Pierce Pioneer

What to watch out for in June

Ciara Williams / Staff Illustration

Summer movies are often known for high octane and thrilling spirits. This season, studios are bringing the excitement in a variety of ways, from a musical legend story to big-budget monsters. Here are six that viewers can put on their must-watch list.

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“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” 

May  31,  2019

In 2014, Warner Bros. studio blew audience away with its electrifying reboot of the famous Japanese monster “Godzilla”. Now, the beloved creature is back, and is expected to destroy cities and people once again in the sequel. 

According to Comicbook.com, movie studios Legendary and Warner Bros. said that Godzilla is part of a universe which also features King Kong. Called the “MonsterVerse”, it is Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The movie uses the latest computer-generated technology and showcases a lineup of the expected powerful creatures such as Mothra and Ghidorah. 

The cast stars Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai).

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“Rocketman” 

May  31,  2019

Movies about musicians were big last year. with “Bohemian Rhapsody” taking home an Oscar for Best Actor, and “A Star is Born” receiving nominations in a variety of categories therefore, makes sense for a movie about the life story of Elton John to come out. Rami Malek did a wonderful job portraying Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and now Taron Egerton (Kingsmen: The Secret Service) will take the role of Elton John. 

Fans of the musician can expect Egerton to give an entertaining performance as well as focusing more on Elton John as a troubled soul. Where “Bohemian Rhapsody” stayed mostly true to Freddie Mercury, “Rocketman” takes side trips into “what-if” story lines. Aside from Egerton, the movie features Richard Madden (Bodyguard), and Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World). 

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“The Secret Life of Pets 2”

June  7,  2019

While the prequel of “The Secret Life of Pets” rehashed the basic “Toy Story” idea, the movie got mostly positive reviews, as seen on Rotten Tomatoes. Louis C.K. is not returning for the sequel, so Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) is the voice of the main character, Max the dog. The terrier is back, this time introduced to another family member a young boy named Liam who Max has sworn to protect. 

Max has to learn to overcome his protectiveness, and let the kid have his freedom. The first movie was simple, straight-forward and did the job well, but fell into the hole of gimmicks.

 Additionally, like the original film, there is a chance that the humor content may be inappropriate for younger kids. Other returning characters are Snowball, (Kevin Hart), Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and Gidget (Jenny Slate)

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“Dark Phoenix”  

June 7,  2019

The sequel train continues with Dark Phoenix, the newest installment to Marvel’s X-Men franchise. While the franchise has gone through some ups and downs, it has attracted a loyal fan base. 

In the movie, the main character Jean Grey has to suppress her power, which is becoming unstable, That leads her to spiral out of control, and now the X-Men have to battle Dark Phoenix, Jean’s mutant self. 

The writer of the previous “X-Men” films “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” Simon Kinberg, is in charge of directing the movie. This installment features Sophie Turner of “Game of Thrones” fame as the title role along with the familiar cast of James McAvoy (Split), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds).

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“Toy Story 4” 

June 21,  2019

The first “Toy Story” movie came out in 1995, and it changed the landscape of animated movies forever, with its unprecedented 3-D animation technology. Fifteen years later, “Toy Story 3” was released, perfectly wrapping up the storyline in a trilogy. However, in recent years, Disney announced the next installment to the seemingly complete franchise. 

The new movie can go either way in terms of quality. Regardless, fans of Woody and Buzz Lightyear will get a chance to visit these lovable characters once again. 

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are reprising their roles of Woody and Buzz, along with Annie Potts (Ghostbusters 1984) Keanu Reeves (John Wick) Jordan Peele (Key and Peele) and Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele).

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“Annabelle Comes Home” 

June 26, 2019

Summer is not only for big budget action movies but also horror movies as well. Annabelle is back with “Annabelle Comes Home,” a new movie in the Conjuring Universe, the horror counterpart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Annabelle, the doll, first appeared in “The Conjuring”, then became the main character in her own movie and the sequel. 

After being locked in the artifacts room by two paranormal experts, Ed and Lorraine Warren, Annabelle start reigning terror on their daughter with other evil spirits. 

The terrifying universe has been hit and miss, “Annabelle: Creation” got a 70 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The main cast includes Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) and Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring).

“Booksmart” lives up to its title

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Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart

High school can be the best of times or vice versa. It is a time where people start to find their identity as well as planning for another chapter of life. The high school spirit has been captured in so many movies like “Mean Girls,” “High School Musical,” and “The Breakfast Club” just to name a few. Moving forward a few decades, 2018’s “Love, Simon” continues the love training, putting audience in the shoes of a gay high schooler. This year, “Booksmart” brings to the table teenage angst through a pair of best friends, who are trying to find their place.

“Booksmart” is a story of two high school bright bookworms, Amy (played by Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein,) trying to navigate their way through high school. After hearing that a graduation party has been planned, they decide to attend to experience the high school vibe that they missed out on and in order to show people their “fun side.” To add to the mix, Amy and Molly both have their own romantic interests and are on the mission to find love.

If there is one word to describe this movie, it would be “youthful.” The beauty of teenagehood is painted in a simple yet uplifting way. However, one perk that “Booksmart” possesses is the maturity. It does not shy away from the realistic vulgar teenage talk. One might think that this is done for shock value, but it comes off as authentic. Both Dever and Feldstein put on incredible performances, and the chemistry between Amy and Molly drives this coming-of-age story well. The choice of making the character of Amy, a lesbian, offers a new perspective to audience members who are tired of the same old motifs.

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Beanie Feldstein as Molly (left) and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy.

While the movie is charming, the trailer can mislead the audience into thinking that this is a laugh-out-loud comedy. The movie definitely has quite a lot of humor, but a large portion of it is in the first half. The rest is more dedicated to the hormonal interactions of high schoolers and character progressions. It is a great quality, though it can drag on for people who are simply looking for laughs. When viewed under a comedic lense, “Booksmart” might not be satisfying, but when looked at as a film, it works wonders.

The movie is “R-rated,” which means this is no “High School Musical.” The humor can be viewed as offensive, and some of the ways teenage affection is depicted may make people uncomfortable. It is important that viewers go into this movie knowing that for the most part, it does not pull any punches to preserve authenticity. When “Booksmart” needs to get graphic, it does.

When it comes to flaws, there are a few minor ones. In some scenes, the references of teen lingos and memes can easily conveys that an adult is obviously writing the script. Also, near the end, there is a plot point that can scream “too convenient” to viewers. It sticks out, especially when most of the film feels so real.

To sum up, “Booksmart” is a teenage polaroid. Adult viewers can watch this movie and reminisce memories of a younger time, while the younger viewers can identify with the story. It does not try to be a masterpiece, and yet, it succeeds in many ways.

Shazam! zaps audience with energy and laughter

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After a visit with a wizard, Billy Batson, played by Asher Angel, gets superpowers.

Superheroes and comic book movies have come a long way from the “Batman” television show of the ‘60s to the world-building “Avengers” movies. These movies come in different shapes and sizes. Each of them offers a unique dimension to the comic book genre. Hitting theaters in between two major Marvel premieres “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers Infinity War: Endgame,” “Shazam!” brings a much needed breath of fresh air in the midst of the recent somber and serious comic book adaptations.

“Shazam!” is a story of Billy Batson, played by Asher Angel, a foster kid who gets superpowers after a visit with a wizard. With the powers, he can transform himself into a superhero played by Zachary Levi, by saying the word “Shazam.” With his newly gained power, he must fight off the evil villain Doctor Sivana, played by Mark Strong, and his crew of the seven deadly sins to save the world from trouble.

The David Sandberg-directed film brings a healthy dose of nostalgia to the superhero genre. While not all people are familiar with the character of Shazam, it is easy to feel a sense of campy, childlike action fun. It is the type of movie one would find on the Disney Channel or Cartoon Network. The movie has just the right amount of lightheartedness that the recent hero films are dialing down. As much as DC Comics is pushing for its own version of a cinematic universe, “Shazam!” looks like it can stand on its own without the help of other movies in the same franchise. In other words, it can be enjoyed by people without having to watch the other DC Comics cinematic properties.

Courtesy screenshot / Warner Bros. Pictures
Shazam!, played by Zachary Levi, and Freddy Freeman, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, have fun testing out Shazam!’s new powers.

People can walk into the movie with an expectation of watching an action film. With the label “superhero movie,” moviegoers might be disappointed with the lack of breathtaking action scenes or heart-pounding battles. Although “Shazam!” is not entirely an action movie, it is completely humor driven.

When viewed under a comedic angle, the movie is astonishingly well-made, and the jokes elevate the movie’s campiness in the best way possible. The audience can find themselves laughing along with instances where Batson has to familiarize himself with his superpowers and the new identity of “Shazam.” They can chuckle at the remarks that characters make and the “feel-good” sense of the film.

All the actors in the movies deliver energetic performances with on point comedic timing. Levi is the perfect casting choice for Batson’s alter ego Shazam. The role requires Levi to have a childlike personality, and he did a fantastic job with the role. The child actors also bring a considerable amount of talent to the table, and the chemistry between the teenagers are believable. Doctor Sivana is the best villain that DC Comic has offered to the big screen yet. He is intimidating and commands respect every time he is on screen.

While excelling at humor, the movie can also run the risk lacking drama. Sometimes the joke can eclipse the more emotional aspects of the film. While the movie’s message about family is delivered tastefully, it does not pack as much of a punch simply because at times, the comedic moments are that much stronger. The message is clear by itself, just not as powerful as the quip that the characters exchange. But still, the movie is a great package as a whole and promises a well-made cinematic escapade to fans.

“Shazam!” is perfect for teens and young-spirited adults. The movie delivers humor remarkably well. With the new superhero adventure sweeping through theaters worldwide, movie lovers and comic book geeks alike will have a strong entertainment candidate for a night out.

‘Ferdinand’ sells light-hearted peace at the right time of year

Animated film shows how to stop fighting, smell the flowers

If you find yourself wanting to see “Star Wars,” but the theater is sold out, consider seeing “Ferdinand.” It is an animated comedy about a lovable, peaceful bull that will have the audience laughing and falling in love with gentle Ferdinand.

Blue Sky Studios (the creators of “Ice Age”) produced “Ferdinand” with a cast that includes John Cena (as the voice of Ferdinand), Kate McKinnon (Lupe), Gina Rodriguez (Una), Anthony Anderson (Bones) and Peyton Manning as Guapa (one of the bulls).

The animated film takes place in Spain and begins with a young Ferdinand carrying a bucket to water a single red flower. The other bulls his age make fun of him and want him to fight, but Ferdinand has no desire to fight.

Like the Disney short film “Ferdinand the Bull," this movie was inspired by the children’s book “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson.

The creators of the film also introduced other heart-warming characters, including a goat, and a little girl, Nina. Nina and Ferdinand develop a friendship much like Fern had with Wilbur in “Charlotte’s Web.”

One of the comedy highlights of the film is a dance-off between some snooty German horses and a group of bulls. Other funny moments including a bull in a china shop scene and Ferdinand playing peek-a-boo with a baby in the town. Other characters that bring comedy to the story are a Scottish bull, Angus, who can’t see because his eyes are covered by his hair, three hedgehogs – Una, Dos and Cuatro – and a goat named Lupe.

Besides just bringing laughter, “Ferdinand” sends a lesson of not judging someone by their appearance.  His reaction to being stung by a bee while in a crowded village has the town convinced that he is a scary beast. After he is taken away from his home, all Ferdinand wants is to go back home to where he can be himself, instead of being what is expected of him just because he is a bull.

The movie also delivers a message of peace. Ferdinand refuses to fight — and while he is the largest and strongest bull on the ranch — he only uses his strength to protect others and to make sure no one is left behind.

Ferdinand’s gentle heart and message of nonviolence, even when the other bulls think that fighting is the only way, is a lesson to us all.

*****

“Ferdinand”
4 out of 4 stars
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Cast:  John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson and Peyton Manning
Director: Carlos Saldanha

“The Family” not the average gangster movie

Holly Buchanan Feature Editor

Luc Besson, director of Taken and Transporter, puts together a comedy-drama that’s less than impressive.  the_family_

Making up The Family, is Maggie the wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), Fred the husband (Robert De Niro), Belle Blake, daughter (Dianna Agron), and Warren Blake, son (John D’leo). Also starring Tommy Lee Jones as the CIA agent who’s job is to keep this family in line and remain unseen from the mob, who wants to kill them.

Moving the family to a location in France to keep them safe proves difficult when they keep going back to their old ways with the public in France. The center comedic piece of this movie is how violent the seemingly innocent family actually is. After you get over that aspect nothing else is funny.

The movie is a comedy for the first half and a drama for the rest. Each actor portrays their character well enough to leave the audience with a sense of acknowledgement to these people personally.

Something I wasn’t impressed with was Michelle Pfeiffer’s lacking ability to hold a Boston accent, and the rest of the family never showing one at all. This would make sense if it was because they were trying to be less conspicuous of where they came from but proving that false is the fact that none of the mob characters had one either.

This movie doesn’t even come close to following in the aesthetic appeal of gangster movies like The Departed or The Godfather. The setting of France however makes every seen visually stimulating to someone who’s never been there.

The ending of this movie doesn’t leave one feeling depressed or inspired, but it has a happy ending that seems unrealistic and too good to be true.

Eisenberg Delivers in 30 minutes or less

By Ryan Swan

As summer comes to an end and classes begin, moviegoers look for an escape from the heat by relaxing in an empty, air-conditioned movie theatre.

And if you have my luck, just as the curtains open and the lights dim, the only person other than you to decide to see a movie on a Monday afternoon will decide that the only seat in the theatre worthy of his butt cheeks is the one right next to you.

This was the case when I saw “30 Minutes or Less.” My sudden loss in comfort and obligation to now share an armrest with a stranger did not keep me from laughing out loud during this film.

“30 minutes or Less” arrived in theatres along with a cast of stars that typically cause laughter just by the mentioning of their name.

Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride and Jason Swardson work together for the first time in this action-comedy where Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a small town pizza delivery boy who finds himself at the hands of two amateur criminal masterminds played by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson.

The two wannabe-crooks create a scheme to acquire some fast cash by forcing Nick to rob a bank and then promptly deliver the stolen money back to them in a matter of hours; a task that if not completed will result in death by chest bomb.

When Nick is thrown into this unbelievable situation he uses his skill behind the wheel and knowledge of every street in his small town to his advantage. Nick also finds assistance from long time friend and now partner in crime Chet (Aziz Ansari.)

“30 Minutes or Less” is full of laughs and topped with enough action to keep you on the edge of your seat. If you find yourself looking for an escape from the heat or suddenly find the urge to overpay for popcorn, find a theatre that is still showing this film.

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