Disguised As a Silly Kids Film, But Has A Secret Emotional Side

Spies in Disguise Poster

 

Another holiday season and that means another animated movie to get the kids to the theater for more fun and frolic.  Well in the mega money schemes of Disney, there are few willing to take the risk to put their work out and give it a try.  Blue Skies Studio is ready to answer that call and this week the latest animation is going to try and make its mark on the world of children’s entertainment.  Robbie K back with another review as he takes a look at the film:

 

Movie: Spies In Disguise (2019)

 

Directors:

Nick BrunoTroy Quane

Writers:

Brad Copeland (screenplay by), Lloyd Taylor (screenplay by)

Stars:

Rachel BrosnahanJarrett BrunoClaire Crosby

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • Smooth Animation Style
  • A More Unique Concept
  • Funny
  • Fun
  • Good Pace
  • Heartfelt Moments
  • Music
  • Creativity With Gadgets
  • Action At The End

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • A Bit Over silly At Times
  • Villain Needing A Little More Tweak
  • Some underutilized characters
  • The Commercial Syndrome

 

SUMMARY:

 

We know most animation films have got this formula down and spies in disguise has a fun design and animation that is exciting, fluid, and perfect for the feel of the movie.  The bird movements look rather accurate and when anthropomorphized, they achieve the blend between human and bird quite well. Past that style though, these spies are equipped to entertain the young and young at heart with some tricks of the trade that are timeless, yet also diverse.  It starts with the unique concept of transformation, that’s both formed into the story and a nice plot device as well as pigeon and man team up to conquer the criminal underworld.  The trailers do not disguise the fact that the film is both funny and fun, cramming jokes and adventure in many frames to bring that fun kids flick that we all have grown up with and all at an entertaining pace.  These jokes are part due to the voice acting and dialogue, but it also comes from the creative with helping to bring spy gadgets down to a PG rating, yet not be so kiddy that it feels like a Nick Jr. special.  This is especially true at the climactic moments where Walters inventions come out in his own style that somehow seem to work during the fast-paced conflicts that unfold and somehow be decently suspenseful.  Note that this is not just a comic infused super movie though.  Much like Disney, Spies in Disguise manages to merge with a more adult path, not only going dark at times, but managing to put character development into this film that pulls at heart strings and finds a new angle to hand the exciting moments.  It’s all these components that really helped make the movie super fun for this reviewer.

 

Yet, there were some things that went down a different path for this reviewer that I did not quite enjoy.  For one thing, the movie gets a bit silly for me, going into banter or running jokes that start to go stale like most new episodes of SpongeBob.  It’s forced comedy for a target audience of young ones and while it was to be expected, these moments get magnified when they suddenly veer away from the better storytelling moments. I supposed this is of course to help with the rewatchability and merchandising sales, but from a quality standpoint it took away from the movie.   In regards to the villain, it’s tough to say he is a limitation, but hear me out.  On one levels, the movie integrates the villain quite well, and puts a better back story that fits with the theme of the movie.  However, the villain also could have been ingrained a little more, for his ploys are more so menacing monologues and sneers rather than manipulation and fighting.  It’s a weird blend that holds great promise, but that promise sort of gets bogged down in the comedy medium this movie is big on.  In addition, there are some underutilized characters I thought would have a bigger hold on the film, primarily Reba’s head agent character who again holds the keys to an interesting aspect of the film that unfortunately is demoted to boring background character. The same goes for some other henchmen and baddies who after a fun opening are again reduced to background noise that is annoying and disappointing to say the least.  However, the biggest limitation is the commercial syndrome occurring again.  Spies In Disguise has given a lot of things away in the trailers, and if your young one has bombarded you with the commercials over and over again, then you are going to find that the movie is a bit stale.  While there are still some treasured moments not on the short trailers, many of the gags and fun scenes have already been done to death. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Spies in Disguise had a lot of delays and to be honest, the movie does not shatter too many things when it comes to originality or that unique energy Disney does.  This does not mean the film is bad though, and in fact it’s quite enjoyable.  Animation wise it’s clean, bringing a design that matches the fun nature of the film, with comedy and adventure around every bin.  And though much of the movie is a blur, the film succeeds to expand to other audience members and get some character development going, that fits in theme with the creative approach to the spy thriller.  It’s true the balance to silliness does veer off at times, and the villain needs some of that time to really get the full effect, but for the most part the movie’s biggest limitation is not having that Disney spark and giving too much away in the trailers.  Still, this film feels like a good theater run thanks to the fun adventure and special effects, especially if you have a little ones or a group to go with.  If not, then please check this out and enjoy the fun ride.

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Action/Adventure:  7.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

These Little Women Are Growing Up InTo The Modern Era

 

Little Women Poster

 

It’s been done a thousand times, yet the it still remains a timeless classic that has the masses flock in.  When Ms. Alcott wrote her book, she hit gold in regards to the representation the story brought and how it would work regardless of the generations.  Through movies, television specials and even plays/operas, the tale of the four Little Women continues to find property in the homes of many.  So despite only a year passing since the last installment, I’m back in the trenches to once again review the latest twist on:

 

Movie: Little Women (2019)

 

Director:

Greta Gerwig

Writers:

Greta GerwigLouisa May Alcott (based on the novel by)

Stars:

Saoirse RonanEmma WatsonFlorence Pugh

 

LIKES:

  • Surprisingly moves
  • Nice Twist On The Presentation
  • The Recreation Of History
  • Very Good Writing
  • Classy And Contained
  • The Acting

 

DISLIKES

  • The age difference did not transition well
  • Did not use the Characters To The Fullest
  • Too Much Amy At Times
  • The Political Rants At Times
  • Sometimes a New Twist Gets Lost
  • Some Incomplete moments
  • Meryl Streep’s Untapped Potential
  • Laurie’s Character At Times

 

Summary:

 

As a reviewer, I do my best to acknowledge the majesty of the source material, but Little Women was never my favorite book when I read it back in the day.  Despite how slow the book moved for me, this rendition I felt captured the essence of the book, while keeping it entertaining and moving for the 135 minutes  To keep this tale fresh, the movie managed to put a new twist into the movie by telling the tale via a series of flashbacks.  While I missed the linear part of the tale, the flashbacks did occur in a linear fashion as to how Jo’s life changed.  The transitions of her remembering were fantastic, and clever, holding that artistic style and connection between past and present that I so very much like.  Where last year’s rendition was all about modernizing the tale, this year went back to the traditional 19th century world, bringing class, poise, family, and hardship back in beautiful details.  The setting screams Civil War design, the cultural mannerisms between social classes blended into the story in a naturally flowing manner that helps bring the story to full strength.  The costumes only elevated it further, showing how society really held confidence in the clothes, all while helping bring out the hardships of the time and the envy of the fancy dresses they wore.

Presentation aside though, Little Women succeeds in bringing dialogue to life and filling it with rich, meaningful material that should be inspiring, realistic, and representative of the source material.  Don’t expect too many meme and one-liners quotes to fill this movie, it’s much deeper, capturing the importance of education and societal banter that the book was all about.  Despite the new political fervor that this movie holds, the writing was able to take the progressive movement and keep it relevant to the story, with few times stepping off the path to rub the moments in my face.  I appreciate this balance and more so how Gerwig managed to keep much of the story focused on the character development than the political components it’s built on.  Finally, it all is brought to full life by the actresses that played our characters.  There are too many to really go into too many details, but I’ll come out and say the chemistry of the bunch works to establish the rag tag, dysfunctional family and all its endeavors.  Saoirse Ronan is the point character, and her fiery passion was perfect for the role of Jo, in all her strong, assertive tones.  Florence Pugh brings her strong presence to the film, managing to keep her calm demeanor for the cultural side, while bringing the juvenile emotions to the younger side out in full force.  Timothée Chalamet as well makes a very quirky Laurie as well that I liked many aspects of.  Overall, the cast was great and I felt it was a wonderful group to help bring the tale to life.

 

In terms of the things that did not work for me though, it starts with the lack of aging between the two-time gaps.  I found that for everything accomplished in this day and age, the ability to make younger and older characters is starting to be easy street.  Yet, Little Women did not even try to make the women look older in the future, outside of a little height, some heavier eyes, and that’s about it. It’s a little lazy for me and I think I would have enjoyed seeing the transition a little smoother, but this a minor component. A more major flaw is the imbalance of characters for me at times.  Jo of course is the center stage, and while the other girls get their time, they just did not have the same oomph as Jo.  This is especially true for Emma Watson and Laura Dern, two great actresses that got their acting prowess in, but there was more that could have been done.  Meanwhile, Amy was the character with much focus, and the stubborn antics and whining were not my favorite components to see for nearly 2 hours.  I understand it’s part of the source material, but I really wish it had a better balance.

In regards to the story components, they worked for me for the most times, but the new presentation style sometimes got foggy in regards to the placement in the story.  I felt that the flipping back and force started to lose the pacing and balance near the end, where they realized how long the movie was running and had to make cuts that chopped up the ending tales.  As such, the story at times feels incomplete, or watered down such as Meg’s marriage, Jo’s feelings for other characters, and even Beth’s major ordeal.  Though 2018 may not have been the best story, I’ll admit I had more emotional connection than this one near the end.  In addition to the character imbalance, the legendary Meryl Streep capitalizes on her scenes, but once more I wanted to see more of her character integrated through the tale, especially given the antagonistic character she plays.  Finally, Laurie in this one has such potential and shows off the full emotional spectrum, but again at the end felt his ending was rushed and lacking the full emotions.

 

The Verdict:

 

            With so many renditions of this movie, new features are always the way to expand the shelf life of this movie.  This tale of the classic title accomplishes the goal of bringing the classic tale back to the big screen, and balances the classiness with the fire that comes this day and age.  Great settings recreated the culture and to have the unique twists of flashbacks to help establish the writing and characters was fantastic for me.  The acting brings it out even further and is probably the biggest selling point of the film for me.  Yet, the main limitation for me is that the movie starts to lose its balance the farther the film goes in.  I would have liked to have seen more of the characters balanced in, while also not getting too lost in the new presentation style and balancing the story amongst others.  If it ran another hour, it might have been the perfect time, but hey, a three-hour movie is a lot to ask this day and age.  My scores are:

 

Drama/Romance:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Trying To Dance Into New Light, But Claws Away It’s Own Potential

Cats Poster

 

 

There is something to be said about the theater.  This avenue of artistic storytelling has produced some of the most interesting and unique stories the world has ever seen, deriving a plethora of fan bases who play their tracks everywhere.  That field requires demanding performances with limited technology to bring worlds to life, requiring a little imagination to fill in the gaps.  So for an era where imagination can be a struggle given the variety of media we have to do the lifting for us, and thus movies like this one I’m reviewing are there to give access to the majesty of the theater.  Tonight, the legendary Cats is on the prowl, in hoping of raking in a few bucks despite the power house of Star Wars coming out.  Will it be a dance to success, or is it going to be a dying cat only capable of crying out for a few scraps of attention.  Robbie K here to give you some insight as I look at:

 

Movie:  Cats (2019)

 

Director:

Tom Hooper

Writers:

T.S. Eliot (poetry collection “Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats”), Lee Hall (screenplay)

Stars:

Taylor SwiftFrancesca HaywardIdris Elba

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Setting
  • The Design Of Each Cat (though odd)
  • Some Of The Song And Dance Numbers
  • The Pace

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Limited Story
  • Some Song and Dance Numbers
  • The Fake look sometimes
  • Not utilizing the Cast Well
  • Not Taking The Creative Liberties When They should have
  • Just Limited Over All

 

Summary:

As stated earlier, the theater is able to bring out some truly wonderous things with the limited technologies they have compared to CGI computer animation.  The movies accomplished those limitations by helping turn the limited set into a magical paradise of alley cat wonder.  Kitchens, alleys, bedroom, and more are all magnified to new proportions, giving us the perspective of the cat and adding sort of an obstacle to it as well.  This new playground offers avenues for unique dancing, creative colors that blend well with the cats design, and keep to the realistic world the play painted so long ago.  As for the cats themselves, the world of animal meeting human takes a new realistic sheen in the movements of tails, ears, and paint, really capitalizing on the mannerisms that the actors are asked to do.  Those realistic movements, along with the fur that surrounds them really gives a sheen to the actors and helps keep up with the performances.

Speaking of performances, the true spectacle of the movie comes from the performance factors that the stage show is always known for.  With the impressive visuals, the performances sort of explode on stage, new choreography mixing with old to unleash the true amazingness that the art of dance brings.  Old styles like ballet, classical dance, and tap dancing will captivate the classic fans, while the new styles of hip hop, break dancing, and other styles add a modern pizazz to them.  All the style mix well, and the giant dance number in the middle proves this the best, taking place just before my favorite number of the alley cat who tap dances.  Those who are big on giant musicals, and like the modern retake on it are going to find this as the selling point for the movie, especially given the pace most of these numbers bring to the movie, which is another positive given some of the limitations.

 

Yet the movie’s theatrics can only carry it so far in the grand scheme of movie comparison for this reviewer.  First off, the limited story.  I know, it is Cats a play all about introductions that was derived from a poetry book. Despite this though, the movie could have expanded upon the story, taken some creative liberties, and helped diversify this film from the play and give it that movie spin, (potentially this was to appease fans).  While not the movie’s fault, there are some numbers where the modern twist did not improve upon, and these numbers were a little boring for this reviewer, but again they at least keep these numbers in tune with the original so I can’t really dock too many points for this.  Instead, a more valid point could be some of the details that they did not buff out in the transition from humans to cats.  The CGI work is impressive, but I’ll admit that the faces for most of the cast still look a little fake. I would have liked some make up and prosthetics to help with the blending and correct this, for the stage make up I think still reigns supreme in this contest and should not have cost too much to add on in the grand scheme of the budget.  As for the cast, there are a lot of stars that came to perform and to be honest… I don’t think they utilized them well at all.  The film had only a handful of cats running the show from scene to scene, and all the big names had their numbers and dropped to the background.  I know, again they are keeping in time with the play, but in the regards for the cast of this movie, the price tags that came should have been expanding upon and utilize these big stores to the max.  That is where I believe the limitation of this movie really lies, not maximizing on the potential they could have taken to expand the story.  While I appreciate loyalty to the fans, a film version of this could have taken some liberties to expand the story, integrate the characters more, and even add some new formulations to make this movie shine (like Disney has done with most of the live action remakes).  Instead, the traditional approach has left this movie feeling very plain, one dimensional, and kind of boring in the grand scheme.  Given the potential they had going, that might have been the biggest let down.

 

The  Verdict:

            Cats is what you expect from the trailers, a big musical number that is all about dancing and soundtracks and little of anything else.  The technology prowess reigns supreme in bringing the world and visuals to life, and many of the new twists to the songs give it a breath of fresh air to liven things up.  Yet, this face paced dance flick just really does not deliver on many things outside of the lavish numbers.  Rather than taking some liberties to expand the story and use of the characters, the movie sticks a little too close to the traditional roots, leaving it very simple and kind of dull in the grand scheme of things.  If you are looking to experience the show for the first time, this could be a decent substitute, but for those in love of the plays or looking for a musical with more sustenance, heart, and coordination, well you should go in with lower expectations.  As such, I’m mixed in terms of telling you if worth a theater visit, but for the stage show, effects, and visual numbers the theater will assist, but for everything else, watch this one at home instead.   Due to the missed potential this movie could have done, I’ll give this film a: 

My Scores are

Comedy/Drama/Family:  5.0

Movie Overall:  4.0

Is This Going To Bomb? Bombshell Review

Bombshell Poster

 

Politics!  They seem to be everywhere and in everything, and in this social media charged day… well it only continues to get more extreme.  Yet, the movies are a perfect place to tell stories that are covered by the news, helping act as a PSA to the corruption the world can cause.  My first review today is about a political film, that takes the champions of the current movements and puts them in the iconic roles who started the removal of corruption.  What’s in store?  Well, this reviewer is going to take a non-political, non-biased review as he looks the film:

 

Movie: Bombshell (2019)

 

Director:

Jay Roach

Writer:

Charles Randolph

Stars:

Charlize TheronNicole KidmanMargot Robbie

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Setting
  • Decent Pace
  • Good Use of Main characters
  • Fantastic Acting
  • Contained Political Fury
  • Factual Approach and Detailed
  • The Makeup

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Character Utilization Imbalance
  • The unnecessary introductions of every character
  • The Side story that sort of was not necessary
  • Kate McKinnon side story to some extents
  • Did not appreciate the Asides
  • Lackluster Suspense

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

A historical movie is all about getting you into the moment and immersing you into the world, and today’s technology continues to make that happen.  Bombshell drops you right into the warzone of the Fox News Scandal and with it brings the world alive as you see the secrets behind the close doors of the executive board room.  All the desks, hallways, and offices paint the suspense and add the elements needed to get the emotions going, that slight touch to help get you more into the world.  The make up as well transforms our cast of characters into the spitting image of those involved, helping to add that realism element to it, and for fans of the story help impress you with the magic of movie make up.  It’s a great recreation of the characters and the combination of setting and costumes does the background lifting to help you get into the mix.

Okay, now that we are past those aspects though, what else can you tell us about the movie you liked.  Well it starts with the pacing for me.  Political movies, especially political biographies, are often slower paced and getting lost into the details of a convoluted story.  Fortunately, Bombshell keeps things moving at a steady pace, always working towards the goal of the girls against abusive boss, but also keeping the character development going. For a movie packed with stars, this films did not fail to utilize its cast well, making sure to give the whole story from multiple aspects and giving as complete a tale as possible.  Because of this approach, you can find a champion to be behind, maybe due to the morals they stand behind or perhaps having similar experiences or stories to relate to.  It’s all brought to light in a fantastically acted manner, by a cast who have portrayed these characters beautifully, all while keeping the heated tension in checkTheron probably takes the lead for me of all the cast, her character getting the most involvement, but also in just the sheer diversity of emotions she had to portray in the short amount of time. As for Robbie and Kidman, they succeed in their roles as well, hitting their accents, emotions, and struggles perfectly and helping immerse me into the full journey to success.  As for Lithgow, well stunning performance by him as always and one I quite enjoy to continue seeing as he tackles the roles of people from history.

As for the story itself, the movie succeeds in bringing a political, factual piece to record and keeping it rather contained.  Unlike some other movies that have come out this year, Bombshell manages to keep many scenes relevant, deliver it’s point quite well, and not rub it in my face that this was an immoral incident.  Much of the dialogue, the details they included, and even the thoughts of the cast have relevance to the tale and add those extra details to help you get to the bottom of the corruption at hand.  By taking this approach, and containing the political fury, Bombshell was able to deliver what felt like a factual approach to the film, and by including the CEO’s perspective, got to see a more accurate portrayal than what other movies sometimes do. 

 

However, Bombshell is far from a perfect movie in terms of cinematic design for me when compared to other films.  For one thing, the character utilization is not quite equal for me, with again Theron getting the majority of the scenes while her other cast mates sometimes fall into the background.  The trailers portray this to be three on one going against the boss, using teamwork and experiences to help gradually prove the truth.  Yet, the movie is nothing like that, with the stories semi connected, but not coordinate and feeling more like a Venn diagram where three circles happen to coincide at times.  To sort of add onto this, you’ll start getting introductions to a lot of other people in the news, or history with the news into the movie for your viewing pleasure.  I appreciate the compass, and I think fans who have read, or know the story will like seeing the casting for the figures, but I also think given the little they are involve in this movie the extra effort to point them out was lost on me.  All these supporting characters just added little outside of visual examples of the CEO branch’s side with little to counter the strength of the others.

Other detours that did not do it for me were a few of the side stories that they used to help for character development or political prowess.  Despite how contained it was, the movie did sometimes step back into stirring the flames and going on subjects that will divide the audience.  The Trump story shows what the CEO was doing to try and manipulate favor of his employees, but the level of depth into the argument I did not think was quite necessary for the grand story.  In addition, the Kate McKinnon story had its moments that added to the story, but again dove into unnecessary avenues that added extra time and took away from the main story.  These asides, as well as the breaking the fourth wall, were techniques that did not quite hit me as an audience member, but I’ll give them nod as an inspirational call to the key demographics that this movie is trying to inspire. It’s again the use of these super preachy, political hits that detract from the story and will be received well by a limited audience in my opinion.  Finally, the lackluster suspense was another limitation for me.  Call me spoiled by the magic of movies, but I had expected a lot more fight into this movie, and some added drama could have spiced up things quite well had they added a little more suspense and obstacles.  Those anchors they introduced or some more of the executives trying to use their power, all could have been integrated to make a more exciting picture.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Bombshell is a great installment to the biography world because it makes a realistic story, that seems more factual than dramatic.  It uses good visuals and great acting to help with bringing the story to life and gives a complete tale that should be inspirational for many.  Throw in that it kept the political frenzy to a minimum, and the film opens up to a wider variety of people who can see the horrors these women faced.  Yet, the movie still has not quite found the art of drama vs factual and could have used a little pep in the department to help unleash the full impact and excitement of the movie.  In addition, the side stories and over-political moments still creep in and though not the worst I’ve seen, felt they added little to the story over all, but stuck around for some representation politics.  Overall, the movie is not awful or overbearing, but it could have had the same impact but on a streaming service or rental and that is where I would encourage you to watch it. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama:  6.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Rising To The Challenge To Close? Skywalker’s Story Has Balance Issues

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Poster

 

The Force, it binds us, moves around us, and tries to be the tether to all things Star Wars.  Years ago when this legendary series crawled up the screen, movie goers like myself got pulled into a galaxy where anything could happen.  Over the next four decades, the expansion of the world has taken many avenues, each holding promising positives and some limitations that would hopefully be tweaked.  Tonight, the saga of something building for so long comes to an end, one that will hopefully have the grace to close one series and potentially open another.  Much like the two sides of the Force, the reviews of this movie have falling to the bad and the good, showing off the split armies that much like the series are at war.  So I hope to help provide some insight to your viewing choices tonight to determine if this film is worth the investment.  Let’s get started, on a spoiler free review of:

 

Film: Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker (2019)

 

Director:

J.J. Abrams

Writers:

Chris Terrio (screenplay by), J.J. Abrams (screenplay by)

Stars:

Carrie FisherMark HamillAdam Driver

 

 

LIKES:

  • The Dialogue
  • The Symbolism/Emotions
  • The Nostalgia
  • The New Worlds
  • Better Pace
  • The Visuals and Sound Editing
  • The Twists (surprises)
  • The Action (sometimes)
  • The Comedy

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Choppiness Of The film
  • The Story’s indecisiveness
  • Too Many Characters
  • Trying to Please Too Many People
  • The Action
  • Not Enough Focus On The New
  • The Overkill On Things
  • The Lack Of Emotion At Times
  • The Impasses falling too easily
  • Too much in one film

 

SUMMARY:

 

In the galaxy so far away, the trilogies vary on quality, as it struggles to find direction in the new world of old vs. new fans.  One thing that has improved since the prequels is the dialogue, finding ways to make sensible lines feel both poetic and yet contained.  Rise Of Skywalker tells much of its story through worlds as in visuals along, often filled with symbolic metaphors and emotional displays that had some fans sniffling.  Abrams managed to direct some rather touching moments that hit fans like me, while still stroking the beast of political preachiness that the modern era loves.  While these scenes are certain to hit the fierier, “I need my heroic characters overcharged for me “fans, I myself enjoyed the nostalgia built into the film, be it a quick look at a familiar land mark, a nod to the old presentation style of a classic film, or for those in the expanded universe, plots from yesteryear repainted.  Episode nine tries to find that balance between old and new, and in cases of the old, the nods will keep popping up everywhere.

But Robbie that’s nice and all, what about the movie should we expect in terms of newness.  Alright, I hear you, so let’s go onto the newer features that I think you might like.  First the new worlds, a bunch more uncharted planets roam the stars in this film.  Though not a convoluted as previous installments, these new worlds hold their secrets, opening up cultures, new worlds to battle on, and in some cases holding secret stop previous expanded universe clues.  The pace is much faster in this film, dumping the bloated moving at snail speed from an enemy ship, while we again try to discover the potential and meaning of our lives off to the side, going back towards the action component that fans like me enjoy.  And like the prequels, all of this is still captured in the special effects, that again with major technology improvements reign supreme in bringing the fantasy to life, or at least some of it.  Yes, you’ll still have plenty of diverse use of costumes and creature development to enjoy, it just all depends on again what you are looking for.  However, the real special effects palooza comes in the form of the action, which has taken a step up (somewhat) from the Last Jedi.  This installment tries to ramp up ship battles and lightsaber fighting, and at times it starts hitting the high notes that I fell in love with during the original and prequel trilogies.  Those looking for “story-based action” well, you’ll get that, as much of the fighting feels like those moments in an anime where there is a lot of talking and showing of grandiose moves than full on choreographed duels that the prequels thrived in.  Also in regards to the story, Star Wars this time tries to pass the baton of twists, and several times got me in the direction they took things.  Some of these surprises are simply cannon fodder for jokes, but others do a decent attempt to expand upon the vagueness that was episode 8.  As for the comedy, Disney has not quite figured out how to get back to balanced comedy since Rogue One, though it took steps in the right directions at times.  C-3PO may have been the star for me for much of the movie, as Anthony Daniels and the writing work well to have comedic relief.  Other moments are funny in terms of their predictability or slapstick, so it works for me at these moments., before it once again comes in and sort of derails the plot.

 

For the mountain of writing for the good though, there is also a lot of limitations for me in this film.    Much like the beginning of Rogue One, Rise of Skywalker ran into choppy, fast paced, crunches that were okay at best for me.  A very hasty introduction and moving to different plot components in the blink of the eye led to very water downed story moments that tried to build momentum, but then phased out.  It seems to me that the director/writers could not decide on which way they wanted to take the movie, and because of the focus to please all and the lateness of the film’s placement after two directors took different approaches led to further chaos in the plot.  As such, Episode 9 has too many characters, who have struggled to take the main focus in real storytelling as both old and new generations compete for superiority and closures.  Thanks to that conflict right there, many of the things I’m about to comment on were driven out, all in attempt to tame the hatred the internet had stirred up.

First up the action, while good at times thanks to visuals and special effects, it lacks the heart, the excitement, or even the balance that the preceding films had.  Many bouts are over rather quickly, several timed to last fewer than two minutes before we were back to our quest.  Even the ending felt caught up in the bloated storyline of grandiosity vs. good storytelling, with many moments of the last fight rather simplistic and not having the moves or coordinationIn regards to the lightsaber fights, they win in terms of environment, and symbolism, but failed to impress me in awesomeness when I compare to the prequel fights.  I miss Nic Gillard coaching our duelist in acrobatic fights, where things flowed and did not look quite as blocky or stiff.  And laser fights, well I seem to remember the wars having a lot more struggles and coverage fights than what I got in this movie, so that would have been nice to see in rich detail, instead of pass over shots and montages. 

In regards to the story, well again it’s not that it’s bad for me, but more so too crammed of ideas, plots, twists, and motivating speeches that it seems a fraction of what it could have been.  For one thing, the new components still keep taking hits, and while Rey and Ren get better progress towards wrapping up their stories, Poe and Finn sort of get somewhere, but almost too quickly.  Characters like Rose Tico, or the new girl Zorri Bliss fall once more to the quick information blips, before getting dropped back to secondary status, most likely to be picked up in some novelization like Phasma.  No, once more the two protagonists and the old characters get caught in this dance of preference, neither partner fully rehearsed to get a 10, but also not fumbling around too much to get a 1 either.  It was hard to really get emotional at this film, primarily because impasses and limitations of the mind are rather easy to overcome, or sort of decreased until the moment a plot device is needed.  Throw in that some of the twists were too obvious from the presentation, and you again get the limitations I’ve mentioned before due to lack of direction. And when we finally try to get things back on track… the directors overkill it and make ridiculous displays of power that were best left to the fanfiction, especially when the comical display of skill seems to falter at the just the time they need to flourish. Throw in some rather poor attempts to actually keep characters connected enough to want to cover and well. . you again see the problems I had with the film.

 

The VERDICT:

            I did not love this film like some of the other installments, but I also did not hate it either.  Rise Of Skywalker’s main flaws are the inability to decide what fanbase they wanted to hit, and trying to put way too much into one movie.  The attempt to conclude the movie faltered on uniqueness and cohesiveness, always hinting at awesomeness, but never quite getting there due to the coordination failures.  It exceeds at the superficial ooh and ahhs of visuals, moves much better in terms of pace, gets comedy, nostalgia, and symbolism baked in, and does manage to keep dialogue smart to help twist some things up.  Yet, as I agree with other fans, the movie needs to use this time as a reset for future installments, so that they may bring a new story out that takes the nostalgia, but allows a new legacy to build (see Rogue One Or the Mandalorian).  From there, the story can get back to the adventures we loved, and still gets those overcharged heroes that seem to motivate costumes of the 21st century.  That and please stop making the grandiose ideas be the stars, please find something better to do instead.

 

My scores for the closing chapter are:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Black Christmas I Gave You My Hopes, But The Twitter Ranting Just Gave It Away

Black Christmas Poster

 

A common trend I keep seeing these days is that remakes continue to be a popular option.  Hollywood’s struggle for originality and desire to turn a profit continues to pump reimaginations of classic tales, in hopes of attracting a younger audience.  Sometimes these spins turn out to be incredible, while other times the product is cringe worthy mashups that leave scars in our memories.  Tonight, a second remake of a beloved “cult” classic tries to spice up the holiday with scary slasher tactics.  The commercials are painting this one to potentially be cheesy, but nevertheless we dove into the trenches to give it a shot.  My review today is on:

 

Film: Black Christmas (2019)

Director:

Sophia Takal

LIKES:

 

  • Moves Quickly
  • Has Some Funny Moments
  • A Few Likeable Characters
  • Relevant Topics

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not Really Scary/Horror
  • Paper Thin Plot
  • Rushed
  • One-Dimensional Characters
  • Antagonists That Are Limited
  • Much Ruined In Trailers
  • Fight Scenes Very Limited
  • Predictable Twists That Are Lack Luster
  • Cheesy Writing and Dialogue
  • Poster Politics That Are in your Face

 

SUMMARY:

 

When doing a remake, the challenge is to find a way to gives nods to the original, but still make it your own and Black Christmas tries very hard to do this.  My buddy and I agreed that it moves at a brisk pace, not taking long to get into the slasher antics and what are femme fatales will be up against.  A few likeable characters await those willing to give this a shot, with the main character and maybe two others standing out as somewhat balanced people with a consciousness and open mind.  Not sounding too good huh?  Well, I’ll report that there are some funny moments in the film, both intentional and unintentional that I think will tickle people’s fancy, but compared to others, it lacks a lot of cleverness that we’ve seen.  Finally, there are some very relevant topics that have some good portrayal in it, though this also comes with a warning as some scenes may strike up PTSD if it happened to you. 

 

That’s about all the likes I had for the film and now onto the limitations this installment had, at least from my perspective.  Let’s get it out there and say that though classified as a horror/thriller, it is merely a mask to what the film was presented as to meBlack Christmas is not scary, though the slasher/thriller aspect is still there and works for the bloodbath to come.   Some of this diluted horror comes from the paper-thin plot, as this retelling turns into a rushed, predictable tale that forgoes any build-up, development or even organization capable of crafting an engaging tale that balances plot points.  Though there are some likeable characters, this lackluster tale is plagued with one-dimensional players who are close-minded, extreme approach, flawed personas that hold little potential to change and will be engaged to those who find their interests matching the characters.  Even the antagonists (you know the killers that are part of the appeal of a horror) are super shallow, falling into their lanes with little evolution, threat, or creativity.  These run of the mill characters just aren’t interesting, and it’s difficult to invest any time to rooting for them given how fast this film moved and how little they developed it.  If this sounds harsh, I do apologize, and perhaps a better critique is that the film has already given a lot of the goods away in the trailers, with only a few editing tricks coming in to conceal the truth behind the hoods.  If you thought the fight scenes looked a little limited, hoping it was just a segment or hint at what was to come, well… you might be disappointed in this as well.  Black Christmas does not get an award for best fights, traps, or struggles, again being very simplistic bouts that might be going down the realistic approach.  While relevant to some topics, again these struggles are rather boring, and don’t quite leave the memorable finishes that this genre puts into our brains.

   All these though are minor compared to what I believe the real limitation is for this remake… the writing.  Black Christmas this year has fallen victim to the poster political trend to take topics, put an extreme approach to it, and then rub it in your face.  It starts with cheesy writing and dialogues that offer little outside what one can find in a social media or Reddit debate, with characters falling onto one side of the spectrum or the other.  With little in terms of plot development, most of the things that come out of our characters mouths are just sniping comments and forced speeches trying to show us some persons views on these issues.  While I’ll acknowledge my friend and I agreed with the viewpoints they shared, and found validity in their opinion, using the movie as merely a big budget  visualization of social media debates was not the right focus or means to do it (hence the number of weaknesses most are reporting).  So much was sacrificed to rub it in my face about these topics that I found myself more irritated than moved, especially for one that always knows these lesson, and the retribution to come back to storytelling, or even fun slashing was lost.   Yet, like Charlie’s Angles, the film found its rabbit hole and dove as deep down as it could go, and did not look back up, which will appeal to the targeted audience and small cult followers that love these types of movies.

 

The VERDICT:

Black Christmas’ trailer painted an interesting picture to say the least, as the film could have gone either way.  Sadly, the direction they chose was one that was not the best for me.  My friend said it best as, “A Twitter Post turned into a movie”, this horror/thriller will not offer scares, thrills, or even a semi-engaging story for those who are fans of the genre.  This new take is much more political and has sacrificed so much to cram the beliefs of the production heads of this movie in that it was more infuriating than enjoyable.  Again, the issues are not the problem, it’s the presentation, and we’ve seen plenty of popular culture films handle political issues with much more class.  After reviewing everything, this movie is not meant for the theater unless you are all about in your face popular event topics with a Halloween mask to get you into the film.  I’d say this film is best left to accidental stumbling upon and would look to other options instead.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Thriller:  4.0

Movie Overall:  3.0

 

Amping to The Next Level Of Fun: Jumanji 3 Is Fun And Funny

          Jumanji: The Next Level Poster

 

Years ago the jungle came to us, three years ago we went into the jungle, and this weekend, we go back into the jungle?  No, I’m no some crackpot reviewer losing it to all the movies and stress of the holidays, I’m just talking about Jumanji.  The late Robin Williams and his merry band of misfits tackled the wild frontier of magical board game, where danger came with every role.  The revival brought a new coat of paint in the form of a video game and updated the adventure into one all about Avatars and the jungle itself.  With big success, it was time bring yet another movie, in hopes of bringing the success.  Did it work?  I’m happy to share my thoughts as we explore:

 

Film: Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

 

 

LIKES:

  • Adventurous
  • Good Visuals
  • Expansion Of The World
  • Very Good Pace
  • Utilization Of Most Characters Well
  • Character Development
  • Fresh Jokes And Running Gag Balance
  • Funny Overall
  • Acting

 

DISLIKES:

  • More Animal Escapades
  • Missing Some Of The Adventurous Side Of Things
  • Cop Outs
  • Rushed Storytelling, Especially At End
  • Lame Villain, again…

 

SUMMARY:

 

This franchise has always been about adventure and that spirit continues to run wild in the next level.  The dive back into the fictitious world still comes at you in a rush, with danger waiting around every turn (mostly) and keeping you into the wild ride.  Modern technology continues to push more engaging animation, and all the new CGI creations hold that movie theater magic to further envelope you into the fury of the jungle.  Even better, is though they start in the same place, the Next Level really did take it to the next level, and expanded the borders further to the world.  This evolution allows the familiarity of the movie to remain, but still be new as well and that really worked for me enjoying this very familiar adventure.  Not only expanding the world, but the characters, this franchise continues to find a place for its expanding cast, doing quite well to integrate all the stars into the adventure and make it worth their inclusion.  While the new direction of the characters is mostly comedy, I was pleased with the character development that took place, once more helping dive further into many of the characters to give them more than just an Avatar face lift, often without taking too many detours to unnecessarily bloat the run time.  Of course most are going to go for the comedy, and this is definitely the meat of the Jumanji adventure.  The new people inhabiting the avatars opens the world for not only new performances, but new jokes and delivery techniques that were funny to see in all their variety.  Don’t worry though folks, you’ll still have references and nods to the original gags, and you can bet there will be a few running bits to keep you engrossed.  It’s a nice dynamic across the board and diverse in its selection, but for me the acting is probably the key point for the humor.  The Rock having to act like Danny DeVito’s elderly character gaining a second life is hysterical, and Kevin Hart portraying Danny Glover are the two stunts that worked well in the universe.  However, it’s Jack Black who steals the show again for me, having to play multiple perspectives, deliver the well-written (and probably best written lines) with the perfect emphasis, and throw the facial gestures into perfection.  Solidly though, it was a welcome revisit to the luscious forest of comedic gold.

 

Yet there are still some things I think this adventure is missing for me.  Outside of a lot of the adventure being shown in trailers, the movie still is missing some of the animal escapades I loved in the original.  Perhaps trying to keep things balanced, I still miss the ever-expanding danger on the world that these remakes have not quite hit, rather turning the dangers to stages where the threats drop at certain points.  While still a fun adventure, I have to say it’s missing that complete, integrated game feel the first installment had and I would have liked to see that come back in this one.  The film also starts running into the problem of lower run times and starts to cop out on certain things, primarily in actual hard obstacles, more character development of other characters, and definitely some storytelling elements that are majorly dropped.  Especially at the end, things that were in buildup sort of suddenly appear, and for the sake of comedy, the story takes some hits that though entertaining do not live up to the campy story from long ago.  Finally, the modern-day adventure movie seems to still struggle with making a good villain and the next level did not elevate that whatsoever.  Jumanji’s new antagonist is a shallow, one dimensional character, who had great potential, but then pushed to the backburner.  Why they can’t recreate the huntsman from the first film, I don’t know, but this has to be the biggest limiting factor for me in this film.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, Jumanji’s return was a very entertaining and decently balanced film.  It somehow manages to make the familiar, same adventure we have known be fresh, with well written lines and humor to keep you engrossed in the film.  For such a brisk pace, it manages to keep things well juggled, finding a nice medium between story, action, and comedy that it should be entertaining for most audiences.  And with this cast that you get, well you will not be disappointed to see how well utilized most of the group is, something I can’t brag about enough in this modern era of unbalanced delivery.  Still, the film fails at the end to really capitalize on the story telling components, and has not quite achieved the full integration effect for me that I hope to see, especially given the weaker antagonist.  Looking at this though, the movie is definitely worth a check out and I hope you guys give a theater visit given all the special effects and humor. 

 

A WORD OF CAUTION, if you are thinking of taking younger audience members be warned there is lots of strong language that little ears may repeat.  Take note of that before planning.

 

My scores

 

Adventure/Action/Comedy:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0