John Hanlon Reviews


Hollywood Takes on Snowden, Reagan and Chicago Gun Violence

Posted in: General  |  By: John Hanlon  |  April 29th, 2016

The end of summer is usually a slower time at the theaters. Not this year. Our movie preview August 2016 edition shows there’s still plenty of new exciting films coming to a theater near you.

It’s been a rough summer at the box office this year. Sequels disappointed. Spielberg’s latest flopped. Moviegoers aren’t going to the theaters as much as they used to.

Usually, more about August would be a slow end to the summer but this year, there some of the year’s most highly-anticipated films are coming out this month. It’s possible that this month could provide the last minute jolt that Hollywood studios are hoping for. With that in mind, clinic we’re offering our movie preview August 2016 edition.

Here are a list of 10 films we can’t wait to see this month.

Check it out and if you disagree or think I missed something, let me know in the comments section.

Suicide Squad (August 5th): One of the most highly-anticipated movies of the years, Suicide Squad is the latest comic book adaptation to hit the big screen. Instead of focusing on good guys though, this story’s concept is that a group of criminals and thugs are released to take on an even great threater to mankind.

In addition to featuring Will Smith and Margot Robbie in leading roles, the feature also re-introduces the iconic Joker, played here by Oscar winner Jared Leto. Written and directed by David Ayer, the feature is set to rock the box office this weekend despite disappointing early reviews.

Check out the trailer below.

Pete’s Dragon (August 12th) After striking box office gold with Disney’s great The Jungle Book earlier this year, the studio is returning with another adaptation of a beloved story. Pete’s Dragon tells the story of an orphan named Pete who befriends a dragon, much too the consternation of the surrounding community.

The youthful actor Oakes Fegley stars as Pete but is surrounded by a tremendous cast including Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford. The film is directed by David Lowery, who previously directed Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. For a peek at the new adventure, check out the trailer below.

Florence Foster Jenkins (August 12th): “The lady is a lesson in courage and we love her,” says one of the supporting characters in the trailer of the new film Florence Foster Jenkins. The drama tells the story of a wealthy woman who– despite vocal issues– fights to become a singer.

Directed by Stephen Frears, the new film promises to be an inspiring journey of a woman who refused to give in to her critics. Starring Meryl Streep in the title role, the film also features Hugh Grant and The Big Bang Theory‘s Simon Helberg.

Check out the trailer below to see for yourself.

Sausage Party (August 12th): An animated feature featuring vulgar language, violent death sequences and creatures facing their own mortality? That’s what the new comedy Sausage Party has to offer. The film tells the story of a package of hot dogs who slowly realize that their new owner– a consumer who purchased them in the store– plans to cook them up for dinner.

It’s an odd concept for a comedy but it looks like it could be a lot of raunchy and ridiculous fun. Featuring the voices of Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and Michael Cera, the new film could provide a lot of much-needed laughter at the end of the summer.

Check out the trailer below.

Hell or High Water (August 12th): The new drama Hell or High Water features a family that is on the verge of economic ruin. Instead of accepting their fate, they decide to fight back. Their plan: to take on the bank that they believe caused their distress.

The thriller stars Ben Foster and Chris Pine as brothers who become criminals to save their family’s finances. Written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario), the feature looks similar 99 Homes (2014), another film that focused on a family trying to regain financial control of their own lives. That film was one of the best films of 2015 so I have high hopes for this thriller as well.

You can  check out the film’s trailer below.

Ben-Hur (August 19th): It’s no easy task to remake the cinematic classic Ben-Hur (1959). That doesn’t mean that studios won’t try. The new remake arrives only a few weeks from now and the trailers suggest this movie could do a solid job re-telling the story of a betrayed brother who seeks vengeance against his treasonous brother.

Jack Huston stars as the title character here who faces off against his brother Messala (Toby Kebbell). Timur Bekmambetov (who previously helmed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Wanted) directs this big-budget epic that is sure to make a splash at the box office.

You can check out a glimpse of the highly-anticipated drama below.

 War Dogs (August 19th): Jonah Hill and Miles Teller star in this comedic adaptation of a true story. The hard-to-believe story of two naive and younger friends who managed to earn a multi-million dollar contract from the US government seems like an intriguing subject for a film.

Director Todd Phillips, who previously helmed the Hangover trilogy, seems like the perfect choice for this outlandish tale. The film co-stars Bradley Cooper and Ana de Armas and was adapted from the Rolling Stone article Arms and the Dudes.

Check out the trailer below.

Mechanic: Resurrection (August 26th): The mechanic is back. Jason Statham returns to his role as a brutal assasin in this latest installment. The film sets Arthur Bishop (Jaon Statham) up on a mission to target one person but Bishop’s own plans get in the way.

Tommy Lee Jones and Jessica Alba co-star in this action ride. If the action lives up to the exciting scenes glimpsed in the trailer, this could be an action-packed stunner.

Check out the trailer below.

Don’t Breathe (August 26th): Three thieves get more than what they hoped for when they try to rob an older blind gentleman in the new thriller Don’t Breathe. Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto star as the trio of criminals who eentually face off against a character simply known as the blind man (Stephen Lang).

Fede Alvarez, who previously helmed the 2013 Evil Dead remake, directed the new feature and co-wrote the script with Rodo Sayagues. If this horror film is as intense as the trailer suggests, it could be a scary ride.

Check out the trailer below.

Blood Father (August 26th): Oscar winner Mel Gibson is back on the big screen in this thriller about a father who protects his daughter from thugs and criminals who want her dead. This marks Gibson’s first role on the big screen since The Expendables 3 (2014) and it looks like he is once again embracing the action genre.

Directed by Jean-François Richet, the film co-stars and William H. Macy. Check out the trailer below.

August promises to be an exciting month at the box office for moviegoers nationwide. If some of these blockbusters live up to the hype, it could be an unusually lucrative month for Hollywood.

Make sure you mark your calendar for these 10 August 2016 movies.

August 5th: Suicide Squad

August 12th: Pete’s Dragon, Florence Foster Jenkins, Hell or High Water

August 19th: Ben-Hur, War Dogs

August 26th: Mechanic: Resurrection, Don’t Breathe, Blood Father

This week, abortion
Hollywood was abuzz with news about upcoming political films. The news included the first trailer for a new drama about Edward Snowden and the casting of Will Ferrell in a comedy about Ronald Reagan. In the midst of that news though, a new comedy about gun violence in Chicago is unfortunately being overlooked by many viewers.

On Wednesday, the first full-length trailer for the Oliver Stone feature Snowden hit the internet (check it out here). The drama stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the controversial title character, who infamously leaked classified data about our nation’s surveillance program to the media.

Written by Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald and adapted from Luke Harding’s nonfiction book The Snowden Files and Anatoly Kucherena’s novel Time of the Octupus, the feature promises to be controversial. It’s difficult to judge the film without seeing the finished product (I’m keeping an open mind) but the trailer seemingly offers much sympathy for Snowden’s choices (choices that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders have publicly criticized). As Gordon-Levitt’s Snowden notes in the trailer, “I’d like to help my country make a difference in the world” and the trailer’s text even teases, “He believed in his country enough to risk everything to save it.”

Also making news this week is the casting news that comedian Will Ferrell — well-known for his Saturday Night Live impersonation of President George W. Bush — is taking on the role of President Ronald Reagan in a new comedy. The move has sparked outrage, not because Ferrell is well-known for taking jabs at Republicans but because the film’s premise seems so cruel.

According to, “the story begins at the start of the then-president’s second term when he falls into dementia and an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander-in-chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.” Critics quickly spoke out about the casting choice, including members of the 40th President’s own family.

Michael Reagan denounced the decision on Twitter while Patti Davis wrote an open letter to Ferrell on her blog noting, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have — I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.”

Both of these films promise to be controversial and polarizing pictures.

Interestingly enough though, there is a comedy playing now in theaters nationwide that manages to take on a controversial subject but is being sadly overlooked by many moviegoers. The film is Barbershop: The Next Cut (click here for a full review). The film is the third in the series of Barbershop comedies — not including the spin off Beauty Shop — and has a lot more on its agenda than making people laugh.

The film revolves around a barbershop in Chicago’s South Side managed by the blunt but likeable Calvin (Ice Cube). The story focuses in on the gun violence that often permeates the streets of Chicago (a subject that few movies dare to address). As Calvin states, “The streets are talking. They’re tired and angry.” Many of the barbershop’s employees fear for their lives on a daily basis and Calvin even has a sign on the wall that notes “No guns allowed.” When customers bring them in, he secures them to prevent bloodshed at the barbershop, a place that the wisecracking Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) notes, “used to be a place for peace.”

Instead of delving into a debate on gun control (a polarizing debate, to be sure) the comedy focuses in on what these characters can do to improve their neighborhood. As one character notes, “Maybe we need to stop waiting for the government” to solve the issue of gun violence. The barbershop’s employees band together to support a weekend of peace where the streets of Chicago are free from the routine violence that threatens their daily lives.

Admittedly, some may object to the film’s language (it’s not for everyone) but on a larger scale, this is a movie that aims for the higher goal of starting a conversation in a palatable way that doesn’t alienate both sides of the political issue.

It’s hard to know how Stone’s new movie about Snowden will depict the former NSA employee and it’s tricky to make predictions on Ferrell’s new comedy (although it’s hard to hold out hope for that venture) but right now, Barbershop: The Next Cut is currently proving that a big Hollywood production can take on a controversial subject without being politically polarizing. One only hopes that more people take notice.