“Father Figures” Will Bring the Laughs


Set for a December 22 big screen debut, the new comedy “Father Figures” looks like it will bring the laughs. The film features two big-time comedy stars – Owen Wilson and Ed Helms – in a hilarious quest to find their true dad. The only question is whether movie audiences will embrace some of the film’s raunchy humor right around the peak holiday season.

“Father Figures” has the look and feel of the popular “Hangover” movies

If you’re a big fan of the R-rated “Hangover” comedies, you’ll no doubt love “Father Figures.” That’s because the film marks the directorial debut of Lawrence Sher, the cinematographer behind the “Hangover” movies. And there’s also Ed Helms, who also starred in those “Hangover” movies. Only this time around, the action will take place in Miami Beach and not Las Vegas.

The plot line is relatively simple – two hapless twins (played by Owen Wilson and Ed Helms) find out from their sexy, promiscuous mother (played by Glenn Close) that the identity of their real birth father is unknown. So the two characters played by Wilson and Helms – Kyle and Peter Reynolds – set out on a “dad hunt” to find the real father. Along the way, they encounter a trio of older guys – played by J.K. Simmons, Terry Bradshaw and Christopher Walken – who could potentially be their dad. But which one is it?

That’s why the “Hangover”-style feel of the movie is so important – the film plays out as a madcap comedy, with plenty of raunchy comedy and physical sight gags. The backdrop for all these shenanigans, of course, is Miami Beach. The reason why the first “Hangover” movie was so irresistible was due to its location in Las Vegas. So it’s obvious why director Lawrence Sher decided to build on that experience and make the Miami Beach location central to the look and feel of this new film.

“Father Figures” is a hilarious buddy comedy

It’s hard to imagine Owen Wilson and Ed Helms as real-life twins, but that’s the basic premise of the movie. The two don’t appear to have anything in common other than the same father, which is part of what makes the movie so hilarious. “Father Figures” plays out as one of the madcap buddy comedies that Hollywood is so good at producing – combine two actors who are completely different, and watch all the comedic sparks that result.

“Father Figures” is the ultimate road comedy

Another popular Hollywood genre can best be described as a “road comedy” – two or more people hit the road, and all sorts of adventures ensue. There’s perhaps no better description for what happens in “Father Figures.” Once the two twins decide to hit the road, a lot of unbelievably funny events happen.

For example, there’s one scene where the two twins have found Christopher Walken, who they believe to be their dad. Walken decides to make a run for it, “We’ve got a runner,” shouts Owen Wilson, as he prepares to fire some kind of tranquilizer dart to slow him down. All of a sudden Walken falls face down on the ground, leading Ed Helms to blurt out, “You shot dad!”


“Father Figures” features a great supporting cast of funny would-be fathers

And then there are all kinds of hilarious scenes involving Terry Bradshaw (who plays himself as the legendary football player) and his football buddies. One of the ongoing jokes of the movie is that Glenn Close (the mother of the two twins) was once a promiscuous young woman who loved having sex, and got very involved with Terry Bradshaw. Every time Bradshaw and his buddies start to describe what a great lover Glenn Close was in her youth, the two twins blurt out, “She’s our mom.”

And it’s the same type of hilarious dialogue whenever Owen Wilson and Ed Helms stumble upon another person they believe to be their dad. For example, when they encounter J.K. Simmons and try to convince him that they might be their dad, Simmons leaves the scene. Then you hear something crashing to the ground and Simmons yelling to someone off-camera, “There’s no way those two jack***** are my kids!”

Glenn Close plays off-type to hilarious effect in “Father Figures”

Mention also has to be made of the legendary actress Glenn Close, who turns in a surprisingly funny role as a formerly promiscuous woman unsure of who the father might be. As she explains to a wide-eyed Owen Wilson and Ed Helms, “There was so much lovemaking back then… everyone was high.” To which Owen Wilson quips, “Now I know where I got my zest for lovemaking.”

And every single scene involving Terry Bradshaw is hilarious, because he’s also reminiscing back at the unbelievable lovemaking sessions he had with Glenn Close. And when his buddies join in, it’s even funnier. As the character played by Ving Rhames notes about the oral sex abilities of Glenn Close, “Her tongue almost cost us the Super Bowl that year…”


But is the “raunch factor” in “Father Figures” too much?

Perhaps the only thing that might derail this movie is what can best be called the “raunch factor.” Do people really want to see these types of raunchy, R-rated comedies around the holidays? You certainly can’t take your kids to see them, and they might even be somewhat awkward to watch with relatives. The “Hangover” movie was really a movie that you saw with your buddies and laughed about afterwards, right?

For example, the original title of this movie was supposed to be “Bastards,” and the first teasers that came out for the movie seemed to focus much more on the R-rated language and the raunch. That was still in September – so it’s obvious that the movie studio executives did a bunch of focus group testing and found out that it would be better to position this film as a madcap buddy comedy or funny quest movie than as just another “Hangover.” Releasing a holiday film with the name “Bastards” in it just wasn’t going to work, was it?

However, there’s just too much talent in this movie – Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, J.K. Simmons and Christopher Walken – for it to flop. That must be the hope of the film’s producers. “Father Figures” was originally scheduled for an early 2018 release, but they moved up the timetable to December 2017 to cash in on the lucrative year-end box office potential. They must know what movie audiences are going to find out very soon: “Father Figures” will bring the laughs.

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Will “Pitch Perfect 3” Be the Last?


When the first “Pitch Perfect” movie burst onto the scene back in 2012, few could have predicted that just five years later, we’d be talking about the end of a film franchise trilogy. And, yet, that’s exactly what’s happening with the upcoming release of “Pitch Perfect 3” in December 2017 – fans across the Internet are already speculating about this film being the last for the beloved Bellas. But is that really the case?

If “Pitch Perfect 3” does well at the box office, it won’t be the last

A lot has to do with the performance of “Pitch Perfect 3” at the Hollywood box office. The first film was essentially a sleeper hit, grossing $65 million at the domestic box office. It picked up a huge cult following, though, once it hit the On Demand and the streaming markets. That paved the way for “Pitch Perfect 2,” which was an absolute box office smash, bringing in $184 million.

So you can see how high the bar is set for “Pitch Perfect 3” – if the film meets or exceeds expectations (i.e. the $200 million mark), then there is a good chance that there will be a “Pitch Perfect 4.” The only question, though, is whether this fourth film would feature the same set of Bellas, or whether it will feature an entirely new set of fresh faces singing a cappella. So keep your eye on the box office numbers on December 22 – a huge opening weekend would be a good sign that “Pitch Perfect 3” won’t be the last.

This might be the last “Pitch Perfect 3” with the Bellas

Heading into the release of the film, there’s a lot of speculation that the Hollywood production studios are coming to grips with the fact that, in order for this film franchise to keep going, it will need a whole new cast of girls. Back in April 2017, film screenwriter Kay Cannon said as much, calling this film “the end of the Bellas as we know them.”

In fact, the whole premise of “Pitch Perfect 3” seems to set up a scenario in which we’d see a whole new cast of singers in the next sequel. Clue #1 is the fact that the whole premise of “Pitch Perfect 3” is that nobody wants a bunch of grown-up adults who only sing a cappella – the Bellas are told over and over again in “Pitch Perfect 3” that there’s no demand for them anymore now that they’ve graduated college. There’s no real “job” for them anymore, and so they decide to embark on a USO tour in Europe.

Moreover, here’s Clue #2: one of the plotlines from the upcoming film is that Beca (played by Anna Kendrick) might be leaving the group once and for all. Talent agents want to sign her to a contract to sing solo, but don’t want to sign all of the Bellas. That obviously leads to a huge conundrum: Will Beca actually leave the group and everything it represents in order to pursue her own solo singing career?

The next “Pitch Perfect” movie might actually be a spin-off

That naturally leads to the following question: Would it make sense to spin off “Pitch Perfect” with one of the lead characters only? The most obvious choice would be Anna Kendrick in the role of Beca.

Another possible spin-off choice would be Rebel Wilson in the role of Fat Amy. During the filming of the new movie, she has teased the fact that we’ll learn more about the young life of Fat Amy and how she acquired her name. That could become the basis for a new spin-off exploring her previous life and how it will move forward in the future. Based on Rebel Wilson’s starring roles in other comedies, this is certainly an option.

And, consider this: Rebel Wilson was the first cast member to sign up for “Pitch Perfect 3” back in April 2015. At the time, she even suggested that if the studio couldn’t get all the cast members back for this film, she’d consider doing a Fat Amy spin-off. So the idea of a separate Fat Amy franchise was already percolating in the back of everyone’s minds more than two years ago!

What would a sequel to “Pitch Perfect” actually look like?

So, we basically have three scenarios to consider. The first scenario is the most unthinkable one, and that is the total and complete end of this beloved film trilogy. Certainly, most of the marketing surrounding this film would have you believe it. One of the taglines for the movie is “Last call pitches,” and this would seem to suggest that, yes, this is the “last call” for the film franchise.

The second scenario is that the film franchise would continue, but in a different format – either as a spin-off of one of the lead characters (Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp or Hailee Steinfeld) or as an entirely new cast of Bellas who are still in college.

The third scenario is the most exciting one: there will indeed be another “Pitch Perfect” and it will be better than any of the three films so far. Over the past two months, the cast members have been adding social media post after social media post suggesting that the whole cast is inseparable and would never break up. One cast member even compared the filming process to being in summer camp with a favorite set of girlfriends.

Rebel Wilson, for example, recently posted a photo on Instagram with the caption “Bellas for Life,” And Anna Kendrick, also rumored to be headed out on a solo “Pitch Perfect” project, quickly put those rumors to rest in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, when she said that the cast “would do them forever” if given a chance.

So is it really a possibility that this “Pitch Perfect 3” won’t be the last? Just six months, that possibility seemed remote at best. Everything about the upcoming film – the plot line, the marketing tag line and the rumors – seemed to suggest that the trilogy was coming to an end. But “Pitch Perfect” fans have been so vocal in their support of the film that it looks like the momentum has swung now in favor of a “Pitch Perfect 4.” That would make the best holiday present ever from the girls we’ve grown to love so much!


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Why Netflix’s “Gerald’s Game” is Haunting


This has been a banner year for adaptations of Stephen King horror works, with both “Dark Tower” and “It” captivating movie audiences in 2017. And now we have Netflix’s new “Gerald’s Game,” a film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name from 1992. “Gerald’s Game” is a psychological horror film from director Mike Flanagan (“Oculus,” “Hush”) and the result is haunting.

Netflix’s “Gerald’s Game” is so haunting because it captures the feeling of being helpless and trapped

The action kicks off with the married couple Gerald and Jessie Burlingame going for a vacation in the woods. Things turn a little kinky in the bedroom, as Gerald decides to handcuff his wife to the bed and carry out a rape fantasy while she’s wearing nothing more than some very sexy lingerie. Mid-way through, however, Gerald (played by Bruce Greenwood) has a heart attack and falls to the floor. That leaves Jessie (played by Carla Gugino) to figure out how to disentangle herself from this situation – she’s literally chained to the bed spread eagle, in the middle of nowhere, unable to call for help. Oh, and the front door also happens to be open, meaning that anyone – or anything – can wander in.

So much of the action is based on this terrifying scenario and the feeling of being helpless and trapped. How will Jessie break free? And how will she deal with strangers who enter the log cabin in the woods? The film is shot in such a way by Mike Flanagan to capture all of this terror and helplessness – he tries to create a suffocating feel to the action with his tight camera angles.

Netflix’s “Gerald’s Game” taps into deep, dark feelings that have been repressed inside the heroine’s mind

Where “Gerald’s Game” is scariest and most haunting, however, is when it shows us what is happening inside Jessie’s mind. She begins to hallucinate all kinds of things, and is clearly losing it. She imagines her husband Gerald speaking to her and taunting her, reminding her of some painful memories. She then begins to think that perhaps this is the real Gerald, and the two worlds – the real and the fictional – begin to clash.

It is much as if we are seeing a nervous breakdown in slow motion. It’s no wonder that Stephen King himself, after seeing an early rough cut of the film, called it “hypnotic” and “horrifying.” Where things get really horrifying, of course, is when Jessie begins to unlock all the deep, dark feelings that she has been hiding from herself ever since she was a young girl.

Netflix’s “Gerald’s Game” brings us face-to-face with the painful memories of sexual abuse

The kinky sexy games between Jessie and Gerald conjure up all kinds of memories that have lain dormant for so long. In this case, we are really seeing a form of sexual amnesia, in which Jessie remembers painfully how her father Tom sexually abused her when she was just 12 years old. We see the events play back in her memory, and it is truly haunting.

Netflix’s “Gerald’s Game” introduces the very haunting “man made of moonlight”

While Jessie is slowly breaking down and battling her inner demons, there is one more twist to this horror story – and that’s the arrival of “the man made of moonlight.” This is a Grim Reaper-like figure that shows up at her bedside. We learn that he is a deformed serial killer who digs up bodies and eats them. And he carries around a box of trinkets from his victims.

Jessie, as might be imagined, has no idea of what to do. She at first thinks that this figure – whom she names the “man made of moonlight” – is Death personified. It is the Grim Reaper, ready to take her with him to the underworld. Then, she suspects he might actually be real – and begins to come up with a plan to escape. She will offer up her wedding ring to him, if only he will help her escape her predicament.


Netflix’s “Gerald’s Game” captures the horror of random violence

While much of the true terror and horror is taking place within the mind of Jessie, there are still elements of real-world horror that are too grisly even to mention in great detail. For example, remember how the door to the cabin in the woods is wide open? Well, it turns out that a stray dog wanders in and decides to bite a chunk out of the arm of her dead husband. That’s the kind of random violence that is really so haunting – the idea that pure evil can manifest itself like that, at a time when we are most vulnerable.

Netflix’s “Gerald Game” shows us the haunting ways any marriage could be hiding deep, painful secrets

What makes the movie especially haunting is the fact that it shows the degradation of a seemingly happy marriage. The beginning of the movie plays out much like a slickly-produced Viagra movie – handsome, older man takes beautiful wife to a romantic location to rekindle their marriage and pops a Viagra “when the moment is right.” But from there, the degradation begins.

How was Jessie to know that her husband secretly harbored rape fantasies? Or that he would attempt to torment her from beyond the grave? It turns out that their marriage was glossing over a lot of deep, painful secrets – and that Gerald knew a lot of ways to torment her without her even knowing it. There is a lot that goes on inside her mind, as she works to separate the “real” Gerald from the “fictional” Gerald. Is that really him tormenting her, or just her mind playing tricks on her?

“Gerald’s Game” is a great new horror film from Netflix

In the final analysis, “Gerald’s Game” is a great new addition to the Netflix horror genre. Mike Flanagan, who has earned the reputation of being a cult horror filmmaker for works like “Oculus” and “Hush,” certainly brings his A-game to his Netflix debut. He channels the darkest, most disturbing elements of the original Stephen King novel from 25 years ago, and the results are just absolutely haunting.


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“Marshall” Is the Incredible Story of Young Thurgood Marshall


Thurgood Marshall is one of the most famous Supreme Court justices in history, and the new movie “Marshall” presents the incredible true story of one legal case that set him on the path to became such a legendary figure. The events in the film take place in 1940s Connecticut, when Thurgood Marshall, then just a young, aspiring lawyer for the NAACP, is called on to defend a black chauffeur from charges of sexual assault and murder in the famous legal case Connecticut vs. Joseph Spell.

“Marshall” is an epic courtroom drama

First and foremost, then, “Marshall” is a legal drama that plays out in the courtroom as the lawyers Thurgood Marshall (played by Chadwick Boseman) and Sam Friedman (played by Josh Gad) must defend Joseph Spell (played by Sterling K. Brown) from nearly indefensible charges. Everyone in the local community thinks that Spell is guilty of the crimes, and it doesn’t help matters any that Marshall is black and Friedman is Jewish. In 1940’s Connecticut, being anything other than lily white was grounds for potential discrimination. Winning the case would mean overcoming the entrenched racism and anti-Semitism of the era.

In many ways, “Marshall” will remind you of some of Hollywood’s most famous legal dramas, such as “Witness for the Prosecution” or “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Thurgood Marshall has a nearly unwinnable case, and his only hope of winning is by chipping away at the lies and half-truths from the wealthy Connecticut socialite Eleanor Strubling (played by Kate Hudson). This is a potentially dangerous legal maneuver, as the case rapidly turns into an example of “he said/she said.” Given this mutability of the truth, is it really possible that a jury will vote in favor of Marshall’s client, Joseph Spell?

Moreover, there’s one other little wrinkle that Marshall must take into account – he is not allowed to speak in the courtroom, despite being co-counsel on the case. That means that he must rely on his co-counsel, Sam Friedman, to argue the specific points of the case, while he is much more in charge of overall legal strategy.

Some of the best scenes in the movie come when Spell and Strubling are called on to testify in the courtroom. We see events told by flashback in noir-ish black and white. As Marshall tries to separate the lies from the truth, we witness his stunning transformation as an idealistic young trial lawyer, and how his brilliant mind worked.

“Marshall” features standout performances that bring the incredible story to life

The movie boasts a stand-out role from Chadwick Boseman, who also played Jackie Robinson in the critically acclaimed “42,” as well as a fantastic supporting role from Josh Gad, who plays Sam Friedman, the Jewish lawyer on the case. The way the two actors interact help to lend an entertaining dimension to the film. In one scene, for example, the young, self-important Thurgood Marshall arrives in Connecticut and immediately expects that Sam Friedman will carry his bags. You can just imagine how that’s going to go over with an equally confident and accomplished lawyer! Throughout the film, the chemistry between Boseman and Gad is almost palpable, and it is definitely part of what makes the film so enjoyable.

“Marshall” is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking

“Marshall” is incredibly entertaining as a film. One reason for that is that the film doesn’t try to be too important or too big. It doesn’t make the mistake of other films that try to depict every event in the life of a modern-day hero as being larger-than-life or the figure as being somehow preordained for greatness. Life doesn’t work that way.

Instead, we see Marshall as he actually was back in the 1940s – he was young, idealistic and talented, but had absolutely no idea that he was going to eventually become an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. And we get no inkling in the movie that Thurgood Marshall would eventually be the one to argue the case of Brown vs. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.

That, of course, is part of the brilliance of this movie. It is not meant to be a monumental documentary or biopic – it is, instead, intended as a fast-paced, entertaining drama in which the main characters happen to be lawyers. This is a film that knows its role, and knows that the emphasis should be on good storytelling, and not on trying to turn Thurgood Marshall into a mythical figure.


“Marshall” gives us incredible glimpses into the real life of Thurgood Marshall

While most people are probably aware of the legend of Thurgood Marshall, they probably have little or no idea of the intimate details of his life. And so this is one place where the film really shines – it shows us the relationship that the lawyer Marshall had with the writer Langston Hughes, and it also goes behind-the-scenes into his marriage.

We find out how Marshall often had to make a decision between the law and his family, and how powerfully he believed in the potential of the legal system to deliver a righteous outcome. You can see how his experience working on this one legal case definitely led him in the direction of eventually becoming a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Marshall” will inspire a new generation of lawyers with its incredible story

It’s hard not to be inspired by the film “Marshall.” Here we have an idealistic young lawyer who went toe-to-toe against the system, and who was willing to go anywhere the NAACP sent him, as long as he could pursue his dream of making an impact on society through the practice of law.

It’s no wonder that “Marshall” has picked up such rave reviews from critics and viewers alike. On Rotten Tomatoes, for example, “Marshall” has a spectacular 86% freshness rating. The film is more than just a gripping courtroom drama – it is the incredible true story of how one of the most famous lawyers of our generation took on a case that was almost impossible to win, and battled against a system that was very much stacked against him. That will surely inspire others who see the film “Marshall” to follow in the path created by Thurgood Marshall in order to pursue truth, justice and righteousness.


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Why “American Assassin” Will Be Thrilling


Forget Jason Bourne, there’s a new heartthrob action hero who’s taking down the bad guys around the world and his name is Mitch Rapp (played by Dylan O’Brien). The move “American Assassin,” based on the #1 New York Times bestseller of the same name, is a non-stop, action-driven, take-out-the-terrorists movie that doesn’t stop until the final credits. It’s easy to say that “American Assassin” will be a thrilling movie experience.

“American Assassin” features a super-assassin who’s young and lethal

The movie “American Assassin” has all the signs of being a major thriller-action franchise. The book series featured super-assassin Mitch Rapp in 16 different books, so you can pretty much bet that Hollywood has a good idea of what to do next. So think of this first film as an introduction to the youngest, hunkiest post-9/11 action hero that we’ve ever seen.

The core part of Mitch Rapp’s back story is that his beautiful girlfriend and fiancée (played by the incredibly lovely Charlotte Vega) has been gunned down in a terrorist incident at a beach resort in Tunisia, and now Mitch Rapp will stop at nothing to get his revenge on the Islamic terrorists. That includes becoming a lethal killing machine – he can handle a gun, of course. But he’s also trained in MMA and can handle throwing stars with the best of them. Just like Jason Bourne, he’s very much damaged – but at least he knows why. In a head-to-head cage match with Jason Bourne, Mitch Rapp would probably leave Matt Damon choking in the dust.

You see, Mitch Rapp doesn’t come with all the moral baggage of more traditional, pre-9/11 heroes. His job is to kill the bad guys, and he doesn’t really care how it’s done. That emphasis on the non-stop killing, while exciting for action fans (really, who doesn’t dream of massacring the terrorists?), has raised some questions in the liberal media, which has accused the filmmaker (Michael Cuesta) of taking an over-the-top “America first” approach to wiping out the bad guys.

But so be it. We’re in a new era now, and if the terrorists are going to be brutal and amoral when wiping out women and children in Paris, Brussels, and London, then they have it coming to them. And that revenge motif is something that the movie really delivers.

“American Assassin” is a global whirlwind that will leave you breathless

Just like in the “Bourne” film franchise, the action is a whirlwind of scenes, encounters and fight sequences all over the world. In the course of the film, we’re taken to destinations like Malta, Ibiza, Istanbul, Tripoli, Romania and Rome. And the action never lets up. You can be cynical and say that “American Assassin” is derivative in this regard, but you can’t ignore the fact that the scenes in places like Rome and Istanbul are just breathtaking.

“American Assassin” has a save-the-world plot you won’t believe

It seems like any great action film has to feature a rogue villain these days, and that’s exactly what “American Assassin” delivers. In this case, the rogue villain is “Ghost” (played by Taylor Kitsch) who may or may not have come up with a way to destroy the world. (Hint: it involves nukes)

At some point, in fact, this plotline might remind you of the last “Fast and the Furious” film, in which Vin Diesel briefly flirts with the idea of going over to the dark side to rescue his family. That film featured stunning CGI sequences of ships, nukes and cars. Who can forget the nuclear-armed submarine emerging from under the ice?

You could say that “American Assassin” goes one step further – it features the U.S. Navy, nukes, and a tsunami wave scene that has to be seen to be believed. This is a huge spectacle, and a save-the-world plot you won’t soon forget.


“American Assassin” oozes machismo and testosterone

Did we mention that Mitch Rapp loves to sneer at people, that he won’t listen to authority, and that he enjoys bad boy sports (like drag racing and parkour). Oh, and he can really handle a gun. Some movie critics have suggested that the young protagonist could be a way to hook female viewers on this film franchise – these viewers might not like all the corpses piling up in the movie, but boy oh boy, does that kid have swagger. (One of his throwaway lines is, “If you’re not busy living, you’re dying.”)

Perhaps the only person who can tame this super-smart, super-badass kid is the character of Stan Hurley, an ex-Navy SEAL instructor played by Michael Keaton. It seems like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Keaton do any blockbuster summer action films (he’s been too busy doing Oscar fare like “Birdman” and “Spotlight”), but he simply excels as the crusty mentor who teaches Mitch Rapp how to channel some of his instincts and reactions.

In one scene – perhaps the highlight of the whole trailer that the studio released before the film – Keaton’s character challenges Mitch Rapp to a duel of sorts. “Kill me,” he challenges the young newcomer. Well, you can imagine the ending to that. Mitch Rapp might think he’s a badass, but he’s on his back within seconds. Before he’s been fully trained, he’s no match for Stan Hurley.

Despite all the machismo in the film, it should be pointed out that two excellent female actresses (Sanna Lathan and Shiva Negar) also appear in the film in strong supporting roles. Negar, for example, plays a deadly and intriguing Turkish agent, while Lathan plays a no-nonsense U.S. intelligence chief.

“American Assassin” lives up to its #1 bestseller origins

The first weekend box office numbers are almost in, and it looks like “American Assassin” is going to be a hit with U.S. movie audiences. Most likely, the film will be a hit with global audiences as well. So (dramatic pause) get ready for what comes next; the preparation for the sequel to “American Assassin.”

Now that Matt Damon has appeared in his final “Bourne” film, it’s time to anoint the next great American super-spy and his name is Dylan O’Brien. If you’re looking for a thrill-a-minute Hollywood film experience, then “American Assassin” will not disappoint. It’s thrilling, action-packed and filled with plenty of action scenes you’ll enjoy re-watching once this film becomes available for streaming.


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Meet Brad Pitt – American Movie Celebrity

Without any doubt, Brad Pitt is one of the most famous movie celebrities in the world. For 25 years, he has been acting in some of the popular films ever produced by Hollywood. And, on top of that, his celebrity romances with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie have kept him on the pages of celebrity tabloids on a non-stop basis for nearly two decades.

But life did not start out with Hollywood glamour. Pitt was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Missouri, where he attended high school. He later enrolled at the University of Missouri, where he made up his mind to get involved with the world of film in the mid-1980s. Just two weeks before graduation in 1986, he moved to Los Angeles, determined to get involved in TV and movies.

Early work as a Hollywood actor

From 1987 to 1992, Brad Pitt’s career began to take shape. His first-ever roles in films (“No Way Out, No Man’s Land” and “Less Than Zero”) were actually uncredited. He made guest appearances on TV sitcoms and soap operas, but nothing really hinted at the fame and fortune ahead of him. Perhaps Pitt’s most critically acclaimed performance during that time was his role in the 1990 NBC made-for-TV movie, “Too Young To Die?”, in which he played alongside Juliette Lewis.

Pitt’s breakout performance came in the 1991 cult film “Thelma & Louise.” In this film by Ridley Scott, Pitt played a small-time criminal who had a much talked about love scene with Thelma (played by Geena Davis). Many reviewers now credit that performance with people talking widely about Pitt as a sex symbol.

Then, in 1992, Pitt worked with Robert Redford on “A River Runs Through It,” and received almost universal acclaim for his performance. Many now began to see Pitt as an actor capable of a much larger range of roles. For that, Pitt has always given credit to Robert Redford.

Emergence as a true Hollywood star

In 1994, Pitt had another breakout, career-defining performance. He starred as the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac in the cult horror film “Interview with the Vampire.” The movie, based on the bestselling book by Anne Rice, featured an ensemble cast of some of the biggest Hollywood names – including Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas. For his part in the movie, Pitt picked up two MTV Movie Awards in 1995.

The following year, Pitt picked up new roles that would begin to define him as one of the most important emerging Hollywood superstars. He had an important performance in the movie “Seven,” playing a detective on the search of a serial killer. That movie also featured Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow, with whom he would later become romantically involved.

But it was his performance in the science fiction movie “12 Monkeys” that really made him into a superstar. He won a Golden Globe award and also picked up his first-ever Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Other Oscar-worthy roles soon followed, such as a leading role in the fantasy romance movie “Meet Joe Black.”

Solidifying his role as an iconic actor

The period from 1999-2003 helped to solidify Brad Pitt as one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. The role that made him into a real star was his portrayal of the anarchist Tyler Durden in “Fight Club” (1999). From there, he began to star side-by-side with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. For example, in 2001, Pitt played alongside Julia Roberts in “The Mexican.” He also co-starred with Robert Redford in “Spy Game.”

Then came “Ocean’s Eleven,” a blockbuster crime heist movie starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts. Few could doubt that Pitt was now part of the Hollywood elite. After that, he had a cameo role in George Clooney’s first-ever movie, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” and became a fixture in the celebrity tabloids.

Superstar A-lister

From 2004 on, Pitt enjoyed a golden age of blockbuster Hollywood film roles. It was no longer the case that he was playing a supporting role or appearing as part of a larger ensemble cast. It was now the case that he could command top billing as a real A-list actor. For example, he appeared as Achilles in the blockbuster film “Troy” in 2004.

In 2005, Pitt made a movie that came to define the way the celebrity tabloids talked about him and his personal life. That movie, of course, was “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” in which Pitt co-starred with Angelina Jolie. At the time, Pitt was undergoing a divorce with Jennifer Aniston, and rumors persisted that Pitt’s on-stage romance with Angelina Jolie was at least part of the reason.

From 2005 to 2010 came a string of critically-acclaimed and well-received movies, including “Babel” (2006), for which Pitt picked up a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination. Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment, also produced its first film, “The Departed” in 2006. It was clear now that Brad Pitt’s role in Hollywood had significantly expanded to include not just actor but also producer.

During that time period, Pitt also starred in a number of big-name movies every year. In 2007, it was “The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.” In 2008, it was “Burn After Reading.” In 2009, it was “Inglorious Basterds.” Then came even more movies and even more awards, including a star turn in both “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Moneyball.”

After 2010, Pitt starred in the kinds of blockbuster movies that pulled in some truly staggering box office numbers. These included “World War Z” and “12 Years a Slave” in 2013 and “Fury” in 2014 and then “The Big Short” (2015) and “Allied” (2016). In 2017, Brad Pitt starred in “War Machine,” a Netflix original movie.

Future stardom ahead

The next big movie to feature Brad Pitt could be a sequel to “World War Z” – the movie had been tentatively planned to have a smash debut in summer 2017, but now it looks like plans have been pushed back to late 2017 or early 2018. Meanwhile, his production company Plan B Entertainment continues to work on new TV and film projects.

And don’t forget that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are still very much the epitome of the superstar Hollywood couple. Although the two officially divorced at the end of 2016, their names continue to appear on the front pages of newspapers and tabloid everywhere.

Looking back on Pitt’s work on the big screen, it’s almost hard to believe that it has been more than 25 years since his first breakout role in “Thelma & Louise.” Since that time, Pitt has worked with some of the leading names in Hollywood, and has been romantically linked with several of the most beautiful women ever to appear in TV or film. He truly is a one-of-a-kind Hollywood A-list original.

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“The Lego Batman Movie,” Perfect for All Ages


DC and Warner Bros. have always struggled with superhero movies. They spend big money, hire the best of actors, and offer the best special effects. Together, they should make for a memorable cinematic experience. But, when you make a list of their joint projects, you are almost always left disappointed. This is particularly true for the Batman movies. Be it the 1966, 1992 or 1997, DC and Warner Bros. have never been able to do ‘justice’ to this character. For once, Christopher Nolan did an exemplary job with The Dark Knight series. Although Batman’s next reincarnation in Batman v Superman was great, the movie itself suffered from many issues, including overly gritty theme, dense story, and inconsistency. With Suicide Squad, it appeared that DC and Warner Bros. committed the Hollywood’s equivalent of suicide. Against the backdrop of all of this pain filled history, The Lego Batman Movie comes as a breath of fresh air.

The Lego Batman Movie is not just another superhero movie; nor is it another somber Warner Bros + DC production. It is everything that you wanted from a Batman movie. Hell, it is everything you wanted from a superhero movie. It is funny, deep, never gets boring, imaginative, and self-aware. The movie is full of humor. In fact, every dialogue, every scene has at least one joke, sometimes many. It is the best thing to ever come out of a Lego factory.

The movie begins with a typical action scene in Gotham, where Batman is again trying to foil one of Joker’s latest terrorist attacks. This incident becomes the backdrop for the hell that is soon going to be unleashed on Gotham. And, you will be hard put to answer the question – is Joker alone responsible for all this chaos? The one thing that will make you ask this question to yourself is the one thing that you won’t expect – Batman.

Joker feels that he is the arch nemesis to Batman, and that they both push each other to be the best at what they do. On the other

hand, Batman does not think that the two of them share a codependent relationship. This makes the Joker angry, very angry. And, anyone who has followed the decades’ worth of history between Batman and Joker knows that nobody wants to make Joker angry, which Batman will soon find out the hard way.

Can we really blame Batman for not acknowledging the bromance (or whatever you call that superhero-supervillain relationship between these two) between himself and the Joker? Batman aka Bruce Wayne is a recluse. The billionaire businessman builds sci-fi toys and practices martial arts during daytime, which he promptly uses in the night to beat the bad guys to a pulp. When he does have bad guys to beat, he sulks in the darkness of his Batmobile, while looking at the pictures of his dead parents. Any semblance of romance in his life comes with its own set of complications. *cough Talia al Ghul*. *cough Bat Girl*. His only companion in life is his butler, Alfred. He doesn’t need anyone in his life. At least that’s what he thinks. So, when a self-proclaimed arch nemesis comes to Batman seeking acknowledgement of his special status in Batman’s life, well, he had another thing coming.


To exact his revenge on Batman, Joker hatches a diabolical plan. He empties out the entire Arkham Asylum. Fans need no introduction regarding what evils and pathos Arkham Asylum is home to. But, that’s just the beginning. Joker, then goes ahead and opens up the gates of the super-prison, Phantom Zone. Superman fans might recall Phantom Zone as the ultra-maximum security prison created by the Kryptonians to hold their prisoners, and from which there is no escape. So, you can imagine if something was too much for Kryptonians, then it definitely is too much for the beings of earth, super or not. If this gets too gritty for you, don’t worry. The innocent, cute voice of young Dick (future Robin) will keep you plenty happy with where Batman is going with his life.

Although the movie follows a serious theme, it is done in a more comedic style. In fact, there is a particularly satirical tone to the movie. Much of the satire is focused on its own past. It is very rare to see DC movies being self-aware of their own history. The Lego Batman Movie indicates that it is aware of the existence of previous versions of Batman. There are some references, and everything is part of the same universe. This is one of the things that make the movie a great watch for the adults. Those who have followed Batman’s long history since their childhood, will love the jokes that many others will simply miss. But, if you are not updated on Batman’s history, there is nothing to worry. There are so many jokes, and so closely placed that by the time you will be laughing at one, you will have missed the next one. You will never feel that you are missing anything on this hilarious rollercoaster of a laughing marathon.

Finally, there is the cast. Will Arnett resumes his role as Batman, and is as exceptional as always. A special nod to Ralph Fiennes for giving his voice to Batman’s butler Alfred. He has simply nailed the performance. Hector Elizondo’s Commissioner Gordon, Rosario Dawson’s Barbara Gordon, and Michael Cera’s Dick have all managed to pull off their roles perfectly. Although Zach Galifianakis’ Joker is a welcome performance, he dwarfs when put against the legends like Mark Hamill, John DiMaggio, and others who have come before him.

Perhaps, the best thing that works in favor of this movie is its unassuming nature. It is not targeted at any specific age. The quality of humor is good for all ages, the story gripping for every type of crowd, and there are enough references to keep the hardcore Batman fans satiated as well. This is everything that everyone wanted out of a superhero movie. Short of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, this is easily the best Batman movie in the recent years.


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Movie Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split”


It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for M. Night Shyamalan to return to form, back when he was delighting us with movies like “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable.” His new film “Split” is as good as we’ve seen him. He’s eschewed some of the big-budget special effects of some of his more recent films, and instead, focused on writing a taut, suspenseful horror-thriller.

If you don’t already know the basic storyline from the movie trailer, it’s basically this: a deranged man (played by James McAvoy) suffering from multiple personality disorder abducts three teenage girls, and subjects them to various torments as he struggles with his 23 different personalities.

The problem, of course, is that there’s one more personality that has not yet fully surfaced, and when it does, it will seek to dominate all 23 of his other personalities. It’s safe to say that this 24th personality is going to be the most dangerous one, certainly more so than some of the other personalities – an LGBT fashion designer, a deranged church lady, a 9-year-old child and a clean freak.

In many ways, “Split” marks a split from other films – like “Psycho” or “Dressed to Kill” – that used the existence of a hidden personality as a major plot twist. Indeed, from the very outset, we’re told that “Kevin” has 23 different personalities vying for control. On a regular basis, he visits his therapist, Dr. Fletcher (played by Betty Buckley), who has a chance to explain to both Kevin and the audience what the heck is going on here.

Unlike other people suffering from multiple personality disorder, Kevin actually has a rare and dangerous form of it known as dissociative identity disorder, which means that he assumes the specific physical attributes for each personality.

That leads to a star tour de force role for James McAvoy, who is absolutely brilliant in being able to use his body language, his facial expressions and even his accents and dialects to show viewers which personality he’s currently experiencing. (Oh, and don’t forget the tiger-like teeth!) The unique aspect of his disorder is that only one can “come out to play” at a time. Thus, we see McAvoy transforming himself almost effortlessly into a mix of different “alters,” all of them are, presumably, almost an entirely different person with different physical and mental attributes.

Since this is a Shyamalan film, you know there are going to be plot twists and subtle turns in the narrative. And it’s here that the director is a master of mood, pacing and perspective, showing us just enough to hint at what might come next, but keeping enough out of view to keep us grasping for more. We’re like the three teenage girls, held behind a dungeon-like door, and only able to see bits and pieces of all the craziness happening around them at any time.

In many ways, though, Shyamalan may be trying too hard to keep us on the edge of our seats. At times, what happens is just preposterous, and there’s no way to put it any other way. And some of the characterizations from McAvoy are so overwrought and over-the-top that we wonder if Shyamalan is toying with us, letting us know that he knows exactly what we must be thinking about his films.


While it’s hard to argue with the prodigious artistic output of M. Night Shyamalan – “The Sixth Sense, “Unbreakable,” “Signs, “The Happening,” “The Village,” “Lady in the Lake” – it’s also clear that he’s never going to achieve his enormous promise of a decade ago. Remember when Newsweek anointed him as “the next Spielberg”?

Unfortunately, there’s a lot in “Split” that’s derivative of many of the top horror franchises today. “Saw” comes to mind, because that film also features the story of someone who wakes up in an unrecognized chamber of horrors, confronting a villain of unimagined evil. But, to Shyamalan’s credit, his film is literally a PG-13 take on the “R” horror film genre. The film is not especially bloody, gruesome or horrible, even if it is sinister and more than a little creepy. You will be creeped out, but not grossed out. And, certainly, the abuse of children theme is something that maybe we’d rather not see on camera, even if it’s something certain to add a layer of creepiness to the film.

While a lot of credit for the box office success of the film has to go to the name brand recognition of M. Night Shyamalan and the main star, James McAvoy, credit also has to go Betty Buckley, who’s a key part of making sense of the plot, as well as the three girls – Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula – who are abducted by McAvoy’s character.

Of these, Anya Taylor-Joy is deserving of especial notice. Other critics have described her as a “brooding outsider”, and that’s a good description of her. She’s really the key to the three girls making sense of their situation and escaping. As it turns out, though, she’s more than a little bit damaged herself. She’s carrying a lot of emotional baggage, in the form of some childhood traumas that she would rather not relive.

Ultimately, “Split” is a worthy take on the psycho-slasher movie, if only because the “psycho” element is so clearly announced up front (and the title of the film should tell you as much, as well). It is, as Variety has suggested, “an unhinged new mind bender.” We know the plot twists are coming, but we are still largely powerless to predict them (although more than a few “Split” fans have said that it’s possible to piece together a number of clues that prepared them for the film’s final “blow your mind” plot twist.)

Hollywood’s horror-thriller has been in need of a reboot, after the whole “Saw” genre gave it a boost for so long. And so this is what we could be looking forward to – films that focus more on star power and PG-13-level terror.

We won’t be seeing a “Split, Part 2” yet but the film clearly aims to be taken seriously. It was released under the Universal Blumhouse label, which is the same label that gave us “Insidious,” “Paranormal Activity” and “The Purge.” The film “Split” may have split personalities of its own at times, but it’s certainly a compelling two-hour romp through the mind of a lunatic.


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The 5 Most Anticipated Films of 2017


It’s shaping up to be a tremendous year for new movies in 2017. Buzz is already starting to build for many new movies – including a few that will be hitting cinema screens as early as March. Based on what fans are saying on the Internet’s top movie sites, these are the 5 most anticipated films of 2017 (listed in the order they will be released).

#1: “Beauty and the Beast”

This film is going to be full-on Disney goodness, with Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. Unlike the Disney animated classic, this will be a live-action cinematic drama. So get ready for some gorgeous castle scenes and some really cool special effects for the Beast and his castle.

Even kids will know the basic storyline – Belle is taken prisoner by the Beast in an enchanted castle, but learns to look beyond his external hideousness. This is a romantic dark fantasy filled with all kinds of enchanted special effects – like teacups and clocks that sing and dance. Similar to the 2015 live-action remake of “Cinderella,” this might be the type of movie that even adults will want to see again and again.

Release date: March 17

#2: “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2”


If you worried that “Guardians of the Galaxy” would be a one-hit wonder, no worries now. Marvel Entertainment is releasing “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2” at the very start of this summer, and it looks like a real winner. The film, directed by James Gunn, stars Chris Pratt (as Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (as Gamora), Dave Bautista (as Drax) and Kurt Russell (as Peter Quill’s father, Ego). And there are two great actors who will voice the roles of Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel).

We already know this is going to be an action blockbuster with all kinds of glorious special effects – what remains to be seen are all the unique plot twists that are going to happen. For example, one of the plotline will involve the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. And, based on the trailers already available on YouTube, there might be a romantic angle involving Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana (yes, please!).

Release date: May 5

#3: “Wonder Woman”


You can never have too many blockbuster superhero movies, especially ones featuring strong, charismatic heroines like Wonder Woman. 2016 may have been an off-year for DC Comics (e.g. “Batman Vs. Superman” and “Suicide Squad”), but 2017 is going to be absolutely wonderful. “Wonder Woman” introduces us to the super stylish and super sexy Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot), an Amazon princess who discovers her true powers as Woman Woman.

Based on trailers that are out for “Wonder Woman” (due to hit screens on June 2), we known that Diana has been living on an Amazonian remote paradise before a U.S. air force pilot mistakenly crashes there. What unfolds then is a story set during World War I, in which Wonder Woman must use her superhero abilities to stop the war. This is going to be a delirious mash-up of superhero powers set amidst wartime. Oh, and did we mention that Wonder Woman just looks dreamy divine in her outfit?

Release date: June 2

#4: “Spider-Man: Homecoming”


Mark down July 7 on your calendars. That’s when “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is going to hit the cinematic big screen. It has the potential to be the biggest superhero blockbuster of the year, and that’s really saying something, given the competition from “Wonder Woman” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” Unlike other Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire, this one stars a young Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland), as he begins to learn more about his super powers and his unique destiny.

So it’s really a coming-of-age story as much as a superhero story, and that’s what makes this such an intriguing film. Especially when you add in the supposed love interest of young Spider-Man — the beautiful Michelle, played by Zendaya. And there are plenty of supporting characters who also bring their Hollywood A-game to this movie: Marisa Tomei (as Aunt May) and Spider-Man’s new mentor Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.). Tony Stark, of course, is Iron Man, so you can see all kinds of delicious Marvel Entertainment tie-ins here. The only question, really, is how Spider-Man going to take on the villain Vulture (played by Michael Keaton).

Release date: July 7

#5: “Star Wars: Episode VIII”


It’s hard to keep track of which “Star Wars” movies are prequels or sequels, and which part belongs to which “Star Wars” trilogy, but here’s all that you have to know: the new “Star Wars” is going to drop in December 2017 and it’s going to be huge. We’ve already seen how big “Rogue One” was during the holiday 2016 season, and there’s no reason not to expect that the “Star Wars” movie won’t be just as big. In fact, the buzz online is that the other major Hollywood films scheduled for release in December 2017 are now scrambling to move around their distribution times, so that they won’t have to compete head-to-head with “Star Wars: Episode VIII.”

This is definitely a “trust me” pick. Because, well, we don’t know that much about the movie. It was originally scheduled for release in May 2017, but was pushed back to December. All that we know is that it will feature Rey (played by Daisey Ridley) and Finn (played by John Boyega) from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Episode VII). (And there might be a romantic sub-plot!)

There haven’t even been any official studio trailers released for the new film – although there are plenty of fan tribute trailers already all over YouTube. We’ll surely have more intergalactic adventures, and learn more about the force and the Jedi code. We might even seen Mark Hamill as an old Luke Skywalker (and Carrie Fisher as well!). Right now, even the uncertainty about the exact casting and plot line hasn’t stopped the buzz from building around the film franchise — “Star Wars: Episode VIII” is now the #1 most anticipated film on Fandango while “Rogue One” is the #1 pre-ordered film on Apple iTunes as well as the #1 film at theaters.

Release date: December 15, 2017


So, those are the top 5 most anticipated films of the year, but that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of other great films scheduled for release throughout 2017. One film trailer that’s going viral right now is the one promoting the follow-up (“50 Shades Darker”) to the “50 Shades of Grey” film that captivated movie audiences in 2015.

And we’re also going to be treated to new installments in the “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Fast and the Furious” and “Transformers” franchises, so that’s good news for movie fans everywhere. And as we get through the summer, we’ll get a better idea of all the films that the major studios are placing their Oscar bets on, so there’s really a lot to look forward to in 2017.

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