The Story Is Big On This One

Star Wars 8

 

Well it’s finally here!  The epic movie that television has bombarded us with for the last three months has finally appeared from light speed to grace us with another epic installment, or so we hope.  Episode 8 has held the promise of the return of story telling, matching the epic lore of the originals told to hopefully breathe life in a series that has struggled.  Rumors even say it surpasses Empire Strikes Back, the movie that holds the throne of Star Wars quality.  Can this be true?  Has the Force grown strong once more?  Robbie K here to shed light on the rumors and hopefully provide some wisdom.  Get Started, Let’s!

 

LIKES:

 

The Cinematography:  My wise friends stated right off that this movie may be the best filmed of the bunch.  The Last Jedi is a beautiful example of camera work meeting state of the art technology, helping bring the world to life with spectacular visuals.  The various angles keep you engrossed in all the details, and paints a very dynamic battleground to which our cast fights in.  And unlike episode 7, the sound score is back to Williams’ creative work, a blend of old and new that fits into the scene and adds the life to an already vibrant setting.

 

The Acting:  A large cast of characters, requires acting to bring them to life, and the Last Jedi has recruited a phenomenal crew to accomplish this goal.  I can’t go into great details, but here we go.  Mark Hamill brings the fire back into Luke Skywalker with both classic and old Luke style clashing into a complex character. Daisy Ridley takes the simplistic Rey from last time and unleashes her character in full “force” expanding her into a fantastic character that is full of spunk.  Carrie Fisher another victory when on screen, that has the vim and vigor of the wizened princess we loved.  Newcomers Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran were welcomed additions to the cast.  Dern’s chameleon like abilities continue to craft respectable and honorable characters that fit well in Leia’s legacy, with a nice edge to keep things tense.  Tran on the other hand is the hopeful character, that has nice delivery of inspirational dialogue, with a dab of rebellion on the side.  Everyone worked quite well and I wish I had more time to compliment everyone, but trust me it’s good.

 

The Comedy:  A nice quality to have, the comedy in this movie is a nice relief to the darker atmosphere on this side of the galaxy.  The Last Jedi’s writing is a combination of good timing and wit, that beats in time with all the characters.  The ever changing ploys also keeps things fun to watch and had my mentor and I guffawing through much of the movie.

 

The Storytelling:  Perhaps the strongest aspect of the Last Jedi is the presentation in terms of plot in this movie.  Director Rian Johnson dug deep into the lore and ignited it in full form in installment eight, bringing with it rich details that answered much of our questions.  Much of the tale is character development, pushing them hard to expand upon their hastened roles of seven into more complete soldiers to partake this journey with.  The three tales were balanced quite well, spaced out to keep things relevant and each connecting to the big plot as a whole, much like the classic tales were in. These tales are not only adventurous, but filled with strong lessons that this series is famous for preaching.  And yet the biggest part of this I like are the twists integrated in this film.  Many surprises lie in store for this movie, and many of them fit nicely to take the story deeper down the dark hole.  These surprises are perhaps the most engaging parts of the movie, the likes of which weren’t expected much like Empire.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Salvaged Plots:  Despite the strengths I have mentioned in the plot, this modern trilogy still has issues with being too close to the classic series.  A blend of episodes five and six, much of this film is a retelling of those classic arcs that is a little disappointing on their dependence to the old and not trying out new elements. At least it is executed, well right?

Unnecessary Tangent:  One of the story points almost didn’t feel needed, or at least one section of the tangent wasn’t that big of a hit for me.  The world of Canto Bight makes statements, has a connecting point, and a memorable scene, but this small adventure felt out of place in the grand design.  It will bring merchandise opportunities, one of which is a book, but this world didn’t hold much value to me outside of a few laughs and some cool beasts.  Perhaps a little more struggle, or intensity could have redeemed it for me, though it still isn’t too bad for me.

 

Suspension of reality:  I get it, it’s Star Wars and that is Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  Still, there has to be some consistency in regards to how you are going to ignore the physics of real life and the lore that came before.  There are moments you will roll your eyes at in terms of the inabilities of the technology, or how uneven the skills seem to develop.  While we could ignore these if they were minor, the movie’s key situation relied on this suspension and it was a little too big of a stretch for me.

 

The Action:  Star Wars is a series that relies on action to pick things up and make add the fire that makes the story shine like the stars.  With a rather intense start, Last Jedi had potential, but soon that potential was lost to the void.  Much of this movie is dialogue, development, and connections, and with it one of the slower paces of the series.  Yes, there were a few moments to help pick up the pace, but much of this was short lives or lacking that laser packing punch I loved in the first installments.  Say what you want about the prequels, but they had some incredible fight scenes that livened things up and the Last Jedi really needed this element for me.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Last Jedi is indeed proof that the universe still has life left in the void of the galaxy Lucas created.  It’s got emotion! It’s got character development!  It’s got twists!  All of this is important in developing characters and making them fly off the screen.  Throw in great acting and beautiful cinematography and you have a really, well done film.  Yet, this generation still is not escaping the salvaging of the classic plot points, while their unique aspects need a little tweaking in terms of relevance.  However, the biggest improvement has got to be the action, working to bring the ship to ship combat back to full strength, and really getting those lightsaber battles back up to snuff.  Still, it’s a fantastic film to catch in theaters and definitely a worthy installment to Lucas’s world.

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

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Coco will have you scream Ayeeee yeeeeee Yi Haha! Powerful Music To Bring To Live Culture

Coco

 

Thanksgiving, the holiday of turkey, football, preparation for materialistic shopping, and…Disney.  If you are an avid movie goer, you know the mega corporation is all about capitalizing on the holiday with one of their famous animation movies.  This year is no different, with Walt Disney Animation Studios taking a step back and allowing Pixar to come in with another big hit to sweep best picture category at the Oscars.  Tonight, yours truly hits the theater to scope out Coco, the Hispanic story of music, family, and the dead.  Robbie K here with another review, let us get started.

 

LIKES:

 

The Animation:  Pixar/Disney are the kings of animation, and they have proven themselves again in this CGI masterpiece. Coco’s characters are dynamic, presented in so many forms that give the family a spectrum of characters.  Despite a majority of the cast looking carbon copied version of skeletons, Pixar managed to inject subtle differences to make primary and secondary characters stand out.  The living members also got the anatomy altered as well, going so far to represent all stage of life (i.e. old and senile, young and energetic, and even pregnant).  Past designs, the movement itself is incredibly detailed. The subtle gestures in walking/running, the accurate capture of facial gestures for conversation, and more importantly the incredible finger motions of Miguel and cast playing the guitar.  A statement of Pixar having incredible attention to detail wasn’t kidding, because this thing was gorgeous.

 

Spirit animals:  One stand out feature of this movie are the cool spirt animals that inhabit the land of the undead.  The flying jaguar, while one of the most outstanding displays, is only the tip of the iceberg, and these creatures are sprawled out in the world.  I found it cool to see the creativity of blending common animals into a piñata like creation, each feature designed to add finesse and flare to mix and represent the culture of Mexico.

 

The Culture: Disney movies always have a way of capturing an element of the real world.  Coco’s theme is all about the Mexican culture and the various customs that we as viewers only have an inkling of understanding.  Pixar managed to bring that culture to life not only in design, but in the story, they have developed in this tale. Their belief in the afterlife is the foundation this tale is built on, allowing other things like soap operas, fiestas, food, and the western film culture.  And within all these elements are the important customs of family, the passion of music, and the pursuit of dreams through hard work All of these are beautifully integrated into the mix, occasionally crossing into cheesy territory, to craft a very stirring tale. 

 

The Music: By far the biggest element for me though, has to be the music of Coco.  Disney is always spectacular with their soundtracks, but Coco stands out to me as one of the more unique sets of music to come out of the studio.  Instead of grandiose symphonies, or Oscar designed symphonies, Coco’s music is all about representing the musical culture of Mexico.  Each song builds around the acoustic guitar as the primary instrument in its calm, yet vibrant strings.  Such a simple instrument packs an emotional kick, especially once the supporting instruments and the voice bellow out to unleash the pent-up emotion of our characters.  The songs build into the story, and are used as the primary tools for accomplishing Miguel’s goals and represents a variety of artistic styles this culture has.  It’s dynamic, it’s fun, and its relevant to the story, all big points in this reviewer’s eyes.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The opening short: While separate, the opening number is still part of the show. Olaf’s frozen adventure, while cute, was just another compilation of short songs to refresh Disney’s cash cow for the last few years.  Sure, some of the songs are powerful (the ending in particular), and the message tugs at my strings, but it lacked a lot of sustenance for just more songs.  Thank goodness Coco’s music redeemed this quality.

 

More with the creatures:  I like the spirit animals, I just didn’t like how much of a background they were.  With such cool concepts, you think that Disney would have found a way to capitalize on these monsters’ involvement in the world whether it be searching for clues, chasing our heroes, or having more bang in the final setting.  Even without their integration, the studio downplayed their powers a bit, showing inconsistencies with the potential they developed in these creatures.

 

Lackluster Excitement:  Thinking back to Pixar’s previous works, there are usually those edge on the seat moments that have you questioning the fate of the heroes (Toy Story, Incredibles, even Cars).  Coco not so much for me.  The movie stays pretty safe, with predictable antics, calm action scenes, and a final obstacle that didn’t do much for me in the suspense role. There seemed to be little hindrance to our character’s journey, and in many cases that hindered the development we could have seen.  This film blows the cultural relevance out of the water, yet it still missed its potential for a complete package without the action.

 

Many Book of Life elements:  This movie stands out on its own in so many concepts and the songs are much more original.  Yet, there is a lot of this movie based off of Book of Life, and in many cases less vibrant and unique than the predecessorIn my opinion, I felt the Book of Life was the more exciting of the two tales and I like this design more than the scale this one took.  Still, Coco holds a lot of finesse that the Book failed to have.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Coco is certainly one of the more culturally relevant Pixar movies to come out of the studio.  It’s design and animation are gorgeous, the creativity is on point, and so much of it is packed with tasteful portrayals of this beautiful culture.  Yet, it still has a few shortcomings for me to make it a perfect movie.  They dropped some of the potential they built up and the excitement element could have been amped up with more struggles as well.  When all is said and done though, Coco is by far one of the better films to hit the theaters this November and I strongly encourage many to flood the theaters and scope it out.  And for those with little ones obsessed with Frozen, this movie is only going to be better for them.

 

My scores:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.5

The Message and Family Fun Shine Bright! Yet Would Have Been Better Direct Release

The Star

 

The spirit of Christmas a common theme of movie around this time of year trying to teach us the main reason we get a vacation and give gifts in December.  And about every five years, we get the retelling of the first Christmas that brought with it hope, grace, and salvation from how horrible of people we are.  This weekend that retelling comes through again, but this time from the perspective of the animals and what they went through that fateful night.  Robbie K here with a review on the Star, an animated movie that hopes to shine bright in this weekend of big releases.  What’s in store?  Read on to find out my friends!

 

LIKES:

Good animation:  With the age of computers, you expect fluid animation, and the Star doesn’t disappoint.  The animal movements are excellent examples of anatomical study, capturing the foot, neck, muzzle, or whatever other body part you want your animal to move in an accurate manner.  In addition, the designers do a nice job of anthropomorphizing the animals as well, creating a hybrid of personalities that are fun to watch.  And while your either admiring, or ignoring the animation, you can be sure that your little one will be stoked to see the characters clumsy antics and slapstick humor result in a laughable adventure with fluid details.

 

The Voice Acting:  While acting in full form is a highly challenging task to try to accomplish, there is something to be said about the art of voice acting.  The assembled cast gets two thumbs up for me in their ability to bring the simplistic animal roles to life with semi-memorable characters.  There are too many characters to name, but Steven Yeun as the main character carried a heavy load as the adventurous, yet stubborn donkey Bo who was a fun character to watch.  Keegan-Michael Key was another welcome addition to the cast, his solid comedic delivery perfect for the comical character of Dave the Dove whose quips have been diluted down for the kid friendly atmosphere of this movie.  However, my favorite character was the camel Felix, Tracy Morgan who had the most zany, crazy, and comedic punch of the whole movie with his sarcasm and sheer idiocy. All in all, they do their parts well, and create that wholesome family feeling.

 

Artistic Tale of Christmas:  When it comes to religious and kid’s movie, it can be difficult to find the balance that lays between cheesy, annoying, and of overzealous religious zeal.  Fortunately, the Star was able to accomplish this goal to the point that it delivers the manner in a heartfelt way without falling into Hallmark sappiness territory.  The Star maintains its cute, slapstick tones throughout the whole movie up to the predictable ending that we all know is coming.  And when that climax occurs, it somehow delivers the powerful message and keeps things fun, which isn’t easy given the imbalance that plagues the cinematic world.  Nevertheless, this movie has an art to its delivery, which nets points in my book.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Character Use:  The Star is another example of jumping the gun and hiring too many actors for a limited cast.  While there are a few characters, Bo, Dave, and the wolves, who get an adequate amount of screen time on camera, many of the characters are reduced to unnecessary cameos that serve little purpose.  The Field Mouse, the random goat, even the bad king himself are just expensive shout outs that could have been used towards developing a stronger story.  Hollywood may be doing favors for the friends, but this reviewer found much of the characters a waste of time.

 

The story: Before you shout blasphemy towards me, I don’t hate the first Christmas story, far from it.  What I mean in this dislike is how bare the story felt in this telling. It’s one geared towards kids, doing little to curtail the story to adults, which limits its entertainment purposes for a variety of people. Yes, I get it, it’s a kid’s movie, but think of how well Pixar can cater to both audiences and get the job done.  The Star’s message is great, the package is cute, but it’s limited in the audience members it can truly entertain. 

 

The Animation:  Other major studios know that every detail is important in animation.  While Bo and the main characters movements look great, the rest of the characters (primarily the secondary background characters) walk stiff or are limited in their movements.  While a minor dislike to some, this reviewer has developed an eye for world building, and the Star kind of failed on that level for me. Biblical times may not have been the mega city behemoths of the modern world, but I’m pretty sure it had more splendor than this movie made it out to be.  The Star seemed to cut costs on this movie where it could, unfortunately making the world succumb to characters caught in mundane worlds.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Star is cute, it’s spiritual, and it is one of the most family friendly movies of the entire year to bring your little ones too.  With good primary animation, voice acting that is energetic and fun presentation, this is a Christmas story I can get on board with.  However, this studio dropped the ball on using their characters and world building, cutting corners to give a simplistic presentation that is dull compared to Disney’s worlds.  In addition, the limited audience entertainment faction is also a strike against a tale that held much potential.  The Star is good for a church group to go to, but it’s place would have been better in a direct release film in my opinion, instead of a costly theater run.

 

My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall: 5.5-6.0

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

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