Review: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ *SPOILER-FREE*

Ten years and eighteen movies have lead to this. Marvel Studios has been wildly successful in their films leading up to this moment, but this is quite possibly the biggest and most ambitious film of its kind. Avengers: Infinity War brings together the heroes of the MCU to take on Thanos, the mad titan, who is looks to fulfill his destiny of bringing together the infinity stones and reshaping the Universe. It’s all lead to this. Each past film was a piece in a larger puzzle and now it’s complete and the result exceeds expectations. Simply put, Avengers: Infinity War is epic.

Still broken following the events of Age of Ultron and Civil War, the Avengers are scattered across the galaxy. Thanos and his children have begun their quest in search of the infinity stones when they come across the Asgardian ship of Thor and his people, whom Thanos believes to be carrying the space stone. Seeing the sheer power of the mad titan, Hulk must reach Earth to warn the Avengers of the coming threat, but what he finds is a team shattered by squabble and a new group of heroes ready to take the fight to Thanos. The film is choked full of spoiler fodder at every corner so I will leave my summary there.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo continue their onslaught into the MCU with yet another film worthy of calling the best and most ambitious, but this one certainly stands out above them all. Based on a storyline from the Marvel comics, the film is a re-imagining of the original story with obvious liberties, but nonetheless, works magnificently with the previous MCU films tying them all together nicely. The worry for some was the massive undertaking of the cast and how they would all fit into a 2 1/2 hour film, but the Russo’s and their writing team gave each subplot equal amounts of care and screen time without over saturation. And you would be hard pressed to find a weak link in the casting chain. Each actor shines in their corner of Infinity War with Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth and Zoe Saldana winning stand out stars.

Overall, Avengers: Infinity War is a overwhelmingly satisfying first act and will leave you speechless at the close. It’s a film that needs to be digested multiple times to catch everything you missed while you were trying to pick your jaw off the theatre floor as you look on in awe of the visual spectacle before you. I can’t wait for the next 10 years of the MCU. If Infinity War is any indication, the best is yet to come.

Stars:

4 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

Yes. One after the credits

Trailer:

Review: ‘Justice League’

Hot off the wildly successful Wonder Woman solo film, Warner Brothers has released their first DC team-up film, Justice League, bringing together the biggest names in the comic giants universe. A once slam dunk project has been plagued with bad press, a sad and unexpected tragedy that forced Zack Snyder to leave the directors chair and lukewarm fan expectation that have stunted the excitement surrounding the film and has left the finished product in a tailspin. Does Justice League have enough to win over audiences and prove once and for all that the DC Cinematic Universe is back on track?

Following the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, our heroes are learning to exist in a post-Superman world. Crime and uncertainty have swept over the world like a tidal wave and Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is looking towards the coming storm. Fearing something bigger is upon us, Wayne looks to put together a team of extraordinary superheros to defend the Earth from the unknown. Already having fought besides Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) before, the two recruit Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to defend the three ancient mother boxes from falling into the hands of Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) who intends to use them to destroy the Earth.

Justice League, on the surface, is a fun film with some enjoyable moments, but beneath the surface lies a total mess with a lot of flaws, amateur editing and a convoluted story that is painful to watch. Let’s first tackle what the film got right. Wonder Woman continues to be a bright spot for the DCCU. Gal Gadot is absolute perfection as the Amazon warrior, portraying the character with strength and charm, and providing the leadership this team so desperately needs. Jason Momoa was not my first choice for Aquaman, but after seeing him in this film, I have a better sense of the overall direction they are taking the character. Momoa‘s Aquaman is morally conflicted, but in tune with the sheer power of his legacy and the child-like nature of his personality which makes for amusing screen time. Henry Cavill continues to shine as Superman. Cavill understands the character and what it takes to don the tights and it’s nice to have him anchoring this franchise, along with Gadot, to hopefully help right this ship in future films.

And now, the bad. Ben Affleck’s Batman takes a huge step back in this film. While they try and lighten up the caped crusaders persona a bit, the entire transformation appears unnatural and painful for Affleck, who appears more awkward around his new super friends. Ezra Miller‘s take on Barry Allen falls short of expectations. The beloved character is relegated to comic relief in the film with the filmmakers electing for an immaturity angle which becomes tiresome not long after the bit begins. Warner Brothers election to rush this film to market instead of completing the origin films of each character beforehand, limits the amount of time the filmmakers can spend on setting up the characters in the film. With a short run time, horrific editing and a sub-par script, Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon (who reshot and rewrote some of the film in Snyder’s absense) left the audience handcuffed to just “buy in” to their explanations of the “why’s” and roll with the finished product. Lastly, the inclusion of Steppenwolf as the films protagonist made sense for his link to what we hope will be the inclusion of Darkseid in the sequel, but the election of a full CG portrayal was a horrendous decision. The character has some qualities that could have transitioned to the big screen, but all of that was lost from scene one when we were introduced to an amateur CG depiction that looked like cutting floor fodder from Warcraft.

Overall, Justice League misses the mark in a big way. We can only hope that Geoff Johns can take creative control over all of the DCCU and give back to fans the films that they rightfully deserve.

Stars:

2 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

Yes. One mid-credit and one post credit

Trailer:

Review: ‘MAYHEM’ is contagious fun.

Have you ever dreamed of punching Karen from Human Resources in her stupid face? Sure you have, who hasn’t?! In a new unapologetically violent and incredibly awesome film, you can live vicariously through others in kicking Karen’s ass.

MAYHEM stars Steven Yeun (“The Walking Dead,” Okja), Samara Weaving (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Showtime’s “SMILF”), and Steven Brand (“Teen Wolf,” “Secrets and Lies”) is directed by Joe Lynch (Everly, Knights of Badassdom) and marks the feature film debut from writer Matias Caruso.

SYNOPSIS:  Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) is having a really bad day. After being unjustly fired from his job, he discovers that the law firm’s building is under quarantine for a mysterious and dangerous virus. Chaos erupts throughout the office as the victims of the disease begin acting out their wildest impulses. Joining forces with a former client (Samara Weaving) who has a grudge of her own, Derek savagely fights tooth and nail to get to the executives on the top floor and settle the score once and for all.

We all know Steven Yeun as our beloved (may he rest in peace) Glen, but in Mayhem, he does such a fantastic job that you completely forget about his Walking Dead persona. Mayhem is literally laugh out loud funny all while having some of the coolest fight choreography and blood gushing effects. Screenwriter Matias Caruso might have hit the jackpot with the plotline because this is the most imaginative way to utilize “The F-word” in a script possible. I would go back and watch to count the number of times it’s used and not a single time is it superfluous, it’s genius. Yeun’s training with zombies made him the perfect pick for this role. He is the embodiment of everyone who has ever felt oppressed by the BS hierarchy of corporate. Samara Weaving gives a borderline Harley Quinn inspired performance as a woman who was wronged by Yeun’s character. Her effortless delivery and comic timing, down to specific idiosyncracies she displays are spot on brilliant. In reality, this is an ensemble piece of pitch-perfect character work. You cannot help but get revved up watching Mayhem. It has to be one of my favorites of 2017. You can catch MAYHEM in theaters and available On Demand / Digital HD November 10, 2017(PS- that’s today.)

RLJE Films will release the upcoming horror, action film MAYHEM in theaters and available On Demand / Digital HD November 10, 2017.

 **World Premiere – SXSW Film Festival 2017**

**International Premiere – Fantasia Film Festival 2017**

**West Coast Premiere – Beyond Fest 2017**

TITLE:  MAYHEM
IN THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON VOD AND DIGITAL HD:  November 10, 2017
CAST:  Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand
DIRECTOR:  Joe Lynch
WRITER: Matias Caruso
GENRE:  Horror/Action
DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJE Films

Review: ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Director Denis Villeneuve returns after his recent Oscar nomination to embark on a journey into the wildly complex and dangerously beloved world of Blade Runner, a 1983 sci-fi classic from director Ridley Scott loosely adapted from the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Creating a sequel from a classic is always a daunting task, but actually achieving a film worthy of standing next to the original is a feat very few can say they’ve met, but Villeneuve can now stand amongst the great who have come before him and watch as his film, Blade Runner 2049 is cherished for decades to come.

The year is 2049, and the world has been turned on it’s head by advancements in bio-engineering that have created human-like “Replicants” that have integrated into society. A group of trackers called Blade Runners, are tasked with hunting down old Replicants capable of dangerous actions and bringing them to justice. One such Blade Runner, K (Ryan Gosling) has stumbled upon a secret buried deep in the Earth that could trigger the collapse of society. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years, and who could be the key to unlocking the mystery. As Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) continues on in his quest to create the perfect Replicant, destined for planetary expansion, his questionable practices begin to come to life and a dark secret is about to expose the Replicant program.

This bold, beautifully crafted, visually stunning and mind bending sequel is nothing short of sensational with an all star cast lead by Ryan Gosling and Harrison FordGosling calm demeanor and presence are perfect for the Blade Runner world. It is equally as wonderful to see Harrison Ford back in one of his many iconic roles as Deckard. Seeing the character again and finding out what happened to him following the events of the original film was exceptionally satisfying and Ford was up to the task. Jared Leto is haunting in his portrayal of the designer Wallace. Leto leaves nothing to chance, electing to embrace the darkness and bring to life a cerebral villain for a new generation of sci-fi fans. Director Denis Villeneuve vision is suited for this world above all others. Together with Cinematographer Roger Deakins, Villeneuve expands on the epic world created in the original while still keeping the look that makes Blade Runner so iconic to fans worldwide.

Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is a long journey at 164 minutes, but a journey worth taking. A beautifully crafted classic that will stand the test of time and wow fans of science fiction and neo noir for years to come.

Stars: 4 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scene? NO

Trailer:

Review: ‘SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING’

Being a teenager is hard, but being a teenage superhero is harder as we learn from the sensational new Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first Sony/Marvel partnership film after Spidey’s wildly praised inclusion in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. For fans, Marvel’s most popular superhero being back under the direction of Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, the architect of the MCU, is about as exciting as the film itself and the newly found partnership has wielded it’s might right out of the gate with a fresh, intelligent and entertaining film that resets the Spider-Man franchise and gives die-hard fans a look at the character the way he is meant to be seen.

Tom Holland takes over the role of Peter Parker, a high school sophomore thrust into the world of superheros after a radioactive spider gives him super powers. Returning home after his brief stint with the Avengers, waiting for his next mission is making young Peter inpatient for action as he struggles with a normal life. Every aspect of his life pails in comparison to the thrill of being Spider-Man and swinging above the ground and being a high school student just doesn’t seem to be his destiny. All that changes when some mysterious alien artifacts start popping up on the street which thrusts the young superhero into action.

Too small a task for the Avengers is just how Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) likes it as he runs his underground illegal alien arms racket. Staying just ahead of the FBI and off the radar of Earth’s mighty heroes has allowed Toomes and his crew to make a lot of money off of stolen alien artifacts, but when Spider-Man begins peeking his nose into their business, well that’s just not something this crew will stand for. As Peter begins to snoop, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) begins to wonder if his young protege is able to handle the pressure of his powers. Tony assigns Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) to watch over Peter as a liaison, but when Peter decides he can no longer stand by and watch as criminals are threatening his city, he goes against everything Stark asks of him and dissolves the trust between the two. As a war wages on in his mind, Peter must face his destiny and embrace his present self to find the answers he is searching for and become the hero he is destined to be.

Director Jon Watts (Cop Car) brings a perfect mix of action and humor to his John Hughes-esque take on the Spider-Man story. Unlike previous incarnations of the character, where we’ve had to rehash the origin story, Spider-Man: Homecoming hits the ground running and allows for the story to shape organically around Peter and his life as a high school student. Tom Holland is the perfect embodiment of Peter Parker. Awkward, genius high school student with a knack for bad timing, check! Over hyper superhero with a knack for sarcasm, check! The kid is outstanding in his portrayal of the popular webslinger. Michael Keaton is the best comic book villain on film since Heath Ledger’s Joker. Keaton brings a calm, menacing demeanor to his role as the Vulture character, who is given an upgrade and a slightly altered backstory in this film.

The supporting cast around Holland enables the young actor to flesh out his character and bring out the emotional elements in the film. Jacob Batalon is wonderfully lovable as Peter’s best friend Ned and Marisa Tomei brings Aunt May into a whole new light with a younger, more self reliant take on the character which may come as a shock to comic fans. MCU alums Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr., pros to the superhero game, act as the “ole wise men” to young Holland and his character and help usher in the newest member to the MCU family with limited, yet crucial, screen time. Stand out kudos go out to Zendaya and Tony Revolori for their humor and sass as Michelle and Flash respectively.

Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a grand slam and a huge boost to future Marvel collaborations. Sony took a chance and it paid off beyond expectations and the winners are the comic fans and audiences around the world. Superhero movies were kicked in the butt by Deadpool last year, but this year belongs to Spider-Man. Welcome home web-head.

Stars:

4 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scene(s)?

Yes. One mid credit and one post credit

Trailer:

Review: ‘Wonder Woman’

With the DC cinematic universe hanging in the balance, Warner Bros. put their faith in director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot to bring the long overdue first Wonder Woman movie to the big screen and deliver they did. The film is exciting, humorous, beautifully filmed and one of the best superhero films so far. If we’ve learned nothing else, we know now to never send a man to do a woman’s job.

The film opens with a young Diana learning the ways of the Amazonians. Raised by her mother, Hippolyta, Queen of Themyscira (Connie Nielson), Diana has been sheltered from the warrior ways of her people. Her Aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) is the finest general in the Amazonian army and determined to teach Diana to defend herself against her sister’s wishes. A reluctant Hippolyta agrees to Diana’s training as long as she is trained harder and more vigorously than any Amazonian before her. Now grown, Diana (Gal Gadot) begins to learn the challenges of her position and comes to understand that there is a power in her greater than she’s ever known.

A plane is shot down and crashes off the coast of Themyscira and pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) finds himself rescued by Diana and faced with the explaining his uninvited entrance.  A German warship captained by general Ludendorff (Danny Huston) has followed Trevor’s downed plane to find Themyscira and the Amazonians, setting their sights on annihilation of the foreign foe. Driven back for the time being, Trevor must confide in Diana and the Amazonians as to why he is there and to the severity of his mission. Knowing she cannot sit by while a world she knows nothing about is destroyed, Diana sets off with Steve Trevor to enter the war and stand up for those who cannot help themselves.

And the film’s just getting started! What follows can easily be taken as a spoiler to some so we’ll stop the summary right there. Director Patty Jenkins has created a wonderfully empowering film for women everywhere, a rarity in Hollywood, and one that should and will be celebrated. Gal Gadot is the perfect embodiment of Diana Prince and a true treasure to behold. Gadot’s portrayal is a strong symbol of the importance of Wonder Woman in pop culture and the feminist movement and young children to look up to. Chris Pine is marvelous with his witty humor and his tried and true valor. Pine compliments Gadot’s performance perfectly and never overshadows.

Overall, Wonder Woman is a near perfect superhero film and a bright shining light in the dismal DC cinematic universe so far. A film that hearkens back to the spirit of Capatin America: The First Avenger while never feeling or trying to be a retread. Wonder Woman is a true gem.

Stars:

4 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

None

Trailer:

Review: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean- Dead Men Tell No Tales’

All hands hoay! Captain Jack Sparrow is back in Pirates of the Caribbean- Dead Men Tell No Tales and the crews back together. Johnny Depp returns for a fifth go around as the swashbuckler in this fun, but somewhat hollow sequel hitting theaters this weekend.

Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) has grown up knowing his father, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), is lost to the curse of the Flying Dutchman and has searched for a way to break his father free. Since he was a young boy, Henry has been obsessed with his search and it appears he may be closer to the end of his quest, but he will need a little help. Henry works on a British Royal Navy ship sailing directly for the Devil’s Triangle. Knowing the legend of such a place, Henry tries to convince the crew that they are sailing for danger, but he is too late. The ship comes face to face with Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his ghost crew who slaughter everyone except Henry, who is left to tell the tale and send a message to Jack Sparrow. Dead is coming for him.

Jack and his crew are up to their old ways of looting, debauchery, and rum. Currently plotting a robbery on an island where a young woman named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is also escaping criminal charges. She seeks out Henry, who has been transported to the same island to face his crime of treason. She tells him she knows of a way to find the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas which Henry plans to use to break his father’s curse. Henry only requires the assistance of Captain Jack and his compass to set out on this quest. Salazar and his crew are on the hunt for pirates and find Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), whom they persuade into helping him track down and kill Jack. The race for the Trident is on and the fate of Jack Sparrow hangs in the balance.

 Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Kon Tiki) are tasked with taking on the behemoth of a franchise and the two hold their own. The visual spectacle and the amusing action set pieces that have made this franchise so popular are bigger and more elaborate, but it’s the storytelling that has been lacking since the first film. The story for Dead Men Tell No Tales is not overly original, but does offer some complexity to the existing franchise storyline that will amuse fans and pump some much needed new blood into this series. Johnny Depp brings life to Jack Sparrow like no one else could. The character doesn’t evolve, but maybe he doesn’t have to. Watching the character on screen can, at times, feel nostalgic, but it’s still fun to watch him in action. Javier Bardem brings this franchise the best villain it’s had and commands the screen in every scene.

Overall, critics will no doubt be circling the waters to pan this movie, but Pirates of the Caribbean- Dead Men Tell No Tales is a fun, mindless adventure just in time for the summer time season. If you’re a fan of the franchise you’ll enjoy this one.

Stars:

3 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

Yes. At the end. Nothing in between

Trailer:

Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’

For those keeping score, I was not one of the people who hated Prometheus, in fact, I rather liked it a lot. Anytime a film delves into the mythology of a storied franchise there’s always a risk to alienate parts of a fan base, but what I thought director Ridley Scott set out to achieve was something bigger, he was trying to expand the mythology in ways that transformed the way you looked at his original films and therein lies the dilemma. Alien: Covenant looks to continue that mythological backstory and add another piece in to the Alien franchise puzzle.

It’s the year 2104, the crew of the colony ship Covenant is bound for a remote planet, Origae-6, with thousands of colonists in stow. All are deep in hypersleep being watched over by Walter (Michael Fassbender), a synthetic charged with piloting the ship during travel. When an unexpected burst hits the ship, the crew are awoken to assess the damage and help reset the ship for the rest of it’s journey. During the repairs, they intercept a human radio transmission from a nearby unknown planet and acting crew chief Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) makes the call to set a course for the planet. Daniels (Katherine Waterston) exercises her opinion as first mate against the move, electing to continue on to Origae-6, but reluctantly agrees to be part of a landing party to inspect the planet.

Upon landing, the team splits off to explore the new world while the core team searches for the signal to the transmission. Ultimately, they track the signal to a crashed Engineer ship and more questions than answers. Two crew members are mysteriously infected with an alien spore and the team is forced to defend itself against the unknown foe. Unable to contact the Covenant, Daniels and the remaining survivors must rely on the help of a stranger to lead them to safety and help them understand the impending threat. What will be unearthed will be like nothing this crew has ever faced. One thing’s for sure, for Daniels, the protection of the Covenant and its passengers must be protected at all cost.

Ridley Scott’s vision for the Alien franchise has turned a necessary corner here in Alien: Covenant. The film that bridges the gap between Prometheus and what’s to come in the original film is shocking in it’s telling, it’ll take some time to process, but it will leave you with anticipation for the next chapter in this saga. Michael Fassbender is chilling in his duel roles. He has morphed from secondary character into the true face of the prequel franchise. Katherine Waterston is tremendous as the reluctant heroine and provides a compelling, emotional story arc. Waterston’s rational portrayal provides remnants of Ripley but not overpowering to the point of redundancy.

Overall, Alien: Covenant is slow out of the gate, but gets moving pretty fast. A lot more action and gore this time around, electing for more shock than story. It’ll be a film that Alien fans will be debating for quite some time.

Stars:

3 out of 5

After credit scene?

None

Trailer:

Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ *VERY minor plot details*

The Guardians are back and in a big way. James Gunn returns to helm the sequel to Marvel’s unlikely smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy looking to capitalize on the franchises soaring popularity injecting more humor, more spectacle and more all outrageous fun this time around. This film is not short on stimulation so marvel in the infinite glory that is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are just a few weeks out from the events of the first film and their out to keep their good name by ridding the galaxy of those who would do it harm. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign race, has hired the Guardians for a mission in exchange for Gamora’s estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), but situations turn sour as the Guardians find themselves on the other side of the fight. Facing certain death, a mystery traveler rescues the team and reveals himself to be Ego (Kurt Russell), Peter Quill’s missing father accompanied by his servant Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

Angry about the escape, Ayesha hires Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his crew to hunt down the Guardians and bring them back to pay for their crimes. The Ravagers head out to find the heroes while Quill comes to grip with his new found father; but could everything be as it appears? Facing a multitude of foes closing in on the team, they must align with some unusual allies to once again protect the galaxy from certain destruction. Can the Guardians remain vigilant in their quest for good to prevail or will outside forces pull the team apart and end their friendship forever?

Marvel continues to find the perfect directors to lead their franchises, bringing out the very best in the source material by allowing these directors to inject their unique style of storytelling. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Director James Gunn‘s radical departure from the core Marvel movies made the first film a surprise hit, but no one will be surprised when Vol. 2 wows audiences this weekend with its rare brand of humor and eye popping visuals. The cast, including Chris PrattZoe Saldana and Dave Bautista, are noticeably more comfortable this time around within their characters and within their collaboration with each other. Kurt Russell is an outstanding edition to this cast and, as the elder statesmen, brings out the very best in Pratt’s Star Lord during their emotional scenes.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an absolute joy of a film. From start to finish, the ride is nothing short of exactly what you would expect from a James Gunn Guardians of the Galaxy film. Take the family, take the neighbors, take everyone you know and run to the theater to see this…and do NOT leave your seat throughout the credits…there is 5 extra scenes!

Stars:

4 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

Yes. 5! 4 throughout credits and 1 post credit

Trailer:

Review: ‘Logan’- A masterful send off to Hugh Jackman in his iconic role

Hugh Jackman takes his final bow as the iconic Wolverine in Logan, a thoughtful tale of redemption and regret thru the eyes of the only man to ever play the role. Director James Mangold (The Wolverine) returns to bring the final act to a close opting for a more dramatic tone than full on action film like previous films in the X-Men franchise. Logan is the perfect send off to both actor and character and a love letter to all who have endured the good and the very bad of this characters cinematic arc. The long journey of the Wolverine concludes.

Tired and weary, Logan (Hugh Jackman) finds himself among the last mutants standing in a world that’s long forgotten his kind. Opting to blend in to society and live out his days, Logan keeps to a quiet life, driving a limo and acting as a caretaker for friend and mentor Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart) for whom age has taken a huge toll. He is aided in this task by Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a mutant who can sense and track other mutants, but is running from a past he would soon forget.

Logan is approached by a young Mexican nurse looking for the Wolverine to help her protect her daughter Laura (Dafne Keen from a secret experiment called Transigen. Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), is the leader of the Reavers, a team set to find escaped patients from the Transgien project who have set their sights on finding Laura at all costs. Reluctant and unwilling to upend his life, Logan opts to decline the offer until he becomes faced with the stark reality that helping this young girl get to her destination is more vital than he anticipated. Aided by Charles Xavier, the three set their sights on North Dakota and “Eden”, a safe haven for mutants, but Transigen has plans of its own to unleash a new and improved version of their experiments that will test the aging Logan to his limits and beyond.

Seventeen years is a long time for anyone to play the same role, but Hugh Jackman has cherished his experience and has been so caring of the character that seeing him for the last time feels like a family member moving across the globe. Jackman pours his heart and soul into this movie and turns in the best performance of his X-Men career. Patrick Stewart is equally as outstanding as the aging Charles Xavier. The relationship between the two characters has grown from a student to teacher to father to son and the two actors chemistry is cemented into these performances. Newcomer Dafne Keen is brilliant in her first starring role and acts as the catalyst to the emotional journey that Logan embarks on in this film. To watch her rage from an outsiders view allows Logan to see himself and offers a rare opportunity to help steer this child down a different path than him. Their onscreen relationship is a beautiful nod to the pull that Logan has from the animal he’s become and the life he so sorely wishes never eluded him.

Overall, Logan is an outstanding film and a must see for all X-Men lovers and film lovers alike. It’s an emotional journey for both audience and actor and one we won’t soon forget. Thank you Hugh for your Wolverine, there will never be another who could match yours.

Stars:

4 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

Trailer:

Review: ‘The Founder’- Witness the creation of the McDonald’s empire

The fastest way to get to the top is by standing on the backs of others, Ray Kroc discovered this and used it to become one of the most successful businessmen this country has ever known. John Lee Hancock (Saving Mrs. Banks) directs Oscar nominated actor Michael Keaton as the man who brought McDonald’s to every hometown in America.

Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a traveling salesman who currently specializes in selling Prince Castle brand milkshake makers. Life on the road has been a struggle for Ray, each day he visits restaurants and drive-ins across the Midwest finding more resistance to his sales pitch than enthusiastic buyers. He has a comfortable life back home in Illinois with his wife Ethel (Laura Dern) and a simple but comfortable living, but success to do something great keeps driving Ray back to the road to find his legacy. A chance order from the McDonald’s brothers in San Bernadino, CA will change his life forever.

Ray meets with the two brothers who own and operate the establishment, Maurice “Mac” McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and  Richard “Dick” McDonald (Nick Offerman), who have created an innovative way of supplying hamburgers to the public. Awestruck by their creation, Ray convinces the brothers to let him take their McDonald’s idea nationally, and this is where the real story begins. Through all the struggle, the persistence of Ray Kroc leads to success and his control of the franchise’s present and future. The evolution into one of the most powerful men in business was paved with betrayal, cunning and ingenuity, which makes the story dramatically unfold.

Michael Keaton’s enthusiasm and delivery bring Kroc’s persona to life in a near perfect way. Throughout the film, we witness the transformation of a person starved to prove himself to a person drunk on success and whether you love him or hate him, he got there his way.  John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman are wonderful as the McDonald’s brothers. Each step of their rise and fall is felt in their portrayal of the characters and you can’t help but cringe as their decimation unfolds. The story centers around the tense relationship between the brothers and Kroc and these actors bring a wonderful mix of humor and drama to help make this story as mesmerizing as it is.

Overall, The Founder is an interesting tale of the rise of McDonald’s and men who brought the “Golden Arches” to the country. It’s a sad look at the glutton of success and repulsive effects it has on those in the way. The performances make this film worth the journey.

Stars:

3 out of 5

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Review: ‘SPLIT’- M. Night Shyamalan’s Best Movie in Over a Decade

The last thirteen years have not been kind to M. Night Shyamalan’s career. After several failed films, it looks like the once “master of suspense” has finally found his way back to making quality films with Split, the most ambitious and downright thrilling film of Shyamalan’s since Signs. Described as a psychological horror film, which is both written and directed by Shyamalan himself, the film stars James McAvoy as a man living with twenty three unique personalities and a moment of impulse that will unearth a side of himself not yet experienced.

Kevin (James McAvoy) has made a life changing decision, one that he will never come back from. Kevin has kidnapped young friends, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula), and their troubled friend Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), and is now holding them captive in a windowless room somewhere underground. Frightened and unsure of why they’re in this predicament, the three young girls soon find out that their captive is more than he appears. Having first been introduced to Dennis, the forceful leader of Kevin’s personalities, more emerge to suit the situation. Patricia, the elder statesmen and the calming voice and Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy looking for a friend, arrive to meet the young ladies and help them understand why they have been chosen. Casey, the more road weary of the three girls, pitches an idea that they must try and convince one of the personalities to betray the others and free the girls before it’s too late, but a twenty fourth personality begins to emerge as “The Beast” is growing and threatens to consume all that Kevin is.

The performance of James McAvoy is truly spellbinding. His commitment to the multiple roles inside Kevin are portrayed in widely unique ways, with each personality granted its own separate thought process. It’s McAvoy‘s finest role since Filth. Betty Buckley portrays the calming and mothering figure of Dr. Karen Fletcher. Her involvement in the film adds a unique substance and understanding the to workings of Kevin and creates doubt in the audience’s thinking about the man. Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula embody the spirit necessary to create the fear and confusion of being captive and compliment the emergence of Anya Taylor-Joys Casey as the strength of the group. Casey’s backstory is a powerful twist that parallel’s the situation at hand and Joy’s portrayal the perfect vessel to tell it.

Overall, Split is a great psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. The shocking ending will have fans of Shyamalan‘s earlier films gasping in disbelief. A true return to form for the proud director.

Stars:

3 1/2 out of 5

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Review: ‘Paterson’- Adam Driver Shines in Jim Jarmusch’s Beautiful New Film

Jim Jarmusch’s new film, Paterson, is a slow, tranquil walk thru the life of an ordinary man, which is very Jarmuschian, but this calming experience is like very few of the directors predecessors, which makes the unique film an even bigger treasure to behold.

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey who secretly likes to write poetry. Every day, Paterson follows a simple routine that suits his mundane lifestyle. He wakes up to his creatively ambitious wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and his dog Marvin, eats his breakfast, walks the same path to work, drives the same daily bus route, eats dinner and walks the dog thru the city and takes a moment to stop at the local bar and have a beer on his way home. Life is simple and that’s the way Paterson prefers it. Each passing moment offers Paterson a chance to expand his secret book of poetry which is comprised of intimate experiences in his life. A matchbox or a thought or a simple calm breeze can spark the creative juices within this brilliant mind, however, Paterson doesn’t FEEL brilliant.

Paterson likes life with very little disruption, Laura’s world is ever changing. Each supports the other in their creative endeavors, but it’s Laura who needs to chip away at Paterson’s timid persona to help him envision a world where everyone gets to enjoy his poetry as much as he does. This is life, daily life, for Paterson, but when faced with a moment of disruption that throws off the balance of his life, it will take a soul searching event to climb back to his comfort and regain a normality to his tiny piece of the world.

Jim Jarmusch has created another masterpiece for us to treasure for decades to come. The delicate telling of this beautifully written film plays like an insiders look into one man’s existence, but the truly exceptional part of the journey is that you become engrossed within the frames of the film and begin to see life thru the eyes of this wonderful character. Adam Driver is exceptional as the titular character. There are multitudes of complicated layers within this character that you see fighting to surface, but the struggle of keeping this uneventful life on course seems to control every aspect of his existence. Golshifteh Farahani is a vision and the one counter aspect to Paterson’s life. Her performance is a peaceful, and yet, disruptive force within the film that adds humor, compassion and love that acts like a sanctuary for her counterpart.

Overall, Paterson is one of Jim Jarmusch‘s finest moments and a movie that offers many interpretations for it’s viewers. This movie is one of the best films of the year and one the best films this decade.

Stars

4 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

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Review: ‘Patriot’s Day’

The terror attack on the 2013 Boston Marathon is the subject of the new Peter Berg movie Patriot’s Day, a story of one cities courage and strength in the face of adversity. The film follows the attack and the events following as the FBI and Boston police begin the manhunt for the people responsible for the senseless act. Mark Wahlberg leads an all star cast in this powerful rendition that will give you a first hand account of the men and women behind the scenes work that brought the terrorists to justice.

Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is a Boston police officer at the center of the action after brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) plant man made bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing and wounding spectators and participants. Following the events, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in the FBI’s Boston field office (Kevin Bacon) and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) assemble a task force to hunt down those responsible for the heinous attack. We’re introduced to victims of the attacks including Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) and Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea), a young married couple injured during at the finish line, Officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking), a young MIT security guard who encounters the brothers on the run and Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), a young Chinese native abducted by the brothers during their escape and Watertown Police Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons), one of the men responsible in the completion of the manhunt. Each story gives us insight into the effects the attacks had on a multitude of people throughout the Greater Boston area.

Director Peter Berg, a veteran to strong telling of dramatic content, provides a carefully crafted telling of the events by focusing on the emotional aspect of those effected without over politicizing. It allows the audience to experience the aftermath of a horrific attack and the work that goes into catching the bombers. The pace is thrilling and the acting is superb. Patriots Day is a wonderful film that honors the men and women of Boston and the strength of that great city. It’s a film not to be missed.

Stars:

4 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

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Review: ‘Monster Trucks’

Director Chris Wedge (Epic) makes the jump from animation to live action with Monster Trucks, a film looking to resurrect the 1980s family creature features for a new generation of movie goers. The story, conceived by former Paramount Pictures president Adam Goodman, with the help of his four year old son, is ludicrous to say the least, but just entertaining enough to hold the attention of younger audiences.

This is Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school kid looking to get out of his small town and find his place in this big world. Tripp works at a junk yard and likes to tinker around with cars, especially working on his custom monster truck. After an accident at a nearby oil-drilling site, a peculiar creatures finds its way into the junk yard and into Tripp’s life. This squid-like creature seems harmless enough and really loves the taste of oil, so Tripp decides to hide him from an oil company hit squad looking to take the creature back to their lab. Seeing as Creech (that’s what we’re calling the thing) likes his truck, Tripp decides to make the truck into a true “Monster” truck fully powered by Creech. With the help of book nerd and love interest Meredith(Jane Levy) and a scientist Dr Bill Dowd (Thomas Lennon), Tripp must help Creech rescue his parents from Reece Tenneson (Rob Lowe) and return them back to their home beneath the ground.

Monster Trucks isn’t a bad film by any stretch, but nor is it a good film. The premise may sound ridiculous, and it is, but the cast is likeable enough and the overall story of humans destroying the planet for oil and profit regardless of what they disturb in the process is a topic that provides a real world learning experience for audiences. The major fault of the film is it lacks the human element of emotional connection and opts for a more action-centric approach. There’s a lot to be desired about Creech and his love for oil and speed, but there was a real “E.T.” opportunity between Tripp and Creech that was overlooked.

Overall, Monster Trucks isn’t going to win any awards, but it might entertain your children and that’s really all that matters with these films.

Stars:

2 out of 5

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Review: ‘Live By Night’- An American Crime Drama from Ben Affleck

Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo) directs and stars in Live By Night, an American crime drama about a young man from Boston and his desire for revenge. The film is based on the award-winning best-seller by Dennis Lehane and is written for the screen by Affleck himself. A film that starts with a lot of promise but quickly loses steam and struggles to make it to the finish.

Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) is the son of a Boston Police Deputy Superintendent, a WWI vet, and an outlaw. He’s a man with a good heart who seems destined for a better path, but it’s his anti-establishment ways that keep him in business for himself. Joe works with a loyal crew including Dion (Chris Messina), a close friend who’s got Joe’s back under any condition. Joe falls for Emma (Sienna Miller), the girlfriend of Irish gangster Albert White (Robert Glenister) and the two have a secret love affair, but when the gangster finds out, it forces Joe to make some life changing decisions. Driven by a need to right the wrongs committed against him, Joe accepts an alliance with the Italian mob and a move to Tampa with his crew to run the rum business there. But every decision comes at a cost as does the price of revenge, and Joe is about to find out just how much.

Live By Night, on the surface, is an enjoyable enough gangster film. An all star cast including Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson and Elle Fanning do their best to provide insight into their personal piece of the elaborate puzzle, and each actor does an admirable job to help bring their character arc to fulfillment, but Ben Affleck tries to navigate thru the myriad of storylines he’s created and ultimately leaves the story winded and the characters unfulfilling.

Overall, the film sets out to tell a gangster story and it does just that, but the journey is long and tiresome and loses it’s muster about halfway thru. Should you see it? Sure, but don’t expect the next Godfather, for that it is not.

Stars:

3 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

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Review: ‘Silence’- The Journey of Faith is a Rough One

Martin Scorsese returns to cinemas with Silence, a passion project that’s been in development for over 25 years. This epic historical drama is based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō follows two 17th century Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Japan in order to locate their missing mentor and spread the word of God. A film about those who have questioned their faith from time to time and those who would sacrifice their lives in the name of it. A powerful movie that is anything but silent.

Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has been spreading the word of God under threats of his life in Japan when his communication runs silent. His two pupils Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) set out to Japan to dispel the notion that Father Ferreira committed apostasy and learn of his fate. On their travels they meet Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka), an alcoholic fisherman who has fled Japan and now begs to return. Kichijiro agrees to become their guide and help them find sanctuary in the hostile land while they learn of the location of their mentor. The priests arrive to Japan to learn that the local Christian population has been driven into hiding for fear of their lives.

Seeing that their influence is needed, Fathers Rodrigues and Garupe begin helping the natives reclaim their faith in the Lord until the inquisitor arrives at the village and demands information about any suspected Christians. Seeing first hand the brutality that the countrymen face for their faith, The two priests split up in hopes to find Father Ferreira, but they face the harsh conditions of living in secret which leads Rodrigues into imprisonment. While under the guard of the Samurai, he is expected to denounce his faith and set an example for those imprisoned for believing in Christianity that they must also denounce God. Rodrigues begins to question the motives of God for the suffering of the Japanese people. Soon, it is his own faith that will be tested and his will to do what’s right over what he believes the Lord would want.

Silence is a tale of choice, of sacrifice and of self preservation. It’s a film deeply woven into the history of Catholicism that highlights the trials and tribulations that these priests and their followers endured. Martin Scorsese’s brilliant storytelling delicately parallels the suffering of the Jesuit priests and those of the apostles of Christs time and delves into the psyche of the faithful and those questioning theirs. Andrew Garfield is brilliant as Fathers Rodrigues and brings an intense, emotional performance to the film that truly encapsulates the emotional journey the young priest endures. Adam Driver is a wonderful supporting performance and creates a moral reference point for which all other characters in the film can be judged. Yosuke Kubozuka’s character is a brilliant representation of humanity and it’s struggle with faith. Kubozuka is chilling and delivers a truly thought provoking performance. Liam Neeson‘s presence is otherworldly and commands the screen when he’s present. The actor says more in his expression and delivers some astonishingly personal dialogue that capture the true essence of the situation they are all facing.

Overall, Silence is a treasure. It’s a film that will leave you deep in thought and questioning the strength of your own faith. Scorsese does it again.

Stars:

4 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

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Review: ‘Assassin’s Creed’- The Best Video Game Adaptation Yet!

Video game properties have not been very successful in their transitions to Hollywood films, but Assassin’s Creed hopes to change all that as 20th Century Fox set to release their highly anticipated film this Christmas. This action packed thriller is set in the same universe as the video games but features an original story that expands the series’ mythology. Will Assassin’s Creed win over gamers and regular audiences alike or will the complexity of the story be lost on those unfamiliar with the popular game?

Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is a man who has reached the end of the line. Having faced the death of his mother at the hands of his own father, Cal has lived a life of crime that has lead him to a stay on death row. After having his execution stage by Abstergo Industries, the modern-day incarnation of the Templar Order lead by Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and daughter, scientist Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard), Cal learns of his family lineage which dates back hundreds of years to the Assassin’s Creed, a group of fighters sworn to protect an ancient artifact. Cal  is forced to participate in the Animus Project, a device which helps him link with his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha, an Assassin in the time of the Spanish Inquisition, and relive this memories in order to locate the ancient artifact. As Cal continues to experience Aguilar’s memories, he begins to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to confront the Templars in the present day and help stop them from locating the artifact that will allow the Rikkin’s to control free will.

Director Justin Kurzel makes up for the films lack of a coherent story and has elected for a visually stunning action film that overcomes its shortcomings to be very entertaining. Michael Fassbender embodies Aguilar and his ancestor Cal as if he is playing a Jekyll and Hyde of sorts. The highly regarded actor is lacking in the need to deliver any dialogue of merit, but his presence alone speaks volumes in the action sequences. Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons, two stellar actors who are underwhelming in the powerful adversary category which is where the film begins to lose its luster. The action sequences and cinematography when the focus is on Aguilar are breathtaking and some of the best you’ll ever seen on screen, but as we witness the transformation of Cal into assassin, there’s little in the modern world to compete.

Overall, Assassin’s Creed is highly entertaining with it’s action packed fight sequences and it’s visual effects, but the story is lacking at times which ultimately leads to a conclusion that may leave some wanting more. Still, it’s a franchise that has promise and should be given an opportunity to continue. Let’s just try and use the talents of these wonderful actors a bit better shall we?

Stars:

3 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

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Review: ‘Passengers’- Take a Trip into the Unknown with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence

A science fiction love story, set on a starship starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt should be as bulletproof as Superman, but as we’ve learned in the past, looks can be deceiving. Passengers, directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), is one of the most anticipated films of the holiday season, built up by a cleverly suspenseful trailer campaign and starring the two most beloved stars in Hollywood. As with their journey in the film, the movie starts off with a lot of promise, but quickly finds itself relying on the strengths of its cast to drive it home. Is the film worth your trip to the theater?

Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are two of 5,000 passengers traveling in hibernation aboard the starship Avalon to the new colony of Homestead II. A 120 year journey that neither of them would know anything about, until an  unexpected event causes a malfunction in Jim’s pod, waking him 90 years too soon. Aurora would soon follow, leaving the two travelers alone together, trying to find a way to put themselves back into hibernation. The mystery surrounding Aurora’s pod is a major plot point in the film and one I will gloss over to save you a spoiler, but it works well, I assure you. Left only with the company of themselves and an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen), Jim and Aurora find themselves accepting the hard truth that they may live out their lives together, alone on this starship, and never reach their intended destination. The two find themselves quickly falling for one another. When the continued malfunctions of the ship become apparently more frequent, Jim and Aurora must use their strengths to follow the clues and locate the problems before the ship is destroyed, but will the mystery surrounding their awakening become the thing that destroys them?

Over everything else, Passengers is a character driven film set in a science fiction universe; this helps makes the chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence work so well. Each actor encounters the agony of being alone and the inherent understanding that human beings need companionship to survive and to what ends you will go to achieve that need. Both Pratt and Lawrence are on top of their game and deliver performances that will ultimately save the film; I say save because the second half of the film is where the story begins to lose you. Plot holes lead to sloppy build up which leads to a conclusion that should feel satisfying, but falls just short of the mark.

Overall, Passengers is a long winded journey into space that stumbles over its missed opportunities but gets you there in the end. Worth the wait? Hardly, but still worth the trip to the theater.

Stars:

2 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

None

Trailer:

Review: ‘Fences’- Denzel Washington and Viola Davis shine in this August Wilson adaptation

Fences, based on his Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, is a family melodrama directed by and starring Denzel Washington as a father and husband wrestling with the ghosts of his past and the struggles of his present. This powerful story is rooted deep with the effects of how racial divide leaves an impression on the African American family. Filled with outstanding performances delivering one of the most impactful screenplays in recent memory, Fences will touch you deep and leave a lasting impression on your soul.

Troy (Denzel Washington) is a 53 year old father of two, struggling to stay afloat as a trash collector in Pittsburgh, PA. Troy grew up mostly on his own since the age of 14, trying to make ends meet and facing the impending birth of his first child. After being sent to prison for a violent crime, Troy learned how to play baseball, having spent time practicing while in prison, and became a star in the Negro leagues, but never made it to the Major Leagues due to the color barrier. He lives with his wife, Rose (Viola Davis), a strong, supportive woman who’s responsible for creating a calming force and a stable and loving life that Troy has been craving. Rose gave birth to Troy’s second child, Cory (Jovan Adepo), a young, talented athlete who is desperately seeking the approval of his father all while trying to carve out a path for success in his young life.

Troy’s first son, Lyon (Russell Hornsby), is an aspiring musician and the first to feel the pinch of his fathers judgement. A man looking to prove he can walk his own path and live up to the large shadow his father has left before him. Troy and Rose are also responsible for Troy’s younger brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), an ex-soldier who suffered a brain injury while fighting for his country. The pressures of life are closing in around Troy and an unexpected choice changes the landscape for his family forever. Troy and Rose are faced with a future of uncertainty and doubt and a family torn down to its foundation. Can the strength of a lasting love help mend the cracks or are they destined to see the future from different sides of the fence?

Denzel Washington delivers one of his finest performances in his storied career. A deeply flawed man who’s buried the pain of his past deep in order to carve out a stronger future for his family resonates loudly in his portrayal. Viola Davis is exceptional as Rose and delivers an Oscar winning performance in this emotional tour de force. To watch such a strong woman broken down to be reborn anew is an wondrous journey to behold. Young Jovan Adepo shines are Cory. His inner struggle to find something to connect with his father is something every child can relate to. The parallels between his performance and that of Russell Hornsby provide a clarity to the sins of the father and how easy it is to lose touch with how your actions can impact those you are responsible for. Mykelti Williamson delivers a heart breaking performance as the physically impaired brother of Troy. His journey through the story acts as a reminder to Troy that it takes sacrifice, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, to remind you of what you have and why you have it.

Overall, Fences is an incredible story and one to be cherished for generations to come. It’s a painful journey through struggle and pain, but a satisfying reminder to cherish what you’ve been given.

Stars:

3 1/2 out of 5

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