For Fans of Series: Pony Power. For General Fans: A long Hour

pony

 

Cartoons have drastically changed over the years, and in many cases not for the better.  However, amidst this new wave of modern art stand a few series that have soared in popularity enough to acquire mass marketing.  One of these “treasures” is My Little Pony, a collection of toys that have kept their hooves into the pulse of relevance and captured the hearts of many ages.  This weekend, the series proved popular enough to warrant a movie, in hopes of keeping the magic strong.  Robbie K here, accompanied with my friends, with another review, hoping to help guide your viewing pleasures.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Cute:  It’s a movie about talking ponies, of course it is going to be cute.  This film capitalizes on the big sparkling eyes, high pitched voices, and snappy one-liners that are all the rage in kid’s animation. But amidst these ear-splitting tactics, the theme of friendship may also warm your heart and make you say Awwwwwww, much like many of the young viewers did today. Side note, the cute also coincides with a family friendly theme as well, so one doesn’t have to worry about mature surprises.

 

Pony Adventure:  When TV shows are given a block buster movie, one fears that it may deviate far from the show, unless you’re a kid in which case you don’t care.  Good news, this movie feels like an extended My Little Pony episode, filled with all the adventure like elements that have made the show fun. The simplistic goals, the musical numbers, the feel-good atmosphere, and the grandiose villain whose bark is worse than its bite.  It’s all packed in the 1.5 hours and amplified with an atmosphere that feels like a kid’s version of lord of the rings.  All this positivity will certainly bring you into the kid mindset and add a little more joy to your experience, or annoy you depending on your tolerance to this series.

 

The Animation:  One thing I love about Hollywood budgets is the ability to capitalize on technology. My Little Pony took the technology and ran with it, crafting an incredible display of cartoon animation to keep me hooked into the movie. The movements of the heroes are fluid, the flying in particular was impressive to watch as it added excitement to the mix. The attention to detail to accurately capture lip movements is also impressive, as it adds that anthropomorphic touch they were going for.  Outside of movements though, this film is a colorful display, brimming with various hues and shades that brings out the unique character design even more. 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Annoying at times:  If you aren’t younger than 8, or a die-hard fan of the series, you will most likely get a little annoyed at times.  The movie goes a little overboard with its gimmicks, primarily with Pinkie Pie’s overzealous energy, that hits that tolerance wall and shatters it. These elements are to be expected, but when you combine it with younger audience member’s inability to remain quiet… it pushes those buttons even faster.

 

Shallow Elements:  I didn’t expect much character development as this was done in the show.  However, the elements you are going to base the story on, I expect there to be more commitment to this.  My Little Pony the movie was able to execute a few characters quite well including Tempest and her little crony alongside Princess Twilight.  The other characters though…well they dropped the ball on their development pretty hard.  Many of the new additions to the universe come in with a flashy opening, often in the form of an inspiring song that holds promise for a colorful character.  But then that flash fades and the characters are hastily tossed to the background until the end.  The multiple incidents of glazing over the characters didn’t impress me, and proves again that too many characters in a movie, do not make quality films.

 

Not Theatrical Special:  Despite the shortcomings of the characters, the story team managed to craft a salvageable story.  Unfortunately, it didn’t’ feel theater worthy to me. Sure, the animation and voice acting were incredible and worthy of the bigger budget.  Then the predictable plot hit me and I realized this story didn’t stand out enough to be considered unique.  In addition, the movie seemed geared towards the music instead of the other crucial elements, which only further made me feel this wasn’t the theater worthy masterpiece they wanted.  Such a shame given the groundwork already laid by the shows team.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            My Little Pony the Movie should have been, My Little Pony the Extended 5 part special.  It is a cute, fun, well-animated adventure perfect for the younger audience members, but outside of that there isn’t much.  While it does capture the feeling of the series, there wasn’t enough in this movie to warrant a theater viewing.  Die-hard fans won’t mind much of my dislikes, but for the general audience your money is better spent on a more balanced movie that won’t make you pull your hair out or try to take a nap. 

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0  

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The Mixture Between Us

Moutain.jpg

 

The mighty majestic mountains that line the world.  These monolithic displays of nature are icons for so many forms of expression such as poetry, video game stages, and yes even movies.  Such symbolism is perfect to craft such an obstruction for heroes to face, all while teaching valuable lessons.  And thus leads me to my next review, on a movie that centers on the immobile giants that watch over the world.  The Mountain Between Us is the name of the film and its trailers have certainly stirred up a storm in the world of reviews.  Robbie K here hoping to guide you through the mess to help guide your viewing pleasures.

 

LIKES:

 

The acting:  Like the mountains they are stuck in, the lead actors in this movie are giants themselves, displaying their talents to high levels.  Idris Elba once more blows my mind out how well he executes his roles.  He sells the suffering surgeon well, playing the internalization well and the survivalist even more.  Kate Winslet as ever brings her character to life, taking the fiery spirit she has within, and unleashing it in a manner that is wild, yet honed as the movie progresses.  The two certainly have the portrayal of suffering down pat (they can really shiver) but on many levels they play well off each other, especially in the beginning.

 

The Dog:  While not the main human actor, the dog is by far the character I cared about the most.  This animal, while of course like many of his canine brethren, was cute to me and impressive in the work it had to do. Trekking through the show, climbing mountains, and a variety of other things the dog certainly caught my eye for much of the screen.  In addition, because I’m a big animal fan, the dog was the character that kept me engaged in the film. Every scene transition, or new challenge I couldn’t help, but think “What happened to the dog.” That component is perhaps the biggest hooking element in the movie to keep you into the film.  What is its fate?  Can’t tell you, you’ll have to watch.

 

The Scenery: While it is no substitute for the real thing, The Mountain Between Us is a great example of stunning camera work. My breath was taken away by all the panoramic shots of the wilderness from the ever expanding sky in the peaks, to the silent wonder of the forest littering the valleys below.  It brings out the deadly force that mother nature holds and stunned me by the majesty of the visual prowess cameras can pick up.  So while it is again not the same thing as hiking these majestic peaks, it is the next best thing.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Diluted Suspense:  If you are like me, the trailers might have you believe this was going to be the most suspenseful movie of the year.  Unfortunately, I was fooled again. This film has some moments that got my anxiety building, but a majority of it is an almost peaceful trek through the snow.  While they are certainly cold, our character’s journey through the frozen wastelands lacked many elements to build up the intensity.  Perhaps the lack of a cinematic score, or the fact that obstacles seemed cleared too easily thanks to convenience, this movies frozen fury was almost a little too fragile for me. Or maybe it was the other focus of the movie that downgraded the suspense for me…

 

The Love Theme: Yes, just like the symbolic title suggests, the main wedge is the character’s backstories preventing them from moving to the obvious sign of starting a romance.  Much of the film tries to get the two to address their rather quick development of passion for one another in some rather lackluster ways.  I wasn’t sold on the romance for the most part, and the actors themselves didn’t seem quite charmed by each other outside of one rather pointless scene. The friendship factor at the beginning was much stronger, and would have been the route I had taken in developing the story.  Again, I don’t necessarily hate love, but I would like it better portrayed for my investment.

 

Disproportion:  Timing the movie, as good geeks do, it took only 8 minutes to get up on the mountain.  While I appreciate the fast pace, it gave little time to get to know the characters or at least give them a decent introduction to the madness about to be had.  This opening was rather shallow and quite disappointing in the grand scheme of the movie.  Yet it’s not quite as bad as the dragged out ending of this film.  While not as long as Return of The King, and all its false exits, The Mountain Between Us sort fizzles out in the end.  This tangent was not necessary, a quick closure to try and tidy up some loose ends of a weaker component of the film. Worst off, the chemistry started to falter, making this an awkward mess with a rather cheesy, albeit poetic, ending.  Not sure why these last 25 minutes needed to exist, but it could have been better spent in the beginning and end of the movie.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Mountain Between Us is a beautiful spectacle of what the world can provide in terms of a stage, certainly blowing my mind on the visuals.  Alongside this majestic scenery comes some quality acting and a hooking factor in the form of the dog.  Yet these tools alone couldn’t save this movie from being semi-dull. With the tension dropped to a PG level for symbolism and awkward love, alongside disproportioned parts, I can’t say this movie delivered all I wanted.  The visuals might be the main theater worthy component, but this reviewer suggests holding out for RedBox to catch it.

 

My Scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Drama:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.5

King Me…Again

Kingsman

 

“Manners, Maketh, Man!” Such an elegant phrase that got millions all fired up years ago in preparation for the spy action flick of the season.  Kingsman was a smashing success back in the day for me, and when I saw a sequel coming, I may have squealed in glee a tiny bit.  Yet, I feared that a sequel could smudge the adventure I enjoyed so much, especially with the expanded cast.  So tonight, I put on my suit (or t-shirt) and hit the theater to scope out the next mission.  Was the mission a success?  Read on to find out friends.

 

LIKES:

 

Funny:  Remember that edgy humor the first Kingsman had?  Well the magic continues my friends, as Kingsman2 is certainly Golden in much of its comedic bite.  It starts like always with the banter between agents, well-timed and well-delivered by our cast to maximize the punch at hand. Then comes the reactions of our agents as their thrown ridiculous curve balls, or baseballs at points, meant to hinder their way.  Yet the cameo by a certain celebrity might have been a major source of gut busting guffaws.  I won’t reveal who it is (I leave that to the Internet), but get ready to laugh so hard you might cry with his “rock n roll’ themed lines.

 

Emotional:  Surprisingly, Kingsman 2 may be more heart wrenching than the first movie.  Eggsy’s next stage of life has more than enough sad moments that will slow the adrenaline ride down, like those stubborn speedbumps in a parking lot, or a Game of Thrones episode.  Character development is certainly stronger than ever in this movie, pushing our lead protagonist to levels we never really thought he would have to face.   All these challenges keep you invested in Eggsy, Merlin, and others for the second round, making for a more immersive experience.

 

Fast PacedKingsman 2 may run for 2.5 hours, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it at all to me.  With all the laughs, emotional investment, and action, you’ll experience a time warp to the end of the film.  I certainly did not feel bored in this movie at all, and was quite pleased by the entertainment it brought.  To have that pace and the decent balance brought with it, is not something you see in most films.

 

Action:  Of course my favorite aspect has to be the action packed into the film on many levels.  Kingsman 2 keeps up the high energy infused sequences that are about guns, melee, gadgets, and over the top stunts.  Eggsy and the gang bring their skills back in high definition, special effects crazy goodness, with a fantastic play list to further amp things up.  This dynamic was maintained through most of the movie, keeping things interesting with new gadgets to tear baddies a new one with.  Despite a few missed moments, the action is certainly the selling point of this movie, especially with its integration into the plot and the pertinence to the mission.  Throw in stable camera work and editing, and you just maximize the excitement of this film.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Ridiculousness:  Don’t get me wrong, the absurdity of this film is one of those charming qualities that got me into the movie.  However, in this sequel, that level sometimes went a little too far outside reality to take away from the atmosphere they were creating.  If the stunts aren’t too farfetched for you, then the invulnerability, or medical technology feats will have you rolling their eyes as they reach preposterous proportions.  It fits in the comedic spoof theme, but feels out of place at times and took a little away from the suspense.  This is only a small dislike. 

 

Viscous nature:  I like a good action movie, and darkness can certainly open the gates to maximize the violence we love to see our actors perform.  They unfortunately overstep their boundaries at times, crossing into the darker world I like to avoid if possible. Some rather gruesome deaths and blood bashings are the first scratches that chinked my armor.  While a few are obviously computer generated, the special effects craft some rather scarring images that won’t leave my memory anytime soonEven worse though, is the cruelty to animals in this film.  You know I hate unnecessary hurting of our furrier friends, but Kingsman was not hesitant to go the distance of getting emotional responses by this means.  Not cool for me, but if you lack that empathy, you’ll shrug it off like the agent’s credo.

 

Wasted Characters:  Kingsman has a lot of great actors, with much of our cast reprising their roles in style and to great heights.  Even newcomers like Julianne Moore as an eccentric villain, or Halle Berry as a tech geek, get applause from me.  Hollywood though fails to live up to utilizing all their characters to the same degree…again.  Agents who survived the wraith of the last film are reduced to the background with little remorse, making small contributions at the best.  New agent wise… don’t count on eye candy Channing Tatum to do much better, resorting to one action scene, and more modeling in an Abercrombie and Fitch manner.  Why he doesn’t get a serious chance?  I can’t answer, but I was disappointed with his involvement in the film.

 

VERDICT:

 

            Overall, I was very pleased with this sequel and enjoyed the thrill of returning to the frontlines of the spy war.  A compelling story with much emotion, amidst comedy and high speed action are the selling points to this film.  Yet, the ridiculousness of the stunts, amidst the brutal kills shots and wasted characters takes away from the movie.  Still, it’s worth a trip to the theater and I encourage you to hit the theaters to experience the stunts in full glory and enjoy another fun action adventure. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Comedy:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.5

Towering Potential Falls

Dark Tower

 

Stephen King is a master of many things, and Hollywood has never been afraid to capitalize on the epic tales he has crafted over the years.  This weekend his legendary Dark Tower series gets its own chance to “shine” and prove to fans that the series can continue on. Did Sony studios plan to make a “sequel” to the books thrive, or will if fall victim to the shortcuts the film industry often takes.  Robbie K here to share his thoughts on another movie.  Why don’t we get started then?

 

 

LIKES:

 

Nice Set Up:  Doing my research, I realized where the directors were planning on taking this film franchise and the books it is based on.  The Dark Tower acts as a “sequel” to the books and builds as an introduction to the series.  It sets a nice framework up for those who haven’t read the series and prepares us for an adventure that could span multiple films/shows in the future.  It has simplified the complexity of King’s work and thrown hints at how his worlds are connected, perhaps inspiring some rewatching of his classics.

 

Action Scene: Dark Tower primarily is about opening us up to a world and setting the pieces and that unfortunately doesn’t bring much action.  However, the group managed to put a dazzling piece together involving our gunslinger and a round of minions.  Idris Elba finally gets to show off his legendary skills, outside of acting, as the lone gunslinger in his quest to stop the forces of evil.  The stunts are epic, the editing is on point, and the violence is contained to not be overly gory but still strong enough to be considered action instead of a bland use of a gun.  It took the movie long enough to get to this point, but I thoroughly enjoyed the climax fight.

 

The Acting:  I’m not calling this the world’s best acting, or even Oscar Worthy on most levels, but the acting is decent in the Dark Tower.  Tom Taylor as the new kid with the shine, does a decent job playing the troubled, awkward kid and portraying that strange view of the world.  His other emotions, however, needs a little work as these come off dry, awkward, and sometimes a bit underwhelming given the circumstance.  Matthew McConaughey brings his Lexus commercial approach to the mix, the cool delivery of his lines, holding an air of superiority and malicious intent.  He has the villain role down and instills a bit of chill when he appears on the scene.  Of course, the champion of this movie is Idris himself, hitting the role with 100% accuracy.  Elba’s got the rogue part down and the edgy, loner bravado brings the bang to the proverbial gun.  And the chemistry Elba has with his cast only amps up his skills, a talent I always like to see.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Rushed:  Sure the movie made a nice framework for introducing the series to nonreaders, it failed to deliver those important details.  The Dark Tower leaves a lot questions unanswered in terms of the origins of all the pieces involved in this war.  As for the parts they do fill in, these are lacking on so many levels, lacking real depth or mystery to get you hooked into the film. Even worse, much of the quest has little in regards to obstacles, with most problems being solved with little effort.  You get to hear all about the things lying in wait, but their actual involvement in the movie is little to none.  While this not only limits the story, it also limits the special effects and creature design we could have gotten as well.  A few CGI and makeup effects stand out, but the Dark Tower’s first film is rather lackluster given the potential of King’s books.

 

Anticlimactic:  Much of the movie is rather dull, drawn out in a manner of theoretical talks of ideal brain power, anarchy, and abduction.  All the fancy words and magic didn’t help a limited dialog that can be boiled down into a single-minded set of plots that we hear over and over again.  When things finally get going, and all the hot air from the cast is lit aflame… the action barely catches light before being snuffed out.  With the exception of one scene (see likes), The Dark Tower’s gun slinging is not what I expected.  This is particular true for the final fight between antagonist and protagonist that was more lame than impressive.  All the hype and rivalry to end so abruptly, not the direction I would have taken.

 

Predictable/Lazy:  There was so much potential placed on this movie, and the trailer painted what could have been an epic adventure.  Yet, somewhere the film fell victim to cheap shortcuts, low use of nightmarish effects, and a direction that went down the wrong tangent for an opening. It felt uninspired and lazy at times, and perhaps they cut a lot of good parts to fit into the short run time.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall the Dark Tower is not bad when you understand the plan to expand upon in the years to come.  As a stand-alone film, it does the job of introducing characters and the world, but it failed to reel me into the full-on adventure.  With a rushed plot, easy challenges, and lazy production approach, this film is mediocre at best given the hype of everything.  Therefore, this reviewer recommends holding off seeing this film until Redbox gets it in stock.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

An Icon of Lost Potential

Emoji

 

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

 

LIKES:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

DISLIKES:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The VERDICT:

 

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

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  4.0

Movie Overall:  2.0  

Valerian: Movie of a Thousand Visuals

Valerian

 

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

 

LIKES:

 

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

 

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

 

DISLIKES:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Verdict:

 

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

 

My scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

War or Survival of the Apes: Still Apemazing

Apes

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

 

LIKES:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

DISLIKES:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The VERDICT:

 

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

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 8.0