It’s The Circle of Dull! Yet Politically Smashing

The circle

 

Robbie K back, after being off the grid for a week.  Tonight’s review is on the latest “dystopian” feature film called The Circle.  Former Hermione Granger, and more recently Belle, Emma Watson leads the film as she attempts to take us into the workings of a technological conglomerate who has knowledge as its key principle.  Yet the trailers paint a much darker secret hidden in its stony walls, one that promises to be a real nail biter.  Will this movie deliver those thrills, or are we stuck with another wash out?  I’ll do my best to answer that question, so sit back, and please read my latest thoughts.

 

LIKES:

 

  • Nice tool development
  • Emma Watson
  • Culturally Relevant Film
  • Solid Moral Lesson

 

Summary:  We all know technology is becoming the heart of the world, if not already the heart of this country.  And certainly, we all know that these technological marvels often require laborious development and maintenance to get the bugs out.  The Circle portrays this very well, helping to develop the very tool that we all love.  Throughout the journey, you’ll get to see the development of the two-faced beast that is technology, and how it requires tweaking to get just “right”.  Not the highest selling point for a movie, but pretty cool.

 

Of course, we all know many are going to go for the lovely Ms. Watson, to support the super actress they adore.  Good news, Watson does a solid job holding up most of the movie, as she is primary the only main character of the film. Watson brings her charm to the screen once more, portraying intelligence, fortitude and inspiration in a manner that many will latch on to. Her accent is pretty sound (though it fluctuates at times), but she manages to deliver her lines with a decent balance of emotion, to sell her points… most of the time.

 

Yet the biggest strength of these movies is how culturally relevant it is to the audience.  If you didn’t gleam it from the trailers, The Circle is essentially a modernized version of the novel 1984 that once more addresses the issues of control, life sharing, and privacy.  The film is certainly very political, but has a number of powerful lessons to teach about the place of technology and how easily it can be twisted. I myself liked the comments from Emma’s followers, a fantastic representation of the shallow, superficial, and often selfish focus that the internet provides.  The scenes are well developed to deliver the full emotional punch, which while not the most unique, can really shock you to the core at how true it can be.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Cheesy acting at times
  • Other actors diluted
  • Missed character development
  • Ignorant/Idiotic moments
  • Lack of Suspense

 

Summary:  Despite Watson’s strong performance, she is involved in some overly cheesy moments. On many of the emotionally heated moments, she loses her balance and stretches into the overdramatic region, losing her accent and dialogue forte in the process. But even her worst acting doesn’t hold a candle to some of the supporting characters who give either emotionally dull deliveries or lackluster performances.  These moments are noticeable enough to offset the momentum of the movie, and derailing it from the quality the trailers promised.

 

An even worse quality for me was how the other actors of the star-studded cast were reduced to simplistic roles.  Legends like Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt and even the late Bill Paxton are reduced to very linear roles, with little character development or expansion beyond what you’ve seen in the trailer.  With such a strong cast, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the missed potential of this movie and how much this all-star cast could have done to amp up the quality of this movie.

 

Even worse, some of the characters, primarily Emma Watson’s character, become so blindly ignorant that the intelligence they worked so hard building is diluted to an idiotic level.  As a result, I found myself starting to loathe the character and how 180 they took the character. Yes, I understand the premise behind the movie, but it didn’t work for me. Other characters also fell into this mix as well, each built to have this incredible skill that was either not used or rapidly reversed to make the characters seem weak.

 

Yet the most disappointing aspect of this movie…is the lack of suspense. The trailer made this film out to be a mystery meeting dystopian policing. Not the case at all. The Circle has no mystery, laying all the facts on the table and leaving little to be uncovered.  You would think there would be intense moments of espionage, or policing by superiors to build up excitement, right? Sorry, this film doesn’t have that either, with the “exciting climax” not showing up until the last twenty minutes of the movie.  As such, the movie is pretty dull and lacks the entertainment quality you might have been seeking.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Circle is indeed a “scary” film, but it’s mainly due to the reality check provides concerning the dangers technology can provide.  This strong message is certainly the strongest aspect of the movie and Emma Watson was a fantastic choice to deliver it.  Unfortunately, the weak characters, diluted roles, and lack of suspense took away from the entertainment quality of the movie.  Such a dull delivery, leaves me recommending this one for renting at home, or at least recommending you read the book (or books) it is based on.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

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Fate Smiles On Eight!

Fate of the furious

 

A couple of years ago, we had what we thought was the final chapter of the Fast and Furious legacy, ending with the montage of the fallen hero Paul Walker.  Sadly, it seems that the cinema world can’t let it go, and thus comes the subject of my latest review Fate of The Furious (or Fast 8 for short). After the fake, ridiculous of number 7 (minus the ending), I can’t say I was happy from the trailers for this film and how it looked even cheesier.  What is my verdict?  Read on to find out my friends.

 

LIKES:

  • Action more controlled
  • Comedy stays strong
  • Soundtrack
  • Story Is Much Better

 

Summary:  If you remember Furious 7, you remember how over the top the stunts were and the sheer ridiculous factor they had (e.g. superhuman feats, near invincibility, invulnerable cars). Fortunately, Fast 8 toned the action back to the baseline ridiculous of this action franchise, keeping things reeled in to a point of somewhat believability.  While this may tone down the action somewhat, this installment still packs plenty of punch with diverse sequences including: drag racing, gun play, martial arts, and of course car combat.  It’s suspenseful, it’s fun, and at times it is really funny, providing that popcorn flick entertainment value you like.  In addition, the stellar soundtrack contains both musical scores and music that fit well with the movie, (I myself enjoyed a few original R&B/rap songs near the end of the film).

Speaking of funny, Fast 8 doesn’t hold back on the comedic antics that the second film brought. Dwayne Johnson interjects his brand of corny insults and tough talk, establishing a banter rivalry with Jason Statham, who not only has a few clever quips, but finally redeems his pitiful character in this film.  Yet the main source of laughs comes from Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris. This comedic duo performs plenty of stunts, deliver plenty of well-written insults, and put their foots in their mouths so many times to keep you chuckling through the entire film. All of the laughs keep things light and relieve the tension to help ground the film into a PG-13 environment.

            Hands down though, is the improvement over the story.  Fast 8 reaches back into its roots for our plot, bringing back the character development and crime element of the film that started it all.  Dom’s tale of deceit throws plenty of nostalgic shade at our leading hero, including some unexpected twists that help tie together SOME of the loose ends. Fans will find plenty of emotion in this film, and hopefully will enjoy the action built around the plot (instead of the other way around). In addition, the fact that Statham’s character is released in this film (making the plot of seven almost useless) was a good thing for all the redemption they brought with his character.  I give the group applause for the improved story element, despite how bad it looked in the trailers (guess you can’t judge a movie by its trailer…sometimes).

 

DISLIKES:

  • Still ridiculous at times
  • Some Cameos not worth it
  • Editing Still needs some work
  • There is going to be a number 9

Summary: Let’s face it, this installment is famous for how ridiculous Hollywood special effects teams want to push the limits of cars.  Fast 8 does not escape this curse, for it is still filled with absolutely hilarious (though somewhat impressive) stunts.  I don’t wish to reveal too much, but let’s just say the submarine racing them isn’t the most ludicrous thing you’ll see, nor the biggest stretch (bad guys can’t seem to aim) of the imagination. Still it is an improvement over 7.

As I said earlier, Fast 8 has some twists you might not see coming, which leads to some unexpected cameos (unless you look at the cast list cheaters!). Some these moments are impressively, or spot on timed to maximize their appearance.  Yet there are others that were wasted and could have greatly been expanded upon to further amplify their involvement. I can’t say much, but I will admit that almost all the guest appearances held pertinence to the story, they just needed more time.

Yet the biggest flaw is still the editing of the films. Fast 8 may have lots of excitement to keep the movie going, but there are plenty of moments that could have been left for the directors’ cut.  A random cousin at the beginning for an almost pointless race, an overdramatic taunt that gets lost in the scheme of the movie, and even a few punch fests just weren’t needed.  In addition, some of the characters felt a little robbed, until that one factor comes in where they are needed.  These sloppy moments feel disjointed, unnecessary, and dilute the story into those eye-rolling moments that could have been so much better.  Perhaps these moments will be strengthened in the next movie, which is a strong hint to come (a shame compared to how well this movie could have tied things up).

 

The Verdict:

 

      Overall, this reviewer liked Fast 8 much better than Furious 7.  With a much better story (strengthening the limitations of its predecessor), toned down stunts, and an atmosphere that feels much like the earlier installments, this movie is a step in the right direction for the impending sequels to come.  Yet, it still doesn’t reach the balance some of the previous films have.  The editing and character balance still needs some work so that all the characters feel absolutely necessary instead of convenient.  Still, it is a worthy theater film, and will provide the aisle stomping entertainment you are looking for. Let’s hope “Fate” smiles on the next sequels to come from this series…and hope they can keep the momentum going.

 

Action/Crime/Thriller:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

 

 

Going Back To Traditional Style

Going in style

 

The age of comedy has certainly changed over the years, transitioning from the classic slapstick to a simpler, straightforward approach that today’s youth loves. Yet, every once in a while, the legends from the past return in an attempt to bring some whit back to the silver screen.  Tonight, my friend and I head back into the trenches of the local theater to give some insight into Going in Style starring the legendary trio of Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

  • Classic comedy
  • Good chemistry between actors
  • Cute
  • Nicely tied together story

Summary: If the intro didn’t spoil it for you, Going in Style is true to its name, as the trio brings the classic comedy back into style.  Fans of the slapstick of yore are going to bust a gut at this film as the timeless styles of the leads continue to shine bright. Caine and Freeman have comedic timing and delivery down, with clever lines craftily intertwined in the serious dialogue that put today’s writing to shame.  Arkin on the other hand is all about the banter and complaining, which for the most part is balanced and well-placed. The trio have great chemistry together, and sell that they are best friends who have faced the challenge called life.  They sell the struggles and praise the joys, and do it with such class and minimizing the stupid, mindless banter famous today. And in addition to being funny, the lack of crude comedy also makes this movie cute. Watching older men trying to rob a bank, while also getting their lives in order makes for an adorable adventure as my friend commented.  Of course, this reviewer likes a story to his comedy, and Going in Style gets this right too.  It’s a hardy story for most ages, and one that won’t have the older audience members shaking their heads in shame.  This may also surprise you, but there were a couple of twists that fooled me, which isn’t easy in the comedy genre. 

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Depressing at times
  • Old jokes get a bit stale

Summary:  With a simple story as this, it’s not surprising that much of the story is predictable. Given the theme of the movie, you should be able to predict most of the ending, and certainly can guess where things are going to go wrong.  Therefore, the uniqueness of this movie takes a hit in the story department. And no surprise, the comedy is also predictable and therefore loses the comedy edge they wanted to deliver…at least to me. While the trailers do promote the more fun atmosphere of the movie, don’t let it fool you that it is all happiness and rainbows (that’s the Smurfs!).  Going in style emphasizes the end of life generation, highlighting the less than glorious problems of getting older. Thank goodness for the consistent comedy, because otherwise this could have been a much harder movie to watch.

Of all the comedy this movie has in its folds, they certainly stuck with the old theme of this movie.  Positives, there are plenty of quips and class to the punches they throw. Bad news, the quips get older than the actors delivering them.  How many insults about difficulties getting up can you make, or metaphors for being poor and not having a check.  It’s good political awareness (nice work there writers), but it would have been nice for a little more variety to work its way into the vaudeville.

 

The VERDICT:

Going in Style is one of the classier, wittier comedies to end up in the theater this year.  Both this reviewer and his friend, enjoyed the trade of simplistic one-liners and innuendos for a less aggressive comedy style that shows the traditional style has not been lost quite yet.  Despite the trade up though, the movie is still very predictable and simplistic enough to still be stuck in the mediocre territory.  As much fun as I had in the movie, there isn’t much to warrant it for a movie theater visit, unless you are a fan of the traditional comedy and looking for a fun group/date movie.  My friend though gives this movie three thumbs up and states it is an entertaining, fun flick that will keep you laughing. 

My scores are:

Comedy/Crime: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

La, La, La, La, La, La: Singe A Family Friendly Animation Song

Smurfs

 

La La La La La La, sing a happy song!  It’s an intro will never forget for not only its ability to get stuck in my head, but also for the show it represents.  The Smurfs’ legacy has extended over the decades into a plethora of forms primarily in the TV shows and movies of the 80s. After a six-year hiatus from the live action movies, the blue creatures return to the silver screen to try to regain footing.  Will the new style work, or does it fall much like the character Clumsy Smurf? Robbie K here with a review on the Smurfs: The Lost Village. Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

  • Animation style works
  • Feels like a Smurfs Adventure
  • Surprisingly emotions
  • Soundtrack

 

Summary: When I saw the trailers for this film, I had my doubts after seeing the definition the live action movies did.  Fortunately, the animation works and feels more Smurf like than the previous movies. Our cast of blue minis has fluid movement and style that is representative of the classic series, as the colorful world and all its creatures pop in the same happy, righteous style they capture all those years ago.  However, the animation is not the only thing that represents the classic style.  The adventure of Lost Village is representative of the classic Smurfs cartoon, filled with epic silliness and kid friendly action for all to enjoy.  Much of the audience targeted by this film, will enjoy all the quirky jokes and simplistic scenes, sure to feel their hearts fill with joy at all the happiness packed in this movie.  This movie isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, as the film has a little more emotional punch than I expected, with a few sequences well-crafted to derail the ecstasy this movie elates.  And if all that isn’t enough to convince you the movie is fun, then the soundtrack will certainly bring this point home.  You will certainly find the musical numbers full of energy and may find yourself dancing in your seat…like me. Not the most unique, but the tracks picked for this film are quite perfect for the scene and would be one CD to pick up.

 

DISLIKES

  • Rushed at times
  • Lost Potential
  • Anticlimactic Ending
  • Gargamel not as funny

 

Summary:  Smurfs adventures have never been long, but when in cartoon series form you had plenty of episodes to tell a complete story. Not the case for this film.  Sure, they wrap up a lot of the ties, but many times the film seems rushed, leaving things underdeveloped in an attempt to cram everything into the short run timeWhile I give the editing props, I also sigh at the lost potential of this movie.  Lost Village does a nice job showing off the Forbidden Forest and giving us some unique flora and fauna to the world.  Yet, the trek could have had a few more obstacles for the heroes to challenge before getting to their goal.  Not that big a deal, okay how about the fact that some of your favorite Smurfs have been tossed to the secondary bin including Papa Smurf the legendary leader.  If that still isn’t enough, then how about the fact the new tribes of Smurf girls are very underdeveloped.  After a cool introduction and sweet styled montage, the girl Smurfs are almost as useless as Gargamel’s jokes.  No cool moves, no special magic, and almost very little importance to the plot, the girl Smurfs tribe really could have been taken further to make it worth all the casting they did for voices and the money they spent. And because of their minor involvement, and a predictable story line, the exciting climax at the end… was so climactic as it was an animated light show.  Had I not had to struggle through the forced comedy of Gargamel, that often devolved into mindless, one directional banter, that few above the age of seven will enjoy.  Really missed Hank Azaria’s delivery and writing on this one.

 

The Verdict:

 

The Smurfs Lost Village is a nice reintroduction of the gang back into the modern world with the feel, design, and energy the show always had. However, the lost potential, rushed development, and anticlimactic moments certainly took away from all the potential the movie could have brought.  Perhaps instead of a movie, the Smurfs should have been picked up by Netflix and the show restarted for the new generation of streamers.  Needless to say, this movie isn’t so much theater worthy (outside of music and animation) and would recommend waiting for this one to hit home.

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

This Film Is A Boss At Being Creative and Adorable

Boss Baby

 

He’s cute! He has got a big head! And he is in theaters this weekend.  He is the Boss Baby and his movie is the focus of this review.  Hi fans, Robbie K is back again with another review, and this time on the latest animation movie to hit the silver screen.  What does this animated feature film have in store?  I’m happy to share some thoughts on the subject, so why don’t we get started shall we?

 

LIKES:

  • Good animation
  • Cute
  • Unique Twist on a story
  • Incredibly Fun
  • Funny and Clever
  • Movie References

 

Summary:  As you saw in the trailers, Boss Baby is another example of how incredible our animation technology is and this time it is wrapped up in a cute as a button package.  This film may be one of the most adorable animation pieces to hit this year, and many will fall in love with the whimsical charm of this film.

Now that we have the obvious wrapped up let us get to the real gold of this film.  It’s difficult to find a unique twist on a story, but the risk taken with Boss Baby’s story was well executed.  The tale has many layers to it involving adapting to new family members, pursuit of your dreams, and of course what is better babies or puppies.  With surprising detail and character development, the story is very entertaining and fun as baby and brother try to stop the dastardly puppies from taking over.  And the best part is… the whole adventure is fun and fast paced, with seldom a boredom moment in this fast-moving flick.

Let’s hit the comedy now.  Boss Baby again excels in this aspect providing a variable mix of comedic styles to entertain all ages.  Young (and young at heart) will enjoy the simplistic comedy that involves the characters dropping mindless (meme-worthy) one liners, various screams of fear, and dopey run-ins with a wall.  The real comedic diamonds though are the cleverer puns, one-liners, and adult references hidden in this movie. Alec Baldwin’s sarcastic delivery and edginess worked for me, adding just the right touches to maximize the laughs.  Yet, I’m a sucker for all the movie references integrated into this plot and how key they were to the adventure.  And if you are nerd like me, you may get an extra thrill keeping your eye out for the next reference.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • A bit of a stretch
  • A little preachy at times
  • More Babycorp use
  • Better Editing

 

Summary:  Despite how much I enjoyed the story, much of it is still predictable. Boss Baby has some surprising twists, but no manner of fun, can hide the blatantly obvious ending that is to come.  While predictability is difficult to avoid, Boss Baby could have tidied things up a bit to give the finale a little more flare. In addition, they could have worked hard to not be so preachy near the end about the importance of family and all that lovey-dovey mush that animation films do all the time.

Let’s talk about some developmental issues I had with the movies.  First off, the movie has moments that are a bit of a stretch. Yes, I know this movie is ridiculous and a stretch to begin with, but hear me out.  Boss Baby’s adult cast are a bit idiotic at best, somehow not hovering over the newborns to hear them speaking. If that wasn’t enough, some of the more dangerous stunts involved were also not as “noticeable”, which after some point should have been discovered. Although fun, this ridiculousness didn’t fit so much into the grand scheme of the plot.

Next up is Babycorp, the organization the boss baby works for.  This large plot point has dramatic build up and gets a large sequence to explain the wonders of this magnificent corporation.  Yet after that, the film fails to deliver more on the potential plot points that could have come with it.  Had the trailers not built up the baby vs. puppy rivalry as they did, I could have let this go, but with all the advertising I would have liked to see more of this.

Finally, the editing of the movie.  Boss Baby has a lot of great parts that foster imagination, love, and all those positive qualities we love in an animated movie. However, much of these moments were not necessary, often just extending the run time under the guise of character development.  While I don’t think they needed to eliminate these parts (after all it is only 90 minutes), they certainly could have altered these scenes to be a little more relevant to the adventure.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Despite all the lower scores, Boss Baby was an entertaining spectacle that is fun, funny, and clever at many points. This movie is certainly adorable and is the perfect family film (for all ages) to hit the screen this year. Yes, it is simplistic and silly, and doesn’t have as much magic as a Disney film, but it’s nice to have unique, story that doesn’t involve making a political ordeal out of it.  This reviewer recommends this one for the theater for group outings and those with kids, but definitely check this one out when it hits homes.

 

My scores are:

Animation/Comedy/Family:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

Sci-Fi Thinker, Action Stinker

ghost in shell

 

Robbie K here, back with another review. This time we review the latest comic book inspired film ghost in a shell starring leading lady Scarlett Johansson as an “epic” cybernetic cop trying to stop terrorism.  With a large cult following, this movie certainly has a lot to live up to in terms of quality, and if you’re not familiar with the series than you are probably hoping action.  What is the verdict?  Please read on to hear my thoughts on the latest film.

 

LIKES:

  • Decent Sci-Fi Plot
  • Cool visuals
  • Nice character design
  • Okay acting

 

Summary:  I’ll lay it out now, I haven’t read nor seen any ghost in the shell media, so I can’t justify how it matches.  However, from a movie perspective, this film has a decent Sci-Fi plot that fits into the genre where anything can happen.  A dark plot about cybernetics, Ghost in The Shell again diverts from the fantasy train, and takes a more realistic (albeit theatrical) turn into science territory of humans becoming robots.  The more realistic plot is not much of a stretch and provides an ample medium to create awesome visuals to sell that realism.

And that, my friends, is the best part of this movie.  Ghost in the Shell’s visuals are impressive, overlaying futuristic advertising onto a real life setting that doesn’t look cheesy.  In all honesty, it is like taking a look at what Japan can look like in the future and how our desire to “progress” can ruin it.  Outside the city look, the characters themselves look like something out of a comic, each with a flare that scream Japanese animation.  While some looks are certainly worth a chuckle, a few characters like Major (Johansson) and Kuze (Michael Pitt) are well developed, looking sleek, deadly, or horrifying and standing out in terms of the realistic design you are seeking.

But while visuals are impressive, you also hope the actors can bring their characters to life in a way that will meet expectations.  Happy to say, the cast did a decent job in their goal, though again I’m uncertain how the characters are supposed to act having not read the comic.  If Major is supposed to be very monotone and hardly reactive, Johansson nails that approach, hardly diluting from the calm, stoic battle mode of the robotic assassin.  Pitt having to act like a tortured (albeit enlightened) terrorist wins points for gruesome tactics, prolonged speeches, and many other things that a cyberterrorist is expected to have.  The rest of the cast is decent, but we have limited space and more to cover, so let’s wrap and say the rest aren’t bad given their little screen time.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Little involvement with other characters
  • Plot is very predictable and dragged out
  • Action is sub-par most of the time

 

Summary:  My dislikes start with the lack of involvement in other characters.  Johansson carries most of the film as major, taking much of the screen time and stunts this movie requires.  Her team “helps” out at certain points, and her director certainly gets some good jabs in, but overall the other characters are almost pointless.  For being an elite team, Section 9’s agents did little to impress me and that team approach could have amped up the movie. This is especially true given how lackluster the plot was.  While realistic, Ghost In A Shell has little in terms of uniqueness to justify the nearly two hour run time.  Even if you haven’t read the books, the ending can be seen from a mile away and the delivery wasn’t spectacular enough to wait for (at least for me).  The dramatic flare and character development are certainly nice, don’t get me wrong on that, but the “exciting” climax I was waiting for just wasn’t there.

This brings me to the action component.  Ghost In the Shell was promoted as action packed and exciting, but for me it was mediocre at best.  A nice Matrix style opening shows promise for the movie, but it doesn’t take long for the stunts to be diluted to quick, unimpressive bouts that last mere minutes (if not seconds).  There is little challenge to the fights, and little technology used, which is disappointing given the movie is all about technology.  And after all the waiting you would think an epic fight at the end, but no, it’s just Johansson running from CGI bullets until a very dramatic finish occurs. This boring display of technology just made the nearly 2 hour run time seem worthless, given the promise the trailers made.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Ghost In The Shell is a visual display that certainly representative of its comic book origins. Unfortunately, outside of these impressive visual displays, the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to what I expected from the trailers. The story is mediocre and the execution is flawed, to promote a boring mess with only character development as its redeeming grace.  Despite the impressive design of the movie, this reviewer does not recommend this one for the theater, unless you go in with low expectations. Instead hold out for home rental and instead read the comic book it is based on. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime/Drama: 6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0