"Dear Evan Hansen" stars Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan, Danny Pino, Julianne Moore, and Amy Adams. Released on September 24, 2021, the film is about a high school student's journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
The film is directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also directed "The Four Corners of Nowhere", "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", and "Wonder". It is based on the 2015 stage musical of the same name by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul. Do you ever feel like you're alone in the universe like you don't matter? Well, so is everybody else. This weekend brings us yet another music-filled extravaganza to sing along to, although this one, in particular, appears to be more sentimental than the thousandth version of "Cinderella". That's right, folks. We're getting out a box of tissues for this one. This is another musical that I wasn't familiar with until recently, but I was intrigued to see its film adaptation regardless. Mainly because of Chbosky, who helmed the fantastic adaptation of "Wonder", and the musical duo Ben Pasek and Justin Paul, the ones behind the crowd-pleasing "La La Land" and "The Greatest Showman". Those people on board proved to be a nice combination regarding the musical genre and the dramatic elements. But does it help the film reach the same heights as the other movie musicals?
The story follows Evan Hansen (Platt), a teenager who suffers from social anxiety and wonders if life would be better without him. He writes letters to himself per his therapist's request and asks other classmates to sign the cast on his arm to gain some friends. Evan's classmate, Connor Murphy (Ryan), discovered one of his letters and believed that he wrote it to provoke him, resulting in Connor committing suicide. After finding Evan's letter in Connor's pocket, many people, including Connor's family, speculated that it was a suicide note addressed to Evan and that they were closest friends. This misunderstanding leads to Evan going on a personal journey that teaches him the importance of acceptance. I enjoy films that deal with important topics because they remind me that they happen to many people every day. Not only that, but they also tend to inspire those who went through these challenges themselves. "Dear Evan Hansen" undoubtedly fits into that category. The film's exploration of youth suicide, depression, and mental illness will surely get people talking about what needs to be changed to prevent further tragedies. The biggest challenge it's facing, however, is exploring these elements through song. They don't want to make it too "happy-go-lucky" that it's insulting, but at the same time, they also don't want to make it so dark that it's unwatchable for their all-ages crowd. It's a mixture that could quickly go south if not handled properly, which happened to be one of the essential issues that the critics noticed while watching it, along with its portrayal of mental illness and casting choices. Understandably, the balance between musical elements and depressing themes was pretty jarring at times, but does that make it a bad movie? Absolutely not! As someone who hasn't watched the Broadway musical, I thought the film was an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. It displayed the difference between what you need to do to be accepted and what you want to do while packing a poignant punch with its storytelling and music. While it did take a bit too long to get the message across due to its two-hour-plus runtime, "Dear Evan Hansen" is a compelling and highly engaging musical drama that's powerfully relatable to people who went down a similar path. One of the most significant controversies surrounding the film was the cast. The film featured a 27-year-old Ben Platt reprising his Broadway role as Evan Henson, a high school teenager. I didn't care that much about the age difference as long as the actor's talent was good, and man, was his talent that good. Ben Platt delivered a healthy amount of charm and nuance in his character's awkwardness and internal struggle, and his singing was surprisingly superb. It's no wonder they decided to bring him back to play Evan again. The rest of the cast was also very talented in their roles, particularly Dever and Stenberg as Zoe Murphy and Alana Beck, respectively. Even Julianne Moore delivered a suitable performance as Heidi Hansen, Evan's mother. Stephen Chbosky's direction doesn't entirely come close to being as grand and realistic as his previous works, especially "Wonder". However, he never lost his touch in providing a mixture of comedy and heart in the dramatic scenes and musical numbers. For a director who hadn't directed a musical drama before, Chbosky didn't do too bad. The songs in "Dear Evan Hansen" proved that Pasek and Paul are still the musical duo worth remembering regarding the lyrics. The musical numbers didn't provide anything too far-fetched as far as presentation goes, but they did bring a sense of energy and emotion into these scenarios. Out of the songs featured in the film, "You Will Be Found" and "So Big/So Small" were my top two favorites, mainly because of the emotional impact they brought to the film's themes. By the way, I became an emotional wreck during the latter. I literally cried like a little kid during that sequence. No joke. I rarely cry while watching movies, but this became one of the few things that actually made my eyes water.
Overall, "Dear Evan Hansen" is far from a cinematic masterpiece, but it's still an incredibly heartfelt musical that showcases the talented cast and relatable themes. This is another film that reminds us that we are not alone. As long as we remember that and show our support for one another, we can all feel accepted into this world. Thanks to its solid cast, Chbosky's direction, thoughtful storytelling, and strong musical numbers, the film is a soul-stirring experience that earns its tears of joy. It's worth a watch if you're into feel-good movie musicals. Just make sure you bring a lot of tissues just in case.
“Cry Macho” stars Clint Eastwood, Eduardo Minett, Dwight Yoakam, Natalia Traven, Horacio Garcia Rojas, and Fernanda Urrejola. Released on September 17, 2021, the film is about a former rodeo star who attempts to bring a young man back to his father.
The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, who also directed films such as "Pale Rider", "Unforgiven", "Gran Torino", "American Sniper", and "The Mule". It is based on the 1975 novel of the same name by N. Richard Nash. Today, we'll be taking a small break from all of the action and explosions and look at something more serene and dramatic. This film marks the latest effort from the award-winning filmmaker/actor Clint Eastwood, who's still not slowing down in the movie business, even at 91. I'm already expecting him to have a lot of money in his retirement plan...if he retires, of course. While I'm not familiar with the book it's based on, I was interested in checking it out, mainly because of Eastwood's involvement as an actor and a director. Sure, the recent films he has done had their share of faults, but his tranquil approach towards specific topics isn't without a few bright spots, especially the dramatic heft. With that in mind, let's see if his latest drama can get him back in the Oscar spotlight.
The film follows Mike Milo (Eastwood), a rodeo star whose career ended after a severe back injury. He is hired by his former boss, Howard Polk (Yoakam), to travel to Mexico to find his son Rafael "Rafo" Polk (Minett). Rafael lives with his mother, Leta (Urrejola), and participates in illegal cockfights with a rooster named Macho. Mike then begins his road trip to deliver him back to his father, one that also sees Mike developing a friendship with Rafael. The story is a simple road trip drama that represents the meaning of being "macho" in a more subtle and relaxing way. Aside from being pursued by one of Leta's henchmen, there were not a lot of high stakes present in its drama and action. It's just a smooth journey from point A to point B with a pit stop or two. The film should prove to be suitable for people who need to unwind and enjoy Eastwood's onscreen presence instead of being bombarded with explosive action and melodramatic films. Unfortunately, it also proves that this type of direction may not appeal to everyone. Suppose you're familiar with Eastwood's filmmaking style in his other works. If that's the case, then you'll quickly notice his ability to take things slow and allow his audience to enjoy the tranquility of the sceneries in "Cry Macho". Although it does run the risk of boring some viewers with its mundane pacing, the film offered some acceptable rewards to those who are patient, such as its cinematography and Mark Mancina's calming score. However, those things alone weren't able to place it among Eastwood's stellar works from the past. There's potential to be had here regarding its story and themes, but its constant desire to shine the spotlight on Eastwood caused it to lose track of what it's trying to say. Don't get me wrong. I thought the actor did a swell job with his performance as Mike. It's just that the film lacked a compelling script to match his talents as both an actor and a filmmaker. It's like taking a horseback ride through the middle of nowhere. It's a relaxing experience with a lovely view, but after a while, it wound up hurting your butt from all of that sitting and waiting for something to happen. As for the rest of the cast, they were fine enough to stand alongside the famous star. Dwight Yoakam delivered a respectable performance as Howard Polk, the man who sends Mike to find his son. Natalia Traven was also solid in her role as Marta. Although, there was one actor that left me feeling mixed, and that was newcomer Eduardo Minett as Rafael. He wasn't entirely awful, but I did find a few moments where his acting felt very rough and uninspiring, especially when taking his chemistry with Eastwood into account. The interactions between Mike and Rafael weren't without a few charming moments, but in the end, they struggled to maintain this spark throughout its sluggish journey.
Overall, "Cry Macho" has Clint Eastwood doing what he does best: acting and directing his heart out. Unfortunately, the film's weary and overly flawed approach towards its subject matter will make you want to cry foul instead. Despite Eastwood's watchable performance and its lovely sceneries, this is by far his weakest effort as a director regarding his hit-and-miss direction and Nick Schenk's emotionless screenplay. I didn't mind its purpose of delivering a subtle movie-going experience for its audience. Still, I do wish that it could've provided something more to reach out to people outside of its target audience. If you enjoyed it more than I did because of its tranquility, then hey, good for you. That means that it got the job done. I just don't think it's the type of road trip I'll be taking again anytime soon.
"Copshop" stars Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder, Toby Huss, Ryan O'Nan, and Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau. Released on September 17, 2021, the film depicts a showdown between a hitman, a con artist, a rookie cop, and an assassin.
The film was directed by Joe Carnahan, who also directed films such as "Smokin' Aces", "The A-Team", "The Grey", and "Boss Level". What do you get when you put three dangerous criminals inside a police station? You get something completely chaotic. We are continuing the month of action with a film that hearkens back to the old-school thrillers from the 70s. I don't know about you, but I'm already liking September regarding the genre. This is another film that looked generic on paper but immediately caught my attention when I watched its trailer for the first time. It's got two recognizable action stars and a small setting that's surprisingly fitting for its mayhem. What's not to love? It's no surprise that Gerard Butler is still on top of his game in the thriller genre recently. Whether his films are good or not, it's always nice to see him continue to provide some entertainment for his audience and get a lot of paychecks in the process. Was he able to do the same for this latest thriller? More importantly, was it exciting enough to get people into the theater? Let's jump right into the chaos and find out.
The story takes place in Nevada, where a con artist named Teddy Murretto (Grillo) is on the run from Bob Viddick (Butler), a professional hitman hired to kill him. Murretto hatches a plan to outrun him for good by getting himself arrested by rookie cop Valerie Young (Louder). His haven inside a small-town police station was quickly destroyed when Viddick got himself in the cell as well. When a mobster named Anthony Lamb (Huss) arrives at the scene, the station becomes a bloody battleground, forcing the three people to work together to survive. This is another action film with only one goal in mind: providing a fun time. It didn't need to have an award-winning story to be good. It just needed to embrace its fun and chaotic action and heart-pounding thrills while balancing them with an exciting scenario. "Copshop" was able to do that by taking three criminals and one rookie officer and having them battle each other in a small police station. While the final result wasn't as highly insane as I hoped it would be, it's still a nicely directed thriller that drenches in 70s-style goodness. Joe Carnahan has a knack for providing some fun sequences without taking the film's concept too seriously. Take a look at his previous film, "Boss Level", and you'll see what I mean. Despite a few pacing issues during its first half, Carnahan managed to deliver some pulses in the characters' interactions and reward those who are patient with a simplistic yet energetic shoot-em-up finale. Gerard Butler remains a charismatic force, thanks to his attention-grabbing performance as Bob, and Frank Grillo managed to follow suit with his role as Teddy. However, the film's real stars go to Alexis Louder and Toby Huss as Valerie and Anthony Lamb, respectively. This was my first time seeing Louder in the spotlight. She has been in other films and shows before "Copshop", but her roles in them were highly unrecognizable to me. All I can say about her performance here is that I hope she gets more roles like this in the future. Louder nailed Valerie's tough-as-nails personality almost perfectly regarding her impressive acting skills. As for Huss, I can quickly tell that he was having fun playing a psychotic assassin, which is where the film's comedy came into play. The actor offered a balance that combines his playful dialogue with his character's thirst for murder. The humor may seem out-of-place at times, but that's the beauty of it. It's not meant to be overly dark and gritty. It's supposed to be gritty and fun, and the film handled that style pretty well, even though the result is far from memorable. As for its flaws, the film's story did fall into familiar territory regarding the plot elements and character development. It didn't provide anything beyond its straightforward plot that pushes the characters outside of their two-dimensional personas. It's just four people trying to kill each other, plain and simple. If that's what you're searching for, then you'll have no issue watching this.
Overall, "Copshop" is a small-scale, old-school thriller that's best described as a wild night in prison. While it didn't go past its limit in terms of the violence and energy, it compensates with a talented cast, decent direction, and an explosive, action-packed finale. I still prefer "Boss Level" as my favorite film from Joe Carnahan because of its clever execution and highly entertaining action. Still, I was able to find some entertainment value in this one regardless of its few shortcomings. If you like simplistic action thrillers that don't cost over $100 million to make, then you might enjoy this one as well.
“Kate” stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Michiel Huisman, and Tadanobu Asano. Released on Netflix on September 10, 2021, the film has an assassin racing against time when she’s been poisoned.
The film was directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who also directed “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”. He also provided visual effects for films like “The Weather Man” and “Snow White and the Huntsman”. When your life is on the line, the best way to save yourself is to fight your way to the top. Last weekend brought us another round of action, thrills, and girl power thanks to Netflix, and yes, it looks as simplistic as its premise. It is also the second directorial effort for visual effects artist Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, whose skills as a director weren’t quite as impressive as his visual creativity. While I was all right with his direction in “The Huntsman”, it wasn’t enough to make me want to put him on my film-watching map. However, I was willing to give him another chance since his film has two big names, Winstead and Harrelson, and some candy-coated action. Were they enough to make this Netflix thriller watchable, or was it as deadly as the poison in the main character’s veins? Let’s find out.
The story follows Kate (Winstead), an orphan raised by her mentor and handler Varrick (Harrelson) to be an assassin and expert sniper. She also follows a personal code to not kill in the presence of children, just to let the audience know that she’s not a monster. During her final mission, she discovers that she got acute radiation poisoning from a stranger she met last night. With only 24 hours to live, she sets out to find the person responsible for setting her up. Unsurprisingly, the film follows the traditional revenge-seeking plot that we’ve seen numerous times before. Instead of avenging someone like a loved one or a family member, the story has the titular character avenging herself due to her urgent condition. Movies like this have provided some tense sequences because of the main character’s survival against their opponents and their impending demise. Whether the story is good or not, they usually succeed in being enjoyable popcorn films to watch on a Friday night. “Kate” happens to belong in that category, but you’re not going to get that much else regarding its storytelling. It’s a formulaic revenge tale that relied on its familiar tropes, mainly the white savior in a foreign location element, and its inspiration from the Japanese action films. It’s simple to a fault, but it doesn’t take away from the film’s swift style, entertaining action, and vibrant visuals. While the characters themselves were as effortless as decapitating someone with a samurai sword, the cast did what they could to deliver some tolerable performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has once again proven herself to be a suitable action star thanks to her eye-popping portrayal of Kate. Winstead had the proper energy of a ruthless yet caring assassin in terms of her acting and stunt work. Woody Harrelson also delivered a decent performance as Varrick, and Miku Martineau did all right in her first film role as Ani, the niece of a Japanese crime boss. My only problem with Ani was that her humor felt forced in some moments, and Martineau’s chemistry with Winstead was pretty lackluster. Other than that, she was watchable. Another element I enjoyed was its action sequences. After what Nicolas-Troyan did with “The Huntsman”, I was pretty surprised to see that he actually made an effort to provide some style and brutality in the fight scenes. Yes, the camera work felt familiar to the “John Wick” films, but it showcased its choreography effectively without using the shaky cam maneuver and constant editing. Hopefully, we get more action films with this type of clarity. The scenes involving Kate driving the car and fighting the members of Sato were the highlights, mainly because of the choreography and Nicolas-Troyan’s direction. Both of these scenes were a batch of colorful bliss that’s feast-worthy for the eyes, even though everything else was nothing but a bland appetizer.
Overall, “Kate” is an uninspired female action thriller that’s visually impressive and nothing else. It should make for a fine watch for genre fans in terms of its cast and action. However, if you’re hoping for this to be the next action classic, you’ll probably feel like you’ve been poisoned yourself. Its formulaic story, average characters, and weak tropes may prevent this from gaining some repeated viewing. But if you don’t mind any of those flaws and want to have a butt-kicking good time, then, by all means, give it a watch.
“Malignant” stars Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, and Michole Briana White. Released on September 10, 2021, the film has a woman being tormented by shocking visions.
The film was directed by James Wan, who also directed films such as “Saw”, “Insidious”, and “The Conjuring”. We all had our fun with our summer of terror. Now it’s time for us to experience a new season of horror. This latest film sees James Wan returning to his ordinary terrifying roots after stepping out of his comfort zone to handle the action genre with “Furious 7” and “Aquaman”. While it was named after Wan’s graphic novel, Malignant Man, it sadly had nothing to do with the source material. Maybe we might get an actual film adaptation in the future? Only time will tell. Until then, I guess we’ll have to do with this piece of originality. With that in mind, let’s dive right into this nightmare and see if it’s another frightening win for the director.
The story follows Madison Lake (Wallis), a woman who lives in Seattle after a strained marriage with her husband. She begins to have frightening visions of a mysterious man violently murdering people, only to realize that the gruesome events she sees are happening in real life. Madison will have to uncover the truth behind the killer and stop him from harming anyone else. James Wan usually has a way to keep the atmospheric creeps engaging and wild when it comes to the genre. Whether the scares are effective or not, it’s hard not to admire the director’s signature style and his ability to provide bone-chilling terror. “Malignant” is no different as it combines the essence of a slasher film with some supernatural horror vibes and mystery elements. I’ve been hearing from plenty of people that this film is pretty crazy, which caught me off guard considering how the trailer looked. Then again, I have seen plenty of absurd stuff from the other horror films almost every day. Some of them are good, and some of them are just plain idiotic. After experiencing this film for myself, I would agree with them about the “crazy” part. While it isn’t something that will change the genre, the film is a simple yet highly engaging creep-fest that packed quite a bloody punch in its style, kills, and atmosphere. It’s the type of horror film that embraces the ridiculousness of its plot points while maintaining the somberness of its atmosphere and frightening imagery. The final result doesn’t always work all of the time, mainly due to its genre cliches, the lack of memorable scares, and its flawed script. However, it had enough intrigue in its scenario and characters to keep me invested in its bloodbath. The film marks the latest collaboration between James Wan and Annabelle Wallis, following their work on “Annabelle”. Wallis' performance as Madison was a riveting sight as she manifested the fear and nuance into a character who’s haunted by the killer and her mysterious past. Maddie Hasson and George Young also turned in some good performances as Sydney Lake and Detective Kekoa Shaw, respectively. Another element that made the film work for me was Wan’s directorial style. Like the first two “Conjuring” films, “Malignant” has James Wan envision the distinctive shots with significant effect. Wide-angle shots, overhead shots, panning shots that stick close to the action. You name it. Wan has it. The cinematography helped deliver a stylish and enthusiastic depiction of its haunting atmosphere and R-rated violence. He may not be a perfect director, but the film proved that his style is superbly fitting for the modern horror genre. I also have to say that the third act was the best part of the film. Once you get past its ordinary slasher mystery aspect in the first two acts, you’ll be rewarded with a well-executed finale that’s both unbelievably dumb and gleefully violent. Without giving too much away, it involves a horrifically disgusting twist and a lot of entertaining kills. I know this has been said more times than I can count, but I’m going to say it anyway. It’s something that you have to see for yourself without looking it up online.
Overall, “Malignant” may not reach the high standards of the genre, but it successfully made a killing in its entertainment values. Despite its screenplay favoring gruesome kills over strong storytelling from time to time, the film is a deliciously outrageous experience that showcased its bloody nature and stellar camerawork. With its decent cast, direction, atmospheric imagery, and chaotic finale, this is another worthy piece of horror filmmaking from James Wan. It’s not something that’ll keep me up all night, but I enjoyed it well enough to fuel my frightful needs. If you appreciate some of Wan’s other works, you’ll probably like this one as well.