Dare To Join This Clan For the Film?

BlacKkKlansman Poster

 

Robbie K back again with another review, this time on a biography that showed promise for being a wild, crime filled law.  Yet, there was the potential political game embedded in it that looked to get in the way, bringing concern that this movie may go down the wrong pathway.  Nevertheless, I’m back to give you yet another review in hopes that I can help shed some light onto whether the movie is worth its weight in money.  Let’s get started on the review of:

 

Blackkklansman (2018)

 

Director:

Spike Lee

Writers:

Charlie Wachtel,  David Rabinowitz

Stars:

John David Washington,  Adam Driver,  Laura Harrier

 

 

LIKES:

 

Great Setting

Costumes And Makeup

Clever Comedy

Awesome Sound Editing

Fantastic Acting

Strong Lessons

 

Blackkklansman is one of those movies that brings you back in time to all the crazy events of history.  The setting alone feels like a blast from the past, as we drop into the war against segregation from the unique perspective of an undercover agent. Amidst the world building of this movie, comes an impressive display of retro fashions of the time, bringing nostalgia and a certain panache to the film.  In addition, the fantastic soundtrack and sound editing brings that needed dynamic that represents emotion.  While the film is certainly strong in the drama/crime aspect, the comedy is reserved for those with a dryer sense of humor.  Clever wit awaits the audiences for this movie, forgoing the over the top slapstick for a richer laugh generator.  Of course, all of this fails without great acting, and this film’s two leads reach the goal of bringing the times to life and representing the story it wanted to tell.  This strong work helps sell the strong lessons of what history can teach, wrapping it up in very grandiose, preachy method that rolls with the movie.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Aggressive dialogue

Too Dry at Times

Slow Pace

The Ending?

 

 

Back in the day, the politeness and filtering were highly more advanced than today’s standards.  Sadly, the accurate yelling and vocabulary is a little too much for me, hearing all the derogative slanders, hating, and passionate politics just got to eye rolling proportions.  Fan who don’t like all the forbidden words of sailor talk, need to already turn away from this movie, though it still has nothing on Django Unchained and Phone Booth. Trying to offset this is the comedy that totally goes down the dryer route, but sometimes it becomes more a desert wasteland devoid of the usual comedic ocean.  This leads to some fewer entertaining choices, and with it a slower, dragged out piece.  Blackkklansman is horrible for pacing with me, establishing fantastic details, but sort of shirking the time management thing in advance of a complete story Still, the movie needed some spice to well spice things up so that the monotony could be broken up at times.  Finally, the ending.  Symbology and tributes are there to help motivate and teach the life lesson contained in this viewing.  However, the real error I have is that the ending itself seems out of place for me. I get it, the movie was showing some current events, but it just didn’t fit with the story they were trying to tell, which was about the past.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Blackkklansman is an artistic piece of work, that makes some parts of history fun to revisit.  However, the movie still needs some help with maximizing the entertainment/suspense element in their work.  Given the dry, barren joke pool and an ending that doesn’t quite click, you can see why the film gets some points docked away from it.  Still, looking for the informative, big-budget portrayal of the events that took place, the movie does warrant some applause for the ability to make history come to life once more.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Can’t say so, unless you want a political work of art… literally.

 

My scores:

 

Biography/Comedy/Crime: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0

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For the “Win”chester?

Winchester

 

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” such a truthful phrase in this modern-day world.  Well take this phrase, combine it with legendary house, and some events that occurred in the past and this mixture results in the plot of our next movie.  Welcome to another Robbie’s movie review, and tonight I’ll be posting on the latest horror movie entitled Winchester.  This interesting spectacle holds some wonder to it, but does it have the goods to deliver, especially with sensation Helen Mirren leading the charge?  I’m here to answer that question for you, so let’s get going.

 

LIKES:

The Setting: One of the coolest things about horror movies is the potential to craft new, dark, incredible settings that bring life, or in this case death, to the screen.  The movie has one of the most interesting settings I’ve seen in a while, a glamorized mansion modeled after the Winchester estate.  This jigsaw puzzle like house is not the friendliest on the eyes, but it works to craft a twisted chamber that plays games on the mind.  It holds great potential for a lot of scares with the uncertainty that lies around every corner and angled stair case.  And once the lights go down and only the candles flicker, that is when the true craziness of the house is unleashed.

 

The Character Development:  Scary movies are mostly about scares, and in much of the modern-day media that’s all they care about.  Fortunately, Winchester goes a different route and brings focus back to the characters walking the hallowed halls.  Both Mirren’s character and Jason Clarke have some decent plot arcs to tie them to the central story contained within Winchester’s elaborate walls.  Their journey through their struggles has some potent emotion behind, specifically Clarke’s whose path to enlightenment takes a few dramatic twists that are impressive.  I liked the personalization of the characters, even the big bad spirit, that had a little more backbone to it than simply being dead.  And how all these characters mesh into this story, helps give a purpose to all the scares that are at hand. 

 

The Twist:  The story itself is not too unique, but it is stronger than most horror movies hold.  While character development certainly has a hand in it, and a fairly linear story to tag on to, the movie really shines in the twist that awaits those brave viewers.  The director and cinema crew were able to hide the truth quite well, using subtle camera work, dialogue, and timing to really draw your attention away.  And when it finally all comes to a draw, you applaud at the integration to the plot it holds and transforms into the final act of the movie.  Certainly not the creepiest of the characters, but also held some impressive makeup to help seal the deal.

 

DISLIKES:

Minor Scare Factor: I’ll admit, one scene got my flinching, but Winchester didn’t have the scares the initial trailer laid down for us.  They rely on the same scare tactics throughout the 90-minute film, jump scares galore that rely on the sound suddenly dropping and something popping out.  While diverse in the things that come out in the dark, the tactics stay pretty much the same and eventually lose the edge they wanted to keep.  Even the exciting climax was nonchalant because it had crossed into the overdramatic and away from the scares.  A little more creepiness, might have helped this factor out, but maybe the implied sequel will come in.

 

Under Utilization of Characters:  The movie is primarily about Mirren and Clarke’s characters. The other characters, they unfortunately are reduced to secondary roles that are semi-significant, but still lacking that needed edge that could have helped them stand out.  Henry and his mom, and John the head carpenter, they were specifically mentioned, and then…they quickly faded into the background until their hasty conclusions.  Again, not the worst use of characters, but some finesse and better integration could have been the key.

 

The Story/Other Ghosts:  I mentioned that the story was a big improvement over much of the horror movies I have seen, but I also said there was room for improvement.  Winchester’s story has some depth to it, but there were some plot points that were built up and then fizzled out.  Mirren’s family tragedy, the trauma young Henry and his mom truly faced, and even the ghost’s master plan all kind of dropped short of the details I had hoped to see.  Had these stories been taken a little farther, not only would the story have improved, but it also would have given the story a little more edge and allowed for other ghosts to enter the mix.  Speaking of ghosts, I believe the trailer promised many spirits trolling the halls and torturing our heroes.  And once again this movie failed to deliver.  Plenty of spirits fell victim to the Winchester rifles, but only one of them had the guts to have any bite to the story.  The rest had a few jump moments, but their stories were lost to the background, contained in the books that line the wall of the main room.  And those hidden in the bolted rooms, most of them didn’t even bother to make an appearance, or any meaningful one at that.  No, Winchester needed to conduct a séance to recruit more spirits to its cavalcade.

 

The VERDICT: 

 

            Winchester wasn’t the scariest movie to haunt the theaters, but it is a better piece of storytelling than most horror movies have these days.  Solid character development and a twist help bring this twisted setting to life, and provide a semi-entertaining movie to the audience.  The film still needs some amplification to boost things along.  Primarily in the story and integration of the characters, Winchester fails to capitalize on the ghosts of the manor to provide all those scares, and falls victim to failed scare tactics. And had they integrated and dived further in all the characters stories, perhaps this too could have soared to higher quality.  Not the worst movie in the world, but this one can be saved until the Redbox picks it up. 

 

My scores:

Biography/Fantasy/Horror: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

Extra, Extra, See All About It!

Post

 

Hollywood, the new political battleground that continues to take public issues and launch a campaign for their favorite charity.  Assuming you weren’t under a rock over the last few years, you know things have heated up in glamour land, igniting another battle between the government and fine dressed actors/actresses.  One bullet to be fired this weekend is the Post, a tale describing the newspaper’s attempt to fight censorship by the government. With legendary actress Meryl Streep and actor Tom Hanks leading the way under Steven Spielberg’s direction there is much promise held in this film.  What’s the verdict?  Robbie K here to share some opinions and guide your movie going expertise.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Realistic: You want a movie that feels like a capture of real life?  Look no further, because the Post has many components to please the realism fans that flood the theaters these days.  The magical finesse is more of a glaze in this film: a small sound editing here, some dramatic music there, all to help maximize the emotion of the scene. Outside of that though, The Post is more of a recreation of the events of that time period and the life of the press in their pursuit of the truth.  Therefore, you history buffs are really going to fall for this film.

 

Acting:  The highest component of this film is the acting, which is to be expected given the headliners of the film.  Streep continues shine, her talents and skills coming to full front as she plays Kay Graham.  A recent widower, concerned mother, and recent business owner who not only had to balance all these roles, but face the challenges set before by the government.  Streep manages to dive into each of these positions and really portray the struggles Graham felt.  No overacting here, Streep continues to show why she is a champion at the Academy Awards and her ability to blend acting with realism with no divisible lines.

Hanks as her opposite is yet another great move, diving into the stubborn, career driven paper chief of Ben Bradlee.  Where Streep’s character is all about trying to stand up for her paper without compromising her morals, Hank is all about the rough-edged road of getting the story, sometimes ignoring the other things around him to get it.  This performance is powerful again, delivering the lines with that drive and passionate spectrum Hanks is famous for.  Together these two make the world come to life, both able to hold their own, but truly greatest when together on the battlefield of morale grounds. 

 

The Writing: The Post has great writing, no surprise given Spielberg’s ability to make history come to life.  Gone are cheesy one-liners and over the top monologues, and in their place a script that is loaded with a natural dialogue exchange, clever wit, and realistic reactions to these problems.  Strong writing like this makes for a smooth ride for the actors bringing the words to life and developing their characters with little to no fear.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Pace:  A movie like this has to deliver the morals in a manner that is both motivational and entertaining.  It accomplished the motivational component, but sadly lost on the entertainment component for me.  Part of this was due to the pace. The opening scenes tickled my fancy, but that intrigue was lost to a very monotonous speed of slow as dirt.  While the freedom of the press issue is the main topic of discussion, all the other life components were included in great details, which led to tangents not necessarily needed and longer run times.  Seeing the persona life was important, but not worth the dragging velocity this movie hit at various points of the movie, especially at later showings.  Even worse, these tangents led to a delay in getting to the heart of the issue, which is what this movie is all about.

 

The Climax:  While I appreciate the lack of movie magic, this movie needed a little enchantment to pump the tension up and make those lessons come alive even more.  The Post does a nice job of setting up the problem and explaining the information at hand. Yet the buildup would hopefully lead to an emotion/tension packed debate between the two parties to really get the crowd fired up.  Not the case in this film my friends, as much of this part is reduced to a short montage of brilliant sets and well adorned extras.  Spielberg could have had another gold mine of approval by the critics if he had added that little extra oomph to give our characters the satisfying dramatic action they deserved.  I won’t tell you how it goes, but I can say the suspension was practically extinct at the end for this reviewer.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Post is an important movie for many, primarily those who pursue the truth and are hindered by the oppressiveness of power.  Spielberg certainly crafted a winner in regards to realism, writing, and direction in guiding the actors.  With Streep and Hanks really bringing the players to life, this movie is a total Oscar nomination eater in regards to the artistic component.  However, the pace really suffers from the realism and dilutes the climax into an under impressive finale that does not scream of Spielberg’s prime work.  This glorified documentary would have held better premise on Netflix, because this movie was overhyped for me, with the acting being the exception to the rule.  So, save your cash and wait for a RedBox rent in my honest opinion. 

 

Biography/Drama/History:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

A Royal Flush In Acting, Writing and Fashion. Be Game For This Smart Film

Molly's game

            Celebrity status is sometimes not all it’s cracked up to be, especially in these days where every eye and ear is monitoring for a juicy story.  This was never truer than the case of Molly Bloom, the former Olympian turned lawbreaker all through the flip of a card.  If you’re like me, you had no clue about this tale, but thankfully the studios have pulled together another cinematic marvel to tell another story.  Will this movie live up to hype and do a biography right, or is it just another glory trip to pull our addictions and con out our hard earned money?  Robbie K here is back with yet another review on the latest movies to hit the theater.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

The Costumes/Wardrobe:  As a reviewer, I strive to appreciate all aspects of a movie, including the wardrobe to make a part come to life. The department achieved its goal of designing outfits to fully portray the professionalism of Molly (Jessica Chastain), all while being a stunning sight for your eyes. Each dress, coat, and accessory beautifull accented Chastain’s naturally beauty, but also managed to reflect the attitude/mood of the scene.  As the wardrobe reflected the emotional tension to indirectly add took the movie, it also serves as a fashion show for those who love this aspect

 

The Pace:  The movie is one of the longer films this year at nearly 150 minute run time, and for a drama that can seem like a lifetime.  Fortunately, the team did a stellar job keeping the pace quick and moving, but not so fast to devoid details. This balanced presentation kept my interest in the details without becoming too lost in the convoluted, emotional warfare that dramas are famous for.  I at one point looked at my watch and stated, wow 90 minutes have already past, not something I normally see.

 

The Presentation of the story:  Molly’s game is a very interesting tale to say the least, seeing the tribulations she faces and her character’s resilience to it all.  Naturally, this is not the original tale, but the presentation helps pump life into the plot.  One component is in the past, a self-told narrative guiding you through her journey up the ranks of the poker pit and the players who participated in it.  The second component are the events of her case presentation, where she and her lawyer work to uncover the psychological game going on in Molly’s head.  These two parts constantly wrap around themselves during the movie, each part escalating the tension of the adventure and guiding you to the goal of what the consequences will be of Molly’s choices. This presentation has been done before, but this movie really finessed it, possibly leading to the pace I enjoyed so much.

 

The Writing:  I agree with fellow reviewers that the writing in this movie is one of the strongest pillars this movie is based on.  It’s realistic, it’s emotional, and it’s clever on many fronts as it balances various ploys to make the lines come to life. Well-timed sarcasm, monologues that convey a large emotional spectrum, and the dialogue itself feels very realistic, but yet has enough magic in it to charge the scenes with that fire you strive for in a drama. And with this strong foundation, the acting has a base to spring off of for award winning performances.

 

The Acting: Hands down though, the acting of this movie is what brought it too life and tied all these pieces together.  The supporting cast of secondary characters did their jobs well, capturing the pompous, greedy nature of the gambling addicts and mixing in the frat boy irresponsibility that Molly describes.  Michael Cera and Kevin Costner shine in their moments that speak of the great writing that this film has to offer.  Hands down though, it’s the two leads who deserve the most credit.  Idris Elba continues to show off his skills, portraying intelligence, concern, parentage, and moral obligations to craft an engaging opposite for Chastain work with.  He anchors Molly’s strong will and turns into constructive storytelling, all while bringing the benign terms of law to a relevant life.

Yet it is Jessica Chastain who does most of the heavy lifting in this movie, playing the title character and running with it on all levels.  In addition to the looks (both in similarity to Molly and stunning fashion), Chastain brings Molly to life on all fronts.  You feel the suffering in the character, and almost get pulled into the mental struggles that hit her as the moral tests come at her from all fronts.  She manages to keep all the emotion in check, and crafts a complex character that has your opinion shifting of her over the course of the film. The directors managed to design so much in this role that is going to inspire and empower many to achieve the greatness she portrays.  I hope she wins the best actress for this film, because she was phenomenal.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Hollywood glamor:  It’s always tough to write this dislike, but you have to wonder how much Hollywood buffing they put into the film.  Of all the biographies I have seen, I feel this one was one of the more grounded tales that hit both sides of the argument.

 

The Editing Direction: For the most part this movie is solid in terms of run time and details.  However, there was extra fluff at times that was unnecessary for me.  Some of the montages involving clients making jerks of themselves didn’t seem necessary for me and added unneeded length to the film. The result was a few boring parts that were a little tiring, but even these weren’t the worst I have ever seen.   Outside of a little tightening on the dialogue, there wasn’t much for this category to comment on.

 

The Jargon: Perhaps the most unenjoyable thing about this movie for me is the heavy use of jargon in this movie.  Molly’s game is loaded with poker, law, and business lingo that many audience members may not appreciate during the heated moments.  It adds the intelligence quotient to the mix, but without the definitions in front of you, and the amount of traffic in the scenes, this is the weakest aspect of the writing.  Positive side, it inspires me to research these terms, but in the heat of the moment it’s a little overhwhelming.

 

The Verdict:

            Molly’s game is a great movie that is an artful representation of biography meeting drama.  A blending of smart writing, an engaging presentation and incredible talent to bring it all to life is what you’ll get in this movie, and much of it is held in the arms of Chastain.  Her character has so much for audiences to grasp on to and in the case of female goers, empowering performances shine bright in this film. Yes the movie is not original, and it is subject to Hollywood magic fluffing things up as well as some jargon heavy dialogue.  Yet, this movie still wins for one of the better dramas to grace the theater in a while.  I highly recommend a vist to the theater for this one.

 

My scores:

 

Bigoraphy/Drama:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

 

Saved The Greatest For Last!: A Real Show Stopper

Greatest Showman

The Circus, a collection of assorted talent meant to wow and amaze the people the audience with their stunts.  At the head of this arena was P.T Barnum, a name associated with the Big Tent and imagination to continue bringing the magic to the world that so desperately needed.  So naturally, Hollywood would design a movie after him entitled The Greatest Showman, a musical piece that looks to be a big sensation this season.  But can Hugh Jackman

lead his cavalcade to victory, or is it just another flop the trailers bulked up.  Robbie K here to provide some thoughts, as we do yet another movie review.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Entertaining Pace:  You know I like a movie that moves, and Greatest Showman takes little time to get into the fun territory.  The excitement starts from the moment the opening credits begin, holding back little in order to get the magic started.  It’s a risky, but smart, move as their execution led to one of the most engaging movies of the holiday season.

 

The Acting:  I love a good cast coming together to bring the film alive, and again this film manages to accomplish this task.   Jackman takes the center stage as Barnum, capturing the imagination drive of the legendary ring leader and energizing the movie with his spirit .  The rebellious nature to take risks is portrayed quite well with him at the reigns, and the evolution his character goes through is spectacularly acted.  Michelle Williams was a great lead actress for the character Charity, bringing both beauty and class to role of a supportive wife doing her best to keep Jackman’s spirit in check with reality. Zac Efron and Zendaya, are wonderful supporting actors to the leads, they just needed a little more integration into the plot.  The rest of the cast knocks the movie out of the park, but I have more things to talk about so let’s move on.

 

The Messages: Greatest Showman by far has my favorite presentation of those pesky, yet important life lessons. Living your dreams, accepting yourself, and helping others are the key factors held in this movie.  This portrayed primarily from Barnum’s view, but the movie blends the perspective from the other performers and their judgement by the high society. A classy nod to the traditional, now outlandish, views, the movie does a great job clashing the concepts of society norms vs. uniqueness and the struggles of being brave to change the world. Seeing the emotional warfare unleashed on the performers tore at my heart strings, but made the relevant topic come to life in a fantastic way.  It’s a bit preachy at times, but given the quality and the use of multiple devices to bring it to life, it really does work .

 

The Numbers/Soundtrack: By far, my favorite aspect of the movie are the musical numbers.  Incredible is not nearly enough to describe the musical extravaganzas, each dance number being dynamic and fun with a well orchestrated choreography that combines Circus stunts with Hollywood footwork.  Outside of the thrilling movements though, these numbers are charged with emotion, bring the relevant messages to life with a powerful punch to penetrate the walls of hardened halls and bring with it joy, inspiration, or in some tears of joy. But if you don’t care about that component, then perhaps you’ll appreciate the story telling and relationship building of the numbers that help speed up the formalities of socializing. And if all that fails, well then just be stoked for awesome numbers with a good beat. I’ll admit that they all sound quite similar in many aspects, but there is enough of a twist to grant them their individuality.  Nevertheless, this is one soundtrack I plan to pick up.  Can you tell I liked the movie?

 

DISLIKES:

 

Wanted more:  For once I can say I wanted the movie to be longer.  Greatest Showman is a story that balances numerous things over the 105-minute run time with regards to love, loyalty, pressures of success, etc.  However, I wish that many of these qualities were either elaborated more, or held a little more struggle to provide a stronger development arc to the characters I loved so much. Most likely the extra content would not have felt longer due to the energy of the film, but this might have increase the run time to 3 hours so maybe it was a good thing. In addition, I wanted to have better integration of some of the other characters into the story, (i.e. Napoleon guy, bearded lady, and the wife) rounding out the experience of the film and giving us better backstories on our oddities. Those connections between the dots would have expanded the experience out and only further strengthen the story.

 

The CGI:  This component is not bad at all, but despite the spectacles you would have thought this production could have acquired some real live animals for the numbers.  The CGI work is good, fluid motion and semi-realistic design, but given everything they did with the live actors for the numbers, the CGI animals seemed a little like they were cutting corners.  Yeah, this is a picky dislike, it’s hard to find many big weaknesses in this film.

 

The Hollywood Treatment:  From the quotes we know the aspirations of P.T. Barnum, but like many biographies, one has to wonder how much of this is the Hollywood shine.  While uglier sides of Barnum do come out, I think the movie flew by his money making, business side because it didn’t fit into the story’s other moments or perhaps meant fewer musical numbers for our auto tuned cast to come up with. Still, I’m a sucker for seeing an uplifting tale, where the positives are the focusing point of the film.

 

 

The VERDICT

            Hands down, The Greatest Showman is one of my favorite films of the Hollywood season.  The movie is constantly entertaining the audience, utilizing the acting, the special effects, and more importantly the music to sell the moral points hidden in the 105 minutes.  Such a positive tale of friendship, self-discovery, and acceptance is a perfect match to the Holiday season and I for one cannot wait to see this film again.  Yes, Hollywood glamor is at work, and the movie could have expanded on both characters and plot elements to connect the dots a little more, but I was very pleased by this film.  Therefore, I highly recommend this one for the theaters, not only in terms of quality, but also because the songs rattling the theater adds to the experience that only the most expensive surround sound systems can begin to match. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/Musical:  9.5

Movie Overall: 9.0

BaHumbug!

Invented Christmas

 

Christmas gets started way too early for me most years, but nevertheless the holiday themed movies are happy to take to the masses in hopes of getting the spirit going.  Yet the definition of the modern Christmas we celebrate can be traced to legendary author Charles Dickens who made the timeless classic A Christmas Carol.  Such an epic story is stemmed in the spirit of giving, hope, and redemption, a symbol that we aspire to hit and often not succeed.  Where did the inspiration come from though? How did he get the ideas?  I don’t know, but the movie I’m reviewing tonight attempts to answer that question in an entertaining manner.  Robbie K here sharing his opinions on The Man Who Invented Christmas starring Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer.

 

LIKES:

 

The World:  If you read my reviews, you know I’m a big fan of world building and settings.  The Man Who Invented Christmas recreates the nostalgic world of 19th century London and all the class that once inhabited the world.  Seeing the society of the times reemerge from the London fog brought a homey feeling to me, invoking the beginnings of the Christmas season in a world that once treated as a minor holiday.  The attention to detail is astonishing, primarily in all the chaotic organization that was Dickens’ life, primarily the study to where he pondered all his works.  It is this factor that will pull you into the movie as the stage continues to unfold.

 

Clever Presentation:  When attempting to answer how Charles got his motivation and do it in an entertaining manner, the team has to think outside the box for this one. The Man Who Invented Christmas managed to do this quite well in most manners, primarily in rendering his thoughts as personified beings, capable of interacting with him.  His conversations with the characters is a creative representation of the stresses of his mind and how they influence the progression of the story.  And very much like a scene out of Slum Dog Millionaire, the movie was able to also bring his supposed history into the mix to also motivate moments of the book.  Much of it was predictable, but it was a nice homage to his life that filled in the gaps I had forgotten.

 

The Acting:  By far the best element for me though is the acting held in this movie.  The secondary characters do their part in serving as obstacles, motivations, and support for Dickens himself, especially his best friend and his father.  Yet, the main piece to watch are the characters of Scrooge and Dickens himself.  Christopher Plummer still has life within his older bones, playing the pompous Englishman to the letter.  He captured all the quips, jabs, and sarcasm of the character and managed to get that bitter attitude toward life.  Yet, Plummer also got the humorous part of the role down pat, almost like a rival/mentor showing tough love to accomplish the task. As for Stevens, his portrayal of the talented writer with the obsession for perfection was fantastic.  Stevens managed to take the dual role of Charles Dickens and personify the internal struggle that was his life as he pursued his muse of an epic story. All the anger, frustration, and joy were quite balanced in this movie, hooking me into his life and keeping me in my seat until the final sequence faded to black.

 

DISLIKES:

Scene Placement:  The movie does a nice job filling in the gaps, but at times I didn’t enjoy the placement of the scenes.  Mainly the flashback scenes, much of Dickens’ past was scattered through this movie, dropped at odd moments that offset the momentum of the sequence. Some of these moments could have been better delivered at earlier moments, and may have minimized the confusion of why he was so angry.  Not sure whose direction it was to place things in this order, but it didn’t work for me at times.

 

Background Characters:  As you watch his story progress, you get to see new characters emerge as his world starts to motivate him to write.  Yet unlike Scrooge, with whom he constantly interacts with, many of the other characters are just background bodies who smile, laugh, and kind of look odd.  Sure, I understand the personification of what they mean during his writer’s block and how they were connected to his central character, but why did they remain constantly in the background?  I don’t have those answers, but it was kind of odd having them randomly walking around with him and doing little past that.  Sorry guys, not a fan of limited use characters.

 

The diluted emotion:  I expected the movie about the guy who revolutionized Christmas to be a little more emotionally charged.  Sadly, this film didn’t quite pack the holiday joy and magic that his tale was able to elicit long ago when I watched the Muppet version long ago. While inspirational, I didn’t get overwhelmed with feelings that made me embrace the holiday season.  I felt this was due to some of the movie magic being left out of the movie, giving it that realistic twist, but unfortunately drying up the specialness those hokey, overdramatic effects bring to the table.  This tale would have benefitted from a page in the Hallmark channel book in terms of motivating you to inherit the spirit of Christmas.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Man Who Invented Christmas is an immersive film that uses setting, presentation, and incredible acting to bring the 19th century to life.  Despite all the cool insights into Dickens’ life though, this movie lacks cinematic magic, logical use of characters, and pacing that is important in films.  This movie could have done well on a television release, or streaming movie rather than a theater presentation.  It does hold potential for a church outing, but this reviewer recommends holding out until it comes to home viewing.

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Comedy/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

A Cruise Of Crime is Made Okay

American

 

 

American politics is a theater that continues to garner more attention than even the biggest award shows.  The players in their games can be just as interesting, especially in how far they go to accomplish their tasks.  My second review of the weekend focuses on one such person named Barry Seal, a famous American pilot who was a cog in so many aspects. What does this movie have in store for us?  Robbie K here to fill in on the latest biography and give you insight into another silver screen story.  Let’s go

 

LIKES:

 

The Setting: Technology’s progression allows us to do many things, and one is recreating the past. American Made is a shining example of Hollywood’s ability to recreate the trends of the decades, from what towns/cities looked like to the fashion and cars that filled them.  You’ll be pulled back in time with this film, and become integrated in the world and fully diving into the world crafted by Seal’s actions. In addition, it’s also fun to see old news’ broadcasts integrated into the mix, further amping up the story.   And for all you nostalgia lovers out there, feel free to have fun remembering the adventures you back then.

 

Cruise’s Acting:  Say what you want about Tom Cruise’s personal life, but the man can certainly play his roles well.  Cruise comes in spades with this film, capturing arrogance, coyness, and that adventurous spirit all in one sitting.  His skills will bring out the emotions of the time period, the fear of being that pivotal chess piece that so many depend on.  Cruise’s chemistry with all his co-actors is favorable, resulting in a performance that feels natural. In addition, his dynamic abilities to transition between sub roles, further brings the character to life, an essential for a key role.

 

Thorough Tale:  Biographies are only as fascinating as the story presented, which often requires details.  Our directors/screenwriters have got you covered in this movie, sparing no time cost to hit all the deals that Seal was involved in.  Their presentation keeps guides you well in this movie, using captioned slide transitions and Cruise’s comedic dialogue to set the time and place of the next adventure.  It’s an easy tale to keep up with and hits so many qualities of Seal’s life in tandem to his antics (including family, friends, and even sanity).  I felt that of all the books brought to life, this was one that hit the closest to home.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Magic vs Reality:  The challenge with these films is determining what is real and what is overdramatized.  There are plenty of moments where that question comes up, as the cast of characters appears with grandiose gestures and presentations to corrupt the system. As the story progresses, the whole conspiracy gets even larger and the drama amps up to levels that are hard to believe.  The over dramatization gets a little cheesy at times, and made me roll my eyes at the extremes the legal system went to and how untrustworthy they were. Fans of this style though, will easily be hooked into the escapades of the movie.

 

Skimped on other factors:  While American Made touches on many aspects of the film, there was an imbalance in how much they would focus on those other aspects.  The family aspect was so heavily influenced at the beginning, but then gets diluted down to background noise and occasional shots.  Same thing goes for a few business partners he contracts as well, a rather focused opening, but then runs out of gas. While I give them props for keeping things concise, the disjunction between these aspects is a little disappointing to me, especially how one would affect the other.  In addition, these rushed elements took the suspense away from me.

 

The wasted sequences:  The most annoying thing for me though, were the tangential flashes that occur in this movie.  Seal’s memories are fascinating to see, but there are a few of them that were pointless to have sequences for.  An example is him randomly saying he had kids, only to flash to a scene of her in labor for a brief comedic relief.  While a noble attempt, it was nothing a well-placed line could have done as well. There are other examples as well that all could have been left out, thereby further reducing the run length.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            American Made is a great biography that has some flare other biographies have lacked for me.  Cruise leads the way in terms of strengths for this movie, but the world and tale itself are an entertaining venue to watch.  Yet, there are plenty of overdramatic moments and wasted shots that have made this a glorified Netflix/History Channel worthy production.  If you are looking for a good biography though, scope this one out, otherwise wait for next week’s releases before going to the theater. 

 

My scores;

 

Action/Biography/Comedy:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0