Little Stranger Presentation: Artistic and Elegant, But Not Exciting

The Little Stranger Poster

            Horror movies are difficult to balance story with scares, but nevertheless the monster madness reigns strong in all its forms. Tonight, one of those movies wants to try and break the mold of the milieu in hopes that it will remain a pleasant surprise in the flood of summer films.  Robbie K here, ready to bring another review and help you with your viewing pleasures as we cover:

 

The Little Stranger (2018)

 

Director:

Lenny Abrahamson

Writers:

Lucinda CoxonSarah Waters (novel)

Stars:

Domhnall GleesonRuth WilsonJosh Dylan

 

 

LIKES:

 

Thought Provoking:  Little Strangers is a very smart, elegant horror movie that uses a lot of unseen techniques to try and terrify you.  This psychological thriller drops lots of clues, leaving you scratching your head as they try to figure out what in the world is going on in this film.  This smart approach will engage conversation and have you constantly reviewing every scene to piece everything together.  Symbolism and artistic minds rejoice you have found your movie.

 

The Setting:  An 18thcentury mansion with wide echoing halls, dark rooms that house secrets, and silent halls that creak for no reason. This is the setting of the scares of this movie, the realistic mansion bringing that creepy edge that is sure to give one the creeps.  But outside of scares, Little Stranger brings the past back to the present, immersing you in the classic culture that was 20thcentury Europe. Throwing all of this together… one gets a chance to really immerse yourself in the adventure at hand.

 

The Acting;  A very character centric film, Little Strangers depends heavily on the cast to bring the psychological thriller to the forefront. Domhnall Gleesonhas much of the dialogue, a creepy sensation that does not feel directly threatening, but is cold, obsessive, and perhaps calculating enough to make you think twice. Ruth Wilsonis also a bit of enigma, more dynamic than the other characters, Wilson brings the sanity vs. experience to a great balance, continuing to have you question the truth of what she is experiencing.  As for the rest of the crew, they warrant a nod for their skills of bringing the culture to life, there was just more needed.

 

Short Run Time:  It’s only about 1 hour and 40 minutes and based on the dislikes below you can understand why I’m happy for the shorter time frame.

 

The Dance Scene:  It’s not the biggest, boldest, display of dance, but it at least breaks up the movie a bit to help potentially direct the film towards a new lead.  Might not be much, but I give them props for the cute display of etiquette and dancing.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Vague:  To thoroughly enjoy this movie, you have to be wanting a more symbolic vague ending than an actual conclusion.  Little Strangers will fulfill those symbolic loving fans, as it tries to keep you guessing.  I don’t mind thought provoking, but I’d like a little more closure than what I got, though I guess that is the topic discussion starter.  Still, the open-ended nature of the film didn’t quite work for me as well as they had hoped.

 

Not Scary:  A horror movie that isn’t thrilling or scary is hard for me to swallow.  The Little Stranger feels more like a political play or psycho thriller than true horror. As such, those looking for the popular, movie magic infused scares are going to be strongly disappointed at the grounded approach they took.

 

More Character Involvement: All the time they invested into this film, with all the characters placed in the little board of psycho/horror, they would have dived more into the psyche of them as well.  The movie strongly favored Faraday, dipping back to his past to hint at what is brewing in that quiet demeanor.  For the other denizens though, the backstories of them are reduced to dry dialogue and vague stories that one must pay massive attention to or miss a big clue.  Why the characters weren’t further elaborated, I don’t know, but perhaps their involvement could have gone to the next level.

 

Boring:  The movie is slowly paced, and without the novelty scares and creepiness, the articulated dialogue and elegant presentation are not the most engaging.  Outside of solving the mystery and vague symbolism, there was not enough to keep my attention or energy invested in the movie.  As such, it was difficult to concentrate and truly embrace what the movie had to offer.

 

Unnecessary Scenes: The movie has a number of scenes that are bloated displays of dialogue and dryer banter that is only semi-pertinent. I’ll stomach these moments designed for time all day, but unnecessary details (primarily those that strike my pet peeves) are not things I enjoy seeing.  One particular scene crosses into the heartless territory, with its inclusion reduced to only a few lines to explain why it all happened.  With the vague approach and symbolism though, I was ready to walk out once this detailed moment occurred.  Unnecessary and almost impractical moments like these, can stay buried in the minds of the authors and writers.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            The Little Strangers feels much like a book into movie format, really focusing on the psyche and internal mind rather than the horror aspect.  I’ll admit, it’s artistic, more unique and better acted than many horror movies, but it lacks that hook to keep me invested in the movie.  It’s not scary, it’s not fun, and really has some editing and toning needed to give the answers and closure I wanted.  So, don’t go in there expecting a regular horror and you may just enjoy it, but otherwise, I didn’t feel this movie had all the elements it needed to warrant a trip to theater. 

 

My scores are:

 

Dram/Horror/Mystery: 4.0

Movie Overall: 3.0

 

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It’s the Finale Countdown

Operation Finale Poster

            History teaches us many lessons, but sadly we sometimes are still too stubborn to learn when it things come wrapped in a convenient, shiny package.  Still, there are movies still trying to use their bucks to teach lessons in the tales they have to share. Tonight, yours truly attended the showing of the latest historical, biography, drama that hopes to make a mark.  What is in store?  As always please read to find out as I review:

 

Movie:  Operation Finale (2018)

 

Director:

Chris Weitz

Writer:

Matthew Orton

Stars:

Oscar IsaacBen KingsleyMélanie Laurent

 

LIKES:

 

Pacing:  For the most part, a drama like this is often slower than the movies I prefer, yet Operation Finale managed to meet this expectation. A brisk pace that allowed for detail, the audience was more than capable of finding that balance to tell it’s tale and not leave me falling asleep. 

 

The Class:  A Holocaust movie always runs the risk of diving into the dark, deep end of the horror pool, which can be hard to watch.  Again, Weltz and his team found the balance of making references to the horrible event, but adding a filter that alludes to the event without showing too much.  The result is crafting a piece of work that respectfully shows the events, but not in the distasteful display that many movies relish in.  As such, it doesn’t downplay the significance it, but rather integrates into the story.

 

The Relevance of Characters: A stuffed group into 2 hours is not easy to do, but Operation Finale made sure to integrate as many of the characters as possible and give a point to their inclusion.  No matter how small the role, each character has contributed to the operation in some manner to warrant their time on the silver screen. 

 

The History/Moral Lesson: The movie set out to teach lessons, and it certainly did.  History comes in a variety of forms, but this movie certainly felt like a visual book (yes I get the irony), still it’s an integrated piece of work that achieves the story telling history strives to obtain.  And like history, the moral lessons involves are poetically delivered without all the preachy planned speeches Hollywood writers love.  It’s the realism and musical score that drive all these lessons home, and a fantastic future for using this movie for teaching classes.

 

The Acting:  The movie’s bread and butter though is the acting. Character integration required a lot of dynamic play off of each other, and our cast was up to the challenge of bringing it to life.  At this point, all the secondary/supporting characters get a nod for their work, each member feeling like a part of the team that held their own emotional charge towards the common goal.  However, the key pillars of the movie are Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac the leads of the film. Isaac trades his X-Wing uniform for a more modest suit, and adapts the strong emotional power of an Israeli Jewish man forced to confront a lot of baggage.  It’s realistic, powerful, and the anchor to which much of the movie relies on and he rocks it.  As for Kingsley, the man is a legend for a reason and he beautifully opens the door of the antagonist role and the complexity that can come with it. Another balance of emotional prowess, the man will keep you guessing at what lies within the dark mind of the German War Elite.  The two together play a game of cat and mouse, and while not filled with gun play, or car chases, it’s this emotional tug of war that is immersive and kept me into the drama at hand.  Bravo to the casting director for bringing these powerhouses together.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Pace at times: Pacing is mostly good, but there are some slower moments that didn’t have quite the oomph that the rest of the movie did.  These parts bloated the movie more and didn’t quite deliver the punch for me.  Small dislike, but it leads me to the next limitation for me.

 

The Length:  The movie worked to portray a lot of angles on this historical event.  Operation Finale didn’t quite need to be over 2 hours for me, with probably at least 20 minutes being edited out with ease.  I see where it is going with the length to try and pay homage to those who lost their lives to the greatest tragedy, but in regards to the story it didn’t quite need the extra time.  Especially, when it comes to my next dislike.

 

The Other Character Stories: A lot of characters were introduced at the beginning, each played up for their emotional struggles to bring the former Nazi to justice.  And after a prolonged intro, many of the characters kind of stopped there. Operation Finale showed potential for very deep characters, and while the leads got the most dive into the psyche, the rest of the cast kind of got a fly over.  More integration and struggle would have been much appreciated for me to help further bring the group to life.  It’s not that the others were bad, but by explaining them a little more, the movie might have better utilized the 2 hours it had to have.  While the secondary crew accomplished their mission, some more tweaking could have strengthened things.

 

THE VERDICT: 

 

            For a historical drama. Operation Finale was one of the better ones to grace the silver screen in recent years.  While nothing like the legendary historical dramas that came before it, this film struck a balance I appreciated between historical presentation and dramatizing moments.  The two lead actors soared with their chemistry and by working around this entropy favored performance, brought the heart and soul of the cinematic work to life.  Still, the movie needs a little tweaking in investing in other characters to justify being greater than 2 hours as well as editing a few things out.  Still, this movie is probably a great example of classic story telling, and that element justifies the theater visit despite a lack of Big Screen effects.  Still, give this one a try when you can, I think you will enjoy it.

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/History: 8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

 

 

A Robot Rumble That Is Quite Humble

A-X-L Poster

 

The bond between man and dog is sacred, but what happens when it is a robotic dog that you happened to find?  That odd question is answered, ironically, tonight with the movie review that I bring.  A charming piece according to the trailers, this film is going to try and make a mark in the last stages of August.  Can such a bizarre concept actually work, or will it fall to skeptical eyes as the summer wraps up to pave the way for Fall’s lineup.  Robbie K here to bring you another review in hopes to helping you out with your movie choices.  So, let’s get reviewing on

 

Movie:  A.X.L. (2018)

 

Director:

Oliver Daly

Writer:

Oliver Daly

Stars:

Thomas JaneBecky GAlex Neustaedter

 

 

LIKES:

 

Cute/Family Friendly: The movie accomplished it’s mission to be family friendly, as this film does everything to mimic a Disney movie without falling into lawsuit territory.  A.X.L’s a quirky movie that should be a walk in the park for most, minus a few loud and darker moments so parents be warned.  Nonetheless, it’s got a little something for most young at heart audience members with that K-9 meeting human approach, fused with a little teen drama as well.

 

The Bike Scenes:  The trailers have shown you our main guy Miles (Neustaedter) tearing up the dirt hills of California.  Like the DCOM motorcrossed the few sequences dedicated to the sport are quite a sight for the audience members to soak up.  Decently stable camera work, fantastic sound editing, and a good orchestra/soundtrack to give it the extra oomph it needed.  While short lived, these moments are the fuel to get past the slow opening.

 

Decent Acting:  No award winners outside of the teen and kids choice awards level, but the cast of A.X.L. are not the worst crew to ever grace a screen.  Becky G is my particular favorite, the character given to her getting a little more chance to branch out than most of the others.  She’s balanced, edgy, but equipped to handle much of the chaos without breaking character.  Neustaedter isn’t bad, but his monotone performance needs a little molding to get a better character, instead of the sulky, long-haired look that much of CW’s cast seems to share. Alex MacNicollplays the overdone antagonist well, but not much expands past whining, moaning, and hormonal antics that aren’t worth the time to invest in.  And as for the rest of the group, they succeed in their roles, they just again needed more time.

 

The Unique Animation Of A.X.L.: It’s a combination of puppetry/robotics with CGI, the digital dog certainly had interesting choices made when it came to animating him.  At times it worked for me, the puppetry managing to bring the playful sprit out in full force.  The CGI is decent too, smooth and accurate for representing a cyber dog, yet not quite the magic experience that Disney likes to show us. This hybrid doesn’t seem logical, but in terms of creative display, it works for me.

 

 

DISLIKES

 

The Predictable Plot: If you have seen the trailers, you should be able to piece the ending together within the first half hour of the movie.  A.X.L. struggles with surprise, choosing to stick to soap opera antics and simplified plots to entertain.  If you don’t care about the plot and want to look at the pretty people, then you are set, but otherwise not much to make you gasp in this film.

 

The Characters Need Expanding:  Pretty self-explanatory, our young adult/teenager group are diluted characters that steadily start to fill in with each passing minute.  They work for the superficial looks and the sentimental message they were going for, but there was so much more to find out about them. Hinting at backstories, merging the group together, it needed a lot more theatrics to really craft the group that I wanted to see.

 

The Story:  Same thing here, A.X.L’s plot seems to be a rushed production that was finished to meet a summer daylight.  Things happen very quickly, getting little time to simmer before running all processors at max performance.  The story is really straightforward, and when you combine this with the lackluster characters you just get a rusted plot line that seems expanded from a short film.  Perhaps they have their eyes set on the prize of a franchise, or perhaps they hope to tell more somewhere else, but this film didn’t quite complete the film on a good level, potentially looking to the future instead of settling on the present.

 

The anticlimactic ending: Nothing hits me harder than seeing a supposedly suspenseful film drop the ball on the climactic struggle.  This film managed to promote a lot of potential excitement only to snatch that away with a semi-emotional finale that lacked any suspense or thrills.  A rushed finish only went so far with me, again working to hastily wrap up the story in the given time (110 minutes).  The silver lining is that this finale will be geared towards the youngest group, but for the rest try to enjoy the charming finish it holds to in the last 10 minutes.

 

 

The Verdict:

 

Truth is A.X.L. won’t be netting any awards but that doesn’t mean that it’s a piece of garbage.  It’s special effects and pretty cast nature will be the selling point alongside some fantastic sound editing.  And while the whole movie lacks the bite of an action film, it certainly does get that family friendly nature it wanted.  And while the twist of a ticked off robot dog is there, the rest of this predictable plot needed some tuning up, primarily the ending conflict. In all honesty though, A.X.L. suffers from trying to wrap up in  movie instead of looking to expand the tale into a television series or some other media. Worth a trip to the theater?  You can guess probably not, as this film could have gone to nickelodeon and done better.

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Family/Sci-Fi: 6.0-6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Know What Time It is? It’s Happy Time For Crude Humor and A Decent Mystery

The Happytime Murders Poster

            The Muppets, a cute, colorful, energetic display of puppetry that showed you could have imagination, wit and creativity all combine in an epic show that lasted for generations.  True, the puppets have dealt with lots of adult issues, but never did I think Jim Henson would see his creations dive into the world of tonight’s film.  Traditional lines are blurred as the modern meets the classic, twisting it into a new creation that holds loads of “potential”. Can the dark, murder mystery with puppets be awesome, or is it a Robot Chicken parody that falls flat on its’ face. Robbie K here to bring his thoughts on the first movie of the week, as he reviews:

 

Movie: The Happytime Murders (2018)

 

Director:

Brian Henson

Writers:

Todd Berger (screenplay by), Todd Berger (story by)

Stars:

Melissa McCarthyElizabeth BanksMaya Rudolph

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Soundtrack:  A soundtrack can make or break a part of the movie, and surprisingly this film succeeds in this aspect.  The music director picked a great variety of songs that help add some pep to the scenes, while also adding some comedy to the routine as well.  A well-timed pop song comes in at the most awkward times, while other songs mesh well with the theme of the scene.

 

The Acting:  Not award-winning roles, but the human cast succeeds in playing their roles and working alongside a puppet cast. Melissa McCarthycertainly gives justice to her immense screen time, and Maya Rudolphcleans up the scenes very well with her style of comedy.  The other secondary humans accomplish their goals as well, but it is these two who hold most of the human work.  In regards to the voice acting, too many voice actors to call out, but man did they bring their characters to life and capture the spirit of the Muppets as well.  Obviously the main puppet gets the most credit, but the others all bring the energy of puppets.

 

The Humor (at times):  You know there is a lot crammed into this movie in terms of jokes, and while not everything was a hit for me, it certainly had its moments that shined like, glittery pieces of felt.  Happytime murders gets props for clever pokes at popular culture, melding the modern-day crime obsession with the comedy of the kids puppet shows.  It’s these moments of clever content meeting the well-timed punch, while delivering with awesome voice acting that had me laughing the most.

 

The Mystery:  For a giant farce, the movie surprisingly has a good mystery at hand.  Predictable at times, the Happytime Murders have a cold hard case of murder, crime, and drama to try and uncover.  It dives deep and provides all the details in a nice format to help you solve the crime at hand.  Surprisingly, this was the component that kept me the most intrigued, almost like the rest of America and the trend of consistent crime dramas.

 

The Puppeteering:  You knew this was coming, but Happytime Murders gets my biggest nod for continuing the art of telling stories through puppet work. Jim Henson’s vision is alive and well, and the spirit of the arts is working strong in the number of stunts/scenes they put the main puppet through.  Dynamic motions are in Phil’s arsenal and with it they pulled out all the stops to make them flow in design and execution.  I agree, it’s not the grandest work that we’ve seen come out of Henson studios, but it is still a fantastic display nonetheless.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Crossing the Line: The humor components are funny at times, but other times go a little over the top in their journey for a laugh. Happytime Murders gets a red label for a reason and heed their warnings about not taking kids, for there are many things they should not see.  Sure, the impressionable minds will pick up on the curse laden dialogue, but some lines will be a little grosser than funny for some. Again, I’ll admit that they had me laughing at moments, but other times made me cringe in discuss.

 

Underutilization of characters:  This is mainly towards the human characters, but Happytime murders really struggles to maximize the human cast more than they do.  This is especially true for the detectives and Elizabeth Banks, for these characters had some hard-hitting scenes, but often were left in the background. Why not use them more?  I guess they needed some more puppet time, but still… maybe some better integration.

 

Deeper Dive Into Story: The mystery is there, and all the clues are in the details, but this movie did slack a little on the story. It was almost as if they had taken a mystery/crime series and mashed them together to make a piecemeal mystery. There was deeper storytelling and use of these puppets waiting in the wings, but for the laughs and all the clever puppet design, these elements were sacrificed.  Perhaps a second installment will dive into more, but much of the limitations come from the fact that they didn’t balance the other characters more than they did.

 

The Trailers:  Another example of a movie ruined by the trailers, Happytime murders suffers from the combination of a short run time and much of the funny being spoiled in the advertising.  If you have seen at least two of the trailers, you have much of the heart of this movie revealed in regards to the comedy.  In addition, there are some hard clues in the trailer itself, so you’ve been warned to skim around the trailers as you best see fit.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Happytime murders accomplishes its goal of being the inappropriate R rated Muppets show that some have longed for.  The clever, creativity, and adulteration are certainly a unique spin, and it brings its brand of comedy out in full force.  In this age where computers rule and puppeteers are left in the dust, this movie certainly proves this art can still be entertaining.  The bad news is that the movie’s short run time is one of the key weaknesses to the dislikes I mentioned, primarily in the trailers ruining much of the surprise and the storytelling needing more time to actually expand out.  Nevertheless, I admit this movie is fun to watch at times, but… it probably doesn’t merit a trip to theater. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Comedy/Crime: 6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

Going The Distance On Action

Mile 22 Poster

 

Action movies to many seem like a dime a dozen, but adrenaline fans like me always look for the thrills to come in any form. Tonight, I finish my week of reviews with another slam-bang, explosion riddled feature that hopes to excite the audience that plans to go see it.  Yes, tonight the poorly advertised Mile 22 is in theaters and with it the hopes that Mark Wahlbergcan bring another gun heavy movie some positive energy and laughs.  What’s in store?  Robbie K is here to help you out with another movie review.  Let’s get started:

 

Movie: Mile 22 (2018)

 

Director:

Peter Berg

Writers:

Lea Carpenter (screenplay by), Graham Roland (story by)

Stars:

Mark WahlbergLauren CohanIko Uwais

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Pace:  It’s brisk, it’s fast, and it is perfect for an action film. Mile 22 has few breaks once the excitement goes, with the last 35-40 minutes being nothing but high intensity violence and mayhem.  True, there is a middle part meant to build the suspense and lay the story, but this slow part soon ends, and leaves you ready to take on the special effects fest.

 

The Use of Characters: This movie has a lot of characters, and therefore a lot of responsibility to utilize them.  Mile 22 succeeds in bringing all the team together to try and accomplish the goal.  Whether it is the support team, the villains, or the ground team, almost everyone introduced has a significant role to play and gets there moments to shine.  Certainly, some more than others, but Mile 22 accomplished the integration mission.

 

Make-Up:  Minor like, but I give props to the group involved with the transformation of the agents from pristine elite to looking as if they have gone through hell and back.  The artificial blood, the contusions and abrasions, even the various bullet wounds are all nicely crafted to looking realistic and bringing the edge to the movie.

 

Mark Wahlberg’s character… sometimes:  The lead of the team holds a lot on his shoulders, but one thing that his character brought was the comedy and action point of the film.  His character has some issues that he lives with, allowing him to talk at a thousand miles an hour and being funny at the same time.  It’s the same type of Wahlberg character, just a little more amped and over the top, sometimes to the point of annoyance, but then he redeems himself and somehow comes through.

 

Action:  The battles in this movie are semi-carbon copy sequences of what feels like a video game from Tom Clancy’s work.  Yet, despite the similarities, these fights are still dynamic enough to feel different and blend together to unleash an exciting sequence.  Gun battles are strategic and suspenseful, supported by plenty of pyrotechnics to help shake things up with a nice light show. When close combat evolves, it’s modern meeting traditional martial arts moves, including using grandiose kill moves using out of the ordinary tools.  Things mix together well, and really go out in the exciting climax you wanted.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Violence:  A minor dislike and more of a warning, Mile 22 is not for the faint of heart or the sensitive.  It’s action is certainly fast paced, but the film has plenty of detailed shots involving graphic finishes and bloody blasts.  Like an episode of the Walking Dead, a few characters have close ups of some projectile or tool going through their body, and sometimes a little drawn out.  Therefore, seriously consider taking little ones or those who don’t stomach things well to this film.

 

Lazy Writing:  The dialogue isn’t that unique, the jargon is heavy, but the worst is the mindless cursing integrated in the film.  You know from my previous reviews that overuse of the F word just annoys me because it holds no real value for me.  Sadly Mile 22 doesn’t care and is more than happy to fill your ears with the lovely word.

 

The Lackluster Story/Character Development:  They tried, really they did, but Mile 22’s characters are superficial, puddle deep, in regards to details.  Some hasty character introductions, a few lines of dialogue to talk interests, and a hasty montage are the extent of most characters inner workings. As such, you’re not really connected to the characters outside of their other works and celebrity status.  Even the story itself has needed work, for its presented in a very ambiguous manner that seems like a mad chess game with deadly tools of destruction. Given some action films forgo a story, Mile 22 really needed some plot development to actually care about the characters.

 

The Twist:  It was a surprise, it integrated what seemed random moments, but I was not a fan of the ending.  One part is because this ending felt out of place with the majority of the film, the left-wing tangent just didn’t do it for me.  In addition, the ending was just very truncated, abruptly dropped out in five minutes and left on a very open terms.  If you like that kind of surprise, yay, but perhaps some closure was needed to end it in the right place for me.

 

The Camera Work:  Action movie can be tough to film, but why in the world do some people struggle with camera work in this genre.  Much of it works for me, but the close-up fights are a mad array of camera changes, trying to get all the angles of the fight. While it added some edge to the film, the chaotic camera actually robbed the detail and at times were useless images that only alliterated to the moves being executed.  Fortunately, these moments are few, but the close combat fight could have been even better if they had worked on camera dynamics.

 

The VERDICT: 

 

Mile 22 delivers on the action, not shying around the destruction and violence to really bring the adrenaline thrilled themes it promised.  It’s ending is the highlight of the film, and it has all the bells and whistles to support the grand design of destruction.  Yet, the movie really wont’ strike well with many looking for more past the action craze that it brings and doesn’t dive far into the qualities some people relish in story and characters.  In addition, some of the camera choice may not work for you given the unstable camera work.  Overall though, worth the trip to the theater because of the special effects focus, otherwise holdout until it hits homes.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Thriller:  7.0-7.5

 

Movie Overall:  6.0-6.5

 

Howling For The Visuals, But Whimpering For Story Quality

Alpha Poster

 

A movie about dogs is always a mixed bag… hey wait a minute, did I start this review last week like this?  Robbie K here and bringing you another analysis of the latest film to grace the silver screen.  While not a full dog movie, tonight’s feature goes back in time to explore the origins of how we got man’s best friend.  What looks part survival film and part pet movie, led me to wonder what was in store, in hopes it would be the next epic film to break the box office. What lies in store?  Robbie K here to give you another writing of opinions as I review:

 

Movie: Alpha (2018)

 

Director:

Albert Hughes

Writers:

Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt (screenplay by), Albert Hughes (story by)

Stars:

Kodi Smit-McPhee,  Natassia Malthe,  Leonor Varela

 

 

LIKES:

 

Quick Run Time:  A movie about survival, especially with one human character, can be long and drawn out if not careful.  Alpha keeps the film rolling, not taking too long of pauses as the journey transverses from one part of the frontier to the other. The entire span of the journey is just over 90 minutes and it does a nice job trying to cram everything into a nice concise package.

 

Impressive CGI: The movie is all about recreating the primal world of the wondering nomads, which involves a lot of imagination, design, and CGI to bring it to life.  The movie gets props from me because they accomplished the recreation in a very detailed manner.  First the environments and natural phenomena are dazzling, fun, and furious as the special effects combine to unleash the nightmares that disasters hold. Second the animals of the world are also nicely animated, from the rugged texture of the skin, to the fluid movement of their grazing, hunting, and fleeing.  Sure, it hits moments where it crosses into the fake looking zone, but overall a nice display indeed.

 

Costumes:  Tribal costumes require a lot of detail, coordination, and study to deliver the most accurate display of that part of history. Though I’m no historian, Alpha’s tribesman have all the knick-knacks of the what a plains hunter would normally have that not only serves as a fashion statement, but holds the functionality that these ancient beings attempted to use.  The lead’s attire will get the most attention, but when combined as a tribe, each nuance of the costumes comes out a little more.

 

The Wolf:  When the live animal is on screen, the wolf was the stealer of the scene.  Cute eyes, the whimpering moans, and the wise gazes are certainly the opener for this pooch, but the action scenes that require training were impressive displays to say the least.

 

The Cinematography: Let’s face it, the real selling pint though is the beautiful visuals of the film.  Alpha’s scenery is gorgeous to say the least, with vivid waterfalls, beautiful night skies, and desolate plains that harbor doom.  Sunrise and sunsets are majestic as they promise the start and end of new days, and the colors are dazzling as they blend into a mosaic of fantastic sequences.  Throw in the CGI and the world just gets more vivid, making for an impressive setting to become involved with.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Animal Torture:  I know, times were tough back then and it was either be hunters or be dead.  Still, I didn’t like to see the suffering of animals in this film.  Alpha does not go down the quick finishes, but tries to capture the full moment of a spear hunter taking steps to secure his life.  Some of the more merciful finishes I appreciate, but those torturous moments are not something I want to see in dragged out details. So, animal activists with bleeding hearts beware, you are in for a treat that will hurt your aortic pumps at times.

 

Lackluster Dialogue: It’s a good thing that the visuals are so stunning as they are the strongest components to telling their story. As for the dialogues, well… primal grunts and language with subtitles doesn’t have the best ring. Accurate?  Potentially, however Alpha’s dialogue doesn’t have the unique, movie magic quality that it probably needed.  It’s nice to have realism, but the conversations were almost pointless in the manner they presented this film in.

 

Limited characters: The main character and his four-legged friend are the stars of this show, but they try to introduce other characters in the first thirty minutes.  It’s nice to establish the family tree web of the group, but given the worthless dialogue and short screen time, it almost pointless to go into introductions of the characters if they were not going to use them more.  The father in general has a few dream sequences, but they did not do much to expand on his thoughts after the big event… so not the best casting.

 

The Patchy Story:  It’s a story about getting back home, so there isn’t much story components to expand upon.  However, Alpha feels patchy to me as the shots blend together in a very rushed presentation.  Things suddenly happen, there is little fluid buildup during transitions, and the predictable plot devices sort of fall into place too fast.  I could see a lot of the places were cuts were made and while it led to faster pace, it would have been nice to see some more entertaining components to piece it together, but still not too bad.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

Alpha is good in regards to the beautiful visual spectacle that it is.  The primal world is alive in all of the amazing details that the big studios can make, and the even better it is in a nice concise 90 minutes to get you out quick. Alpha’s adorable wolf (whether CGI or real) steals the show and will be the factor you want to bet on compared to the lead.  Yes, the story is not the most unique, and is quite predictable thanks to the trailers, but it’s patchy, linear story will be easier to follow.  No, there is some suspense into this movie at times, but overall it’s a pretty lax adventure movie, with the exception of the mad props to having to survive in the wilds of the past.  Worth a trip to the theater?  For visuals yes, but movie overall I cannot recommend it.  In addition, I do not recommend 3-D viewing, because there is little to warrant the headache inducing effects this movie has.

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Drama/Family: 6.5

Movie Overall:: 6.0

Crazy, Rich Cliche

Crazy Rich Asians Poster

            In this modern day, the way of peace is about understanding cultures and trying to respect many things that come with someone’s values.  No this isn’t a political paper for a social studies class, but it makes up a big theme of the movie I’m reviewing tonight.  Tonight’s film is all about the traditions and heritage that comes with certain families and how they can complicate aspects of life for many. Naturally, we love the drama that comes with it, as it provides stories to become immersed into, especially when the pursuit of romance comes with.  Based on a popular book, tonight’s rom-com hopes to bring a lot of people into the box office in hopes of wrapping up the summer with a good romantic aspect to tie us over.  Will it work? Robbie K here to shed some light on the subject as he reviews:

 

Movie: Crazy, Rich, Asians (2018)

 

Director:

Jon M. Chu

Writers:

Peter Chiarelli (screenplay by),  Adele Lim (screenplay by)

Stars:

Constance Wu,  Henry Golding,  Michelle Yeoh

 

 

LIKES:

 

Fun:  The movie is overall a fun take on the romantic-comedy aspect.  It has plenty of drama, but somehow uses the traditions and culture to really craft an entertaining tale that incorporates a number of colorful characters to bring out the full emotion.  In addition, the movie has a lot of aspects that the rich culture brings that brings more entertainment to please the masses that come to the film.

 

The Tasteful Jokes: You’ll need to go in expecting stereotypes, but based on what modern TV and movies can do these days, Crazy, Rich Asians keeps it quite tasteful.  Clever wit, a well-timed joke, and the fantastic delivery of lines will have you howling in delight at all the awkwardness this situation brings.  Even better, is how most of the jokes are well embedded into the story, and not just thrown in for the sake of making a joke. Throw in a little justice being dropped and the result is jokes that will have people nodding or smirking in delight at the pokes it brings.

 

The Gorgeous Set/Sequences: With crazy money, comes the ability to get super creative with the parties and celebrations that fill this movie to the brim.  The elaborate houses are certainly a wonderful start, but the shores of Singapore are lined with tourist destinations galore that will have you craving a vacation sometime soon. As boats, towers, and shopping centers begin to unwind. In addition, the movie scores points at bringing a lot of fun into these immaculate settings, fully bringing out the fun and helping you dive into the celebrations at hand.

 

The Music:  The music is fun, fresh, and in the Asian tongues and melodies that fit well into the movie.  While certainly more covers than anything, Crazy Rich Asians does a nice job selecting tracks that either fully agree to the scene, or at least bring the emotions out in full force.  This is certainly most prevalent at the romantic intense moments, primarily in the wedding you saw in the trailer.

 

The Characters:  I’ve already said this before, but the movie’s characters are certainly my favorite aspect of the movie.  Constance Wu and Henry Goldingare fantastic protagonists, managing to bring the passion out in full strength, but not cross over into corny levels as we often see.  Gemma Chanand Michelle Yeohdo their parts justice as well, acting as subplots that run-in tangent with the main plot, but yet add to the story.  In addition, their support of the main story keeps their involvement relevant and fun.  Finally Awkwafinaand Nico Santos, steal the show in their own regards as they help amplify the fun and contribute to the growth of the characters in their own regard. As for the other collection of characters, they play their own part in crafting grandiose farces that are meant to only irritate the nerves of the audience.

 

 

DISLIKES:

The Cliché: It’s a romance movie, and sadly Crazy, Rich, Asian follows the tried and true plot of the genre.  It’s formulaic, romantic bouts are flattering, sweet, and full of that mushy love Nicholas Sparks fans loves, yet it is so bluntly predictable that it makes for a yawn inducing plot at times.  So, originality wise it doesn’t win points.

 

The Cheesy Tertiary Characters:  Dramas are all about extreme characters to stir the pot and get people addicted to the madness to come.  This film takes those moments a little too extreme, making these ridiculous characters even more eye rolling than needed.  I could have stomached it better had they integrated this group into the plot, but sadly they were reduced to a diluted farce whose sole role was to bring a big joke, or jab at the main character.  Not the best use of these groups, but hey at least we got a laugh.

 

The Incomplete Story: A book has load of time to develop the story and give you the in-depth details that many crave.  The film though did it’s best to balance the imagination into a 2-hour run-time and keep it entertaining.  While they accomplished the task of making the rich lifestyle explode on screen, and infuse the girl power, strong woman role, the other parts of the story were sub-par.  I’ve hinted this up in the characters, but there was strong underutilization of characters, including Awkwafina, and I would have liked to see their involvement span out more.  In addition, there were other family dynamics that showed potential, but then flunked out and went broke with only a few gags to try and recover.

 

Trailers Revealed Much: I don’t think there is much explaining, but there are a lot of scenes that have been elaborated too much by the trailers.  So hopefully you haven’t been obsessed watching the trailers too much.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

            Overall, Crazy, Rich, Asians works for the romance movie, not crossing too far into the cheesy realm, but still not escaping it either. You will find the scenes fun, entertaining, and at times charming, but the film is also a spectacle of what you can do with obscene amounts of money.  Still, the formulaic presentation is rather stale and incomplete, meaning you should rent the book and get the full story.  My recommendations are it is worth checking out, but better reserved for the home viewing over the actual theater minus maybe a date movie or girl’s night out.

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Romance:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0