A Family Adventure that Does Little To Excite

Dolittle Poster

 

 

Another night, another time at the movies and with that we set forth on an adventure that will hopefully be worth the time investment.  Former Iron Man runner, has changed into a new set of duds as he goes into exploring a new universe.  The trailers paint this one as a fun, adventurous movie, that looks to have mystery, comedy, and a little excitement in search of the next big thing.  However, we all know trailers can make things look more golden than they actually are.  Well yours truly is back and ready to give some thoughts as he sets sail with Robert Downey Jr.in the film:

 

Film:  Dolittle (2020)

 

Director:

Stephen Gaghan

Writers:

Stephen Gaghan (screenplay by), Dan Gregor(screenplay by)  | 3 more credits »

Stars:

Robert Downey Jr.Antonio BanderasMichael Sheen

 

LIKES:

  • Great Voice Acting
  • Decent Balance Of Characters
  • Okay CGI
  • Some Meaningful Moments
  • Funny At Times
  • The Ending Credits
  • Cute Family Movie

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Direction Of Dolittle
  • A Little Too Forced Humor
  • The Adventure Is Boring
  • Villain Doesn’t Deliver
  • Action is Simplistic
  • The Story Predictable
  • Low Impact Impasses that Are Too Easy To Overcome

 

Summary:

 

The story of Dolittle has come in many packages, but this one held promise as Pirates meeting cute animal stories.  The digitally created cast has fantastic voice acting, with many creatures being a dead ringer for the people embodying them.  It’s not the most emotionally distraught or tight performance, but it works for the funny characters at hand and should delight the young and young at heart.  With a star-studded cast and plenty of animals, I have to say they accomplish their task of getting as much of the participation of the characters as they could.  I enjoyed the contributions they had to the adventure and found their comedy a selling point for most audience members.  The CGI work is not the most impressive at times, but it worked for me and helped get the animal movements down well, and making this odd cast come to life.  The animation is fluid, and the ability to anthropomorphize these cast of creatures.  While most of this works is to bring comedy to the film, presented in slapstick, goofy delivery, and a few ridiculous sequences designed for the young, it somehow also adds some other level of connection to the movie as you root for the safety of our crew.  Most of the film is about that level of comedy, but at its core lies some of those heartwarming moments that we love to see in these types of films.  Some of these moments are fully appreciated at the end, primarily in the closing moments and end credits that bring yet another art style to the mix that was interesting and fun to watch.  The result is that the movie is all about the classic family movie that has sort of been missing for some time, and will be perfect to take the grandkids too. 

 

However, the reviews coming in make some valid points and I believe these areas could have been improved upon to make this a better movie.  For one the direction of Dolittle himself is odd, a man broken by events, the eccentric genius approach is one part interesting and two parts odd.  A complicated history awaits, but yet the movie never goes with it, lost in him being too silly, isolated, and single track minded to really expand upon this complex character.  And much like the other animals, the comedy is sometimes a little too forced for me, jokes jammed into awkward moments and banter that took the adventure from exciting to corny at times for me, as it became a quest for the next joke.  For me, the adventure became boring very quickly, too simplified and linear with little challenge to stand in our crew’s way.  Where were the exciting ship to ship battles that made our crew face their fears?  What mysteries and challenges await in the palace halls we saw in that trailer?  What about that dragon?  Well… the trailers deceive you into thinking these are real threats, but the truth is that the watered-down action and the challenges just don’t really deliver much outside of a G rated starter movie.  Even the villain is kind of lame, an eccentric looking doctor is about all the threats he has got, as the former leader of vampires/werewolves has taken on the role of one liners and being kind of a nimrod, who poses little threats.  Again this makes for a cute, family friendly film adventure, but in terms of exciting story that could start a series, that’s where it fails for me.

 

The VERDICT:

            I did not hate this movie, but I was disappointed in the direction it chose to take in this rendition for this story.  The trailers painted this as an epic adventure with CGI animals, but instead we got a much kid friendlier adventure that was more about the laughs, slapstick, and cramming of animals than anything else.  It’s positives for me are all about how cute this adventure is with them capitalizing on the CGI animals as the main anchor point the target audience will love.  This film sort of felt like the films I watched as an introduction adventure growing up, simple and wholesome, with just enough added spunk to be above a nick junior movie.  However, where I think the movie fails as the reviewers have said is the missed potential they had suggested to me with the trailers.  The central character is loveable,  but not really a detailed RDJ character that we’ve seen him master like his other films.  The animals are fun, but again they seem so simplified and prop like that I have a hard time investing in most of them.  And worst of all, the atmosphere is so kiddy that the adventure aspect is diluted down to lackluster levels, which may not please the parents or older siblings that are accompanying them.  Therefore, all the conveniences and incomplete story for me are going to be the hardest blows to the quality of this film. 

 

My scores for the film are:

Adventure/Family/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

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

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

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

The Movie Storm Is Strong In Showmanship, But Brittle In Storytelling

          Frozen II Poster

 

Years ago, Disney unleashed a movie that stormed its way across the theaters and bringing with it a blizzard of merchandising in the form of Frozen. This empire would span across the years, allowing Anna and Elsa to find their way into many avenues, including the shorts that were mixed in reception.  While a little overrated in regards to avenues, the movie proved a soundtrack could flourish when putting just the right touches to it.  After reading the bridging book and seeing the trailers, the inevitable Frozen II looked to be promising for breaking away from the song and dance, love musical and push towards a more fantasy lore, a direction I so looked forward to it.  Robbie K is back to give you another look at the movies, and help guide your movie going preferences. So let’s get cracking at:

 

Movie:

 

Frozen II (2019)

 

Directors:

Chris BuckJennifer Lee

Writers:

Jennifer Lee (screenplay by), Jennifer Lee (story by)

Stars:

Kristen BellIdina MenzelJosh Gad

 

LIKES:

  • Voice Acting/Vocals
  • World Design
  • Pace Moves
  • Beautiful Animation
  • Touching At Times
  • Olaf’s comedy at times

 

DISLiKES:

  • Predictable (majorly)
  • Spirit design/usage
  • The Story Is Weaker
  • Under Utilized Characters… majorly
  • The Twist
  • The Lack Of Impasse
  • The Preachiness/Politics
  • The Overdone Humor
  • The Forced Singing… again

 

SUMMARY:

Animated movies rely on the art of voice work, and for a Disney animated film that often requires the ability to sing as well.  Fortunately, the cast is able to bring both in a variety of styles to bring the atmosphere of Frozen back in full form Menzel’s ability to blow us a way with bellows was mesmerizing and certainly my favorite of the songs in terms of style and storytelling, while Bell’s work leaned more towards the regular conversations and bringing emotional punches.  The chemistry between them is certainly decent, and the bonding of sisterhood comes out with every performance.  As for Gad, well he reprises his goofy side kick role with that childlike voice that works so well for the naïve collection of ice crystals, sticks, and coal.  Past the voice acting though, Frozen II is a beautiful display of animation pushing the boundaries, bringing more realistic edges, the contrasting colors to add spice, and fluid movements that continue to bring the magic of these movies.  It’s a stunning display of time commitment to details, bringing nature and Nordic culture to new levels and yet wishing you could make that light show come to life.

Moving past the vocals and animation though, the movie’s content continues to be awesome depending on who you are and what you are looking for.  For parents and guys like me, the pace moves better than the first in terms of getting the plot moving and keeping the adventure spirit alive.  Kids should like the fact of not diving too big into the details of fantasy, while adults can take a breath in not getting stuck in a drawn-out film that is boring.  In regards to an older audience, Frozen II continues to find moments to be touching, still kicking to its roots of promoting Princess power and sisterhood, and finding other avenues to pull at heart strings in a better way than the first film.  There were scenes that gave me goosebumps and that’s powerful in my book.  Finally, the silliness of the franchise is still ready to come out and entertain both groups, primarily in Olaf who has matured into new avenues of comedy that are charming, funny, and somehow innocent all at the same time.  A step up from the last film, the loveable snow man serves as comedic relief and supporting actor, a nice job as always.

 

Now comes the things I feel the movie took hits on in terms of quality. In regards to the design elements the movie does not have many flaws with only one maybe two things that could have used some updating.  Mainly, the spirit design was what got me, a potential to really unleash some Nordic creativity and make some truly wicked designs.  Two of these succeeded for me, one was cute and a nice change, and one, the wind spirit, failed to impress me.  I understand the elements they used it for, but it missed the mark in terms of creativity and ingenuity compared to its fellow spirits.

Plot wise however, the movie starts fizzling out and showing Disney’s vulnerabilities sometimes in their creations.  For one thing this is one of those films that is super predictable.  Within the first 10-15 minutes of the film, many of the story elements had been super foreshadowed and it did not get better from there as one predicted just about everything by midway.  Combine this with the pacing, and well you start seeing the weaker story that like first freeze is shaky in terms of supportParts of this are at fault for the poor character usage, as both old and new characters are tossed to the backburner in favor of the dynamic sister duo and their frozen side kick.  Fans of Sphen and Christoph, or looking for new characters to really be involved need to tone down the expectations now, for they have become diluted in this installment and are there to serve only small plot advancements or comedic sticks. The twist that comes at the end, well it was not much of a twist if you are paying attention, and instead one of those plot devices there to be inspiring to a key demographic, in that oh so preachy, political way that modern story telling loves to go.  If you were a fan of the first movie’s presentation, then you will love this one, but for those like me looking for balance, head in with a grain of salt to help stomach the very dramatic moments.  Something else for this reviewer is that impasses are also very brittle, with much of the conflict very shallow, one-sided and quickly resolved without much of a challenge.  If you remember the first one where things got pretty tense, where hunting, deceit and manipulation danced with our characters to cause deeper dives into the character psyche was very memorable.  This one tried to go a little more adventure like, but those moments blew over in minutes and seemed simplified which was disappointing for me.

I think the biggest contributor to the weaker story is the fact of Disney’s focus in jamming humor and singing where it is not needed, or in the amounts they do it in.  Olaf’s humor may be cute at all points, but the gags start to get old when they are force in there, which are obvious at times.  That pales in comparison to the songs though, which once more are trying to get the soundtracks selling like last time.  The second go round has some more emotional songs that are less gimmicky, fun, and dorky, but the problem for me is the volume they come in.  Once more i found many of the tracks to be sort of random moments to sing about emotions, and even worse the fact that the plot seems built around the songs again.  Frozen II also lost points for me at not utilizing the awesome musical pieces they used in the trailer and blowing me away with the symphony work, though they redeem with the covers at the end.

 

The Verdict:

 

            With a movie like this that has been too blown up, the expectations are high to be just as good as the original.  Frozen II casts a magic spell that was incredible in regards to animation, utilizing the elements well, and really bringing the elements of the first movie back for fun and trying to evolve on them.  It moves well, has humor that lightens up the mood, and yet very touching at others with its inspirational moments.  The movie certainly feels like a slightly beefed up version of the first  in terms of gimmicks of presentation of non-story elements, which in this day and age is often more important.  Yet, the story feels very deprived of the richness the book promised, not utilizing its characters well, getting a bit preachy at the end, and for me forcing songs in again rather than finding that balance.  When looking at this for recommendations… it works for a theater visit for many reasons and I really think fans of the first one will be spelled by the things its brings.  However, the sequel needs some tinkering for me to be the next best Disney film, and hope it’s not as overrated as the first one. 

Also stick around as there is a post credits scene following the covers at the end of the credits

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5-7.0

Is This a Dark Fate For The Series?

Terminator: Dark Fate Poster

 

The Terminator timeline is like a game of connect the dots that suddenly gets more dots and has to be redrawn.  No matter how many times we think the story is over, the team’s quest for more bucks finds ways to try and give “unique” stories, but still keep it in the universe.  After the reception of the last film, I can’t lie that I’m surprised a sixth installment is coming.  Yet here we are, ready to review the latest entry into the Sci-Fi franchise.  What’s ins tore?  Well Robbie K is here to shed some light and potentially alter your future.  Let’s get started!

 

Movie: Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

 

Director:

Tim Miller

Writers:

James Cameron (story by), Charles H. Eglee (story by)

Stars:

Linda HamiltonArnold SchwarzeneggerMackenzie Davis

 

 

Likes:

  • Good Acting
  • Funny At Times
  • Better Character Development
  • Surprisingly Deeper
  • The Graphics At Time
  • The Pace
  • The Action

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Predictability
  • The Unnecessary Politics
  • The Computer Graphics
  • Bloated At Points
  • More Action Needed
  • Convoluting The Timeline Even Further

 

SUMMARY

 

A Terminator movie has never been known for Academy Award winning performances, but this reviewer will not lie that he enjoyed the acting.  The classic champions of the franchise succeed in reliving their characters, bringing a new light to the simplistic roles, but yet being familiar.  Meanwhile newcomers like Davis and Reyes succeed in fitting into the new roles that the franchise wants them to take.  It’s not the most complicated of the roles, but the it works for the premise of the film.  The writing stems from those characters being the simple cat and mouse game with a little gun play involved, but in this installment the comedy seems to be there once more to offset the darker tones, with simple jokes integrated into natural conversation that make fans like me laugh.  All of this boils down to more dynamic characters, where people are much more than simple fodder for the terminators, but instead starting to show more heart and wisdom then what I think I have seen in any film.  This opens up into a surprisingly deeper film, finally achieving characters that we want to see, instead of the generic one-dimensional shells that are no better than the robots they are fighting, which is something I enjoyed.  Yet, this does not mean the Terminators have deviated too much from their normal delivery of the Terminator films.  The computer graphics have continued to improve, helping beef up action sequences, and help design one of the deadliest series to date.  These qualities are the thumbs up of computer technology in this film and things I absolutely love to see.  When it comes to the pace of the film, Dark Fates keeps things moving, refusing to linger too long as they chase/hunt continues and the defense plans need to evolve.  For guys like me, this pace is welcomed, because it keeps things exciting, but yet does not move so fast that the character development is rushed.  The heavy dialogue moments are then interrupted by some decent action sequences, with the first and last moments holding the planning and execution of scenes I like.  Fights are vicious, fun, exciting, and have the darkness to allow for some seriously awesome moves and struggles that are fitting of this series.

 

Sadly with all the stuff I enjoyed of the film, there are still some things the series is working to find balance in for me.  First, the predictability of the story is probably one of the most obvious things I’ve seen in a long time.  Attempts to hide the truth are poorly diverted, with too many nonverbal cues and obvious bait liners present to point the trend along the entire time until the “big’ reveal at the end.  Like, many films, Terminator 6 has fallen victim to the political messages of the time, with some lines, and the twist, a little too focused on these issues that did not seem quite a needed in this tale.  All these political entanglements with attempts to throw us off the scent led to the film being a little bloated, the over 2 hours run time that not needed when there were some things that could have been cut.  At this point you might be saying, who cares about the story, I’m in this film for the thrills and chaos.  Well even at this point Terminator’s team still has a few things to tune up.  For one thing, the computer work may have thumbs up in design and sound editing, but they still have not mastered the ability for the smoothest/most realistic looking action.  There are some movements and transitions that still look a little corny to me, and I laughed at the obvious actor placement that they threw into the mix.  In addition, there could have been either a few more action moments or maybe a little more evolved action to again make the entire time investment worth it.  Terminator’s opening moment sets the bar high, and it would have been nice to see the momentum carried on, or at least the finale having even more bite to go hand in hand with the storytelling.  Overall though, this film is all about further convoluting the timeline and potentially opening up for the next chapter that is “different” but yet the same.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Going into with lower expectations, I’ll admit I enjoyed Dark Fates on a variety of levels.  Old and new cast team up to start the legacy of the film off right, brining character development that is deeper than anticipated and style that is aggressively awesome.  With fast pace and action to keep things moving, alongside some impressive video and sound editing, this film delivers on the special effects boom.  Yet, the film still cannot find the full balance it needs, bringing predictability and politics to what should be a film that is willing to take a step into new realms.  Throw in some work with the special effects and better finesse of the action scenes, this bloated part of the film could have been filed away to make a better film.  Still, worth a trip to the theater for this one, especially for fans of the series. 

 

My scores are: 

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Don’t Ruin My Movie! Is Maleficent’s Next Spell Worth Falling Under?

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Poster

 

This weekend seems to be the one for sequels, as two big hits come out this weekend in hopes of making off with a lot of cash this Halloween season.  Tonight we start this review with none other than a big Disney smash that is hoping to cast a magical spell on us.  The first of the new age live actions, tonight’s sequel is following up with perhaps my favorite of the studio’s reimaginations of beloved classics.  Yet, can the vile dark fairy accomplish the task of charming us once more, or have we fallen into the moors of crappy sequel.  Robbie K here to cast his thoughts on:

 

Film: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

 

Director:

Joachim Rønning

Writers:

Micah Fitzerman-Blue (screenplay by), Noah Harpster (screenplay by)

Stars:

Angelina JolieElle FanningHarris Dickinson

 

 

Likes:

  • World Building
  • Animation
  • Designs
  • Costumes
  • Musical Score
  • Story Continuation
  • Darker Elements Integrated yet controlled
  • Angelina Jolie

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Predictable
  • Contained at the Wrong Parts
  • Under Utilized Characters
  • The Twist
  • The Final Battle

 

Summary:

 

Say what you want about the politics of the studio, but Disney certainly knows how to make their imagination come to life.  Maleficent 2 is a beautiful display of the power of their animation studios making the fantasy world of Sleeping Beauty shine in all its magical splendor.  While last time accomplished this task, part two manages to expand upon the inner dwelling of Aurora’s world and bring new attitude to the mix, impressing those who love to see fake worlds become reality.  The animation of all the creatures, alongside their designs, are something best captured in comic book form, and yet blend well into the dark dizzy dreams of the dark fairy.  All the creatures you love are back, with a few more to take their place as all of the worlds magic begins to unfold in a new light.  For those not requiring full on CGI, their costumes are nice to look at too, not quite as stupendous, but certainly elegant and fitting of the world.  Okay, past the visuals, Maleficent’s sound and musical elements really pack the punch in terms of adding to a scene as blaring orchestras drive a thunderous boom into the theater only to give way to the sad soliloquies of more somber moments.  It really adds to every sequence and gave me goosebumps at times.  When it comes to the story, again the movie succeeds, managing to continue five years from last time to explain the age gaps and offer a reminder of the events that transpired.  Maleficent’s tale then further expands, pushing all characters to new levels, but never dropping their core foundations for sudden changes.  It works and shows character development is not dead, not only for the dark fae herself, but for just about every character in the cadre as well.  An added bonus is the darker themes of the tale.  We know Maleficent’s tale is not the lightest one in the bunch, but Disney accomplishes the balance in this film bringing looming threats without dropping into nightmare territories.  I can’t say much more to avoid spoiling, but let’s just say the added edge of bad outcomes makes this movie more suspenseful.  Hands down though the centerpiece to this movie is Jolie herself.  She seems born for this part, mastering look, attitude, and delivery in this character whose spectrum expanded past the usual scale.  Jolie’s beauty is utilized well to bring new style to the dark queen, but never exploited or too focused to take away from her acting.  Bravo Angelina, Bravo!

 

For all its worth though, Disney is still not able to trick me much or throw too many curveballs to shake it up.  Maleficent 2 is certainly a rather linear tale, whose predictable nature is only overshadowed by the some hasty development of other character and containing the movie too much at the wrong parts.  This is especially true for several henchman, and even the prince himself, who have enough bang to their roles, but not quite utilized to the fullest potential that they could have done.  While certainly not the worst drop of characters I’ve seen, the movie could have scored more points for mixing these secondary characters into the brew to add their own glow.  Past that though, the twist they got me on was okay, it’s utilized well to allow for other plot devices, but it also kind of does not fit into the lore for me given the hasty explanation.  More time, or perhaps a book, will explain this connection, but I can’t say I was impressed with the turn.  Finally, the final battle.  Truth is, it is a fine spectacle of technology, integrates many characters well, and more importantly is an awesome display of action-based story telling.  However, it missed the mark on suspenseful battling because of the one-sided approached they took.  I can’t say much, but despite the battle having fine length, it was the biggest containment I had issues with and I would have liked to see more battle involvement, despite the added violence it might have brought.  This could have been the perfect climax for me had they done so.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Sequels are hard to make worthwhile, but I feel Disney corrected the mistakes from the other live action and delivered a fantastic addition to the Maleficent world.  Maleficent 2 accomplishes the storytelling aspect quite well, expanding upon its characters and adding darker elements that give this movie more bit and suspense.  Throw in beautiful world building and I can only say I was further impressed by what they brought to the big screen.  However, the movie did not unleash the full might of the magic spell they can, still suffering from predictability and containment to keep it kid friendly.  A little more expansion on battles, characters, and even the twist and this movie would have been another top sequel of mine.  Still, there is enough bang for buck to catch this in theaters, though I will exercise slight caution in taking children who scare easily, they might get spooked. 

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Family/Fantasy:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.5