A Chip off the Mundane Block

Chips

 

Robbie K here, starting the evening reviews with yet another comedy to grace the silver screen.  Tonight’s film is a rehash of the golden era of television (the 70s) cop comedy Chips.  What does forty years of sitting in the dust mixed with the modern era of comedy bring to the table?  Well my friends that is where I come from, and as always, I’m happy to share my thoughts on the latest “masterpiece” to grace the silver screen.  So, let’s roll out shall we?

 

LIKES

  • Decent Story
  • Good Acting Chemistry
  • Some bike stunts

 

Summary:  Not going to lie, I didn’t have high hopes for this comedy.  Yet to my surprise, Chips actually stepped up to the plate in terms of plot.  It feels like an extended episode from the show, that was part action, part crime mystery, and a majority comedy.  It was simplistic yes, but it works to bring the entertainment value and energy that the sitcom brought long ago.  While the story was decent, the real shining value is the chemistry between the “dynamic duo” that really makes this movie.  Dax Shepard for once didn’t annoy me, as his character was balanced, surprisingly deep, and quite useful in the story, compared to some of his other roles.  Although still awkward and idiotic, his antics were toned down and complemented by his partner in crime played by Michael Pena.  Pena still shows his dynamic acting style, portraying both rough edged street smarts with sexual promiscuity.  The stubborn mule Pena plays is blind-sided by his weaknesses, and only Dax’s character can deter him from the trap that is his mind.  It was very entertaining (and impressive) to see the energy both brought to the mix, alongside decent character development, kept the movie going.  In addition, there were some decent stunts (primarily bike riding) that added zest to the comedy and maybe a little suspense.

 

DISLIKES

  • Lazy writing
  • Rushed Development
  • Not as Funny as hoped
  • Perverted at times

 

Summary:  Like many comedies, Chips suffers from some lazy writing at times.  I give Shephard props for capturing some antics of the classic show, but his modern style does not give props in terms of unique writing.  Let’s face it, most modern comedies are all about the cursing, and while it was slightly diluted, there was unnecessary use of the cursing that wasn’t funny to me.  In addition, there were plenty of moments that could have been comedic gold, but the direction took a different path that was rushed and lazy, leaving little wit, surprise, or delivery to maximize laughs.  And the perverted aspect, much like the cursing, got pretty old/disgusting quickly.  No offense to anyone’s bodies, but there were a couple of scenes where I couldn’t burn the image/concept out of my head, leaving me sicker to the stomach than laughing.  As for the Kristen Bell moments, they played a key character development, but her limited screen time was shallow stupidity than entertaining, but hey she did look good doing it. Outside of the comedy, the character development also could have been a little deeper and the suspense a little more if they wanted to expand upon the genre.  Yet, when the single objective is comedy, the story often will take a hit.

 

The Verdict

 

Chips has the nostalgic feel to it in terms of its plot overall, and a few cameos, but that is where it drops off.  I again applaud Shepard and Pena’s chemistry and how they expanded upon characters who were better known for their tight uniforms.  Unfortunately, the modern telling is much like the theme of the genre, simplistic stupid moments with a curse laden dialogue and perverted moments.  If this is your style, then this movie is the one for you this weekend.  For the rest of my readers though, this movie is worth waiting for Netflix before feasting your eyes on this piece.  While better than I thought, it would be, it still is no masterpiece.

 

My Scores:

 

Action/Comedy/Crime:  6.5

Movie Overall: 4.0

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Welcome Back To The Manor

Downton Abbey Poster

            Television shows are an amazing display of storytelling that run for years and often last longer when done right.  PBS managed to hit one of those shows out of the park, with a lovely British display of class, poise, comedy, and drama for six seasons about a wealthy family and the manor they keep.  So many things coursed through this the drama, that it became a cult phenomenon and ended on quite a bang.  So a movie to further the tales of the Crawley family, in hopes to once more capture the charm and profit from the class of English society.  Robbie K back with the first review of the week as he takes a look at the film:

 

Movie: Downton Abbey (2019)

 

Director:

Michael Engler

Writers:

Julian Fellowes (characters), Julian Fellowes (screenplay by)

Stars:

Michelle DockeryMatthew GoodeTuppence Middleton

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • Continues where the series left off
  • Nostalgic Moments brought back
  • Same Class and Charm
  • Funny and well balanced
  • The Acting
  • The Music

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Slow At First
  • A Few characters limited
  • A Few Story Plots Crammed In That Were Unnecessary

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

A television series takes adequate time to set things up and develops the characters well for us to fall into and invest time.  Fortunately, the movie manages to pick up where the series left off, including all the character transitions, decisions, and more.  It works, and manages to tell a new story while maintaining the traditions that made the series famous.  My friend and I both found nostalgic moments throughout the film, many of which were great to nod to as they adapted to the changing times that the manor was facing.  Yet despite the gap in air time, this film manages to find a way to make the class and charm fit well into the new dilemmas, addressing political issues from today but twisting it back into the classical English style.  Maintaining that quality was a wonderful representation, that manages to put the fresh coat of paint on the old place.  In addition, the movie manages to find ways to inject its drier humor, without being too forceful or untrue to itself.  Maggie Smith’s character in particular alongside her partner in crime made for the most entertaining, but there were several other moments that fit well. Really though, it’s the acting that makes this movie shine, with the cast reprising their roles and accomplishing all that was necessary to recreate the group one more time.  The cast is too big to hit everyone up, but let’s face it, this all-star group proved for many years that they can take tired plots and run with them and that is the case with this film.  As for the music, well the regal soundtrack is certain to illicit some strong emotions as the subtle cavalcade of instruments unite to once more bring aristocratic numbers to the scene and embrace the nobility at hand.

 

Yet, where the film does not succeed for me is in the pacing.  While I’ve always understood this show does not have the fastest pace, but at least it had bite size episodes to gradually introduce the drama and tackle the stories at hand.  In this film though, despite the quality it took a bit to take off and with it made it a little boring and hard to stay awake at times.  Once the pace kicked in though there were not too many limitations, as again they chose not to make the same plots but move on from the tale. Sadly, not every character managed to make the cross for a decent amount of time, lost to background stories or last-minute entries.  My friend is correct in that this was mainly the other characters had most of their qualms taken care of, but also I would have liked these classic characters to return in a little more style.  Finally, the other thing I did not quite enjoy was how many episodic plots were introduced in the movie.  On the positive it felt like a lot of episodes combined into a 2-hour period, but my friend and I agreed that some of these plots could have been shortened or dropped off altogether to allow for something else to move in.  Downton Abbey the movie seemed to lay groundwork for new things to arise from, but this closure seemed like it could have been better used in an additional season to really deliver the full potential that this series already laid long ago.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Returning to the abbey was a fantastic trip down the road of nostalgia and new, as the latest chapter in the Crawley residence comes in many classy forms.  The charm and wit of a time almost gone acts for a solid foundation and will pull everyone into the movie as you relive the magic.  Great acting, wonderful human, and most importantly the balance of humor and drama makes this movie a worthy addition to the legacy of the regal series. Sure, the pace is not quite as good given limitations to one showing, some of the characters are not as strong as they once were, and it was a little busy in the run time.  Despite this though, I recommend the film be enjoyed by all fans in the theater, while others will be wanting to hold off until home viewing. 

 

My Scores are:

 

Drama: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.5

A Golden Opportunity For Character Development, That Bombs At The End

 

The Goldfinch Poster

            Books to movies, a common trend that Hollywood loves due to the ease of script adaptation, and cutting of costs.  Yet, these are also super popular too, for the books have had time to build a fan base and make it worthwhile to flock to the theaters. As many will say though, some books should remain just that, allowing the time to process the details rather than jammed in a packed time period.  Today, it’s another review for yours truly to hit, in hopes of finding gold in the cinematic portrayal.  What’s in store?  Where that’s where I come in to shed some light.  Robbie K back as I review:

 

Movie: The Goldfinch (2019)

 

Director:

John Crowley

Writers:

Peter Straughan (screenplay by), Donna Tartt (based on the novel by)

Stars:

Oakes FegleyAnsel ElgortNicole Kidman

 

 

LIKES:

  • Artistic Presentation
  • Emotional
  • Some Of The Comedy
  • The Connections
  • The Music
  • The Acting

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Pacing
  • Very Dry
  • The Run Time
  • The Depression
  • The Ending

 

SUMMARY:

It’s true, the book is a great piece of work to dive into the psyche of a small child with PTSD and the struggles that can come.  The movie’s artistic approach accomplishes the goal of getting into a character’s psyche and bringing it to life, finding ways to blend memories, fears, and other feelings to life with great cinematography and planning. Utilizing an orchestral piece of classical works, the movie again utilizes great techniques to sell the tone of the movie and somehow add the class the trailers brought with this film. This tale is not for the faint of heart, and one must be willing to journey to dark places if they wish to weather this story, but if you can, the emotional aspect will be one of the core values of this tale. The tale has a lot of details to keep track of, as various times in life and members of families all get placed piece by piece into this jigsaw puzzle of plots.  Yet, at the end the connections start coming together, and parts you thought pointless start to have more meaning once more, albeit often adding more sadness to an already somber tale.  Certainly there is some clever comedy and fun moments to try to sprinkle light amidst the clouds that hover over this film, but not in the rambunctious slapstick that most comedies approach. Yet the masterpiece of this film is all in the acting of the star-studded cast.  The Gold Finch’s crew is an awesome ensemble of talent with so many performances coming together to match the nightmares that come in a life like this.  I can go on each performance, but we would be here all night, so I’ll focus on the cornerstone of Oakes Fegley, the young Theo who has to take on a lot of adult behaviors that I did not expect to be executed so well. He’s a connecting point for all, sells the lines well, and hooked me in as the character to watch and see how he handled the next dismal hit. As this is the central character, great to know that it’s acted so well.

 

While artistic style is always great to see, though sometimes they don’t make for the most entertaining or engaging uses of your time.  Despite the deep story, realism, and details of such a dark tale, this movie is not the easiest to sit through.  This two- and half-hour film feels longer, as the pacing drags at points, deterring from the deeper story they are trying to tell.  In addition, the well of entertainment is a little drier than most, and those who don’t like very non-fictional presentations are going to need to come in with as much energy as possible.  Perhaps if it had more mystery (like I thought from the trailers), suspense, or even just some brighter parts the pacing would not be so bad, but devoid of this the run time is too long for me.  Partly my fault, I had hoped that the Gold Finch would have had some lighter points to offset the depression, but this movie is all about piling the sadness minute after minute, which only further drags you down and makes the movie feel long.  It’s why films with this much character development and handling dark parts is meant for reading as there is more time allotted to handle all the sadness and depth.  The biggest factor that was disappointing was the presentation of the ending.  After so much set up and time spent building the character, the last thirty minutes is a crammed mess of trying to finish the tale. Ansel Elgort’s role is rather diluted compared to the younger counterpart, and not the best use of his talents.  As all the connections start to run together, the theme of the movie starts changing as well, moving from drama into a semi-crime story that ramps up to quickly and ends in a whimper.  Whether this is in the book or not, I don’t know, but this component did not quite deliver despite bringing things to full circle.

 

The VERDICT:

            The Gold Finch feels like an Oscar film primarily in the in-depth story and artistic presentation.  It is super detailed, amazing character development and utilizes the movie magic of sound editing, cinematography, and music to craft incredibly emotional sequences. The acting further brings the world to life, again the young Fegley taking port, crafting a strong character and the keystone for keeping this story building.  Despite all the story and character development though, the movie is dry, dense, and very drawn out that may not be in everyone’s repertoire for a movie.  In addition, after trying to build up for a finale to blow you away, the execution did not quite go the way I had intended, leading to a rushed finale that did not utilize the talents of the actors well, hit the full-on potential of the crime component, and thus fizzes out after so much time spent waiting.  It’s a movie that again feels like it should remain in book form, and thus is not going to be for everyone to view, reserved to those who are fans of the book, or looking for a deep, dark, nonfiction. 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama: 7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

Hustling Up A Dynamic Of Dance Of Superficial Entertainment and Deep Messages

Hustlers Poster

            They say you can’t judge a book by its cover and in today’s master of advertising the movies are certainly one of those very moments you don’t want to judge.  Many films hold great surprises to those going in with open minds, but yours truly went in not expecting much from tonight’s movie.  Based on true events, tonight’s film is all about how appearances can be deceiving and lead to very bad consequences despite the pretty package it’s wrapped up in. Yes, in all the splendor of the human body, we look at Hustlers tonight in hopes of getting a drama that is a little more sustenance and less show off of the naked form.  Robbie K back with another review this time on:

 

Film: Hustlers (2019)

 

Director:

Lorene Scafaria

Writers:

Jessica Pressler (magazine article), Lorene Scafaria (screenplay)

Stars:

Constance WuJennifer LopezJulia Stiles

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • Decent Pace
  • Good Dance Numbers
  • Funny
  • Decent good Morals/Story
  • Liked the Medium Told
  • Fashion
  • Acting
  • J-Lo

 

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Story A Bit Over The Place
  • The Bloated Excess of Drug and Con Scenes
  • Secondary Cast A Little Too Secondary
  • Some Lazy Writing Moments
  • Last Part Of The Ending Was Rushed
  • Glorification of Other Morals

 

SUMMARY:

Believe it or not, Hustlers turned out to have more surprises packed in than I had anticipated and it starts with the pace.  For a nearly  two-hour film, most of the film moves at a quick enough speed to not be too bland, though it does have its moments.  Yet much of the “boring” parts are going to be offset by the flashy spectacles that modern audiences love and it starts with dance numbers that are, let’s face it hot and sexually charged.  Hustlers is all about the art of deception and using the gorgeous figures to accomplish it in various sequences of touching, dancing, and some other stuff. If that’s not your cup of tea, then you’re in luck, because the writers have jammed in plenty of other fun things to help get the pizazz on.  Comedy wise, it’s got decent laughs, throwing in well-time jabs, some smack talk, and girl gossip that though dramatic and ridiculous, somehow seems relatable to most.  Fashion lovers are going to be amazed by the costumes chosen, a wardrobe that emphasizes the rich lifestyle and again showing off that form.  Superficial stuff aside, there are some layers to this movie to start expanding past the eye candy and into something with a little more depth.  Despite the overall premise of the movie, Destiny’s tale with Ramona dives into well-developed subplots that are all about the character development.  The main tale is loaded with dramatic moments, but Ramona’s heart of gold and desire to accomplish her goals is an adamant yet dark story that contradicts the morally obligated responsibility that is Destiny’s tale.  Mostly linear, Hustlers presentation is balanced between past and present, told over a semi-formal interview that tries to help set up for surprise and further emotional charge.  It works in terms of originality, and my friend and I appreciated the use of this perspective to try emphasizing the effects each part of the story had on our characters.

How is this accomplished though is also due to the acting, with all the strippers and cons in the group acting well, all their unique personalities coming off in heavily designed in the writing and persona.  Wu runs ahead of the rest and expands the character to broader levels that portray a human facing the dark skeletons in the closet, countering some of the sinful acts this movie throws. As my fellow reviewers have said though… Jennifer Lopez steals the show and finally breaks out of the generic roles she has mastered.  Ramona shows the complexity and spectrum that a character needs, with again well-developed layers that allow people to determine whether or not you like the character.  A hero to some, a villain to others, J-Lo accomplishes bringing this complexed role to life and anchoring all the chaos together. 

 

  Still the story ironically suffers for me in terms of the superficial components that others enjoy more.  For one thing, the tale is predictable with much of the foreshadowing and trailers usurping the “surprises” they wanted to stuff into the film. Second, the story, while good at times, is a bit all over the place, struggling to pick the tale it wants to tale in favor of all the components brought in.  Perhaps symbolic, perhaps a representation of life, but I would have liked less jumping around and instead focus on utilizing the present to tell the past.  Maybe this would have been achieved with fewer moments of lust and stripping, as the excessive look at the exotic dances and glimpses at their lifestyles bloated the run time to the two hours.  Perhaps leaving these advanced looks to the director’s cut would have been a better use of time and reduced the run time to less than two hours (it wasn’t that necessary to be this long).  In addition, some of the other characters were a little too dropped into the background for me, primarily Cardi B’s character and Kiki Palmer’s who I would have thought would be a little more involved.  The secondary characters do fill their parts, but not quite the family aspect I was expecting from the trailers. Outside of excessive cursing at times, the last part that seemed odd and forced was the ending where the climax comes and goes rapidly, and the finale is sort of crammed into the final minutes.  Emotional and fulfilling at times, random story elements primarily with the other members of the crew are sort of wedged in, trying to be complete, but a little sloppy for me.  Julia Stiles character in particular feels oddly wrapped up, while Lopez and Wu’s characters feel sort of semi-incomplete, minus the dance finish at the end.  Finally, for those with a different mindset, you may not like the glorification of the negative characteristics that this movie thrives in.  Those who don’t like drugs, effective kidnapping, fraud, and some truly deep manipulation are not going to enjoy the package the better morals are wrapped in.  So watch yourself before coming in.

 

            The VERDICT:

            Truth be told, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie.  Hustlers manages to con you with the trailers and open you to a whole new world of adventure.   It’s going to speak to the intended audience members, and is a charged tale that holds a lot of heart primarily about the lives beneath the shiny surface of stripping. Hustlers manages to balance fun with deep stories and add that punch that people want in a story.  It’s primarily accomplished by the acting with Constance Wu who takes leading role, but Jennifer Lopez is the real shining star whose complexity and broad emotional spectrum tie the group together.  As the morals start pour out of the shiny fashionable package, the movie achieves the desired girl power and family aspect you might want to see. Yet, the film loses the balance for me in the obsession of glorifying the superficial things instead of the heart of god components below.  Extending the run time to nearly 2 hours, the extra stuff the added details of the movie sort of diluted the story aspect, and took away from the secondary characters that high profile actors were portraying.  Throw in a rushed ending and sort of sporadic storytelling and the movie loses a little of the glitter.  However, if you stick with it and enjoy both aspects shoved in (entertainment and lessons) and can get over the focus of the darker components they emphasize, you should really enjoy this movie. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Crime/Drama: 8.0

Movie Overall:  6.5-7.0

Floating Through Nearly 3 Hours With Fantastic Acting and Decent Plot

It Chapter Two Poster

 

Two years ago, the relaunch of yet another series started, taking modern day technology and using it to put a new face on it.  Stephen King’s legendary book titled IT came back in a new light that felt like a Stranger Things Episode with a little more demented/horror element added to it.  When the ending came and the credits finished, the promise of part 2 lingered in red, setting the stage for the second act of the book.  Two years later, the adventure arrives and the question is… will the movie live up to the potential or are we waiting for nothing. Robbie K coming in for another review of the latest film to hit the theater, hoping to give you some spoiler free insight on the film.  So let’s get set as we look into:

 

Movie: It: Chapter 2

 

Director:

Andy Muschietti

Writers:

Gary Dauberman (screenplay by), Stephen King (based on the novel by)

Stars:

Jessica ChastainJames McAvoyBill Hader

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Story Components
  • The Terrifying Forms
  • Decent Pace
  • Creep Factor
  • References
  • Acting

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Not Scary For Me
  • Plot Presentation At points
  • The Length Of The Film
  • The Stepped-Up Game
  • The Over Use of Cursing at Times
  • The Assistant

 

SUMMARY:

The genius of the film is that although a sequel it’s also a stand-alone film that manages to take the tale in a new light.  Chapter 2, at least this version, manages to make a multilayered story that holds part horror and part soul searching as our characters developed.  In a decently compact way, It 2 accomplishes the task of bridging the 27-year gap and keeping to the horror element all why pushing some heavy political issues and moral tasking topics in a classy way.  Not just a drama, the horror element still stands true in this film and Pennywise’s new tactics are a step up in the form of nightmare motivating images that will stay in minds for a long time.  Not the most realistic at times, IT’s new forms for the most part have enough skin tingling factor to them to make some squirm in their seats, especially given how they made Pennywise a much bigger threat than I anticipated. A small subtle component that I quite enjoy are the small references to the book or popular phrases about the book. It’s nice balanced humor and a clever ploy to sort of justify the decisions made in this film in regards to changing the story, which gets a nod of respect from this reviewer.  Hands down though, the best part is acting, which I can go on for hours about.  All the adult forms mirror the kids in many qualms, take the baseline characteristics and maximize them, and play off of each other so well that I can’t help but praise the casting direction.  As for the clown himself, Bill Skarsgårdagain redeems his role as Pennywise and takes the nightmare amalgam worthy as a legendary villain. He manages to add new levels of creepiness without trying too hard, achieving that skin crawling factor to new levels.

 

In regards of areas that are still working on improving for me, well the film did not quite scare me like I was hoping.  Again, I’m used to much of the scare tactics, but It Chapter 2’s use of computer effects and other designs did not quite scare me as much as disturb me at times (that scene at the Chinese restaurant). In addition the stepped-up game of Pennywise sometimes crossed levels that I wasn’t a fan of, primarily in some of the more torturous aspects that this film took.  Those that have a low tolerance for dragged out beatings or torture may want to avert their eyes at these points.  In regards to the plot much of the overall arc is wonderful, but the presentation at times comes off a little more convoluted than I had hoped.  During the middle of the film the constant intertwining of past and present did not quite make sense to me, until the end when the explanation came.  Not that it was not entertaining at times, I felt this approach sort of added fluff to the movie, almost as this was a director’s cut.  This brings me to the length of the film, while certainly not the slowest movie (Midsommar anyone), the nearly three hour run time did not quite feel necessary given that the first part was nearly an hour shorter.  Again it is entertaining for the most part, but it’s a commitment I don’t think was quite needed.  A small nuance again for most, the cursing sometimes goes down the avenues of being lazy writing, primarily in the overuse of the F bomb when there were better lines that the first film capitalized on.  My biggest beef is the assistant to the mad clown, to which I don’t want to ruin. A concept that starts to hold potential, the assistant is a wasted character in my eyes that serves for only a little bit of plot development and a few comedy moments.  So much could have been done with this character, but I think the squad found this character the one to cut out most of in favor of the other focus points of the film.

 

The VERDICT:

            Wrapping this up, two years gave the movie enough time to make a horror movie that is familiar, yet has enough flair to be its own. Sticking to horror roots, the movie focuses on the story and does a nice job integrating most characters into the film. It may not be scary to me, but Pennywise is still creepy and has upped his danger level with new forms and references that should have fans smiling.  Yet it’s the acting that holds the key to success and brings the movie to levels that are super entertaining and deep compared to most horror genre casts. Still, the movie is a little long winded, with a convoluted presentation at times that adds a little length, and a character that felt like a waste.  Otherwise, a semi-cheesy ending and some darker tactics are the only things that really didn’t impress me.  The summary though is that this film is definitely a worthy edition to the horror genre, and I believe it’s worth checking out in theaters.  My scores are:

 

Horror:  8.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

A Different War Than Expected

Bennett's War Poster

 

On a weekend before a holiday, sometimes the movies run a little dry and this weekend seems to be following that trend. Tonight’s movies is about Bennett’s War. Have not heard of it?  Don’t worry, neither had I and if it had not been for a poster in my theater this film would have escaped my attention.  So what is this little advertised movie hold under the hood?  That’s where I come in with the hopes of giving some observations to help you decide if you want to make or break the bank seeing it.  Let’s get cracking as we look into:

 

Movie: Bennett’s War (2019)

 

Director:

Alex Ranarivelo

Writer:

Alex Ranarivelo

Stars:

Michael RoarkTrace AdkinsAli Afshar

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • Short Run Time
  • Decent Acting
  • Inspirational
  • Funny At parts
  • Motocross scenes

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Felt sort of like an incomplete Story
  • Predictable
  • Took a While To Get to Motocross Scenes
  • Masked as An Army Flick
  • A Little More Character Involvement needed

 

Summary:

 

A movie like this holds the potential to be an undiscovered treasure or a complete disaster.  For the most part this War had some features to it that I certainly found worth their weight in proverbial gold.  For one the short run time is nice, allowing for a chance to be a concise tale that was not too diluted by drama and bloated by long, drawn out moments that these unknowns sometimes take.  Next up the acting to which the stuntmen themselves probably take first place, but in regards to the actors the podium is taken by Ali Afshar and Allison Paigewhose characters turned out to be fun, dynamic groups that took the simplified parts and rode with it. Sure the other characters played their parts, but did not have quite the engaging personality these too did. Now these tidbits aside, the movie is another one of those inspirational flicks that are all about motivating people to face the odds and conquer their obstacles to achieve their dreams.  It uses the parlor tricks of a deep soundtrack, close camera angles, and the just the right amount of writing and acting to sell the scene and try to get some goosebumps stirring up.  Yet, the movie does not become a sob fest much to the chagrin of those looking for the latest religious drama. Bennett’s War manages to integrate some humor into the mix, primarily through Afshar’s character who like Jughead out of Archie Comics knows how to say the right thing at just the right time.  The biggest selling point though is the motocross scenes that are just waiting to fill the theater with the high definition sounds of the motor bikes.  The movie really harps on the dirt busting goodness of the sport and while it seems out of place, brings the excitement and bang that sports movies accomplish, especially when accompanied by some heavy rock.  The montage approach may be a little limited and cutting corners, but the two biggest races manage to find the balance and stride we love to see.

 

However, the movie sort of shows its limitations fairly well, more so in the form of the story telling itself.  For one thing it’s predictable, with too many of the haphazard tricks given away to show what is coming.  The writing, the foreshadowing, and the obvious overdramatized components that attempt to mislead do little to waiver one from the path.  Second, the film is masked as an army story either in the form of war itself or the recovery from the battles they face.  The opening uses the army as a means to explain the situation, but after that much of the army story is placed in storage for the sports path of the movie.  If the false advertisement does not get you, then perhaps the character involvement will get you instead.  Bennett’s war both accomplishes and fails to integrate all its characters in the fact that nearly every character serves its place, yet does not have the full-on inclusion I think they were looking for.  Adkins character in particular seemed to offer a lot more potential, but sort of crashed out like a second-string country song. The wife hits her moments but yet sort of beats around the bush and becomes a ploy for girl power instead of the aspect I enjoyed the most from her.  And as for another character, integrated at a decent moment, but then again lost to the wind.  Perhaps this is due to the motocross scenes which get a large amount of screen time than you might expect.  While I do rather enjoy these moments, the film sometimes sacrifices too much to get them in there.  Sometimes it was character development/story, and other times not enough heat in the races, but Bennett’s War is one of those I would have liked to see expand on more and find the balance I’ve seen these movies accomplishWhich brings me to the final point that the movie feels almost incomplete.  This war is more about the writers struggling to figure out the movie it wants to tell, patriotic pride and faith for healing or potentially a sports action movie to hopefully get bikes out into the business.  It’s this spin that although enjoyable could have struck a fine glance to deliver the full tale it wanted.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall, Bennett’s War has some solidly entertaining components that should potentially rope in a few groups this labor day weekend.  It’s inspirational, funny without trying too hard, and filled with dirt bike goodness that caters to a broader audience and sort of capture the heart of the movie Motocrossed from the Golden Age of Disney.  Yet, the film suffers from an indecisiveness of trying to cater too many, masking as  a potential army ranger recovering and struggling (aka American Sniper) on poster, but delivering a sports movie instead.  Again, I had fun with this movie, but this amplified version of the DCOM classic needs some more fine tuning or placement on the small screen track to maximize its potential. 

 

My scores are:

 

Sport:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

Fallen Into A New Regime

Angel Has Fallen Poster

            Epic action flicks are always a riot to see because they promise excitement, fun, and potentially some legendary sequences. The army of stars who have portrayed heroic figures continues to grow and in some cases those heroes drop into multiple installments that vary in quality.  Tonight is an example of one such franchise that continues to push that hero to new heights in an attempt to squeeze every dollar out of the franchise.  Could a third installment of the legendary Secret Service agent Mike Banning be one of those movies that is all about the cash and less about the quality?  Well Robbie K is back again to give some thoughts as we finish up the weekend with what will hopefully live up to hopes and expectations I have for it.  Tonight we look at:

 

Movie: Angel Has Fallen (2019)

Director:

Ric Roman Waugh

Writers:

Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay by), Matt Cook (screenplay by)

Stars:

Gerard ButlerPiper PeraboMorgan Freeman

 

LIKES:

  • Constantly Moving
  • Gets the Intensity Starting
  • Nice Use Of Characters
  • The Ending Battle
  • Nick Nolte

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Loud
  • Mystery Lacking
  • Not As Much Exciting Acting
  • Morgan Freeman’s Character Semi Lacking

 

Summary:

 

Like its predecessors, Angel Has Fallen is back in the habit of making a story that is all about moving from danger site to danger site. Banning’s latest journey does not take long to get things moving, bringing the incident to full, explosive power to get the antics going.  The new tale then takes that intensity and tries to run with it the full time, finding few times to quiet down before the next set of problems sets in.  Angle Has Fallen surprisingly does a nice job of integrating the characters, most of them, throughout the film, keeping them involved in the developing plot and having them contribute to find the solution.  Jada Pinkett Smith’s character is there to act as the cat chasing the proverbial mouse, all while helping dig into the mess that Mike has fallen into.  His wife played by Piper is working on her own components and rather than being left to make casual appearances, she actually gets decent inclusion in this film. Yet, it’s the living legend of Nick Nolte who takes the cake for the character of the film for me.  The rugged, rough voiced actor really brings the bitter humor to life, somehow saying so little , but doing so much.  I thoroughly enjoyed this character in what he brought and how he was an attempt to break up the Fallen series monotony.  Yet despite who you grip onto in this sort of action, mystery, crime feature, the ending is my epic conclusion I was hoping to see in this film.  Angel Has Fallen is all about those special effect frenzies that are littered with gun play, explosives, and one man defying all odds.  You won’t be disappointed with the final sequence, as it captures the spirit of the first two after the long wait.

 

In terms of areas of improvement though this reviewer notes that the predictability and lack of surprise makes the hidden/mystery element of this movie a little lame.  You know who is pretty much behind this operation, how they are going to try to execute the plan, and what will most likely happen to counter it.  In fact the only thing to question is who is going to make it to the end.  Had a few more surprises been thrown in, this movie could have had the nice twist to make it stand out.  Sadly, the story and plot were geared more towards the character inclusion and loud antics of the movie.  The Fallen series always struggles with volume control for me and if you have sensitive ears like mine, the intensity of all the high-octane scenes might take its toll on you hearing so look for ear plugs or folding your ears.  The minor things aside, the movie surprisingly does not do much with Morgan Freeman, and if you remember the previous films the president kind of has a big role in each of the films  Maybe due to scheduling or maybe trying to be different, it’s not until the end where the man in charge is finally brought back into the story in an attempt to wrap things up.  And speaking of action, I seem to remember the first two films having much more action than this instalment.  It seems that this film toned back on the action in an attempt to give us a little more story and mystery, which is a shame as I wanted the adrenaline fest these films are.  Certainly there are “exciting” moments, but they swapped many of their guns for some new spins that did not have the same suspense or quality of the memorable moments from the first two.  If that’s up your alley then you’ll love this, but remember the ending has the battles we love, you just got to make it there.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall Angel Has Fallen is starting to settle down and try out new venues for telling their story.  Certainly the speed of the film series continues, and the intensity gets things moving quickly to keep you into the film as almost all characters are brought into this chapter of Secret Service agent against the world.  Sadly, the same formula of fighting with lots of guns and ambushing via covert attacks seems to be resting for much of this movie, again trying new gimmicks to make it stand out and reserve the usual techniques for the ending.  It would have worked more for me had they kept the mystery/surprises going to add on to the intensity and leave your jaw dropping.  Still, it’s a fine addition to the franchise and one most will be wanting to see in theaters due to the special effects and speaker shaking loudness. My scores are:

 

Action:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5

 

 

Trying To Overcome With Creativity, Yet Falling Into Stereotypical Indecisiveness

Overcomer Poster

            Religious movies are difficult for me to review. Why?  Because as a reviewer putting myself in the shoes of the audience/intentions of the director, understanding what these movies are intending to do is my job.  Yet, looking at the presentation and not stepping on toes is also a challenge.  Despite the challenge though, I’m up for trying to do my best to give you the opinions on yet another film to hit the theater. So Robbie K bringing you another review on:

 

Movie: Overcomer (2019)

 

Director:

Alex Kendrick

Writers:

Alex KendrickStephen Kendrick

Stars:

Alex KendrickShari RigbyPriscilla C. Shirer

 

 

LIKES:

  • The Message
  • Acting
  • The Powerful Scenes
  • Great Use Of Emotion
  • The Creative Flair
  • The Finale
  • The Music

 

DISLIKES:

  • Pace
  • Predictable
  • Goes Out Of Its Way To Be Preachy
  • Not So Much A Running Movie
  • The Staged Characters
  • The Overall Presentation/Indecisiveness

 

SUMMARY:

Let’s get it out of the way, if you are not of the faith or religious the message is most likely going to be lost on you, but for this reviewer the message of Christianity is always nice to get a refresh course in. Helping to bring it alive is decent acting from some of the cast including the director/writer/lead Alex Kendrick, the lovely wife Shari Rigby, and for me Cameron Arnettas the motivational speaker. All the leads create quite a believable family, one that is entertaining, funny, and comes of natural in (most) of their deliveries of a family facing tough times that somehow makes it relevant in ways.  The powerful scenes when they come do their job, managing to penetrate the neutral shell I bring to most movies and pull some heart and spirt strings.  This is accomplished by great use of emotional supporting movie magic, especially the piano work that has diversity to capture the moment.  The cinematography accomplishes capturing the right light and angle to help as well, giving an underappreciated edge to help again sell the transformation as the word is shared. As the movie progresses, that creative flair in not only the camera work, but also some story components gets a nod to me for parts of this movie help break away from the traditional presentation that these movies thrive on (note I said some) that really came together as the movie closed into the final moments.  Speaking of which the finale really brings all these elements together, and like out of a Disney sports movie from the 90s you get all those feel good effects rushing together to punch you right in the emotional center of your body.  Finally, the music in this film, not the orchestral work from earlier, actually was awesome for me, showing that praise music is not just limited to the traditional hymns and songs that get overplayed in these films.  My favorite would be the Overcomer, but I think there are enough genres and variety to please most ears.

 

Yet, the movie still has some shortcomings from me in terms of a movie, remember the message is strong for me, but I am looking at the big picture here in terms of a movie. First of all the pace at the beginning is slow and a little bloated, due to some tangents taken long before the first run with Hannah.   You can definitely tell expect the predictability of the film, all the tell-tale signs and set ups feeling much like the books to which this film used as its foundation.  This is not so much a major issue for me, except for how much of the predictability is used to go out of its way to preach the message.  Almost like intermittent messages from church, Overcomer tends to take out the parts the trailer sold (seeing the tale of a runner improving on skill and relationships) for a lot of awkwardly time moments of preaching the Bible, one moment being a character interrupting a drama midterm to announce the faith they had found.  Powerful? Yes!  Well designed for the movie?  Kind of.  Perhaps it also would not have come off quite as cheesy or forced had some of the characters to been so staged.  Overcomer uses a lot of extras and secondary characters to act as bait for the church like moments and had they had a little more engagement in the tale other than simply delivering church lessons it would have flowed better.   As you hopefully have deduced, the main thing I didn’t enjoy about this movie was how it could not quite determine what approach it wanted to take.  Overcomer is almost part sports inspirational film, part Drama, and part big budge church production.  Instead of having a nice medium of using the cross country to pin its hopes on, the movie sort got lost in trying the balance all three parts and accomplish the goal of preaching.  Had they sort of ironed it out and minimized the Bible Verse interruptions, this could have been a different case, which took away from the movie quality for this reviewer.

 

VERDICT:

            The truth is that Overcomer is a very good religious movie that will speak to the hearts of many followers and get many crying with those well put together moments.  It’s a great message put in a new form and thanks to the help of creative outlook, cinema flair, and music it’s truly an inspirational piece of work.  Yet, in looking at the movie past the message, the inability to decide what path to take and going out of its way a lot to make preachy scenes took away from the movie quality itself.  Diluting the quality to a Hallmark like production where staged characters and awkward scenes stood out from the heart of the tale that lied in.  Again, the message is powerful, but for a presentation standpoint Kendrick’s approach needed a little tweaking to fully stand out as one of the greats.  Still, this is a must for most church goers and drama lovers, looking for that next wave of inspiration using the latest hi tech sound.  My scores are:

 

Drama:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0