A Beautiful World Of Drama, Great Acting, and Underutilized Characters

Winter's War

 

Snow white, a tale that has been beaten to death over the last five decades. From cute cartoon masterpieces to cheap knockoffs you can get the classic Grimm’s tale in a variety of forms that you can deem the “fairest” of them all. This weekend, we get the sequel that drops Snow White and substitutes with her handsome, axe wielding sidekick Eric entitled The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Can this tale succeed without the beautiful, raven-haired beauty, or will it fail like its predecessor? As always I’m Robbie K and this is my report on the latest movie.

 

The GOOD:

 

  • Beautiful visuals
  • Fantastic Acting
  • A nice portrayal of love
  • Decent comedic relief

 

If you remember the first movie Snow White and The Huntsman, you remember that the world was beautifully designed. Winter’s War takes that trend and runs with it, filling the screen with a beautiful fantasy world that brings you into the fairy tale. Breathtaking shots of gorgeous countryside are intermingled with CGI creatures that are a blend of flora and fauna that reflect their very environment. The kingdoms that surround this wilderness are also well designed, the houses, temples, and palaces mirroring the personalities of their rulers, who themselves are in stunning costumes.

But seldom do visuals make the movie by itself and fortunately Winter’s War has a great cast to further bring the world to life. Chris Hemsworth leads the cast, playing the same role he always plays…the hot guy. Girls swooned in my showing over the smoldering grin and strong chin as he battled fictional enemies and argued with just about everyone. Fortunately he brings a balanced performance that contains fun, honor, love, and some choreography. The lovely Emily Blunt also brings her A game as the ice queen Freya. Her ability to play such an emotional and detailed role never ceases to amaze me and other than the ugly (guttural) crying she won my heart for favorite character. Jessica Chastain revisits her role of strong woman kicking lots of ass and being pissed off at everything, only this time with a strong (and comical) Scottish accent. While certainly not the most unique role, she still manages to pull the performance off with two thumbs up. Charlize Theron reprises her role once more as well, an arrogant , power hungry, ruthless queen who is a good example of the B word. And Theron plays it so well that you can’t help but hate her for it.

Actors aside the story is another generic plot about Snow White’s kingdom. Once more we get a tale all about love and the twisted game it plays with us all. Despite the annoying broken record of its power, the movie does a nice job at capturing the magic of infatuation in more ways than one. While it can be preachy and overdramatic at times, it does hit home and the actor’s portrayal of love is very well received. Throw in a comedic portrayal with the dwarves and you have an entertaining love story.

 

THE BAD:

  • Very rushed story and a little underdeveloped
  • Dulled down action with the other Huntsmen
  • Character imbalance

 

Hard to believe I’m saying this, but the love component was the best part of the whole movie. The rest of the plot was rather simplistic/rushed for me. Winter’s War is shown as a prequel in the trailers, but it is actually a prequel and sequel, which I think was the problem. Our story team could not decide where it wanted to take the movie and as such tried to cover everything it could. The background of the huntsman was a montage of punching, only to quickly transition to the love component. This motive carries for all of the characters, leaving much of the cast underdeveloped and relying on superficial qualities (like looks) to latch on to. In addition, this uncoordinated plot was boring at times that I wanted to take a nap to make them pass faster.

While the rushed story is a large hurdle to jump, the underutilization of characters is the bigger crime. Theron and Chastain have a much more dilute role than I thought and I was very disappointed that the former’s role was pretty much portrayed in the commercial. This disproportional use of characters dropped wrenches in the cast dynamic and their conventional reentry into the world only made me laugh or shake my head. You would think that with big price tags they would get their money’s worth, but sadly balance seems to remain an issue in Hollywood.

Finally the action component. Good news is that the action is a step above the cataclysmic failure of the first installment. Bad news is it is still simple and kind of corny at parts. The Huntsmen are supposed to be elite warriors, but this movie downplayed this component and made them rather pathetic. Many battles were very corny bouts of extras standing in a circle, stern looks filling their faces before getting pummeled by the only warriors with skills. The special effects helped a little, but the excitement quickly waned as the momentum was starting to build. However, it does fit well with the theme of the movie and the world crafted by our studio.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Winter’s War is a decent love story with a blockbuster cast and gorgeous visual prowess. Unfortunately, it still feels like an underdeveloped story whose characters still haven’t reached their potential yet. Should there be a third movie, I hope that we get more character development and some more bite to give the world some edge. Is it worth a trip to the theater? For a visual standpoint yes, but this reviewer thinks Winter’s War should be reserved for a RedBox rent.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Drama: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

Beautiful World, Fun Adventure, But Oh That Singing

THe Jungle Book

Disney is in the zone with their live action remakes. With Maleficent and Cinderella being box office hits, the animation studio finally bridged out of the princesses and went to another kingdom. This time around we dive into a wilder world filled with danger, death, and of course…talking animals. That’s right, today’s review is on the Jungle Book and once more I’m here to give some insight on the latest films to grace the theater. So enough chatting, let’s get started.

 

The GOOD:

  • Incredible Graphics
  • Voice Acting
  • Emotional/Suspenseful Story
  • Very fun and cute at moments

 

If you have seen the trailers, then it should come as no surprise that Jungle Books strongest quality is the animation. Disney continues to push the boundaries of real life animation. The denizens of this jungle are incredibly detailed, with rippling fur, incredibly detailed muscle movements, and a glorious shine that screams high definition gold. There are some moments where the realism is lost and the sheen shows the CGI, however these moments are overshadowed by the story and not much of a weakness. And the jungle itself is even more breathtaking as the flora pops to life in both color and contrast. Where props end and CGI begins is hard to tell, but trust me the world was brought to life much better than I ever imagined.

Where the technology brought the animals to life, it was the voice acting that brought the characters. Ben Kingsley as the regal Bagheera was a perfect choice. Kingsley brought all the qualities of the mentor with his stern voice, but adding that emotional sentimental edge that showed he cared. Idris Elba as Shere Kahn was another rocking pick, his deep, bellowing voice spiced with the sinister edge that was perfect for the villain role. Yet the best voice casting goes to Bill Murray who we all know has a long track record of playing the care free, high on life character. Baloo is essentially the animal version of Murray, and if they had added a cigar to the mix, would have been a furrier version of his St. Vincent character. Our other cast was spot on as well and Jungle Books voice cast fit every role necessary.

In terms of the story, Jungle Book gets points for this as well. It sticks to the 1967 cartoon version well, deviating at a few moments to give it a darker edge The emotion in the story is surprisingly lacking at parts, maybe due to the delivery or perhaps the fast pace. But the emotion really hits at the right moments to get your skin tingling with goose bumps. Now I can’t lie that much of the movie lacked suspense for me, a predictable tale that I had memorized from my cartoon watching days. Yet I would also be lying if I didn’t say Shere Kahn’s scenes had me on the edge of my seat at times, wondering what decisions his devious mind would make. Baloo and Mowgli’s relationship though goes the lighter sides of things and fills the cute and cuddly role to the T, while also bringing some of the audience to tears. This relationship was an essential component to the fun of this film and one of the best real life to digital character relations I’ve seen in a while.

 

The BAD:

  • Short sighted scenes
  • A few over-exaggerated moments
  • Singing

 

What do I mean by short sighted scenes? I mean that some of the scenes could have been epic, but were delivered in a manner that left me feeling cheated. The Kaa scene is one of these moments. The Indian python was the leading voice for the trailers, but in this film the snake was more of a cameo than anything else. Sure she played a role in shedding light on Mowgli’s origins, but shortly after that she is cut from the film (quite the opposite from the cartoon version.) There were other moments that were very similar, but lacked the finesse I was expecting and instead turned into a convenient scene meant to fill in a plot hole. Many of these moments, due to their rushed nature, felt very over acted and lost the emotional appeal it was going for. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) did well overall, but the little guy occasionally trekked into a whiny, unimpressive delivery that was a little annoying.

The biggest weakness for me though was the singing. I give them props for effort and award them points for taking a risk, but the singing paled so much to the original soundtrack. Bill Murray doing the Baloo song had some pizazz and again was a cute dynamic to their relationship. Christopher Walken singing King Louie’s song though is a different story. It’s more comical then good, and is lacking in a lot of things that not even Auto tune can fix. Pretty much, it’s just another method to extend the movie and merchandising for this film. Fortunately the symphony scores makes up for these songs, but unfortunately they can’t give you back the time the singing takes away.

 

Final thoughts:

 

This rendition of the Jungle Book impressed me. The adventure is fun and fast paced while also bringing a little emotion to the picture. An incredible cast makes for fun characters that your little ones and you will latch on to. But it is the incredible artificial world that brings you into the movie and makes you feel as if you stepped into a Disney theme park ride. I strongly encourage everyone to hit the theaters for this film and can say this film merits a screening in 3-D if you have the chance. Word of warning, there may be moments a bit too intense for little kids, especially if they jump at loud noises.

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Drama/Family: 8.5-9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

The Good, The Bad, and The Lazy Writing

The Boss

 

Another beautiful day another reason to head back into the theater. Hi I’m Robbie Karim and that despicable display of comedy is my attempt at a funny opening for my latest review. Today we look at the latest production starring Melissa McCarthy called the Boss, a film that looks promising for a quick laugh. However, does this movie shine in terms of quality or is it another mediocre media designed to net our money? Let’s get this review started then and see if we can answer that question.

 

THE GOOD:

  • Very funny moments
  • Cute moral built into the movie
  • Fairly Fast pace
  • McCarthy’s acting

 

The Boss is certainly a humorous film that uses a lot of McCarthy’s old tricks that we’ve become accustomed to. McCarthy herself bears most of the comedic weight using her delivery as the main punch to get you laughing. She’s loud, drawn out, and she has the sass that I can’t help but chuckle at every now and then. Kristen Bell and Ella Anderson assisted with keeping the film fun in two ways. The first, and major contribution was being the medium for McCarthy to bounce her jokes off, where they acted as props to react and keep the rants going. And the second contribution was bringing the cute, life lessons that every comedy film seems to need. In the Boss’ case, that moral is family and these three actresses do make a fun, interesting family to watch. This dynamic keeps the plot going and thanks to some decent editing helps avoid some longwinded and slow plots that Hollywood likes to waste our time with.

 

THE BAD:

  • A lot of scenes already shown in the trailers
  • Some comedic scene went on too long
  • Not the most unique or original film
  • Too much obsession with genitalia and sex

 

No surprise that the trailers give a lot of comedy away and the Boss is another victim of this trend.   You will catch a lot of the more unique moments on the commercials, which depending on how much TV you watch, can dilute the comedic punch it was intended to bring. Fortunately there were still golden nuggets still buried in the movie, but even these weren’t as funny as some of the other things that have come out of McCarthy’s films. The problem was these jokes weren’t that original, easily blending in with the sea of Melissa McCarthy jokes that we’ve seen. In addition, the scenes not shown in the commercials centered very heavily on sex, which seems to be the only medium they think audiences like. The Boss doesn’t even try to put cleverness behind their dialogue, instead relying on the delivery and a low comedy threshold to carry their writing. If relentless vulgarity is your bread and butter, this is the movie for you, but for me well it got old after a while, especially when you see as many films as I do. I can’t deny I laughed at a few dirty moments, but some scenes where they bantered on and on crossed over the stupid line.

 

 

The Final Verdict:

The Boss is a fun film that takes its place in the mediocre works meant to kill time. However it certainly isn’t the greatest of Melissa McCarthy’s works and the lack of originality, wit, or even balance are the components that weaken this film. But it still feels like a Melissa McCarthy film and those who are extreme fans of this movie will laugh their heads off regardless of the stale tactics and lazier writing. Regardless I can’t recommend this one for a trip to the theater, but then again I’m just a reviewer and can only share my opinions. Again this is a fun Melissa McCarthy movie and will most likely crack everyone up, I’m just not the biggest fan of sexual humor and I see more movies and trailers that really dilute humor for me.

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy: 6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

FPS Video Game In Movie Form: Hardcore Violence and Ridiculousness

Hardcore Henry

 

I always say I’m looking for something new to come to the theaters, something to spice up the pot when Hollywood cooks with mediocre materials. Today I got a chance to see that spice in the movie titled HARDCORE HENRY, a movie that looks to be an amped up action thriller for the modern times. But when testing new waters, one never knows what they will get in the movie. Hi Robbie K coming at you with another review and hopefully giving some insight into the film. Let’s get started.

 

For those who haven’t seen the trailer, the entire movie takes place in the first person perspective. Now this concept isn’t that new to gamers who play FPS titles (Halo, Doom, Call of Duty), but for those who don’t visit that land, the movie is indeed a new experience. Nearly the entire 96 minutes is high adrenaline action that takes place on multiple fronts and brings you face to face  with the army of nameless extras. Parts of the film were really good to have in this perspectives, but other times…well the camera work got a little too chaotic for me. Seeing the camera go into convulsions and spins got annoying at times especially when it transitioned into bouts of dizzying spins and twists. Those who get motion sickness or dizzy from erratic camera work are going to want to stay away from this one (in case you haven’t guessed). Despite these dizzying moments though, the camera still gives you all the glorious detail of the action in this movie. Speaking of which…

Hardcore Henry is another one of those high octane, special effect heavy thrillers that throws in every punch it can. Guns, punches, grenades, even swords are all in this movie as Henry crosses all avenues of Russia to accomplish his vague goals. Many of the scenes are, as I stated earlier, homage to FPS video games including some of the more convenient aspects of video games like finding a random gun on the street or firing a ridiculously powerful weapon. Other times the action feels like one of those 3-D motion theme park rides where Henry is running or riding through some fast paced chase. Even the fist fights brought some thrills to the screen, though these moments sometimes got a bit too intense at times to really enjoy. While the visuals certainly brought the excitement, it was the incredible soundtrack that brought the edge it needed. All types of musical genres made their mark, each one fitting the adventure perfectly to mirror the emotions of the moment (and yes much of it was metal rock to go with anger).

But with action there often comes violence and Hardcore Henry does not shy away from that aspect one bit. This movie is certainly deserving of the R rating, the opening credits along paying homage to graphic kills and torture you are about to see. You should expect lots of artificial blood to paint the screen as heads explode, knives penetrate, and characters erupt in geysers of red. Those who love that stuff will worship this movie, but for me the excessiveness got stale after a while. I can’t give you too many details without providing spoilers, but those who can’t stand dismemberment need to think this one through before paying the hefty ticket price. Outside of gore and violence, Henry’s adventure also has strong language, a sea of female genitalia references, and plenty of nudity to go around.

Now if you haven’t guessed yet from this review, Hardcore Henry is indeed a ridiculous movie (which you hopefully picked up from the trailer). So I can’t necessarily dock points off its score for that. However, I can still pick at some things of that ridiculousness that I didn’t enjoy. For one thing the story was very simple and quite stupid at times. It took me a while to understand what the whole purpose of the fighting was and just what Henry’s role in all of this was. In addition the main bad guy Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) was left unexplained and was more annoying than respectful. Some parts of Henry’s quest were from left field, with only a small, small line of relevance to tether it to the story. Some of these parts, while certainly thrilling, could have been edited out because there was little points to them other than let’s just bring more action.

Fortunately, the ridiculous did bring lots of humor to the movie and had me laughing or chuckling at times with some of the crazy stuff Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) did. In addition they added some clever moments to the film that poked fun at Hollywood that brought extra laughs and relieved the intensity. Henry’s own ridiculous moves earned a chuckle or too from me, especially when they jabbed at how ridiculous games can be sometimes.

To sum it all up, Hardcore Henry is indeed a movie that represents its name. It is a sheer adrenaline rush that action junkies will drink up and find very little fault in. This film certainly is one of the more exciting pieces I’ve seen, with over the top stunts, fantastic special effects, and a killer soundtrack that is used well. However, the over the top violence, bathing the screen in gore, and the stupid vague plot are aspects I just didn’t get. Once again the camera work was  decent , but certainly expect some erratic moments to occur that could spur up some nausea. Fans of Crank, the Expendables, or Death Race are target audiences for this movie, and aside from the special effects I can’t recommend this one for a theater visit for most.

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi: 8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

Will this be a new movie genre?  Will this first person perspective take off and get people hooked into a new movie?  I can only hope for limited films to not ruin the uniqueness it brings.  But if it is anything like Star Wars or the Marvel Movies, you can expect this type of movie to be abused out the wazoo (and no I’m not saying it is as good or as revolutionary as those).