1. Sonic 2 – (3 out of 5) – Everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog is back with two more characters from the beloved franchise, Tails and Knuckles. The sequel offers up more of what made the first one a smash. Ben Schwartz, who voices Sonic, has managed to make the furry little guy work so well on the big screen. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Jim Carrey, who annoyingly continues to chew the scenery around him.
2. Vengeance – (4 out of 5) – BJ Novak cashes in from his days on The Office with a story about a shallow New York City writer whose world is turned upside down when he goes to down to Texas to investigate a murder of a former lover. Novak, who wrote and directed this one, creates the exact tension that is needed to make this work. Boyd Holbrook and Ashton Kutcher turn in some good supporting performances too. Overall, it shows that Novak has the staying power to become an interesting film maker.
3. The Outfit – (4 out of 5) – Mark Rylance’s gift of playing the smartest, but most assuming man in the room, guides this film down an interesting path. Here, he plays a suit cutter in 1950’s Chicago who becomes entangled with the local mob. The film plays out like a stage play, with the entirety of it taking place in his shop, so the cast had to be on their game. Zoey Deutch keeps pace with the Oscar winning Rylance, but it is Simon Russell Beale who does so much with his limited screen time, who really is a standout.
4. Beast – (2.5 out of 5) – Idris Elba should be headlining better films than this mundane film about a family being stalked by a killer lion while vacationing in Africa. The animation of the creatures are done well, but when it is connected to a story that offers nothing new and is something we have seen a dozen times before. Elba deserves better.
5. Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul – (4 out of 5 )- This is Regina Hall’s best performance. While there are funny moments, this is an extremely dark comedy. While the decision to shot this in both a mockumentary and basic style is a head scratcher, this thing has bite. King plays the wife of a disgraced pastor, a fantastic Sterling K. Brown, and decides to stick by her man while rebuilding their brand. It doesn’t go exactly where you think it will and it is bold. Hall, who can do comedy, is equally as impressive with the burden of her character’s decision. She communicates it so well throughout the film with incredible facial acting. I hope she continues to challenge herself more like this because it was great stuff.
6. Ambulance – (3.5 out of 5) – The chaotic Michael Bay is back with the story of two men on the run after a bank robbery. All the Bay-isms are here, but this time he has a trio of performances that elevate the material. Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza Gonzalez all know what kind of film they are in and up the emotions ten-fold to make this all work. Additionally, Bay experimented with drone cinematography and the results are actually quite thrilling.
7. Thirteen Lives – (4 out of 5) – The true story of a youth soccer team that got trapped in a cave, slowly filling with water, and the men who got them out. Ron Howard is the most reliable director out there who knows what to do and how to pull the heartstrings of his viewers. Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, and Joel Edgerton all downplay their star power to play regular men trying to beat mother nature. It is the ultimate dad film, but it’s an enjoyable one!