Friday, January 25, 2019

Movie Review: “The Kid Who Would Be King”

The Kid Who Would Be King

**** 1/2 out of 5
120 minutes
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, scary images, thematic elements including some bullying, and language
20th Century Fox

Article first published at

People were surprised that I was excited to see The Kid Who Would Be King. As Joe Cornish’s follow-up to Attack the Block, I hoped it would be more than just another reimagining of King Arthur and Excalibur. While it still is, it manages to stand all on its own. Attack the Block came out of nowhere and planted Cornish on the geek map. And he hasn’t slumped yet.

With co-writing credits on The Adventures of Tintin and Ant-Man we finally get to see Attack the Block was more than just a one-off that introduced the world to John Boyega. Aided by a fun cast and a score by Electric Wave Bureau that may be up for awards this time next year, The Kid Who Would Be King is the family adventure we didn’t know we needed.

With an amazingly animated opening retelling the story of King Arthur and his sword Excalibur, we’re brought up to speed that King Arthur’s evil half-sister Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) lies in wait in the underworld for her chance to rule the world. In the present, Alex Elliot (Louis Ashbourne “Son of Andy” Serkis) does what he can to keep from getting bullied by Kaye (Rhianna Doris) and Lance (Tom Taylor).

Alex is also dealing with his dad abandoning him and his mother (Denise Gough). During a skirmish with Kay and Lance, Alex winds up pulling a sword from a stone in a construction site, and soon enough, he’s off on an adventure with his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), Merlin (Angus Imrie/Patrick Stewart), Kaye, and Lance. Together, they must defeat Morgana and save the world before the total eclipse gives her the chance she needs.

Considering the overload of family fare, hopefully word-of-mouth can save the day for The Kid Who Would Be King. Harkening back to the ’80s Amblin heyday, it’s a family adventure similar to E.T. or The Goonies. Serkis holds the film on his own while being backed by a fantastic entourage who all have camaraderie to spare. It’s oddly ironic to find Taylor playing an actual knight in this movie after his role as Jake Chambers in The Dark Tower. That story is also derived from the Arthurian legend, although you’d never know it from the film.

Cornish isn’t setting out to rewrite the legend, but he’s done a fantastic job of updating it for modern times. With Morgana, the story does start to get a little on the dark/creepy side, but never too much to question the PG rating. Full of excitement, humor, heart, fantastic special effects, and an early voting contender for Best Score, The Kid Who Would Be King may not wind up being king at the box office, but it’s absolutely worth a look. With an end setting up the possibility for franchising, they better make quick work before the cast grows up. This is one series I definitely would like to see more of soon.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Movie Review: “Glass”


*** out of 5
129 minutes
Rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language
Universal Pictures

Article first published at

This may tell you all you need to know about M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass: I’m as conflicted about it as The Dark Tower. On one hand, Shyamalan manages to close a (nearly) fully grounded comic book movie. On the other hand, it’s a showreel for everything he’s known to do so wrong. What starts off as the thrilling trilogy capper that began 19 years ago with Unbreakable — the movie Disney ironically wouldn’t let him promote as the superhero movie it is — shows signs of trouble with Samuel L. Jackson slipping out of character. It’s all downhill from there.

Picking up three weeks after Split, we catch up with David Dunn (Bruce Willis) running his own home security company with his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). David is on the hunt for Kevin Wendall Crumb (James McAvoy) who has taken a group of high school cheerleaders hostage to feed to “The Beast.” After a brutal showdown between David and The Beast, they are found out by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) and quickly swept away to the west wing of Raven Hill Memorial. Here, Dr. Staple has them in her grasp to try to discount their superheroics, but just wouldn’t you know it, Elijah Price/Mr. Glass (Jackson) is on hand as well. It doesn’t take long before the chickens are out of the henhouse with Mr. Glass setting into motion an exposé to finally prove to the world superheroes exist.

There’s really not a whole lot of story happening in Glass. The synopsis nearly gives away the entire film. While Shyamalan does sneak in his trademark Shyamalamadingdong surprise ending, it’s a huge cheat adding insult to injury as the film plows through its horribly executed climax. With Split, myself and few other colleagues tried to make a play to score McAvoy a Best Actor nomination with the Utah Film Critics Association. But here, McAvoy is clearly given more freedom to adlib with Kevin’s multiple personalities — at least they throw in some new ones — but it all feels like a spoof of his own performance.

Willis is barely given anything to do besides stand around and wait for David to fight someone or knock down a steel door or two. It’s disheartening considering his character was the one who started the whole Unbreakable universe. Jackson turns Price into a joke of a character. He’s no longer playing the broken man Mr. Glass used to be and turns him into Samuel L. Jackson. Nick Fury is more of an actual character than Price is by the end of the film. And when Jackson isn’t going in and out of character he’s playing Mr. Exposition. Paulson gives one of her worst performances, even slipping in and out of a lisp. And sadly, Anya Taylor-Joy is completely wasted with Shyamalan dismissing a huge opportunity to let the film get a little bonkers after all the groundwork he laid for her in Split.

The first hour and 45 minutes are everything fans want. Unfortunately, after 19 years, it’s clear Shyamalan could never come up with a satisfying ending for the audience, or himself. While he may manage to do something pretty big, he wastes the impact with the film dragging itself out to the last big twist. It doesn’t help he spends a lot of time using his characters to do movie things. The worst offender is David being forced to touch another character during the finale just so he can have a vision to fill the audience in on just what the hell is going on.

Shyamalan has already stated in interviews that this is the last he’ll see of the Unbreakable trilogy and good thing. While he manages to set up the trilogy to go out with a bang, it ends on a very disappointing whimper.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Movie Review: “The Upside”

The Upside

** 1/2
125 minutes
Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use
STX Entertainment

Article first published at

January is the leftover movie month. With the holidays behind us, theaters are overtaken with films expected to make whatever cash they can now that the big titles are fading out and kids are headed back to school. Which brings us to the supposed comedy, The Upside. Teaming up Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston wasn’t the worst idea — they do have a little chemistry — but Neil Burger’s pedestrian direction and Jon Hartmere’s tonally scattershot screenplay, waste their potential.

Considering the film took eight years to get made — ironic since it’s a remake of a French box office smash hit, and based on a true story — it’s too bad we aren’t getting the Paul Feig version. Apparently nothing from his script was used—and he didn’t wind up behind the camera either.

Dell Scott (Hart) is on parole and needs a job. His parole officer is threatening to throw him back in the slammer if he doesn’t at least show proof he’s been looking. An opportunity falls in his lap when he interviews for what he thinks is a janitorial position. Turns out, he’s really applying to be a life auxiliary for the super rich quadriplegic Phillip Lacasse (Cranston). Much to Phillip’s executive Yvonne’s (Nicole Kidman) chagrin, Phillip hires Dell because he has a DNR which Yvonne failed to follow and thinks Dell would. Together, the two learn life lessons as Dell helps Phillip overcome the grief of his wife’s death, and Dell finally catches a break to prove himself to his son, Anthony (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) and Anthony’s mom, Latrice (Aja Naomi King).

Director Burger has never been one to have a massive runaway hit. The closest may be the first Divergent film — which shows his films have never been great. While The Illusionist could be considered his best film, it’s gonna take a lot more than star power to show he’s upping his game. The Upside never makes you care enough for either character and nor does it reach a natural end point.  The Upside is a crowd-pleaser for the easily emotionally manipulated. They’ll laugh at the easiest jokes — which includes everything from faking seizures, to slavery, to the disabled, and sexual harassment. It almost feels like it was written years ago and they never bothered to write another draft.

Cranston and Hart are fine — all Hart controversy aside — but neither are given enough to develop their characters. Kidman is completely wasted and makes you wonder what she was thinking starring in this after having just been in Destroyer, Boy Erased, Big Little Lies, and Aquaman. It’s the year’s most bit part and literally could have been played by anyone else. At least The Upside is never horrible or boring. It’s fine for what it is, but considering STX Films is dumping it in January, it’s clear even they understand no one will remember they even saw it come next week.