Live From New York, It’s A Late Night Surprise

Late Night Poster\

 

Celebrity status, it’s something we idolize yet at the same time dread given the lack of privacy that comes with it.  Like anything it is about balance and looking for ways to stand up for what you believe in and yet not become the political enemy.  In this modern world, that is hard to do, so why not make a comedy about it and try to bring it all to life in a new drama.  Welcome to Robbie’s Movie Reviews, and tonight we cover a movie with a diverse cast and some hopes for some type of buddy comedy with some potential to be different.  Tonight I cover:

 

Movie: Late Night (2019)

 

Director:

Nisha Ganatra

Writer:

Mindy Kaling (screenplay by)

Stars:

Emma ThompsonMindy KalingJohn Lithgow

 

 

LIKES:

  • Smartly Written
  • Decent Pacing
  • Witty and Funny At Many Times
  • Balanced At Many Points
  • Compassionate
  • Surprisingly Deep At Times
  • Acting

 

DISLIKES:

  • Cliché
  • Predictable
  • Some Upended Story Lines
  • Key Opportune Moments for Character Development Dropped
  • The Political Components

 

SUMMARY:

Comedies sometimes struggle to find a balance for me, trying too hard to be funny and sacrificing the plot for the sake of meme worthy laughs. Fortunately, Kaling’s writing has more intelligence embedded in, finding a way to poke fun at our modern world and yet make it relevant too.  It manages to find it’s pace well, and allows timing and delivery to outdo the quantity of normal jokes.  Late Night’s wit might be a little dryer, but then finds a way to liven it back up, pulling me back into so much needed labs.  It’s got a lot of balance into the mix as well, finding that fine line between cursing, sexual humor, and political pokes without making me want to bash my head in from over useAnd while it may be hard to believe, Late Night still manages to get through to the compassionate side of things finding some deep moments and face the issues that plague the world.  It helps make more endearing characters to play out this political comedy, which is kind of important for a movie like this.  The cornerstone though, is the acting.  So much of the extras in this film do their job well, secondary characters are important to the story and do well to support the main cast.  It’s the dynamic duo of Thompson and Kaling that really was the entertainment value for me.  Thompson plays her part so well, managing to inject her classiness into the role and yet hold so many more levels to dive into and discover.  Kaling’s normally over the top and aggressive political nature are better controlled, left to bring a semi-relatable character whose underdog tale of determination is inspiring to watch.  Their odd couple like relationships, when spread amidst the other cast members, makes for two very dynamic characters, who get to semi-evolve through the story and become an enjoyment to watch. 

And yet, the movie suffers at a few turns for me that take away from the writing that Kaling’s work brought out.  First come the cliché’ moments, a story with incredibly predictable plot dynamics that only fall short of a Hallmark special.  I would have liked a little more surprises in store, in particular with some of the outcomes of the plot development impasses that came to play.  Some of the side plots to the film tried to do this, but time constraints or maybe budget led to limitations that left some of these endings a little unrealistic and unfulfilling.  These moments could have increased the potential of the characters, allowing for some better character development than what we were getting at times.  Late Night still has those heartened times that are awesome to see, but other times felt dropped on the cutting floor and left to be seen later as if the growth of the character happened off screen.  And much like Kaling’s writing, the political moments manage to sometimes cross the line and drop into becoming price moments of empowerment that have become a staple in so many forms of media.  If that’s your stick, you’ll love these moments, but if you are like me… well to see the balance and wit dropped for the sake of a political monologue filled with overdramatic cheese factor is disappointing.

     Overall, I turned out to like the movie better than I anticipated, pleased to see story, characters and comedy integrated together in a workable formula.  The chemistry between the actors worked very ell for me, happy to see Kaling having a fantastic relationship with the legendary English actress that could work well in future projects.  Still, the movie falls victim to the modern trend of having to be directly political for the sake of being political.  It’s those moments where these factors get in the way of story and wit that don’t quite wrap it up for me.  So overall, it’s worth watching, but perhaps better left to watching on Netflix streaming vs. a theater worthy venture. 

 

My scores:

 

Comedy/Drama:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

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Rocketing To New Emotional Heights And Artistic Portrayals

Rocketman Poster

 

Musical biographies, an ability to take a peek in the lives of the stars many idolize from the music and screens.  In hopes of getting their music and the drama, these films require trying to find a balance that will please many who flock out to see the great wonder.  While usually they take one side over the other, you’ll find that rare treasure that finds the balance.  Today I finish my weekly reviews with the epic film that has been built up for the last several months.  Legendary Elton John and company have put out a film to try to capture the legendary rock icon on his journey to greatness.  What’s the verdict?  Robbie K here to review:

 

Movie: Rocketman (2019)

 

Director:

Dexter Fletcher

Writer:

Lee Hall (screenplay)

Stars:

Taron EgertonJamie BellRichard Madden

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • Make Up
  • Costumes
  • Setting/Special Effects
  • Musical Numbers
  • The Emotional Lessons/Moments

 

DISLIKES:

  • Slow At Times
  • Not Quite As Censored
  • Movie Dramatic Moments Over Concert Approach
  • Real Vs. Exaggerated
  • Not The Same Music Impact for me

 

SUMMARY:

To recreate a living legend you have to hire the right person and Taron Egerton killed it with the recreation of Sir Elton John. The mannerisms, the look, and the showmanship are all captured brilliantly in his performance, playing the tormented soul that is the Rocketman.  While the rest of the cast supports and plays their parts well, it is the focus on Egerton that draws everything into the movie. His vocal performance shows off his wide range of skills and he rounds out the full role with his talent.   Hollywood brings the full arsenal of creation into the film, doing wonderful work on the make up as Elton ages, with not only facial changes but hair line. The recreation of his costumes mirror the performers quite well in terms of detail in all the spectacle that they were. Going along so well is an impressive set design and shooting locations that drop us back in time and places that he made famous.  It’s these special effects that help bring you into the full moment of the movie as well as increasing the spectacle of the numbers.  Rocketman’s musical numbers go on the trend of utilizing the song and dance routine typical of a musical and cueing them to potentially hint at the points/events of their creation.  If you love those moments from High School Musical and show tunes of the theaters, then the numbers should get you real good, with similar techniques inspiring and highlighting some of his eccentric works.  It’s a different style compared to Bohemian, but the traditional route should get lovers of the genre smiling and potentially singing in glee.  And to top it all off, this movie really hits one in the heart, as you learn about Elton’s demons and the lessons he had to learn along the way.  The ending in particular gave me goosebumps, and really puts a perspective on someone I never even remotely knew compared to all his numbers.

            Yet, the thing about Rocketman is the approach they chose did not quite have the spunk and energy of Bohemian Rhapsody’s melody. The pace is slow at times, drawing on the drama to fill the gaps rather than the comedy/energy of the numbers.  For those who love the deep dive into the darker aspects of life, you’ve got it in this film, though I could have done more for the censorship myself, especially if it could have led to more concert and musical numbers.  In addition, the analysis of overdramatic vs. real is always a question, especially given how the drama moments take a firm grasp on this movie.  I myself like more of the musical spectacle and seeing that creative process, rather than getting downtrodden at the demons that plague us all.  And while I appreciate these moments quite well, and attempt to learn from this, I missed the full-blown musical edge that I’ve gotten in some other films, especially because those numbers were not interrupted like in this film.  As such, the numbers did not affect me as much as those in Bohemian Rhapsody, despite the mental moments they addressed.

Overall, Rocketman is a beautiful movie, focusing on the artistic side of things vs the full-blown concert relieving.  Utilizing the pain and struggles of the artist, the movie is grounded in the plot of discovery, recovery, and all out creation from the motivations life throws at us.  The special effects and showmanship will have musical numbers and John fans amazed, watching the recreation of the wonders unfold in modern day dynamics.  As much as these moments moved me though, the movie is by far for those with a passion for the drama vs the music itself.  Therefore, this movie is definitely a theater visit, but don’t go in expecting a repeat of Bohemian in terms of straight up musical grandiosity, they may not quite enjoy this as much, especially when the numbers are interrupted. Still a fine musical biography to say the least and worth it for those who like Jersey Boys, Get Up Off That Thing, and musical numbers from theater. 

 

My scores are:

Biography/Drama/Music: 8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

A Journey Towards Improvement

A Dog's Journey Poster

 

 

 

Animal movies are always a mixture in terms of emotions from funny to awfully sad.  If you are an animal lover, directors love to get the tears rolling with sequences and scenes that will break your heart and have you pine for four legged friends.  This weekend, a sequel to a movie that was received with mixed reviews due to PR stunts, is going to try again in an attempt to make amends and hopefully have a better tale.  Robbie K coming at you with another review, this time on the film:

 

A Dog’s Journey: 2019

 

Director:

Gail Mancuso

Writers:

  1. Bruce Cameron(book), W. Bruce Cameron (screenplay)

Stars:

Josh GadDennis QuaidKathryn Prescott

 

 

LIKES:

 

Cute

Dog’s adorable and impressively trained.

Much Better Pace

Josh Gad’s voice acting

A More Cohesive Story

Funnier Than Last Time

Decent Finale

 

DISLIKES:

 

Some Actors Really Not Needed

Sad Moments Again

Unnecessary Story Component

Depressing

Trailers Reveal too much

 

 

Fans who like these movies may like this film:

Dog’s Purpose

Dog’s way Home

Old Yeller

Movies with revival and journey home

 

SUMMARY:

 

The movie had to do some damage control from the first and for the most part the movie accomplishes the goal on many levels.  It’s cute, primarily thanks to the dogs they selected and the talented performances from those who cannot speak.  The canine thespians show off their impressive training and managed to add that cute/cuddly component that dog lovers latch onto. The extra characteristics and comedy aspect are from Josh Gad who’s voice acting mimics the looks and energy of his animal avatars quite well, again adding that extra adorable nature into the mix.  Utilizing the animals well, the movie helps add some hope and optimism to the story at hand, which provides that entertainment aspect.  In addition, the movie also has some stronger pacing to avoid getting lost in the monotonous sadness that does nothing but spread out the movie. The comedy provided by the voice acting and the puppies also does a wonderful job of adding entertainment value, with well-timed jokes and a delivery style that fits so well with this film, only crossing the lines occasionally. Perhaps things worked better as well due to the more cohesive story, an underlying and defined plot that ties each segment together and puts a purpose and goal to work towards. Everything finally wraps up nicely at the end and perhaps shows that a salvageable ending can be obtained despite the rocky opening.

Yet the movie still has components that I’m not the biggest fan of.  It starts with some of the actors cast into the film, the trailers suggest lots of use of Quaid and his human companions, but outside of the various ages of C.J., the human actors promoted don’t quite sell me in their involvement to this movie, outside of some key moments to work towards the ending.  More things could have been unleashed to assist with the story and perhaps make their inclusion worthwhile.  Sad moments are still present and even going in knowing there are times where the amount of suffering seen is just not enjoyable and we could have been spared some of this.  In addition, there is one dog story that as cute as the puppy was, held little importance to the story, though providing another sad scene to take the wind out of your sails. Despite some of the lighter moments, the movie still has an overlying atmosphere of depression meaning that this one will not be for those who are suffering from any down times.  If you wish to take a trial, check the trailers again, they’ll give you enough warning, but if you want surprises, then make sure to avoid this as the trailers are going to give a good amount away.

Overall, the movie is a major improvement over the first one for me in terms of better storytelling and utilization of cuteness.  This leads to more entertainment value, a better pace and some better outlooks that the first movie just could not capture in its presentation.  Yet, the movie cannot escape the cloud of depression that continues to hover over, focusing too much on extending the sad moments and sometimes adding useless scenes that offered little more than more depression involved with these animals.  Given all of this, it is still worth a watch, but you need to be ready for potential tear jerkers, especially in animal lover populations. My scores are:

 

Adventure/Comedy/Drama: 7.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

Trying to Shine In New Lights. A Contemporary Romance

 

The Sun Is Also a Star Poster

 

New week and time for a new style of review.  Today’s first review is all about the wave of hits that the drama and romance genres hold in teenage culture.  Another book turned to film, Hollywood is hoping to take this week as a means to capitalize on the author’s work.  Yet, much of the market is flooded with generic knock offs and repeats that come famous on channels like Hallmark and Lifetime.  Will today’s film be all about seeing if it can defy the trend of mundane and become the next staple in cinema history?  Robbie K here to provide a review on:

 

Movie: The Sun Is Also A Star (2019)

 

Director:

Ry Russo-Young

Writers:

Tracy Oliver (screenplay), Nicola Yoon (novel)

Stars:

Yara ShahidiCharles MeltonKeong Sim

 

 

LIKES:

 

Good Acting

Fitting Music

Nice Use of Background Details/Connecting

A Bit Different of A Twist

 

DISLIKES:

 

Very Cliché

Predictable

Very Rushed

Cheesy At Times

Other Characters Only Substantially Used

Stories that are Blunt

Ending That’s Mundane

Does not Feel Like A Love Story

Fans Who Like These Movies May Like This Film:

Notebook

Fault In our Stars

Five Feet Apart

One Day

 

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

In regards to this film, The Sun Is Also Star feels more like a buddy adventure than a true love story.  The acting between Melton and Shahidi has good chemistry, filled with a dynamic that holds the emotional spectrum that is common of the characters in these types of films.  It helps bring a relationship to gear on to and will most likely be relatable to the key demographic.  Their story holds some unique flavor to it compare to others by offering a twist in the form of a very set timeline along with an ending that offers a refreshing take on these types of films. My favorite part would be more so the background details that somehow tell another part of the story, hidden nods for details that will later be revealed in the ending. 

Yet, the film does not quite deliver in the usual pizazz that these movies hold, getting too caught up in the one-day time limit to deliver on the quality cries and emotions these films like to use. Still it does not escape the predictable and cliché story telling that fans love, but rather than true love and a believable romance we instead get a very cheesy tale that offers little sustenance.  The film feels more like two friends starting out on a friendship, that rapidly changes as each hour passes.  In addition, many of the tales have blunt finishes, with the secondary characters adding little to the movie overall, which was a shame given all the personal problems the leading characters had with their family’s style of raising them.

Overall, the movie is not bad, a nice attempt at changing the formula that has been a staple in the genre.  Sadly, the movie feels a little rushed, leaving much of the meat of the book remaining in the pages instead of onscreen.  This adventure is not quite the epic love story that so many fall in love with, but at the same time it at least brings some emotional moments and a relationship that has believable components to it.  It’s a relevant story to the target audience and I feel that it has good value as a home viewing rather than a theater visit, but overall missing that full spark that romance movies bring. 

 

My scores are:

Drama/Romance:  7.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

Fellowship Of Ideas Brings Artistic and Symbolism To Lordly Standards

Tolkien Poster

            The legendary story of adventure, quests, love, magic, and fellowship.  To many, the legendary adventures of Frodo and the game are immortalized in the epic film franchise crafted by Peter Jackson, whose world crafting and adventure were the stuff of legends as the realm of Middle Earth was brought to life.  Yet what about the man who imagined it all up, who came up with the language to give birth to the fantasy world beloved by so many. Well, tonight’s film hopes to give some insight into his life and perhaps motivate us to craft our own tales through the journey he took.  Robbie K here to craft another review as he takes on:

 

Movie: Tolkien (2019)

Director:

Dome Karukoski

Writers:

David GleesonStephen Beresford

Stars:

Nicholas HoultLily CollinsColm Meaney

 

LIKES:

 

Acting

Graphics

Music

Beauty

Symbolism

Picking Out Things

 

SUMMARY: A biopic such as this requires engaging performances to bring the legendary figures to life and fortunately this movie has brought it’s cast together to form its own fellowship.  Hoult’s group bonds with that English wit, full of fun and sarcasm as the brotherhood forms with each passing year.  Lily Collins as the love interest is a usual role for her, but the direction grants her some options to bring out her motivational monologue skills that were a wonderful compliment to the struggles Hoult portrays in the legendary writer. This duos chemistry is impressive, capable of bringing the tale to life.

Of course, we need to see the vision of Tolkien’s mind brought to life so that we can potentially get an idea of how he viewed the world to make his own world.  Director Karukoski achieves this through the use of a number of camera work, special effects and audio tricks to help make this come to life.  The result is that the movie is an artistic wonder, bringing the dark designs of Jackson’s work and simplifying them into a version that seems to match the “hallucinations” of Tolkien’s mind. As the story evolves and more of his journey begins unfolding, the movie continues to evolve the art style to show the beauty of the hero’s journey and the struggles about discovery. All the beauty of the life events and symbolism of what each part of Tolkien’s life meant in relationship to his works makes is captured in the wonderful cinematography and acting, all blending together to portray how the spirts of the art work in the harshest most brilliant ways.  To help add that extra magic, the music they chose in the forms of sonatas, piano work, and dynamic music pieces was something I particularly liked the most. Captivating scores are what add that emotional beauty to me as well, almost mirroring the inner soul of the characters involved.

Yet all the artistic licenses they took in this movie, the thing I particularly liked was the treasure hunt of references to the book in Tolkien’s life.  In his journey for the Hobbit, Tolkien is all about dropping hints of motivation for his world and the characters that inhabit them.  Some of the hints are obvious in the mind’s eye sequences where the beasts and creatures manifest in some weird hallucination, while others are a little harder to pick up, hiding in the common dialogue or background much like the elusive treasure his series is about.  It’s that element that adds a level of fun to the movie for the fans like me to help offset some of the slower parts to the film.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow

A Little Too Artistic

Predictable Story

A little disjointed

Perhaps Over Dramatized

Not Quite the Quest I envisioned.

 

SUMMARY:

My fellow reviewers are right in the terms that Tolkien may be a bit boring for the common audience member and much of this has to do with the very thing that makes it beautiful, the artistic presentation.  Tolkien’s pace is about hitting key points of his life and some of these moments don’t have quite the entertainment aspect we’ve come to love as an audience.  Instead the disjointed moments are sort of skipped, tied together in his memories as he goes through the war, are a little too nonlinear causing a semi-coherent story about how he came up with work.  The fact that the ending is predictable makes the constant circling around the obvious ending a little tiresome given the pacing.

Yet the biggest dislikes have to involve the missing that movie magic that makes the entertainment factor for the movies some of the most enjoyable.  I needed that cohesive story and liberties to help glue the story into a cohesive tale that wasn’t so artistic and a little more direct to help capture the spirit of the quest.  I was hoping that we would see more of him walking through the world with an eye for his motivation, sort of seeing the story’s writing as he planned it out. Instead, getting caught up in the life drama and how he struggled to write was not quite the quest I had envisioned upon watching the trailers for this film.  Without this uniting quest and cliché look at the creation, the artistic liberties got a little too in the way of the storytelling which is going to limit the audience scope they may have looked for. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Tolkien is a beautiful film, showing that much like Tolkien’s journey, artistic splendor is all about the journey to find the strength to create.  It has fantastic acting, great use of audio and visual works to make it a symbolism of beauty and wonder, and does enough subtle hinting with the references to make it the treasure hunt mentioned at the beginning of the movie.  And yet, while it is the strongest part of the movie it also puts a lot of limitations on it as well.  The movie gets lost in the symbolism and artistic license, making the film a little more segmented and denser than what most will look for and limiting the audiences scope.  Therefore, this movies is not going to be for the common fan and would recommend checking this one out at home unless you are a diehard Tolkien fan. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/War: 7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

 

Intruding On New Takes Of Old Tales

 

 

The Intruder Poster

 

Dramas/Thrillers, the lifeblood of the very world of entertainment.  It’s within this genre that one finds some of the darkest tales, plunging into the fathoms of imagination that most dread to step into.  Yet, this genre sometimes gets a little too broad in spectrum, and tends to go to extremes that leaves the plots a little grandiose and run of the mill.  Hi Robbie K back with another review on the latest movie to hit the silver screen, hoping to shed some light and help you pick your movie poison.  I take a look at:

 

Movie: The Intruder (2019)

 

Director:

Deon Taylor

Writer:

David Loughery

Stars:

Meagan GoodDennis QuaidMichael Ealy

 

LIKES:

 

Soundtrack

Good Acting

Creepy Character Development

Beautiful Setting in many ways

Decent Evolution of Suspense

Character Centric Story:

 

Summary:

 

The soundtrack might be a rough way to open the review, but The Intruder is all about bringing cultures to the tale and part of that is music.  A fantastic selection of modern-day styles that represent the culture, the movie integrates the tracks into key scenes that sort of add ambience to the typical genre shots (making love and driving cars).  This added layer though is only a glazing to the acting that brings the characters to life on hand.  Meagan Good is well good at her work taking a common role and in some ways refreshing it to make it interesting, engaging and compassionate that you feel for the character. Michael Ealy dives a little more into the extreme role of hotheaded decisions and emotional moments that makes fans love the genre. Yet it’s Dennis Quaid who I think gets the nod for his performance in this movie.  His character is creepy, and he executes all the mannerisms and delivery needed to craft a thriller villain.  The smile that shows innocence yet insanity, the subtle laughs that get under your skin as they denote the edge about to be reached, and even more the temper that comes when these people do not get their way. It’s fantastic development that greatly spans the movie, taking months to achieve instead of days and seeing that evolution.  That is the making of a good casting for this genre for me.

But the characters need a setting to play in and The Intruder’s playground is one that is both aesthetically beautiful and haunting at the same time.  Again representing the themes of old vs. new, the house known as Foxglove holds stunning engineering work that ropes the modern society in, primarily for stunning view, gorgeous décor, and the atmosphere it brings.  Yet, the open floors, beautiful antiquated halls, and the multilevel house offers many shadows, sounds and ambiguity to get the tension going and drop the comfort level way down. In utilizing the characters, spreading the development over the story and utilizing such a playground, the Intruder is able to make an engaging level of suspense that keeps you into the series, much like a mini-series does.  Throw in the focus on characters and not scares, and again you begin to see a tale that finds its pace and keeps you interested in characters who extend past the one-dimensional outlook these characters often have.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Predictable

Trailers ruin much

So Much More Potential

Some Character balancing

Not the Most Intense ending

Still Idiotic Decisions

 

SUMMARY:  Despite the good this movie accomplished, it still falls victim to some of the trademarks that come with the Soap Opera like approach. It’s predictable, with many of the “surprising” components deduced a mile away based on the cliché plot points they love to tell.  In regards to this movie, the two trailers I have seen give away much of the film and in seeing that you can piece together much of what will happen way before you get to the scene.  This predictability is a shame because the potential they were building was set to be a potential memorable moment in the drama/thriller history, primarily in some more tactics Quaid’s character could do and in the climactic chase to be had. But again this movie failed to deliver on that promise by sort of short sighting the ending.  Instead of thrilling games of survival in the very house they chose, the last bout is a bit more boasting and brutish combat that ends rather quickly and unimpressively.  That simplicity is emotionally fulfilling in the sense of justice, but given how they were building on two of the characters, I had hoped for a little more fulfillment in this final scene.  The other component that would have been nice, as agreed by at least two of my audience members comments, the smart characters we were seeing were quite idiotic in their approach.  Despite all the things available at their hands, the “stress” of the moment appeared to have robbed them of their brains to achieve the goal they were looking for. It won’t bother many, but for this reviewer it takes away from the character work they had done in this story.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Better than I had anticipated, the Intruder manages to turn back the drama/thriller to an age of character focus instead of scares. Quaid in particular manages to take a simple role and craft it into a villain that you get hooked on watching, while his “prey” are characters with more dimensions and personality proving they aren’t just meant for knife and ax fodder.  Utilizing the setting and characters well, it’s the drama that comes closer to balance than many of the films I review.  Yet, the full potential of the characters was not quite reached for this reviewer, falling victim to predictable plots, time restraints, and an ending that again is cliché and more attuned to those wanting to lead with their hearts than heads.  Still all in all, it’s a movie that at least shows potential for future movies of this category to have a chance at story telling.  Worth a trip to the theater?  My opinion is no, as this is still a Lifetime film pumped up on budget, but check it out at home viewing.

 

My scores:

Drama/Horror/Mystery: 7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

That’s The Spirit

Teen Spirit Poster

 

With all the big events coming up, it’s sometimes not surprising to have some other films sneak beneath the radar.  Without advertising, these films go unnoticed, a weird title standing out in a smaller theater, dwarfed by the juggernauts of the cinema world.  Today, I ended my review run with a look at one of these movies, hoping to get some fun and surprises in store.  Checking out a movie with little knowledge, this is another Robbie K’s movie reviews as we check out:

 

Teen Spirit (2019)

 

Director:

Max Minghella

Writer:

Max Minghella

Stars:

Elle FanningAgnieszka GrochowskaArchie Madekwe

 

 

LIKES:

  • The Pace
  • The Character Portrayal
  • The Journey
  • The Chemistry
  • The Story Structure
  • The Performances, Especially the end one
  • The Music

 

SUMMARY:  Coming out of the gate, movies that are a little more than independent often come out a bit slower for my taste, but in this movie the spirit keeps things going.  Not too fast, but not too slow, Teen spirit finds a nice balance to cram enough stuff in and keep the entertainment factor going.  It works well with keeping things moving and getting to the climactic moments without skipping too much stuff.  What helps keep this pace going starts with the character portrayal, a teenage like Cinderella story that shows the hardships and begins to expand up on the complex character that Violet is.  The journey to which tests her is familiar, but holds the components necessary to grow and lash on to the relevant character that she is.  Elle Fanning’s acting, I thought, was well selected, utilizing her demeanor from several other movies and molding it into a familiar character with a slight twist.  The director I believed utilized the modern Cinderella portrayal and integrated it well with actors/actresses who meshed well to again fashion a believable relationship.  It’s this chemistry and inclusion of so many characters that I believe grounds some of the extreme moments of the character.

Yet the character/acting is only one part of the mix, and the story structure itself helps to revive the excitement of performing. In a presentation that feels part Black Swan (without the sexual aggressiveness) meeting a teenage singing spectacle, Teen Spirit takes a familiar tale and keeps it focused on its goal of blending the two worlds. Many elements are touched upon Violet’s life and many secondary characters help her explore those different aspects and integrated this into the tale.  Being a movie about performing, you are hoping for a little pep in the step right? Well, Spirit has you covered as there are some emotionally rich performances that should speak to a number of members.  Emotional ballads, saucy diva songs, and a few covers should help get some toes tapping, while also emphasizing the mind of the lead character.  Again, the use of music and performance to add to the struggle and impasses of the film, helps grant some originality to this familiar plot. Finally, the music is the key to my enjoyment in this film.  A fantastic selection of songs, Teen spirit has found a nice blend of original songs, fun covers, and use of some energetic tracks that are not only fun, but again fit well to the scenes.  I believe this may have been the component to turn me into the movie more, and hope you like it too.

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Mostly predictable
  • Touch and Go on some story elements
  • More Performances, especially with the other guys
  • The Credit scenes

 

SUMMARY: As much fun as I had with the movie, there were still some things that needed some rehearsal to help get it perfect.  First, the tale was predictable, only a few moments hanging in the balance to whether or not they would surprise me. Yet, working with the timing, and seeing the clues, it was not hard to decipher the grand finale.  Fortunately, the other aspects of the film were enough to distract from this, but they also open up the door to another limitation.  Violet’s life has some rather shocking trials and some openings to further expand her character.  The problem is, with all the components they wanted to place in this film it resulted in these problems being touch and go.  Secondary arcs and potential for character growth were dropped very quickly, sometimes solved in the blink of an eye and other times left to fade into bare memories.  Others are open ended leading to a possible sequel, but I would have loved some extra time into the movie to further explore these components or perhaps drop a few impasses to allow for others to get development. This was especially true for the coach she meets early on in the film, the most engaging relationship of the bunch and the one that had much pushed to the side.

It’s a bit frustrating for me, but again the entertainment factor helps hide it, though again this brings up another limitation.  For a movie about competition, Teen Spirit does a poor job of engaging in the rivalry aspect and actually showing that competition.  After a semi-flash introduction, and the potential to bring about more acts, this film surprisingly left little in the development of their rivals.  Many of these acts are looks alone, a mere placeholder to remind you this is a competition.  Sadly, outside of one act and a few montage shots, these groups are forgotten characters that serve little purpose other than stir the drama plot ever so slightly.  I would have liked a little more expansion to these moments and some better competition build up to add to the suspense of the moment, despite the cost of character development.  It would have added a little more flash, offered some openings for story told through song, the aspect I really liked.  Finally, the end credit scenes were a nice tie up to the ambiguous ending, but it also paved the way for some unnecessary shots and the potential for a sequel I don’t think I would fit in this world.  Still, only time will tell the relevance of this scene, for alone it is merely extra fluff to offset some of the work this film did.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Teen Spirit has a lot packed in its run time, and the entertainment factor is the key to why this film works as well as it does.  Storytelling, acting, and character development are all functional and simplistic enough they making a guiding framework, though their predictability is a little lackluster.  No, for me the entertaining relationships, the engaging pace, and the fun of the numbers and music will be the aspect that remains strong in my mind, especially in its use of storytelling and the energy it puts out.  It’s true that Teen Spirit is not the original story, but it’s reality based and movie magic will be a combination I feel will hit many.  Still, it needs to work on balancing plot and more importantly choosing which components to focus on to help provide sustenance and suspense.

 

 

My scores are:

Drama/Music:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0