Movie Review – ‘CREED’

“Sylvester Stallone is phenomenal!” – Patrick King, REEL BRIEF


Exhilarating! Sylvester Stallone is phenomenal! The Champ answers the bell with his best on-screen performance since he ran the steps of Philadelphia 39 years ago in the original. Rocky Balboa is still standing–with his big heart, halting speech and tender memories. Stallone’s easy demeanor and solid advice carries “Creed”. Film’s best moments are seeing Rocky acknowledge Adrian, Paulie, Mickey, and of course Apollo. One step. One punch. One round at a time…

Rocky reluctantly trains the unpolished son of his former boxing friend and foe, Apollo Creed. Quick foot-work around Adonis Johnson Creed’s delinquent upbringing and love interest barely cause a sweat in this 7th “Rocky” film overall. The real match-up in “Creed” is between mentor and protégé. A wonderful soundtrack–perfect one-two combo of contemporary music and “Rocky” bells during training and pre-fights. With a deliberate and patient use of the “Rocky” theme for added emphasis. Hollywood’s hottest young director, Ryan Coogler, delivers once again.

Grade: B+

“Creed” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and some sensuality.  Its running time is 2 hours and 12 minutes.

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**NEW** ‘The Big Short’ trailer

**** UPDATE ****

The newest trailer for “The Big Short”… Enjoy!


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Movie Review – ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2’

“A slow start causes a failure to launch… Not until the ‘Girl on Fire’ leads Alma Coin’s rebels through 70+ streets of gaming threats in the Capital does “Part 2” show any signs of life.”


In 2012, watching the firstborn film conceived from Suzanne Collins’ best-selling line of novels, I was amazed at originality of the “The Hunger Games” framework and deep personal struggles within its storyline. Everyone, myself included, pulled for this heady sixteen year-old girl (Jennifer Lawrence) with sniper-like archery skills in a winner-take-all death match. This deadly competition–or “Games” as they called it—was shockingly aired live to the masses as if it were a futuristic Gladiator sport.

The impressive opening “Hunger” movie was topped off by an intense hatred that developed between the two main rivals; one a ruling thug president (Donald Sutherland). The other, Lawrence’s crafty rebel teen archer, named Katniss Everdeen.

Quickly “The Hunger Games” achieved the equivalent of the triple-crown for motion pictures—finding a young actress who possessed the unique killer skills and love interests to lead the franchise, dealing a Darwinist survival of the fittest battlefield scenario for thrill seekers, and imposing a high stakes leadership struggle between Good and Evil followers for viewers to cheer on. A trifecta that resonated with audiences and rushed Collins’ stories to the top of every U.S. bestseller list.

By 2013, the series’ sequel “Catching Fire” once again satisfied the growing “Hunger” fans’ tastes using the same edgy, yet entertaining, red-meat premise of the original. Only now the storyline gave the citizens of the 13 Districts more reason to scratch their festering wounds levied by the nasty President Snow (Sutherland) from the Capital. The poor throughout Panem finally decided they’d had enough. All the rebels needed to turn the tables was a leader willing to be the face of their opposition force.

“Mockingjay: Part 1” disappointed last year because it barely furthered the trilogy’s journey for its loyal followers. Bluntly put, the greed for box office sales caused Collins’ 3rd book to be divided into a two-parter. It was this 2014 film that stymied the fierce “Games” match-ups due to a slow start and even slower on-screen action.

With so little to show for itself, “Mockingjay, Part 1” only raised expectations and placed added pressure on last week’s premiere of “Part 2”.


Returning “Part 1” director Francis Lawrence takes the lucrative blueprint from 2012’s original, but waters down the excitement in this series’ finale. A slow start causes a failure to launch in this latest “Hunger” tale. Not until the ‘Girl on Fire’ leads Alma Coin’s rebels through 70+ streets of gaming threats in the Capital does “Part 2” show any signs of life.

Sure, action abounds as Katniss and her fellow rebels depart District 2 for the Capital, discovering underground mayhem. But that lasts for less than thirty minutes of the 136-minute showing. Thankfully, a twisted (although tempered) ending puts an exclamation point on this series’ finale. Despite loyal “Hunger” fans of Collins’ book collection likely finding “Part 2” extremely satisfying (and a full letter-grade higher) the time was right to put this trilogy to rest.

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Grade: B

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material.  Its running time is 2 hours and 16 minutes.

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A sneak peek… ‘The Letters’

She changed hearts and minds for over 60 years around the world.  She touched more lives over a lifetime than probably anyone else in modern times.  A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, she advocated and fought for the poor– believing no one should be alone, unwanted or unloved.  Now, through her own letters written over a 40+ year period, we can gain insight into the untold story of Mother Teresa.

“The Letters” stars 4-time BAFTA nominated British actress Juliet Stevenson in the lead role as Mother Teresa.  She’s joined by Academy Award nominee Max Van Sydow and Golden Globe winner Rutger Hauer for this inspirational true story of a teacher–who despite her own loneliness–continued to care and help others.

“The Letters” movie is rated PG and won the Best Picture and Audience Choice Award at the Sedona International Film Festival.  It opens on December 4th in 1,000 theaters nationwide.


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Movie Review – ‘Brooklyn’

The year’s most romantic movie!  “Brooklyn” is the land-based film version of “Titanic”.

– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF


2015’s most romantic film scores with adventure, humor and international appeal. Based upon Colm Toibin’s best seller by the same name as the film, viewers are quickly immersed into this beautifully shot journey of a young girl from Ireland setting her sights on New York City in the 1950s.

Irish actress Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, who decides to leave her mother and sister behind in Ireland for a shot at the shining beacon called America. The 21-year old actress, who received an Academy Award nomination for 2007’s “Atonement”, delivers her best performance to date in “Brooklyn”–showcasing Eilis’ vast character growth and spirit.


In the film’s beginning we find a meek, soft-spoken and unpolished young Eilis having homesickness and difficulty adjusting to her new job in New York City. A precise script from Oscar nominated Nick Hornby (for last year’s “Wild”) carefully matures the courageous and determined Eilis from mere adventurer into an independent thinker and strong woman.

A moving film that’s spectacularly shot, “Brooklyn” brings us a hopeful story about a girl who bets against long odds and wins. This charming plot tosses in complicated new surroundings, friends and admirers for Eilis, while tastefully adding love into the mix–along with heavy doses of resolve. When people doubt Eilis’s abilities, she grows stronger and more successful. When people object to her decisions, Eilis only gets smarter and more attuned to her feelings.

Always finding help and advice from others, the quick-learning Eilis must weigh love interests from men on different continents. Wisely, though, director John Crowley never makes “Brooklyn” solely about romance or the cultural differences between Ireland and the U.S.A. Instead, Crowley and “Brooklyn” focus only on Eilis and her life’s experiences during her most trying and difficult times; the enchanting premise of a girl willing to leave her comfort zone of family, friends, society for the potential of a better future.

Romantically, “Brooklyn” is the land-based film version of “Titanic”. Two young people, from widely different backgrounds, brought together by adventure and happenstance. Their unlikely match marked by tragedy, heartbreak and love.

Enjoyable for its quick wits, top-notch performances and fascinating look at an Era long pasted, “Brooklyn” shines bright. Very bright. An authentic and exceptional cast combines with a splendid screenplay for a timeless—yet somewhat predictable–underdog bout. Saoirse Ronan’s stellar portrayal of the head-strong fighter, Eilis, deserves to be included in any 2015 Best Actress talk. Likewise, look for Nick Hornsby’s script to be nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

Grade: A

“Brooklyn” is rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.  Its running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

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TOP GUN 2 update: Val Kilmer to return as “Iceman”?

**** UPDATE ****

“Iceman” returning to the big-screen as jaw-snapping Naval aviator in TOP GUN 2?  Perhaps.

Here’s what started all the viral conversations:


Rolling Stone magazine says Val Kilmer may have “made a mistake” with his earlier Facebook post–but only on the portion of his comments that said Kilmer had already said “yes” to TG2.  It appears Kilmer was still offered the part in the movie though:

Val Kilmer created a commotion online Tuesday with a Facebook post declaring that he would reprise his role of Iceman in Top Gun 2. “Let’s fire up some fighter jets again!!!” he wrote. Hours later, he said he “jumped the top gun” with the announcement. “Being offered a role is very different from doing a role,” he wrote in his update. “[It’s] an innocent mistake. It was just such a wonderful phone call with my agent.”

You can read the entire Rolling Stone article here.

More information on TOP GUN 2 below with updates over the years on how this sequel has progressed.



Top Gun 2

As I reported last September, screenwriter Justin Marks (The Jungle Book, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) was negotiating with Paramount on the script for the sequel to the 1986 mega-blockbuster hit, Top Gun.  Now Collider’s Matt Goldberg is reporting that during an interview with Skydance executives David Ellison (whose company will produce Top Gun 2) and Dana Goldberg earlier today about next week’s release of Terminator Genisys, both men discussed the status of Top Gun 2 and confirmed Tom Cruise–and only Tom Cruise–would play the Naval aviator Maverick.

DAVID ELLISON: “…Justin Marks is writing the screenplay right now. He has a phenomenal take to really update that world for what fighter pilots in the Navy has turned into today. There is an amazing role for Maverick in the movie and there is no Top Gun without Maverick, and it is going to be Maverick playing Maverick. It is I don’t think what people are going to expect, and we are very, very hopeful that we get to make the movie very soon. But like all things, it all comes down to the script, and Justin is writing as we speak.

Question: You’re gonna do what a lot of sequels have been doing now which is incorporate real use of time from the first one to now.

ELLISON and DANA GOLDBERG: “Absolutely.”


ELLISON: Absolutely, I think this is a movie that should be in 3-D and in IMAX, and again something that you can shoot practically. As everyone knows with Tom, he is 100% going to want to be in those airplanes shooting it practically. When you look at the world of dogfighting, what’s interesting about it is that it’s not a world that exists to the same degree when the original movie came out. This world has not been explored. It is very much a world we live in today where it’s drone technology and fifth generation fighters are really what the United States Navy is calling the last man-made fighter that we’re actually going to produce so it’s really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today are all fun things that we’re gonna get to dive into in this movie.”

You can read the entire Collider report here.

But from all reports, Lieutenant Tom “Iceman” Kazanski appears to still enjoy flying with the airlines:

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Rental Recommendation – ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’

He’s no Bond, James Bond.  But he’ll do if you’re looking for a nice 007-esque rental movie. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is available today at Amazon to rent or buy.  The movie will be available at Redbox on December 1 and Netflix December 15.


At the center of this foreign intelligence caper are the two counter espionage spies belonging to each superpower. “Man of Steel” lead Henry Cavill doffs his Superman cape in place of well-timed laughs and quick—but never rushed—action sequences in this movie. It’s easy to see how the Brit Cavill was the director’s pick to reprise the role of James Bond in 2006’s “Casino Royale” before the older Daniel Craig landed the coveted 007 role.

Cavill’s debonair and fearless appearance smacks of All-American cowboy in comparison to his unimpressed Russian sidekick and co-spy, Illya Kuryakin (overplayed by Armie Hammer). While Hammer, most remembered for his portrayal of the Winklevoss twins in 2010’s “The Social Network”, makes an effective Russian sleuth teamed with Cavill, the real Cold War prize in this movie is “Ex Machina” (2015) robotic eye candy Alicia Vikander.  You can read my entire “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” movie review here.

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is rated PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity.  It’s running time is 1 hour and 56 minutes.

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Movie Review – ‘Room’

“Room” is one of this year’s best films. Brie Larson achieves her most profound film endeavor to date—easily the best female lead performance so far in 2015.”

– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF


As we get closer to the annual Academy Award and Golden Globe award nominations, “Room” is one powerful film to keep a close eye on. A fascinating drama about a teenage girl abducted and held captive with her son, this movie combines daunting societal isolation with the need for long-term coping mechanisms. The young mother, Joy “Ma” Newsome, raises her 5-year old son Jack in captivity until the time comes to try an escape attempt.

Based upon the international best-selling novel “Room” by Emma Donoghue, Ma and Jack must coexist in the only world the young boy knows; a 10-foot by 10-foot windowless shed containing a modest bed, toilet, bathtub and small kitchen under an overhead skylight.

“Room” is an engrossing film that gets stronger and more compelling with each passing minute. Viewers are given a look inside the appalling and cruel circumstances not reported in our 24-hour news cycles. Beyond the shocking living conditions, we find a physically abusive relationship between Ma and her captor–nicknamed Old Nick. Deprived of all but their most basic human needs, Old Nick can’t strip away the pair’s imagination and hope.


With an extraordinary cast and riveting storyline, “Room” is one of this year’s best films. Brie Larson, as Ma, achieves her most profound film endeavor to date—easily the best female lead performance so far in 2015. Additionally, there’s no drop-off in talent from the supporting cast members.

Matching Larson’s exceptional effort is the work of costar, Jacob Tremblay, who magnificently portrays her 5-year old son, Jack. Look for “Room” to be both Larson’s and Tremblay’s career ground-breaking moment. Supporting firepower is provided by Academy Award nominees Joan Allen and William H. Macy–both playing Jack’s grandparents.

This is a chilling tale because it takes moviegoers behind shocking newspaper headlines. What starts off as a mother and son survival drama methodically transitions into a story of a daughter and grandson attempting to reintegrate into society. Tremblay’s impressive depiction of Jack’s overstimulation to his surroundings packs an emotional punch.

However, it’s Larson’s astonishing and heartfelt role that carries this top-shelf film. Larson’s amazing transformation from adolescent teen daughter to hostage, and then from young mother to survivor. With stellar acting from both Larson and Tremblay in particular, “Room” captivates and grips the audience. Furthermore, it should also net the pair–and this film–numerous award nominations in the coming months.

Grade: A

“Room” is rated R for language.  Its running time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.

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‘Miracles from Heaven’ with Jennifer Garner

Brand new trailer release for Jennifer Garner’s upcoming true story that left the doctors and the medical community unable to explain the power of healing and faith.

Every parent’s worst nightmare…seeing their child hurt or put into danger.  Until something indescribable occurs…

“Miracles from Heaven” is scheduled for theater release on March 18, 2016.

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Christmas Day Match-up: ‘Concussion’ vs. the NFL

“Concussion” stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist, who performed an autopsy on former NFL football player Mike Webster.  Webster, the long-time Pittsburgh Steeler center, sustained repeated blows to the head during his 16-year professional career and suffered a dementia similar to Alzheimer’s.  Unable to find an answer to his cognitive and intellectual impairment, Mike Webster died at the age of 50.

“Concussion” is based upon this GQ magazine article by Jeanne Marie Laskas, titled “Game Brain”.  Laskas describes Omalu’s immersion into Webster’s case and the lingering unknowns:

So Omalu carried Mike Webster’s brain to the cutting board and turned it upside down and on its side and then over again. It appeared utterly normal. Regular folds of gray matter. No mush. No obvious contusions, like in dementia pugilistica. No shrinkage like you would see in Alzheimer’s disease. He reviewed the CT and MRI scans. Normal. That might have been the end of it. He already had a cause of death. But Omalu couldn’t let it go. He wanted to know more about the brain. There had to be an answer. People don’t go crazy for no reason.

He went to his boss, pathologist Cyril Wecht, and asked if he could study the brain, run special tests, a microscopic analysis of the brain tissue, where there might be a hidden story.

There was nothing routine about this request. Another boss might have said, “Stick with the protocol,” especially to a rookie such as Omalu, who had not yet earned a track record, who was acting only on a hunch. But Wecht was famously never one to shy away from a high-profile case—he had examined JFK, Elvis, JonBenét Ramsey—and he said, “Fine.” He said, “Do what you need to do.”

A deeply religious man, Omalu regarded Wecht’s permission as a kind of blessing.

Directing only his second film, Peter Landesman is joined by veteran movie producer and director Ridley Scott (“The Martian”) on “Concussion”.  Here’s the trailer…

 Scheduled for release in theaters on Christmas Day, “Concussion” is rated PG-13.

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