While not as many movies are being released this month, 2018 starts off with a cinematic boom! Opening on the 5th, are the horror thriller “Insidious: The Last Key”, the third and best in the Insidious series and dark thrillers “Madtown” and “The Commuter”. The following week brings a kick-ass modern take on blaxploitation “Proud Mary” with red-hot star Taraji Henson. And I shed tears at “The Final Year”, a moving documentary that follows President Obama’s last year in office. With the current crazy coming out of the White House, it is a stark reminder of the grace and dignity that is so sorely lacking in the current administration.
Insidious: The Last Key
Insidious: The Last Key is more a ghost story and murder mystery than a typical horror and my favorite in the series. I went in expecting the usual jump scares and meaningless demonic story and was pleasantly surprised. While scary, the film is also engaging with a great plot and terrific acting from actress Lin Shaye. The one problem with the film was the unnecessary sexual harassment of the young female leads, which in this era of #MeToo, stuck out like a sore thumb. The guys came off creepy rather than flirty and it made me uncomfortable.
Plot Summary: Brilliant parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a disturbing phone call from a man who claims that his house is haunted. Even more disturbing is the address — 413 Apple Tree Lane in Five Keys, N.M. — the home where Elise grew up as a child. Accompanied by her two investigative partners, Rainier travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear — the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier.
Cast: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Kirk Acevedo, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Josh Stewart, Tessa Ferrer
Director: Adam Robitel
Genres: Thriller, Horror
Production Co: Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Atomic Monster
Distributors: Universal Pictures
I’m a big fan of Milo Ventimiglia and wish he was cast more. This looks like a great indie thriller in the vein of last year’s “Sweet Virginia”. So I am definitely going to see this.
Plot Summary: A young man whose sister was imprisoned for killing their abusive parents has his life turned upside down when she gets out on parole and starts trying to control his life.
Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, John Billingsley, Rachel Melvin, Sean Grandillo, Bonita Friedericy, Cameron McKendry, Amanda Aday, Christopher Mele
Director: Charles Moore
Genres: Thriller, Drama
Distributors: SP Releasing
The Strange Ones
Another interesting looking thriller with hunky Alex Pettyfer of “I Am Number Four” and “Endless Love” fame.
Plot Summary: Mysterious events surround two brothers as they travel across America. On the surface, everything seems normal, but what appears to be a simple vacation soon gives way to dark and complex truths.
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, James Freedson-Jackson, Emily Althaus, Gene Jones, Owen Campbell, Tobias Campbell, Marin Ireland, Will Blomker
Director: Lauren Wolkstein, Christopher Radcliff
Genres: Thriller, Drama
Production Co: Vertical Entertainment, Relic Pictures
With Taraji Henson in the lead, Proud Mary is top of my go-to list! Action-packed, the film features Henson as a kick-ass professional assassin,
Plot Summary: Mary is a professional assassin who’s working for an organized crime family in Boston. Her life gets completely turned around when she crosses paths with a boy during a hit gone wrong.
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Billy Brown, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Danny Glover
Director: Babak Najafi
From Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of “The Shallows” and “Non-Stop”, this action flick boasts an all-star cast in Liam Neeson and Vera Farmiga. Neeson has emerged as the master of action films with smarts and this pairing is a must-see.
Plot Summary: Insurance salesman Michael is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding, and he is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for everyone on the train.
Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern, Florence Pugh, Shazad Latif
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Genres: Mystery, Action, Thriller
Production Co: StudioCanal, Lionsgate, Ombra Films
Distributors: Lionsgate Films
As a child, I was such a huge Paddington fan, that every teddy bear I ever had was named after him. Whimsical and engaging for children and nostalgic for older viewers, the Paddington movies are perfect for every age group.
Plot Summary: Settled in with the Brown family, Paddington the bear is a popular member of the community who spreads joy and marmalade wherever he goes. One fine day, he spots a pop-up book in an antique shop — the perfect present for his beloved aunt’s 100th birthday. When a thief steals the prized book, Paddington embarks on an epic quest to unmask the culprit before Aunt Lucy’s big celebration.
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Samuel Joslin
Director: Paul King
Genres: Comedy, Family, Adventure
Production Co: StudioCanal, Heyday Films
The Final Year
“The Final Year” made me long for the days when the Presidency still represented grace. Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or anywhere else on the political spectrum, this documentary covering President Obama’s last year in office will have you wishing for those less drama filled and unstable days, as well.
Plot Summary: An account of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team during their last year in office.
Cast: Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, John Kerry, Susan Rice, Barack Obama
Director: Greg Barker
Den of Thieves
I have always loved cops robbers films. This one, pitting Gerald Butler, as a tough cop against a band of thieves that includes 50 Cent and Ice Cube’s kid O’Shea Jackson Jr., is sure to be another riveting addition to the genre.
Plot Summary: An elite unit from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department squares off against a crew of successful thieves who plan a seemingly impossible heist — the city’s Federal Reserve Bank.
Cast: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Brian Van Holt, 50 Cent , Jordan Bridges, Mo McRae, Jermaine Rivers
Director: Christian Gudegast
Genres: Crime drama, Action
Production Co: STX Entertainment, G-BASE
Distributors: STX Entertainment
Forever My Girl
This movie is right on time and just what we need right now – a light hearted, fluffy romantic tale to take off the winter chill. Perfect for a girl’s night out.
Plot Summary: Liam Page is a country music superstar who left his bride Josie at the altar to pursue fame and fortune. Page never got over Josie, his one true love, or forgot his Southern roots in the small community where he was born and raised. Now, he must unexpectedly face the consequences of his actions when he returns to his hometown for the funeral of his best friend from high school.
Cast: Alex Roe, Jessica Rothe, Abby Ryder Fortson, Travis Tritt, Judith Hoag, John Benjamin Hickey, Tyler Riggs, Peter Cambor
Director: Bethany Ashton Wolf
Genres: Music, Romance, Drama
Production Co: Roadside Attractions, LD Entertainment
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
The final movie in the Maze Runner series, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” finds Thomas and the Gladers embarking on their toughest challenge yet. Teens will love this and so will you.
Plot Summary: Thomas leads some escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions that the Gladers have been asking since they arrived in the maze.
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, Ki Hong Lee, Dexter Darden
Director: Wes Ball