Film Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ Starring Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, and Jessie Usher

Independence-Day-2-posterEveryone’s got their share of guilty pleasures. Things that we know aren’t good (or good for us), yet we refuse to let go of. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, really, unless your guilty pleasure is like murder or something.

When I was 12, a summer blockbuster named Independence Day rolled out in theaters and took the world by storm. Filmed on a $75 million budget, the movie went on to gross more than $817 million worldwide. Featuring an ensemble star cast and visual effects that garnered an Academy Award, ID4 became one of the biggest hits of 1996 despite a mediocre script and a somewhat jingoistic theme. Regardless, the movie quickly became one of my favorites and I anxiously await a sequel in the years to come.

Well, 20 years later, the sequel is finally here, and you have to wonder if it’s too late. Will Smith, star of the first film, was not re-cast; after the first film propelled him to international stardom, he became too pricy for the second film.

The good news, nominally, is that much of the original cast does return for the sequel. Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson, now the head of the Earth Space Defense (ESD) in this alternate universe. Given 20 years to prepare for the return, ESD has massively upgraded from the conventional weaponry in the original film. Moving up from F/A-18s to fighters based on alien technology, AMRAAMs and fusion weaponry to plasma cannons and cold-fusion missiles, the ESD has done what it can to get ready. Whereas Smith and Goldblum’s characters split top billing in the first film, this is clearly Levinson’s time to shine.

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Movie Review: ‘Central Intelligence’ Starring Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson

central-intelligence-movie-2016-posterI must admit that my expectations were low for the new buddy-cop movie Central Intelligence.

Despite starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, the trailer just seemed kind of dull.

As probably one of the biggest fans of Dwayne Johnson on the planet, and a pretty huge Kevin Hart fan, I’m happy to report that Central Intelligence not only exceeded my expectations, but it blew them out of the water.

Hart and Johnson are comedic gold in the film, as the charisma that the pair share shines on the big screen.

Hart, who has made a name for himself, playing pretty much the same character in each film, is, yet again up to his old tricks of screaming, yelling and acting scared to death like in just about every film he is in.

Johnson, on the other hand, has become an action superstar. While he sees his fair share of action in the film, he also shows that he has some comedic chops. Both actors are solid in their respective roles.

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Movie Review: ‘The Conjuring 2’ Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

The-Conjuring-2-2-600x865Just when it looked like sequels were going to scare everyone away from the movie theater, along comes The Conjuring 2 – and it literally scared some out of the theater.

James Wan’s latest effort is not just a great scariest, it’s a great piece of acting, as Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have great chemistry together.

After seeing the sequel to 2013’s surprise hit, it was hard to go to sleep. Make no mistake about it, the based on a true story sequel, delivers on all cylinders. Once again, The Conjuring 2 proves that you don’t need gore and guts to put a legitimate scare into moviegoers.

Wilson and Farming play Ed and Lorraine Warren, real-life paranormal investigators. This film picks up around six years after the first.

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Movie Review: ‘Warcraft’ Starring Travis Fimmel and Paula Patton

Warcraft_Teaser_PosterIt’s no secret that movies based on video/computer games have never fared too well. Just glancing through the list of movies, the various Rotten Tomatoes scores read more like a senior class’s ACT scores than a rating. The mere mention of the name Uwe Boll makes film critics and video game players alike cringe in sheer terror. Year in and year out, we watched as some of our favorite game franchises (Tomb Raider, Hitman, DOOM, Far Cry) were butchered in various manners. One game-based film franchise, Resident Evil, has managed to do well enough to warrant several sequels, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

And now we have Warcraft, the latest effort from Duncan Jones, whose directorial debut was the phenomenal indie film Moon. Jones, the son of David Bowie, tackled a certainly risky endeavor. The original Warcraft game, along with Warcraft II, were nothing short of revolutionary when they were released, helping kick-start the real-time strategy genre. With the subsequent release of World of Warcraft, the most popular MMO of all-time, Blizzard’s flagship franchise, the collective eyes of the gaming world descended upon Jones’s effort. Ten years after the project was initially announced, the result is here. The result is an entertaining, if not flawed, fantasy.

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Movie Review: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac

X-Men Apocalypse Movie PosterIt’s hard to believe that we are now nine films into the X-Men franchise, which kicked off in 2000 with X-Men and was the catalyst for the “serious” superhero films we know today. Although Blade came out two years earlier, it never had quite the commercial success of the original X movie – which brought in almost $300 million worldwide. That number now seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the billion dollar films that rule the box office today. 2014’s Days of Future Past brought in nearly $750 million – a number that this third entry into the decade-hopping prequels surely aims to best.

Like its predecessors, Apocalypse jumps forward 10 years – this time taking place in 1983 (First Class was set largely around the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and Days of Future Past took place in 1973). Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) School For Gifted Youngsters is much more established, and thriving with new students. It is here we are introduced to fan favorites Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Jubilee (Lana Condor). Charles and Hank (Nicholas Hoult) run the school, while Erik (Michael Fassbender) tries to live a normal life under a new identity with his wife and daughter. Meanwhile Raven is trying to free Angel (Ben Hardy) and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from an underground mutant flight club in East Berlin.

The film opens in Ancient Egypt, where we eventually learn the first mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is worshiped as a god. In all of his incarnations he is joined by his “four horsemen,” who protect him from a betrayal by his followers in this specific flashback. He is protected and preserved there, until awoken by a series of events influenced by Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), who is working there as a CIA operative. After his awakening into the modern world, En Sabah Nur (who will become known as Apocalypse) recruits his new horsemen: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel – and eventually Erik after he suffers an emotional loss. It is up to the new team of young X-Men, aided by Raven (Mystique), to stop Apocalypse from cleansing Earth from humanity and rebuilding with only his mutant followers.

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Movie Review: ‘Keanu’ Starring Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key

Keanu PosterAfter over a decade of killing it in TV sketch comedy, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are finally on the big screen together in their first feature film.

In Keanu, the comedy duo delivers almost exactly what you’d expect from a bit on their brilliant Comedy Central show, Key and Peele. The movie picks up on a thread they started in a sketch on the show called A Cappella, featuring the two as rivals trying to join extracurricular groups full of the whitest white boys. In the film, they continue exploring variations of racial identity, supported by a healthy dose of slapstick and the absolutely absurd.

Written by Peele and a writer and co-producer of Key & Peele, Alex Rubens, the plot itself is really more of a parody of a plot, highlighted by the infeasible catalyst for the whole debacle: a bunch of hardened drug dealers and one recently dumped stoner fighting over possession of a wee little kitten.

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The Hills Are Alive With “The Sound of Music” at the Fabulous Fox (4/28 – 5/8)

Sound of Music National Tour Fox Theatre St LouisLast year marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most beloved musical films of all time – The Sound of Music. Starring Julie Andrews as Maria, and Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp, the remarkable 1965 film was an adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical from 1959 (Starring Mary Martin) – adapted to the stage by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, who based the musical on the 1949 memoirs of Maria Augusta von Trapp. The story has survived through many decades and embodiment, and now finds itself at the Fox Theatre with the premiere of a brand new production.

Newcomer Kerstin Anderson plays Maria, the star of the show who shines ever so brightly. The now junior at Pace University took a break from school to pursue an amazing opportunity as the lead in the show, and thankfully for us she chose to do so. Anderson is wonderful in the role, so sweet and so kind as Maria should be. And so seemingly innocent to the ways of the world, and of relationships. Her portrayal of the bubbly nun-to-be is exactly what you would hope it to be. The Sound of Music Tour Kerstin AndersonAnd her voice is absolutely beautiful, and she proves it right off the bat as she sings “The Sound of Music” in front of the wonderfully painted backdrop of the hills.

All of the sets are so fantastically crafted, from the abbey to the magnificent von Trapp estate. Although they work cleverly in more modern shows, you won’t see an LED screen backdrop or any special effects in this production. The brilliantly crafted sets and lighting in the show are masterful, as they take the audience back to 1938 Austria.

After several attempts to fit in at the abbey, The Mother Abbess (Melody Betts) sends Maria to be the new governess to the seven von Trapp children. Betts, whose credits include many regional productions as well as television, possesses a powerful voice which helps to guide Maria on her journey. Their interactions are not only touching at times, but also fun to watch as Maria helps Mother Abbess remember how much she loves music. It is at the von Trapp family home where she meets the patriarch – Captain Georg von Trapp (BEN DAVIS). Davis is perfect in the role, and is commanding as the Captain. His first interaction with Maria comes when he teaches her how to whistle for each of the children, which results in hilarity as Maria stands up to him. The two lead actors have great chemistry, and are fantastic as we watch their relationship blossom throughout the show. Their budding romance is one of the greatest parts of the film, and this production nails their story.

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Former WWE Intercontinental Champion Joanie “Chyna” Laurer Passes Away At 45

Chyna WWE SuperstarOver the past few years, the wrestling world has lost many of the superstars who made the product great. These amazing individuals have been dying far too young and often.

Just last week, Ballz Mahoney, known for his time in ECW, passed away in his home. Mahoney was just 44 years old. Then last night, the wrestling world was once again rocked as Joanie Laurer, better known as Chyna, passed away at only 46.

While her death is still under investigation, Chyna made headlines recently for wanting to be put in the WWE Hall of Fame. Former boyfriend, Triple H, released a statement at the time saying that Chyna’s involvement in the adult film industry thwarted any chances of her being in the hall of fame.

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Review: ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ – From Spinner Rack to  Center Stage

“One of the most romantic stories ever written.”

Bridges PosterOr so they say. More romantic than Gone With the Wind? Or Romeo and Juliet? How about Pride and Prejudice? Somehow it is hard for me to believe that the story of a married woman who embarks on a four-day affair while her husband and kids are away on a family trip to the fair is one of the most romantic stories ever written. Call me old fashioned.

“Robert, when we were making love last night, you said something that I still remember. I kept whispering to you about your power — and, my God, you have that. You said, ‘I am the highway and a peregrine and all the sails that ever went to sea.’ You were right. That’s what you feel, you feel the road inside of you.”

That is a line from the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, upon which the musical is based. If you ask me, it sounds like something out of a book you would find on a dime-store spinner rack. Yet somehow the material transcended far beyond what would be expected of similar writings, masquerading as a sort of Midwestern Anna Karenina. The novel has sold more than 50 million copies since then, becoming a 1995 film directed by (and starring) Clint Eastwood before eventually becoming a Broadway musical in 2014. The production ran for less than three months, for a mere 137 performances before embarking on a national tour in late 2015.

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172: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ Part 2

Click here for Part 1.

It’s part two of our ‘Batman v Superman’ extravaganza.

Has it gotten any better? Ummm… no. It’s still the same movie. But there too much “suck” to be contained in one episode. So enjoy as our nerd outrage continues.

It’s Reel Spoilers 172: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ Part 2.

You’ve been warned.

Starring: Tom O’Keefe, Kevin Brackett, Dan Graney, Blake Fehl, Joe Buttice
Run-time: 1hr 10min

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