Movie Mayhem – The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders — 2018; Directed by Brian Henson; Starring Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph and Joel McHalee

The Muppets have been around for a very long time, brightening the moods of both children and adults. The sense of whimsy, education and absurdity that Jim Henson brought to his creation spoke to generations of fans. The kids liked them because they were fuzzy and cute, the adults liked them because there was an underlying maturity to them. But sometime after Henson’s death in 1990, people seemed to lose touch with the Muppets. They were still around, mostly appearing in the retelling of famous stories like A Christmas Carol and Treasure Island (and of course Sesame Street, which will live on forever, as it should), but they slowly became irrelevant. In 2011, the Muppets started to make a comeback with Jason Segel’s The Muppets, and have slowly been earning their stripes back under the leadership of Henson’s son, Brian, who to his credit continues to try new things to reinvigorate the brand. Through his newest venture, Henson Alternative, Henson brings us The Happytime Murders, a seedy look at the dark secrets behind the Muppets who aren’t famous like Kermit the Frog. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Mile 22

Mile 22

Mile 22 — 2018; Directed by Peter Berg; Starring Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, John Malkovich, Iko Uwais, and Ronda Rousey

Ever since the beginning of cinema, actors and directors have been teaming up to produce multiple projects together. Leonardo Dicaprio was just another pretty face before Martin Scorcese made him an actor; Wes Anderson’s phone number is the only one Bill Murray will ever answer; Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater break all kinds of boundaries; Tim Burton and Johnny Depp share the same brain; and John Ford and John Wayne are probably still making movies together in heaven. What makes them work so well together is because each pair have a unique brand; you always know what you’re going to get when you walk in the theater. One of the more recent actor/director collaborations is Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg, who have made four films together over the last five years (two of which opened in 2016). The first three were powerful true stories of harrowing bravery in the face of tragedy. Their newest partnership, Mile 22, is miles from their previous jaunts together, but nevertheless stays true to their brand. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Meg

The Meg

The Meg — 2018; Directed by Jon Turteltaub; Starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy and Shuya Sophia Cai

What made Jaws so great when it first scared audiences away from beaches (and subsequently made the rest of the series so underwhelming or bad) was that it felt so authentic. It’s been widely documented that Steven Spielberg had major technical problems with the shark during production, limiting its exposure to the audience. This “problem” provided much more tension because we could sense a danger lurking in the depths of the water, but couldn’t see it. Ever since then, filmmakers have tried to replicate that sense of fear to varying degrees of success.

The problem is, as technology evolved and became more accessible, that authenticity devolved. Filmmakers jumped at the chance to use computer effects to create more menacing sharks without the hindrance of technical issues, but in doing so, made them less scary. Not only that, but by focusing so much effort on making the shark more frightening, they stopped caring about the characters, which is another ingredient Spielberg nailed to precision. And when the characters simply become a source for food (and the only goal of the filmmaker is how many people die, and how gruesome their deaths will be), we lose that connection and, thus, our ability to relate to what’s happening. The genre, therefore has either embraced the stupidity of shark attacks or have failed to live up to the promise of being the next Jaws. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Spy Who Dumped Me

The Spy Who Dumped Me — 2018; Directed by Susanna Fogel; Starring Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan and Gillian Anderson

In small doses, Kate McKinnon can be very funny. On Saturday Night Live, for example, she has a knack for infusing characters with just enough manic energy and quirky characteristics that juxtapose perfectly with her straight-laced counterparts within the same sketch, and with her ability for perfectly-timed, over-the-top expressions, she can both make a sketch work from the beginning or bring life to an otherwise dying sketch. But this works best in four-minute bursts. It doesn’t work as well when she tries to extend this personality over the course of a two hour film. I have yet to see a movie featuring McKinnon where I didn’t find her overly aggressive, annoying and off-putting, mainly because it’s clear this type of extreme shtick is all she knows. This perception doesn’t change with her new film, The Spy Who Dumped Me, where she plays the hyperactive yin to Mila Kunis’s frazzled yang. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

MI Fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout — 2018; Directed by Christopher McQuarrie; Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin

In my review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I compared the M:I franchise to the Fast and the Furious franchise, in which the films really found there voice with their fourth installments and haven’t let up on the gas since, each one producing fun, inventive (sometimes wholly outrageous) pieces of entertainment. My viewing of each series followed the same basic trajectory, where the first in the series was just okay, the second worse, prompting me to skip the third altogether (and still have yet to see). When the fourth entry came around, I reluctantly went to see them (Fast & Furious because my friend wanted to see it and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol mainly because of Simon Pegg). To my surprise, both franchises upped the ante and turned what could be considered singular, stand-alone projects into a continuous story where each new entry could stand on its own two feet, but as a whole felt as if they were part of a much bigger world, breathing life into the plots and the action by way of new characters that stuck around beyond their first appearance. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment of the M:I series, it almost feels like the end of an era, wrapping up story threads going back as far as the third film for one last hooray. Read Full Review

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IndieBooks Review – Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Tale

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Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Tale by C.A. King

Readers love myths, legends and fairy tales. Whether it has to do with vampires, werewolves, Greek gods or little red riding hood, mythical creatures and tales of magic and happy endings allow our imaginations to run wild while teaching us lessons in morality. More to the point, fairy tales have a legendary sensibility to them, which is why a lot of writers continue to re-envision these stories with a fresh eye, helping new generations believe in something otherworldly (and maybe teach them a lesson in life, love and friendship). Vampires were given sparkles in Twilight; King Arthur and Robin Hood have seen many  an iteration, and the most prominent re-imagining of fairy tale characters was in the television show Once Upon A Time. In Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Story, C.A. King brings a new spin to a character not many have tackled, taking us behind the scenes of Cupid and adding a fun twist on the classic god of love and attraction. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Equalizer 2/Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Equalizer-Mamma Mia

The Equalizer 2 — 2018; Directed by Antoine Fuqua; Starring Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Ashton Sanders and Pedro Pascal; Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again — 2018l; Directed by Ole Parker; Starring Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan and Christine Barinski

It seems sequel-itis has officially hit theaters this week with not one, not two, but three follow-ups to semi-successful films that most people weren’t hankering for. This comes on the heels of Tom Cruise’s sixth go-around as Ethan Hunt in the Mission:Impossible series and follows a week after the third installment of Hotel Transylvania 3 graced us with its unpleasant summer vacation. I understand that brand recognition can drive sequels, but if that’s the only thing studios are banking on, then they are doing not only the audience, but themselves a disservice. Producing a sequel is one thing; producing a new story with interesting character development within the same world is quite another, and it isn’t hard to see the difference. Where Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, a follow-up ten years in the making, finds a way to feed off of its predecessor while maturing into its own delightful song, The Equalizer 2, the next chapter to the semi-successful 2014 film about a man with a past who anonymously helps those less fortunate, does nothing but set itself on repeat. Read Full Review

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IndieBooks Review – Necrotic City

Necrotic City Cover

Necrotic City by Leland Lydecker

Science fiction as a genre is very vague in its identity. The reason being, there are a plethora of sub-divisions within the sci-fi umbrella, which include space travel, time travel, alien planets, futuristic technology, altered states, multi-verses, wormholes, gritty noir, action, drama, comedy and of course realistic science. With Necrotic City, author Leland Lydecker adds political intrigue to that list, tackling a sub-genre that if done incorrectly, could damage a book’s popularity among particular groups of people. Lydecker, though, balances the heavy political material with enough tension and foresight as to allow each reader to utilize the lens of their own predilections to guide them in how the story unfolds and how they ultimately feel about the characters, what they do when confronted with certain decisions, what to take away from the story, and how it relates to the society we currently live and society as a whole. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Hotel Transylvania 3

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation — 2018; Directed y Genndy Tartakovsky; Starring the voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, Katherine Hahn, David Spade, Keegan Michael-Key, Jim Gaffigan and Mel Brooks

Harmless (adjective): not able or likely to cause harm; inoffensive. Synonyms include safe, benign, mild, unobjectionable and unexceptional.

All of these words apply to Sony’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, a harmless, safe form of entertainment that goes out of its way to be as inoffensive and unobjectionable as it can be, ultimately making the film feel benign and unexceptional. If I may, I would also like to add: unnecessary. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Ant-Man and the Wasp

Antman and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp — 2018; Directed by Peyton Reed; Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Hannah John-Kame, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins and Michelle Pfeiffer

Walton Goggins has been a favorite actor of mine since he first broke onto the scene as Timothy Olyphant’s charismatic and calculated foil Boyd Crowder on FX’s Justified. Goggins brought rich depth and nuance to a character that wasn’t meant to last past the first episode, and he didn’t let any second of screen time go to waste, especially when he shared it with Olyphant, each able to bring out a brother-like camaraderie that intensified the other’s performance. Ever since then, whether it be in TV or movies, Goggins has yet to recapture that presence in the same way. Goggins is a thinking man’s actor, and so far this year, he’s taken roles (or been given them) in films that don’t need any brain cells to enjoy, such as Maze Runner: The Death Cure and Tomb Raider, and that trend doesn’t stop with Marvel’s newest film, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Read Full Review

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