2017 Summer Movie Review: It Comes at Night

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Paul (Joel Edgerton) tries to find answers about an intruder in It Comes at Night. (Source: Slash Film)

Director Trey Edward Shults made his directorial debut last year with Krisha. Made on an extremely low budget ($30,000, no less), he cast his family members in a movie about a woman (played by Shults’ real-life aunt, Krisha Fairchild) whose past begins to haunt her while at a Thanksgiving dinner. It unnerved audiences at the SXSW Film Festival.

He’s back to unnerve audiences again with It Comes at Night. It is unlike your average cabin-in-the-woods horror picture. Without any annoying characters doing dumb decisions or cheap scares, it features a claustrophobic atmosphere and humanity. A lot of people called it “a horror masterpiece” prior to its release. After going into this movie blind, I found it to be far from a masterpiece. Nevertheless, it is nothing short of a solid shocker.

Paul (Joel Edgerton) is a patriarch of a secluded house in the woods. He’s doing everything he can to protect his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) from a nasty virus that wiped out the outside world. One day, a stranger named Will (Christopher Abbot) is seeking shelter. Paul reluctantly agrees to have him, his lover Kim (Riley Keough), and son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) into their home. After breaking a few ground rules, the group must fight for survival.

Compared to last year’s The Witch, Shults has crafted a slow-burning psychological horror-thriller featuring a solid cast—with Edgerton doing what he does best—and some of the creepiest images in all of horror (I’m talking about the one where an old man is seen with black eyes and blood dribbling from his mouth). However, what falters is the limited character development and sluggish pacing. While a lot better than most horror movies today, It Comes at Night isn’t something I’ll revisit anytime soon.

3/4

2017 Summer Movie Review: The Mummy

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Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) unveils something evil in the reboot of The Mummy. (Source: IMDb_

The Mummy has been around for a long time. Boris Karloff played the titular character in 1932, and became one of the most memorable horror movie villains. In 1999, it rebooted as a straight-up action-fantasy-thriller starring Brendan Fraser as the cocky hero embarking on a journey to rid the curse of an Egyptian tomb, while two sequels followed after that. Today, The Mummy is rebooted again as the first installment of a new cinematic universe featuring the Universal monsters. The “Dark Universe” is going to feature the Bride of Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man, Van Helsing and Dracula, and the Wolf Man.

In the latest reimagining, The Mummy is a female instead of male. With Tom Cruise doing what he does best, he cannot save this shallow dud of a movie.

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a soldier-of-fortune looking for ancient artifacts to sell at a black market. In Iraq, he and his friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson, who plays one of the most annoying characters in cinema) discovers a tomb of an Egyptian princess. Her name is Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who is betrayed by the Pharaoh and is buried alive. Thousands of years later, her spirit returns with a vengeance. After surviving from a plane crash (don’t ask), Nick wakes up in a London morgue, and learns that he is cursed by the princess (again, don’t ask). Along with archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis, Annabelle), Nick must “outwit” Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), and rid Ahmanet’s curse once and for all.

Cruise has starred in some bland movies. However, this is the first movie of his I genuinely hate. Along with director Alex Kurtzman and screenwriters David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie, the movie is fascinating within the first thirty minutes explaining the backstory of Ahmanet (which makes the audience ask more questions). Then, it all goes downhill with Cruise and the gang wrapped in (no pun intended) a ridiculous script with plot holes big enough to ride a bus through. None of the characters have any charisma whatsoever; making it damn near impossible to care on what’s going to happen next. While the humor feels forced and the movie takes itself so seriously, it does have its fair share of unintentionally goofy moments. For instance, whenever Nick and the Mummy go head-to-head, she would smack him upside the head and send him flying. And also, Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll (horribly miscast, by the way) must have been added in the movie as a build-up to a possible standalone film in the franchise. This is not a good start for the Dark Universe. I highly doubt it will get better in the future.

1/4

2017 Summer Movie Review: Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) springs into action in Patty Jenkins’ origin story of the Amazon princess. (Source: Screen Rant)

Wonder Woman has been around since World War II. Not only has the heroine been appreciated by women, but also men. A lot of you might remember the campy show from 1975 starring Lynda Carter, as she saves the world from the Nazis. While Wonder Woman has been featured in a couple of feature-length films (e.g. The LEGO Movie, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice), and straight-to-video animated films, there has never been a live-action standalone film starring her. Until now.

The DC Extended Universe is off to a rocky start. While Man of Steel provided a more twisted take on Superman, it hardly managed to stick with the nature of who he really is. Last year’s Batman vs. Superman had potential to make up for its predecessor’s flaws (including Superman seeing humanity wipe away from his eyes as opposed to saving it). While it did for the first thirty minutes, it resulted in being an absolute disgrace to both Batman and Superman. Suicide Squad, which also came out last year, also became a wasted opportunity featuring a talented cast, clunky action, and horrible exposition. This time, director Patty Jenkins (Monster) and her crew save the day by providing an origin story with heart, humor, badassery, emotion, and bursting with color.

Welcome to the Amazonian island of Themiscyra! Where it’s populated only immortal women, and men aren’t allowed due to war. Diana (Gal Gadot) wants to become a warrior just like everyone else including her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright). While her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) does not allow this to happen, Antiope secretly trains her anyway. One day, Diana discovers a plane crash landing in the water. She finds out the pilot is a man. His name is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American working as a spy for the British. Diana learns about the Great War, and thinking Ares, the god of war, might be responsible. With her body armor, lasso of truth, among other weapons, Diana and Steve go to London to save the world from German general Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his minion Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya), also known as Dr. Poison.

Prior to its release, the Alamo Drafthouse decided to hold women-only screenings for Wonder Woman. Not surprisingly, this caused outrage among everyone. While the theater chain never had screenings where men are only allowed for any superhero movie, it’s just a blow to the head in terms of gender equality. The demographic among movies based on comic books are intended for everyone. Wonder Woman is a prime example of being a symbol of gender equality. This movie is no exception. She works alongside men and cares for those around her. Given the movie is set during World War I, Jenkins intended to have the movie set during the height of the suffragette movement in Great Britain and the United States. With its traditional three-act structure, they each have an exhilarating, sleekly-edited action set piece. The scene where Wonder Woman walks through No Man’s Land is one of the best you will see all summer.

From being Miss Israel to starring in Fast and Furious, Gadot has certainly come a long way. She proves that she can be more than just a pretty face. She is charismatic, naïve, and simply kicks ass! Seriously! How can you not get pumped when the electric guitar music starts playing in the background once Wonder Woman heads into action!? (The score is another great one to add into Rupert Gregson-Williams’ repertoire).

Pine’s Steve Trevor provides the film’s deadpan sense of humor as he tries to understand about Diana’s nature, and eventually working with her and his buddies. His motivation serves the movie well, given its gender-neutral state. The supporting characters also have motivations of their own, particularly Ewen Bremner (Spud from Trainspotting) as the Scottish sharpshooter Charlie, who suffers from PTSD.

If the villains had a little more depth, Wonder Woman would have been a perfect movie. This is the first film from the DCEU that I’ll watch over and over again. Bring on the Justice League!

3.5/4

2017 Summer Movie Review: Baywatch

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Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his team of lifeguards run in slow-motion in Baywatch. (Source: IMDb)

I have never seen the Baywatch show starring David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. All I needed to know about it is that a group of lifeguards save the day and run in slow-motion. That’s it.

When I saw the previews for the movie, they made me laugh quite a bit. How can anyone not love Dwayne Johnson? He may be tough, but he also has a soft side and can be really funny. Despite some bizarre casting choices (particularly in some family flicks), he proves that he can be a great action star—from The Scorpion King to the Fast and Furious franchise.

With him teaming up with a younger cast, Baywatch might be a decent comedic escape. The comedy does work at times and the action rarely lets up, the movie somewhat falls flat.

Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) works as a lifeguard on the Florida coast. The movie opens up with him saving a parasailer’s life from hitting his head on a rock. While saving hundreds of lives during his career, Mitch remembers that tryouts are the next day. His new team of lifeguards including Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron), techie Ronnie (Jon Bass), blondie CJ (Kelly Rohrbach), brunette Summer (Alexandra Dedarrio, San Andreas), and Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) goes around Emerald Bay to solve a drug case.

Making fun of the original source material is nothing new. 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, The 1995 film version of The Brady Bunch and the 2002 live-action rendition of Scooby-Doo are prime examples of movies making fun of the shows that are based off of. Some work well, while others fail miserably. Baywatch is no exception.

The movie did give me a good laugh here and there. Particularly when Mitch gives Brody such a hard time and poking fun at the hot women running in slow-motion on the beach (one of the iconic bits on the show). I don’t know how Dwayne Johnson can come up with these insults. He certainly gets a good laugh while being a straight-up badass. His comedic timing is nothing short of perfect. While having to get as buffed as his co-star (so buffed he could be on American Ninja Warrior), Efron has been starring in a lot of raunchy comedies recently—from the decent Neighbors to the abysmal Dirty Grandpa. I prefer him vomiting in the pool in this movie rather than seeing him waking up on a beach wearing nothing but a bumblebee fanny pack.

While the jokes do work, there are times in which they go on for far too long. In one scene, Mitch, Brody and Summer sneak into a hospital morgue in search for evidence about the drugs. Brody is told to look under the corpse’s penis for anything, which, of course, he makes a complete ass out of himself. A lot of raunchy comedies—like Neighbors—often use a lot of dick jokes. If it goes for too long, it loses humor.

Despite its moments, Baywatch is, more or less, your standard R-rated comedy. With strong action, great chemistry between Johnson and his co-stars, what falters is some terrible CGI (still a lot better than Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) and the jokes being a mixed bag.

2/4

2017 Summer Movie Review: Their Finest

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Katrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) makes propaganda history in Their Finest. (Source: IndieWire)

Movies set in World War II are always the most powerful. Movies about the movies are always the most entertaining. Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig brings forth a talented British cast to provide the right amount of wit and charisma set during the harshest time in history.

The year is 1940. World War II is under way across the Atlantic Ocean. The Nazis have devastated London by the Blitzkrieg. Katrin Cole (the lovely Gemma Arterton) is a happily married woman from Wales, who gets a job in the Ministry of Information as a screenwriter for propaganda films. Working alongside Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), they both work on a script for a movie set during the Battle of Dunkirk. With an impressive crew and cast including the famous Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), they intend to move British audiences as well as American audiences.

Based on the book, Their Finest Hour and a Half, this is a delightful little film about a woman having what it takes to work in the field empowered by men. The old-fashioned style with wonderful sets, gorgeous British landscapes, old gadgets, and the gifted cast make it all worth watching. Arterton is simply marvelous as Katrin; providing enough inner strength to work on writing scripts. Her chemistry with Claflin is hard not to grin, especially when they begin to flirt while filming scenes on the coast of Devon. Nighy is a straight-up laugh riot. While the film might be a tad overlong and it would be better off without some redundant supporting characters, there is plenty to like in Their Finest.

3/4

2017 Summer Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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The Guardians are back to save the galaxy in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (Source: IMDb)

Oh—it’s great to see these band of misfits back together!

2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy became a surprise hit among general audiences. It featured the most unusual groups of heroes. Ranging from a man from Earth raised by aliens, a green-skinned alien assassin, a superhuman warrior, a humanoid tree whose vocabulary is limited to “I am Groot”, to a trash-talking raccoon. Seeing it three times in theaters, I had an awesome time seeing these characters interact with one another while saving the galaxy and the planet Xandar from Ronan the Accuser. The movie had a lot of laughs, thrills, sharp character development, and visual wonder. So far, I think it’s my favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s already a contemporary classic.

Three years later, writer/director James Gunn returns with the same main cast to do the sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. With Vol. 3 now in development, I’m actually looking forward to see more adventures of the Guardians rather than the Avengers. As far as sequels go, Vol. 2 is easily one of the better ones.

With a new kick-ass mixtape given to by his mother, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his team of Guardians—Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel); now reincarnated to a size of a tree bark, and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper)—travel through the galaxy, in search of something good and bad. They are assigned to protect the Sovereign, a gold-skinned alien race led by Heiress Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), and their precious batteries from various enemies. When Rocket is accused of stealing the batteries, their spacecraft crash lands on a deserted planet until being saved by a man known as Ego (Kurt Russell), who happens to be Peter’s father (no surprise there). He, along with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), brings them to his colorful planet while a lot of stuff happens.

If I go on about the plot, it would lead to many spoilers.

With the first movie, Gunn introduces the characters getting together to form as a family. Here—they are an assembled group of outlaws. He also brings forth the father-son dynamic into the MCU. While Pratt is the ideal choice to play Star-Lord, there would not have been a better choice for Kurt Russell to play his dad. Or, in this case, a celestial who falls in love with a human on Earth and eventually creates his own beautiful world. For years, Quill always wants to know his true heritage. With the characters we have come to know and love, we get to know more about them, particularly Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gilan) with scenes with Rocket and Yondu (Michael Rooker) bonding with each other. And also, Drax gives more of an emotional weight, who explains more about getting revenge on Thanos after witnessing the death of his family. He begins to ponder more about his simple past on his home planet. He may be tough on the outside, but he is also soft on the inside. Oh—and his laugh is just legendary!

Speaking of laughter, Vol. 2 is a nonstop laugh riot! One of the reasons why Vol. 1 is not just the splendid visuals and action set pieces, but the irreverent sense of humor. Vol. 2 is no exception. Drax, Rocket, and Groot steal the show here. As I described him before in my review for Vol. 1, Rocket is the Joe Pesci of the MCU. He has a filthy mouth (but not too filthy) and he is unpredictably crazy. “They told me you people were conceded douchebags,” he says to the Sovereign (who make pretty bland villains, despite Debicki’s massive stature–standing at a whopping 6’3″). “But that isn’t true at all.” The wink he gives to Quill cracks me up so much. Almost just as much as him making fun of Taserface (Chris Sullivan), which had the audience rolling in the aisles.

Vol. 2 cannot be complete without an awesome soundtrack—cleverly titled Awesome Mix Vol. 2. What the predecessor did with Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love”, you know you are in for a treat if the movie opens up with ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”. It’s nearly impossible not to grin while watching it. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” serves as an appropriate theme for the Guardians. This line sums it up right here, “If you don’t love me now / You will never love me again / I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain.” Bring on, Vol. 3!

3.5/4

2017 Summer Movie Preview: May

Is it that time already!? You betcha!

After a rough winter in Maine, I can sit back, relax, and start thinking about what has yet to come out over the course of four months. 2017 has been quite a slow year for movies so far. Nevertheless, there have been more surprises released this year than I can imagine—from M. Night Shyamalan returning to top form to Hugh Jackman’s final outing as the Wolverine. Now—with the summer movie season officially here, there are a lot of massive blockbusters and small-budget pieces that I am looking forward to seeing and possibly skipping. Without further ado, let’s jump right into my thoughts on what is coming out in the month of May.

May 5

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Source: IMP Awards

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Hell yeah! Time to see the guardians head back in action! Not only did I find the first film the best entry in the MCU, it’s also one of my favorite comic book movies. Seeing it three times in theaters, I love it with each viewing. With that being a surprise success among audiences and critics, it’s no surprise that director James Gunn is going to make a trilogy featuring these marvelous (no pun intended) and downright witty characters interact and kick some ass in the galaxy with Peter Quill’s awesome mixtapes. While Awesome Mix Vol. 2 is just as awesome as Awesome Mix Vol. 1, it bums me out that it doesn’t include David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” as Gunn intended. Oh well—maybe we will wait and see if he will put a David Bowie song on Awesome Mix Vol. 3 to pay tribute to his death. With that said, bring it on!

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Source: IMP Awards

The LoversA24 has come a long way since their first produced-film A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III—anyone of you remember that movie? No? Okay. Moving on.

After a long list of marvelous and often overlooked films (not to mention Moonlight being the first—and supposedly not the last—film by A24 to win Best Picture), they have produced some of the most bizarre, the most unique, and the most compelling films in recent memory. I believe The Lovers seems to be a charming romantic dramedy about an old couple considering a divorce until they decide to fall in love all over again.

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Source: IMP Awards

Three GenerationsAfter its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in 2015, the nationwide release of Three Generations (originally called About Ray) has been kept under wraps until right now. There have been a lot of movies in which cisgender actors play transgender characters (e.g. Academy Award-winner Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl). This movie—starring Elle Fanning (who has a long career ahead of her) as a girl making the decision of becoming a transgender boy with the support of her mother (Naomi Watts) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon)—continues that trend, which will probably do so for a long time. But—come on! Transgender actors need to have the chance to play those characters! It seems like Three Generations tackles the subject in such a manipulative fashion. Very much so that it might end up being a massive flop.

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Source: IMP Awards

The DinnerRichard Gere has been a familiar face in Hollywood for a long time. After getting praise for his performance in NormanThe Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, he stars in another movie, directed by Oren Moverman (2009’s Oscar-nominated The Messenger), about a politician inviting people to a fancy restaurant where their polite conversation turns into something intense when they talk about two boys committing a crime. In my opinion, this looks rather standard. Even though I like movies that are mostly told through conversation.

May 12

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Source: IMP Awards

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – It must be every little boy’s dream to become King Arthur. Charlie Hunnam seems to be the perfect actor to play him in this reimagining of the classic tale. From Sons of Anarchy to Pacific Rim to Crimson Peak to The Lost City of Z, he has a pretty damn impressive resume. Working alongside Jude Law, Eric Bana, and director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, the underrated The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), this might be a pretty decent time in the theater.

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Source: IMP Awards

Snatched – Goldie Hawn is back after fifteen years to star as a mother going on vacation with her daughter (the raunchy Amy Schumer) after her boyfriend dumps her, which leads them getting kidnapped. Snatched almost sounds like your standard sitcom. With a talented filmmaker like Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies) behind the camera and a decent screenwriter like Katie Dippold, however, it might be okay for a few good laughs. It might be the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

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Source: IMP Awards

Lowriders – I have a feeling this is a cross between 8 Mile and The Fast and the Furious. And not in a good way. It goes into the clichéd territory of an outsider being the best at his craft with the support of his friends and family. I’m skipping this one.

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Source: IMP Awards

The Wall – No—this movie is not about Donald Trump and his plans of building the wall on the Mexican border. This is a cat-and-mouse type of movie where two soldiers are trapped by an Iraqi sniper. Fresh from directing Edge of Tomorrow (also known as Live. Die. Repeat.), Doug Liman creates something with a much lower budget than his blockbusters. Known for playing Kick-Ass and Quicksilver, I find Aaron Taylor-Johnson to be a bland actor. But—it seems he might step his A-game here starring alongside John Cena. This looks like edge-of-your-seat fun.

May 19

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Source: IMP Awards

Alien: Covenant – Back in 2012, it was great to hear Ridley Scott has returned to the universe that made him such an all-star with Prometheus. After getting polarizing reception, Scott has made one gigantic flop (Exodus: Gods and Kings) and one gigantic success (The Martian) before returning for Alien: Covenant with an all-star cast, ranging from dramatic actors (Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup) to comedic actors (Danny McBride, James Franco). Alien is one of the best sci-fi films of all time, with the sequel Aliens (directed by James Cameron) being a slight improvement. This looks straight-up terrifying!

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Source: IMP Awards

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul – Great…another one of these movies. And not starring the same cast from the three previous films; given they are getting a little old (which is understandable). I have never seen a trailer so bad in a long time. Moving on.

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Source: IMP Awards

Everything, Everything – *sigh* Another sappy love story? I’m good, thanks.

May 26

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Source: IMP Awards

Baywatch (opens Thursday)Okay, this is somewhat more like it. The reboot of the popular television show looks pretty hysterical. Dwayne Johnson proves he has the right amount of comedic timing while being a straight-up badass. He seems to have great chemistry between his co-stars Zac Efron (who is just as ripped as Dwayne Johnson), Alexandria Deddario (San Andreas), Kelly Rohrbach, among others. That’s what matters most in comedies is the chemistry between the actors and having good timing with the jokes. I’m there for something funny, sexy, and full of testosterone.

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Source: IMP Awards

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – Another one of these movies? I have only seen the first film, which I loved, and On Stranger Tides, which I find underwhelming and forgettable. Johnny Depp returns in his pirate outfit and mannerisms as Captain Jack Sparrow seeking the Trident of Poseidon while encountering some new and familiar faces including Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley). I have a feeling this might go into the path of being as forgettable as the last film. I just don’t give a damn about a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

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Brad Pitt in War Machine. (Source: Business Insider)

War Machine – I can’t do a summer movie preview without talking about some movies that are going to be on Netflix. Brad Pitt is more than just having good looks. He also knows what he can do to be a great actor, from Ocean’s Eleven to Moneyball. Here, he seems to be bringing back his mannerisms of Aldo Raine from Inglourious Basterds and Wardaddy in Fury in this political war satire leading an amazing cast including Tilda Swinton, Topher Grace, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ben Kingsley. This is one film on Netflix I will definitely watch, no matter how good or bad it might be.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Alien: Covenant, Baywatch, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Lovers, The Wall

Least Anticipated: Everything, Everything, Lowriders, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Three Generations

I hope you enjoyed reading on what my thoughts are on several movies for the month of May. Tell me in the comments below on what your most anticipated movies are for the month of May. Stay tuned for a movie preview for the month of June on Memorial Day. Take care.