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

 

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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

A Wrinkle In Story Telling, But A Time In Visuals

Wrinkle

 

Another weekend, another literary classic to be remade by the lovely folks in La La Land.  The movie world continues to scrape deep for the next big fad, Disney brings A Wrinkle in Time to life, ready to unleash magic into the world.  With super star Oprah Winfrey backing the project and a number of stars to further support the film, and potentially bring in the big bucks.  Does it succeed, or should you just read the book?  Robbie K here to provide some insight into the movies ad guide your experience.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

The Acting:  With a star-studded cast, one hopes for brilliant performances and Wrinkle in Time has some impressive displays of the theater arts.  Storm Reid’s career has started off well in this movie, a nice blend of passion fighting pessimism in a manner that feels very much like the whiney preteen age. Her fellow child actors are impressive, but the adult casts’ experience manages to shine forth.  Oprah’s words re limited, but her regality comes across well in her performance. Mindy Kaling’s lines are a little more dynamic, again executed to be entertaining, and while wise, not the most engaging of characters.  It’s actually Reese Witherspoon who was my favorite, bringing the most spunk, comedy, and character to the movie. Her chemistry with the cast was fantastic and her abilities certainly charmed much of the movie.

 

The Morals:  Like the book, the movie has a fantastic repertoire of lessons to teach the young audience members targeted by the film.  A Wrinkle in Time greatly praises the concept of hope, imbedding the driving, divine light of inspiring others to better themselves and motivate them to fight.  It’s focus on utilizing the positive to combat the negative emotions is something this world could easily learn from, and even more so in the ability to accept one’s faults and praise one’s strengths.  While a bit preachy in the dialog, the movie has those emotional moments to absolutely sell those life lessons and perhaps promote the next great person for them to endorse.  Still, use this movie as a means to educate those in the way of values of self-worth.

 

The Visuals:  What can I say, the best part of this movie is the fantastic world building is the world building this movie brought to the silver screen.  A Wrinkle in Time’s selling point is how beautiful the art department made all their characters and settings.  While the realistic Earth scenes are a cavalcade of traditional settings, the real majesty comes when our heroes begin to bend reality.  First the costumes of the misses are incredible, as their personalities erupt to life on each planet they visit.  Makeup and costume blend together perfectly, truly bringing out the beauty of each entity and reflecting their personal view of each world.  And once the costumes are recognized, the creation of the dimensional galaxy gets even better.  My favorite planet is the Flower planet (as advertised on the trailers) as it blended all the color and visual stunning goodness into one area. However, there are plenty of other things hidden in behind the trailers to be impressed with.

 

 

DISLIKES:

The Story:  It starts off so strong, but soon the plot takes a major hit in quality because of how rushed it feels.  Once the traveling begins, the movie’s plot hits a major break and takes a mighty plunged into rushed territory.  Character development, major plot hits, even the mighty antagonist were all kind of bland in this movie, never reaching the full steam past girl power junction.  Why such a literature classic could not build up steam I don’t know, but sadly this movie didn’t quite have all it took to be exciting.

 

A bit annoying:  The movie has plenty of cute, kid friendly gimmicks, but my word does it crush over into some rather annoying things.  The most annoying for me was how often they repeat the name Charles Wallace, a not only obnoxious name, but an obnoxious calling that was used every five seconds.  As picky as this sounds, I quickly got annoyed at how lackluster the name was and how it was used unnecessarily in every context.  Better luck next time in dialog adaptation guys, perhaps next time you’ll learn how to substitute a name with better descriptions.

 

The Simplistic Journey:  You might be thinking Disney would pour their hearts into making an interdimensional journey with some style, class and flare their studios can brings.  Sadly, the movie itself still seems to fail in this department for me.  Three worlds make up the entire leg of the journey and while they each have some magic of their own it didn’t feel like quite a detective journey.  So many worlds were reduced to a blurry montage that lasted less than a minute depriving me of a scavenger hunt in order to fit into the two-hour runtime package. With their studio they could have much better on this aspect to extend the mystery, perhaps adding their own leeway and integration of cosmic powers to uncover the clues to finding dear old dad.  Nope, again the movie is just a sad, sad display of tempting visuals and rushed plot.

 

The Anticlimactic End:  Again, there is buildup up to how deadly the darkness is and how it will be hunting for our heroes at every turn.  So maybe you might hope that the big, bad, black void had some actual tricks up its sleeve to hinder the young warriors’ journey.  Again, the movie has little exciting climax to act as an impasse, a few emotional shadows and musical sores to try to illicit a response.  However, there is little threat behind the darkness void, which symbolic as it can be is a boring end to what was supposed to be a crossing of the universe.  Sorry, but I expect my shadows to have a little more bite and might when they threaten to plague the universe.  The result is a cute, but rather dull finale to one of the most epic tales of the literature adapted world.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Wrinkle in Time feels like a child’s version of Annihilation, but without the unique and twists the genre could really have used.  It certainly isn’t awful as some may say, with good acting and world building to bring forth an emotional telling of valuable ethics and morals.  Yet, the movie does not meet the expectations placed by the book, for the story has been watered down into a hokey, gimmick filled manhunt that failed to reach its full potential.  Perhaps the director’s cut will go into more details with the abandoned worlds, but I doubt extra time will be able to bring the full might this movie needed to match the literary work.  Not the worst movie to grace the theater, but outside of visuals and some acting, I think this one can be held until home viewing.

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Family/Fantasy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  5.5

Every Move You Make, Every Body You Take

every day

 

The romantic comedy and drama series, are two genres that often go hand and hand. Unfortunately these movies often lack in the unique department, copying each other’s story like Hallmark copies its own plots.  Yet, they still reign supreme in the movie world, unafraid to remain the cute, cuddly, and melodramatic.  This weekend though, another book adapted to movie takes a shot at relieving us from this mundane rush, to add a little flair back into the romantic atmosphere.  My review, as you can read, is on Every Day, starring Angourie Rice and a mess of other young actors.  What is in store?  Read on to find out my friends.

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Many romantic comedies involving teenagers are often overacted performances that are not easy for me to stomach in the volumes I see movies in.  Every Day on the other hand manage to keep the acting in check, with performances that felt like kids in every day high school.  As the central character, Rice did a fantastic job of handling the teenager caught between so many lives that require her energy to invest in.  As for the remainder of the cast, all the extras from the jerk boyfriend (Justice Smit) to the final host of A all have their parts to play, and each represent there lifestyle stigmatism well.  Such a dynamic cast kept things fun, and the story more intriguing than the run of the mill romance.

 

The Morals:  The story is primarily a love story, but amidst the kissing, hugging, and cuddling is a strong series of ethical dilemmas that the characters must face.  It starts with the common moral dilemma of finding respectful love vs. settling, teaching young kids that love does exist outside the realms of popularity and physical aspects.  Soon Rhiannon (Rice) starts crashing into things such as familial discord, self-identity, and trying to move on from something because it’s the right thing to do.  Her ever changing opposite (A) also has plenty to face with his powers too, as each person he inhabits has issues themselves that constantly challenge his happiness and ability to have a life he so desires.  These head scratchers are perfect for the young minds to soak up into and good refresher for any, leaving you reviewing your own ideas upon exiting the theater. Nevertheless, these ideas are well-baked into the tale, perfect to drive the story more.

 

The Twist:  Let’s face it, romantic comedies have difficulty with surprising me, the plots so predictable and similar that one can’t help but try to fight sleep sometimes.  Every Day’s twist to the story doesn’t defy the predictability in terms of ending, but the concept itself is the intriguing part to this story.  The premise of having your love interest switch to a new body every day crosses a bridge most people haven’t attempted to and it worked for me.  Seeing what new adventures they would go on, how they would solve the next problem, and even how they would make this whole endeavor work were some of the questions keeping me invested in the movie.  However, the biggest question of who or what A is, that is the real thing I tried to figure out.  So many mysteries amidst the romantic atmosphere makes this movie stand out.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Predictability:  The movie has such a unique twist, one was hoping to have a unique ending in the works as well.  Every Day’s presentation may stand out, but it’s ending falls back in line with the usual endings that this genre is famous for.  While a bit vague at points and somewhat lackluster given the build-up they were providing. However, one should be able to see the ending coming from a mile away, and despite being on the realistic, ethically inclined side, it still lacks the emotional shine you had hoped to see.

 

Problems Swept Under the Rug: I mentioned how much I liked the ethics in this film and the real life portrayals of the problems that plague the world.  I also would have liked to see those problems have a little more development, pacing, and satisfying conclusion than what I got.  The love aspect get the most attention, there’s a surprise, but as for the other dilemmas, well they get the quick treatment. Some of these make sense because again they are one life A must live and maximize, however Rhiannon’s family problems are ones that she has to live with constantly, so perhaps they should have cultivated a little more integration of these problems into the movie. It would have made an interesting side story to help integrate her family into the picture, providing yet another aspect to help with this awkward relationship.

 

Unrealistic:  No duh, a person switching lives every day is totally unrealistic, however that’s not the component I’m talking about.  Instead, Rhiannon’s unrealistic component is how little her school work and discipline suffers despite skipping as much as she does.  If many had pulled the antics she did, they would have been expelled, fortunately the power of love seemed to have rescued them.  This component is ignorable to most, but for me it was cheesy and unobtainable, only taking away for the story.

 

Unanswered questions:  The movie invests an entire ten minute dialogue to try to explain the origins of A’s powers.  As such, at the end I was hoping for some actual answers and hopefully get a nice tie up to A’s journey of body invasion.  Once again, story fails to fill in the gaps, giving little information to clarify the fog of A’s life, in favor of teaching a lesson about moving on.  Yeah, they took the emotionally stirring route, but in terms of story, they should have closed this book much better in regards to answers.

 

MY VERDICT:

 

            Every Day breaks the mold on the typical romantic comedy presentation with its unique concept of a lover switching bodies with each passing 24 hours. All the morals that come with this responsibility add an extra layer to the a generic plot, helping to keep your mind engaged instead of rapidly decaying into a lazy sponge that rom coms have come up with.  And those twists that seemed so admirable, didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of what I’m sure the book was able to accomplish.  Problems are ignored or swiftly wrapped up, the ending still remains predictable and sadly the questions raised are left only slightly answered.  Therefore, this romantic comedy stands out on some qualities, but still drowns in the mundane tactics that Hollywood has become. So worth a trip to the movie theater?  Mixed results on this, but overall hold out for Redbox or a date night film at best.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Fantasy/Romance:  7.0

Movie overall: 5.5

Annihilates The Mundane Sci-Fi, But …

Annihilation

 

The Science Fiction genre, a group of films that often get wrapped up in other genres that they stray far from the roots established long ago.  A true science fiction, is often a thriller that tests the limits of reality, dives deep into the psyche of the characters, and often brings a fictitious world that we can only dream of to life.  And this weekend, another movie looks to fall into this category and actually belong into it.  Annihilation starring Natalie Portman looks to be a movie that contains many strange elements, wonders, and thrills to warrant a venture into the movie theater again.  What lies in store?  Well Robbie K would be happy to share his thoughts with another review.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

The World Building:  Within Annihilation, lies the anomaly called the Shimmer and within it a world that has been mutated by some unknown force.  As our “heroes” for lack of a better word venture into the gasoline mixed with water looking border, the world contained within is a wonder in itself.  Our world’s natural flora and fauna are bizarrely twisted into these contorted visuals that look natural, beautiful, and a true representation of the genetic crossing that we all studied in school. The world’s scientific art continued to grow only deeper and darker as they traveled further into the void, the animation and creativity being unleashed into the chaotic skew with no limitations.  Some of these creations are stunning in terms of color, while other times they are the things of nightmares, whose movements and designs will leave you huddled in your chair. 

 

Science Fiction Thrills:  In addition to the world itself, Annihilation is all about the true Sci-Fi adventure.  An unending suspense hovers over the air, the tension always mounting at what lies within the glades of this weird dimension.  The mystery of what is causing this continues to build across the course of the movie, as well as if our heroes will make it to find the answer.  Annihilation’s threats do exist outside, but even more dire is the psychological warfare the Shimmer plays on our girls.  Disturbing imagery is only one assault to their psyches, as they are pushed from all fronts to confront whatever it is eating them inside.  And in addition to bringing suspense, the characters get some major development, shelling out their background information and helping them adapt to the ever-changing world around them.  This culmination is very entertaining and truly worthy of the sci-fi mantle in terms of plot.

 

Deep:  A good science fiction movie makes you think, and Annihilation has got you covered in this element as well.  As you try to solve the mystery of the movie and the fantastic twists that get thrown in, you’ll find deeper meanings behind the actions of the movie.  Many of these are head scratchers, trying to figure out just what the Shimmer is doing.  While not as complex as Arrival or Matrix, Annihilation still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to bend your mind and get you trying to process all the weird information it throws at you.  As you process this, you may uncover deeper, morale dilemmas, horror filled thoughts of the future, and even the fragility of order are all up for questions.  This artistic flare is certainly a score booster, though fair warning that these deeper meanings are also disturbing at times too.

 

DISLIKES:

Savage/Disturbing:  With a title like Annihilation, one needs to be ready for darker undertones and source material.  However, this movie goes down a very graphic path that was able to penetrate my desensitized shell.  Found footage reveals some rather violent outcomes for previous teams, with little to no censorship of details that are capable of causing some to lose their lunch.  The savage nature of the beasts and the violence held within just about everything in this film throws no punches, again choosing to display the gory details that fail to dampen. 

 

Flashbacks:  The flashbacks are certainly for character development and some of them set the story up nicely for the bombs to be dropped.  Others however, are unnecessary details that did little other than show the suffering we already knew she held and expand the run time.  Complete as it was, I didn’t quite pick up on the significance of some of these wasted scenes and could have held better storytelling elements to help build the suspense.  Not all of these have to be eliminated, but editing could have used some tightening up to make everything more relevant.

 

Deeper supporting characters:  The movie is primarily about Natalie Portman, shocker there, and at the start it showed some promise that the other members of her team would be more integral to the mission.  Yet, things decrease fairly fast to where the other characters soon become rushed plot lines, trinkets to tax Leah (Portman)’s conscience and further push the psyche limitations of everyone.  Had they given some better relationships, a little more teamwork, and integration of all characters, perhaps then we would have had even stronger development and thrills to enjoy.

 

The Weird Ending: You know that feeling you get when after the big wait the ending turns out to be something you didn’t/or maybe never wanted to expect?  Well Annihilation was kind of like that for me.  The twist at the end was great, bringing relevance to some of the flashbacks, and really blowing your mind.  However, the entity itself is not quite as awe-inspiring or terrifying to say the least.  The source of the trouble is abstract, creepy, and very hard on the ears as it tries to communicate in sounds you have heard in the trailers. This final scene is super prolonged, and quite uncomfortable at times to watch as this dance of perverted awkwardness commences. Is it unique?  Yes, but it still didn’t quite match what I wanted.  And for those who don’t like abstract thinking and deciphering the conclusion yourself, hate to break it to you, but you won’t get all the explanations you might be looking for.  Yeah, it’s weird.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Annihilation may have looked weird, and it’s true it is an odd spectacle to behold to the general audience.  However, it is a true sci fi thriller in meaning, thought provoking, stunts, and world building, to the level that fans of the genre will be pleased with what the studio brought out to you. It’s weaknesses for me come in it went a little too far down the weird pathway, going too savage and abstract to provide a clear picture at times.  The use of flashbacks was stylish at times but overdone as it sacrificed the chances for other characters to get some more time on the screen.  Still, if you are looking for that dark, story that makes you scratch your head, then Annihilation is the movie for you to check out.  For those who qualify, this movie is worth a trip to the theater, but for others kip this as long as you can to avoid disturbing those with sensitive constitutions. 

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Drama/Fantasy:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0

For the “Win”chester?

Winchester

 

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

 

LIKES:

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

 

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

 

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

 

DISLIKES:

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

 

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

 

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

 

The VERDICT: 

 

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

 

My scores:

Biography/Fantasy/Horror: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

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