The Post (Full Review)

Contrary to what some might have you believe these days, the purpose of the news media has always been to serve as a check on those in power. Never was that purpose more evident than in the early 1970’s in the midst of the controversial Vietnam War. Directed by Steven Spielberg, The Post tells the story of the battle to uphold that right during the height of the newspaper industry.

The_Post_(film)Meryl Streep portrays Washington Post owner Katherine Graham who is thrust into the leadership role after her husband’s untimely suicide. Her high class social life of dining with politicians is threatened when a whistleblower reveals years of documents proving that several U.S. Presidents had been lying to the American people about the lack of success during the Vietnam War. After President Richard Nixon leads the charge for a court order forbidding the New York Times from publishing the documents, fiery Washington Post editor and chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) decides to challenge the court’s rulings by publishing the documents under the guise of Freedom of the Press. But to do so, he’ll need Graham’s permission.

The movie certainly drags for its first third as it sets up all of the need to know details of the classified documents and attempts to establish many of its dry characters. But once it zeroes in on its main topic, The Post finds its footing and becomes an intensely gripping film. Unsurprisingly, Streep and Hanks are homeruns in their roles. Streep is compelling in the role of Graham, who navigates her difficult position of a woman in power in the 1970’s to become an iconic figure for Women’s rights. Hanks is equally brilliant and manages to brings necessary wit and drive to a film that might be a bit dull without him.

If you can make it through the sluggish beginning, The Post pays off with a smart, passionate rendering of its necessary subject matter. Like many Oscar-bate biographical films, it can feel like a drag to those who want their movies to be more entertaining than informative. But even if it does come off as something that should be shown in high school history classes, anyone watching it should come away with a greater appreciation for the media and its necessary role in our society.

FINAL GRADE: B

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Proud Mary (Full Review)

It’s necessary to have some diversity in all film genres. We haven’t seen a black woman star as a no-nonsense, gun toting action hero since Pam Grier in the 70’s. In Proud Mary, award winning actress Taraji P. Henson gets to step into the shoes of a bad ass hitwoman. But just because the leading lady and the concept is good, doesn’t mean the end product will be.

Proud_Mary_posterHenson plays Mary, an assassin who takes in a young boy named Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) whose father she killed in a hit. Determined to free herself and the boy from the violent world of organized crime, Mary kills the rival mob boss that Danny worked for. The move insights an underground war forcing her to turn on her boss Benny (Danny Glover) and his son/her ex-lover Tom (Billy Brown).

I love Henson as an actress. And I love crime drama. So I wanted to like Proud Mary as much as I did Salt or John Wick. But Proud Mary is a dull, forgettable mess that feels more like a TV movie. The Mary character isn’t given remotely enough to make you care about her other than the fact that she’s played by Taraji P. Henson and the plot delivers about as much nuance as my description of it. The entire story feels rushed through, with supporting characters and motives barely touched on. It almost feels like there’s about a half hour chunk of character development and exposition missing.

The action doesn’t manage to be a saving grace, except for a few scenes. Many of the sequences feel poorly edited, as if to better mask the stunt doubles. It makes for several choreographed moments where it’s obvious Taraji P. isn’t the one throwing the punches meaning her most intimidating character moments come from shooting people in the head point blank.

The soundtrack is wonderful and the mother-son chemistry with Henson’s Mary and Winston’s Danny is endearing enough to at least make you care about them and make the story not a complete waste of time. But it doesn’t change the fact that this movie is a missed opportunity. Henson is a good enough actress to warrant an action movie with a budget and story better than a BET movie you’d watch while doing laundry on a weekday afternoon.

FINAL GRADE: D

The Commuter (Full Review)

We all know the drill by now. Liam Neeson is a grizzled elder statesmen with a particular set of skills and he will do anything to seek justice or protect his family. Sometimes it makes for some pretty exhilarating entertainment. Other times, not so much. In The Commuter, Neeson reunites with Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Run All Night, Non-Stop, Unknown) for more of the same.

The_Commuter_film_posterNeeson plays Michael MacCauley, a grizzled former cop with a particular set of skills who will do anything to protect his family. After being laid off from his job in life insurance, he encounters a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga) on his train ride home. She offers him $10,000 to find and execute an unknown criminal witness before the train ride can come to an end. With no phone and his family held hostage, he must decide to go through with the plan or attempt to save the witness and the rest of the passengers.

Yes, Liam Neeson is doing the same thing he always does. But, here, it’s pretty entertaining. The movie plays out more like a mystery than an action thriller, with several suspects laid out for the audience to try and sift through along with his character. And unlike in many of his previous films, Neeson’s character feels much more vulnerable both physically and emotionally, which makes for much more intriguing action.

The plot and many of the action sequences are over the top. And some of it is far too similar to Non-Stop. There is also a plot hole here and there. But the players involved make The Commuter worth the ride if you don’t take it too seriously. If you’ve grown tired of these types of films, by all means pass this one by. But if seeing Liam Neeson saddle up for another wild scenario makes you sit on the edge of your seat, the many twists and turns in this movie will definitely keep you enthralled from start to finish.

FINAL GRADE: B

18 for 18 (The Moore Reviews Most Anticipated Movies of 2018)

A new year brings new films and thankfully a renewed sense of excitement. There are a lot of intriguing films scheduled for release in 2018 and while I’m sure some of them won’t live up to the hype, the law of averages suggests that at least a few of these will be fantastic. After all, three of my most anticipated movies of 2017 ended up on My Top 10 List. So, mark your calendars! Here are the 18 movies of 2018 that I am the most excited about.

FEBRUARY 16TH – BLACK PANTHER

Black_Panther_film_posterLet’s start with one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year. Ever since Black Panther burst onto the scene in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, fans of the genre have been eagerly awaiting the character’s solo adventure. With a brilliant cast and a director with a phenomenal track record in Ryan Coogler, the stage is set for 2018’s first superhero film to be a show stopper.

FEBRUARY 23RD – ANNIHILATION

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This science fiction novel adaptation will put a solid cast of women, including Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, in the forefront as a team of doctors out to explore a mysterious area where no one has ever come out the same. Director Alex Garland put himself on the cinematic map with 2015’s Ex_Machina so this one has the potential to be incredible.

 

MARCH 9TH – A WRINKLE IN TIME

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With a little Disney magic and a diverse, well rounded cast, this adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel should be an exciting family adventure. Ava Duvernay steps in to direct her first theatrical film since Selma.

MARCH 23RD – PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING

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Guillermo Del Toro’s first Pacific Rim movie was by no means a classic of compelling storytelling, but thanks to some awesome action sequences, it turned out to be absolute popcorn fun. The new film adds Star Wars front man John Boyega as the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentacost in a movie sure to be just as mindlessly exciting.

 

 

MAY 4TH – AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

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An epic adventure ten years in the making. This film is the most likely to break box office records as it unites characters from all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the first of a two part story arc that MCU producer Kevin Feige has promised will reshape the franchise.

MAY 18TH – DEADPOOL 2

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No one expected Deadpool to be the mega hit that it was, but here we are. Ryan Reynolds steps back into the role he was born for with a few new characters thrown into the mix. Atlanta’s Zazie Beets steps into the role of luck manipulating mutant Domino and Josh Brolin plays time traveling mutant Cable in what will likely be another raunchy, hilarious blockbuster.

MAY 25TH – SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

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This film has had all kinds of negative rumors surrounding it since it dropped its original directors in favor of Ron Howard. After extensive reshoots, there’s still hope that this prequel about Star Wars’ resident renegade, Han Solo, can live up to the expectations of one of science fiction’s most beloved universes.

 

JUNE 8TH – OCEAN’S 8

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Ocean’s Eleven is one of my all time favorite films. It’s witty, charismatic, and hilarious. It also had a cast full of dudes so it’s only right that the ladies get a chance to take center stage. The cast for this heist film (Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, and Rihanna) is downright perfect and should make for a fun summer flick.

JUNE 15TH – INCREDIBLES 2

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It took 13 years and two unnecessary Cars sequels, but Pixar is finally giving us the sequel we want and deserve. The first Incredibles is one of my all time favorite films and if Finding Dory is any indication of what happens when the studio makes you wait, this film will be just as amazing as the original.

JUNE 22ND – JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

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Jurassic World was an adventurous jolt of nostalgia back in 2015. While sequels have never been the niche of this franchise, there’s still hope that the movie will at least deliver some exciting moments even if the plot is a throwaway. The return Jeff Goldblum in his role from the original Jurassic Park is also something to look forward to.

JULY 6TH – ANT MAN AND THE WASP

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2015’s Ant-Man was a pleasant surprise. A comedic heist movie more than an outright superhero story, it showed that you don’t always have to have marquee comic book characters to sell a movie. Hopefully this sequel, and the first MCU movie following Infinity War, can be just as captivating.

JULY 27TH – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 6

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I am a huge fan of these Tom Cruise action thrillers. Not much is known about this movie just yet, but It reunites most of the cast from Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation including Rebecca Ferguson’s fem fatale Ilsa Faust. Henry Cavill also joins the cast in the role that forced the Justice League producers to edit out Cavill’s mustache.

OCTOBER 5TH – VENOM

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Filming is already underway for this Spider-Man spinoff. After Sam Raimi’s travesty known as Spider-Man 3, I am excited to see the iconic comic anti-hero done justice. Brilliant actor, Tom Hardy will tackle the role of Eddie Brock in this ‘R’ rated sci-fi horror that will hopefully be just as incredible as Logan was last year.

NOVEMBER 2ND – X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX

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I enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse, but it was quite a step down from the two previous installments in the James McAvoy/Michael Fassbender led franchise. Producer turned Director Simon Kinberg hopes to get things back on track with this cosmic tale that I hope will correctly adapt the iconic Dark Phoenix Saga that Brett Ratner effectively ruined in X-Men 3. It’s also worth noting that with Disney buying out 20th Century Fox, this could possibly be the last time we see X-Men outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

NOVEMBER 16TH – FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD

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J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter prequel left a lot to be desired, but the Newt Scamander character played by Eddie Redmayne was likable enough. And it’s always fun to revisit the wizarding world. This sequel will hopefully have a more compelling plot as it brings in Jude Law for the role of young Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore to battle against Johnny Depp’s villainous Grindelwald.

NOVEMBER 21ST – RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK IT RALPH 2

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I still get watery eyed watching 2014’s sensational original Disney film about the video game villain who just wants to be loved and respected. This sequel will not just reunite the original cast, but also be the first ever film to feature all of the animated Disney princesses in one movie with their original voices. Taraji P. Henson, James Corden, and Alan Tudyk are also on board for what’s sure to be the animated highlight of Thanksgiving 2018.

 

DECEMBER 14TH – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

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In case you didn’t know, Sony Pictures still owns the rights to the Spider-Man character. This means that they’re free to create off shoots like this animated adventure about Miles Morales, Peter Parker’s successor as the famed wall-crawler. If the first trailer is any indication, this movie will be an exciting adventure with incredible animation.

DECEMBER 21ST – AQUAMAN

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Even if you didn’t love Justice League as much as I did, it’s hard not to be intrigued by Jason Mamoa’s grungy surfer take on the classic DC character. This solo adventure will take the hero back to his underwater roots and will feature a stellar cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, and Patrick Wilson.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Tomb Raider – March 16th

Ready Player One – March 30th

God Particle (Cloverfield 3) – April 20th

Alita: Battle Angel – July 20th

The Equalizer 2 – August 3rd

The Predator – August 3rd

Mortal Engines – December 14th

 

… What movies are you looking forward to in 2018??

My Least Favorite Films of 2017

Each year I sort of change the nature of this list. That’s mostly due to the fact that there are so many universally panned movies that I never get around to watching. So instead of calling this the Worst Movies of 2017, I’ll stick to calling it my least favorite movies of the year. 2017 threw a lot of lousy, unnecessary films our way, and here are ten that each made me cringe in their own special way. To see the full review, click on the title and feel free to let me know which movies made your worst list for 2017.

10. Baywatch

“The film wants to be an action movie just as much as it wants to be a comedy and seems to operate as if its sequences are actually intensely thrilling. But the entire time it just feels like you’re being told a boring story that might be more interesting if you were a lifeguard.”

9. Pitch Perfect 3

“The plot to this film is scraping the bottom of the barrel so much that they’re getting nothing but wooden shards. None of it is interesting or compelling.”

8. A Bad Mom’s Christmas

“… seems like it was filmed in a day, with the story following a predictable arc and many of the scenes being nonsensical filler.”

7. The Mummy

“… this Mummy reboot is just a soulless attempt to cash in on the hottest Hollywood trend without actually doing anything to make you care about any of it.”

6. Rough Night

“What starts off as a pretty basic story really goes all over the place as the story goes along. And not in the ‘so random its hilarious’ way, but in the ‘why is all of this happening’ way.”

5. Flatliners

The movie spends half of its time introducing the characters who are mostly insufferable… when things go south, you almost want all of them to get offed.”

4. The Emoji Movie

“Filled with enough bad puns to make a 90’s action movie director cringe, The Emoji Movie is relatively short on laughs… When it isn’t failing at puns and sight gags, the movie is trying its best to make social commentary that also falls flat.”

3. The Circle

“Emma Watson gives her worst performance since childhood as she spends most of the movie poorly hiding her accent and trying to find the correct emotional footing through an uneven script… The Circle ends up like an uneven equation. It raises questions then responds with an answer to one that was never asked.”

2. Unforgettable

“Another film about a crazy love triangle that ends in a same sex brawl at the end… the movie plays out exactly how you’d expect it without a single thread veering into anything truly suspenseful all the way into a laughable ending.”

1. Transformers: The Last Knight

“At this point, Michael Bay directing Transformers films is like that friend of yours at the party who was drunk hours ago but keeps tossing back shots… At a certain point, there isn’t any reason to care about any of the story… by the time you actually get through the two hours of bull crap and get to the climactic battle, you just feel exhausted.”

Dishonorable Mention: The Lego Ninjago Movie, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword