Category Archives: Now Playing

iReview | BUMBLEBEE

Sent on a mission to find a safe planet that the Autobots can call their next home Bumblebee goes back a generation and presents the origin story of one of the most valiant Transformers of them all.

As a movie franchise the Transformers have outpaced any expectations in Hollywood. No one could have imagined that a feature-length film based on a popular line of action figures from the 80s that also inspired a companion animated television series would have box office bankability a decade after the first film hit the multiplex. Five installments later, Michael Bay’s epic has continued to ignite the imagination, and in the latest spin-off, Bumblebee establishes the origin story of one of the franchise favorites.

On a mission to find a safe haven, the Autobot B-127 finds his way to Earth.

After several attempts at elaborating on the Transformers mythology, an intergalactic race of intelligent robots that are engaged in a civil war over their world’s depleting resources, Bumblebee is the first at successfully recreating the familiar aesthetic of the “Generation 1” Transformers many of us grew up with. The film opens with a look at the warring factions on their home world of Cybertron. The heroic Autobots led by Optimus Prime sends his most valuable agent B-127 on a mission to secure on outpost on Earth away from the prying eyes of the evil Decepticons.

As the battle rages B-127, the eventual titular hero of our story, is blasted into space and crashes in a blaze of glory on the planet Earth in the midst of military war games — and its 1987! The military give chase to the alien robot in their midst, but B-127 has bigger problems when an enemy agent discovers his location and attacks, merciless ripping out B-127’s vocal chords and severely damaging his memory processor. B-127 deals his assailant a final blow, but in the end he’s rendered nearly inoperable and goes into hibernation.

Hiding in plain site as expected n the guise of a yellow classic VW Bug, the Autobot is discovered by a young woman, Charlie played by Hailee Steinfeld, and the pair immediately develop a bond. Charlie names the alien “Bumblebee” and proceeds to uncover his true mission, introducing Bumblebee to 80s music in an effort to help him to learn to communicate, especially with his audio vocalizer still damaged. It isn’t long before two Decepticon agents uncover the fugitive and proceed to converge on Bumblebee’s position.

Prequel vs Origin Story?

When it was first announced that a stand-alone feature focusing on Bumblebee would be spinning-off of the film franchises, many assumed it was in an answer to the growing mass-proliferation of the Star Wars universe after Disney had purchased the brand from George Lucas. With the exception of perhaps Optimus Prime himself, it made since that if any of the characters in the arsenal of the toy brand could be made to stand on its own Bumblebee would emerge the likely asset. It also helps that he is introduced the Transformers film franchise.

Michael Bay may have set a tone with his first five Transformers movies, but perhaps passing Bumblebee along to Travis Knight may have been the right call. Setting the film in the late 80s is fittingly meta, but it also gives the mythology of the Transformers room to breathe. As a lead character Bumblebee works really well, because similarly to other benevolent E.T.s, the hero is incredibly relatable, and not to mention very cute. That doesn’t mean the VW Bug can’t pack a punch, and proves a formidable soldier.

As a sidekick Hailee Steinfeld is wonderfully appealing and organically fits in to the time and place of this particular adventure. It’s also a welcome change from the highly charged testosterone of its predecessors. Steinfeld’s Charlie may not continue with the next installment of Bumblebee but that’s OK. The real hero has been established and the audience is already invested in his journey. Perhaps the next time around, the eager young scout will be joined by other Autobot favorites like Wheeljack or Ironhide, before the next major threat, in the meantime Bumblebee can handle it.

Bumblebee starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Sena, directed by Travis Knight is available now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD. Rated PG-13

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iReview | DC Universe’s TITANS S1:E8 “Donna Troy”

Dick Grayson is still off in search of something and it leads him to seek the console of a longtime friend and one-time fellow sidekick in the latest episode of TITANS.

Enter Wonder Girl! Just when you think that the DC Universe Original Series Titans couldn’t get any better, it does! The premiere season has mostly focused on the mystery surrounding an apparently supernaturally charged Rachel Roth (played by Teagan Croft) who finds herself on the run and under the watchful eye of beat detective Dick Grayson (series regular Brenton Thwaites) who is battling his own demons, especially since striking out on his own away from the mean streets of Gotham City.

Rachel or “Raven” has also attracted the attentions of a fire-starter named Koriand’r or Kory Anders (Anna Diop) and made an indelible impression on Beast Boy, Garfield Logan (Ryan Potter) a misfit among outcasts, who has now found himself a new family. It isn’t long before the quartet learn of Grayson’s alter-ego; Robin the boy wonder and one-half of the Dynamic Duo that includes the near-mythic Batman. Once again evading their captured, the four friends help in locating and freeing Rachel’s real mom, Angela (guest star Rachel Nichols) from an asylum and are again trying to pull things together.

That’s just the short of it, as the season of Titans based on the DC characters made famous by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez is not only proving “must see” DCTV, but is perhaps one of the best adaptations ever of a comic book series to live-action. Rescued from the constraints of commercial television network, deputing on the DC Universe subscriber service, Titans may have profoundly altered the way consumers digest their entertainment.  With new episodes released every Friday, Titans has put the DC Universe app on the map!

Conor Leslie joins the cast of “Titans” as Wonder Girl, Donna Troy.

She’s a Wonder!

On the latest episode of the series appropriately entitled “Donna Troy” Dick leaves the rest of the group in the hands of Kory. Now that Angela has offered Rachel and the rest of the group a home, it appears that Grayson can take care of some loose ends — namely what to do with himself, especially now that he’s been replaced as “Robin”. Dick seeks the advice of his dear friend, Donna Troy perfectly played by Conor Leslie. Even with the above title intro that establishes the two “sidekicks” have been friends for years, the chemistry between Dick and Donna is ideal.

Donna immediately takes to Dick’s arrival and invites him to her latest photo gallery opening; she’s aware of Dick’s uncomfortable ability to casually engage and hopes the party will break him out of his shell. It isn’t long before the pair find themselves taking on a criminal animal poacher, unfortunately Dick’s impulsively cavalier intersection may have complicated Donna’s scheme to bring down the entire organization, but it is incredibly gratifying to see these two characters interacting in the flesh and in such an authentic way.

Back at Donna’s apartment the pair recount their evening and Donna comes across the cryptic writing he found on the walls of Kory’s storage unit. Donna is able to translate some of it after identifying it as a type of ancient Sumerian writing. If Donna interprets the message correctly it identifies Kory as the “Starfire” sent to secure the “Raven” — secure or rather, kill the Raven! Dick and Donna are now making haste to rendezvous with the rest of the group which has made it to Angela’s farm in Ohio, just as Rachel taps into Kory’s memories unleashing her fury! 

The “Original” Titans

With a shared history that extends more than 75 years, the sidekicks of the Silver Age heroes established an entirely new fraternity for themselves, but Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy and Aqualad would soon find their lives upended with the induction of Wonder Girl into their ranks. Dick Grayson and Donna Troy immediately take a unique liking to one another, even as the rest of the boys vie for their new recruit’s affections. Robin and Wonder Girl have the unique shared experience of being the wards of two of the “big three”.

Dick Grayson comes to live with Bruce Wayne after his family is murdered in a mob hit on Haley’s Circus. The young boy’s world is shattered and Wayne takes to tempering Dick’s rage and turns him into his partner, Robin the Boy Wonder. As a baby, Donna is rescued from a house fire by Wonder Woman and takes the orphan to her paradise island, where she is raised as an Amazon and soon proves herself as gifted by the gods as her sister. Donna decides to return to Man’s World and fight alongside Diana.

In the episode of Titans the pair shared adventures together and also with their mentors. After a caper that pitted Batman and Robin against the Joker, he returns home to find Donna waiting. Dick confides in Donna and feels validated by her understanding. Clearly they had continued to work together and were perhaps part of an “original” team of teenage Titans. Now as adults, Dick has retired his alter-ego, unable to complement the dual-nature of his vigilantism; Donna admits she still has her uniform hanging in the closet.

Dick and Donna are back in the latest episode of Titans and appear as formidable as ever.

Titans new episodes premiere every Friday on the DC Universe subscription service.

iReview | FANTASTIC BEASTS: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Steeped deeply in mythology the Wizarding World of Harry Potter continues to evolve and expand with the latest chapter of the prequel series unraveling much of what we thought we knew about one fo the greatest wizards of all time!

Appropriately enough FANTASTIC BEASTS: The Crimes of Grindelwald begins in the shadow confines of Gellert Grindelwald’s cell! The villain who was revealed in only the final moments of the previous film as played by Johnny Depp is about to make one of the most daring prison breaks in cinematic history! High over the New York Cit skyline of the 1920s, the magic-wielder (with some help from his devotees) escapes his captors, alerting the Wizarding World that the largely menacing Grindelwald is on the loose.

Back in London the Ministry of Magic (along with the rest of the world’s leading magical agencies) are aware the if Grindelwald isn’t immediately captured, their very existence may be revealed throwing the delicate balance between non-magical beings and wizards into chaos. Everyone has agreed, Grindelwald is chasing after one thing — Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller). The mystery surrounding Credence, exactly who or what he is, has fallen on the purview of one man, Newt Scamander played by Eddie Redmayne.

Newt is recruited by his one-time teacher Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to locate Grindelwald and intercept the dark wizard, before he can set in motion a plan, but what is Grindelwald really after? As Credence follows the trail of his origins to France, through a series of flashbacks and introduction of new characters, including Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange, a former classmate of Newt’s, who as the name would imply has some skeletons in her closet — the name of Lestrange will become darkly connected to followers of He Who Cannot Be Named.

Rowling’s World

The stakes have certainly been raised in Crimes of Grindelwald and the film’s screenwriter J.K. Rowling the creator of this entire mythology, has delivered onto the film’s fandom a story that will far more than sedate this deeper dive into the legends and “lead-up” to the contemporary timeline of the Potter franchise. Director David Yates has become the most visionary filmmaker and most capable mind to elaborate on the vision Rowling has placed on the page. The pair have pushed the envelope in this new chapter, revealing a far more “beautiful” magical habitat.

Even familiar locations, Hogwarts gets revisited in this feature as do some of its more illuminating faculty members, as the story continues to develop and more is explored about the connection between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Fans of the books have known all along that the pair had a far more intimate relationship as paramours before finding themselves adversaries. Now Credence stands between them, a powerful player that holds a secret and may tip the outcome of the pending war in favor of Grindelwald.

In Grindelwald’s defense, he only wants to ensure a future where both magical and non-magical beings can live side by side, but with muggles constantly in a power struggle and threatening to plunge the world into another World War, Grindelwald and his followers may have no other choice but to seat control over mankind, putting witches and wizards at the top of the food chain. Politics have always played into the drama of the Wizarding World, and Crimes of Grindelwald is able to extrapolate those complex themes and give its audience far more than the previous film.

In The End

By the time our heroes confront Grindelwald and finally track down Credence, it appears that everyone has fallen under the spell of the charismatic wizard who is promising a new world order. Demanding his followers spread the gospel, Grindelwald takes on his world be captors on his own, and convinces Credence in the end to follow him! Grindelwald reveals to Credence that he is not a Lestrange as we are lead to believe, switched at birth by a shameful act that has haunted Leta all her life, but is actually the brother of Albus Dumbledore, Aurelius.

Though we’ve never heard of this Dumbledore sibling before, at least not until this moment and what becomes of him in the future, his identity is all but confirmed as he unleashes his miraculous power under the watchful eye of a phoenix — the mystical birds have always been known to present themselves to a Dumbledore especially in their most desperate moment of need — and one has chosen to stand with Credence, even as Grindelwald plans his next steps. The revelation may have come as a shock to the diehard purists, but is very much inline with Rowling’s style.

The author popularized tricking her readership, who had become accustomed to pursuing all sorts of theories all of their own, but if Rowling had down anything especially well during the run of the original release of Potter books and films, it was pulling the rug out from under her fans. This film is far more encouraging than its predecessor proved and in every way promotes what the audience has been hoping all along, a perpetuation of the Harry Potter franchise and revisits into the Wizarding World full of magic and intrigue. 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is in theatres now and directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law and John Depp. This film is Rated PG-13

TunedIN | Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B “Girls Like You” Music Video (Dirty Disco Mainroom Remix)

Maroon 5 share the stage with Cardi B and some of the most vibrant names and faces in popular culture to prove “Girls Like You” is a movement for the millennium!

It’s not about making a statement it’s about embracing the movement — the movement of music that is! Maroon 5 and lead singer Adam Levine have always maintained the profile that their music was meant to be influential. The band has often teamed up with some of the industry’s most talented acts to deliver on some chart topping hits. On their latest track “Girls Like You” the band and Levine especially, are inspired to spotlight some of the most daring women in recent popular culture. Teaming up with rap sensation Cardi B who lays down the tracks def rhymes, the hip-hop powerhouse is only one of the famous faces to make an appearance. Can you identify them all? Here’s a hint: there’s an olympiad, an Amazon and a Bronx bomber in the mix, just to cite a few!

Check out the video to Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B “Girls Like You” (The Dirty Disco Mainroom Remix) here:

TunedIN | Dirty Disco Music “I FEEL DIRTY” Music Video

The Dance Floor Diva DONNA SUMMER is celebrated in this Video Remix from our friends at Dirty Disco Music proving that the summer still belongs to the “original”!

Feeling DIRTY?! The remix provocateurs at Dirty Disco Music are putting the spotlight back on one of dance music’s most enduring divas with their most requested track from none other than Donna Summer. In a season that has seen few of the current leading ladies in music including Madonna, Lady Gaga, making much traction with the release of any new music (although there is some coming from both on the horizon), Donna Summer — whose career has been celebrated on Broadway — is still one of the most relevant voices on the radio!

Check out the video for their remix hit I Feel Dirty (Space City Remix) here:

TuneIN | Christina Aguilera’s New Single “Accelerate”

Aguilera makes a move on “Accelerate” to reclaim her spot on the pop-music charts with a catchy, groovy (and gooey) sexy new track!

It’s been a while since pop songstress Christina Aguilera has delivered on a full-length album project. In 2012 her fans were treated to Lotus which returned the artist to the pop-standards of dance inspired tracks and ballads that put her on the radar as a one-time emerging pop-princess of the 1990s proliferation of the music market. Since then her audience has had to settle for the occasional one-off single or duet, most notably Aguilera’s collaboration on Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want” which paired the two powerhouse vocalists for the first time on The Voice live!

Now Aguilera is back with a new album she’s entitled Liberation set for release in June, and the premiere single “Accelerate” features a perfectly produced symphonic concoction of drum beats, percussion and electro-synth which places Aguilera front and center vocally and sensually packs a punch. Appearing alongside her on the track Hip-Hop leaders Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz lend their presence solidifying XTina’s much vaunted street cred. It’s been a while sine The Voice coach appeared on the televised competition series, but perhaps this liberation has been long coming.

Check out the sexy video to “Accelerate” here…

…preorder Liberation now on iTunes.