better than the guys – and she unabashedly has the hots for Jack. Also good is Radcliffe as the smart-ass Walter, who fancies himself a magician but isn’t very good at it. He’s a fun sort of villain for awhile, until his path converges with Arthur; then it falls flat. Oh, and Merritt ends up getting a nemesis as well – his twin brother (also Harrelson), wearing a bad perm wig and big teeth. Not sure why this character is even needed in the scheme of things, and Woody plays him embarrassingly over the top.

Step 5: Wonder what’s missing. The true element of surprise that the original delivered seems to lacking in Now You See Me 2. Watching the Four Horsemen pull off their tricks in the original made it stand out as fun, thrilling adventure tale. The characters zinged, and you couldn’t really see the fascinating twists coming. In the sequel, however, the magic has faded and just not as badass. While the characters still connect in a fun way and there are some great scenes of them doing their stuff, the story falters and the twists aren’t that compelling. Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 doesn’t offer anything really new.

How to Watch: ‘Me Before You’


Step 1: Fits the bill. As far as weepy summer romantic dramas go, Me Before You may be a tad more predictable and not quite a three-hankie tearjerker, but it still achieves the requisite feels, buoyed by an effervescent performance from Emilia Clarke.

Step 2: Keep the same writer. Based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, who also wrote the screenplay, Me Before You tells the story of one Louisa Clark, known as just plain Lou, a happy-go-lucky girl who fancies herself a fashion plate (albeit an odd one), has a longtime boyfriend (Matthew Lewis) and generally loves life in the small England town where she lives. When she loses her job at a local cafe, however, Lou has to figure out quickly what to do next so she can keep helping to support her family. That’s how she meets Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a former finance genius who is paralyzed from the neck down after being hit by a motorcycle and has pretty much given up on life. In fact, we find out he’s determined to end his miserable existence.

Lou doesn’t know that, though, and so when she is hired by Will’s mother, Camilla (Janet McTeer), to look after him, it’s Camilla’s hope Lou can change her son’s mind. Lou just sees it as a good job, but as hard as she tries, she can’t get Will to show any interest at first. Or does he? I mean, Lou is a little hard to resist with her amazingly charming ways, so soon Will is won over and the two spend quality time together, eventually falling for one another. Lou does find out what Will’s true intentions are, but is their love enough for Will to hang on? One thing is for certain, their lives are forever changed by the love they find. Okay, now it’s time to grab the tissues.

Step 3: Step out of your comfort zone. How refreshing to see Clarke move away from the badass Mother of Dragons she plays in Game of Thrones to take on the role of a quirky, homespun girl who loves bumblebee tights, bright-colored shoes and boy in a wheelchair. Don’t get us wrong. We love us some Daenerys Targareon, but of course, that’s just Clarke playing a part, and the actress can obviously do more (she even tackled Sarah Connor in last summer’s Terminator Genisys). As Lou, Clarke has so many wonderful facial expression and joie de vivre – and not obnoxious in any way – it’s really hard not fall in love with her. While Me Before You really is Clarke’s film, Claflin’s good-looking charms come shining through. The Hunger Games star has the unenviable job of being stuck in a prone position, but he doesn’t play it one note. He and Clarke stir up the requisite amount of chemistry to make us care. When Will tells Lou at one point how hard it is he can’t do all the love-making thing he wants to do to her, you feel it. And it makes it all that more sad.

Other standouts are veteran British actors McTeer and Charles Dance as Will’s parents. Their combined acting experience elevates the tragedy of the situation, especially McTeer as Camilla, who so desperately wants to hold onto to her son, in whatever condition he is in. Oh, and as an added and delightful bonus, we get to see Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis (that would Neville Longbottom) all grown up and playing Lou’s selfish douche boyfriend who doesn’t understand her in any way.

Step 4: Love the castle. Director Thea Sharrock makes her feature film debut with Me Before You and while she doesn’t weave any magic, she manages to bring you into Lou and Will’s love story quite effectively, while also highlighting the quaint little town they live in – a town with the ruins of a grand castle at its center. If you have to grow up in such a small town, this isn’t all that bad. The only real flaw is Me Before You just doesn’t quite hit the notes with as big a punch as you want it to. Moyes adapts her own work, which probably helps, but the tragic romance doesn’t produce those wracking sobs like The Fault in Our Stars did or have enough off-beat humor like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Still, Me Before You has enough laughs and sighs and tears to place it firmly in the must-see romantic drama category.

How to Watch: “X-Men: Apocalypse”


Step 1: Get ready for more of the same. Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse is the third installment in the series revolving around the younger versions of our favorite X-Men characters, and while it isn’t as stellar as the first two – First Class and Days of Future Past – Apocalypse still manages to thrill you with its mutant action and impeccable characterizations.

Step 2: Tell the story. Apoc takes place about 10 years after Days of Future Past. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) are successfully running Xavier’s School for the Gifted, which takes in young mutants who want to learn how to control their abilities AND get an education. Here we meet the young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), whose telekinetic powers are so strong it concerns Charles, and Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), who has just found out his eyes are now powerful laser beams. Not exactly the ideal thing for a teenage boy.

Meanwhile, Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is still saving mutants from being exploited and rescues a young Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and brings him to the school. Raven also has found out that Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is in trouble again, and she wants to go help him with Charles’ assistance. But, of course, they are all sidetracked when an ancient mutant named Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rises in Cairo after being trapped for centuries, ready to destroy all the weak humans and take over the world. And Apocalypse doesn’t work alone. He needs his “Four Horseman” by his side, so he recruits four powerful mutants to assist him, and in 1983, those four include a young Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy) – and Magneto, naturally.

Step 3: Love us some Mystique. The cool thing about Mystique is that her future has been altered. When we first meet her in the original X-Men movies, she is a villain, working with Magneto to take down those humans oppressing the mutants. Then in X-Men: First Class, a new Raven emerges, one with a lonely past but defiant in staying true to who she is. We see her leaning towards Magneto’s side, knowing how that turns out, but in Days of Future Past, the timeline is skewed by Wolverine and their success in saving mutants in the distant future. So now, in Apocalypse, Mystique is a hero to both the human and mutant community. It’s not something she necessarily wants – and she is still fighting for mutant rights – but she is no longer angry at humans. She becomes the Captain America of the X-Men, leading the team and telling them to embrace their abilities so they can defeat the evil. Lawrence has continually given this character enormous depth and meaning, and by making her the mutant champion, instead of an enemy, she shines.

Step 4: Hear Charles and Magneto debate the same thing. Charles has taken the time between their last encounter to build his school and teach the young mutants, and while McAvoy continues to play it brilliantly, giving small glimpses of the Patrick Stewart older man he’ll become, he has less impact in Apocalypse than he did the previous installments. The actor is actually kind of wasted in this, and manages to mostly sit around, dictating, reacting – and having the same argument with Erik over using their abilities for good to help humans, rather than harm them. Yawn. It doesn’t do McAvoy justice, especially since he’s given so much life to the role. We do see, however, how he becomes bald (and it’s not just a hair preference).

On the flip side, Magneto is a wanted man in Apocalypse for his evil deeds in Days of Future Past, but he has tried desperately to shed that persona and live a normal life. Without giving anything away, a set of circumstances turns Erik back into his vengeful Magneto once again, now just ripe for the picking by Apocalypse. While this also just seems repetitive, Fassbender continues to be the most fascinating player in this “new generation,” showing just how tortured Erik really is from all the horrors of his past. That’s why we can never completely hate Magneto for his actions (and we feel similarly for Ian McKellan’s older version) because we’ll always ultimately felt empathy for him – even when he’s tearing up the world.

Step 5: Follow Quicksilver and Wolverine. Evan Peters simply wins as Quicksilver. Period. There’s no way Age of Ultron‘s Aaron Taylor-Johnson had a chance to outdo Peters’ interpretation of the Marvel character, especially after his debut in Days of Future Past, so it’s probably best they killed Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver off. In Apocalypse, Peters once again shines as Quicksilver, doing his schtick (and saving a bunch of mutant kids from a bomb blast), stealing every scene he is in. And now that he knows he is Magneto’s son, this should be interesting in upcoming X-Men movies. And it’s no secret Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine makes an appearance in Apocalypse (because it’s in the trailers), but the way he does it is so completely awesome, you’ll definitely cheer when he shows up. Hint: It does have something to do with Col. William Stryker (Josh Helman) – remember, he’s the government guy who turned Wolverine’s claws into iron.

Step 6: Yawn at the villains. Isaac has the unenviable task of bringing the first mutant ever to life, but like McAvoy, he’s wasted, weighted down by all that brooding mutant elitism – and that prosthetic makeup. Apocalypse just isn’t compelling and there’s nothing new Isaac brings to the table. Same goes with two of his Four Horseman (excluding Storm and Magneto). While Munn looks kickass as Psylocke, she really only has one fight scene to speak off, while Hardy has no chance to give Angel any sort of depth, although he, too, looks fierce. This is a big missed opportunity to elevate standard comic-book bad guys.

Step 7: Praise Jean Grey. Along with Magneto and Wolverine, Jean Grey has always been one of the most compelling figures in the X-Men universe – the one mutant who truly has enough power to either rule them all or wipe them out. Famke Janssen will always have the credit of being the first Jean and for making an indelible impression, but Sophie Turner may have outdone her as the younger version. The Game of Thrones star proves she’s a real badass and has probably the most spectacular scene in the whole film when she takes on Apocalypse. It shows shades of the Dark Phoenix, but one wonders if her future, in which she does become evil, will now be changed by the altered timeline.

As for the other newbies, Sheridan does a nice job as the young Scott, trying to control those laser beam eyes while also falling for the older Jean, while Shipp gives us a whole new take on Storm. Did you know Ororo Munroe was Egyptian? I sure didn’t, but if Halle Berry ever has a chance to play Storm again, Shipp gives her lots to work with. The standout, though, is Smit-McPhee as the sweet-natured and religious Kurt, with his wide-eyed innocence and willingness to do teenager things. Again, his future has been skewed (remember in X2, he is under Magneto’s control), and now he is part of the X-Men team.

Step 8: How Bryan Singer handles it. The director absolutely understands this X-Men universe backwards and forwards, and does a wonderful job in keeping things familiar and relevant to all the characters. But where he fails in Apocalypse is in trying to give us something new and different. The film feels like a retread, with little propelling the story forward. Perhaps that’s the intent, a way to herald in the new generation of X-Men that we were first introduced to in the 2000 X-Men, but it feels lazy, in its execution and bloated action sequences. But he seamlessly blends all those great characters together, which allows X-Men fans to to look past the shortcomings and have fun with Apocalypse nonetheless.

How to Watch: “The Nice Guys”

Nice Guys

Step 1: Have fun. From the mind of writer/director Shane Black, The Nice Guys is just pure wackiness all the way through – a straight-up crime mystery filled with hilarious antics and plenty of violence. A perfect addition to the summer movie roster.

Step 2: Set it in Los Angeles in 1977. The premise revolves around Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a former cop who now works independently as the guy you hire to rough someone up. When he takes a job from Amelia (Margaret Qualley), a young woman who wants him to stop some guys following her, Jackson meets (and beats up) Holland March (Ryan Gosling). March is a down-on-his-luck private detective dealing with some personal issues like the loss of his wife and trying to take care of his precocious 13-year-old daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice). But a turn of events forces Holland and Jackson to work together to try to find a now-missing Amelia and solve the mystery involving Amelia’s porn flick and why everyone associated with it are being killed.

Step 3: Find the new onscreen duo. Evident from all the trailers and promotional appearances (like the hilarious videos of the actors seeking couples therapy), Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe together are what sell this movie. Their chemistry is palpable onscreen, and the two simply click in this Shane Black-created milieu. Although he did do a few early on his native Australia, Crowe is definitely not who you think of when you think comedy. And to be fair, he’s not the balls-out comedic performer in The Nice Guys, either, but he is a perfect straight man, an always underrated component of a great comedic onscreen duo. It’s the reactions that count, and Crowe nails it. So yes, it’s Gosling who shines as the funny guy, which isn’t all that surprising since he’s done films like Crazy, Stupid, Love. and The Big Short. What is surprising, however, is how well Gosling handles the physical comedy in Nice Guys. He gets beat up, shot at and pratfalls like the best of them. Seriously, if they play their cards right, Crowe and Gosling could be another great Abbott and Costello.

Step 4: Oh, and hire a really savvy teenager. As the smart-as-a-whip Holly, Rice very nearly steals the show from her two co-stars. She shows an uncanny comedic sense while also making it seem entirely plausible that Holly would be just as good at being a private eye. Also, Holly finds herself in some situations no normal 13-year-old would be in but is, naturally, the level-headed one who tries to set her falling-apart-at-the-seams father on the right path. The “wise kid raising the parent” isn’t a new concept, but Rice does a nice job keeping it fresh. Look out for this young Australian actress – she’s going places.

Step 5: Be thankful L.A. doesn’t look like that anymore. The Nice Guys locale is a key player in the film, showing that gritty, smog-filled side of Los Angeles in the 1970s. From the dilapidated Hollywood Sign, to the crowded freeways, to the growing porn industry, director Shane Black really paints a nice thin, dirty feel to the whole thing, which completely complements the action. But there is also some beauty to the film, a clear love letter to L.A. and the promise of how gorgeous the City of Angels will become – once all the smog is cleared out.

Step 6: Get Shane Black. The once wunderkid, whose sale of his first script, Lethal Weapon, is one of those legendary Hollywood stories. The classic 1987 buddy-cop script was one of the first to benefit from a “bidding-war” situation between studios, creating a heyday for screenwriters in the ’80s and ’90s. While it’s much different now with how movie scripts are sold, Black has proven he was not a one-hit wonder, especially with his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005. The Nice Guys follows along the same lines, mixing genres and creating something that feels familiar but is still unique.

There are some plot holes in the film, mostly revolving around Kim Basinger’s role as Amelia’s mother (who definitely needed more screen time) and her job as the “head of the justice department,” investigating the auto industry and the smog emission problem that plagued Los Angeles in the ’70s, but you’re willing to overlook it because the characterizations and the dialogue are all so spot-on. This crime comedy milieu is really Black’s forte, and let’s hope he keeps making them.

How to Watch: “Captain America: Civil War”

Captain America

Step 1: Buckle in. The ultimate battle of superhero titans is about to take off in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War and hold onto your seats, folks, because this is one helluva ride – and the best Marvel movie to date.

Step 2: Set up. The basic premise revolves the Avengers’ methods of staving off potential global catastrophes. Lead by Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), the small band of superheroes and fighters see the threat and go in to take it out. Problem is, when they do that, collateral damage – both with property and with innocent lives – is inevitable, and governments around the world are not sitting well with it. They want some checks and balances on the Avengers. Usually on the side of the government, Cap sees this as a big problem because any delay in their emergency response could prove to be highly detrimental and a larger loss of life. Instead, it’s Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who sides with the bureaucrats. He says he understands their POV, but there’s an underlying guilt Tony feels because let’s face it, the last catastrophe at the hands of Ultron was Stark’s fault since, you know, he created Ultron. Tony doesn’t trust himself anymore and thinks he might need some higher authority telling him no.

Step 3: Pick a side. Thus creates the conflict, which is only heightened when Steve’s BFF Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) shows up again. Bucky is trying very hard to shed his Winter Soldier/assassin reputation by staying in hiding but unfortunately is still under some form of Manchurian Candidate-type mind control, and at some point, Winter Soldier is re-engaged. Steve knows his friend is still in there and isn’t doing these things on his own accord, but the rest of the world doesn’t. Cap wants to get Bucky help to finally “fix” his brain, but in protecting Bucky, Steve and those who follow him – Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – become wanted fugitives themselves. They now have to fight against their friends who are following Tony, such as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany) and Lt. James Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle). Little do they know, they are all being manipulated by another, more sinister force, who, of course, should be stopped by the Avengers. But can they do that before the friendship between Cap and Iron Man are irreparably damaged?

Step 4: Kudos to the writers. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely craft an excellent story, one that isn’t too convoluted (sorry, Batman v Superman, they did it right) but also one that allows a bevy of characters to share time onscreen in a seamless way. This is a story we can actually relate to, if you’ve ever had a big blowup with your siblings. Markus and McFeely turn the Avengers into a dysfunctional family of sorts, so when they do argue – and by “argue,” I mean use their superpowers to slam each other through walls — it actually comes more out of love and respect. Tony and Steve don’t want to be in this conflict, but they are also both stubborn and are doing what they think is best. Plus, you really can understand both sides of the conflict, even if you find yourself rooting for a team (Team Cap does have the advantage, come on). Then, just when you think relations seem to be improving, a turn of events really sets Tony off, making the ultimate falling out between Cap and Iron Man even more heartbreaking to watch.

Step 5: Enter the new Avengers. The writers also have to introduce new characters into the Civil War mix to feed the Marvel machine, but do it in a way that makes sense to the overall picture. The biggest newbie storyline goes to T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), a prince from a fictitious African nation who seeks revenge against Bucky for seemingly killing his father. This is what sets up the film’s tentpole battle sequence at the airport between Team Cap and Team Iron Man. Both teams know they need reinforcements, so Falcon brings in Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who has always been anti-establishment, to join Team Cap, while Tony recruits teenager Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) for Team Iron Man. The airport battle is nothing sort of spectacular, with its power, fabulous action, great humor and shades of grey coloring in what is supposed to be a black or white situation.

Step 6: Let them shine. All the actors get a chance to bring more depth to their characters. In the past Avengers movies, Downey seems to overpower the situation with his stellar performance as Tony Stark, but in Civil War, he really isn’t the main focus but rather complements the whole ensemble. And, yes, the title does have Captain America in it, so it is, in essence, Evans’ movie, but everyone has their moment: Downey and Cheadle deepen their friendship; Evans and Emily VanCamp as special agent Sharon Carter share a bond (and maybe a romance?); Johansson and Renner have a nice moment in the airport scene (“We’re still friends, right?” “Depends on how hard you hit me.”); Olsen and Bettany get to play with a possible romance blossoming between Scarlet Witch and Vision (if that’s even possible); Mackie and Stan have fun playing Cap’s BFF rivals; Paul Rudd is freaking hilarious from the moment he appears and is totally us when he geeks out over being with the Avengers (“Hey, I know you,” he says to Scarlet Witch. “You’re great!”); and Boseman is simply kick-ass as Black Panther (and gets us excited about his stand-alone movie). The true stand-out, however – and the one most will talk about – is Holland as Spider-Man. I think they’ve finally nailed that character (and by “they” we mean Marvel… sorry, Sony).

Step 7: Call to action! Finally, there has to be a big shout-out to directors Anthony and Joe Russo. Armed with the excellent script, the brothers are able to implement an action-packed, funny and emotional comic-book movie that, up to this point, is the best of them all. The action sequences are crisp and well-defined, and the Russos thankfully avoid falling into the trap of making them too long or too busy. The brothers did that a little bit with Captain America: Winter Solider, so it looks like they’ve studied and improved their techniques. They also make sure there are enough light moments as there are dark ones, which seems to come naturally from the players’ camaraderie; that’s also a good sign the cast had attentive directors. Let’s just say, we are super excited the screenwriting/directing teams will be handling the last of the Avengers movie, the Infinity Wars Part 1 and 2.

Step 8: Go see Captain America: Civil War, like, right now.

How to Watch: ‘Barbershop: The Next Cut’


Step 1: Keep it fresh. For a third installment in a series, Barbershop: The Next Cut feels just as original and relevant as if this were the first one.

Step 2: Meet the players. Some of the familiar faces have returned like shop owner Calvin (Ice Cube) and his mainstay barbers Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), Terri (Eve) and food truck owner J.D. (Anthony Anderson), who returns after skipping the second Barbershop. There are also many new characters, including barbers Rashad (Common), who is married to Terri, Jerrod (New Girl‘s Lamorne Morris), One-Stop (J.B. Smoove) and Raja (Utkarsh Ambudkar). Plus, Calvin has expanded the barbershop and is now in business with beauty shop owner Angie (Regina Hall), with her hair stylists Bree (Margot Bingham) and Draya (Nicki Minaj).

Step 3: Keep it real. While the same fun Barbershop comedy and shenanigans are still in abundance, this Barbershop also focuses on the very real topic of gang violence on the streets of Southside Chicago, and how the barbershop is one of the last places that is considered a neutral zone, where people can just come in and be themselves. In an effort to take back their community, Calvin, Angie et. al. call for a cease fire for 48 hours, in which anyone can come in for a free cut. The Next Cut also takes a look at family, as Calvin deals with his 14-year-old son (Michael Rainey Jr.) and the peer pressures he faces to join a gang.

Step 4: Recognize the talent. Star Ice Cube, director Malcolm D. Lee and writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver impress on many levels with this third installment. They not only keep in the same vein as the other Barbershop movies, but they allow the film to step up and present a positive message, a story about a community coming together to try and stop the violence on the streets. They don’t pretend they can solve the problem, but Cube’s considerable influence should get people to listen. Cube and the Barbershop gang also have just fun with it. This is a movie after all, and one that follows two films that were successful for outrageous comedy, so Next Cut follows suit, especially with comedians J.B. Smoove, Cedric the Entertainer and Deon Cole. There’s also great back and forth between the men and women that’s all relatable. And props to Nicki Minaj – the singer’s got some comedy chops.

Step 5: The best thing about this third Barbershop is that you don’t have to see the first two to appreciate the humor, the characters and the great positive message it sends out.

How to Podcast: “Hardcore Henry” Is Definitely Hardcore

hardcore henry

It was only a matter of time before they made an entire movie with a Go-Pro type camera — and boy, what a wild ride Hardcore Henry is. Told from the first-person perspective, we meet Henry, a possible former special ops guy who wakes up to discover most of his body has been reconstructed with hi-tech machinery, including his heart being run on battery. Henry also doesn’t remember anything at all. When he opens his eyes, he sees a beautiful woman, a scientist (Haley Bennett), who tells him about his condition — and also that she’s his wife.

Then it all goes to hell in fairly quick fashion. The bad guys break into the facility, take Henry’s “wife,” but Henry escapes and then spends the rest of the movie killing as many men as he possibly can, all with the help of Jimmy (Sharlto Copely), a chameleon of sorts with seemingly endless resources.

Hardcore Henry runs you ragged as one of the most visceral and violent movies to come along in awhile, but it’s just entertaining as hell. I discuss in the movie review podcast below… check it out!

How to Watch: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”


By now, you’ve probably read that the critics, for the most part, did not like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice very much. It’s “bloated,” “muddled,” “nothing super,” “dawn of disappointment” etc., which does, in some degree, describe the film. Let’s just say, as much as both Batman AND Superman have issues, so does their titular first movie together. However, there are actually some qualifying good moments in the film, and fans of these two superhero titans should know that they’ll be experiencing a cinematic feat in bringing them together on the big screen. So rather than just rant and blather on, I’m simply going to take a look at the movie’s pros and cons in simplistic chunks.

Step 1: Batman

Pro: Ben Affleck is really quite good as the Dark Knight, I have to admit. He’s even better as Bruce Wayne, though, and thankfully Bruce has more screen time than Batman in BvS. Affleck plays Wayne a little older, maybe a little wiser, with the graying at the temples and the weary “I’m too old for this shit” attitude at times. It would have been nice to see a little more lightheartedness, maybe a wink here or there, something Affleck is very good at doing. But alas, Bruce is just too pissed off to smile. Oh, and the Batmobile rocked!

Con: That being said, it’s hard to understand why he is SO angry at Superman. BvS starts off with a very familiar scene in which he sees his parents (The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan and her soon-to-be TWD co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan) gunned down in the streets, so we get how haunted Bruce is and why he became the winged Bat vigilante. But hating super sweet do-gooder Superman? Why? Sure, Superman’s omnipotent powers destroy buildings, harm innocents and could be used for evil, instead of good, and Batman feels like he is the only one who could keep Superman in check. But the animosity isn’t explored beyond that – besides maybe these out-of-nowhere futuristic “nightmares” Bruce has that lead him down a darker path. It’s all poorly explained and basically undercuts the whole point of the film. The biggest flaw, however, is what happens to make Batman finally see Superman as a friend, not a foe. You’ll probably yell at the screen, “Really?!” It’s sloppy and lazy writing, as if they were in a hurry to wrap it up.

Step 2: Superman

Pro: Henry Cavill certainly looks the part, always has, but still has the unenviable task of trying to instill some personality into the superhero. Superman can be quite boring, but Cavill manages to humanize him, much like his predecessor Christopher Reeve did. And Clark Kent and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) are sweet together, even though they’ve got these giant black clouds hanging over their relationship, including the fact Superman is being blamed for things out of his control. Now, on the flip side, his feelings for Batman are better understood because Superman/Clark Kent mistrusts the Caped Crusader as someone who takes the law into their own hands. That makes sense.

Con: Superman still doesn’t have much oomph. He’s just bland. Period. And no matter what amount of touches Cavill attempts, it doesn’t really work. I’m just curious to see if they give him more levity in the films to come now that we’ve gotten all the expository stuff out of the way.

Step 3: Lex Luthor

Pro: This is definitely a different kind of Lex Luthor than we’ve seen before, and it is quite refreshing. Jesse Eisenberg portrays the master villain as an arrogant, spoiled rich brat with daddy issues but with a very brilliant mind. He knows how to orchestrate what he wants and some of his nefarious actions will make you gasp (at least it did me).

Con: Problem is, Lex goes from somewhat sane to completely insane in nano seconds, and this is where Eisenberg takes the character a little too over the top, with the rapid-fire dialogue and the nervous little laugh. He becomes a caricature of himself.

Step 4: Wonder Woman

Pro: Quite simply, Gal Gadot’s brief appearances as Wonder Woman are the film’s highlights, especially in BvS‘s final climactic battle. When she throws up wrists to ward off a blast, or uses her lasso and sword, you definitely cheer out loud. Let’s hope they keep that fierceness alive in Wonder Woman’s stand alone movie.

Con: The Wonder Woman moments are too brief. As for the other women in the cast, most are terribly underutilized. Adams continues to be one of the better Lois Lanes, but her plucky journalist stills turns into a damsel in distress, and Diane Lane as Clark’s mom adds absolutely nothing. Holly Hunter’s fiery Southern senator is displayed in one solid moment, basically taking down Lex down a peg, but that’s about it. Gadot had to represent.

Step 5: Director Zack Snyder

Pro: As a visionary, Snyder is ambitious and gives BvS a grand scope. The film looks pretty amazing, especially in some of the quieter moments when either Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent/Superman are being contemplative. The action sequences are fairly standard as far as those big, metal-crushing, bone-crunching scenes can be, but you have to appreciate those kinds of sequences when they are not all in your face and confusing. Snyder delivers on that end.

Con: Snyder has a tough time telling the story through his lens. He doesn’t know when and where to cut, and this leaves the film feeling convoluted and overdrawn. It’s almost like when Zack sees it, and all the out-of-place scenes he has throw in, it totally makes sense to him– but to him only. The rest of us are scratching our heads.

Step 6: Conclude. So, yes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t in any way a perfect comic book movie, but it has enough going for it that will make fans happy. Plus, it does give a glimpse of how the upcoming Justice League is shaping up, and it’s kind of exciting. Judging from the major critical backlash Snyder is receiving over BvS, however, it may end up he doesn’t direct Justice League — and that’s probably a good thing.

How to Watch: “Midnight Special”

Midnight Special1

Step 1: Revel in it. Midnight Special shrouds its sci-fi story in marvelous mystery but tackles the narrative’s complexities with heart and soul.

Step 2: Appreciate writer/director Jeff Nichols. He is truly one of the more fascinating and innovative filmmakers working today because he comes up with such original ideas revolving around big concepts but manages to pare them down to essential and unifying themes of love, family, faith. Mud is Nichols’ stellar film about two boys coming of age while helping a drifter (Matthew McConaughey) reunite with his long-lost love. The excellent Take Shelter focuses on faith, as a man (Michael Shannon) convinced the end of the world is coming, nearly loses his family over his obsession to build a shelter to keep them safe. Now, we have the thoroughly engaging and entertainiing Midnight Special, in which Nichols explores the theme of a parent’s unconditional love for their child, even if that child has special powers and is probably meant for something greater than a normal life in this world.

Step 3: Tell the story. Midnight Special focuses on young Alton (St. Vincent‘s Jaeden Lieberher), who, when we first meet him, is on the run with his father, Roy (Michael Shannon), and Roy’s friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton). Even though the media is broadcasting that Alton has been abducted, he is in loving hands. You find out Alton and Roy once lived on the Ranch, a commune where an extreme religious sect believes Alton is their Savior and that the Second Coming is happening on specific date quickly approaching. Roy takes Alton because he knows he has to reach a specific place on that date, in order to somehow save his son’s life. Roy doesn’t quite understand what his son’s powers mean, but he will do anything to make sure his son is safe. You see, they can only travel by night because sunlight sends Alton into fits. And when Alton uses his special powers to show people glimpses of something otherworldly (we aren’t sure what), it also weakens him. In fact, Alton is dying and helping him achieve his goal has become paramount.

Step 4: Stay on the run. Needless to say, Roy, Lucas and eventually Alton’s mother, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) — who had previously left the Ranch and they pick up along the way – know they have to reach the place before its too late. But they continue to run into obstacles, including the Ranch flunkies who try to get Alton back, and also the FBI, who have tracked Alton and believe his powers may be a dangerous nuclear weapon. The race against the clock is harrowing, but what happens at their destination is what makes Midnight Special all the more special.

Step 5: Admire the actors. Shannon, who is now becoming one of Nichols’ go-to actors, brings a certain fierce determination to the father character, trying desperately to save his son’s life, even if he doesn’t completely understand why this is happening to his child. At one point, Alton tells Roy he doesn’t have to worry about him anymore, but Roy says, “That’s what all parents do.” Shannon is quite excellent, as is Dunst, who plays the mother figure so very convincingly. The underrated Edgerton also adds nicely to the mix as Roy’s old childhood friend and now state trooper who immediately helps Roy and Alton once Alton shows him the light in his eyes. Adam Driver, who you can’t take your eyes off every time he is onscreen, stands out as well as an NSA analyst who discovers what Alton’s true purpose might be through codes and signals, but is also eventually drawn into Alton’s universe. Then, we have the young Lieberher, who embodies the whole of Midnight Special with his soulful looks and understated acting. I think the kid’s got the chops to make it past adolescent and blossom into a fine actor, ala Jodie Foster.

Step 6: Again give kudos to Nichols, the true star behind Midnight Special. He carries this narrative without making it a sci-fi spectacle but rather he lets it ride on its heart, focusing on the family and what it means to be a parent. Nichols is quickly becoming a filmmaker on par with indie darlings Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne but who thinks big like Steven Spielberg. Can’t wait to see what he does next.