A Hostile Slow Pace With a Savagely Disjointed Plot

Hostiles

 

Award nominated movies get so much hype this time of the year, praised by critics and users alike.  However, depending on your tastes, these films are much slower, deeper, and less entertaining than the traditional blockbuster that floods the theater.  And this week, the general release of Hostiles starring Rosamund Pike and Christian Bale hits the theaters.  Seeing a Western mosey into the theaters again, I had high hopes for this movie shining like the awards suggested it would.  What is the verdict?  Robbie K is back in the dark trenches to give you his thoughts on yet another film piece.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

The Cinematography/Setting: One thing this movie has going for it, is being shot out in the wilderness frontier.  Hostiles is a beautiful display of this beautiful country, jam packed with jaw dropping spectacles of the Midwestern Plains. Dynamic angles and multiple setting help bring you into the theme of the Wild Wild West and get integrated into the world.  And given that this story involves a lot of walking, it’s good to have this cinematography supporting the treks of our wandering band of travelers.

 

The Acting:  You can tell I appreciate good performances, and Hostiles have an aggressive performance that is indeed Oscar worthy.  With Bale as the leading name, this former vigilante moves from Gotham City to the historical forts of the 19th century.  His rough edge works well as a disgruntled, tortured Civil War captain, bringing that hurt out in his steel gaze and tempered delivery.  Heroic and honor still dwell in the character, and Bale is able to keep all these pieces aligned to craft the interesting character. As for Pike, her character at first was annoying, but they bounced back and crafted an incredible, resilient warrior whose layers extended past the traumatic dismay of her story.  All the supporting characters of military personnel and Native American families were top notch, though their characters dialogue and roles were limited and not as fleshed out.

 

The Culture/Messages:  Hostiles is definitely Oscar worthy in terms of the cultural representation contained in this movie.  This time of adventure was certainly exciting, but perhaps one of the hardest times due to all the hostility the country was in.  Hostiles visualizes that environment quite well, bringing a realistic portrayal of this struggle and how life is so fragile. However, amidst all the traditions, violence, and hate, there are rays of light that attempt to outshine the darkness/hate.  Hostiles representation of forgiveness, honor, courage, and Native American tradition and the artistic presentation is solid and less preachy than some other tales.  Such strong lessons in lessons in an emotionally charged portrayal will hopefully hit you deep down.

 

The MusicThese movies are often known for their musical scores, and Hostiles is another grand example of symphony magic.  Amidst all the traditions, dense dialogue, and savagery is a fantastic score that adds to the emotions of each scene. Brass instruments lead the charge of the battles, while delicate woodwinds add tranquility to the more peaceful parts.  Yet it’s the final scene of the movie that holds my favorite track, a combination of everything to bring that film to an emotion packed ending. 

 

DISLIKES:

Depressing:  I like movies with a darker plot, it allows for more options and a dynamic story that is less predictable.  However, I’m not a fan of movies that are terminally depressing, no matter how educational they may be. Hostiles will leave you down and exhausted with everything that transpires, primarily in the Game of Thrones like atmosphere that hangs over the traveling band.  Don’t expect to keep your spirits bright at the end of this film friends, because there isn’t much happiness to gleam.

 

Long:  The movie is only over two hours long, but to this reviewer it felt more like four hours.  Hostiles is a movie that has a lot of challenges to develop our characters, but it was not an exciting journey for me to be honest.  While this one felt more like a traditional Western film, the movie failed to integrate much excitement for me to get it going.  There were a couple of suspenseful battles in the mix, but the movie resorts to walking through the woods and drama more than anything.  Had the story been more engaging, this would have worked, but that even failed to impress me outside of the morals it taught.  Given these limitations for me, this movie could have delivered the same messages in half the time.  So, bottom line, movie is long and not that entertaining to the traditional crowd.

 

Story Editing:  The underlying message to this movie is the development of Bale’s character in breaking open the hard-edged soldier and revealing the human beneath.  Sadly, the way they go for this, while artistic, was convoluted, sporadic, and kind of pointless.  The opening act held potential in the thrilling hike through the wilderness with a hostile enemy in pursuit.  However, this component is dropped and a new tangent is introduced.  The movie continues this trend and the writers seemed to throw these random, convenient moments in the mix to try to stir things up.  These disjointed plot devices, didn’t flow well with me, and these sudden character introductions were lazy without any mention in proceeding conversations. Even the dialogue is mediocre, accurate to the time period, but low amplitude and containing little pertinent details. And when they get to the more emotional moments, they are reduced to quick montages that are over in a pinch.  As for the ending when the final journey is reached, that final conflict was a messy end that was hastily developed and not really worthwhile in the grand scheme.   

 

The Verdict:

            Hostiles is again one of those time period movies that holds much realism in the forests and frontier of the West.  The visuals take center stage on this movie, with acting and moral lessons granting an excuse for a big budge stroll through the wilderness.  However, this true Western is very drawn out, with heavy handed drama that is depressing and savage in its own right.  In addition, the disjointed story does not help support these darker moments for me to give major credit outside of symbolic representation of fighting the demons we all battle.  So, while this movie is artistic, thought provoking, and realistic, it’s also not as entertaining as I like in a film.  Therefore, I can’t recommend this one for theaters and encourage a visit at home theater to be honest. 

 

My scores:

 

Adventure/Drama/Western:  7.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

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A Cure To Extra Movies Telling The Story!

Death Cure

 

Books, once the primary medium for telling stories, has now become the newest screenplay source for Hollywood.  The big wigs are back this weekend with another dystopian novel coming up to the big screen in hopes of concluding the tale with that justice fans demand.  As these series are a mixed bag (Hunger games vs. Divergent), one may wonder how this book will fair, especially with the mixed response the first two have had.  Robbie K here, hoping to help you out with another movie weekend and hopefully save you some time and money.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Strong Opening:  You always like your movie to grab your attention from the start, and the Death Cure is happy to accommodate.  The movie takes little time to get the excitement going, pumping into an action scene and kicking the pace off to 4th gear.  Even after the scene finishes, the movie sets things up quickly, to keep the pace and tension going, a plus given the long run time. I myself enjoyed the opening act of the film and how it was able to establish all three-story fronts and run them in tandem, accomplishing the balance of concise and complete.

 

Acting: To make these classics come to life, one must get the cast just right to bring these characters off the page.  Well the squad who was cast long ago, continues their strong work of capturing Thomas and his band of merry men.  Dylan O’Brien is the leading man again, getting the rebellious, battle hardened leader role down.  Stoic and heroic are his leading qualities, but handling that emotional vulnerability that comes with the role was a challenge well accomplished by this actor.  Ki Hong Lee, while not quite the champion he was in the first two installments, still keeps his calm in his role, securing the suffering portrayal and for once not sounding sexual when a character screams.  Kaya Scodelario as Theresa was a little dry and mundane at times, but starts to redeem herself and get her complexities down at the climax of the movie. And my favorite of the characters, Newt played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster who got all the emotions right, played the transition roles to point, and delivered some of the best speeches I’ve heard in a character. 

 

The Suspense: What I liked about this movie the most though, is how well they captured the suspense and tension of the film.  Unlike the earlier installments that hit those dead moments, the third installment manages to keep things always moving and on the edge.  With suspense and thrills packed in, it’s hard not to get lost in all the action on board and its nail biting, cleverness.  Loaded into this excitement though, is a bounty of emotions that rope you into the character’s struggles and tether the chaos to the story.  Riding this roller coaster was very satisfying, and personally, I loved how engged these characters were into the film as the epic conclusion started to arise.

 

The Final Scene: And after all this excitement, comes a finish that was perfect to wrap up the chaos at hand.  While not the most complete in terms of answers, the finale’s combination of epic soundtrack, emotional monologue, and cinematography brought goosebumps to my skin, and no it wasn’t due to a virus.  It’s this final punch that finally shows you can take a book series and end it epically, so stick around ladies and gents to see how trials finish up.

 

DISLIKES:

 

No refresher:  In most of these movies, the writers are able to remind you of the previous events in either dialogue or an opening montage.  Death Cure doesn’t remotely try to attempt to give you a refresher course, and for those who haven’t seen the films or reread the novels, you are on your own for connecting the dots.

 

The Length: You know there has to be massive entertainment or an engaging twist to keep you hooked into the movie.  And while Death Cure was exciting, I couldn’t justify the movie being past 120 minutes.  Much of the extra length came from drawn out chases and dialogue that were bloated examples of arrogance.  These moments might have held tension, but eventually got too drawn out for me, and had be begging for a conclusion.  Nevertheless, the suspenseful moments of the film sometimes turned into ridiculousness for me, because they seemed to move at half speed to get to the predictable ending.  More editing would have been a plus here.

 

The Coincidences:  Can’t tell if this was the theme in the book, but did the events really rely on this much serendipity and suspense of belief.  I’m not talking about the dystopia feel, or the zombie like cranks that seemed to be the latest overplayed creature.  No, my beef  comes with how inconsistent or stretching one sees them take with things like bullet proof glass suddenly breaking, convenient structural integrity collapse, and how the creatures somehow don’t attack the outskirts of the last city.  With all of these conveniences, it was hard for me not to laugh at these choices as they became a rather weak wrap up.

 

Reduction of Characters:  I give these guys props for integrating so many characters, but this film kind of dropped both plot and characters into the background, more than I would have expected.  Some of our heroes from the last movie have barely ten minutes in the film, and other major villains don’t have quite the bite that one would have expected from the trailers.  Even new characters making their appearance were a little drab, not in terms of looks, but again in a leaner story that I thought was more prominent in the book than on the screen.  Why we didn’t see more of these rag tag mercenaries and supporting characters , I don’t know, but again balance is key.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Maze Runner: Death Cure was a good conclusion to the trilogy for this reviewer.  The cast continues to remain strong, with a strong set of scenes to grip you into the action and lock in the suspense to come over the 120 minute run time.  And the fact they crafted a finale without going into an extra film wins bonus points for me. However, the movie is a bit unnecessarily long for me, failing to impress with exaggerated chase scenes that come to a convenient ending. In addition, the characters they highlight in the trailers, primarily the new antagonists, needed some better balance for me to help bring this final installment to the top.  Still, given all the excitement and special effects, as well as an emotionally packed story, this trilogy’s finale is worth a trip to the theaters.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

A Little More Development Would Have Made This 12 Stronger

12 strong.jpg

            The World Trade Center attack, a day that will forever live on in the history of the American society.  From this event, our military launched a new war that targeted terrorism, and the escalating threats that hid in the shadows.  We’ve had plenty of tales about the heroes who acted on that day, uncovered the leads to locating the leaders of the attack, and potential occupations of territories of those who might continue their work.  This weekend, yet another campaign heavy feature comes to theaters entitled 12 strong, the declassified story of the Horsemen who fought back.  What lies in this political drama?  Robbie K here to answer that question in hopes of guiding your viewing pleasures.  Let’s’ move out!

 

LIKES:

 

The Pace:  Some military dramas get lost in all the political jargon and build up, but this movie manages to dive through that medium quickly to get to what you want to see. While the opening hour is on the slower side and dialogue heavy, it eventually takes off when the first battles begin to rock out.  From there, the rest of the movie is tense ride, moving at a consistent speed to bring suspense and intensity at what lies in the Middle Eastern range.

 

The Dialogue:  The story of the horsemen may be action heavy focused, but my buddy and I agreed that the dialogue was well done in this movie.  One component is between the soldiers, a realistic, almost natural, exchange of insults, jabs, and venting that represents the bond the soldiers have.  Well-timed jokes relieve some of the tension, and the comedic punch is subtle but perfect to get a good laugh out of you.  When the action starts up, you’ll get your feel of military jargon, as the soldiers call out strategic maneuvers and call in air strikes utilizing the coordinates.  While not the most creative writing here, it’s a component that helps pull you into the heat of the moment.  The strongest writing though, comes in the philosophical debates between Captain Mitch (Chris Hemsworth) and General Dostum  (Navid Negahban). A contest of wills takes place numerous time between the two leaders, and in it contains Hollywood inspired lines designed to open your minds to bravery, empathy, and what it means to fight.  These moments are the most moving, and in it a great study on the hell war truly is.

 

The Messages:  The dialogue does much of the lifting in this category, but 12 Strong also has enough visual representation on the culture of the battlefield that was the war on terror.  Perhaps there is some studio magic to gloss up things, the movie did a solid job portraying the Arabic cultures and approaches to war on all sides.  Honor and dignity are heavy in the population, and not all factions are as heated as the terrorism associated with it.  Seeing this duality not only supports the dramatic storytelling, but does a solid job at educating the audience that not everyone out there is an enemy.

 

Action: Okay now the part you really want to know about.  The action of 12 Strong delivers what the trailer promised.  Special effects heavy sequences erupt to life as Hemsworth and company unleash their disciplined fury onto the poor extras that are heavy in this film.  Exciting gunplay is the main theme of the mix, all sharing a similar foundation, but with some tweaks to help each battle stand out.  As many of my fellow reviewers agree, the movie’s final battle is the best of the bunch, packed with emotion, tension, and all out courage and glory that America loves to see as they ride their horses into the fray.  A powerful cinematic score will assist in bringing the whole shebang to life.  Not the strongest of all the movies I’ve seen, but dang strong in its own right.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Too Long:  For a movie that is action packed, you would think that the story could be told in under 2 hours.  Yet, this movie was a little too long at points for me.  It starts with the delayed opening, taking nearly an hour to get to the first battle the movie promised.  Sure, the information is presented in a concise manner, but how much of it was really needed is the question that remains.  In addition, the movie took some tangents to give you the whole journey, admirable in terms of capturing every detail, but not done well enough to be fully pertinent to the movie.  This story takes some unnecessary tangents that didn’t get the time it needed, acting as quick acknowledgements to the soldier’s lives and nothing more.

 

Hard To Differentiate Soldiers:  Another problem with this movie is how much the soldiers seem to blend together in this movie.  You’ve got Hemsworth who sticks out like a sore thumb, and a couple of other members that have a unique quality to them to help differentiate them.  Much of the cast though are just bearded big men who all have a vendetta to settle with the terrorists.  Sacrificing logical combat gear choices, like helmets and armor, they try to give some visual cues to help each member stand out, but their identities still aren’t really prominent for the audience to grab onto.  They relied on Hemsworth too much to do the lifting, letting his good looks do most of the eye grabbing.  In addition, none of the other soldiers had strong background development, with only the ones with family getting any glimpse of a life.  They try to give a few of them some screen time at parts of the movie by splitting the team, but most of the supporting antics fall to quick sequences that could have been left out.

 

Army Of One: Exciting as the battles are, 12 strong is more like 1-5 strong in the grand scheme of things.  Hemsworth is the soldier whose perspective you’ll get the most of, despite being the member who has had the least combat experience.  Where other movies do a nice job of integrating all members of the team in some way, but this film sort of glazed over the contributions of the others.  Don’t get me wrong, the other troops have some displays of their skills, but they just don’t have that unique component other military films do.  Even the main villain sometimes get lost to the sea of extras, with only some close ups of sneers to shine the spotlight on.  Again, the movie relies of Hemsworth to do most of the lifting, and it really could have achieved more had the others been more involved.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            When it comes to action films, 12 strong is the leader for the new year at the moment.  While the movie starts out slow, the second act gets things going, primarily thanks to the action sequences that are loaded in this movie. Still, the movie manages to get some good dialogue into the mix that, in tandem with the visual effects, does a nice job delivering the emotional messages about the culture of war.  However, the movie was a little too long, going down too many paths that, while entertaining, did not provide much to the story.  Such a shame, as the other members of the platoon could have used some development to not only add more to the battles, but also help the other cast stand out a little more.  Given all these things though, the movie is the pick of the weekend to go see in theaters, due to the special effects and storytelling at hand.

 

My Scores:

 

Action/Drama/History:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

 

Den Of Deceit: Will This Movie Steal Your Attention

Den of thieves.jpg

 

Robbing banks, a past time for many characters in Hollywood and often the setting for a very engaging story line.  Early renditions of this movie often added a little comedy to the atmosphere at the preposterous lengths they have to go to score the big score. As tastes have matured though, the crime genre has strapped on a more violent, angst-filled, gun fest where the darker the tale, the more you wail.  Welcome to another Robbie’s movie review and tonight I set my sights on Den of Thieves, a movie with leading man Gerard Butler taking point to get you into the theater.  What’s in store for this semi-advertised movie?  Read on to find out.

 

LIKES:

 

Good Acting: You want angst filled cops and vengeful mercenaries, look no further, because this cast has you covered with their skills.  Gerard Butler still has the candid cop role down, utilizing his gruff and ire of Leonidas, without the abs or honor. It works so well as an entertaining character, one you might enjoy as you watch him unload his full might into the epic crime case at hand.  His supporting cast amplifies the rogue cop team aspect, saying little, but at least providing the looks. Pablo Schreiber has the villain role down pat as well, cut throat and to the point, but also strategic and in control of his emotions.  The culmination is a respectable villain, whose portrayal is so calculating you don’t know what Schreiber went through to capture it.  Finally, O’Shea Jackson Jr. gets props for his role as Donnie, another character that is complex and stuck between two worlds and having to adjust to two situations.  He pulls off the mannerisms and emphasis well crafting the third big character of the film.

 

The Character Chemistry:  While the acting brings each character to life, it’s the direction and writing that really makes these characters shine for me.  Donnie, Merriman, and Big Nick have that awkward triangle relationship going, trading love and friendship for a crazy game of manhunt and keeping secrets. Much like Catch Me If You Can, Den of Thieves is a darker twist to the crime chasing thriller, with a rivalry that calls for each character to up the ante to go for the score and obtain their goals.  Numerous audience members reacted to the tactics they threw out, often aimed at the other’s personal life to hit them hard.  How low will they go?  You don’t know, but it creates some suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

The Multiple Levels: A good crime movie is clever, tricky, and often convoluted to minimize the chances of the plan actually working.  Den of Thieves accomplishes this complexity quite well, with the title acting as a symbol for all the deceit contained in this movie. While certainly vengeful, the strategies of Big Mike and Merrimen are like a massive scale chess game, each move trying to draw their opponents out in an attempt to divert from the real goal at hand. And the identity of that underlying goal is constantly changing, each revelation peeling a layer back until the core is finally revealed at the end. Those fans of crime shows are going to enjoy this, because it is that plot only bigger.

 

Well Detailed:  This movie accomplishes the crime story telling quite well.  The characters are pretty well developed and they get points for expanding upon the generic roles we have seen in countless media.  However, what I really appreciated, was seeing the dots connected, no stone left unturned in explaining how the entire plan connected.  All the cronies, all the planning, every detail accounted for in this grand scheme.  I like a movie that tells a complete story, and Den Of Thieves accomplished this task.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Language: A minor dislike, the band of thieves and cops fall victim to expletive heavy dialogue once more.  Every ounce of frustration is represented in some curse word, often leaning towards the F-Bomb, but occasionally diverting to another term in the limited glossary.  Happily, most of it is relevant to the dialogue and not too overdone.

 

Big Nick’s Tangents: When Nick is engaged in the battle of wits, the story moves and things seem relevant.  While I applaud the attempt at expanding his character, Mike’s personal life does not fit well into the whole depth of the movie.  Outside of painting some personal problems he has, these issues don’t get too much in the way of his job.  So why did we dive into these issues?  Is it some personal growth they are trying to set up?  Is it a means to develop a plot device to be utilized later?  No, it seems like it was just some expansion on the run time and a way to chisel away from the rogue cop physique.  Had it been left out, probably would have resulted in about thirty minutes cut out, which would have been good.

 

More Action: The trailers paint this to be a high velocity crime chase and I had such high hopes for this to be the case.  It showed promise with the opening scene, the firefight that gets the tale started being intense, exciting, and even better… not one sided.  After the adrenaline rush ebbs, you see the suspense building, and at parts it seems things are going to come to full boil.  And then things fizzle out and you are left with more dialogue and drama until the final fifteen-minute bout at the end.  These moments are awesome, but Den Of Thieves could have really used a few more exciting features to keep things on the edge and speed things up. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, Den Of Thieves is a more concentrated version of the cable crime shows that fill the mainstream line up.  This dark tale is ready to keep you on your toes, as the tennis match of skill, deceit, and vendetta filled antics makes for an interesting twist on these casual roles.  However, the biggest selling factor is the complexity of the film and tumbling down the rabbit hole.  The things that bring this movie down for me are the need for more action and some useless tangents that don’t add much to the story.  As such, this brings the movie down a peg in terms of excitement and added some unnecessary minutes to an already long movie.  Still, the convoluted tale is enough to be theater worthy and I recommend a visit on this one. 

 

My scores are:

Action/Crime/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Forever A Mediocre Love Story

Forever My Girl

 

Another weekend, another massive launch of movies and this weekend my reviews start with a little romance to spice up January. I’m talking about Forever My Girl, the movie utilizing Nicholas Sparks name to rope customers in.  The trailers make this one to look cute and another generic romance movie, but you never know what will come out of the fancy wood work of Hollywood.  Robbie K is back with another review to help you out with selecting your viewing choices.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Cute:  The trailers didn’t lie at how adorable this movie is.  While many will flock to the gritty action films of darkness and bullets, others will enjoy the calmer nature of this film.  The film is that same cute mush that romance movies bring, filled with both family morals and promises of true love surviving anything. As down home family life begins to settle on the screen, my audience members oohed and ahhed at all the sympathetic madness the film brought in spades.  Yet the cutest thing in this movie is adorable little girl that ties everyone together, and speaking of which…

 

The Little Girl:  Billy is by far a crown jewel of the film, a blend of sweetness and sassiness with great writing to help her stand out from the kid roles of Hallmark Channel. Abby Ryder Fortson was a perfect casting pick for the film, her high pitched voice, cute face, and silly antics a perfect reflection of the adventurous nature 8 years have.  She somehow managed to deliver her lines in a manner that was very fun, energetic, and not too annoying, which is difficult to do with a kid role. Fortson gets bonus points for how natural the role felt and not forced upon me.

 

Not Slow:  Romance movies often are slower for me, not only because of lack of action, but more so for how many tangents they go down.  Forever my girl was able to avoid treading down these diverging paths decently, easily able to loop back to the main path and get back to the love story at hand.  It keeps things moving, gives you the superficial thrills that many crave, and does it all in a nice 100 minute run time.  Exactly what the attention span of modern audience members want.

Jessica Rothe:  If you read my review of Happy Death Day, you’ll know I loved the lead actress Jessica Rothe, and this movie shows her dynamic abilities quite well.  Again the woman blew me away with her performance, capable of injecting so many emotions in what was such a simple role.  Strength, love, heartbreak, and hope are all components she portrays well in her character and does it in a manner that will appease romantics, while also not sending you into eye rolling territory.  While her beauty certainly draws your eyes to her character, I fell in love with the qualities of this character and more so how she seemed to fit well in the setting of the movie.  Plus, she was able to play a sentimental, romantic movie role that didn’t want to make me slam my head into the armrest.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Unoriginal: Sadly, the movie starts losing points with how unoriginal the story was.  I know, the original tale is essentially dead, but this movie really didn’t make any big stretches to be unique.  Much of the plot is a carbon copy of Nicholas Sparks and Hallmark, unable to blend them into any special presentation.  As a result, the movie is very predictable, with few twists to bring in any suspense or excitement to spice things up.

 

Too Many Plots To Balance:  All the mashing of romantic movies into one piece can sometimes be an incredible thing, but in this film… it didn’t work for me.  A strong foundation was promised by the trailers, and in truth it had a firm ground to spring off of.  However, one soon gets to see all the plots come crashing into a messy pile up of underdeveloped, half-baked moments that only semi-fit.  These entangled tangents didn’t do much for me, and all these shallow semi-stories left me wanting more. Had they sacrificed some of these plots and added some impasses, this charming story could have been more engaging and won points for more suspense to amp up the love.  I think there was just too much to work with, but too some more is better.

 

Too rushed: This goes back to the balance issue, but surprisingly I think this movie moved a little too fast.  I understand things move fast in a movie, but many films are able to create the illusion of time passing by, or at least putting a lot of struggles to develop the character in a short amount of time.  Forever my girl though, did not accomplish this task, with things settling too fast to: 1) be believable and 2) be deep enough to maximize the emotional response of the film.  In addition, it left little time for the secondary characters to flourish themselves or become super relevant to the plot.  It would have been great to expand on these roles, but alas there was just no time.

 

The Acting:  I’m not saying these were the worst performances at all, but there were times where the acting was a bit of a stretch for me.  While Fortson and Rothe stayed pretty consistent and at the top of their game, the other characters were not so skilled/fortunate.  Many of the country accents seemed a little forced for me, constantly teetering between impressive and phony.  A few of the actors really could not get the emotions off the ground, and others tried to force too much stress in their roles that came out at half mast for me.  Even the lead Alex Roe struggled to handle all the emotions his character had, sometimes feeling unmotivated to his character Liam.  Again, it’s not horrible, it just needed more polishing to really get things together.

 

The Verdict:

 

            Forever My Girl is sweet, angelic, and moral packed tale that these movies are famous for in this Hollywood, cinematic world.  A charming cast with a moving plot are the highlights of this movie, and a good filler for those waiting for the steamier stories to come.  However, this glorified Hallmark movie suffers from too many plots coming together and an improper balance to handle them.  The result was a very rushed movie where characters, acting, and sub-plots all suffered from their inability to decide on the plot.  Therefore, this culmination, while entertaining, suffers a lot from this fast paced approach and leave one wanting more out of this film. 

 

My scores are:

Drama/Music/Romance: 6.5

Movie Overall: 4.0

It’s a Paddington of Fun!

Paddington 2.jpg

 

Animated films are a risk these days in terms of going to the theater, unless of course you are Disney in which case you are guaranteed quality.  Other studios, however, struggle to find the balances in cuteness, kid vs adult, and storytelling vs. gimmicks.  So, enter Paddington, the loveable, raincoat wearing bear who is hoping to make another mark in the theater.  Can this CGI, anthropomorphic animal in a real-life cast filled world hit home again with a second movie, or have the morale antics been lost to the ocean Disney has crafted?  Robbie K here with another review hoping to help guide your movie going pleasures.  Let’s get started.

LIKES:

 

Animation/Acting:  In the modern-day world, animation with computers has never been at its highest point.  Paddington’s team continue to nail this category starting with the stunning, realistic design of the bear that dreams big and loves even bigger.  His movements are fluid, not just limited to simple walking and blinking, but expanded to running, cooking, and even…washing windows with his butt.  It’s impressive to see so much human in this animal, and maintain the realism of the bear anatomy.  Even better is how well the cast is able to work with the animated star, flawlessly transitioning amidst the scene as if her were actually there.  A strong shout out to the editing for the victory in this one, for executing a performance worthy of a kid’s movie.

 

Cute: In a kid’s movie like this, you want cuteness to be a factor, as this usually means a kid friendly film that little ones can go to.  Good news parents, Paddington’s second adventure is just as adorable as the first.  Outside of the adorable design, his big heart, voice acting, and even his mistakes are reminiscent of a new puppy without having to clean things up. My showing was filled with laughter at this adventure and awing when the heart filled moments come up.  Yes, this film is certainly kid friendly and cute as a button.

 

Engaging characters:   Yet despite being kid friendly, Paddington 2 is able to inject heart into the mix and create characters that older audience members will want to latch onto.  Paddington himself evolves on new levels once again, expanding upon the lessons learned in the first installment, and tackling the cruel nature of the world.  The rest of the family including Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville go through their own transitions as well, expanded enough to not be obsolete, but not so much to hog the spotlight.  Instead new comers like Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson are the secondary characters who have more development, both going down same, but opposite paths that are entertaining to see.  All the development goes with the flow of the story, and didn’t feel too much of a stretch for me.

 

Story/Presentation: Paddington’s story is not the first time we’ve seen to come to the theaters.  Getting over this, the story is one that has many levels to it.  Superficially, it’s a bear going on a journey to clear his name, all while looking precious in the process.  However, moving in tangent with this film is a mystery centering around Hugh Grant’s character trying to uncover.  In tandem with that is the family also trying to solve the mystery to potentially help their friend out.  All these stories fit well together, and keep the plot in motion, never in static boredom and to have these decently balanced works for this reviewer.  Yet, the biggest component of this story, is how heartwarming and emotionally packed it is.  Like a good Disney film, Paddington 2 has those powerful scenes and sequences that hit my heart deep.  Some are uplifting and laugh worthy, primarily those that involve politeness, respect, and love.  Others are a bit sadder in tone, primarily in the struggles and setbacks where the look of disappointment on the little bear’s face brings out your empathetic side.  Regardless of what scene affects you, the ability to illicit such a response gets points in my book, especially when you nearly make me cry.  Paddington’s moral filled tale is not unique, but it certainly presented well to warrant an investigation.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Predictable:  No surprise, Paddington’s kid friendly tale doesn’t have too many twists or turns that will leave you in shock and awe.  Older audience members will be thankful at the fun this movie has, because in regards to story you can see everything coming within 30-45 minutes of it actually happening.  This is of course difficult to do without going to the dark side, but still there could have been some slight twists.

 

Character Stupidity:  With how much Paddington has done for his community, one would have thought the town would have been a little wiser in terms of the crimes at hand.  Much of the cast is ridiculously ignorant or surprisingly dumb in the details and clues that are missed, or the fact that the police don’t warrant investigations.  This approach does set up the stories that I described in the likes section, but you have to suspend your understanding of characters to accept it, amazing how fickle people can be.

 

Expanding More:  This would be difficult to do in a movie, but I would have loved to see more of the secondary characters expanded the way Paddington was.  Primarily, the jail scenes needed a little more spreading out, not only to give more time with the prisoner cast, but add a little more adventure to this movie.  Expanding the struggles to obtain friends might have added a little more to the movie and made the hero’s journey a little more epic.  In addition, Hugh Grant’s tale was the sillier of the bunch, and could have either used a few more stunts and examples to at least add a little more to his plot.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Paddington 2 is a prime example of what a kid’s movie can be when one pays tribute to all audience members.  While the cute animation and characters who perform slapstick, silliness are good for your little ones, the surprisingly deep character and story really works to entertain the masses. British led movies continue to impress me and this movie is certainly great for all ages, perhaps even illicit a few tears upon first viewing. Still it has some work to be a perfect movie including mixing up some of the predictable plotlines, not turning their characters into doubting imbeciles, and expanding more on their new gimmicks.  Overall though, this is the movie to see this weekend in my opinion and certainly one worth hitting the rental for, assuming you don’t hit the theaters first. 

 

            My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  8.5

Movie Overall:   8.0

Rolling Into Action/Drama Than Thriller

Mary

Tina Turner, made the big hit song that brought pep to step and got people rolling when she crafted the song Proud Mary.  Decades later, Hollywood is happy to bring a movie semi-inspired by the song, ready to storm this “holiday” weekend with another action/drama to stand up to The Commuter.  A great move was to hire Taraji P. Henson, a fantastic actress who has the edge for this kind of drama given her track record in this field.  But what else does this film have to offer given its low amount of advertising on cable and internet media?  Robbie K here to shed some light on the subject and help you choose your viewing pleasure.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Acting ChemistryOne thing I love about African-American movies is how well the cast fits together in whatever project they making.  Henson and crew feel like a mob family, the tension, the doubts, and the anger all similar to what I’ve seen in family affairs.  It seemed to come so naturally to them, no overstretching of their talents to make the closeness work, selling to me that they were indeed a family.  And when Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) joins the family, the young actor and Henson have another chemistry that seems naturally there complete with sass, pizazz, and edge.

 

The Writing:  While I’m normally not the biggest fan of sass, annoying attitude, or bitter anger as the primary qualities in a character, Proud Mary did a nice job balancing these qualities.  Their character development established the reasons for these attitudes, and the whole mafia element added the tension need to set the stage for these qualities.  Even though the callousness got a little eye rolling at times, (a diluted version of the Godfather), I appreciate the tension and using it to work with the chemistry as opposed to just shock value.  An even more impressive element, is that they were able to interject cursing into the lines without getting to the oversaturation point.  Utilized for emphasis and to express how bad a situation was, the writers/directors accomplished the task of how one should watch their mouth and not over utilize the slang.  Classy and edgy, a nice combination.

 

The Action:  Yep, action junkies like me love this category, and Proud Mary is able to accomplish this category quite well in terms of storytelling.  There are a couple of fantastic sequences to get the ball rolling, a nice blend of Taken and Wanted without the super gore factor.  While these gunslinger scenes might not be the selling points for some, this film keeps it relevant to the plot and not just a careless waste of resources to add excitement to the list.  The ending in particular will get you rolling like a river, with its emotional charge, character linkage, and pure on intensity of the scene. Plus, utilizing the theme song to amp up the   Again props to this film.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Incredibly rushed:  The problem with this film starts with a very rushed script, which is most likely due to the limited budget of the film.  From the start, Mary’s emotional dilemma is dropped without much buildup, reduced to a quick opening scene and nothing more.  Her career, her skills, her importance to the family, none of these have an inkling of development outside of a few scraps of dialogue tossed into the mafia like meetings that don’t last long. The background information on Danny’s issues, also a sliver of what it could be, just enough to get the point across, but lacking the power to pull your heart strings.  This fast pace keeps the drama entertaining, but it’s lacking in terms of storytelling.

 

Inconsistent Emotion: The other issue with this movie, is the emotional inconsistency in this film in regards to the characters.  Mary herself fluctuates between cold assassin, angry-ex, and mother love in a manner that represents some mood disorder.  You understand the reasons why, but you don’t see enough even spread of these emotions to get the depth of her character.  In regards to Danny, again the fluctuations are inconsistent as he goes from street hardened, gang busting vigilante to a whiny, arrogant brat whose about to drop tears.  Given more time, this movie might have had the ability to stretch out these emotional moments and balance out there characters more.  Fortunately, the actors are able to keep this roller coaster exchange in check, but it can’t save the direction the writers had them go.

 

Lackluster villains:  The term bark is worse than their bite has never been truer in a movie. Proud Mary is all about powerful families running their business and trying to keep their territories in check.  And like all the Mafia movies, you expect threats and dealing out those threats.  In Mary’s world though, these guys are all about making threats without acting on them, giving people quite a few chances before they start to make a motion.  Then you get to the action scenes, and again these skilled hitmen don’t seem to have any surmountable talent in comparison to Mary.  Oh sure, it’s another example of superhero power, but the problem is…Mary was supposedly trained with some of these guys and they couldn’t do better.  Again, these inconsistencies just don’t work as a whole with this film, but they at least provide some settings for excitement and adrenaline pumping gun-fu antics to show women assassins are freaking cool.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Proud Mary keeps on turning out a plethora of components to entertain the masses. The drama associated with the family is something many audience members will love, alongside the balance the writers established between pertinent action and storytelling components.  However, this fast-paced film took some major shortcuts given their limited budget.  While the movie is still entertaining, it suffers from the rushed pace in regards to character development, emotional balance, and background information that could have strengthened this movie.  And while it is awesome to see another femme fatale appear in the studios, it would have only done it more justice if her bad guys had more bite.  While the action scenes certainly bring the effects, this movie just doesn’t have everything together to warrant an absolute visit to the theater.  This reviewer would recommend watching it at home

 

My scores:

 

Action/Thriller:  6.5

Movie Overall: 5.0