“Bad Boys for Life” stars Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, and Joe Pantoliano. Released on January 17, 2020, the film has Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett facing off against the leader of a dangerous cartel.
The film is directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who also directed “Image”, “Black”, and “Patser”. It is the third installment in the “Bad Boys” film series. When there are a bunch of bad guys running loose in the city, these two guys will answer the call. After being off duty for more than a decade, the self-proclaimed “Bad Boys” are finally coming out of retirement to shoot and argue their way to our hearts once again. The first two “Bad Boys” films were responsible for putting Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, and explosion fanatic Michael Bay on the Hollywood map. While the former two found success in their other films after “Bad Boys”, Michael Bay is still struggling to keep himself out of the critics’ naughty lists as of today. Even though Bay’s not returning to complete this adult-rated action trilogy, Smith and Lawrence were confident enough to reprise their roles as their respective characters for the third time. I enjoyed “Bad Boys” and its sequel for plenty of reasons, including the two main leads and the action, so I was pretty excited to see this latest sequel, especially since Martin Lawrence is making an onscreen comeback after his eight-year absence. Was the wait worth it? Let’s find out.
The story once again follows Michael Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence), two detectives who work in the Miami Police Department under the command of Captain Howard (Pantoliano). Marcus is heading towards retirement after the birth of his grandson despite Mike’s annoyance. When Mike unexpectedly becomes the target of an assassin, who is sent by the villainous Isabel Aretas (Castillo) to take out the people responsible for the demise of her cartel, he has to rely on a team of tech-driven teens in order to bring the scoundrel to justice. However, an unexpected turn of events forces Mike to reunite with Marcus once again to take care of business, “Bad Boys” style. The “Bad Boys” films have been beloved by everyone for three simple reasons: the two main leads, the action, and the humor. These main ingredients came together to create some delicious junk food for people who are hungry for basic shoot-em-ups, even though they’re not to everyone’s liking. “Bad Boys for Life” is unsurprisingly no exception as it relied on the elements that made the previous two installments successful to create a satisfying and entertaining follow-up that warrants its existence. Not only that, but it added a spoonful of something that’s rarely seen in the first two films. That, my friends, is heart. The film offered a bunch of insane action and comical dialogue that we’ve come to expect from a “Bad Boys” installment, but it never lost sight at giving the characters some added dimension, most notably Mike Lowrey and the primary antagonist, Isabel Aretas. The end result is a fun and action-packed sequel that’s worth the 17-year wait. It didn’t break any new ground in terms of the action genre, but since it completed its task of being an enjoyable piece of popcorn entertainment, I’m more than happy to give this one a pass. Like I mentioned before, Michael Bay did not return to direct this latest installment, although he did make a brief appearance in the film as the wedding MC, so the responsibility of continuing the franchise rests in the hands of two filmmakers from Belgium: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. It was a tough job for them to handle given how popular the films are to their target audiences, but they managed to pull it off quite well. Adil and Bilall were able to maintain the Bay-like style that was shown in the previous installments while sticking with their own, which resulted in a slick and suitable vision that focuses more on balancing the action with its substance rather than the over-the-top “Bayhem” that “Bad Boys II” is known for. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reprised their roles once again as Mike and Marcus respectively, and they were just as amazing as they were in the past. The banter, the charisma, the humor. Everything about the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence still holds up in “Bad Boys for Life” despite the gap in-between sequels. The actors who portray the members of the Advanced Miami Metro Operations unit, such as former “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig, were also pretty good in their roles even though they’re designed for the purpose of moving the franchise forward with or without the main actors. As for the action sequences, they’re as intense and entertaining as the action in the other ones…with the exception of the constant explosions and shaky-cam maneuvers that Michael Bay is known for in “Bad Boys II”, which was pretty much all action and no substance. I had no problems with the mindless action in “Bad Boys II”, but I can agree with the fact that the action in “Bad Boys for Life” is a bit more grounded and focused compared to the last film.
Overall, “Bad Boys for Life” is exactly what you would expect from a “Bad Boys” film: charismatic, action-packed, and humorous. What makes it even better is the soul it provided that’s not normally found in the first two installments. With the irresistible chemistry between Smith and Lawrence, its engaging action sequences, and a story that provides both humor and heart, this is not only the best film in the franchise, but also the first good movie of the new year. I was starting to get a bit tired of seeing multiple mediocre films in a row this month, so I’m glad to see that a long-awaited sequel like this was able to break that trend. If you’re a fan of the “Bad Boys” franchise, you won’t be disappointed with this film.
“Weathering with You” stars Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri, and Tsubasa Honda. Released on July 19, 2019, the film is about a young man who encounters an orphan girl who can control the weather.
The film is written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, who is best known for writing and directing “Your Name”. Before I get to the other bunch of films that are coming out this weekend, I would like to take the opportunity to share my thoughts on another anime film that is not made by Studio Ghibli. This latest animated feature wasn’t able to earn a slot at this year’s Oscars, but it did receive a few nominations at the Annie Awards, so that’s something. The only reason why I wanted to check this film out was Makoto Shinkai himself. I was able to watch his last feature, “Your Name”, a while ago, and I was really impressed with what he can do with the animation in terms of storytelling and the visuals. Plus, I am a sucker for animation, especially the ones that are made in Japan. Similar to what I did for certain anime films like “Mirai”, I managed to attend a fan preview screening of the film thanks to Fathom Events and GKIDS, the ruler of independent animation, before its official release to the United States. If you haven’t seen the film yet, don’t worry, I will do my best to keep this review spoiler-free so that you can experience it for yourself without knowing anything about it. I will be looking at the English dub version of the film, which features the voice talents of Brandon Engman, Ashley Boettcher, Lee Pace, and Alison Brie.
The story follows Hodaka Morishima (Daigo), a high-school freshman who runs away from home and moves to Tokyo. While attempting to live on his own and earn some money, he encounters a writer named Keisuke Suga (Oguri) who hires him to work at his small publishing company. Hodaka later finds out that Keisuke and his niece, Natsumi (Honda), are investigating strange legends that involve the ever-lasting rainy weather in Tokyo, including the mysterious weather maiden who can control the weather. The so-called weather maiden happens to be Hina Amano (Mori), a young woman who has the ability to clear the sky just by praying. After his encounter with Hina, Hodaka decides to start his own business with her, which has her clearing the weather for special events. As their relationship grows, they soon run into plenty of obstacles that will test their bond. This is a typical boy-meets-girl story that is combined with some fantasy elements and real-world concerns about the weather, which is to be expected because fantasy works well with Japanese animation. In terms of the narrative, the film didn’t have a lot of special moments to rival Shinkai’s last film, “Your Name”, but it’s still a stunning and engaging piece of animation art that relies on Shinkai’s greatest strength, which is visual storytelling. It did have a couple of familiar elements that were borrowed from the other teen romance films. However, “Weathering with You” was able to use those elements and portray them in a way that’s both clever and thought-provoking. It’s a well-told and heartfelt story about finding a ray of sunshine not just in the sky above, but also in our lives. The characters in the film ranged from likable to relatable, especially the two main characters, Hodaka and Hina, and the English cast did a pretty solid job at giving them their respective voices. Compared to the relationships in the other generic teen romance films, the one between Hodaka and Hina in “Weathering with You” is the type of relationship that’s both believable and sweet. I would gladly take this relationship over “Twilight” any day. Then again, I usually think that any relationship is better than the one in “Twilight”. Also, if you love “Your Name”, this film has a couple of surprise cameos from that film that will surely please you. The animation served as the true heart of the film, and just like the animation in “Your Name”, it’s dazzling, nicely detailed, and downright beautiful to look at from the city of Tokyo to the tiny raindrops that hit the ground. Shinkai has a creative mind when it comes to portraying Japanese animation as an art form in his films, similar to how Hayao Miyazaki has his own in his animated films, which is obviously the main reason why I keep supporting these types of animated films.
Overall, “Weathering with You” is a wonderful follow-up to Makoto Shinkai’s successful film, “Your Name”, even though it didn’t come close to that film’s freshness and craftsmanship. Aside from a couple of similar teen romance elements, the film represents Shinkai as a talented and passionate filmmaker thanks to some likable characters, its thought-provoking and charming story, and its incredible animation. It is a ray of sunshine that will easily light up everyone’s damp mood, especially those who are into Japanese animation.
“Like a Boss” stars Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Coolidge, Natasha Rothwell, Billy Porter, and Salma Hayek. Released on January 10, 2020, the film has two friends getting even with their benefactor when she starts stealing their ideas.
The film is directed by Miguel Arteta, who also directed films such as “The Good Girl”, “Youth in Revolt”, “Cedar Rapids”, and “Duck Butter”. Here’s a thing about partners working on a business together. There are times where people will have different ideas as to how to make their company successful. Some might agree, some might disagree, and some might go a little too far with their disagreements. If they have a partner who steals their ideas and pass them off as their own, then these disagreements can turn sour really quickly. It just goes to show that not all people are made to have the same ideas as one another. After exposing myself to some chills and thrills during the first two weekends of the new year, I am finally able to watch something that’s more light-hearted and comedic. The film’s director, Miguel Arteta, has his share of ups and downs when it comes to his filmography. He has made some very good films like “Youth in Revolt”, and there are some films that he directed that weren’t exactly on par with his best works, but were tolerable at best, in terms of critical reception. The only film I’ve seen from the director before “Like a Boss” was the 2014 film adaptation of the children’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”, which I thought was sweet and heartwarming. So now he’s taking a shot at helming an R-rated comedy that is determined to get some laughs during the time where Hollywood likes to dump some lesser-known films into the first month of the new year. Surely it can’t be as bad as the last two films I’ve suffered through, right?
The story follows Mia Carter (Haddish) and Mel Paige (Byrne), two close friends with different personalities who run a beauty company together called…you guessed it, “Mel & Mia’s”. While Mia is more of a get-rich-quick kind of gal, Mel is the kind of partner who is practical and business-savvy. When their company runs into debt, they turn to cosmetics mogul Claire Luna (Hayek) who promises she can save their business. They later find out that Luna is secretly planning on taking over their company and ruining their friendship, forcing them to show her who’s the real boss. Clocking in at around 83 minutes (which is quite short for a comedy), “Like a Boss” wasted no time in getting the story across and gathering some chuckles. While it did show some promise in the first half, which had some pretty humorous jokes, it somehow struggled to provide a fairly-balanced mixture of comedy and heart throughout the rest of the film. To its credit, “Like a Boss” offered a pretty solid message about friendship and how it is affected by working in a business together. Sure, the script was corny at times and the plot was very limited on how far it can go with the raunchy humor and its energy, but I got a good smile out of what they’re attempting to do. Aside from that, this is the type of comedy that’s both underwhelming and tolerable without being one or the other. What made the film tolerable for me was the two main leads, Haddish and Byrne. Even though the film wasn’t as energetic and hilarious as I was hoping it would be, these two ladies had enough star power to keep this business from collapsing. Haddish is exactly what you’d expect from her, and Byrne still proves that she’s one of the most underrated actresses in recent years in terms of her brand of humor. As for the supporting cast, they didn’t exactly do much to keep up with the main leads. Coolidge and Porter were fine in their roles despite their jokes falling flat, and Hayek clearly had some talent as Claire, but her character came off as either one-dimensional or irritating or both. I get what they’re trying to do with this character, which is to make her the type of person who cares more about business than friendship, but it just didn’t work for me. There are mean-spirited characters who are bearable and full of charm, and there are mean-spirited characters who make you want to throw them out the window. Claire Luna is the example of the latter.
Overall, “Like a Boss” is a stale comedy that’s more ugly than beautiful. Haddish and Byrne have enough talent to keep the business running and its message about friendship is obviously sweet. Other than that, it didn’t have a lot of strong reasons as to why we should buy this product immediately. The plot was disappointing, the humor wasn’t as fun as I expected despite its promising first act, and Hayek’s character was just unbearable. It’s more tolerable than the likes of “The Grudge” and “Underwater”, but that’s not saying much. Considering the fact that it was helmed by the director who had plenty of good movies under his belt, this film could’ve been a lot better than what I got now. If you're interested in seeing this because of the two main leads, I would say that it’s worth watching at home.
“Just Mercy” stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, and Brie Larson. Released on December 25, 2019, the film is about a defense attorney who takes the case of a man who is wrongfully imprisoned.
The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who also directed “Short Term 12” and “The Glass Castle”. It is based on the book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson. It’s always frustrating when you’re arrested for a crime you didn’t actually commit. What makes it even more frustrating is that the reason for the arrest is the color of your skin. It’s no surprise that Hollywood still wants us to stop repeating the events that happened in the past, especially the ones that involve race, which is why we still keep getting films like this. This legal drama showcases another trial that involves an African-American man who is wrongfully accused of harming (or in this case, murdering) a white woman. Like “1917”, this is another film that was released in a small amount of theaters on Christmas Day in order to compete in this year’s awards season. Sadly, it wasn’t able to earn any nominations at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards, but who cares? It’s still an important movie for me to go check out.
The story chronicles one of the trial cases that defense attorney Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) tackled, in which he is tasked to defend Walter McMillian (Foxx), an African-American man who is falsely arrested for the murder of a white woman and is sentenced to death. With the support of his friend Eva Ansley (Larson) and McMillian’s family, Stevenson works against the clock to prove his innocence before he receives his unnecessary punishment. This film reminded me of another legal drama, “Marshall”, in terms of its plot because they both involve fighting against racial injustice. “Just Mercy” offered a more personal and emotional approach on how people manipulated the justice system based on race and class in the Southern part of the United States, especially those who are supposed to honor it. It’s the “To Kill the Mockingbird” for the modern age. This is a frustrating and disgusting situation that is still going on today, and the film didn’t pull any punches in showcasing it. It’s the type of film that plays with your emotions rather than forcing them down your throat. There were some happy scenes, some depressing scenes, and scenes that make you want to punch these stupid people in the face. Destin Daniel Cretton was able to successfully balance these emotions and deliver an inspiring and complex drama about courage, determination, and the search for equal justice in terms of his direction and his screenplay. If you’re wondering how many times I cried while watching this film, I’ll give you a hint: it’s more than once. That’s how I knew that the film works in more ways than one. Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx were fantastic in their roles as Bryan Stevenson and Walter McMillian respectively. It’s great to see that Jordan is still going strong since his breakout debut in “Fruitvale Station”, and Foxx still proves that he has talent both on stage and on the screen. I have a feeling that their incredible performances might get overshadowed by some of the other award-worthy actors and actresses during the Oscars, including Joaquin Phoenix, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do manage to earn the nomination slots for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor during Monday’s announcements. Brie Larson also turned in a solid performance as Eva, a mother who helps Stevenson with his case, which isn’t too surprising since she’s a remarkable actress in her other works outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What I liked about these types of dramas is that they showcase the qualities of a person that we all want to be deep down inside, especially during the time where people mistreat one another based on the color of their skin. They didn’t take any shortcuts whatsoever. They understood the complications of this scenario and represented them in an honest light. “Just Mercy” is no exception when it comes to Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson didn’t become an attorney to earn money. He became an attorney to make a difference, to help people in a time of need, and to address social injustice. That’s what makes him a great person overall, both on screen and in real life.
Overall, “Just Mercy” is a powerful and riveting perspective on a real-life injustice. This is another thought-provoking and well-acted drama that serves as a call to action to make sure that everyone deserves mercy, whether they’re black, white, rich, or poor. With its strong cast, a confident director, and its complex script, the film is an emotional roller coaster with a relatable message. A great way for me to end another awards season with a bang. If you’re a fan of these types of dramas, this film is definitely worth checking out.
“Underwater” stars Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie, and T. J. Miller. Released on January 10, 2020, the film has a group of researchers escaping their devastated subterranean laboratory.
The film is directed by William Eubank, who also directed “Love” and “The Signal”. All right, so the first weekend of the new year didn’t quite start off on the right foot in terms of movies, but there’s still plenty of room for 2020 to improve before we start looking forward towards next year. With that said, let’s take a look at some more new movies during the second weekend of 2020. This latest sci-fi horror film combines the elements of a creature feature with the elements of a claustrophobic survival thriller. When I first saw the trailer for this film, my mindset on it was about fifty-fifty. On the one hand, it has the makings of being an entertaining horror film. On the other hand, the marketing didn’t do that much to get me that excited for it. Despite that, I wound up seeing it anyway because why not? The film was completed back in 2017 and has not seen the light of day until now, so my gut was telling me that it’s not a good sign. After watching it for myself, I should’ve listened to my gut more.
The story follows a group of workers in an underwater laboratory, including mechanical engineer Norah Price (Stewart) and Captain Lucien (Cassel). They are working to drill the bottom of the Mariana Trench in order to gain more resources for the company. Their plans soon get derailed when an undersea earthquake destroys their lab, stranding them at the bottom of the ocean. They later find out that it wasn’t an earthquake that wrecked the drill station, it was a bunch of sea monsters that have a taste for human flesh. Now the crew must work together to escape this undersea hellhole before the monsters kill them off one by one. If you guys haven't noticed by now, the film is basically what happens when someone decided to remake "Alien" and have it take place at the bottom of the ocean. This one took me a while to think about before writing this review because there were plenty of things that I thought could've worked for me, but surprisingly didn't. It had the potential to be an enjoyable and frightening creature feature, but it actually turned out to be a clog in the drain that's frustrating to get rid of. The film borrowed a lot of elements from the other sci-fi horror films like "Alien", and not only did they wind up being predictable, but they’re also way too noticeable for me to ignore in the midst of its creepy shenanigans. To be fair, it got off to a pretty promising start thanks to William Eubank’s style and Kristen Stewart’s performance, but after that, it spiraled its way down towards generic and familiar territory without providing anything interesting or fun to its thrilling plot. What made it more unbearable for me was the lack of strong characterization. Even with a fine cast, the characters barely have enough depth to portray themselves as more than just victims to the deadly creatures. Like I mentioned before, Kristen Stewart did really well in her role as Norah, and I hope she continues to impress me more in the future. As for the rest of the cast, I would say that both Cassel and Jessica Henwick delivered some solid performances as Captain Lucien and Emily Haversham respectively. T. J. Miller as Paul Abel, on the other hand, well, at least he was doing something outside of his comedic zone. He was fine in his role, but his attempt at cracking some jokes kind of fell flat for me. If there’s one specific thing that I will give this film credit for, it would have to be the set designs. The sets worked wonders in creating that claustrophobic feel of being trapped at the bottom of the darkest part of the sea, whether you’re inside the laboratory or outside. The film could’ve worked well as a character-driven survival thriller if it removed the creatures from the story and added some more depth in its characters and its claustrophobic settings.
Overall, “Underwater” has promise in terms of the concept, but it surprisingly wastes that promise in favor of a derivative and forgettable trip to the dangerous part of the sea. Aside from its cast, the set designs, and its fair share of creeps, the film is formulaic as heck and it isn’t as exciting as some people are saying it was. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t that interested in seeing it or maybe it’s because I didn’t get enough rest before I started watching it. Either way, I’m not really impressed with what I’ve seen, and if you’re hoping that I would like it as much as you did, I’m sorry that I disappointed you. Hopefully the next few new movies will help turn things around.