An Icon of Lost Potential

Emoji

 

In today’s world, the phone isn’t used quite as the inventors pictured, with actual calling being replaced by texting and snapchat.  But one item has been developed to replace the words that are too difficult to write: Emojis. In desperation, Sony has developed a film about these icons in an attempt to break the bank with another hit animated series.  Can they succeed, or will this movie be nothing but a bombardment of sad faced emojis?  Robbie K here to answer that question for you with another review.

 

LIKES:

 

The Animation:  You can say a lot of negative things about the movie, but one plus for this reviewer is the beautiful display Sony’s team has designed.  Like many movies, the characters move with fluid grace, transitioning through their adventure with little jumpiness.  High Five (James Corden) in particular has impressive moves, as having a hand expand beyond simple hand movements can be tricky business.  In addition, I enjoyed the visualization of the world within our phone, finding clever design in the development of the internal universes of each app (primarily Instagram’s frozen pictures).  I’ll admit, the characters aren’t realistic like Pixar, or even super creative design, but there is cleverness in the world itself.

 

It’s Cute:  When it comes to cartoons/animated marvels, the pendulum can swing to either side of the age spectrum.  Fear not those with little kids, this movie is certainly geared towards the younger side, filled to the brim with color, simplistic jokes, and over the top slapstick that will make many giggle.  Sure, there are a few drier jokes that adults will get, but for the most part this movie goes back to basics for family friendliness.  One won’t have to worry about inappropriate gestures or innuendos in this film.

 

The Morals:  Movies are a powerful tool to teach the lessons we humans are too ignorant to learn from mentors, school, and the quickly fading trend of reading.  Emoji’s movie solid lesson of being yourself and not conforming to the traditional ways is as good rehash of the traditional lesson.  Those who stand out from the norm will find great relevance to Gene (T.J. Miller)  and Jailbreak’s (Anna Faris) quest and most likely grab on to the characters.  It’s also always good to see a lesson in friendship as well, quoting the movie as “Better to have one good friend, than a bunch of fake fans followers”.  The strong emphasis on this will hopefully break through the persistent firewalls of your subconscious and get you contacting your buddies.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Story:  Despite the morals infused into the story, the overall quality of Gene’s tale is very basic at best.  The Emoji movie has little sustenance to it, diving more into cramming the jokes in the short run time. After all the world building I had hoped for a little more depth to navigating the apps, facing the dangers of the cyber terror that lurk in our phones. I wanted suspense! I wanted exploration of a selection of apps. I wanted an adventure that had a little more depth behind it. I got very little of that.  All the obstacles they faced were fairly easy to circumvent, and often not worth mentioning at how lame they were. Certainly, they did a few things right (Just Dance 4), but for the most part, it was a huge loss of potential at decoding the craziness of our obsession with phones.

 

Humor:  Humor can be fun when balanced, but unfortunately Emoji movie lacks that balance, once again swinging the pendulum to the younger audience.  Most of the jokes are very simple statements that lack any finesse, or decent delivery to maximize the laughs. Much of the humor is dry, and although has adult components, lacks that clever zing that other films/programs do. James Corden rectifies this a little with High Fives self-absorbed personality, but even his banter gets stale after a while.  With all of the comedians in this movie, I really had expected more of this movie, but again missed potential.

 

Boring: If you haven’t gleamed it from the first two categories, then this should sum this up, Emoji movie is boring. There is no suspense to the adventure, and let’s face it no point, to the challenges at hand.  I found myself looking at the clock wondering how much longer I had in the ridiculous presentation of smart phone gimmicks.  Cute is always great, but it is better left to YouTube and Kid shows that are in short spans of time. Without the jokes to back it up, nor an impressive voice performance, there is just little to scream entertainment outside of watching a child’s smile light up at the colorful presentation.

 

The VERDICT:

 

You’ve seen the reviews of my colleagues, and they aren’t far from the truth… Emoji movie was a miss for Sony in terms of quality.  The lackluster jokes, lack of challenge, and reserved wit were not the right steps to take in this inconsistent adventure for success.  In fact, the best thing of this film is the animated short for Hotel Transylvania that precedes it.  Still, if you are looking for a safe, family trip to the movies, you’ve got the Emoji movie to save your bacon.  However, I highly recommend reserving this one for Netflix. 

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  4.0

Movie Overall:  2.0  

Atomic Action

Atomic Blonde

 

Spies, they come in every shape and size from goofy men in naked gun to the suave iterations of James Bond.  Yet one thing is certain, they often are involved in incredibly threatening situations that require luck, training, and sets of skills to get the job done.  This weekend, a new agent appears in the world of the silver screen and her name is Charlize Theron.  This gorgeous actress has been teasing the trailers with some exciting, seductive, and sexy scenes of her movie Atomic Blonde, promising an adventure to be had.  Robbie K back with another review, so let’s get this mission started.

 

LIKES:

 

Theron’s acting:  Lead actresses carry a lot of the movie when they are the featured character. Fortunately, Theron nails the role of the spy on all the avenues promised by the trailer.  Her physical looks, capable of making people go gaga, are only the superficial wrapping paper for the talent within, as she unleashes her cold ruthlessness with a little twist. She plays the wise and sly role well, bringing a dynamic character who has great chemistry with her fellow cast, crafting a deadly board to run their games on. Theron may be monotone in much of her roles, and often may play the same types of roles, but it works in this setting quite well.

 

Funny:  While certainly not the sole theme of this movie, Atomic Blonde is a figurative blast in the laughter department.  One of my friends compared some scenes to Monty Python in their comedic ploys of minions constantly getting up.  Seeing these stooges fall, dive, and become injured in a number of manners, but have ridiculous stamina is entertaining on many levels.  In addition, Atomic Blonde has some well-timed, and well-aimed, lines to relieve some of the tension. Mix all this with the over-the-top shock factor of this movie and you won’t help but laugh at the presentation at hand.

 

Action: The trailers painted an exciting thrill ride of death defying battles and spy warfare destruction.  And the trailers didn’t lie at all.  Atomic Blonde knocked hard on the action door as Theron faced the insurmountable odds of the secret army of spies out to hinder her mission and end her beautiful life.  The film has a number of styles for you including hand to hand combat, gunplay (and lots of it), and a few car chase scenes to keep things interesting.  Each of the drawn-out battles fits into the mission well, and the dynamic setting adds to the heat of the moment that is satisfying on so many levels.

 

The Soundtrack:  As Frozen proved years ago, a good soundtrack is something to take notice of.  Atomic Blonde’s featured tracks are all in the 80s, and the sweet beats are utilized to an excellent level that brings out the spirit of the scene.  And if you don’t care about a track matching to the movie, but like the synthesizer heavy music of the decade, then good news, you’ll be dancing in your seat to the sweet beats of the movie.  Whatever the reason, note that Atomic Bomb’s soundtrack is certainly a blast to the past of energizing music.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Convoluted story:  You may not have expected much of a story, after all most action heavy films seldom have one.  Yet, the thin story was certainly a complicated mess given everything packed into the movie and the directions they took to present it.  There is a mystery there, but it is overshadowed by the stunts and combat that ring throughout the movie. While the action is exciting, it distracts from the main plot and left little to follow given the shock factor of the series.  The dry dialogue doesn’t help much either, nor the fact that the movie jumps through so many perspectives in a short amount of time. The bottom line is…the presentation makes for a rather dry story, with only a few emotional oases to breathe life into the film.

 

Violence:  Action often does breed violence, but Atomic Blonde’s battles are true spectacles of mutilation and torture.  All the extras in particular are brutally battered in the fights, bashed in extraordinary detail to turn a few heads or make one of my friends cover her eyes. Theron’s character gets hit pretty hard too, painting her a few shades of gore as well. The gunplay makes for a ballad of painting the walls red, and the emphasis of close up, head explosions can be a little overdone at times. However, the most disturbing components are seeing the up and close drawn out deaths of a few character and their agonizing last breath.  Keep that in mind before jumping into the theater.

 

The unneeded romance scene:  I’m not one for the hot and sexy sequences in bed, but I can appreciate it when either done with class or pertinent to the story.  A scene in the trailers, and of course the movie, showed a rather hot moment that just didn’t feel necessary to me in the story.  Certainly, editing could have left this out, or at least the director’s cut, but without the added emphasis of relationships to the movie, I could have done without it.

 

The Verdict:

 

Atomic Blonde held much of what the trailers promised. It is an off the wall, very shocking film that leaves little to the imagination.  It is a thrilling, adrenaline pumping ride that felt fresh given the unique presentation and a soundtrack to further add fun.  Unfortunately, the stunts, violence, and convoluted presentation derailed the story for me and left me wondering what it is I just watched. There is plenty of theater worthy material to justify a visit, but if violence isn’t your cup of tea, pass this mission on to someone else. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Mystery/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Nolan, Dun Got It Right

Dunkirk

 

War, huh, yeah, what is it good for?  Entertaining movies, that is what it is good for.  Hollywood has numerous examples of wars from the various historical times in our human legacy. Many of these installments focus on a hero who saved the war, or a band of brothers that bravely faced the odds to hold the line.  In most cases though, you can bet there will be violence, explosions, and often graphic portrayals of the hell contained in our squabbles.  I finish my weekend reviews with Dunkirk, which is the latest installment in the Christopher Nolan library.  Can the Dark Knight director work his magic in war?  Or does it fizzle out like a dud bomb.  Robbie K here to give his opinions.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

Layered Story:  Many war movies are the linear tales of the hero who will win the battle.  Dunkirk diverts from this main path and instead presents its plot from three viewpoints that overlap at various times.  A cryptic opening doesn’t do much to explain this, but eventually the plots coincide and your mind is blown by the presentation.  This element, though confusing at times, adds that unique flare to the movie that keeps your interest piqued as you connect the journeys of those involved.  In addition, the multiple viewpoints give you a more complete picture of the war, further bringing the history to life in a manner Hollywood special effects is famous for.

 

Realism:  We know the doctoring editing and story writers can make to score big bucks in the box office.  These moments often lead to overdramatic, eye-rolling moments that war dramas can be.  Dunkirk again shines in the unique department in terms of crafting the story to be realistic in many details.  You’ll be pulled into the war in this film, grounded in the nightmares that plague the battlefields and the internal struggle that all involved face.  I felt plagued with the emotional guilt in the choices made in this film, while also concerned with the consequences that could follow those choices. The film’s focus on the people and not the battle works on so many levels, and makes you interested in the characters more so than the special effects.  Nice choice again Noland!

 

The Cinematography:  Dunkirk doesn’t have a lot of lines, award winning dialogue, or even one-liners that we as humans like.  Instead it is the cinematography and editing that bring Dunkirk to life and make it shine in the theater’s dark halls.   While the special effects are certainly impressive (though not that showy), it’s really the camera work that brings the mood out in the form of hope seeking faces that are suffering through the onslaught dealt to them.  Throw in the powerful musical score and mix in the little line delivery and you get that recipe for emotional bombardment that brings respect, empathy, and pride of the sacrifices made by troops long ago.

 

Short run time:  Such a dynamic, sounds like it would take forever…fortunately Nolan’s direction kept the movie under 2 hours and brought quality out in that short time.  This is an example of good directing and editing, and proof that you can have a quality film in a short time limit.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Missing that Hollywood Story:  Realism is good, but I certainly missed having a flared-up story to grip onto.  Dunkirk is a quality movie, but it isn’t as much fun as I have had with other war movies.  It lacks some of the big, bang excitement made famous in other war movies, and the realistic psychological approach can drag at times.  The result is not the action-packed survival I had hoped for, but I can always rewatch Hacksaw Ridge for that. And while I enjoyed the layered story approach, I again think it was confusing at times to piece things together without a central story, plot, or goal (outside of survival/rescue) to hook onto.

 

The placement of certain scenes: My buddy and I agreed that there were points to this movie that were difficult to follow.  Much of this came from the odd placement of clips in the movie and the rapid transitions between these various stories with little guidance.  Things do get better when the lines start to come together, but there are still scenes that still stay confusing at points until the end of the movie.  In addition, the pacing of the stories was uneven at times, with a couple of stories rapidly concluding (so you think), only to reappear after a prolonged gap.  Not the biggest weakness, but things could have been a little better oriented for me.

 

Depressing:  We know war sucks, and this movie’s portrayal of the loss of hope amplifies those feelings. There are so many elements of depression in this movie that you may feel a little down following the opening.  I felt a little tired during this movie, especially during the drawn-out moments that were more depressing and less stressing.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Dunkirk is certainly one of the more artistic and clever portrayals of war, dropping Hollywood flare for realism.  Nolan’s impressive directing opens up new worlds of war theater and keeps things fresh with the impressive displays of heroism.  Yet all the good the cinematography and directing is… I missed the Hollywood flare that cinemas bring.  Without that story/entertainment value to it… Dunkirk has some confusing presentations and dragged out moments that can weigh heavy on you.  Still, this movie has plenty to qualify a visit to the theater, and one of the better movies of the summer.  Not the epic wartime thriller, but certainly one of the more realistic, war dramas I have ever seen. 

 

My scores:

 

Action/Drama/History:  9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

 

 

Descending Further Into Quality

Descendants 2

 

Robbie K here with a little change up.  Instead of hitting the silver screen with this review, I analyze the latest Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) to premier tonight.  Our film focus tonight, the sequel to Disney’s latest merchandise extravaganza Descendants.  If you don’t know what this series is about, it focuses on the offspring of the Disney villains and their quest to find themselves amidst a plethora of chaotic assignments.  Like many DCOMs, legendary director Kenny Ortega returns to bring you music and kid-friendly drama that keeps breathing life into Disney Channel.  Tonight, the sequel is back to keep the momentum going and try to retain some quality back to the cable network.

 

LIKES:

 

Villain Kids:  In most movies, the story is only as good as the antagonists to fight and in this case Uma (China Anne McClain) is an improvement over last movie’s band of baddies.  Descendants one tried to reinstate the classic baddies, with subpar casting and actors who semi looked the part. The direction of the movie though put the kids in the forefront and the villains in the back, resulting in rather boring/cheesy performances.  With the kids being the focus, the new villain of Uma gets the focus and development needed, and her malicious planning are nice qualities.  Her second in command Harry Hook (Thomas Doherty) is the enforcer who has some mad skills to bring to the table and actually does something to up the ante in a rather calm series.  With kids at the focus, the doors open wide for more adventure at hand.

 

The Message:  DCOM movies are all about teaching a lesson, and Descendants 2 keeps that time honored magic alive.  Where Descendants was all about not being your parents and marking your own path, the sequel focuses on finding yourself as the main theme.  A good lesson we can all use a refresher on that only loses a little power by the preachy delivery.  Of course, there are other minor plots to help teach a few more subjects on friendship, courage, confidence, and knowing when a rule needs to have a new spin. All good messages for young ones to get bombarded with, and an applause at Disney doing it right.

 

The Story:  The first movie did a nice job introducing all the relationships of the world while embedding it in plots of doing villains’ bidding, but also battling yourself when morals conflict. Yet the story was very simple and lacked the kick that it needed to be fully entertaining.  Descendants 2 was a step up, building on those relationships and using them to tell a new story that involved exploring more of the isle.  The added “suspense” was again a step in the right direction, and the increased urgency only brought more suspense to the mix. 

 

The Songs:  By far my favorite component was the soundtrack.  After seeing Descendants a thousand times over the last two years, I made my list and found only a couple of songs I found timeless.  In this installment, the five out of six tracks will most likely be coming to my Ipod.  The dance numbers were much better for me and they fit very well into the theme of the movie instead of just being jammed in at random intervals ( see Evil Like Me and Ridiculous).  The new soundtrack has edge and really kicks up the beat.  Nice improvements guys.

Acting:  One thing I must give props to though, is the acting.  Descendants cast is super talented and each brings a dynamic energy to the movie that really sparks magic into the DCOM world.  Dove Cameron steals the show with her fantastic ability to direct a character and mold it into a believable performance.  She also brings singing and dancing to the mix that mirrors the emotions present in her character. Cameron Boyce as Carlos has the energy and moves to impress, even more this time with the dance numbers.  Sofia Carson is brains, beauty, and passion with focus on her singing coming out in this movie.  Sofia’s dramatic air somehow brings the group together and keeps the extreme personalities grounded.  Booboo Stewart as Jay has more lines in this movie, and brings that action packed, stunt oriented edge the movie continues to need.  Just maximize his talents more please.  Finally Mitchell Hope does a nice job as King Ben, reprising his well to the full effect and refining it to meet the needs of the scene.  The cast’s chemistry is impressive and Ortega’s guidance keeps things strong, selling the relationships that this movie depends on.  

Dislikes:

 

Dropped plot elements: If you haven’t followed the animated shorts and accompanying books, then this won’t affect you.  However, the super fanbase will note other characters missing from Auradon’s halls.  Many characters are absent in this film, and even those from the first film have been reduced to back burner secondary appearances with little involvement in the main plot.  Audrey, Jane, even Doug are not nearly as involved, most likely to give the newbies more screen time.  Unfortunately…

New elements lacking:  Outside of Uma and maybe Harry, many of the new characters are also reduced to smaller roles than I anticipated.  Newcomers Dizzy (Anna Cathcart) and Gil (Dylan Playfair) have been the highlights of the recent advertising campaign, but sadly don’t do much in this film.  In addition, many of the dramatic buildups, foreshadowing, and magic are actually played less than I originally thought.  Guess dancing and sword fighting are more important than complete plots.  One warning I have for future installments is to not grow so big to drop other characters, or face the threat of devouring yourself by inconsistencies.

Rushed Plot:  Descendants holds a lot of potential to be an epic tale, and that first book by De La Cruz was an epic introduction filled with that potential.  The movies unfortunately have lost that balance and go for the rather rushed conclusions that make many DCOMs lacking.  Number 2 did not improve on this element, but worsened as they tried to shove too many plots into the short run-time.  Much of the conflict is dropped quickly, the tasks and trials are rapidly completed, and new elements are haphazardly dropped without any buildup or heat.  I know they are shooting for time constraints, but with something this big… you can take your time and go a little longer.  Younger audiences won’t care about this, but older ones like me would appreciate a little more dramatic play ups.  In addition, don’t set up potential plots and drop them like a bad habit (see Chad Charming subplot).  That incomplete presentation is a little disappointing with legendary directors in the mix.

 

Anticlimatic ending:  I know, this is a movie geared for younger generations, we can’t have too violent of a fight.  The sword fight did a decent job of bringing the appropriate action especially the tangle between Harry and Jay (Booboo Stewart).  However, another struggle at the end showed off some semi-decent computer work in a very…bland manner.  I can’t reveal much more, but an epic tangle could have come in that wasn’t so…abruptly stopped.  Kids watch lion King, Aladdin, and Incredibles, they can handle more than G rated punches.  Add some “fire” to the mix, or throw in some close calls to mix things up and actually bring fear to the mix.

 

The Verdict:

 

Overall, Descendants 2 stepped its game up on many levels with their villains, story, and songs.  Yet it still succumbs to the modern spin on DCOMs to go for musical gimmicks and diluted themes that while entertaining are not the only sustenance of the film.  Descendants 2 story has room for improvement in regards to integrating its characters more, and could take a lesson from the books in regards to adding some suspense to the film.  Still, it is one of the better DCOMs I have seen in a long time, and certainly the more impressive sequel to grace the small screen.  With a little more work and some other feedback from you fans… Descendants 3 (which I feel will come) can be even more exciting. 

 

My scores:

 

Family/Musical/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

Girls, They Want To Have Fun

Girls Trip

 

A girl’s trip. A novelty idea that starts out so innocent, but can turn down the wilder side.  Rough Night already attempted to depict this concept earlier this summer, but it didn’t quite deliver the punch it wanted.  So, this weekend, another (almost identical) movie tries the concept again, and we can only hope it’s more successful.  Robbie K reporting again on another movie review to give you the 411 on films.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Good Pace:  Many raunchy comedies, and let’s face it there are plenty of them, often have either too quick a pace, or drag out exponentially. Girls Trip gets the pace right though, keeping things fun and entertaining, without getting stuck on a scene or sequence for too long.  I found myself engaged in the movie and thoroughly enjoyed the fun at hand in the Flossy Posse adventure.  It’s nice to see things progress at an adequate rate and breathe some life into a plot that was dead of originality. And speaking of plot…

 

Story:  Believe it or not, comedies can still have a story and make you laugh.  Despite what the trailers promised, Girls Trip has a plot that creates a foundation for the laughs to spring off of and keep it grounded with a relevant purpose. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are times they go all out for comedy, however much of it goes with the flow of the story and is relevant to the plot.  Past the comedy though, the story is another heartfelt romp about friendship and love, going down the usual avenues that we’ve seen a hundred times.  One unique feature though is how all of the girls’ problems interconnect and cause drama to offset the mischief at hand.  The result is a dynamic relationship between the ladies, and the extras surrounding them, that feels relevant, relatable, and realistic on many levels.  So, nice to see this in a comedy again.

 

Acting:  Characters are good, but they require acting to come to life.  Rough Night failed to emphasize the acting and traded their talent for quick laughs.  This film learned from that mistake and encouraged them to act like characters with more depth.  Regina Hall has the drama acting down pat, being emotional while also steering from the overacting. Queen Latifah brings her sass back to the mix, a little edgier, but nonetheless the same style that works for these roles. Tiffany Haddish is like the Rebel Wilson in this film. She works well for comedic relief, and her loyal, unfiltered edge is executed well at most parts.  My favorite is Jada Pinkett Smith who presents the most balanced character of the bunch and played the broadest spectrum of the bunchTheir chemistry mixes well and really represents a girl squad who has drama, but has each other’s’ back.

 

Comedy:  A small, but important note, is that the comedy is well executed and quite balanced for this reviewer.  Sure, much of the theme is sexual natured, but fortunately the crassness of the jokes varies depending on the character.  There are some other comedic devices presented that are fun, but what’s nice is that comedy is balanced and not the center piece.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Language:  Yeah, no surprise, I don’t like strong focus on cursing.  Girls Trip sadly falls victim to using the F bomb, alongside a few other derogatory devices, for much of their conversation.  While not the worst I’ve seen, the writing could have used a few rewrites to add some class and more memorable lines to the mix.  But Lazy writing still brought a lot of laughs to the group so it’s probably not the biggest factor for most.

 

The Uncensored moments:  Despite the change up of delivery, and the dynamic nature of the women…much of the comedy is focused on sex. While this comedy is not my particular style, it can be entertaining, when executed at the right times.  There are points where Girls Trip gets really nasty though and drops the class for cheap laughs and gimmicks.  In particular, Haddish’s character gets old at times and her raunchy moments got old at times (though not as much as seeing near naked men and their organs).

 

Endgame/Lack of Originality: With all the good pacing and delivery of this movie, you would think there would be a strong endgame.  Unfortunately, Girls Trip kind of dropped the ball in the last twenty minutes when they threw a big wrench into the gears.  At this point a lot of tension is introduced, only to have it immediately resolved in a rather lackluster manner.  The final resolution has emotional power behind it, but it was very unoriginal and lacking the cleanup I expected from our ladies.  Not the consistency I had hoped for, but still not the worse conclusion I’ve seen this weekend.

 

The Verdict:

 

Despite my low expectations, Girl’s Trip is surprisingly very entertaining.  A well-paced, story-focused comedy is in store for those who come to see this film in the theater.  The cast keeps the movie fun, and the story is both emotional and entertaining to watch, especially with the comedy that goes in tangent with it.  However, despite the entertainment value in it, Girl’s Trip still has some areas to improve upon including comedy diversity, classing up the lines/censorship, and maybe working on an endgame.  Regardless, this movie hits its target audience well and is a fun adventure that I hope will stand at just one movie (no sequel needed).  Worth the trip to the theater?  In terms of comedy this summer, yes this is one of the ones to see.  Yet, there is nothing theater worthy to call for the expensive tickets. 

 

My Scores: 

 

Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Valerian: Movie of a Thousand Visuals

Valerian

 

Comic books, a loveable source of entertainment in many forms.  While superheroes from the DC and Marvel universe shows take the cake, there are a few unique nuggets hidden in the colorful pages.  Valerian is one such series, a sci-fi adventure that held a bounty of potential comic gold that would certainly make for a good movie.  Turns out, Hollywood did its research and this weekend, the cinematic rendition of this tale hits theaters.  With all the hype, I hope this film will be the movie of the summer!  What is my verdict? Let’s get started with another Robbie’s movie review.

 

LIKES:

 

Part of the story:  Science Fiction stories with fantasy can go either way in quality as seen in a wide variety of movies. Part of Valerian’s story captures a sincere element that tugs at the heart strings concerning one of the races.  While not the most complex of stories, this subplot has a nice dynamic to it as you learn of the race and their fight for survival.  A few other tangent tales are decent as well, primarily one concerning Rihanna  character Bubble the exotic shape shifter.  This tale had a little heart to it, it just needed more to be complete.

 

The Graphics:  The trailers weren’t kidding when they hyped up the graphics of this movie.  Valerian’s strongest selling point is the beautiful visuals contained in its computer-generated setting.  It starts with the creatures that inhabited the galaxy and expands beyond that to bring out some truly imaginative world building that this day and age can perfect.  The cities themselves are polished with each level having its own sense of style, “class” and personality that was captured in the high definition graphics.  One will certainly see the budget went into the design of this movie, and many of the scenes are certainly geared towards the 3-D ride they want to take you on, especially in those chase scenes.  Is it as good as Avatar’s visuals?  While certainly imaginative, Valerian has some polishing to do to match the realism in that film.  However, the creatures are certainly more diverse than those found in its blue cousin’s world.   Of note:  I would have loved to see more costumes and makeup to offset the technology and add a little more realism to the mix.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Story Overall:  While there is one component that touched my heart, Valerian has issues in the story department overall.  Much of the tale is a rather rushed mess, devoid of any sustenance that the trailers promised.  The dark looming threat that threatened to collapse the artificial city is nothing what I expected. Truth be told, the big revelation was kind of lame and expected (I was able to decipher much of the mystery within the first hour.) There was little suspense in the tale, and the execution didn’t add much “flare” to it.  In regards to character development, that was also lacking, the two leads barely evolving past their superficial soldier roles from the beginning.  The result were boring characters that I had difficulty attaching to.  I can’t say the acting or chemistry between the two was not the strongest, which did not help their case any further.

 

Action:  Or should I say lack of action.  Despite the promises by the trailers, Valerian is rather lax in regards to stunning action sequences.  The blaster scenes hold some potential, but are rather bland and short-lived to get hyped up for.  A few chase scenes manage to inject a little speed into the pace of this movie, but unfortunately you have seen the entire scene in the trailer, leaving little more to get hyped about.  The close combat scenes weren’t much improved, with many of them being overacted, forced, and somewhat sluggish. While certainly not absent, Valerian’s visual style should have had more exciting action to compliment it, but sadly that was not the case.

 

Under use of creatures:  With all the world building and alien design, you would think they would utilize it more. Unfortunately, much of the creatures and behemoths are shown off only in passing and have little relevance to the story.  Ironically, most of the extras are just humans dressed in interesting outfits, while the rest of the CGi creatures remain isolated from our heroes.  The lack of integration made for an underutilized cast, and the loss of creativity was difficult to see. Hopefully this will be rectified in future installments.

 

Editing:  Perhaps the biggest dislike for me was some of the poor editing in this movie. Valerian has two sequences that were weak integrations into the plot, feeling irrelevant in the grand scheme.  One of these scenes adds nearly 30 minutes to the movie, and if deleted would do little damage other than dropping one celebrity exotic dance. Why this was the start of the rescue…I don’t know, but it weakened the film by kinking up the pace of the film.

 

The Verdict:

 

It’s true that Valerian has stunning looks, animation, and world building, but outside of that there isn’t much to say wow too.  I haven’t read the comic book, but this movie did not feel as if it brought the story to life, nor the action the novel most likely held.  Without these components, or better editing for that matter, the 137-minute run time is a bit of a snooze fest in regards to sci-fi operas.  Still, the visual effects are certainly theater worthy, but I still heed caution in seeing this one on the silver screen.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

I Wish For Better Execution

Wish

 

I wish I may, I wish I might, make a demand that might cost someone’s life?  That’s not the way the rhyme goes, but this parody is pretty representative of the theme of my latest review.  Robbie K here, this time covering Wish Upon the latest horror genre flick to flood the silver screens across the country.  The “disturbing” trailers paint the picture of the next spine tingling film, but the PG-13 rating suggests it could be a little timid.  What’s the verdict?  Hopefully I can fill in some answers to help answer that question. Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Shorter Run Time:  I know what you’re thinking, not good if this is a like, but it’s nice to see a movie stick around the 90-minute run time when there isn’t sustenance to keep it running longer.  Wish Upon fills its short run-time purpose with the thrills you want, and keeps it concise, a sign of good directing and editing in an era what that so suffers.

 

Joey King: Singling out the actors in this rather new actor cast, Joey King reprises her horror acting in a “two thumbs up” manner.  King plays the role of a distressed teenager with class, bringing a delicate balance of drama, screaming, and shallow happiness to the character.  In many PG-13 or teenager focused films, the lead character often suffers from overacting or extreme tangents in directing.  For me, King was able to keep things in good proportions and didn’t have me rolling my eyes (a first in a long time.) While certainly not an award-winning performance, King gets props for carrying the load of the movie.

 

A Nice tangent:  Despite the common trend of demons, spirits, and ghosts… Wish Upon at least brings a slight twist to the themes of horror movies. The wishing factor is a nice gimmick to get sold onto and see what desires will tempt her to risk lives.  It set a nice pace for the movie to build upon, and made it a little dynamic in regards to whom would pay the blood price for Clare’s (King) decisions and selfishness. The wish factor also presented some character development, shallower but existing, that really worked in their favor.

 

Not overly graphic:  A PG-13 horror movie is often a lot lax in their grim depictions of death.  Wish Upon continues that trend, forgoing gross, exaggerated, drawn out torturous deaths in favor of ridiculous, and still horrible, deaths that are quickly executed. One can think of this as Final Destination meets Unfriended, which boils down to coincidental deaths with a filter.  Unfortunately, it means you have seen a majority of the executions via the commercials, but you will get a few sequences that have escaped the public eye up until now.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Very simplistic:  Despite the deaths being filtered and less intense, they were also very simplistic and not as impressive.  Yes, they were still awful (as death is), but the hype up of the trailers was sadly dropped with the simplicity of the deaths.  There was no extra edge factor to them, and the lack of suspense, which left the ridiculous nature of the deaths the eye-rolling component of the film.  If you want the mindless, over the top deaths without the blood… well your wish has been granted I guess.

Story:  Wish Upon’s tale has some decent character development in it to highlight the underlying theme of the horror movie.  It was great seeing Clare’s transitions and her attempt to find the solution to the curse kept in the box. However, outside of that, the story tanks.  It’s the same predictable mess that most of this genre is, with little sustenance so that they could cram more deaths into the movie.  The cool wish concept brought about a lot of potential to interact with the entity, as well as opportunities for a more suspenseful uncovering of the source of the evil.  I would have liked to see what the creature looked like, or at least more interaction with the invisible evil that dwelled within.  Other plot elements could have been a little more detailed in the delivery as well, to add the emotional impact I think they wanted.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Wish Upon isn’t the worst movie to grace the theaters.  This PG-13 movie brings a unique angle to a stale concept that is concise, decently acted, and not overly graphic. Unfortunately, the execution is still in need of work on a variety of areas.  A lackluster story that was underdeveloped and the lack of suspense are two key areas the potential sequel can bring to the table.  As for this film though, if you aren’t looking for a filtered death movie, you might skip this until haunts Netflix.  For those looking for a simplistic horror film though… you’ve got a ringer in the theaters this summer.  One thing is certain though…be careful what you wish for.

 

My scores:

 

Fantasy/Horror/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall: 4.0

War or Survival of the Apes: Still Apemazing

Apes

Planet of the Apes, a series that has had ups and downs over the decades it’s been in existence.  The recent remakes have breathed life into the series and delivered some fantastic films that scream science fiction as they explain the events leading to the “classic” story. After a grand slam, middle movie that started the war, the third installment promised to bring that battle to full swing (according to the trailers).  Robbie K here with another review to fill the details and help guide your viewing choices.  War…what is it good for?  Let’s see if we can answer that question.

 

LIKES:

 

The Graphics:  The new series forewent the costumes, makeup, and looks of the classic series and instead focused on CGI graphics to bring the apes to life.  Once more, this series gets the animation perfect in all the high definition detail that modern technology bringsAndy Serkis (or Smeagle from LOTR for most of you) flexes his motion capture muscles in a stunning performance as Caesar the lead ape.  The movements are fluid, the facial gestures on point, and despite being painted as a chimpanzee, manages to brilliantly bring out a human like protagonist you can’t help but love.  When the more exciting moments are brought in, the border between reality (pyrotechnics) and virtual display is blurred even further in a balanced execution that keeps things in check.  Overall, the visual presentation is stunning.

 

The Story:  When you are doing prequels, it can be difficult to answer questions, but still craft an original story that is good (see the countless Star Wars prequel discussions).  War for the Planet of the Apes manages to achieve this balance of answering questions, while still bringing a story of its own.  This film manages to further develop Caesar’s life, while integrating key relationships that establish a firm foundation needed for these movies.  Much of the film is packed with this deep dive into the character psyche, while trying to infuse tension and suspense at the fates of the other apes. A good story indeed.

 

The Emotion:  And what makes the story so good, it’s the emotion captured in much of the scenes and sequences in the film.  Caesar himself is a complicated mess of feelings, motivations, and morale decisions, which is all brought out in the motion capture animation of Serkis’ work.  Watching his reactions, as well as the visualization of the war are brilliantly displayed with fantastic cinematography and supporting audio that maximizes the punches/kicks of the moment.  Animal activists will get double the slaps, but such emotion kept me engaged in the movie and suspenseful as what would happen next.  This may be the best component of the movie for me.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Length:  Another example of editing, War for the Planet of the Apes could have cut some time off the movie.  This could have been achieved by shortening some of the suffering scenes, or dropping another sequence itself, though this might have weakened the story at points.  For this reviewer, there were components that felt a little long winded and unnecessary, which kind of bored me give the title of the movie (more on this later).

 

The Torture:  If seeing characters tortured is your idea of entertainment, then get stoked because this is your movie.  War for the Planet of the Apes has many dark moments that show the horrors that war can truly be.  The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is a stereotypical, military antagonist and this movie is not afraid to show off his cruelty in that overinflated manner Hollywood makes famous.  Many scenes may be disturbing to those with sensitive constitutions or again animal activist passion.  I found myself quite irritated, annoyed, and ticked off at times at seeing these scenes over and over again.  While I admit a few of these scenes were needed, there is too much of a “good” thing that can lead to it being overdone.

 

The Lack of Action:  For a movie called War for the Planet of the Apes, I was expecting more combat to be packed in.  The trailers promised scenes of battle between man and ape, with military tactics going up against technologically advanced soldiers.  Sadly, this was not the case as this film had only two battle sequences to throw some excitement into the mix. These scenes were cool, but a little anti-climactic and didn’t show the bravado I really wanted to see to deliver that exciting bang I craved.  Sure, War is not just about the exciting battles made famous in cinema and video games, and this film shows another side to War.  If that is going to be the case, don’t edit the trailers to promise that.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            War for the Planet of the Apes might have been better named survival of the Planet of the Apes.  While not the most exciting of the movies and a little darker in regards to portrayal of the Apes’ journey, it definitely has the emotional punch of the other installments.  It’s a beautiful tale that brings the prequels to full closure, while still opening up another movie or two to continue bridging the gap between classic and new.  I do agree that it is one of the better movies of the summer, still it needs a little tweaking in the editing and action department to bring it to full life.  Worth a trip to the theater?  The answer is yes!

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

Web-Slinging Sensation: Comedy Returns To Spiderman

Spiderman

 

He can do whatever a spider can!  He is super brainy and has the ability to fight crime against a number of villains with interesting powers.  And he has had two reboots in the last two decades.  Yes, I’m talking about Spiderman, the young high school student who wears the coolest pajamas ever and has some pretty wicked powers.  This weekend, Disney studios gets their hands on the series, in hopes of breathing life back into the series and expanding their already vast repertoire of films.  Can Disney repeat its magic?  Robbie K here to give you the updates, and as always, I appreciate your reading and fun.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Not another origin story:  With all the reboots, cartoon series, and comics (if you still read), we know how the web slinger obtained his powers via radioactive arachnid science projects.  As such, the storyboard writers decided to scrap doing another reboot of this and dived right into the fun at hand.  Thank the lord!  Spiderman homecoming skips the boring, lacking power component, so that you get the most bang for your buck in regards to super power heroics and Spiderman clichés.  The presentation of this film is rather creative, using a selfie video to give a unique perspective on everything this Spiderman has gone through so far.

 

Fun and Funny:  Spiderman Homecoming takes a different approach from most of the other superhero films in that it feels like a high school student life only with…powers.  The result is a film that is fun, simplistic, and as me and my friend agree comedic.  This tale is all about making you laugh with a fantastic dialog, great delivery, and a cast that only amplifies it.  It’s not easy making a high school film that isn’t an afterschool special, drama filled, soap opera and still make it entertaining to watch.  But Disney was able to do it again.  While the production team has a lot to do with this, most audience members are going to give props to the acting.  Tom Holland again rocks the role, taking his cameo from Civil War and running… I mean slinging with it.  He is the first actor in this modern age to capture both the nerdy peter parker and the smart mouthed Spiderman, giving you the character you wanted made for some time.  Now throw in Michael Keaton portraying a villain who didn’t make you cringe, yawn, or sympathize for the performance they were asked to play.  The dynamic between them works and to take a lamer villain like the Vulture and make him respectable gets thumbs up from me.  And they utilized their entire cast very well, keeping their big-name contenders involved without robbing the main actor his time to shine.

 

Ned:  But my friend and I agreed that the best part of the film was Peter’s sidekick Ned played by Jacob Batalon. This character had me in enough stiches to require Spiderman to web it up.  Batalon delivers his lines perfectly, and makes the already comedic gold shine where others would fail.  He feels like a devoted fan boy and it works to keep things entertaining.  The cast did a great job sharing Peter’s secret with him and having him as the devoted friend wanting to do whatever he can to live as a super sidekick.  This character’s work is dynamic, it’s fun, and shows not all cleverness has been lost to cheap slapstick ploys.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Special effects are so so:  I don’t know if it’s the costume, the approach, or what, but the special effects didn’t impress me as much as they usually do. Spiderman’s movements looked fake at times, and the weapons (outside of Vulture’s costume) were a bit hokie looking.  Not the biggest dislike, but worth noting.

 

Migraine inducing flashes:  Not really a dislike, but a forewarning is a few scenes involving some flashes, explosions, or morphing that may give one a giant headache or induce a migraine.  Three people in my showing, complained of auras from the film, so those with these type of migraines, or even worse seizures, may want to have caution and be prepared.

 

Editing/Lack of Action:  Biggest dislike for me is more so the lack of action.  No surprise, Robbie wants his superheroes to have at least one engaging fight, but that wasn’t the case for me in this film.  While Homecoming was funny and entertaining, it still lacked the bite that superhero films have had.  The fights were short lived, didn’t involve too many spectacular moves, and the villains didn’t have any impressive moves.  We know Spidey’s universe have some of the most unique powers of the bunch, so why in the world didn’t they show that off more.  Of note, the battles do keep in theme with the movie, and are emotional in regards to character development, that is a plus.  Yet a 134-minute run time needed a few more suspenseful moments to get the full effect.  Either that or cut out the extra laugh, unnecessary moments to shorten the run time.  Sorry guys, but editing is still in need of work.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Spiderman Homecoming is certainly one of the better installments of the modern Spiderman age.  It certainly is one of the more enjoyable comedies I’ve seen in a while, and takes some of the darker edge that has been building over the last few installments.  A great use of cast, good writing, and many other fun gimmicks works on so many levels and will entertain many.  Yet it isn’t the most exciting film of this universe, nor did it need to be over 2 hours long. Still, it’s a great addition to the library and one I look forward to seeing continued and integrated into the rest of the films.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Oh yeah (as if I can stop you), it is worth it.

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.5

 

Femme Fatales of Film

With all the movies coming out in this modern day, there certainly are a lot of heroes that have emerged from literature and onto the silver screen.  Over the decades, we know that many movies do tend to have a male superhero (Iron Man, Captain America, John Wayne and the various cowboy flicks) to save the day.  In this modern era though, things are changing and with it comes a new wave of heroes, or should I say heroines who are stepping up to the plate to battle evil.  With Wonder Woman tearing her way through theaters in all her majestic glory, a friend of mine asked to comment on some of the leading ladies that have shown up on the big screen. In this comparison, we’ll talk about what they represent, some limitations, and compare the movies they have been in.  Note: This is meant to be more constructive conversation about the MOVIE counterparts and no insults, just me doing my normal reviews.

 

 

Wonder Woman:

 

Wonder woman 2

 

Let’s start with the champion herself.  The Amazonian princess is the heroine that many femme fatales are compared to.  Diana is the representation of strength, justice, discipline, and standing up for all who are in need.  Such qualities are sure to motivate the masses to take action and fight for what is right in their lives, yielding to almost no one.  Wonder Woman’s skills are incredible starting with her combat skills and the mastery of the art of weaponry.  Her skills during Batman vs. Superman gave us a taste of super abilities as she leapt into the fray between Doomsday, the man of steel, and the dark knight.  Fending off the two warriors with her shield and mystical sword, Diana’s martial arts were impressive.  Yet her solo film only further amplified her abilities, throwing the lasso, gauntlets, and fists as she pounds the German army into dust.  Wonder Woman’s abilities are certainly empowering to any woman of any age, having them cheer and perhaps motivating them to stand up to the bullies in their lives.

 

Yet Wonder Woman’s butt kicking abilities aren’t the only thing that speaks to the audience.  “With great power, comes great responsibility” to quote Uncle Ben, and no hero in the cinematic universe portrays this more than Diana.  She doesn’t boast her strength and destroy anybody she sees, but rather finds the areas to where her abilities are needs and put them into the mix.  Much of the movie involves utilizing her powers to protect than to destroy, preferring to focus her strength into only those she seeks to dethrone. What’s fortunate for her, is a sense of justice that many heroes fail to have, reading situations to determine whom she can help.  No scene is a better portrayal of this than her stepping out into no man’s land, treading the wasteland of doom to face an onslaught an entire army could not even distract let alone defeat.  Diana’s goals of understanding humans, showing empathy for her fellow warriors, and goal of bringing peace are all qualities to admire in a heroine.  And even better is her ability to use the love of humans and peace to fuel her motivation even more. 

 

Yet there is a weakness to her.  As no hero is perfect, Wonder Woman’s main flaw is letting her pride get in the way of logical thinking…sometimes.  In the film, you see that her determination, while noble, sometimes leaves her single minded, unable to deter from her goal and analyze the strategy at hand.  She wants to get things done fast and efficiently, but her initial plan to achieve that goal is often not the appropriate means to accomplish it.  This is evidenced by her wanting to go to the frontline immediately instead of working with a group who knew the world better.  Such blinded devotion allowed her pride to get in the way, not allowing others to assist her and potentially teach her the tricks of the trade.  I guess if it wasn’t an amazon, it wasn’t a proper teacher, and there were times in the movie she failed to understand the qualms her fellow soldiers had to face, (see the scene with Charlie not shooting).  And as we saw, there were a few times this led to some mistakes happening, leading her to suffer under the weight of being wrong.

 

Character aside, let’s talk about the movie.  For more info read my review, but Wonder Woman is certainly one of the best DC movies to hit the silver screen.  Action wise it’s impressive, with two of three fights beautifully choreographed to show off the might of the amazons.  While the slow slashing effect is a little over done, the scenes are incredible displays of CGI meeting live action and an impressive dance of the “wonder’ful woman paving the way to victory.  Throughout the entire movie, you grow with Wonder Woman, feeling the emotional turmoil and curiosity building as war unveils more of the splendid things life has to offer.  To have such strong character development, with a moving pace and action to match up with it, is a skill many directors fail to accomplish.  And with a few fun jokes thrown into the mix, one can’t help but feel enjoyment with this movie. 

 

In regards to the weaknesses of the film, a band of soldiers who didn’t have much to contribute outside a few spiritual discoveries was my main flaw with this movie.  Why even try to build up a team of heroes if you aren’t going to do much with them?  That was the question I still have.  An additional qualm is again some of the overdramatic special effect use and some loose ends that were left unanswered, or at least left for the sequel.  Despite these qualms though, Wonder Woman is certainly one of the stronger superhero movies to be seen in a while.

 

 

Rey (Star Wars Episode VII)

star-wars-rey-bb-8-sixth-scale-set-hot-toys-silo-902612

With the release of the new Star Wars franchise, one can’t help but think of the leading lady Rey! The definition of woman facing the elements, Rey had to face undesirable conditions in the deserts of Jakku and the unruly bunch who dwell there.  Yet unlike others who choose to hide from the challenge, Rey takes to all obstacles with a dedication to survive and prove herself.  That only becomes more evident when the First Order attempts to destroy she and her friends and she takes the Falcon by the control stick and heads face first into laser infused battles at hand.  Soon the mystical abilities of the Force awaken and Rey’s skills grow exponentially to shape her into the makings of a great warrior.  Rey is strong, smart, and fearless, qualities we all know make for an entertaining heroine.  And her crafty skills of engineering and piloting are something often missed in many of the heroes today.

 

Her main weakness is her rash abilities to rush into things.  Many times, Rey chooses to act first and contemplate later, often getting herself into situations she didn’t quite want to be in.  While this certainly brings entertainment in regards to the movie, this personality quark is not something to leave untampered for fear of what it might lead to.  Her stubbornness can also be considered a weakness, for her sheer will to stay on her “home” planet Jakku and not receive help because she can do it better are not qualities one would like in a heroine.  This control level is not my favorite component of her, but hey we all have our weaknesses.  Regardless of the limitations, Rey is a great opener to the Disney franchise and one that a few of my friends have tagged on to as the leader of the new series.

 

In regards to the movie, well Force Awakens was a great opener in the Star Wars Renaissance that accomplished the goal of roping us back into the series.  With decent action, nostalgia, and some decent storytelling, the stage has been set for what will hopefully be a dynamite second installment to the franchise.  While I like Rey a lot, one character/story limitation is how powerful she is at the beginning.  Placing girl power aside, we’ve not seen any Jedi at the start (with no training) be able to accomplish the things she was able to do.  To unleash this massive control of the force as well as fight a person trained years ahead of her and win was a bit of a stretch for me.  Even more frustrating is the lack of explanation as to purpose, which will hopefully (and with class) be explained in the coming installment.  Still, to start so powerful sets the bar high, to which they may not be able to deliver.

 

 

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

Katniss

Whew sacred ground when talking about this one, but let’s go ahead and talk about the champion of district 12.  Katniss is perhaps one of the most respectable and ragingly annoying heroes in a series.  She’s a survivor that is for sure, taking care of her family by hunting and trading with the on-edge frontier town.  Her self-sacrificing nature is admirable and her skills with a bow even more so, as she fights the odds thrown at her in the Hunger Games.  As her rebellious side grows and she starts defying the Capital with more angst leading to a rebellion that begins to strike back. The girl’s bravery and courage is incredible, fueling her to do the things we only dream of doing.  I mean had it not been for her…that rebellion would barely have gotten off the ground.

 

Katniss weaknesses’ start with her reluctance to be helped by most people.  The independence thing is awesome, but once she starts to get allies who have proven themselves to her, her reluctance to let them help is frustrating.  So much unnecessary conflict arose from this ability to admit help was needed became annoying as it dragged it out.  Sure, it’s okay she was untrusting, I mean look at her entire life journey, but come on… how much do we have to put up with when we know she will break down.  Yet her even bigger weakness is her unrelenting anger towards well almost everyone.  Like a burning fire, Katniss has rage deep within that is caged and ready to burst out.  While it certainly fuels her desire to survive, it also blinds her to many things that are actually beneficial.  Such uncontrolled anger more than once dropped her into traps, and left her vulnerable to the political manipulations of the egotistical politicians using her as a pawn.  Unlike the Hulk who becomes indestructible, Katniss’ anger only leads her to screaming more and firing more arrows.  Not the best quality in my book.

 

In regards to the movie, Jennifer Lawrence has many personalities that match the protagonist of the series. In all honesty, she models the very character that I read about in the books all those years ago.  The cinematography in particular brings Katniss out in the epic light we always pictured, and the action scenes to boot mirror much of excitement in the book.  In regards to the movies themselves… they are pretty good for the most part.  Movie one captured the essence of the film, albeit really gipped us on some of the cooler aspects Suzanne Collins lavished on in the first book.  Once the second movie came in though, the studio had gotten their act together and crafted a film that was a perfect match to the book across all accounts, including clearing up that confusion at the end.  Movie three did a nice job of spicing up a rather boring part of the book trilogy and added some finesse to what was a rather long drawl. Unfortunately, movie four couldn’t keep up with that magic for me, and left me disappointed at what was supposed to be the most intense moment of the movie.  They got a few parts well, but shaky cinematography, a rushed budget, and trying to cram too much into one movie diluted some of the more graceful and admirable parts of Katniss’ legacy. 

 

Consistently across the board, is how Katniss’ anger sometimes comes off bratty and arrogant.  That anger is well placed, don’t get me wrong, but the constant bitter sting, scowl and hate with every line got old for me.  It diluted her awesomeness, and what she stood for, leaving me feeling somewhat sorry for the people who had to put up with her juvenile behavior and constant complaining.  Still, the movies did get a lot of what we love about Katniss and allows her to flex her proverbial muscles as she fights a corrupt regime.

 

Alice (Resident Evil)

Alice

Perhaps the most dynamic of our group is the fiery agent known as Alice from Resident Evil. Starting out as merely a special ops soldier, Alice it transformed into a genetically augmented weapon capable of fighting hordes of infected zombie extras and government agents.  Her martial arts prowess marries well with her military mind to culminate in a heroine you can’t help but root for as her traps unfold and decimate Umbrella Corporation.  Skills aside, Alice represents the quality of loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice. Alice’s journey involves lots of teamwork and protection of innocent life, fighting that primordial destruction buried in the coding of the virus that plagues the world.  Seeing the decisions, she has had to make for the benefit of others is certainly tough, but continues to illustrate just how epic a heroine she is.  Most of the people I mention on this list haven’t had to make quite the life altering decisions that Alice has, and may not have the guts this video game turned cinema could.

 

But despite that vigor, Alice does have a weakness herself and that is her gullible/naivety. Despite all the skepticism of new people and all the times she has been backstabbed, Alice somehow always has a naïve component that leads her to be deceived by her known enemies repetitively.  She always underestimates the abilities of the Corporation, and as a result suffers some major blows that often costs her dearly. Perhaps her reliance on those abilities of hers leads to some overconfidence that thinks she can punch, shoot, and fight her way out of any situation.  While this is true most times, there are a few accounts to show that a little more paranoia behind the operation could have made things a little easier in this complex universe of Resident Evil.

 

In regards to the movies, well they are certainly popcorn munching action flicks that are full of that adrenaline pumping special effects.  Resident Evil’s opening number did a nice job of bringing video games to real life (with better graphics than the PS One) and keep to the horror element of the movies. Even the second film did a nice job of bringing that horror aspect again, just with less intensity and finesse.  After words, the movie took a dramatic turn towards the action and stunts, gearing towards special effects and stunts than actual plot.  Resident Evil’s story quickly plunged into the crappy zone and became mindless killing up until the final chapter that actually worked to fill in the numerous gaps left behind by the previous installments.  And while they don’t bring the most intelligence to her sometimes, they certainly paint her to be the model warrior for many to root for.

 

 

Selene (Underworld)

Selen

Mercenary of the vampires, slayer of werewolves, and lover of…humans?  Yeah confusing as it sounds, Selene of the Underworld series is a definition of femme fatale in this list.  In her skin-tight jumpsuit, Selene blends sex appeal with lethality using the various weapons at her disposal to defeat her enemies.  Like many of our heroines, she is certainly trained to fight, but her victims are the demons lurking in the shadows of the dark. The difference for her though, is that her enemies are often much more vicious, evil, or bulkier than most of our other cast. As such, Selene has a strong sense of courage that many heroes cannot mimic.  Facing off against strong Lycans and the merciless aristocrats of the vampires requires one to have some guts, and Selene stands up to the various warriors with that cold edge steel needed for such a purpose. What requires even more courage is dropping her aristocratic privileges for love.  Selene’s superiors wield some pretty high power and they aren’t afraid to make immoral choices to destroy any who get in their way.  For our protagonist to know this and still stand up to them… I think you can agree with me that she has to have proverbial male genitalia.  As the stories continue to progress, Selene continues to fight to maintain order not so much for killing vampires, but more so for protecting the humans and though she loves from their war.

 

In terms of weakness, ironically it is love that her enemies use against her. Selene’s desire to protect those she loves (which she makes for public display) gives her enemies leverage to use against her.  The aristocrats prove themselves merciless in their approach to get what they desire and are not shy of using others as pawns.  Selene’s love of the human Michael, among other people, results in numerous hostage situations, torturous beatings, and even massacres all for the sake of love.  Love is certainly a strength, but for all of Selene’s skills, planning, and fortitude…you would think she would be more prepared or secretive to not have that used against her.  And for much of the last film, that love resulted in her getting owned a number of times, until some weird ritual magic thing occurred that gave her super powers beyond compare.  Once this happen she became cooler, yet less believable, which is saying something in this horror occult thriller.

In regards to movies, Underworld has had its up and downs in terms of quality.  The first two were incredible for me as I was introduced into Selene’s war against both races.  It was exciting, dark, and filled with that edge and story classic of the early 2000s, that actually made sense.  An action focused plot filled with exciting scenes made for an entertaining tale, but also focused on Selene’s growth and compassion towards the human race.  While not my favorite, Rise of the Lycans still catered towards a character development side that helped set up the relationships of other supporting characters.  Too bad they could not hold the action together, but it was still entertaining.

 

Then came the modernization of the series, and new directors took over.  Gone was the art of storytelling, and instead it was all about cheesy stunts and visuals to boast the special effects of the studio.  Awakening and Blood Wars became a hastily done plot that tried to introduce new concepts and relationships that were shallow and lacking the magic of the first films.  Even more, they started evolving their foes to ridiculous proportions that either didn’t work for me or they did little with.  And in regards to the last film, the plot was so hashed together and rushed it felt like reading the initial draft of a script or a Wikipedia summary.  Selene’s new power is awesome, but perhaps a little too powerful and unexplained, robbing the suspense of the movie due to her mortality.

 

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

Hermione

Ahh the loveable Hermione Granger, there is so much to say about this little wizard to be.  She wields the most powerful tool available to all heroes, the mind.  Hermione is perhaps the smartest heroine of this group as she learns the art of mastering multiple types of magic and subject matter of her world.  Fighting monsters, transportation magic, and the responsible use of magical trinkets are just some of the things she is capable of understanding and applying.  Hermione proves that you can learn anything and be able to apply it better than any male hero can, given enough time, patience and practice.  In addition, she displays discipline, inner strength, and classiness that we all only hope to have should we become as competent in our trades as she was.  Such great qualities are all wrapped in a beautiful package of visual loveliness, once again proving that you can be beautiful and talented at the same time. Hermione’s determination to save her friends and family is a consistent throughout the series, and her desire to do the right thing is displayed numerous times through the series by speaking out against her classmates’ rambunctious antics.  A symbol of following the rules that make sense and changing the rules that don’t, she certainly gets my vote for a role model.

 

In regards to her weaknesses, Hermione has several to talk about. Her biggest vulnerability for much of the series is her pride.  The young wizard likes being the best and goes to great extremes to secure her place at the top of the class.  At first this pride leads her to be arrogant, snobbishly correcting her classmates and taking her down the know it all pathway.  As her friends prove to be loyal to her, that arrogance begins to temper, but her obsessions to be the best remain as strong as ever.  Hermione’s goals lead her to stress herself to sickness in the third book when she literally has to bend time to allow her to take extra classes, some of which she fails.  That obsession leads her to be reckless sometimes and lose track of the qualities I admire, and leaves her prone to snubbing her friends.  Once the new dark age begins though, Hermione’s weakness turns to love, in particular for a small band of people who travel the dangerous road.  Fans know that fear tends to paralyze her from acting, and sometimes results in her losing her abilities due to panic.

 

When discussing the movies, I dare not insult the films because of the fan base that follows this series.  The movies are good on many levels, bringing J.K. Rowling’s world to life in beautiful graphics, sets, and costumes.  Seeing all the magic in the movie is something we can only dream about, and the emotions of the journey are all contained within.  The first few movies are all about the set up and wonder of the magical universe and the second half is all about casting the dark cloud over the light and challenging the heroes at hand.  Unfortunately, where the movies start to go wrong is when they deviate from the books at hand.  Harry Potter books are sacred tomes that you don’t want to adulterate and for the most part the movies respect that ground.  Unfortunately, key aspects were left out of the book and the studios made their own decisions that grossly resulted in some shortcomings and lack of bite the books have.  The burning of the Weasley cottage, the battle at the ministry, and much of the second half of book 7 were not impressive to me.  Had they realized that most would sit through a five-hour film (LOTR anyone) they could have made the movies exponentially better in these regards. 

 

Whatever movie you watch though, you can be sure that Hermione is well-represented.  Emma Watson’s portrayal is fantastic on any account as she grows alongside the character and brings the maturity with it.  Hermione’s character remains a little too pretty (according to one of my friends) in regards to the fashion component, but hey who doesn’t like a little sprucing up via Hollywood makeup.  Makeup aside, Hermione’s aptitude for magic and knowledge is captured in the movies, as are the morals, honor and love contained within.  Nice job my friends. Nice job.

 

Jenn Orso (Star War Rogue One)

Jenn

Last on our list is the latest Star Wars maiden to grace the universe.  Rogue One’s protagonist is all about the edge, a loner with the goal of survival and making a living, she was forced into a rough life at the young age of 9. Jenn’s parents were forcefully taken from her, resulting in her being raised by a mercenary in the prime of life.  Fortunately, the mercenary parted a wicked set of skills that raise her odds for surviving in the vast galaxy.  The tyrannical rule of the empire pulls her into the developing rebellion and leads to a journey where that strength to live carries on in full force.  Jenn’s strengths are determination, rationality, hope, and leadership as evidenced by her numerous actions during the 2.5 hours of the film.  She is able to unite a ragtag group of rebels together to attempt a mission best described as suicide to many.  And in doing so, she was able to accomplish goals that would set the stage for ages to come.  Jenn has many qualities and skills to which we hope to inspire others to mimic and she is also quite the warrior to fight for people everywhere.

 

As for her weaknesses, Jenn’s first is her lack of trust and teamwork.  In the beginning of the movie she tries to do everything by herself, resulting in her getting into trouble and often failing miserably.  While it is certainly important to have the confidence to accomplish a goal, it’s also important to recognize when a team is needed, which involves trust.  Jenn will not give her team the trust to begin with and as such limits her mission considerably in the beginning.  In addition, Jenn is a little reckless at times, tending to rush into things rather than coordinate.  I don’t know if it’s the skeptical component or if she doesn’t have strategy making 101 down, but Jenn surprisingly has little in terms of planning under her belt (rewatch the movie again and you will see it is her male counterpart who comes up with the plans).  Her ability to hold a grudge is quite a limiting step as well.  That opening act shows a lot of bitterness towards, well everyone in the galaxy at the hurt she has within.  Much of her hatred is cast towards her father and the abandonment she felt.  By doing this, she brought about ignorance to her life and added extra complications to delay her mission that had she accepted ma have resulted in better outcomes.  Still when all is said and done, that ending at the end shows she can overcome these limitations and become quite the champion to say the least.

 

Movie wise, Rogue One is one my favorite of the Star Wars Universe.  It’s different, it’s gritty, it shows the horrors of war instead of just the glamorous side we got in the first seven installments.  At first the opening is choppy and a little hodge-podge in terms of editing, but that set up serves it purpose of getting us to the grand finale of the movie.  That exciting ending is more than epic conclusion, filled with the nostalgia and action we waited for so long with the Star Wars revival.  A great cast of characters, a very gut wrenching story, and a new female protagonist to leave a legacy are all wonderful qualities of this movie.  Rogue One does need some improvements itself though including better balance of characters, a tighter opening that doesn’t feel as discombobulated and remembering to actually use their actors they pulled into the project (like Forrest Whittaker).  Outside of that though… a solid movie.

 

So, there you have it.  Just a few women of the silver screen that I wanted to talk about.  These are just some of my observations on the femme fatales of modern film, and for the most part, I hope you find my analysis in good favor.  Like all good characters there are strengths and weaknesses and one can only hope that the characters whose stories aren’t closed yet will get the epic tale they deserve.  We will see what Wonder Woman brings in the next movie in September and from there one can only guess what is next in the world of Hollywood.  I’m Robbie K, thanking you for another read and inviting any constructive discussion you might wish to share.