Descending Further Into Quality

Descendants 2

 

Robbie K here with a little change up.  Instead of hitting the silver screen with this review, I analyze the latest Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) to premier tonight.  Our film focus tonight, the sequel to Disney’s latest merchandise extravaganza Descendants.  If you don’t know what this series is about, it focuses on the offspring of the Disney villains and their quest to find themselves amidst a plethora of chaotic assignments.  Like many DCOMs, legendary director Kenny Ortega returns to bring you music and kid-friendly drama that keeps breathing life into Disney Channel.  Tonight, the sequel is back to keep the momentum going and try to retain some quality back to the cable network.

 

LIKES:

 

Villain Kids:  In most movies, the story is only as good as the antagonists to fight and in this case Uma (China Anne McClain) is an improvement over last movie’s band of baddies.  Descendants one tried to reinstate the classic baddies, with subpar casting and actors who semi looked the part. The direction of the movie though put the kids in the forefront and the villains in the back, resulting in rather boring/cheesy performances.  With the kids being the focus, the new villain of Uma gets the focus and development needed, and her malicious planning are nice qualities.  Her second in command Harry Hook (Thomas Doherty) is the enforcer who has some mad skills to bring to the table and actually does something to up the ante in a rather calm series.  With kids at the focus, the doors open wide for more adventure at hand.

 

The Message:  DCOM movies are all about teaching a lesson, and Descendants 2 keeps that time honored magic alive.  Where Descendants was all about not being your parents and marking your own path, the sequel focuses on finding yourself as the main theme.  A good lesson we can all use a refresher on that only loses a little power by the preachy delivery.  Of course, there are other minor plots to help teach a few more subjects on friendship, courage, confidence, and knowing when a rule needs to have a new spin. All good messages for young ones to get bombarded with, and an applause at Disney doing it right.

 

The Story:  The first movie did a nice job introducing all the relationships of the world while embedding it in plots of doing villains’ bidding, but also battling yourself when morals conflict. Yet the story was very simple and lacked the kick that it needed to be fully entertaining.  Descendants 2 was a step up, building on those relationships and using them to tell a new story that involved exploring more of the isle.  The added “suspense” was again a step in the right direction, and the increased urgency only brought more suspense to the mix. 

 

The Songs:  By far my favorite component was the soundtrack.  After seeing Descendants a thousand times over the last two years, I made my list and found only a couple of songs I found timeless.  In this installment, the five out of six tracks will most likely be coming to my Ipod.  The dance numbers were much better for me and they fit very well into the theme of the movie instead of just being jammed in at random intervals ( see Evil Like Me and Ridiculous).  The new soundtrack has edge and really kicks up the beat.  Nice improvements guys.

Acting:  One thing I must give props to though, is the acting.  Descendants cast is super talented and each brings a dynamic energy to the movie that really sparks magic into the DCOM world.  Dove Cameron steals the show with her fantastic ability to direct a character and mold it into a believable performance.  She also brings singing and dancing to the mix that mirrors the emotions present in her character. Cameron Boyce as Carlos has the energy and moves to impress, even more this time with the dance numbers.  Sofia Carson is brains, beauty, and passion with focus on her singing coming out in this movie.  Sofia’s dramatic air somehow brings the group together and keeps the extreme personalities grounded.  Booboo Stewart as Jay has more lines in this movie, and brings that action packed, stunt oriented edge the movie continues to need.  Just maximize his talents more please.  Finally Mitchell Hope does a nice job as King Ben, reprising his well to the full effect and refining it to meet the needs of the scene.  The cast’s chemistry is impressive and Ortega’s guidance keeps things strong, selling the relationships that this movie depends on.  

Dislikes:

 

Dropped plot elements: If you haven’t followed the animated shorts and accompanying books, then this won’t affect you.  However, the super fanbase will note other characters missing from Auradon’s halls.  Many characters are absent in this film, and even those from the first film have been reduced to back burner secondary appearances with little involvement in the main plot.  Audrey, Jane, even Doug are not nearly as involved, most likely to give the newbies more screen time.  Unfortunately…

New elements lacking:  Outside of Uma and maybe Harry, many of the new characters are also reduced to smaller roles than I anticipated.  Newcomers Dizzy (Anna Cathcart) and Gil (Dylan Playfair) have been the highlights of the recent advertising campaign, but sadly don’t do much in this film.  In addition, many of the dramatic buildups, foreshadowing, and magic are actually played less than I originally thought.  Guess dancing and sword fighting are more important than complete plots.  One warning I have for future installments is to not grow so big to drop other characters, or face the threat of devouring yourself by inconsistencies.

Rushed Plot:  Descendants holds a lot of potential to be an epic tale, and that first book by De La Cruz was an epic introduction filled with that potential.  The movies unfortunately have lost that balance and go for the rather rushed conclusions that make many DCOMs lacking.  Number 2 did not improve on this element, but worsened as they tried to shove too many plots into the short run-time.  Much of the conflict is dropped quickly, the tasks and trials are rapidly completed, and new elements are haphazardly dropped without any buildup or heat.  I know they are shooting for time constraints, but with something this big… you can take your time and go a little longer.  Younger audiences won’t care about this, but older ones like me would appreciate a little more dramatic play ups.  In addition, don’t set up potential plots and drop them like a bad habit (see Chad Charming subplot).  That incomplete presentation is a little disappointing with legendary directors in the mix.

 

Anticlimatic ending:  I know, this is a movie geared for younger generations, we can’t have too violent of a fight.  The sword fight did a decent job of bringing the appropriate action especially the tangle between Harry and Jay (Booboo Stewart).  However, another struggle at the end showed off some semi-decent computer work in a very…bland manner.  I can’t reveal much more, but an epic tangle could have come in that wasn’t so…abruptly stopped.  Kids watch lion King, Aladdin, and Incredibles, they can handle more than G rated punches.  Add some “fire” to the mix, or throw in some close calls to mix things up and actually bring fear to the mix.

 

The Verdict:

 

Overall, Descendants 2 stepped its game up on many levels with their villains, story, and songs.  Yet it still succumbs to the modern spin on DCOMs to go for musical gimmicks and diluted themes that while entertaining are not the only sustenance of the film.  Descendants 2 story has room for improvement in regards to integrating its characters more, and could take a lesson from the books in regards to adding some suspense to the film.  Still, it is one of the better DCOMs I have seen in a long time, and certainly the more impressive sequel to grace the small screen.  With a little more work and some other feedback from you fans… Descendants 3 (which I feel will come) can be even more exciting. 

 

My scores:

 

Family/Musical/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

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Revving Up To A Better Story

Cars 3

 

“I am Speed!” A quote that will live on forever in the minds of the 2000 generation, movie quote boards, and the status of Disney fans.  For those not remembering the quote, or not realizing what this review is about, it is Lightning McQueen’s catchphrase in the famous Cars series.  Pixar’s work about living Cars took the world by storm long ago, but a flat tire left it stranded behind its cousins.  After a detour with the second installment, Cars 3 attempts to change tires and redeem itself on the winner circle.  And it’s my job to commentate and analyze the movie.  Let’s rev up and take off with another Robbie movie review.

 

LIKES:

Animation:  Let’s get the obvious out of the way, Pixar continues to prove they rock at making things move.  Cars 3 is beautifully detailed, stylish, slick, and fluid on all levels from the skidding tires to simply drinking oil at a local garage bar.  Unlike its sequels, the movie really focuses on the fast-paced world of racing, and brings the full effects of Disney animation to life. All the excitement is captivating and exciting, perfect for many audience members of all ages. And with all the new characters plenty of room for merchandising.

 

Soundtrack: Most Disney fans often won’t pay attention unless it is a flashy, over the top musical number famous from the renaissance of the 90s (and Frozen).  Well although not the famous show stopping sequences, Cars 3 has a nice collaboration of song covers to classic songs that is sure to bring up some nostalgia.  While not as good as the originals for me, I enjoyed most of the twists in this movie and felt they were appropriately placed in the film.  Certainly, not the most unique soundtrack, but strong nonetheless.

 

Comedy:  Good news, Cars 3 is still funny, but even more importantly it doesn’t rely on comedy as the only gimmick.  Rather than relying on Mater’s childlike innocence and stupidity, Cars 3 was able to bring some wit to the table and with it some dynamic comedy.  Mater still has some quips to throw into the film, but the rest of the gang has some well-timed jabs that touch on a variety of topics and styles, which again, will hit most members of the audience.

Story: The team must have taken a step back and analyzed the blue prints of their tale.  Cars 3 story is miles above Car2, dropping into the character development and life lessons made famous in the first film.  It is jam packed full of emotion, with gripping tales all coming together into a very compact package. With exciting races built into the story, the movie keeps a nice pace and remains fun to watch while also being educational.  No convoluted tales of quirky action or stretches here folks, it’s just classic country lifestyle.

 

DISLIKES:

Depressing: This really doesn’t reveal anything, but much of this movie is quite depressing.  While there is certainly a broad range of emotions “racing” through this film, I can say a good chunk is spent in the downer zone. While the kids will have a few moments that might upset them, adults are going to really take the blunt of the depression in this movie.  The trailers have already hinted at the message, but they didn’t prepare me for the intensity this movie has at times.  Fortunately, they relieve that melancholy with fun moments, but somehow Pixar keeps that sullen moment in your mind.

 

Old jokes: I told you they did a nice job balancing jokes, but I didn’t say perfect, did I?  Cars 3 gets a little obsessive with one joke category and starts to rely on it a little too much.  These jokes at times is the perfect icing on the cake, but often it goes with that depressing component I told you about.  I found the fun starting to leave and the sadness starting to set on… way to go Pixar, depressing comedy.  Still, your kids will laugh and might pick up a few annoying phrases to throw at you in the process.

 

Characters dropped:  Like many Disney films, the studios find a way to dump on the old to bring in the new. While certainly not the worst example of dropping characters, Cars 3 reduced many of your favorite character to background characters delivering somewhere between 1-5 lines.  So those heavy on Mater, Sally, and the rest of the gang need to lower your expectations, and prepare to fall in love with the new guys on hand.  This disproportion of characters is certainly sad to see, and while I do enjoy many of the new characters, you can’t help but long to have the old and new world blend a little more together.

The VERDICT:

Cars 3 was certainly rebuilt from the wreckage of the last movie.  The animation remains stunning, brought to full throttle with the exciting races thrown into the mix.  Pixar makes the tale funny and with a much deeper, enriching story than number 2.  Unfortunately for the audience above the age of 15, a somber mood hangs over much of this movie and it lacks a good balance of integrating old with the new.   There are some other components I could comment on, but I’m out of room so you’ll have to see for yourself.  Nevertheless, Cars 3 is definitely worth a trip to the theater folks, and probably the leading blockbuster of this weekend’s new releases. 

 

My scores:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

This Film Is A Boss At Being Creative and Adorable

Boss Baby

 

He’s cute! He has got a big head! And he is in theaters this weekend.  He is the Boss Baby and his movie is the focus of this review.  Hi fans, Robbie K is back again with another review, and this time on the latest animation movie to hit the silver screen.  What does this animated feature film have in store?  I’m happy to share some thoughts on the subject, so why don’t we get started shall we?

 

LIKES:

  • Good animation
  • Cute
  • Unique Twist on a story
  • Incredibly Fun
  • Funny and Clever
  • Movie References

 

Summary:  As you saw in the trailers, Boss Baby is another example of how incredible our animation technology is and this time it is wrapped up in a cute as a button package.  This film may be one of the most adorable animation pieces to hit this year, and many will fall in love with the whimsical charm of this film.

Now that we have the obvious wrapped up let us get to the real gold of this film.  It’s difficult to find a unique twist on a story, but the risk taken with Boss Baby’s story was well executed.  The tale has many layers to it involving adapting to new family members, pursuit of your dreams, and of course what is better babies or puppies.  With surprising detail and character development, the story is very entertaining and fun as baby and brother try to stop the dastardly puppies from taking over.  And the best part is… the whole adventure is fun and fast paced, with seldom a boredom moment in this fast-moving flick.

Let’s hit the comedy now.  Boss Baby again excels in this aspect providing a variable mix of comedic styles to entertain all ages.  Young (and young at heart) will enjoy the simplistic comedy that involves the characters dropping mindless (meme-worthy) one liners, various screams of fear, and dopey run-ins with a wall.  The real comedic diamonds though are the cleverer puns, one-liners, and adult references hidden in this movie. Alec Baldwin’s sarcastic delivery and edginess worked for me, adding just the right touches to maximize the laughs.  Yet, I’m a sucker for all the movie references integrated into this plot and how key they were to the adventure.  And if you are nerd like me, you may get an extra thrill keeping your eye out for the next reference.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • A bit of a stretch
  • A little preachy at times
  • More Babycorp use
  • Better Editing

 

Summary:  Despite how much I enjoyed the story, much of it is still predictable. Boss Baby has some surprising twists, but no manner of fun, can hide the blatantly obvious ending that is to come.  While predictability is difficult to avoid, Boss Baby could have tidied things up a bit to give the finale a little more flare. In addition, they could have worked hard to not be so preachy near the end about the importance of family and all that lovey-dovey mush that animation films do all the time.

Let’s talk about some developmental issues I had with the movies.  First off, the movie has moments that are a bit of a stretch. Yes, I know this movie is ridiculous and a stretch to begin with, but hear me out.  Boss Baby’s adult cast are a bit idiotic at best, somehow not hovering over the newborns to hear them speaking. If that wasn’t enough, some of the more dangerous stunts involved were also not as “noticeable”, which after some point should have been discovered. Although fun, this ridiculousness didn’t fit so much into the grand scheme of the plot.

Next up is Babycorp, the organization the boss baby works for.  This large plot point has dramatic build up and gets a large sequence to explain the wonders of this magnificent corporation.  Yet after that, the film fails to deliver more on the potential plot points that could have come with it.  Had the trailers not built up the baby vs. puppy rivalry as they did, I could have let this go, but with all the advertising I would have liked to see more of this.

Finally, the editing of the movie.  Boss Baby has a lot of great parts that foster imagination, love, and all those positive qualities we love in an animated movie. However, much of these moments were not necessary, often just extending the run time under the guise of character development.  While I don’t think they needed to eliminate these parts (after all it is only 90 minutes), they certainly could have altered these scenes to be a little more relevant to the adventure.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Despite all the lower scores, Boss Baby was an entertaining spectacle that is fun, funny, and clever at many points. This movie is certainly adorable and is the perfect family film (for all ages) to hit the screen this year. Yes, it is simplistic and silly, and doesn’t have as much magic as a Disney film, but it’s nice to have unique, story that doesn’t involve making a political ordeal out of it.  This reviewer recommends this one for the theater for group outings and those with kids, but definitely check this one out when it hits homes.

 

My scores are:

Animation/Comedy/Family:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

Dare to Go Rogue?

rogue-one

            Robbie K here, back with another movie review on the latest and perhaps greatest movies to grace the silver screen.  Today, I review the newest installment in the Star Wars Legacy, entitled Rogue One. As you know, this movie isn’t one of the traditional episodes and is a new attempt at stand-alone films made by Disney to fill in the gaps and fill their pockets.  Does Rogue One fit into the galaxy far, far away, or should it be cast into a black hole never to be spoken of again.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

  • The Editing
  • The special Effects
  • Comedic Relief
  • Acting
  • Darker/Emotional Story
  • The Action

 

I could go on with the list of likes, but I have a word limit.  Rogue One was a film that delivered on so many levels and it starts with the editing and special effects.  Although a bit choppy at the beginning with the introduction to new characters, Rogue One’s team eventually tightened up their editing.  Most scenes were integral to the components of the film and helped provide pertinent details to paint a complete picture.  Unlike some of the other films, the special effects were very appropriate for the movie, polished and crafted to make the worlds come to life and amp up the action, (and yes 3-D worked for this film).  Yet what this reviewer liked was the smooth integration of some nostalgic movie clips, and the beautiful (although fake looking at times) CGI recreation of some characters.  Disney met the challenge of bridging the 40-year gap with flying colors, melting new and old into a visually stunning film.

 

Special effects aside, the plot elements have returned to the art of storytelling that fans have craved for years.  Rogue One is a much darker story, bringing elements of the Empire Strikes back and Revenge of the Sith and crafting it into a new form.  The result is a suspenseful story filled with dangerous thrills and dynamic challenges that push our heroes to new limits.  What was once black and white heroics vs evil, instead becomes a grey area that paints just how ugly war is and the choices some make to ensure their goal is accomplished. Fortunately, there is some lighter comedic moments to help break the tension, most of which are appropriate to keep the film fun despite the darker elements.  In addition, Jen and her team get some good character development as well, and helps you get locked into the emotional roller coaster they create.  The characters are indeed an odd assortment that make for an awkward like family…set to destroy imperials.  Their actors did a great job bringing the oddball cast to life, not only in the rebel look, but also in the spirit of defiance necessary for a mercenary.

 

By far though, my favorite like was the action Rogue One had.  This film took what we wanted in Episode 7 and amplified it by 100.  In the beginning, there are some choppy, but well-choreographed guerilla fights that help test the waters and slowly introduce you into the theme of the movie.  The last hour of the film though kicks it into high gear and brings you a set of sequences that will make any nerd scream in delight.  Like a video game brought to life, the battle of this film has all the magic of the first trilogy, with the special effects of the prequels.  You will feel like you are placed in the heat of battle and perhaps find yourself gripping the seat arms at the intensity unfolding on the screen.  It’s adrenaline pumping, nonstop thrills that also have some emotional depth to it and in the end, you will not want to leave your seat because you want to watch it again.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Choppy at the beginning
  • Forrest Whittaker’s part
  • Humor got a little cheesy at times
  • A little closer combat moments
  • Some deeper character development

 

Despite all the good this movie has, there are a few (albeit nitpicky) dislikes I had for this movie.  First the editing and story were a bit choppy at the beginning, as they tried to set the stage rapidly on a variety of worlds.  This made the opening a bit slow and uninteresting, but have faith it gets better.  Unfortunately, the main dropped potential is Forrest Whittaker’s role.  After the big publicity stunt Disney pulled in his revelation, Whittaker’s character doesn’t do much aside from a well written monologue.  Fans of the Clone Wars series may feel gipped that the commander is more bark than bite, especially with all the hype placed on him in the beginning.

 

Outside of this though, the other dislikes are very minor for me.  There are a few comedic stretches where a pun or line just didn’t fit in, which kind of derailed the moment’s intensity. In regards to the action, while I always want more because of my action junky attitude, it would have been nice to see some more staff and club wielding from our heroes.  Had Disney not focused their trailers on this it wouldn’t have been an issue, but outside of a few stints, you can expect more blasters than anything.

 

Finally, the last dislike comes from wanting a little more character development to the team.  In this film where there are lots of components to balance, they did a remarkable job on Jen’s story.  However, the rest of her team gets stiffed in regards to their origins/development role, which was a bit disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand their places in the film, the time constraints, and that Jen is the leader, but certainly they could have shed a little more of the spotlight on them.  Perhaps Disney is planning to this via books or their television series so there may be a New Hope in the future.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Despite all the uncertainty, marketing errors, and doubt, Rogue One is one of the best installments to the series in years.  It has the plot components of the original story with the graphics of the new era, and truly feels like the war we’ve always wanted to see.  Yes, it is darker and more violent than any of the others, but it still falls into the same level of Star Wars goodness we’ve hoped for years to come.  For me it certainly blew Episode 7 out of the water, and I look forward to what the other stand-alone films have to offer.  No surprise (and as if I could stop you) Rogue one needs to be seen in theaters (perhaps in 3-D and twice).  So, enjoy my friends and may the force be with you this holiday season.

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.5

 

Have Funna, Watching Moana

moana

            It wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving without a Disney animated feature to grace the silver screen.  And this weekend the animation studios are at it again with another masterpiece sure to be nominated for best animated picture of the year.  The name of the movie this time is Moana, a tale of Polynesian mythology wrapped up in a nice, Disney magical package.  Will this movie net Disney the best picture of the year award, or is it just another filler until Pixar’s next work?  Robbie K happy to bring you another review this holiday season.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

  • Fun, new setting
  • Comedy
  • Soundtrack was kicking

 

We all know Disney makes fun films, but Moana’s fun comes in form of the beautiful settings of the Pacific. Stepping away from the castles, this film will enchant you as you set sail on the majestic oceans and the mythical creatures that inhabit them.  The world is colorful and dynamically shaded to match the tones of the film, which give the film a little energy to spice things up. No surprise, the animation is fluid (as always) as realistic movements (both living and nonliving) are captured in this breathtaking CGI. While I didn’t see it in 3-D, this film’s design would have popped out more with the special effects, therefore earning a recommendation to give it a try if you wish.

But a Disney movie isn’t just about the scenery, oh no you have to have characters that make you laugh and you can latch onto.  Moana continues this trend, with the lead character (Moana) being the ever inspiring, girl power rocking, role model that most leads are.  In terms of laughs though, Maui has you covered on this field.  Dwayne Johnson delivers in the film, his bold, brash, and loud delivery matching the charisma of the demi-god. The hero has plenty of silly qualities to him, clever one-liners, slapstick antics, and a dancing tattoo which kept me laughing through most of the film.  Throw in an idiotic chicken and anthropomorphic ocean and the you get a unique team for tickling your funny bone.

My favorite aspect of this movie though has to be the soundtrack. This movie finally took a step back into the Disney renaissance world.  A fantastic orchestra work sets the stage for adventure, bold brass instruments blaring and drums pounding as the boat coasts out into the wild.  Other scenes have a more elegant touch to them to match the touching moments, rounding out the emotion of the film in a complete package. But many will fall in love with the original music our cast composes, bringing the upbeat, inspirational tone that will have young and young at heart hitting repeat over and over again.  The soundtrack was perfect for this movie, and yours truly loved the islander twist to spice the tunes up.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not as exciting as other adventures
  • Unnecessary scenes
  • Missed potential

 

While Moana was fun and beautiful, it wasn’t the most thrilling tale to grace the library. The film lacked suspense for me, never finding myself at the edge of my seat fearing for our heroes. Perhaps it was the obvious foreshadowing, or the fact that very little of the threats seemed deadly, but more cuddly and silly.  Plus, the character development was a little lacking at times, so there didn’t seem the looming threat of Disney killing a favorite character.  Without the excitement, the adventure did grow a bit dull in terms of thrills, but fortunately the fun and animation make up for it. 

An even stronger dislike was how unnecessary some of the scenes were in the film for me.  A few of the moments, were impromptu sequences meant to instill a sense of urgency, an effort I appreciate.  However, the urgency had already been established and these scenes added little to the overall emotion or plot of the story.  Unfortunately, the biggest sting was entering one “supposedly” dangerous island that Maui builds up.  It had such build up and potential, and then they dropped it.  This island could have been a very unique and dangerous world that added some edge and diversity to the film in regards to bizarre flora and fauna.  Yet, they quickly skimmed over this part to get to an obnoxious character (the conflict with him rather lackluster), which left me a tad disappointed. Sadly, no other creatures or beasts appeared from the depths to enhance the adventure, nor any major challenges to gradually enhance the skills of our heroes. The bottom line of this dislike, is that the editing was slightly off track for this reviewer and could have been expanded upon to add more depth and excitement to the film.

 

The VERDICT

 

Moana is another fine example of how awesome Disney is at animation. Beautiful visuals bring alive a unique world that will make you crave to be on the majestic waters of the pacific islands.  In addition, it’s a very fun movie that contains both laughs and music to instill the positive energy that Disney films love to do around the holidays. Despite all of this though, it wasn’t the most exciting adventure for me and I really would have liked to see more of the mythology brought into the tale to further develop our loveable characters (and more of the cute pig too). Still, this film is worth visiting in the theaters for all ages and will spread some early holiday joy over you and those you love. 

 

My scores:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5

Get Ready To Rock And Troll!

Trolls.jpg

            Trolls!  When you think of these mystical creatures most minds will picture tall, ugly creatures with pronounced booger filled noses and living under a bridge. But if you are a fan of the toys, many might remember the half-naked, multicolored hair figurines with the happy, semi creepy, smiles. I’m sure you’ve guessed the movie from the theme now right?  Yes, today I review DreamWorks’ Trolls starring the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick. Let’s get started shall we?

 

LIKES

  1. Colorful, Animation: No surprise here, DreamWorks knows how to animate and Trolls is yet another example of their talent. Our characters run, jump, sing, and more importantly dance in impressive style that brings the unique world to life. The colorful characters (in both skin tone and personality) are charming, and the energy they infuse into the scenes adds another element to the animation.  And the design of all the creatures is very unique almost as it is being designed for…merchandise.

 

  1. Very Fun, Positive Movie: If you didn’t get this from the trailers, Trolls is a movie all about being upbeat, fun, and very positive in nature.  The pint sized cast will keep you laughing through the entire movie, spreading joy as they dance across the land. I found my spirits lifted through much of the movie as the trolls explained the tried and true lesson of happiness coming from within.  Yes, it is a bit preachy, but it was nice to see positivity as the main theme for a change instead of some political issue masked in another form.

 

  1. Kicking Soundtrack: The best thing for me in this film though was the awesome tunes our music directors picked for the list. Many of the songs are as upbeat and energetic as the trolls who are singing them.  Much of the songs are covers of famous songs, but these remixes work very well and represent the theme of their accompanying scenes as Kendrick, and sometimes JT, led the way. The dance numbers were even more impressive, filled with fireworks, light shows, and choreography that you always dreamed the little toys could do.  This reviewer sees ITunes blowing up with Trolls soundtrack sales and it’s for a good reason.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

  1. A little stupid/kiddy: Before you shout blasphemy hear me out. Yes, animated features are geared towards kids and meant to be silly at times. But adults know there are times where it goes too deep into that territory.  Trolls has a few of these moments that sort of derailed the momentum of the movie.  Fortunately, these moments are few and far between, but this reviewer felt the storyboard team could have used the time to better develop characters and make the story more complex. Speaking of which…

 

  1. Simplistic Story: If you haven’t guessed from the trailers (and this review) Trolls isn’t the most complex story to grace the market. Again hear me out. Think about films like Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, or most Disney films. They usually have deep plot lines with dynamic relationships and character development. Trolls has a little of this especially in the stories of Branch and Bridget who need the biggest personality adjustments of the bunch.  Outside of that…the film lacks depth, because most of the characters are on happy pills who only want to dance and sing.  While this is certainly entertaining, the simplicity is a bit predictable and boring at times. I guess they focused more on music and dancing instead of storyboard.

 

  1. Pointless Characters: My biggest peeve has to be the missed potential with the characters. Trolls has a very diverse cast from the glitter infused Guy Diamond to the four legged, hat wearing, giraffe troll Cooper…yeah. Anyway, such interesting characters would hopefully have a little more involvement in the film. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much with these characters outside of a few good zingers and some simplistic, comical moves during a chase.  Certainly a cast like this could have had some interesting powers to donate on their quest (music blasting, super hair strength, heck even manipulating their hair into crafty shapes). But nope, these characters are reduced to nothing more than merchandising whose colors are meant to hypnotize your children to wanting more toys.  I guess this is how the studio will make the cash back from all the stars they drafted in this movie. Nevertheless, Trolls secondary characters need some development in future (inevitable) sequels.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

            Trolls is a fun, energetic dance party packaged into a ninety-minute run time. The music is the strongest aspect of the movie and the colorful animation is designed to support it. And when your toes aren’t tapping, the dialogue and voice acting are sure to give you some laughs along the way. However, there was some wasted potential in terms of stories and characters, which could have made this movie so much better had they captured it. Regardless, DreamWorks has released a decent product this weekend and it was nice to see some positivity for once.  Do I recommend this one for the theater?  Hmmm, I think you could skip this one and wait for DVD, but definitely check out the soundtrack soon to get a fun treat for the ears.

 

My scores:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

Soaring Down New Avenues: The New Pete’s Dragon Brings Some Fire

Pete's Dragon.jpg

 

Disney’s age of remakes continues strongly as they bring more cartoons to life. Their latest product is Pete’s Dragon, a whimsical, musical that many of us remember dancing to as kids. So naturally they want to try and recreate the magic with a remake. Robbie K here with another review on the latest movie to grace the silver screen, so let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

  • Elliot was animated fantastically
  • Decent story with deep emotions
  • Good Acting

 

As I mentioned, Elliot was a cartoon dragon who hummed and sang the movie away in a colorful display. So to see that two-dimensional dragon brought to life in three-dimensional computer animation was certainly awesome. Elliot’s transformation was beautifully done and incredibly detailed from the slobber of his mouth to the green mass of his fur. The dragon’s loveable mug, deep caring eyes, and magnificent persona were all captured in his design and brought with it a wave of nostalgia (minus the absence of the purple hair and tuft). In terms of his animation, again the CGI team at Disney brings top-notch work from majestic flight to blending into the background of the forest. Some people were definitely paying attention in anatomy-physiology class.

Outside of the animation, the story is surprisingly deeper than initially expected. If you remember the first movie, it was film set on whimsical music and a cute fun atmosphere. Not the case for this film. Instead of singing and dancing, this rendition chose to take a deeper journey that explored concepts like loyalty, family, and love. Despite their adventures among the forest and animated deer, Pete and Elliot’s relationship felt more like guardian and pet, rather than best pals to pull pranks with. Once the other humans joined up with him, the emotional kick only hit harder, building up to “heated” moments that tugged at your heartstrings. While I didn’t shed a tear, I can’t deny that at times I felt something brewing in my chest.

And helping bring that story to life is a well selected cast who brought their A game to the table. Bryce Dallas Howard played the overbearing, wannabe parent well, especially the overly doting atmosphere. Robert Redford, rocked as the wise man of the town, bringing comedic relief to the mix and fun grandpa atmosphere. But the real star of the show for me was Oakes Fegleyy, who played the wild Pete exactly as I expected him to be portrayed with a wild sense of curiosity matched only by his innocence and loyalty. Plus the kid knew how to act with an imaginary creature.

 

DISLIKES

  • Not as much fun
  • Diluted antagonist
  • A bit cliché at times

 

Okay the movie was still fun in its own manner, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did the original. I missed the colors, music, and energy of the first film that held immense energy that used to have me singing and laughing for days. This movie’s more serious nature, darker color scheme, and powerful symphony music hold little of that energy. Only a few playful moments came close to that classic fun, primarily when Elliot was more like an adorable pet fetching sticks.

Another thing that I didn’t enjoy as much was the supposed “bad” guy of the film known as Gavin, played by Karl Urban. Urban did a fine job with his character, but the directing team did not design a villain as rotten as the original’s Dr. Terminus. Gavin was a single-minded boob, who had little character development, a rather lame goal, and a surprisingly effective arsenal. He brought little threat to the movie, and most of the “exciting” conflicts were actually pretty low key that robbed the film of excitement.

Finally the overly cliché moments of the movie are a bit cheesy and a bit lacking in the fulfilling department. Much of the “surprises” are not really that surprising, but instead go down the expected avenue of Disney plots. Some times these moments are actually nicely done, well designed and well orchestrated to fill you with a warm feeling. Other times these moments are very shallow and overly cheesy, like something out of an episode of Full House. However, this is a very minor weakness for me and at least brings good lessons and character development with them.

 

The Verdict:

 

            Pete’s Dragon is certainly another display of Disney’s ability to modernize their movies. Insane animation, a well-constructed cast, and an emotional story are certainly the selling points of this Disney movie. I can definitely appreciate the direction they took this in, but it still wasn’t as much fun or filled with Disney magic as the original 1977 film. Still, the young and young at heart will have fun with this movie and most likely enjoy the theatrics. I think I have told you the recommended audience to see it in the theaters, but this reviewer would state this one can wait for the RedBox.

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Family/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0