I Wish For Better Execution

Wish

 

I wish I may, I wish I might, make a demand that might cost someone’s life?  That’s not the way the rhyme goes, but this parody is pretty representative of the theme of my latest review.  Robbie K here, this time covering Wish Upon the latest horror genre flick to flood the silver screens across the country.  The “disturbing” trailers paint the picture of the next spine tingling film, but the PG-13 rating suggests it could be a little timid.  What’s the verdict?  Hopefully I can fill in some answers to help answer that question. Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Shorter Run Time:  I know what you’re thinking, not good if this is a like, but it’s nice to see a movie stick around the 90-minute run time when there isn’t sustenance to keep it running longer.  Wish Upon fills its short run-time purpose with the thrills you want, and keeps it concise, a sign of good directing and editing in an era what that so suffers.

 

Joey King: Singling out the actors in this rather new actor cast, Joey King reprises her horror acting in a “two thumbs up” manner.  King plays the role of a distressed teenager with class, bringing a delicate balance of drama, screaming, and shallow happiness to the character.  In many PG-13 or teenager focused films, the lead character often suffers from overacting or extreme tangents in directing.  For me, King was able to keep things in good proportions and didn’t have me rolling my eyes (a first in a long time.) While certainly not an award-winning performance, King gets props for carrying the load of the movie.

 

A Nice tangent:  Despite the common trend of demons, spirits, and ghosts… Wish Upon at least brings a slight twist to the themes of horror movies. The wishing factor is a nice gimmick to get sold onto and see what desires will tempt her to risk lives.  It set a nice pace for the movie to build upon, and made it a little dynamic in regards to whom would pay the blood price for Clare’s (King) decisions and selfishness. The wish factor also presented some character development, shallower but existing, that really worked in their favor.

 

Not overly graphic:  A PG-13 horror movie is often a lot lax in their grim depictions of death.  Wish Upon continues that trend, forgoing gross, exaggerated, drawn out torturous deaths in favor of ridiculous, and still horrible, deaths that are quickly executed. One can think of this as Final Destination meets Unfriended, which boils down to coincidental deaths with a filter.  Unfortunately, it means you have seen a majority of the executions via the commercials, but you will get a few sequences that have escaped the public eye up until now.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Very simplistic:  Despite the deaths being filtered and less intense, they were also very simplistic and not as impressive.  Yes, they were still awful (as death is), but the hype up of the trailers was sadly dropped with the simplicity of the deaths.  There was no extra edge factor to them, and the lack of suspense, which left the ridiculous nature of the deaths the eye-rolling component of the film.  If you want the mindless, over the top deaths without the blood… well your wish has been granted I guess.

Story:  Wish Upon’s tale has some decent character development in it to highlight the underlying theme of the horror movie.  It was great seeing Clare’s transitions and her attempt to find the solution to the curse kept in the box. However, outside of that, the story tanks.  It’s the same predictable mess that most of this genre is, with little sustenance so that they could cram more deaths into the movie.  The cool wish concept brought about a lot of potential to interact with the entity, as well as opportunities for a more suspenseful uncovering of the source of the evil.  I would have liked to see what the creature looked like, or at least more interaction with the invisible evil that dwelled within.  Other plot elements could have been a little more detailed in the delivery as well, to add the emotional impact I think they wanted.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Wish Upon isn’t the worst movie to grace the theaters.  This PG-13 movie brings a unique angle to a stale concept that is concise, decently acted, and not overly graphic. Unfortunately, the execution is still in need of work on a variety of areas.  A lackluster story that was underdeveloped and the lack of suspense are two key areas the potential sequel can bring to the table.  As for this film though, if you aren’t looking for a filtered death movie, you might skip this until haunts Netflix.  For those looking for a simplistic horror film though… you’ve got a ringer in the theaters this summer.  One thing is certain though…be careful what you wish for.

 

My scores:

 

Fantasy/Horror/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall: 4.0

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Mum’s the Word: 60s story with 2000s Style

Mummy

 

Monster movies, an epic genre that at one time scared the pants off many before you know… things got out of hand with modern cinema. Legendary creatures like the Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein filled the theater with actors decorated in epic make-up with often beautiful costars to face their “terror.” The stories they told remain timeless, but sadly the graphics are a little outdated for most modern movie-goers… until now.  This evening my buddy and I hit the theaters for a retelling of a classic tale in hopes of sparking a new trend to get us hooked on and make money.  As you can read, my review is on the Mummy tonight starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, and Sofia Boutella. Will it be a success, or are we cursed to another mediocre film?  Let’s find out.

 

LIKES:

 

True Monster Movie:  Where most creature films have been turned into gore-tastic bouts of killing, the Mummy returns to the roots of monster movie story telling.  A creature starts to rise to power and it is up to the group to uncover the mystery of how to stop it.  The Mummy focuses on the story telling dynamic, bringing character development, background information, and a dynamic tale that revives the classic genre. Even better is how the movie focuses on the story of this film, instead of building up for an inevitable sequel, something that is rare given the franchise aspect of Hollywood.  The result is a stronger story that is a little more captivating.

 

Comedic relief: Much like the 2000 series, this rendition brings some comedic magic to the desolate desert scenery.  The writing in particular is funny, with well-timed quips that range from simplistic insults and banter to clever puns that are more precious than the treasure under the sand.  Cruise and Wallis work well together with a chemistry that feels like rivals/love interests, and each delivers their humor in their own style that works. However, I laughed the hardest at Jake Johnson whose energetic and erratic style is reminiscent of a giant man child trying to face the curse.  The dynamic style keeps the laughs coming, but doesn’t get overused as we often see.

 

Impressive graphics/action:  While the Mummy certainly takes the story of the 1960’s monster franchise, its graphic presentation is clearly that of the more modern series. Nostalgia runs thick at the various curses our female monster throws including swarming birds, flesh contorting strikes, and yes, face in perilous sand.  The old tricks have never looked better and the technological feats are beautifully integrated into a smooth performance that is somewhat exciting. And speaking of the excitement, the action of the Mummy provides a faster pace than the classics, moving at breakneck speed and loaded with spectacular pyrotechnics.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Out of Place Components: The Mummy does well on the story aspect, but there are parts that felt out of place.  Certain qualities of the film curtail to setting up for the next movie of the franchise (yes, Universal is planning to revive the classics).  These moments are a change of pace (good), but divert a little too much from the path into the cheesy, overdramatic styles that we sometimes see.  I’ll agree that they are impressive displays of technology, but this just proves that not everything has to be covered in movies (hence sequels).

 

Action:  I said the action kept the pace fast and the movie engaging, but the action still has some improvement for me to get the seal of approval from me.  It’s a lot of running, praise to Cruise’s fitness level. Unlike the predecessors in 2000, this Mummy as fewer bouts of gunplay or combat, much of the time the cast dropping their guns to run some more.  They tried to throw some brawls in the mix, but that didn’t work to well for me. I missed the dynamic sequences and thrills they brought, but hey it’s the first film of a long line and there is sure to be more stunts in the future…maybe.

 

Rushed tactics: The heading is tough, but there are some rushed components to this film that needed some fine tuning.  In many proceeding films, it takes time for the bandaged monstrosity to rise to power, requiring gradual offing of characters in suspenseful sequences.  This version was a little short sighted, reduced to a monotonous ploy that lacked little more than repetitive spasms of poor extras.  Many may like the spin on this movie, but this (among other ploys) felt a little underdeveloped and soon became stale to watch.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Mummy is certainly not the movie I was expecting, and on many levels this is good.  While not the wild thrill ride from the 2000s, this spin brings the modern technology to the classic story, giving it a unique feel that was refreshing to see.  With comedic relief, decent acting, and impressive visuals, it has a number of qualities beckoning for a trip to theater. Yet, there are some editing limitations that need tightening up to make it flow better and the action component needed some sprucing up to further expand on the thrills.  All in all, a solid start to upcoming monster franchise, but there is work to be done in the future.

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

Wander Over To Wonder

Wonder Woman

 

It’s a brand-new month and you know what that means right?  Yes, another super hero movie to kick off the summer blockbuster season.  This time it isn’t Marvel cranking out the comic book, cinematic feature, but their rivals DC studios. With its recent shaky track record, the DC cinematic universe hasn’t gotten the best publicity in terms of quality. So, the studio has decided to get the leading lady herself to pave the way.  Yes, today’s review is on Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Can this movie break the bad luck streak of DC/WB studios?  Robbie K here to share some opinions on the matter, so let’s get started, shall we?

 

LIKES

 

  1. Gal Gadot is incredible and steals the show with her poise, pizazz, and acting talents. A fantastic casting direction that really brings the woman to wonder to life in beauty, ferocity, and bouts of heroism (a.k.a. kicking bad guy butt). Acting, stunts, and an on-point delivery of her lines makes this actress one of the tops in my book!

 

  1. The action is on point (for most of the movie) filled with impressive displays of weaponry, martial arts, and historical warfare. Wonder Woman’s battles held such emotion, managing to bring the suspense all while delivering that feel good, post battle high, you might have gotten from reading a comic book.  The team brings some fast-paced thrills we have wanted for almost a year and a half.

 

  1. A good representation for girls. I may have already said this, but this movie targets a wide variety of audience members in some form or manner.  Yet this reviewer has to give props for the design of a character that is certainly worthy of representing the female super heroes and inspiring the female population that they certainly can do anything.

 

  1. Comedic timing: It’s not going to be a super hero movie (at least in this day and age) without some laughs to break up the tension. Wonder Woman continues this trend, filling the void with well-timed one-liners, a few awkward encounters that often deal with sex, and some slap-stick gimmicks that do the job well.

 

  1. Character Development: I know most super hero movies have this element, but there is something about Wonder Woman that stood out to me. This film managed to spin Diana’s character development into a roller coaster ride of feelings that almost made me tear up. Her journey to discovering herself and her role into this new world was poetically portrayed, using multiple angles to get the job done.  It could have also been due to the powerful soundtrack, the visual effects, or maybe Gadot’s acting, but it really worked for me.

 

  1. Fast Pace: We all know those movies that drag (and yes, I’m talking much of DC’s library). Not the case for this film. The nearly 150-minute run time flew by for much of the movie having me at one point saying, “Dang, it’s already been 90 minutes.” Not something I often say.

 

 

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

  1. Unoriginality: You’ll find that Wonder Woman shares a lot with Captain America: First Avenger. The set-up, setting, and build up almost matching outside of the weapon of choice and martial arts moves.  Certainly, not the biggest limitation, but something that others have been bothered by.

 

  1. Almost pointless crew: The crew that joins Diana held such promise in the picture, but it was dropped so hard in this movie. Outside of Chris Pine, the other members do little for the overall mission outside of a few throws, some “tracking” and mainly comedic relief. There were hints at character development and deeper dynamics, but they fizzled out faster than sparkler at 4th of July.  I know, this movie is about Wonder Woman, but why even include these guys if that was the goal.

 

  1. Preachy: Some reviews state the whole feminism/males are pigs is overdone, and to an extent I agree. Yet the bigger dislike was the preachy monologues that sometimes plagued this film. A few times the heat of the moment was lost in a display of self-reflection, which is great, but not in the midst of a battlefield. Some of these moments also had that eye-rolling factor for me.

 

  1. Overuse of CGI: I like special effects, I like stunts, but I don’t like overuse of a gimmick. The slow-motion interludes during the action scenes added some cool emphasis to Wonder Woman’s skills (alongside some cool finishing moves). Somewhere along the production, someone got a little trigger happy with the effect and used a little too much for me, and soon started disrupting the cool stunts they had Gal do. In addition, there were some special effects that were a bit cheesy and took the edge off of Wonder Woman. Learn from Michael Bay people, too much of special effects makes for many jokes.

 

  1. The ending: Don’t turn away, hear me out.  The ending is great on many levels (emotional, prowess, role model, and morals). However, it lost the momentum the first few fights had with them, trading suspense for flashy special effects, drawn out banter, and unimpressive choreography. Sort of felt like the ending to X-men apocalypse where the bad guys bark was worse than his bite.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Wonder Woman delivers on many levels and breaks the mediocre displays that DC has cranked out over the last year.  It’s emotional, it’s dynamic, it’s fun, and it provides a solid role model for admirable heroes. I feel the movie met most of my expectations and I was happy with the overall product.  It’s far from perfect though, and still has a few things to tighten up (like developing other characters, balancing the CGI use, and keeping the momentum going). Still, I have to recommend this one for a theater visit, especially you comic lovers out there.

 

My Scores:

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  9.0

Movie Overall: 7.5

Set Sails For Calmer Waters: Pirates 5 Drops The Sword For The Comedy Pen

Dead men

 

Avast ye scurvy scoundrels, it be Captain Robbie of the S.S. Review, sailing the seas of the cinema in search of the treasure known as a good movie.  Alas, this weekend Admiral Bruckheimer’s armada set out on a fifth voyage with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)

taking the wheel once more. Will this adventure be smooth sailing and reward us with a crown jewel, or will we be drowned in the sea of sorrow at another hand me down adventure? Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A pirate’s life for me, drink up me hardies, sit on your captain’s chair and read my thoughts on Pirates of The Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

 

LIKES:

  • Character Centered Story
  • Acting
  • Special effects
  • Soundtrack
  • Comedy

 

Summary: When it comes to the plot of these movies, one never knows if they’ll find gold or mere rocks. The fifth installment is fortunately back on the path to good storytelling, focusing on the characters instead of well… immortality. Among the number of scallywags, we get some background on about five of the cast, each with a unique angle to help them stand out.  While certainly not the best story, it is miles above the mess number four was.

The story is a nice component, but the acting is really the aspect that brings the pirate’s life to well…life.  Newcomers like Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario are a welcome addition that have spunk, class, and a number of other qualities that many will latch onto, (especially the cute factor) and they aren’t bad to look at either. Scaring is way into another antagonistic role, Javier Bardem brings his bag of tricks back to the screen, including the suave accent and cantor that oozes evil.  Of course the main two you are probably coming to see are Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp, the legendary captains we fell in love with in the first movie.  Rush is incredible, bringing the sea saltiness and arrogance that is the famous Captain of the Black Pearl.  Depp on the other hand is as enigmatic as ever, capturing the goofiness, lackadaisical attitude of Sparrow with a dash of heroic charm.  Together, the two actors lead not only the character development, but the comedy.  Yes Pirates 5 certainly has the laughs in spades, using every in their arsenal to get a chuckle.  I loved the clever word play, idiotic banter, and comedic timing in this movie, which helped relieve the darker aspects of the film.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a pirate’s movie without incredible special effects.  Yes Disney and Bruckheimer combined their studios to bring the magic back to the screen. Chaotic maelstroms expand across the vast screen, as ships sail across dead infested waters, firing explosive cannons at the specters that haunt the blue.  The journey is certainly beautifully illustrated in a mix of art and excitement, all under the unifying banner of the epic orchestra work we all have come to love.

 

DISLIKES

  • Still shallow story
  • Action scenes somewhat bland
  • Lack of suspense/Simplistic end
  • Worthless cameos

 

Summary:  Alas, despite the jewels that sparkle in the distance, the story still needs some work.  With five main stories, each a different motif to quest for the elusive item, the plot gets spread thin and deprived of real sustenance into the character’s history. Sure, one of the stories has more bite than the others, but this Pirates took a hit in the rich depth we have come to expect. Therefore, the bland characters were lacking at times and not as strong as I had hoped.

Even more bland are the action scenes that they tried to bring to the movie.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautifully animated battlegrounds in the movie, it’s just that they lack the same sting I feel in love with.  Where were the epic sword fights between two swashbuckling men amidst dangerous landscapes? Where were the notorious ship to ship battles where a well-placed cannonball and evasive maneuver meant the difference between life and death? And where was the suspense and thrills that kept me on edge all those previous installments?  I’m not sure, but Pirates 5’s action scenes were malnourished forms of battle I loved, with many scenes reduced to pan over shots of extras fighting CGI enhanced ghosts. A few scenes were gaining the potential to be awesome, but comedic relief set in and reduced it to some quick ended scuffle that quickly turned to running.  Glad to know our pirates could have run track.

And finally, the cameos.  While certainly a great tool for nostalgia, most of the cameos were shallow shout outs to the characters we have wondered about.  It allows for some neat little tie ups at times, but these less than 5 minutes screen appearances were missed potential.  Only Paul McCartney, the legendary beetle, was able to pull off an appearance that was worthy of being included… well done Paul.

 

VERDICT:

 

Pirates 5 took a step in the right direction with its returned to character driven story, comedic style, and special effects that scream pirates. However, it still has room to improve to get back to the glory of the first film.  It’s unbalanced at placed, and lacks the excitement of the battles, or an exciting conclusion at all to wrap up the supposed final entry.  Seems they wanted more of a comedy than anything else, and one will certainly enjoy the laughs, and most likely the movie, if you go in for the comedy over everything else.  Worth a trip to theaters?  I’m sure you would still go regardless what I said, but the special effects are certainly worthy of the theater’s sound and video. Yet you could still hold off on this film and check it out at RedBox, because this finale sets up the series for yet another installment.  Finale chapter my butt!

 

Scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Beast

It’s finally here, the live action telling of a beloved story that Disney made memorable years ago.  Yes, I’m talking about Beauty and The Beast my friends, and tonight I’m here to share my thoughts.  Now let’s get this laid down now, I’m going to look at it as its own movie and do my best to minimize the masterpiece.  So please don’t cast aside the review if I tread on any ground.  With that said, let’s get started to see if the modern retelling has what it takes to stand out in the world.

 

LIKES:

  • Follows the Classic Plot Well
  • The Setting is beautiful
  • Costume
  • Animation (for the most part)
  • Casting is well-done
  • Cogsworth and Lumiere

 

Summary:  You may hear others say the movie is spot on with the 1991 telling.  Not entirely true, but this rendition keeps about 80% of the Tale as Old as Time to please the classic fans, while adding some tangents to give it a twist.  To quote a friend, “the new spins are built around the fans from the 90s generation to entertain”. It works for the most part, adding depth to the characters and giving the emotional kick older audience members will appreciate.  And while sticking to the story is good start, the next magical step is how well they brought it to life in the visuals.  Beauty and The Beasts charming country side and castles, are brought out in spectacular detail via breathtaking scenery shots and detail oriented settings that are worthy of recognition.  Next dress our characters in wonderful costumes fitting of the landscape, with special emphasis on the traditional Belle Dress and Beast coat that remains timeless, and you again get more magic.  Finally add in the animation, realistic, fluid, and somewhat mirroring the classic style most fell in love with, and you have a great combination. Of note, there are times when things get trippy, or not done quite as well, but overall solid around.  All in all, Disney’s abilities to blend these elements together are impressive, and this reviewer gives them their well-deserved props.

 

In terms of casting, there is a mixed response to the cast assembled.  Again, they are not the originals (which I did miss), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t bad just the sameEmma Watson is charming, smart, and courageous (all elements we have seen just without the wand), which works for the protagonist.  Dan Stevens I guess does well for the few scenes he isn’t covered in CGI fir, but in his monstrous form delivers his lines with surprising depth. But it is Lumiere and Cogsworth who stole the show for me.  I worried, I’d be robbed of their relationship, but that wasn’t the case.  Ewen McGreggor and Ian McKellan stepped up the role, delivering their well-written lines that had me laughing in delight.  The rest did well, but I need to move on, so let’s just say for the most part, this movie’s casting was well-done.

 

 

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Music
  • Le Fou’s Changes (at times)
  • Times Forced Acting
  • Coincidental Moments
  • Missing Charm of 1991

 

Summary:  The music, a staple of Beauty and The Beast that is almost as timeless as the story.  This rendition has put their own spin on it, while trying to keep the backbone of the original.  Most numbers work, albeit obviously auto-tuned and missing some of the magic, with their own whim, but the song Gaston was a number I did not enjoy for everything it lacked.  Ironically the original tunes I found to be better composed, packed with emotion and not seeming a diluted version, but its weakness came in how they seemed randomly thrown in (yes in an effort to add more emotional develop to the cast).  Overall the changes aren’t absolutely awful, they just didn’t have the same bite as the classics did, unless you count shock factor from either some cheesiness/trippiness).

 

Other changes that I didn’t quite like were Le Fou’s changes.  Le Fou is supposed to be his name sake, the fool who is comedic relief as the joke, before getting his just desserts. Josh Gadd’s rendition wasn’t so much a fool, as a smart alec, clingy, admirer who made slick comments and kept his idol at bayAgain, the deeper development is appreciated, but this drastic change kind of meant his name should have been changed as well, perhaps to Petit Malin?

 

Changes aside, the acting is capable of bringing the characters to life, but there are moments where things are a little forced.  Some of the Beasts Temper tantrums, a few of Belle’s stoic speeches, and Gaston’s attempts to be devious, all of these hit their overacted moments at times. Maurice in particular had the worst delivery of them all, the eccentrics lost to just bad delivery and over exaggeration.  And while this made me laugh, there were a few conventional moments that were a bit cheesy (as stated by some in the movie).  Most of these coincidental moments are ignorable, but one scene in particular was an anticlimactic finish at the end where something just happened to break at the right time.

 

All of these moments alone aren’t too bad, but many of the changes brought into this film brought it more into the adult/realistic and took away from the fun, whimsical nature of the movie. The design of the characters, the emotional subplots, even the music were lacking that element of childlike fun that made the movie so memorable for me.  Doesn’t mean it isn’t still entertaining, I just really missed that element.

 

The VERDICT:

 

With the big shoes the original left, this telling did a decent job appealing to many.  It is a well-developed remake of the story, with a wonderful cast and setting to bring it to life and capture your heart.  While the music didn’t quite reach the same heights, and some changes took away the energy, this film certainly has much of the magic that rose promised years ago. Go in there with a clear mind and try not to compare, and you’ll be fine. I recommend this for a theater visit (as if I could stop you) and hope you enjoy. 

 

My scores are:

Family/Fantasy/Musical: 8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

 

 

The King Has Returned

Kong

 

Giant monster movies are always toss up when it comes to quality.  They either really impress us, or turn us into monsters as we tear the movie apart.  Tonight, the “King” of monster returns to the silver screen, in what looks to be a high-definition adventure made for the theater technology. With an all-star cast including Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and John Goodman this could be the giant monster flick we have been hoping.  Robbie K is back with another review, hoping to shed some light on Kong: Skull Island.

 

LIKES:

  • Human perspective
  • Awesome Visuals
  • Awesome Soundtrack
  • Action
  • John C. Reilly

 

SUMMARY: Most monster movies are often focused on the monster (or man in a rubber costume) wreaking havoc on the environment, only occasionally panning on a human actor. This rendition of Kong shifted that balance back to the humans, putting the tale more from there trek across the killer island.  Don’t get heated though, because Skull Island has plenty of moments centered on the big ape and all his…naked glory.

Kong isn’t the only visual the movie has to offer though, as the team is able to create the nightmare that is skull island in fantastic displays of CGI and real life setting. The environment has a culmination of setting that capture both the beauty and horror that an isolated, prehistoric ecosystem has to offer. The flora, and inanimate stone structures, aren’t the only impressive visual though.  Skull Island’s fauna are also stunning to watch, imaginative creatures that fit well into habitats they call home.  Both my friend and I agreed the team did an awesome job crafting monsters that dwell in your darkest dreams, giving them bark, bit, and in some cases slime to truly be deadly.  Visuals aside, the soundtrack also has some diversity to it.  Our humans theme song seems to be songs from the 70s that will have you classic rock groupies smiling with glee. While those who like powerful symphony work, will enjoy the edge the orchestra brings to the more exciting parts.

Speaking of excitement, Kong: Skull Island brings the action to the full front.  Unlike Godzilla (2014), Kong doesn’t skimp on the monsters actually doing something other than walk around. Much of the movie involves the humans lighting the creatures up with their guns as they dodge lethal appendages.  Yet Kong himself has his moments to shine, in heart pounding, special effects laden sequences that will have you screaming in delight.  I myself was impressed with Kong’s sweet wrestling moves, including the epic finishes our WWE guys only dream of copying. Sound like too much action? Not to worry, John C Reilly has got you covered with well-timed, well-delivered comedy to lighten the mood.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Story is okay
  • Uneven characters
  • Rushed Scenes
  • Cheesy Moments

 

SUMMARY: The story of King Kong has been told in so many iterations, but most of these renditions give the beast a lot of character outside of wrestling champion. In this telling, the story takes a major dip in favor of the action.  As laid out in the trailers, Skull Island’s main premise is survival, with a majority of the plot focusing on our human casts journey to get off the land. Oh sure, they try to inject a few other morals into the mix (including vengeance and love) and they do try to give Kong some other qualities in an attempt to develop him.  However, many of these extra points shallowly developed, lost to the special effects and battles waiting in the jungle. I missed the deeper nature to Kong’s character, but I give props for venturing off the traditional path.

In addition to the simplistic story, Kong’s Skull Island also has some editing/developmental issues for me.  First off, the uneven characters. Our band of humans is a little skewed, with some getting decent development to others being just another pretty face (that may or may not get devoured).  It’s the problem when hiring big casts, but this reviewer would have liked a little more backstory to add some emotional turmoil to the mix.  The shallow character development paints predictable targets on most of their backs, leading to rushed moments where a character is abruptly, and in some cases pointlessly, eliminated.  Sure, it keeps in theme with the island is always hungry, but Skull Island’s team needed to go in a clean-up these hasty moments.  Ironically, the one thing (outside of the action) they focused on was the anger/hate between Kong and Jackson.  Yours truly found the intense stare off and peeing contest between the two to be a touch overdramatic and drawn out. Suspense building? Maybe. Ridiculous? You bet it is.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Both my friend and I agree that Skull Island is one of the better portrayals of the King of the Jungle. With impressive visuals, dangerous environment, and fantastic battles, this is the monster movie we have been waiting for. While there are some story elements that need tweaking and some balance restored, the film gives me faith for future giants vs. human films and the inevitable sequels to come. With all the special effects and action, yours truly recommends this one for the theater, and could see it having some extra oomph in 3-D. And despite what you may expect, one should stick around when the lights go down. You might just find yourself stoked for what is to come.

 

My Scores:

Action/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Don’t Judge A Movie By Its Trailer/Poster

the-shack

 

My review tonight is on the Shack, another film based upon a very popular book. Once more I walk into the fluorescent filled rooms of the local theater to bring you another review on the latest “masterpieces” to grace the silver screen.  Before we begin note that I have not read the book, but the Wikipedia, and therefore cannot say how close it matches the tale.  In addition, as I’m ranking this film it is based on the movie aspects, not just the morals it has to share.  So, before casting stones at this review, please read with an open mind.  Let’s get to it.

 

LIKES:

  • Feels likes a book
  • Fantastic Musical Scores
  • Octavia Spencer, and the rest of the cast
  • Beautiful Scenery
  • Solid delivery of important morals

 

Summary:  Often a movie adaptation of the book cuts a lot of corners and loses the literary feel we fell in love with.  The Shack is an exception to Hollywood’s usual trend of diluting quality for high budget special effects.  Over the 2.25 hours, one feels they are indeed walking through a book, traversing the journey with the protagonist and developing with them.  The director kept close to the framework of story (as summarized by Wikipedia), allowing one to appreciate all the plot had without being bogged down by specialized showcases.

Amidst the breathtaking scenery of the quaint “paradise”, you’ll be engaged by an equally brilliant musical score that matches the themes of Mack Phillips’ journey and the setting around him.  And while the score will move you in one way, it is the acting of our small band of characters that might spark even more tears (at least it did with many of my fellow audience members). While Sam Worthington, Avraham Aviv Alush, and Sumire Matsubara certainly do their parts justice in their own ways as they deliver the important wisdom shared by the all-knowing, it is Octavia Spencer who gets my praise for stealing the show.  A combination of sass, whit, wisdom, love and more. Octavia breaks the mold of the movie and adds a little life to what would otherwise be a very monotone cast.

Yet all of these qualities mirror around the strongest aspect of the film, the important lessons contained within.  If you’ve done your homework, then you will know this movie is very religious and with it comes a lot of deep lessons.  What this reviewer liked was how these lessons were delivered in this movie.  Rather than the usual preachy monologues and overbearing grandiosity, The Shack delivers its messages through well written dialogue that fits naturally into the story.  Much of the movie feels like a common conversation between friends helping each other out, despite one of them knowing all the answers. And the way it was all presented managed to illicit a feeling in my chest that somehow removed a weight (and no it wasn’t gas from the popcorn).

DISLIKES:

  • Tim McGraw’s monologue
  • Does become preachy at times
  • Editing could have used some work
  • Predictable
  • Could have been a Netflix special

 

Like the movie, I ask for no scorn on this first dislike.  Tim McGraw did not do much for me in this project, the once decent actor reduced to a very dry, hasty, unemotional monologue that was more annoying than necessary (other than maybe summarize what could have been another fifteen minutes of film). These moments, alongside a few other sequences, diverted from that casual delivery I liked and traversed down the cheesy delivery path that has been done to death.  While many were fine, there are those few moments that could have been left to a reread of the book or deleted scenes.

Speaking of deleted scenes, the movie’s editing could have also used some work.  Why this movie was over two hours long, I can’t really justify, but there were plenty of parts (primarily at the beginning) that could have been shortened and delivered the same punch; though I do appreciate the attempt at building up the “suspense”.  And the scenes I wanted to see were left out! Regardless many of these moments are extra fluff to what is going to be a predictable ending.  Even if you haven’t read the book, you can guess what is going to happen overall, which in this genre I guess is to be expected.  And while I do appreciate the simplicity of this film, the lack of visual effects, twists, and complexity made me feel this movie could have been just as successful on Netflix than at the big screen.  

The Verdict:

       To quote the movie, I do not wish to be the judge, but nevertheless I have a job to do.  Overall the Shack is one of the better religious based movies I’ve seen that forgoes the grandiosity for the casually enjoyable lesson.  Using simple tricks, they are able to convey some important messages, while interjecting both fun and beauty into what could have been a snooze fest.  Morals aside though, much of the movie components still need work including editing out some scenes, avoiding preachy moments, and adding a little more flare and magic to justify the big screen ticket price.  Yet I must say I enjoy it, and encourage all who aren’t shy of religion to give it a shot. 

 

Drama/Fantasy/Religion:  7.5-8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5