Kingsman Ninjago: Golden Circle

Out now, audiences have the choice to take part in another adventure in the Lego Movie universe or see the followup to one of the most fun surprise hits of 2015. Those films, respectively are The Lego Ninjago Movie and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Both films provide an enjoyable enough time, though they're unable to match the heights of the films whose footsteps they follow. 

The Lego Ninjago movie is the tale of a group of ninjas trying to save their city, as told by a wise old man (a welcome return performance by Jackie Chan) to a young boy who visits his store one day. The boy wants to know all about the young warrior (Dave Franco) whose absentee villainous father (Justin Theroux) has made his life a living nightmare. Can this warrior repeatedly save the city his father is trying to destroy AND have a relationship with said father at the same time? Only if he, along with his ninja buddies, can become one and heed what they've learned from their wise old teacher (also Jackie Chan.) 

It's pretty obvious that The Lego Ninjago Movie is definitely the least inspired of the Lego Movie franchise. It's hard not to feel like many of its concepts were taken from scraps off the cutting room floor, or rejected writers room ideas from the previous entries. That's not to say the film isn't fun, it just doesn't really feel fresh....or completely necessary. And compared to the other two Lego Movies, it definitely is the most forgettable. That said, being a girl who loves cat humor...there was definitely a large part of this movie that got many chuckles from me. You can certainly do worse with kids movies, but if I'm looking for something to watch with my nieces and nephews, I'll likely reach for the original Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie before this one. EMILY RATING: 6.5/10

Kingsman: The Golden Circle picks up not too long where Kingsman: The Secret Service left off. The film opens with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) on the run from one of his former schoolmates and it's a completely fun and amazingly done sequence. Unbeknownst to him, this encounter sets off a chain of events that changes the Kingsman and rocks them to their core. With nowhere to turn, Eggsy and Merlin have to travel to America to seek help from the Kingsman's American counterpart: the Statesmen. There, they discover an old ally, as well as another nefarious plot that's in motion across the globe to once again bring the world to its knees. 

I definitely had higher hopes and expectations for the Kingsman sequel than I did for Ninjago, and while it certainly wasn't a *bad* sequel, it just didn't thrill and excite me the same way the original did. To be fair, it couldn't exactly surprise me, since this time around I did have expectations because of loving the first one. Golden Circle doesn't try to top the craziness of the first movie which is good, but it does perhaps try to add too many new characters that aren't really needed. I definitely had fun with the movie...particularly with the one celebrity cameo that they milk to death. But, whether it's not enough sequences like the opening one or something else...something just felt lacking or missing about this sequel. That said, I am optimistic about where this franchise could go if it continues. EMILY RATING: 7/10


It: Casting Chapter Two

The last two weekends It has completely dominated the box office, so non-surprisingly, the buzz for the promised Chapter 2 is just getting started.  For anyone who has read the book or seen the 90's miniseries, they know that the young Losers Club and their encounters with It are only half of the story. The other half happens 27 years later when the kids are all grown up and receive word that their childhood fear has followed them into adulthood.  I was a little surprised when I heard that It would not include the adult storyline because I always loved the idea of seeing adult counterparts to the young heroes. Even if their storyline was weaker than the childhood ones, I still loved the idea of having what you feared in childhood come back to haunt you. In fact, the whole time during my first viewing of the film I couldn't help but begin to imagine who in Hollywood could portray the older versions of them.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one as fan casting posts similar to this one have been popping up left and right since the movie came out (including suggestions from the young casts themselves.)

Amy Adams is one of the most talented actresses working in Hollywood today and happens to look exactly like what one might expect the younger Beverly (Sophia Lillis) to grow up to become. It’s probably a long shot that Adams might be interested in taking part in a horror sequel, but we can always dream of the perfection she would add to Stephen King’s tale in the role of Beverly Marsh. RUNNERS-UP: Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig.

For young Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) adult counterpart, once again I chose to match Iwho in Hollywood best physically represents the younger actor, so I had to go with Tobey Maguire. Jaeden totally reminds me of a young Tobey in mannerism and look. While Maguire is not always the most charming or charismatic leading man around, Bill’s character doesn’t really require that...in fact, the character needs a little bit more awkwardness to make it believable that he used to be a kid who overcame a stutter. Tobey can nail this and doesn’t seem to be too busy these days.

Chris Pratt has been wearing out his charm for me as of late, so I was a little unsure of this choice, but physically I think he’s a great match for this role. Ben is supposed to be completely transformed by adulthood, and Pratt himself has gone through a transformation during his time in the spotlight. I’m sure he can portray those inner insecurities of a man who isn’t used to being the apple of everyone’s eye, even though now everyone sees him as a looker. Pratt is in high demand these days so this choice might not be the most likely to happen, but I think it would be a solid choice. Runner-up: David Denman. 

Richie was the hardest role for me to cast because Finn Wolfhard does such a great job and was such a scene stealer in the younger role, it was difficult to imagine who could do the same in the sequel, while at the same time matching the look. Adam Brody fit the bill for me of someone who often provides comic relief...just usually in more of a sarcastic way. He looks similar enough, and he’s dry enough that it just might work (provided that Richie’s humor changes a bit as he becomes an adult.

Mike was one of the kids in It that we probably saw the least of, and was harder to get a grip on who would match him as an adult as far as personality goes. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a solid actor who could give this character a bit more depth than he was given in the first chapter. Of course, I’ve never really seen him in a horror movie, so who knows if it’s his cup of tea!

Eddie was a tough character to cast because he has a certain look and a distinct neurotic personality. My pick is Milo Ventimiglia who matches the look, though I'm not positive how he'd do with the personality. Since people change much through adulthood though, I think this could still work  RUNNER UP: Oscar Isaac was actually my first pick, but his ethnicity doesn't completelllly line up with the younger Eddie.


Is it just me or is Wyatt Olef who plays the young Stan in It, a dead ringer for Tom Hiddleston? For those who have read the book or seen the 1990 version, you’ll know that [SPOILERS HIGHLIGHT TO READ]  Adult Stan’s role in the sequel will be very brief since he commits suicide as soon as he hears Pennywise is back. [/end SPOILERS.] Here’s hoping Hiddleston would be up for a cameo because he’d be perfect!

And that's a wrap! Let me know what you thought of my choices, and if you have some other ideas of your own feel free to share!


Mother! May I?

Darren Aronofsky can be somewhat of a polarizing filmmaker. The director behind Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, Black Swan and Noah is incredibly ambitious and truly loves to make ART films that require much interpretation on the audience's part. Often because of this, critics, for the most, part enjoy his films while audiences find them pretentious and tedious. In mother! Aronofsky teams with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem to create a very allegorical and bizarre tale that will likely only appeal to the most patient of viewers. It's a frustrating film if you're expecting it to conform to a genre, but a very fascinating one if you're open to its experience and attempting to dissect it afterward.

Mother! is all about Jennifer Lawrence's unnamed character, a woman who lives in complete solitude with her much older writer husband (Javier Bardem). She's content to live out her days restoring his home which was once burnt to ashes. However, her peaceful life is soon turned upside down with the arrival of a stranger (Ed Harris) and later his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), who are desperate for a place to stay. More and more her sanctuary and privacy are threatened, along with her sanity.

Mother! is quite honestly, a nightmare put to film....and not necessarily in the way a typical horror movie is. This movie exploits a far different type of horror, and that's the horror of your hospitality being taken advantage of, and your privacy being encroached upon beyond belief. It's filled to the brim with feelings of claustrophobia, hopelessness and being completely and utterly trapped. It made me so completely uncomfortable in a way that not many films have the power to do. Honestly, I was legitimately stressed out.

The filmmaking is all very deliberate. Right from the beginning the style here is clear. The camera stays so close to Jennifer Lawrence's face and follows her wherever she goes.  There might be more close-ups here than there were in Les Miserables, adding to the claustrophobia. As for the performances here, everyone involved truly turns in some incredible work. This might honestly be Jennifer Lawrence's career-best performance, and Javier Bardem is as solid as ever...just in a more subtle way than he usually is. But it's Michelle Pfeiffer who steals the show with every scene she's in, you can hardly take your eyes off her because you have no idea what she'll say or do next. Really though there wasn't a false note in the cast, even with a surprise cameo near the end of an actress who doesn't seem to fit the genre.

Mother! was a completely effective experience, but it certainly won't be a satisfying one for all....especially for people waiting for a big reveal or expecting it to conform to typical horror movie standards. It's in the final third of the film where things go a little crazy that might turn off some audiences. This is because it becomes far less relatable and moves into full allegory territory of something so crazy it would never happen....just like the turns all nightmares and dreams can take. I certainly have my own interpretation of the film, but after reading some others' takes it's clear that this is a film that can take on many meanings to many different people. And that's honestly the best about mother! EMILY RATING: 9/10


It Redux

When I was young, I remember the 1990's tv movie miniseries It, being one of the first scary movies I ever saw. My dad had a VHS copy at his house, and whenever my siblings and I, or my friends and I wanted to freak ourselves out...It was always the movie of choice. As I grew older, the fear of it definitely wore off as I saw Pennywise to be a character who would mostly spout off dad jokes to scare the children. Case in point: "Is your refrigerator running?? Well, you better go catch it!" Not very scary...Plus the scenes when they were adults was pretty much the stuff of soap operas. A lot of people of my generation hold to the nostalgia of It, and see it as an untouchable film not worth remaking. "Why even bother trying to top Tim Curry's unforgettable performance" they'd say. I, on the other hand eagerly awaited and welcomed this remake with open arms, while at the same time keeping my expectations low that this film could go either way in terms of quality. After all, the remake was being helmed by Andy Muschietti, the director who gave the world Mama, an insanely creepy horror film during its first half with tons of potential that missed the mark badly in its finale.

So how did I enjoy It? Very much....but maybe not for the usual reasons I love horror movies. It actually might be stronger in the comedic and childhood bonding aspects than it is in the horror...but that's not to say that it's not effective there too. But the strongest thing the film has going for it is the cast and their natural camaraderie with one another. While a couple of the kids could maybe have used a little more development, (Mike and Stanley respectively), over all these actors totally owned their roles and were clearly having a blast playing off one another. Their language is a bit crass (they're like the kids from The Sandlot if all of them were dropping F bombs all the time.) so this definitely isn't for younger viewers like the original miniseries was. Plus, it's far scarier too. As for Bill Skarsgard's performance stepping into this iconic role, I thought he did a solid job that varied enough from Tim Curry's take to feel fresh.

After the chilling opening sequence which was shown frequently in every bit of advertising for the film, each of the children is slowly introduced to Pennywise one by one. Not all of these encounters are created equal, with some of the spooks being far more effective than others. But the longer the film goes along, the scarier things get. By the time the kids enter the creepy abandoned house, the film goes into full carnival fun house mode and the jump scares are constant.

It is an incredibly fun film that's definitely tense all throughout, but the main benefit here is that you care about the characters and their journey. While the film could have been edited a bit more tightly (it's about 15-20 minutes too long,) I can't deny that I had a really good time getting scared by a creepy clown. EMILY RATING: 8/10