In the sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s Oscar®-nominated blockbuster comedy, the Templeton brothers—Tim (James Marsden, X-Men franchise) and his Boss Baby little bro Ted (Alec Baldwin)—have become adults and drifted away from each other. Tim is now a married stay-at-home dad. Ted is a hedge fund CEO. But a new boss baby with a cutting-edge approach and a can-do attitude is about to bring them together again … and inspire a new family business.
Tim and his wife, Carol (Eva Longoria), the breadwinner of the family, live in the suburbs with their super-smart 7-year-old daughter Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt, Avengers: Infinity War), and adorable new infant Tina (Amy Sedaris, Netflix’s BoJack Horseman). Tabitha, who’s at the top her class at the prestigious Acorn Center for Advanced Childhood, idolizes her Uncle Ted and wants to become like him, but Tim, still in touch with his overactive youthful imagination, worries that she’s working too hard and is missing out on a normal childhood.
When baby Tina reveals that she’s—ta-da!—a top secret agent for Baby Corp. on a mission to uncover the dark secrets behind Tabitha’s school and its mysterious founder, Dr. Erwin Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum), it will reunite the Templeton brothers in unexpected ways, lead them to re-evaluate the meaning of family and discover what truly matters.
Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel also reprise their roles as Ted and Tim’s parents.
Building on the success of the first film, which earned more than $500 million worldwide, The Boss Baby: Family Business is directed by returning filmmaker Tom McGrath and is produced by Jeff Hermann (Kung Fu Panda 3).
Genre: Animated Comedy Cast: Alec Baldwin, Jeff Goldblum, Ariana Greenblatt, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Eva Longoria, James Marsden, Amy Sedaris Director: Tom McGrath Producer: Jeff Hermann
Since I did not write a full review of A Quiet Place, just noted it as arguably the best movie of 2018 in my year-end review, it is worth spending a little time here to talk about it before getting into Part II. A lot of horror movies are cheap, barely coherent films aimed solely at getting a couple of jumps or screams out of the audience. If they do that, they win. That cheap part is key, just look at The Purge series. Each of the four movies (with a fifth coming out soon) cost between $3-$13 million to make and each pulled in around $100 million at the box office despite the movies featuring almost no actors you have ever heard of and writing that, at best, can be described as words on paper.
(SPOILERS for the first film. If you haven’t seen it yet, go now, and be quick about it.)
A Quiet Place differed in three key aspects. The first is that it featured two well-known actors, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. The second is that it was a well-written screenplay with an exceptional attention to detail (one of the writers was Krasinski, who also directed). The third is that it had a larger budget, though still inexpensive as movies go, at $17-$21 million. All three of those things as a group were crucial to the success of the film. While a larger budget for a horror flick is a great thing (they were able to hire Industrial Light & Magic for the creatures, rather than hope a couple of kids with MacBooks could do it for a couple thousand dollars and some lollipops), the key was two exceptionally good actors and that meticulously written screenplay.
The acting was notable in that the entire cast was six people, two of whom are barely in the film. Essentially, it was Krasinski and Blunt with a couple of kids (both of whom were also quite good) and a script asking them to deliver a convincing performance with virtually no spoken lines. Since the creatures in the film can hear the smallest of noises, the family has to do everything as silently as possible. This is where the amazing screenplay comes into play. In order to convince the viewer of the danger posed to the family (and all surviving people) and how they were able to survive for so long, we have to see and not hear everything they do. From their sign language, to the trails of sand they walk on in bare feet, to the sound-proofed basement, to the lights used for signaling, to the sheer terror and desperation in the actors’ eyes, face, and bodies whenever so much as a mouse farts, everything in the sets, acting, and production design conveys a singular purpose – shhhhhhh.
The entire film is done so exquisitely that the audience unconsciously becomes part of the film, not daring to make a sound lest we become the next victim or betray the family’s position. When Lee (Krasinski) hears that toy space shuttle break the silence in the opening scene, the terror in his eyes is palpable and we clench in anticipation of what he is so afraid of. While most horror flicks hope for a couple of scenes of great tension, A Quiet Place succeeded in creating an entire film of great tension. It isn’t until the film is over that you realize your fingers are two knuckles deep into the armrests.
A Quiet Place is also the kind of movie that makes you dread a sequel. For one thing, you are worried that you cannot handle that level of tension for another two solid hours. For another thing, trying to recapture the magic of a movie like this is almost always a fool’s errand. This time, the audience knows what is out there. This time, the audience knows the family has a way to fight back against the monsters. And when it comes to monster movies, sequels almost always try to double-down on the monsters. Super-hearing in the first film? How about we give them the power of flight in the second film? Also, they are twice as big. Oh, and they can breathe under water. If not this movie, then they can when this becomes a trilogy.
This is where a great talent like John Krasinski comes in handy. For the sequel, he is the sole credited writer, directs again, and is even in a prologue scene depicting the first day the creatures attack. While this first scene is a fun nod to the audience who all wanted to know where the creatures came from, the rest of the movie is shown the same amount of care and meticulousness as the first film. And if you were worried about the sequel curse, Part II isn’t a traditional sequel that happens sometime in the future, often with different characters. Once that prologue scene is over, the film cuts to where we left Evelyn (Blunt) and her kids at the end of the first film. And I do mean the exact moment we left Evelyn, standing there with a shotgun.
With Lee gone, Evelyn and her three kids (including their newborn infant) set off to find a new place to survive. They soon come across an abandoned factory and have to run for their lives when Evelyn trips a tripwire and Marcus steps in a bear trap. Quickly, daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) sets up their one defense against the creatures (a speaker and her hearing aid, which make a screeching noise). Watching this occur from within the factory is Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a friend of the family, and fellow survivor who lost his family to the creatures. Seeing them kill one of the creatures, Emmett dashes out to help them and we are treated to another harrowing scene in which the humans use a combination of luck and environment to survive the attack. And like with the entire first movie, your hands are knuckle-deep in your seat.
While recovering from the bear trap, Marcus comes across a radio station playing music on a radio in Emmett’s hideout. Regan concludes that the music is a message to survivors and decides that she is going to locate the source of the music, taking off on her own without Evelyn’s or Emmett’s knowledge. The rest of the film plays out this plot and continues on like the previous film and this film – very little spoken dialogue and an intensity that rarely dips below nine. Emmett goes after Regan and they must survive multiple encounters. Evelyn and Marcus must survive more encounters. A couple of new human characters are discovered and more encounters must be survived. And every bit of it as intense as the last film and none of it feels rote or less urgent.
Have I mentioned that this film was really good? It was really good. It is one of the few sequels that manages to be as good as its predecessor and shows that sequels don’t have to escalate from the first film to be good. It also helps that Part II got a massive boost in production funds ($61 million), kept its cast small, and featured two very good actors carrying the film. It is the perfect film to usher us back into theaters, especially since the audience unconsciously stays as quiet as possible. Because you never know what might hear you.
Rating: Do not ask for any money back and apologize for poking holes in the seats.
I’m struggling, friends. On one hand, I asked for big, dumb blockbusters to come back. On the other hand, not like this. You don’t need me to tell you that Mortal Kombat is a shit movie catering to the dumbest common denominator. That was a given; it’s right there in the title. Combat is spelled with a C. Spelling it with a K is a 60 point I.Q. reduction.
And for the record, my generation is the target audience. I was thirteen years old when the original game hit arcades and it was awesome for one reason – all the blood. Finish him! Rip his spine out! Look at the fountain of blood spew from his neck! Give me another quarter! That’s not a movie, that’s an adolescent who hasn’t found his dad’s Playboys yet.
Therein lies the fatal flaw in remaking this movie in 2021. The original movie was successful back in 1995 because we were still just sixteen years old, games still hadn’t embraced the blood and gore like Mortal Kombat, and skinny kids playing video games weren’t exactly fighting off all the ladies. Now, we’re in our early forties, blood and gore in video games stopped being impressive two decades ago, and we have families now, so you know we finally put down the joystick, if you know what I mean.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie has plenty of other flaws. Once you get past the discussion of “who is this even for?” you get to the discussion of how nearly every movie adapted from a video game has been hot garbage. And nowhere is that more true than for games that are nothing more than one-on-one fights. Yes, that original game had what can technically be referred to as a plot, but, no it really didn’t. The movie takes that plot and gives it all the fleshing it out it rightly deserves, which is to say none whatsoever.
There is a tournament that many of the humans don’t know exists, but they are a part of, and they have to fight against monsters from another realm in order to prevent a wizard from taking over Earth. Is that a bad thing? Don’t know. Why are certain people chosen? Random reasons. Are there other realms? Maybe in the next movie. Are any of the characters developed beyond their single magical power that is featured in the video game? LOL.
Once you get past the, ahem, plot, you notice that the movie is just a series of lurches between surprisingly dull fight scenes and really, really bad acting. The original movie at least crammed itself into a tournament format and didn’t take itself seriously. It knew it was a based on a video game and leaned into that. This new version thinks it is a real boy. The opening scene features a family in rustic, 17th century Japan getting murdered by an evil ninja with ice powers (Sub-Zero), with just an infant surviving in hiding. Four hundred years later, we meet Cole Young, descendant of the family and MMA whipping boy. He is just trying to eke out a living and support his wife and daughter when Sub-Zero comes back to finish the job. Next thing we know, there are fighters everywhere, a training montage, words about prophecies and tournaments, and poorly filmed and choreographed fight scenes featuring absurd finishing moves that somehow manage to not know they are absurd. You had one job, movie.
Considering we just got Godzilla vs. Kong, the awfulness of Mortal Kombat stands out even more. Godzilla vs. Kong knows exactly what it is and delivers – giant lizard punches giant ape. It too has some really stupid story trying to rationalize why they are fighting, but the fights themselves are excellent to watch and make you forget the things said five minutes earlier. Mortal Kombat’s fights are like watching a puppy die, but if the puppy’s head is cut off and bowels ripped out. And just to add insult to injury, the special effects during the fight scenes are terrible. Seriously movie, you had one job.
Like I said, I asked for this. Not specifically this – I still have standards. Just because new movies are being released in a slow trickle doesn’t mean I still won’t skewer sewage posing as film. The good news is Mortal Kombat is another HBO Max movie, so rather than waste two hours watching the film, you’re better off picking up your joystick. If you know what I mean.
Rating: Ask for all of your money back and kiss your family, especially if you made them sit through the movie with you.
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After eight films that have amassed almost $5 billion worldwide, the Fast & Furious franchise now features its first stand-alone vehicle as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down.
But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.
Hobbs & Shaw blasts open a new door in the Fast universe as it hurtles action across the globe, from Los Angeles to London and from the toxic wasteland of Chernobyl to the lush beauty of Samoa.
Directed by David Leitch (Deadpool 2) from a script by longtime Fast & Furious narrative architect Chris Morgan, the film is produced by Morgan, Johnson, Statham and Hiram Garcia. The executive producers are Dany Garcia, Kelly McCormick, Steven Chasman, Ethan Smith and Ainsley Davies.
Based on the previews, I was expecting Wonder Park to be much worse than it ended up being. I am probably cutting it some slack due to my man/nerd crush on John Oliver, but it exceeded my expectations. More importantly, it kept my son’s attention, which is really the primary point of animated films. Yes, they should be well-written and rendered also, which is why Wonder Park isn’t even in the same universe as films like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Wonder Park is decently written (at best) with fantastic visuals, but gets pretty lazy in parts. The worst offense – and this is unforgivable, even in a kid’s movie – is when the heroine sneaks away from her math camp group after staging a puking event on the bus. Wonder Park asks us to believe that the teachers at a math camp wouldn’t bother to count the children as they got back on the bus. No. NO! Now, I will let my son tell you about the rest of the film.
What movie are we talking about today?
Is this the most excited you have been for a movie?
I thought you would be, because it’s an amusement park and you love Disneyworld.
I don’t love it. I like it.
What was Wonder Park about?
An abandoned amusement part.
So it’s abandoned; no one goes there?
No, because somebody did go to an amusement park. There are animals there.
What do the animals do?
Run for their lives!!!
Or fly for their lives.
What are they running from?
Is that why the park is abandoned?
Where did they come from?
The darkness. [starts singing] “…hello, darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again….helloooo…”
So the park is abandoned because chimpanzees came from the darkness?
Sorry, chimpanzombies. Does somebody come to save them from the zombies?
She invented the park. It came to life.
I would ride that ride.
Did she build it with somebody else or was it her own idea?
She built it with her mom.
If the park is imaginary, if she invented it in her room, how does she GO to the park?
When they went on a field trip, and her friend puked in the bus, and then they all ran out in the forest. And June went out way far in the dark forest.
And that’s how she found it?
Did they have any rides at Wonderland?
What was the best one? Your favorite ride that they showed?
The one that she first ride-d. The BIG one. The one that was the rollercoaster one.
I would not ride the ride that stopped like that.
What is their plan to save the animals and the amusement park?
Use a big spider thing.
There’s a big spider thing?
Why was there a big spider thing?
Well, it throws balls. It throws balls three miles.
Is that a ride at the park?
It sounds awesome.
Yes, it’s horrifying! Also, they don’t have a measuring thing.
You mean the thing to measure how tall you are?
Yeah. They don’t have a height thing.
What animals were there
A monkey. A bear – a BLUE bear. A porcupine. A warthog. A person. Chimpanzees.
You mean the chimpanzombies?
Was that all of them?
No. And two squirrels.
Squirrels? You mean woodchucks?
Yes. ….how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Squirrels. Woodchucks. Whatever.
As much wood as a huge roller coaster?
Yes. Then at least he has dinner.
Who was your favorite character in the movie?
Because he was sleepy.
He was sleeping the whole time?
No, just sometimes.
What was your favorite part in the movie? You said right after the movie, that you needed time to think about it. Have you thought about it?
My favorite part is………the marker.
The marker? Tell me about the marker.
It can…make things. Like a bendy straw slide.
Well, that’s cool. Is that how they make all the rides – with the marker?
If we had given them markers instead of typewriters, Aquaman might have been worth watching.
How would you describe the movie to other kids?
I don’t know. I don’t know the description.
Was it bad, good, too long, funny?
Kind of scary. Kind of happy happy happy. That’s what the chimpanzombies say: happy happy happy!
If Wonder Park was a real park, how much money would you pay to go there?
2 million dollars?!
2 million cents. And 4 dollars.
And would you tell kids and parents that it’s a good movie to go see?
Yeah. I bet they’d like the park where the dad eats too much pizza and he blows the roof off the house. Remember that??
I do remember that.
You get 3 words to say about the movie. What are they?
Or, Wonder. Land. And Fun.
Rating: Worth two million cents and four dollars, which we confirmed with the math teachers on the bus.
In an effort to watch more documentaries this year than the zero I watched last year, Science Fair is the second I have watched (the first being the excellent Won’t You Be My Neighbor) so far. I was very interested in Science Fair because I can relate to the high school kids portrayed in the film. They are highly competitive, scientifically-minded perfectionists who tend to avoid the stereotypical high school bullshit. They are more concerned with improving airplane designs, inventing arsenic detectors for drinking water, or enhancing machine learning algorithms than who kissed whom at so-and-so’s party last night. Ah, to be young and nerdy again (and, yes, I was nerdy as well, though I was able to hide it a bit as a baseball player).
What I liked most about the film is the unbridled optimism these kids have for their ideas and the world. The film focuses on nine kids from around the world, following each of them from their local competitions to the big competition at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). We get to listen to them explain their ideas, learn who they are as people, and watch them navigate a competition that appears to be more cutthroat than any high school sport in America. What I liked least about the film was constantly thinking about how reality would kick almost every one of these kids in the crotch, whether it be a big chemical corporation squashing a device to combat pollution, politicians refusing to champion medical research funding in favor of pharmaceutical lobbyists, or that a large chunk of the population is now convinced that science is the spawn of Satan. Ah, to be young and naive again.
Half the country could learn a thing or ten from her.
Science Fair also highlights a couple of coaches – the educators assigned to sponsor the students through the process. One of them reminded me of the familiar egotistical sports coaches famous for berating children while ESPN gleefully exploits them on camera. This science fair coach is the educator version of a helicopter parent, constantly preening to the cameras. In her defense, she is brilliant (multiple degrees including in hermatology and microbiology) and is pushing kids towards science and technology fields that may help all of mankind rather than entertaining mankind by smashing into each other at high speeds. I will give her the benefit of the doubt here because we really, really need more scientists.
The other coach – literally a high school football coach – agreed to sponsor the lone ISEF hopeful at his school. That guy is a genuine hero, because he admittedly knows nothing about her ideas, but wants to support her ambitions just the same (Side note: The science teachers at her school had no interest in sponsoring her – the football coach was the only one who said yes). It is utterly disappointing to learn that this particular high school completely ignores the student’s achievements and celebrates only the marginal athletic successes. Ah, to be young and shoved aside for sports.
Remember, this is about the kids.
After two excellent documentaries, I am really starting to look forward to more, which is not something I would have said last year. I have no idea what makes one documentary better than another from a film standpoint, but I do know that the key starts with being interested in the topic being discussed. As long as the film does not have an obvious bias or is filled with easily debunked garbage, it is probably worth a watch if you care about its issue. Ah, to be young and idealistic (he said as he neared forty years old).
Rating: Do not ask for any money back and consider donating to your school’s science departments instead of stadiums.