Returning In A Style For Both Old and New. Mary Poppins For The Family Feature Win

Mary Poppins Returns Poster

 

Years ago, the nanny that changed everything charmed her way into the theaters, bringing song and dance to her teachings as he helped sculpt family lives.  It was a wonderful movie that shed so much joy and wonder to the families who gave it a try. Decades later, the mystical nanny has decided to return once more, in hopes of bringing the same magic to the mix. Will her resurgence bring the same joy and whimsy, or has her relevance blown over too many generations to warrant the same quality?  Welcome to Robbie’s movie reviews as I take on:

 

Movie: Marry Poppins Returns (2018)

 

 

Director:

Rob Marshall

Writers:

David Magee (screenplay by), David Magee (screen story by)

Stars:

Emily BluntLin-Manuel MirandaBen Whishaw

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting: While no one can replace the lovely Julie Andrews, it does not mean that Blunt has not done wonders with the character.  Still holding the same nostalgic quality, the new Mary Poppins has a little more edge, sass, and a wonderful balance of love that is quite endearing to see with her cast mates.  Lin-Manuel as well adds his own fun to the crew, bringing his theatrical qualities to the character of Bert. Nostalgic enough to have that same childish demeanor, but different to stand out, his musical skills were quite welcome to the mix. And as for the rest of the crew, they all do a bang-up job of adding to the film, and the young cast of the Banks kids are well directed to avoid being the annoying twerps these roles can be.

 

The Numbers:  Mary Poppins was all about bringing the energetic numbers that would forever ingrain themselves in the music hall of fame.  With her return, Mary once more brought the energy back to the screen, utilizing Miranda’s talents well to once more bring the showmanship of the theater.  This film is filled with the magical song and dance routines made famous in the first film and will have the young and young at heart dancing in their seats.  Each of these numbers accomplished the goal of being resident, and in true musical fashion was able to portray their inner feelings and lessons.  A wonderful ensemble of songs awaits the audience members, and holds great potential to become that new song to be repeated a thousand times.

 

The Story:  Thank the idea of nostalgia, or thank the director because the return of Mary Poppins brings with it a charming delight that holds both old and new motifs in its well-timed shots.  Lessons for all generations lie the nanny’s wisdom, utilizing a variety of worlds and settings to help the Banks family find their way in the harsh London streets  Much of the story contains nods to the original plot, while others hold something new and exciting in their powerful sequences. In addition, there is enough nod to other characters to establish the fate of the various characters, while also being original to stand on its own.  Regardless, there is so much delight and balance to the story to help rope many into the plot.

 

The Classic Animation:  Think back to the classic version and one might recall the dive into the 2-D cartoon land and the epic scenes and songs that came with it.  Over 50 years later, and Disney was not afraid to return to the cartoon theatrics again.  I thoroughly enjoyed the return to Disney’s origins, seeing the classic art style fill the screen and integrate with our live action friends.  Again, the memories of youth rush back in with it and bring perhaps my favorite number that held so much pep and vibrant enthusiasm.  A wonderful nod to the old, while making sure to balance the new style into the mix as well.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

More Of the Older Banks Children:  The trailers painted heavy integration of Michael and Jane as they fall under the care of the nanny to relearn things left behind.  While they have a decently strong integration into the mix, it’s not quite the same level I was expecting and as such wanted them to go on the journey a little more with their kids.  Again, nothing remotely weak, but perhaps a little more integration could have taken the element farther.

 

 

More Time In the Animation: The classic horse racing scene had plenty of time in the 2-D world, making sure to really give the audience the full fun of the scene.  This movie did a fantastic job in the short time they were there, but I was hoping for more time or at least another visit to an animated world where the two styles could meet.  Poppins may do a great job balancing a lot of components, but yours truly wanted another masterpiece in 2-D/live integration that could bring with it the same memory etching greatness it did.

 

The Meryl Streep Number: Is it cute?  Yes!  Does it serve a musical number with catchy lyrics and beats?  Yes.  Does Meryl Streep do a good job?  Yes. So why a dislike?  Well, this number as fun as it is, is very irrelevant to the story.  The dive into the workshop held some potential, but stuck out like the sore thumb at its inclusion into the whole plot, dropping it after the nearly 10 minutes of inclusion.  I just wished that they had continued the story, and perhaps brought another number in, again relevant tot eh story.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, the second visit to Mary Poppins’ lessons still has plenty of charm, love, and energy that will bring so much joy to the audience.  Get ready to have your family film of the holidays, ready to bridge generation gaps, and help one learn old lessons in the new age.  With relevant, energetic song and dance numbers, a fantastic cast with great chemistry, and whimsy from a number of sources, this reviewer encourages hitting the the theater for this one. And while it is not the same as the first movie, it holds its own charm and wonder that was long overdue for the cinema. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Family/Fantasy: 8.0-8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0-7.5

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Aquamantastic! Swimming In The Right Direction

Aquaman Poster

 

 

Revving Up Your Mortal Engines, Watch The Visuals Howl And Roar!

Mortal Engines Poster

 

Another Friday night, another visit to the theater to get set for the latest movie craze to hit the silver screen.  Tonight’s spectacle is all about another book brought to Hollywood with the glorious director of the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, Peter Jackson plastered all over the trailers to get people into the theaters to check it out.  Can the master of the epic trilogies bring more magic to the cinema, or has the handing of the torch led to a breakdown that will leave us stranded for hours.  Let’s get started as Robbie K reviews:

 

Film: Mortal Engines (2018)

 

Director:

Christian Rivers

Writers:

Fran Walsh (screenplay by), Philippa Boyens (screenplay by)

Stars:

Hera HilmarRobert SheehanHugo Weaving

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Perhaps not the most known cast, Mortal Engines crew has assembled to bring some decent performances to the mix.  Sheehan and Hilmar has the emotional spectrum covered across the board, bringing more dynamic performances and some decent chemistry. Meanwhile Weaving, Jihae, and Leila Georgehave a more limited approach, though do it well enough.  Chemistry flows between the characters well enough, and establishes an awkward family that works well into the world.

 

The Genre Mixing:  It’s difficult to blend obscure genres together in a manner that doesn’t overpower or underwhelm each other.  Mortal Engines fortunately works well to mix these elements together and bring with it a medium that has a little something for everyone.  If one is a fan of these series, then I have no doubt there will be some alluring piece to grasp your attention.

 

The World Building: The balanced blending of the genres allows for a wonderful world to design, animate, and bring to life. Jackson’s imagination with his resources has accomplished the mission of building the world and crafting a spectacular display for your eyes to feast on.  The various buildings mixed with vehicles are stunning to say the least, and as more colonies appear and different elements unfold with them, I certainly appreciated the attention to detail and seeing the various architecture mixed into the works.

 

Costumes and Makeup:  Books work hard to described their characters and pain the picture, leaving the movies to study and design their work to mirror those details.  Again, the team succeeds in bringing the characters to life with an amazing wardrobe and visual effects to the table.  Whether you are a secondary character or a leading star, Mortal Engines costumes reflect the culture to which these characters were established in.. From the fabric choices to the colors themselves, one will become immersed into the setting perhaps desiring their own modern meeting traditional styles.  Needless to say, this film inspired a number of costume plays in the future.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Story:  The Lore is there, the basics are there, and the truth is there is enough balance to set the stage for potential sequels.  Yet this first installment lacks quality to really expand upon the characters they promoted in the trailers.  Mortal Engines gets enough of the engines warmed up to at least lay out the track, giving pieces of each story to connect all the points, and try to give all the background information to complete the tale. Yet, the piece meal presentation, rushed details, and hasty wrap ups is where they dropped the ball.  I believe the lore is there, but it’s just missing that finesse that I believe it needed.

 

Shrike’s Roar:  A small dislike, the supposed creepy automaton looks the part and has fantastic structure, but is a bit too flat for the envisioned role.  Shrike’s call for Ester is more humorous, a fallacy of voice work that sounds like Smiegel from LOTR meeting the Terminator.  The overuse of the yell was more comical than menacing, and as such was a tactic that did not meet it’s intended mark of terror.

 

More Action: Yes, I’m a broken record into his category, but the trailers painted some promising action sequences to help bring the adventure to this film.  The opening was very shiny and alluring, with the hopes of action soaring to new heights, and then the momentum was dropped.  Much of Mortal Engines fights are gritty, but not quite as suspenseful as I had hoped.  While keeping in time with the rhythm and feel of the movie, this particular film still could have spiced up its action factor to add that needed suspense to the mix.  The ending showed the momentum building once more, only to have the brakes slammed on for the grand finale. Perhaps a little more development into the mix could have taken this film to new heights, but at least there are visuals to handle.

 

Suspense-less:  Mortal Engines other main area of improvement for me is the lack of suspense in the film.  Some of this comes from the dislikes mentioned above, but one other major scrap point is the predictability of the film and scrapping of other films to decorate this vehicular town adventure.  These two aspects combined make for obvious foreshadowing, as the director takes you on an obvious pathway that quickly sheds its intensity like the various pieces of discarded equipment.  Sure, the references are fun to pick out and quite comical in their application to this film, however, there was only so much leading down this direction before it soon got out of hand, leading to well the anticlimactic finale.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, Jackson’s resources have brought the world to life, as steampunk and fantasy mix together to make an amazing world to ride into.  With a fantastic visual support and imagination supporting the actors, Mortal Engines is truly the theater worthy visual spectacle to behold.  Yet, the movie’s nonvisual elements are needing a little repair, helping to iron out details and pump some suspense into the engine to fuel this film.  A second installment could be waiting in the garage, but if so, we could use some of this integration and repair to bring these limitations to the next level.  Still, the visuals alone should hopefully be worth a trip to the theater, but definitely worth checking out at home if you are waiting for something better. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy: 7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

Nuts On Visuals, Cracked On The Story: A Nutcracker And The Four Realms Review

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Poster

 

The holiday season has begun and with it comes a number of specials and big budget movies to cover the anticipation.  Tonight marks the first of a long list of big films to grace the silver screen, with Disney attempting to go strong with a retelling of a legendary, immortal piece of the Nutcracker.  Will it be the light hearted, poetic fantasy that the ballet has captivated audiences for years on, or will it be the dark, foreboding tale of war?  Robbie K back with a written review to help determine what tale lies in store.  Let’s get started.

 

Film: The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018)

 

Directors:

Lasse HallströmJoe Johnston

Writers:

Ashleigh Powell (screen story by), Ashleigh Powell(screenplay by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Mackenzie FoyKeira KnightleyMorgan Freeman

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Foy is the center of the Four Realms universe and blows the part out of the water.  A model example of the girl power, modern woman role, she has grown much past her cinematic days of Twilight.  Graceful, fierce, creative, and more importantly human, Foy played the balanced character well and made the most of the dialogue. Knightley hits her part on the mark as well, using that lighter pitch to bring the sensational sweetness of the fairy in her attempts to capture the hearts of the younger group.

 

The Ballet:  Paying tribute to the most famous form of this story, Four Realms makes time to portray the art at the nexus of the four areas. A beautiful display of the dance form, the ballet Misty Copeland’s form was splendid to watch as she pirouetted and leaped amidst a wonderful stage that felt much like attending the ballet.  For aspiring dancers of this form, this will be the favorite part.

 

The Music:  Classic and modern meet together in this wonderful soundtrack, utilizing the theater technology to blast your ears with a symphony of sweetness.  All the famous pieces are there for you to enjoy, whether it be the classical Nutcracker Suite to the wonderful balance of the Rat King’s theme.  Fans of the music should be fulfilled with Disney’s use of these tracks and how it supports the visuals.

 

The Visuals:  To save room, I’ll combine everything together in this like. The Four Realms is gorgeous, a true feast for the eyes at seeing everything come to life in a bountiful display of color, texture, detail, and magic of the world.  Settings were dynamic representing high rich culture of the real world, and the whimsical wonder of Clara’s own world as each realm utilized a different countries architecture as a basis.  Once the world was built, the computer animation came in and cleaned up the designs, bringing smooth transitions, realistic looking creatures, and that same Disney magic we love to be wrapped up in.  Finally, the costumes and makeup are stunning themselves, crafting some of the most unique, fun, and curious characters to come out of the Disney woodwork. Expect lots of copying of their designs in future Halloween costumes my friends, because Four Realms deserves big praise and awards for makeup and wardrobe combining into this magical display.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Mice Design Choice:  Okay, this is a small dislike, but one nonetheless. The mouse king and his subjects have a creative utilization, and are cute as a button when the field mouse design comes into play (in fact he is the most humorous and adorable part of the film). However, the letdown is that the mice are almost a carbon copy of the ones from Cinderella and quite simplistic compared to the rest of the visuals this movie held.  Disney’s got the money and the imagination so I would like to see them use it more than this.

 

Under Utilization of Characters:  This one is pretty self-explanatory, but after going through the motions to design all the wonderful characters, the studio did a lackluster job of using them.  The denizens of the Four Reams disappear in the background, stifling their potential to tell a fantastic story, remain involved in the full movie, and really bring characters that we can grip on to. So while they sine bright in their 15 minutes on screen, there was so much more for them to bring to the table.

 

Story Presentation: The Nutcracker’s complex plots and multiple portrayals mean rich lore to dive into and immerse oneself in.  Shame that Disney could not deliver on that story in this movie.  While geared towards the target audience, Four Realms splendor is skin deep as much of the tale is lost like the fourth realm.  Backstories are incomplete, questions are left unanswered, character development is surprisingly weak for most groups, and even worse those characters left out feel even flatter.  The major saving grace is Clara whose girl power, dream big princess that will inspire the key demographic, but outside of that, the preachy morals cannot save the skimming and predictability this story focuses on, so can’t say I was impressed in this aspect.

 

The Action:  No surprise, the action has been diluted for the key demographic in this group.  Four Realms battles are really small skirmishes, that are cute, simplistic dances of choreography that lack any real bite to them.  While this might be good for younger members, Four Realms needed more suspense to break through the predictability of the film.  Some of the battles are also difficult to follow, due to dark settings, odd angles, and the speed of the film.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Four Realms continues to prove why Disney reigns high on the imagination train of visual perfection.  Costumes, setting, ballet, and characters shine bright in this film, helping to bring one into the realms and root for Clara to succeed. Sadly, the movie’s focus on visuals and effects means that the story took hits, with only one story really holding any spark to net my interest.  Disney didn’t utilize their characters to the full effect, and sort of robbed us of the complete experience that they were going for.  Worth a trip for aspiring princesses, ballet artists, and the target audience of girls, but otherwise outside of visuals you can hold off on this one.

 

 

MY SCORES:

 

Adventure/Family/Fantasy: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6..0

A Mega Sized Shark Film? The Meg Review Trying to Bite Into The Box Office

The Meg Poster

 

 

The shark movie has a huge cult following, and the fan base continues to grow with each delectable, gore filled bite.  So much so, that SyFy channel can’t stop filling their air times with ridiculous films that throw any excuse for mega beasts munching on airheaded characters who look good.  Despite some famous movie sticking out in the television about the prehistoric predator of the deep, the big screen is calling for a film of its own in hopes of drawing crowds back to the welcoming halls of the theater.  Based on the book series I recently saw in Barnes and Noble, the Meg is here to try and entertain.  Yours truly is back to share some thoughts as he reviews:

 

 

Movie: The Meg (2018)

 

Director:

Jon Turteltaub

Writers:

Dean Georgaris (screenplay by),  Jon Hoeber (screenplay by)

Stars:

Jason Statham,  Bingbing Li,  Rainn Wilson

 

 

LIKES:

 

Animation:  CGI companies can make just about anything these days, including a 75 foot shark with a ferocious appetite.  The Meg has some awesome design in bringing the beast to life, capturing the grainy, rough texture of the hide and making its swims delightfully fluid.  This shark moves beautifully in its hunt for humans.

 

The Characters:  Most of these movies fail to bring the full talent of actors out, often resorting to making the characters glamorized fish food that we root to actually be eaten (some exceptions of course).  The Meg though, their cast has more to their mettle, recruiting a bunch of dynamic actors to portray scientists that have a little more to their skill set than looking good.  With this team, I was able to actually invest into the human characters and once more root for the team to find a way to solve the problem.  And while the acting is not Oscar worthy, the dialogue, writing and delivery have been grounded to be enjoyed and not scoffed at.

 

The Story:  Again, most of these films hold very little in terms of quality story, only designed to maximize the blood and kills.  The Meg though, takes a step back to the storytelling roots and actually does a nice job of balancing the kills with a purpose for the carnage.  From how the shark came into the modern world to side stories portraying character flaws, this film had surprising amounts of detail to actually give a reason to the movie. Don’t freak out though, there are still plenty of superficial carnage scenes to tickle your fancy, but for those like me who like balance, this movie gets better props.  In addition, there are some twists to help add some bite to adventure.

 

The Pace; A movie like this can sometimes drag, especially if you hate these types of films and you were dragged in to going by friends.  Again, the Meg succeeds in this journey of keeping the film moving, the adrenaline pumping, and the laughs/carnage keeping pace.  The film has enough action and close shaves to keep you on your toes, which plays to the nature of this genre.

 

The Nostalgia:  The Meg does have a lot of individuality, yet it is also packed with countless references to the shark movies that came before.  The movie has plenty to offer, and the shark movie fans should have no problem picking up the Easter eggs submerged in the Megalodon infested waters.  Nice job adding this layer of fun guys.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Over the top moments: The whole movie is ridiculous, I understand that and will accept it, but even suspending reality goes only so far. A giant shark movie sometimes goes too far and hits those eye rolling moments that sort of diverge from the path of balance it was achieving.  Some of the structural integrity inconsistencies and speed of our humans are a few examples, but hey that’s a shark movie.

 

Plot Holes:  The movie did a nice job of putting a story on board, but the movie does have some gaps that even for the ridiculous tale shouldn’t have been skipped.  It goes with the opening scene more than anything and with it, sort of diverges from the explanation they gave, sort of undermining the semi-logical conclusion they had.  Again, a small dislike, but a noticeable one that is a bit annoying to me.

 

Predictable:  Even worse than the holes and the ridiculous level, comes the predictable plot that this genre suffers from.  The Meg has more obvious foreshadowing than the theme music of Jaws, and with it comes some suspense being tempered away.  While secondary characters are kind of the group to bet on for surviving vs dying, the rest of the cast has their paths blazed from the start.  You’ll be able to predict most of everything, though a few twists managed to spice a few things up.  I’m still looking for that Jaws like quality, but The Meg does get points for trying.

 

The uneven character spacing:  I love Deep Blue Sea, because the characters had narrow misses, epic survival strategies, and the gradual picking off of the groups.  It allows for more suspense, pulling you into the game of cat and mouse, or in this case shark and human.  The Meg started out this way, but then succumbed to munch fest and lost the structured plot to the demands of carnage.  It’s not the worst case I have seen, but it was disappointing to see that build up sort of fizzle out, though I must admit it did happen in the later part of the film so kudos.

 

 

The VERDICT:

            Let’s be honest, The Meg is a ridiculous movie that many will agree is a pure popcorn eating flick.  Surprisingly though, the movie has improved on its storytelling abilities, and finds a balance between the superficial and deeper aspects of the film. Still, the shark movie is very entertaining, with a good pace, suspenseful action, some well-timed laughs, and nostalgia to get you into all the adventures to come.  Yet, the film still suffers from some of the stereotypical faults of this genre, which takes away from the strengths of the movie.  If you are the fan of this genre, then please hit a local theater to check it out, but otherwise hold off until it swims into television/streaming waters.

 

My scores: 

 

Action/Horror/Sci-Fi: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

Go Solo or Go Home?

Solo: A Star Wars Story Poster

 

It’s been 40 years in existence, and the galaxy far away keeps expanding into the unknown territory of stories, fun, and action. Despite a rocky start, Disney has been able to finally get the precious cargo of another Star Wars movie to its destination of the theater despite all the failings it experienced.  Can such a history turn out to be valuable like an armada of Star Destroyers, or will it be as worthless as Republic Credits on Tatooine.  Robbie K here with another review on the movie:

 

Movie: Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

Director:

Ron Howard

Writers:

Jonathan Kasdan,  Lawrence Kasdan

Stars:

Alden Ehrenreich,  Woody Harrelson,  Emilia Clarke

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  While certainly not the legendary volumes that the original cast brought years ago, I was impressed and happy with what the new cast was able to do.  Alden Ehrenrich as young Han Solo has a level of arrogance and mischief that is recognizable, just not to the proportions Ford brought so long ago.  Clarke, in all her splendor, is certainly fantastic, bringing her regal air to the character Qira, and with it an added complexity to try to keep you guessing.  Harrelson, still playing the cantankerous role again, has it down to an art that mixes quite well in the intergalactic crime world.  Yet the star is Donald Glover, who captured the Lando qualities perfectly and delivered it with the youthful energy so long ago.  It works on levels to form a new band of thieves and helps bring the story semi to life.

 

Fun:  Bottom line of this movie is that I had fun with it, and despite all the terrible set ups and track record that they have had, I enjoyed it. Solo’s story is definitely an adventure, with a fast pace to keep you embedded into the thief’s tale to find out who will make it unscathed through the fire.  While a slightly darker tone, the movie has plenty of comedic relief and lighter moments to offset the dark, making for an enjoyable, semi-balanced movie that will appeal to many.

 

Balanced Comedy:  Let’s face it, Disney’s movies have been working the comedic angle hard into most of their action movies to help ease the tension. Fortunately, Solo manages to keep the comedy perspective better balanced, using it at key moments to maximize the laughs and add some character to the scene.  While much is in the timing and the dialogue, but there are plenty of nostalgic moments to bring a few other guffaws out as well.  It works well with the movie and further establishes the smuggler atmosphere they were going for.

 

Action:  If you saw my video vlogs, you know that I have a thing for action sequences, and after the last Star Wars movie turned away from this, I had my doubts.  Solo’s adventure has at least three stellar action moments to bring to the table, in the form of laser shootouts and high-flying adventure.  The special effects shower in these moments, grabbing you by the shoulders and throwing you into the throngs of the dangers that await Han’s arrogant, rebel without a care attitude.  My favorite moment is certainly the flying scene shown in the trailer, but only you can decide which of the dances of destruction will wow you the most.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Character Utilization: Lots of characters means the struggle of balancing them all, and Solo does do a decent job of giving their cast a moment to shine in the CGI sun.  However, for me, it didn’t mean that they utilized them all to an equal degree. Despite the heavy emphasis on the trailers, many of the new characters are going to have disproportionate time spent on the screen.  While they all play their role in the story, I was still hoping for more integration (like Rogue One), but the group still hasn’t quite found this part down quite pat yet.

 

Paul Bettany:  None of these characters get the shaft treatment than Bettany’s crime lord character.  An antagonist usually has more involvement in the film than just casting a looming shower, and with someone as talented and complex as Bettany, I was hoping to see his talent come to full light.  Bettany’s character needed more development and time, but they dropped the ball in his development department for favor of other trinkets and gimmicks.  The former Vision star held so much potential, but sadly not delivered for me.

 

L3-37’s preachiness: I love droids and I love women, and this droid therefore held high hopes for being the best artificial intelligence to date.  Point to them for making a robot that speaks her mind, pilots a ship, and has some skills in infiltration because they nailed those components.  Yet, there rebel rousing, preach to the masses dialogue was not impressive in the grand scheme of the movie for me.  I was looking for her to really contribute to the plans concocted by the team, but instead they chose to turn her into more of a walking talk box that while passionate is semi-useless outside of merchandizing.

 

The Story/Sequel Set Up: Fans of the legend series will know the roots of this story lie in the original trilogy, which while not the best of the books certainly had its pizazz.  Solo definitely scavenged these books, took the bones and built them up to this tale.  The story works in regards to highlighting aspects of his life and sticking to the origins decently enough to merit the tale.  What I didn’t like though, was how the story was very piece meal at times, a rushed montage of various episodes from his life that had it been given a television series would have been more fleshed out.  They did a nice job of reaching a decent run time, but this movie was geared too much in setting up for what can be another movie series. Plenty of hints dropped at what lies in store, but unlike the original trilogy, the movie doesn’t feel quite complete, but instead dependent on a second movie to bring things to full circle. Not my favorite way of doing things, but Solo manages to still be a semi-complete talked… for now.

 

The Ending:  After all the excitement and close calls, you hope the ending brings that final conflict to really tie things together.  For me, the ending to Solo was not that at all, another rushed conclusion to try to tie up one arc and open the door for the next. I’ll admit, it had some nice revelations that again hint at further movies or spin-offs to come, which gets a plus in that regards (despite still not bringing a strong antagonist back into the canon). Yet, the ending decides to go down the other skill of smugglers and tries to trick you with obvious ploys and foreshadowing to take that twist away.  Even worse, the ending “fight” is short lived and rather dull compared to the glimmer of the previous scenes mentioned.  Applause goes for the attempts at diving deeper into the character, but it still could have used some spice to pep it up.

 

Overall:

 

Solo turned out much better than anticipated, bringing a very charming and fun movie that certainly delivers on the promise of exploring a beloved character.  It’s got comedy, action, love, and darkness to drive the tale, and really makes an adventure that will take you to lightspeed.  Yet, the movie is still part of the cog of another series, limiting itself so that they can open up more films or the spin-off to tell the complete story. So, while fun, the movie still doesn’t fill complete to me and that is not my favorite formula.  Still, I recommend a weekend trip for this one for most of the family and friends who like the series.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

 

Ready For Action, Visuals, Nostalgia

Ready Player One

 

Robbie K back with another review and tonight it is on movie I have been looking forward to for a very long time.  The latest book gone pop culture, tonight’s film is all about the references (and merchandising) as the world seeks out an adequate video game movie to come to life.  So, let’s get started with a slight alteration to the style, as I review:

 

Title: Ready Player One

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer:  Zak Penn

Original Author: Ernest Cline

Starring: Tye Sheridan,  Olivia Cooke,  Ben Mendelsohn

 

 

LIKES:

Acting:  Let’s get this like out of the way (as most won’t care).  The cast of this highly CGI world is on point in regards to making their characters come to life.  Sheridan in particular does a lot of the heavy lifting, balancing the geek, leader, and vulnerable roles all into a nice admirable package.  Cooke has the edgy, heroic nature down, a virtual Wonder Woman who combines brain and skills to deliver the sassy goods to the group. These two have wonderful chemistry together, two leaders who incite a rebellion of imagination, accomplishing it with grace that many young actors fail to deliver.  Ben Mendelsohn makes a good villain as well, a corporate wannabe who has only the eyes for cash and lacks the brains to go with the brash. 

 

World Creating/Visuals:  No surprise here, Spielberg’s team invested a lot of time bringing the world to life.  Ready Player One’s visuals are stunning, taking the imagination of Cline’s book and making it pop to life on screen.  The various planets all have dynamic visuals to bring each one to life, with exciting, pristine villas grounded by the rugged battlefields of volcanoes.  The real world of a future dystopian society is nicely created with their settings and with direction meshes well with our heroes’ journey through the cyberspace.  And as for the characters themselves, the team managed to recreate the various pop culture references in fantastic design but adding its own twist to correlate with the movie.  The heroes have that video game feel, immersing you further into the virtual reality setting as if you were part of the rebellion.

 

The Action:  The trailers promised action, and by George did it deliver… on most of the movie.  Ready Player One starts strong with some action-packed sequences where racing and FPS/Third Person battles reign supreme.  The theater shakes with the intensity and brings a promise that the rest of the movie is going to be just as fun.  The rest of the sequences semi-deliver on this promise, primarily the final battle that has some incredible parts.  Nonetheless, Spielberg’s department did a bang-up job bringing the rush that video games bring, primarily the selling point for seeing it in the theater. 

 

The Nostalgia/Reference Hunting:  However, the biggest selling point for me was the thrill of hunting down all the cultural Easter eggs/icons that they paid a fortune to portray. My eyes were busy seeking everything crammed in this movie, trying to see which 80’s icons made the cut.  While 80% are video game references, you’ll find various movie, television, and song references shading the oasis, most cleverly brought in to bring life to the scenes in a meaningful way.  I’ll admit, the replay value of this movie comes in trying to track down everything hidden, like the Easter egg prize they are all seeking.  The key demographic of this movie is going to be the fans, nerds, and gamers, as their eager eyes will enjoy seeing their favorites come together to battle the corrupt evil at hand. 

 

 

DISLIKES:

The Lack of Challenge:  Let’s get this settled, the movie is not the book, and to be fair a movie about the actions of the book might have been duller to the general audience.  However, the movie could have taken a page for challenging puzzles and cultural integration, because it didn’t quite execute this component as well.  Most of the quests for the key were diluted compared to brainteasing nightmares of the novel, that could have involved more research and diving than what we got.  In addition, some of the solutions were a little more like backdoor cheats than true solutions to the impasses at hand.

Character Development:  I agree again with my fellow reviewers that the character development suffered a bit as well.  Parzival and Art3mis get some decent backstories and growth, but the other characters are sort of thrown into the movie like hamburgers on a flat top.  They have those moments that sizzle, only to quickly become fully cooked and dropped back into the background.  Even worse, the legendary skills that were boasted in the book/movie are not really delivered for our supporting cast, such a shame really.  Not the worst character use, but also not what I had expected.

 

More Action: Surprise, surprise, Robbie wants more action.  Ready Player One’s scenes are incredible at times, almost as if we have visors on our heads and living the game.  The problem for me is… they were too short at times and didn’t feel complete for me.  I didn’t feel this too much until near the middle of the movie when the film hit a slow snag and could have used one or two battles to liven it up.  However, the biggest thing I wanted, was seeing the millions of dollars of references used more than the fleeting glances we got.  The moves done were cool but watching Parzival and crew work together with the iconic game crew rather than background noise would have been nice.

 

I-ROk:  This character wasn’t utilized much in the book, so seeing him mentioned in the credits was a surprise. Sadly, they didn’t do much with this character, to the point where he was almost not needed.  The gaming community knows about epic hunters, villains, and rogues, but this movie failed to deliver on those grounds, instead getting a sarcastic flop.  While the main villain was expected to be a rather incompetent jerk, his prized mercenary should have had a little more bite to back things up.  Perhaps then the epic climax might have worked a little better, well that and maybe foregoing the van chase at the end… that wasn’t needed as much.

 

The VERDICT: 

 

            Ready Player One the movie is not the book, and the purists who want that book to real life are going to be disappointed with the changes that were made to liven it up.  However, Spielberg’s take on the film works in regards to action, visuals, and giving us the ultimate finder book of geek references.  While the story needed some more wit and character development, the main tweaks needed to be using more of their merchandizing, more of their characters, and pushing their villains to be more.  Had these elements been more explored, it would have given this movie more of the finesse it was looking for.  Still, this adventure deserves a theater run given the special effects. 

 

My scores are:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.5