Life, Death, Lessons: A Dog’s Philosophical Tale

dogs-purpose

            Robbie K here with another review on the latest thing to hit the silver screen. Today our focus is on a movie about man’s best friend, the dog, and the incredible things they do for us.  Despite all the discussion this movie has drummed up, I still paid a visit to the theater to see what they had in store.  What’s the verdict?  As always read on (or skip down) to what my thoughts are on what looks to be an emotionally uplifting movie.

 

LIKES:

  • Cute Puppies
  • Comedic
  • Emotionally powerful Sequences and Dialogue

 

Summary: If you have seen the trailers (or read the title), you hopefully know this is a movie about dogs and what they can do.  And fortunately, this movie delivers on the promise of showing just how adorable our canine compatriots areMuch of my fellow audience members squealed in delight as the dogs chased their tales, ran all over the house, and shared their love in hugs and kisses.  An added bonus is that many of these moments are also funny, either at just how cute they are or an intentionally funny line.  Josh Gadd voicing the various dogs was a smart decision, his casual observations and delivery matching the dogs looks so well. Yes, there are moments where they try a little too hard, but overall the family friendly themes will be a welcome sight.

And for the older audience members, be ready for some powerful punches to the feelings with this movie.  A Dog’s Purpose is filled to the brim with moments that will have many tearing up, primarily at just how much these four legged friends do for us.  The messages in this film hit hard thanks to the visual and audio editing, the scenes design to capture the raw emotion behind the dog’s eyes.  Yet, even Gad’s dialogue gets the water works rolling, not only for the wisdom they share in those words, but also in how well it matches my vision of how a dog would speak.  A Dog’s Purpose certainly has the emotionally fluffiness you would expect, however there are some limitations we must address.

 

DISLIKES:

  • The imbalance of stories/Simplicity
  • Dennis Quaid as the selling point
  • Depressing

 

Summary:  Okay, so did I really think this tale was going to be a deep well of twists, turns, and surprises?  The answer is no. However, I had hoped that such a straightforward tale would have had a little more balance to the mix.  A Dog’s purpose is told in four tales that turn out to be one full circle (which is cool), however there was an imbalance in how much they spent on each story and their purposeThe first tale about Bailey gets the greatest emphasis (and time), building up the relationship between man and dog.  However, the other tales are far less developed, much more rushed in terms of character building with a focus on fun and quick lessons.  Don’t get me wrong, these stories do have a place, I just expected more contributions from these parts based on the trailer.  I also expected Dennis Quaid to have a bigger role, but the “legendary” actor is surprisingly simple in the grand scheme of the movie.  His fans shouldn’t expect much from him in this movie, as his part is reduced to maybe fifteen minutes of a quick wrap up to what could have been a deep relationship.

Yet the biggest dislike for me in this movie, is how depressing it can be at times.  We all know this movie was going to have tearful moments (again see the trailer), but never did I expect to see so much suffering and detailed scenes of the dog passing.  A Dog’s Purpose will certainly get animal activists screaming, for the directors decided that in order to deliver the full emotional effect, you had to see them suffer or die on screen.  If you can’t handle seeing this amount of detail on screen, then skip this film. The after effect of the scene will linger for a bit, but the cuteness and happy themes eventually return.  However, I’m not the biggest fan of a dog death scene, let alone three of them.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

A Dog’s Purpose is indeed one of the most emotional movies of the year. It is certainly one of the best portrayals of an ideal relationship between man and dog, and will have many families laughing at the cute antics at hand.  But don’t let the puppy faces and Josh Gad fool you, as this movie has many depressing moments of abuse and death to get your anger boiling.  Overall the story has much to teach, but don’t let the promise of Dennis Quaid, four dogs, and the cuteness fool you into thinking this is a perfect story.  Yet despite all the hate this movie is getting, it’s still a decent drama overall that doesn’t drift too far into what I call soap opera territory.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Honestly I would say hold out for home, but if you want to see this make sure your family is prepared for the depression at hand. 

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Comedy/Drama: 7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

 

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The Final Chapter Shakes Up The Action!

resident-evil-7

In 1996, Sony unleashed its survival based horror Resident Evil onto the world, bringing the zombie virus era to the modern age.  Then in 2002, Hollywood tried to ride the coattails of success with the first movie starring Milla Jovovich as the special agent Alice.  Fifteen years later, and a lot of painstaking story lines, the final chapter has arrived promising action, death, and a whole lot of special effects.  Robbie K here, ready to review another movie and give you some insight into what “horrors” enter the theater.  Let’s get started, shall we?

LIKES:

  • Story comes full circle
  • Nostalgia
  • Action

Summary: Alright the story isn’t the best, but after six installments you hope for a decent ending to all the madness.  The Final Chapter delivers on the promise of closing the story and tying up many of the loose ends we’ve been having for the last decade and a half.  What’s even more entertaining about the story though is how much nostalgia the directors left in the post-apocalyptic wake.  Fans of the first movie will certainly enjoy many of the old rooms and traps laced in the hive, while game fans will enjoy some references to some of the most sinister creatures to inhabit the virtual world. This nostalgia helps add a little more enjoyment to the mix, giving a little complexity to an otherwise simple movie.

Hands down though, the action is the selling point of the movie.  The Final Chapter is nonstop, over the top, chaos involving a bunch of animated/made up extras getting beaten the nearly unstoppable Alice. Resident Evil’s notorious fast martial arts meets guns and chains continues full force, pulling out all the special effects to make it the biggest bang of the bunch.  A few of these moments are quite impressive, and most likely amped up in 3-D, and seeing Milla continue to punish the uncredited cast is always thrilling to see.

DISLIKES:

  • Plot holes/Rushed Simplicity
  • Predictable
  • Cheesy at Times
  • The Awful Camera Direction

Summary: Yes, the plot comes full circle, but the writers really botched some of the plot points on this one. The writers must have felt pressured to get the script done, because plot feels very botched together, primarily seen in the random jumping points that often serve as a fast forward.  Much of the story is a very diluted tale of vengeance, with a few twists being thrown in to try and mix things up.  Unfortunately, these twists are mostly predictable, and the formulaic elimination of characters (commonly seen in this series) is just as linear as they always have been, while also feeling sometimes out of place.

Yet we know the story isn’t always the strongest aspect of the Resident Evil series.  So, let’s pick out some of the limitations of the heart pumping, out of control action we’ve come to love in this series.  First off, the stunts get a little cheesy at times, stretching Alice’s abilities to superhero qualitiesIf that weren’t enough, a few of these battles feel out of place, added only to fill as much time with action sequences than necessary.  But it’s the prolonged, beat someone to a pulp scene that are the most pointless of the mix and gets old after the third reiteration. However, the worst quality of the movie is the camera work.  When Alice and company aren’t fighting for survival in the post-apocalyptic world, the camera is surprisingly stable.  Yet, the minute the action starts, thing go crazy and not in a good way.  Imagine giving a five-year-old a camera, giving them caffeine and sugar to work up a frenzy, and then giving that five-year-old editing rights and you get something to describe the work. Resident Evil 7’s action sequences involve the camera constantly shifting perspectives, in a dizzying array that really adds little other than annoyance and perhaps nausea.  Why they chose this direction?  I can’t answer this, but this reviewer was not impressed with the cinematography of the film.

The Verdict:

 

Resident Evil 7 does the job of wrapping up the series (maybe) by answering many of the questions we’ve had.  While the story is simplistic, and some of the major resolutions anticlimactic, most should be okay with it if it means getting your action on.  Those looking to see Alice tear a new one with over the top scenes and CGI will not be disappoint, assuming you can get past the chaotic camera work.  I would say this one would be worth a theater trip because for the special effects, however with the cinematography I can’t say for certain.  However, fans of the series are encouraged to scope it out to get the finish to years long journey.     

 

Action/Sci-Fi/Horror:  7.0

Movie Overall: 5.5

Xander Returns To Thin Plot and Over The Top Stunts

xxx

 

Lights, Camera, Action!  The last statement in particular is what my next review is all about.  You may remember back in the day when Vin Diesel took the spotlight as Xander Cage, the action daredevil turned secret agent to take out terrorists.  The movie was about bringing extreme stunts into a spy world to create an action-packed spy thriller.  Despite releasing a failing sequel about ten years ago, Hollywood still hasn’t given up on this series. That’s right as you can read, my review is on XXX: The Return of Xander Cage.  What lies in store for this film?  Robbie K is happy to answer that question with another review.  So, let’s get started my friends!

 

LIKES:

  • Comedic at parts
  • Nostalgic references
  • Action Packed

 

I know, comedy is not what you expect in this film, but give me a break there isn’t much to this film.  Xander Cage brings his wise-guy quips back into the works from insulting authority to playing verbal assault tennis with terrorists.  Some of the dialogue is well timed and a great laugh to ease up the tension, which helps add some entertainment to the mix.  Past the minor comedic stunts though, this third installment has plenty of nostalgia to bring you longtime fans back into the series.  Whether it’s a simple line or a very familiar stunt, Xander Cage’s latest adventure will more than fill you in on everything leading up to this point, while providing more laughs.

However, the biggest selling point of the move (to no surprise) is the action of the film.  This film is all about the flashy bangs, choreographed fights, and over the top stunts that will rock any action junkie’s world. Much of these stunts are physics defying sequences that we fantasize about, but it doesn’t make the flashiness any less impressive.  Xander and his team will bring a little bit of everything into the mix, which is sure to entertain many who love Diesel’s franchises.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable story/Dropped the Spy aspect
  • Pressured Comedy
  • Didn’t utilize the team aspect as much
  • Action crosses over into cheesiness

 

No surprise, the story of Xander Cage has not gotten any deeper.  The movie’s plot is very thin to say the least, and despite trying to add a few twists to the mix, there is very little one can’t see coming.  As an added (disappointing) bonus, the directors’ decision to substitute plot for action resulted in the spy aspect crashing like one of the stunt cars.  If you liked the intelligence gathering of the first movie, sorry, but that ship has sailed for poorly constructed villains and an equally cheesy plan.  Another let down pertaining to the plot, is how little the other characters were utilized.  Oh sure, there are a few of the elite team that get there moment in the sun (characters played by Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, and Ruby Rose), but the other “elite” warriors were reduced to very shallow roles of idiotic flipping, random stunt show offs, and forced comedy.  The latter in particular was hard to stomach, as the writers got a little zealous in trying to get a laugh that is become more annoying than entertaining.  Finally, despite the action being awesome at many points, it is also very unrealistic at the same time. Remember those incredibly cheesy stunts in Furious 7?  XXX amplifies that factor times ten, with mediocre animation and stunts that will make you roll your eyes.  But hey it still has the excitement you could be craving.

 

The Verdict:

 

Bottom line, XXX: Return of Xander Cage is a simplistic, unbalanced, high-adrenaline movie that will provide a good laugh and some thrills.  It is a shame they scrapped the spy aspect and essentially grated the story, but hey it gives you that action packed punch we’ve been craving.  So therefore, if you can swallow the ridiculous, sometimes ill-timed, stunt sequences, corny jokes, and forced action, then check this movie out for the theater worthy special effects.  However, in all reality, this review suggests skipping this film and catching something else instead. 

 

My scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Thriller: 6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

Shyamalan’s latest Movie Is Not A Splitting Headache

split

 

No please not that, anything but that!  This might be the screams you hear when another M. Night Shyamalan film rolls into theaters.  The man who started out so strong, only to fall so far has tried his luck at horror once more in the featured film Split starring James McAvoy.  Will a movie about split personalities kidnapping girls be the step he needs to climb back to top notch director, or will his movie be laughable at best?  Robbie K here with yet another review, and as always I appreciate your reads.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKE:

  • Creepy kind of horror
  • Decent plot to keep it interesting
  • Complex morals
  • James McAvoy

 

Summary:

Fans of my reviews know creepy horror is better for me than jump scares, and Split is a prime example of spine-tingling chills.  Shyamalan and his crew get incredible effects from such simple tactics, using isolation, subtle piano background music, and gradual information revelation to keep you in suspense.  By using a believable human as the monster instead of some cheesy creature, the creeps are only further amplified by how horrible such a thing can be.

 

But scares alone don’t make a movie and Split does a decent job of crafting a tale to keep you hooked into the movie.  While certainly not original, Split’s plot is a culmination of smaller stories that detail the background info of a majority of our characters, helping to develop them in the short run time.  All of these tales have a moral twist to it, but one story in particular raises an intriguing concept that may provide some food for thought, or at least an ethical dilemma for future talks.

 

However, the piece de resistance is the leading actor James McAvoy who carries much of the movie.  The man can play multiple personalities well, tweaking his mannerisms and dialogues in subtle ways to craft an entirely different identity. His talents, as well as the direction, kept all his characters in the realistic zone, which while creepy, also made engaging characters to grab on to. There are few actors to which I could see doing the spectacular job he did.

 

DISLIKE:

  • Predictable Story
  • Trailer has shown much
  • Don’t see all the personalities
  • Mixed on the ending

 

Summary:

Despite the story being very well-developed for a horror story, it also isn’t the most unique either. Outside of the twenty-three-personality quirk, you can guess much of the backstory of each character and where the film is going by about the 30-minute mark. Part of the predictability can be attributed to the trailer revealing a lot of key details in the short collection of scenes, including the big revelation at the end.

 

The trailer also harbors on the twenty-three personalities, but in reality, it’s more like four with a few cameos from the others.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (as too many personalities could be very sloppily done), it also was a wasted gimmick. What do I mean by this confusing statement?  I mean, why make twenty-three, instead of say ten, or even five? What was the significance of twenty-three outside of a nickname if you weren’t going to integrate all of them?  This dislike comes from the trailer’s focus on high number only to once again let it fizzle out.  And as for the ending, it’s a very open-ended finale that leaves a lot of questions up in the air.  Perhaps the potential sequel will answer these components, but only time will tell.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Split, to my surprise, was much better than I thought and was a horror movie worthy of the franchise.  If you are looking for realistic chills, a satisfying plot, and fantastic acting of someone with a mental health disorder then certainly check this movie out.  In fact, in regards to the horror genre I would warrant this movie earns a trip to the theater.  However, as a movie overall, it still has its shortcomings, especially in regards to the twenty-three-personality gimmick.  Yet one thing is for certain, if Shyamalan can continue this trend he may fall back into the favorable director field once more.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Thriller: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Had No Problems Sleeping Through This Movie

sleepless

 

Crime Thrillers seem to be the rage this weekend, as this is my third movie with the genre tag to review.  My latest review is on Sleepless starring Jamie Foxx. From the trailers, this film looks like a mash up of Triple 9 with Taken, and perhaps with a lower budget. Can the man of many talents make this movie, or is it just another knock off meant to take our money.  Robbie K here and as always please read on for my input on the latest films to hit the silver screen.

 

LIKES:

  • Complicated Crime Story
  • Michelle Monaghan’s dynamic character
  • Humorous

 

Summary: For those worrying about this being another mindless action flick, you have nothing to worry about.  Sleepless is more convoluted relationships and chasing rabbit holes than anything else.  Much of the story centers on trying to uncover the truth behind a massive drug dispensing ring and who the true leader is.  There is not much more I can say past this simplistic plot, but this predictable theme remains constant throughout the entire tale.  In fact, the only good thing past this simplicity is Michelle Monaghan’s character, a very passionate (and obsessive) cop caught between a lot of rocks and hard places.  Her fiery determination, single minded sense of justice, and act first ask later attitude adds the needed excitement to this otherwise bland tale.  And the movie is surprisingly humorous, though how much is on purpose vs. accidental remains to be seen.  Much of the movie has very “silly” moments that had me   laughing by how cheesy and out of place it was (e.g. random people showing up, surprisingly bright dealers forgetting to check things, and a seemingly endless supply of ammunition). These ridiculous notions made a targeted serious movie, end up an indirect comedy for this reviewer.

 

DISLIKES

  • Gets stale quickly
  • Dropped concepts that don’t work
  • Action nothing like Taken
  • Lacked a uniform direction

 

Summary: As I mentioned earlier, Sleepless main theme is walking around a casino trying to find the goodsThis endless game of hide and go seek the drug got old fast, as a giant bag full of cocaine continued to disappear despite all the high technology and hired help.  Watching Foxx and the rest of the cast go in endless circles lost its entertainment value quickly, and lacked very little suspense.  In addition, much of the concepts they highlighted in the trailers did not last long in this movie, which was very disappointing to say the least.  The whole kidnap the kid and try to find him was over in five minutes, and the rest of the drama was very lackluster compared to the other films I saw this weekend. An even bigger disappointment was the lack of real action in this movie, a big selling point promoted in the trailers.  Surprise, surprise, the action is diluted down to a few staged fist fights and a little shoot out that won’t be high on the most thrilling fights listFor this reviewer, all these shortcomings came from what seemed a lack of direction in what type of movie they wanted.  Instead of an epic action movie with a crime theme, we got a circular tale where nothing was really accomplished until the final ten minutes.  This my friends is the biggest shortcoming of the film, and the missed potential it held.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Sleepless certainly doesn’t live up to its name, as I found myself fighting sleep from the boredom I had watching this tale.  Outside a convoluted crime ring, and some humorous antics, this movie did not deliver the thrills it set its sights on.  If you’re looking for a gory, adventure where we walk around a fancy casino, then check this movie out, but this reviewer encourages you to save the time (and money) by skipping this movie.  I can maybe suggest if for Netflix, but even that is a bit of a stretch for this movie for me. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime/Thriller: 4.0

Movie Overall:  4.0

Doesn’t Live To It’s Full Potential

live-by-night

 

Gangster movies have been a major component to American cinema for quite some time. With established films like The Godfather series, Scarface, among other films, sometimes it can be hard to produce a quality modern day crime film. But Ben Affleck has made an attempt this weekend with the movie Live by Night. Can Affleck’s recent resurgence revitalize the gang movie, or does his operation go belly up before it gets started?  Robbie K here with another review and as always appreciate the read.

 

LIKES:

  • Solid acting
  • Incredible Setting and Costumes
  • Very Detailed Description of a mob rising

 

Summary: Affleck’s stoic, monotone, performances continue to find footholds in a variety of parts, and his portrayal of a gangster with a conscience is spot on.  Although not the most emotionally dynamic character, Affleck’s tactics work in portraying a man struggling with the trials at hand. Chris Messina as his sidekick has more of an edge that helps offset the monotone delivery of the lead role. Other actors do their job of crafting the seedy mob family, being cunning, ruthless, or strong to accomplish their goals.  If the acting doesn’t sell the gangster setting than the costumes and scenery will do the trick. Live by Night uses the big budget of the film industry to recreate the roaring 20s, complete with old fashioned zoot suits, classic car models, and the nostalgic traditional models of high-end restaurants.  I felt I had traveled back in time in this flick, with only the high definition cameras and a recognition of modern day fabric to shatter the illusion.  Finally, the other component that sells the crime theme is the attention to detail of starting a crime syndicate.  Most other crime movies often have our character in an established family, but Live By Night twists this concept and casts Affleck into raising a satellite family in Florida.  Much of the film is focuses on how he establishes business contracts, allies, love, occasionally throwing in some conflict resolution that brings a little excitement to the film.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Slow pace
  • Awkward Summaries
  • Boring At times
  • Rushed over ending

 

Summary: Although some of my favorite mafia movies don’t have action, they at least have an engaging plot that is suspenseful.  Not the case for this movie. Live by Night is slow, often paying a little too much attention to monotonous details for building the empire.  The film tried to build the suspense with their overdone explanations that promised some heart crushing moments… only to wrap things up with a monologue from Affleck describing what happened.  These mundane, overlapping comments did little for me other than decrease the run time of the movie and I was disappointed at the lack of effort for drama.  The result for me was a very boring film not only in terms of action, but in emotional suspense as well.  If you look at the classics, the storytellers built up tension that climaxed at those gut-wrenching moments as a character was killed.  However in this film, they seldom came close to matching that suspense, the only exception being two moments near the end of the film. And speaking of the ending… it felt out of place for me.  Live By nights “exciting” climax has a heated battle that fits well into the theme of the movie, but finally relieves the boring moments.  Had they ended with the monologue after that it would have been perfect.  Yet, the movie didn’t stop and added an extra twenty minutes that summed things up, but in a manner that to me was very simplistic, rushed, and lackluster. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Live by Night is a gangster movie that felt more like a video guide to starting a bootlegging operation.  It certainly has the look and feel of a gangster movie, complete with family drama, but it lacks that edge the mobster classics had.  Outside of a few moments, this movie was a little toned down for my tastes, and I didn’t like the monologue summaries as they robbed us of some exciting conclusions.  Therefore, this reviewer can’t recommend this movie for the theater outside of the look of the movie. 

 

My scores are:

 

Crime Drama: 6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Let Patriotic Pride Ring

patriots-day

 

Mark Wahlberg and disaster movies seem to go hand and hand these days and this weekend brings the latest installment in his library.  Today I got to see Patriots Day, a movie that dramatizes the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013.  Like all disaster movies, it holds the promise for inspiring the audience or stirring up emotion.  But has Hollywood hit its saturation point?  Hi Robbie K here, with a new abbreviated review of Patriots Day.  Let’s get started

 

LIKES:

  • Very Detailed
  • Good visual/audio techniques
  • Emotionally strong movie

 

Summary:  When it comes to historical movies we like details and Patriots Day does not fall short in portraying this tragic event.  From the bombings to the manhunt, you get to see the thrilling, and sometimes chilling, journey to bring the case to a close. The movie shows the events from the perspectives of many involved including victims, cops, and the terrorists themselves.  An even more impressive twist is the smooth integration of real life security clips that helps keep the facts in check, while also showing the inspiration of the movie.  When you take these clips, and mix them with the movie magic of scene and music editing, you get incredibly powerful scenes that are certain to inspire you.  I agree with the trailers that Patriots Day is one of the most emotional stirring pieces to grace the silver screen this year.  So many sequences promote the concepts of uniting in the face of danger, perseverance of spirit, and American pride.  It had many in my viewing sniffling and certainly got some goosebumps going in this reviewer.  Therefore, Patriots Day editing is certainly the selling point of this movie.

 

DISLIKES  

  • Movie magic overdramatizes
  • Some editing issues
  • May poke some snakes

 

Summary: As seen many times in Hollywood, the magic of the cinema sometimes steps into overdramatic role.  Patriots Day, despite how emotionally stirring it is, does cross into preachy side at times. While it certainly is inspiring, much of the ending moments (primarily the dialogue) is geared towards American pride that may be seen as boastful.  In addition, some people may not appreciate the portrayal of the various characters, perhaps thinking they were too extreme in their renditions.  Yes, some of the audience said this during the movie.  But outside of overdramatic moments and extreme portrayals, the only other component for me was some of the editing lapses in the movie.  There are certain scenes that attempt to show some of the background info on the characters (e.g. dating, guys getting high on weed, etc) which were certainly entertaining or aggravating.  However, these moments were either not timed right, or more often not needed for me to get the emotional kick of the movie.  And to be honest, most of these clips do extend the cast’s screen time.

 

The Verdict:

Patriots Day is a movie that will bring some sort of emotion to most audience members.  The detail is fantastic and makes you feel a part of the team in this epic manhunt, establishing that rage to capture the bad guys.  The special effects and audio score will only deepen your immersion into the story.  However, be ready for some political discussions and potential airing of grievances when you see the very extreme portrayals in this movie. Overall though, this movie is a solid opening to the year and a welcome break up from the mundane.

 

My scores:

 

Drama/History/Thriller:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0