Nolan, Dun Got It Right

Dunkirk

 

War, huh, yeah, what is it good for?  Entertaining movies, that is what it is good for.  Hollywood has numerous examples of wars from the various historical times in our human legacy. Many of these installments focus on a hero who saved the war, or a band of brothers that bravely faced the odds to hold the line.  In most cases though, you can bet there will be violence, explosions, and often graphic portrayals of the hell contained in our squabbles.  I finish my weekend reviews with Dunkirk, which is the latest installment in the Christopher Nolan library.  Can the Dark Knight director work his magic in war?  Or does it fizzle out like a dud bomb.  Robbie K here to give his opinions.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

Layered Story:  Many war movies are the linear tales of the hero who will win the battle.  Dunkirk diverts from this main path and instead presents its plot from three viewpoints that overlap at various times.  A cryptic opening doesn’t do much to explain this, but eventually the plots coincide and your mind is blown by the presentation.  This element, though confusing at times, adds that unique flare to the movie that keeps your interest piqued as you connect the journeys of those involved.  In addition, the multiple viewpoints give you a more complete picture of the war, further bringing the history to life in a manner Hollywood special effects is famous for.

 

Realism:  We know the doctoring editing and story writers can make to score big bucks in the box office.  These moments often lead to overdramatic, eye-rolling moments that war dramas can be.  Dunkirk again shines in the unique department in terms of crafting the story to be realistic in many details.  You’ll be pulled into the war in this film, grounded in the nightmares that plague the battlefields and the internal struggle that all involved face.  I felt plagued with the emotional guilt in the choices made in this film, while also concerned with the consequences that could follow those choices. The film’s focus on the people and not the battle works on so many levels, and makes you interested in the characters more so than the special effects.  Nice choice again Noland!

 

The Cinematography:  Dunkirk doesn’t have a lot of lines, award winning dialogue, or even one-liners that we as humans like.  Instead it is the cinematography and editing that bring Dunkirk to life and make it shine in the theater’s dark halls.   While the special effects are certainly impressive (though not that showy), it’s really the camera work that brings the mood out in the form of hope seeking faces that are suffering through the onslaught dealt to them.  Throw in the powerful musical score and mix in the little line delivery and you get that recipe for emotional bombardment that brings respect, empathy, and pride of the sacrifices made by troops long ago.

 

Short run time:  Such a dynamic, sounds like it would take forever…fortunately Nolan’s direction kept the movie under 2 hours and brought quality out in that short time.  This is an example of good directing and editing, and proof that you can have a quality film in a short time limit.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Missing that Hollywood Story:  Realism is good, but I certainly missed having a flared-up story to grip onto.  Dunkirk is a quality movie, but it isn’t as much fun as I have had with other war movies.  It lacks some of the big, bang excitement made famous in other war movies, and the realistic psychological approach can drag at times.  The result is not the action-packed survival I had hoped for, but I can always rewatch Hacksaw Ridge for that. And while I enjoyed the layered story approach, I again think it was confusing at times to piece things together without a central story, plot, or goal (outside of survival/rescue) to hook onto.

 

The placement of certain scenes: My buddy and I agreed that there were points to this movie that were difficult to follow.  Much of this came from the odd placement of clips in the movie and the rapid transitions between these various stories with little guidance.  Things do get better when the lines start to come together, but there are still scenes that still stay confusing at points until the end of the movie.  In addition, the pacing of the stories was uneven at times, with a couple of stories rapidly concluding (so you think), only to reappear after a prolonged gap.  Not the biggest weakness, but things could have been a little better oriented for me.

 

Depressing:  We know war sucks, and this movie’s portrayal of the loss of hope amplifies those feelings. There are so many elements of depression in this movie that you may feel a little down following the opening.  I felt a little tired during this movie, especially during the drawn-out moments that were more depressing and less stressing.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Dunkirk is certainly one of the more artistic and clever portrayals of war, dropping Hollywood flare for realism.  Nolan’s impressive directing opens up new worlds of war theater and keeps things fresh with the impressive displays of heroism.  Yet all the good the cinematography and directing is… I missed the Hollywood flare that cinemas bring.  Without that story/entertainment value to it… Dunkirk has some confusing presentations and dragged out moments that can weigh heavy on you.  Still, this movie has plenty to qualify a visit to the theater, and one of the better movies of the summer.  Not the epic wartime thriller, but certainly one of the more realistic, war dramas I have ever seen. 

 

My scores:

 

Action/Drama/History:  9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

 

 

Femme Fatales of Film

With all the movies coming out in this modern day, there certainly are a lot of heroes that have emerged from literature and onto the silver screen.  Over the decades, we know that many movies do tend to have a male superhero (Iron Man, Captain America, John Wayne and the various cowboy flicks) to save the day.  In this modern era though, things are changing and with it comes a new wave of heroes, or should I say heroines who are stepping up to the plate to battle evil.  With Wonder Woman tearing her way through theaters in all her majestic glory, a friend of mine asked to comment on some of the leading ladies that have shown up on the big screen. In this comparison, we’ll talk about what they represent, some limitations, and compare the movies they have been in.  Note: This is meant to be more constructive conversation about the MOVIE counterparts and no insults, just me doing my normal reviews.

 

 

Wonder Woman:

 

Wonder woman 2

 

Let’s start with the champion herself.  The Amazonian princess is the heroine that many femme fatales are compared to.  Diana is the representation of strength, justice, discipline, and standing up for all who are in need.  Such qualities are sure to motivate the masses to take action and fight for what is right in their lives, yielding to almost no one.  Wonder Woman’s skills are incredible starting with her combat skills and the mastery of the art of weaponry.  Her skills during Batman vs. Superman gave us a taste of super abilities as she leapt into the fray between Doomsday, the man of steel, and the dark knight.  Fending off the two warriors with her shield and mystical sword, Diana’s martial arts were impressive.  Yet her solo film only further amplified her abilities, throwing the lasso, gauntlets, and fists as she pounds the German army into dust.  Wonder Woman’s abilities are certainly empowering to any woman of any age, having them cheer and perhaps motivating them to stand up to the bullies in their lives.

 

Yet Wonder Woman’s butt kicking abilities aren’t the only thing that speaks to the audience.  “With great power, comes great responsibility” to quote Uncle Ben, and no hero in the cinematic universe portrays this more than Diana.  She doesn’t boast her strength and destroy anybody she sees, but rather finds the areas to where her abilities are needs and put them into the mix.  Much of the movie involves utilizing her powers to protect than to destroy, preferring to focus her strength into only those she seeks to dethrone. What’s fortunate for her, is a sense of justice that many heroes fail to have, reading situations to determine whom she can help.  No scene is a better portrayal of this than her stepping out into no man’s land, treading the wasteland of doom to face an onslaught an entire army could not even distract let alone defeat.  Diana’s goals of understanding humans, showing empathy for her fellow warriors, and goal of bringing peace are all qualities to admire in a heroine.  And even better is her ability to use the love of humans and peace to fuel her motivation even more. 

 

Yet there is a weakness to her.  As no hero is perfect, Wonder Woman’s main flaw is letting her pride get in the way of logical thinking…sometimes.  In the film, you see that her determination, while noble, sometimes leaves her single minded, unable to deter from her goal and analyze the strategy at hand.  She wants to get things done fast and efficiently, but her initial plan to achieve that goal is often not the appropriate means to accomplish it.  This is evidenced by her wanting to go to the frontline immediately instead of working with a group who knew the world better.  Such blinded devotion allowed her pride to get in the way, not allowing others to assist her and potentially teach her the tricks of the trade.  I guess if it wasn’t an amazon, it wasn’t a proper teacher, and there were times in the movie she failed to understand the qualms her fellow soldiers had to face, (see the scene with Charlie not shooting).  And as we saw, there were a few times this led to some mistakes happening, leading her to suffer under the weight of being wrong.

 

Character aside, let’s talk about the movie.  For more info read my review, but Wonder Woman is certainly one of the best DC movies to hit the silver screen.  Action wise it’s impressive, with two of three fights beautifully choreographed to show off the might of the amazons.  While the slow slashing effect is a little over done, the scenes are incredible displays of CGI meeting live action and an impressive dance of the “wonder’ful woman paving the way to victory.  Throughout the entire movie, you grow with Wonder Woman, feeling the emotional turmoil and curiosity building as war unveils more of the splendid things life has to offer.  To have such strong character development, with a moving pace and action to match up with it, is a skill many directors fail to accomplish.  And with a few fun jokes thrown into the mix, one can’t help but feel enjoyment with this movie. 

 

In regards to the weaknesses of the film, a band of soldiers who didn’t have much to contribute outside a few spiritual discoveries was my main flaw with this movie.  Why even try to build up a team of heroes if you aren’t going to do much with them?  That was the question I still have.  An additional qualm is again some of the overdramatic special effect use and some loose ends that were left unanswered, or at least left for the sequel.  Despite these qualms though, Wonder Woman is certainly one of the stronger superhero movies to be seen in a while.

 

 

Rey (Star Wars Episode VII)

star-wars-rey-bb-8-sixth-scale-set-hot-toys-silo-902612

With the release of the new Star Wars franchise, one can’t help but think of the leading lady Rey! The definition of woman facing the elements, Rey had to face undesirable conditions in the deserts of Jakku and the unruly bunch who dwell there.  Yet unlike others who choose to hide from the challenge, Rey takes to all obstacles with a dedication to survive and prove herself.  That only becomes more evident when the First Order attempts to destroy she and her friends and she takes the Falcon by the control stick and heads face first into laser infused battles at hand.  Soon the mystical abilities of the Force awaken and Rey’s skills grow exponentially to shape her into the makings of a great warrior.  Rey is strong, smart, and fearless, qualities we all know make for an entertaining heroine.  And her crafty skills of engineering and piloting are something often missed in many of the heroes today.

 

Her main weakness is her rash abilities to rush into things.  Many times, Rey chooses to act first and contemplate later, often getting herself into situations she didn’t quite want to be in.  While this certainly brings entertainment in regards to the movie, this personality quark is not something to leave untampered for fear of what it might lead to.  Her stubbornness can also be considered a weakness, for her sheer will to stay on her “home” planet Jakku and not receive help because she can do it better are not qualities one would like in a heroine.  This control level is not my favorite component of her, but hey we all have our weaknesses.  Regardless of the limitations, Rey is a great opener to the Disney franchise and one that a few of my friends have tagged on to as the leader of the new series.

 

In regards to the movie, well Force Awakens was a great opener in the Star Wars Renaissance that accomplished the goal of roping us back into the series.  With decent action, nostalgia, and some decent storytelling, the stage has been set for what will hopefully be a dynamite second installment to the franchise.  While I like Rey a lot, one character/story limitation is how powerful she is at the beginning.  Placing girl power aside, we’ve not seen any Jedi at the start (with no training) be able to accomplish the things she was able to do.  To unleash this massive control of the force as well as fight a person trained years ahead of her and win was a bit of a stretch for me.  Even more frustrating is the lack of explanation as to purpose, which will hopefully (and with class) be explained in the coming installment.  Still, to start so powerful sets the bar high, to which they may not be able to deliver.

 

 

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

Katniss

Whew sacred ground when talking about this one, but let’s go ahead and talk about the champion of district 12.  Katniss is perhaps one of the most respectable and ragingly annoying heroes in a series.  She’s a survivor that is for sure, taking care of her family by hunting and trading with the on-edge frontier town.  Her self-sacrificing nature is admirable and her skills with a bow even more so, as she fights the odds thrown at her in the Hunger Games.  As her rebellious side grows and she starts defying the Capital with more angst leading to a rebellion that begins to strike back. The girl’s bravery and courage is incredible, fueling her to do the things we only dream of doing.  I mean had it not been for her…that rebellion would barely have gotten off the ground.

 

Katniss weaknesses’ start with her reluctance to be helped by most people.  The independence thing is awesome, but once she starts to get allies who have proven themselves to her, her reluctance to let them help is frustrating.  So much unnecessary conflict arose from this ability to admit help was needed became annoying as it dragged it out.  Sure, it’s okay she was untrusting, I mean look at her entire life journey, but come on… how much do we have to put up with when we know she will break down.  Yet her even bigger weakness is her unrelenting anger towards well almost everyone.  Like a burning fire, Katniss has rage deep within that is caged and ready to burst out.  While it certainly fuels her desire to survive, it also blinds her to many things that are actually beneficial.  Such uncontrolled anger more than once dropped her into traps, and left her vulnerable to the political manipulations of the egotistical politicians using her as a pawn.  Unlike the Hulk who becomes indestructible, Katniss’ anger only leads her to screaming more and firing more arrows.  Not the best quality in my book.

 

In regards to the movie, Jennifer Lawrence has many personalities that match the protagonist of the series. In all honesty, she models the very character that I read about in the books all those years ago.  The cinematography in particular brings Katniss out in the epic light we always pictured, and the action scenes to boot mirror much of excitement in the book.  In regards to the movies themselves… they are pretty good for the most part.  Movie one captured the essence of the film, albeit really gipped us on some of the cooler aspects Suzanne Collins lavished on in the first book.  Once the second movie came in though, the studio had gotten their act together and crafted a film that was a perfect match to the book across all accounts, including clearing up that confusion at the end.  Movie three did a nice job of spicing up a rather boring part of the book trilogy and added some finesse to what was a rather long drawl. Unfortunately, movie four couldn’t keep up with that magic for me, and left me disappointed at what was supposed to be the most intense moment of the movie.  They got a few parts well, but shaky cinematography, a rushed budget, and trying to cram too much into one movie diluted some of the more graceful and admirable parts of Katniss’ legacy. 

 

Consistently across the board, is how Katniss’ anger sometimes comes off bratty and arrogant.  That anger is well placed, don’t get me wrong, but the constant bitter sting, scowl and hate with every line got old for me.  It diluted her awesomeness, and what she stood for, leaving me feeling somewhat sorry for the people who had to put up with her juvenile behavior and constant complaining.  Still, the movies did get a lot of what we love about Katniss and allows her to flex her proverbial muscles as she fights a corrupt regime.

 

Alice (Resident Evil)

Alice

Perhaps the most dynamic of our group is the fiery agent known as Alice from Resident Evil. Starting out as merely a special ops soldier, Alice it transformed into a genetically augmented weapon capable of fighting hordes of infected zombie extras and government agents.  Her martial arts prowess marries well with her military mind to culminate in a heroine you can’t help but root for as her traps unfold and decimate Umbrella Corporation.  Skills aside, Alice represents the quality of loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice. Alice’s journey involves lots of teamwork and protection of innocent life, fighting that primordial destruction buried in the coding of the virus that plagues the world.  Seeing the decisions, she has had to make for the benefit of others is certainly tough, but continues to illustrate just how epic a heroine she is.  Most of the people I mention on this list haven’t had to make quite the life altering decisions that Alice has, and may not have the guts this video game turned cinema could.

 

But despite that vigor, Alice does have a weakness herself and that is her gullible/naivety. Despite all the skepticism of new people and all the times she has been backstabbed, Alice somehow always has a naïve component that leads her to be deceived by her known enemies repetitively.  She always underestimates the abilities of the Corporation, and as a result suffers some major blows that often costs her dearly. Perhaps her reliance on those abilities of hers leads to some overconfidence that thinks she can punch, shoot, and fight her way out of any situation.  While this is true most times, there are a few accounts to show that a little more paranoia behind the operation could have made things a little easier in this complex universe of Resident Evil.

 

In regards to the movies, well they are certainly popcorn munching action flicks that are full of that adrenaline pumping special effects.  Resident Evil’s opening number did a nice job of bringing video games to real life (with better graphics than the PS One) and keep to the horror element of the movies. Even the second film did a nice job of bringing that horror aspect again, just with less intensity and finesse.  After words, the movie took a dramatic turn towards the action and stunts, gearing towards special effects and stunts than actual plot.  Resident Evil’s story quickly plunged into the crappy zone and became mindless killing up until the final chapter that actually worked to fill in the numerous gaps left behind by the previous installments.  And while they don’t bring the most intelligence to her sometimes, they certainly paint her to be the model warrior for many to root for.

 

 

Selene (Underworld)

Selen

Mercenary of the vampires, slayer of werewolves, and lover of…humans?  Yeah confusing as it sounds, Selene of the Underworld series is a definition of femme fatale in this list.  In her skin-tight jumpsuit, Selene blends sex appeal with lethality using the various weapons at her disposal to defeat her enemies.  Like many of our heroines, she is certainly trained to fight, but her victims are the demons lurking in the shadows of the dark. The difference for her though, is that her enemies are often much more vicious, evil, or bulkier than most of our other cast. As such, Selene has a strong sense of courage that many heroes cannot mimic.  Facing off against strong Lycans and the merciless aristocrats of the vampires requires one to have some guts, and Selene stands up to the various warriors with that cold edge steel needed for such a purpose. What requires even more courage is dropping her aristocratic privileges for love.  Selene’s superiors wield some pretty high power and they aren’t afraid to make immoral choices to destroy any who get in their way.  For our protagonist to know this and still stand up to them… I think you can agree with me that she has to have proverbial male genitalia.  As the stories continue to progress, Selene continues to fight to maintain order not so much for killing vampires, but more so for protecting the humans and though she loves from their war.

 

In terms of weakness, ironically it is love that her enemies use against her. Selene’s desire to protect those she loves (which she makes for public display) gives her enemies leverage to use against her.  The aristocrats prove themselves merciless in their approach to get what they desire and are not shy of using others as pawns.  Selene’s love of the human Michael, among other people, results in numerous hostage situations, torturous beatings, and even massacres all for the sake of love.  Love is certainly a strength, but for all of Selene’s skills, planning, and fortitude…you would think she would be more prepared or secretive to not have that used against her.  And for much of the last film, that love resulted in her getting owned a number of times, until some weird ritual magic thing occurred that gave her super powers beyond compare.  Once this happen she became cooler, yet less believable, which is saying something in this horror occult thriller.

In regards to movies, Underworld has had its up and downs in terms of quality.  The first two were incredible for me as I was introduced into Selene’s war against both races.  It was exciting, dark, and filled with that edge and story classic of the early 2000s, that actually made sense.  An action focused plot filled with exciting scenes made for an entertaining tale, but also focused on Selene’s growth and compassion towards the human race.  While not my favorite, Rise of the Lycans still catered towards a character development side that helped set up the relationships of other supporting characters.  Too bad they could not hold the action together, but it was still entertaining.

 

Then came the modernization of the series, and new directors took over.  Gone was the art of storytelling, and instead it was all about cheesy stunts and visuals to boast the special effects of the studio.  Awakening and Blood Wars became a hastily done plot that tried to introduce new concepts and relationships that were shallow and lacking the magic of the first films.  Even more, they started evolving their foes to ridiculous proportions that either didn’t work for me or they did little with.  And in regards to the last film, the plot was so hashed together and rushed it felt like reading the initial draft of a script or a Wikipedia summary.  Selene’s new power is awesome, but perhaps a little too powerful and unexplained, robbing the suspense of the movie due to her mortality.

 

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

Hermione

Ahh the loveable Hermione Granger, there is so much to say about this little wizard to be.  She wields the most powerful tool available to all heroes, the mind.  Hermione is perhaps the smartest heroine of this group as she learns the art of mastering multiple types of magic and subject matter of her world.  Fighting monsters, transportation magic, and the responsible use of magical trinkets are just some of the things she is capable of understanding and applying.  Hermione proves that you can learn anything and be able to apply it better than any male hero can, given enough time, patience and practice.  In addition, she displays discipline, inner strength, and classiness that we all only hope to have should we become as competent in our trades as she was.  Such great qualities are all wrapped in a beautiful package of visual loveliness, once again proving that you can be beautiful and talented at the same time. Hermione’s determination to save her friends and family is a consistent throughout the series, and her desire to do the right thing is displayed numerous times through the series by speaking out against her classmates’ rambunctious antics.  A symbol of following the rules that make sense and changing the rules that don’t, she certainly gets my vote for a role model.

 

In regards to her weaknesses, Hermione has several to talk about. Her biggest vulnerability for much of the series is her pride.  The young wizard likes being the best and goes to great extremes to secure her place at the top of the class.  At first this pride leads her to be arrogant, snobbishly correcting her classmates and taking her down the know it all pathway.  As her friends prove to be loyal to her, that arrogance begins to temper, but her obsessions to be the best remain as strong as ever.  Hermione’s goals lead her to stress herself to sickness in the third book when she literally has to bend time to allow her to take extra classes, some of which she fails.  That obsession leads her to be reckless sometimes and lose track of the qualities I admire, and leaves her prone to snubbing her friends.  Once the new dark age begins though, Hermione’s weakness turns to love, in particular for a small band of people who travel the dangerous road.  Fans know that fear tends to paralyze her from acting, and sometimes results in her losing her abilities due to panic.

 

When discussing the movies, I dare not insult the films because of the fan base that follows this series.  The movies are good on many levels, bringing J.K. Rowling’s world to life in beautiful graphics, sets, and costumes.  Seeing all the magic in the movie is something we can only dream about, and the emotions of the journey are all contained within.  The first few movies are all about the set up and wonder of the magical universe and the second half is all about casting the dark cloud over the light and challenging the heroes at hand.  Unfortunately, where the movies start to go wrong is when they deviate from the books at hand.  Harry Potter books are sacred tomes that you don’t want to adulterate and for the most part the movies respect that ground.  Unfortunately, key aspects were left out of the book and the studios made their own decisions that grossly resulted in some shortcomings and lack of bite the books have.  The burning of the Weasley cottage, the battle at the ministry, and much of the second half of book 7 were not impressive to me.  Had they realized that most would sit through a five-hour film (LOTR anyone) they could have made the movies exponentially better in these regards. 

 

Whatever movie you watch though, you can be sure that Hermione is well-represented.  Emma Watson’s portrayal is fantastic on any account as she grows alongside the character and brings the maturity with it.  Hermione’s character remains a little too pretty (according to one of my friends) in regards to the fashion component, but hey who doesn’t like a little sprucing up via Hollywood makeup.  Makeup aside, Hermione’s aptitude for magic and knowledge is captured in the movies, as are the morals, honor and love contained within.  Nice job my friends. Nice job.

 

Jenn Orso (Star War Rogue One)

Jenn

Last on our list is the latest Star Wars maiden to grace the universe.  Rogue One’s protagonist is all about the edge, a loner with the goal of survival and making a living, she was forced into a rough life at the young age of 9. Jenn’s parents were forcefully taken from her, resulting in her being raised by a mercenary in the prime of life.  Fortunately, the mercenary parted a wicked set of skills that raise her odds for surviving in the vast galaxy.  The tyrannical rule of the empire pulls her into the developing rebellion and leads to a journey where that strength to live carries on in full force.  Jenn’s strengths are determination, rationality, hope, and leadership as evidenced by her numerous actions during the 2.5 hours of the film.  She is able to unite a ragtag group of rebels together to attempt a mission best described as suicide to many.  And in doing so, she was able to accomplish goals that would set the stage for ages to come.  Jenn has many qualities and skills to which we hope to inspire others to mimic and she is also quite the warrior to fight for people everywhere.

 

As for her weaknesses, Jenn’s first is her lack of trust and teamwork.  In the beginning of the movie she tries to do everything by herself, resulting in her getting into trouble and often failing miserably.  While it is certainly important to have the confidence to accomplish a goal, it’s also important to recognize when a team is needed, which involves trust.  Jenn will not give her team the trust to begin with and as such limits her mission considerably in the beginning.  In addition, Jenn is a little reckless at times, tending to rush into things rather than coordinate.  I don’t know if it’s the skeptical component or if she doesn’t have strategy making 101 down, but Jenn surprisingly has little in terms of planning under her belt (rewatch the movie again and you will see it is her male counterpart who comes up with the plans).  Her ability to hold a grudge is quite a limiting step as well.  That opening act shows a lot of bitterness towards, well everyone in the galaxy at the hurt she has within.  Much of her hatred is cast towards her father and the abandonment she felt.  By doing this, she brought about ignorance to her life and added extra complications to delay her mission that had she accepted ma have resulted in better outcomes.  Still when all is said and done, that ending at the end shows she can overcome these limitations and become quite the champion to say the least.

 

Movie wise, Rogue One is one my favorite of the Star Wars Universe.  It’s different, it’s gritty, it shows the horrors of war instead of just the glamorous side we got in the first seven installments.  At first the opening is choppy and a little hodge-podge in terms of editing, but that set up serves it purpose of getting us to the grand finale of the movie.  That exciting ending is more than epic conclusion, filled with the nostalgia and action we waited for so long with the Star Wars revival.  A great cast of characters, a very gut wrenching story, and a new female protagonist to leave a legacy are all wonderful qualities of this movie.  Rogue One does need some improvements itself though including better balance of characters, a tighter opening that doesn’t feel as discombobulated and remembering to actually use their actors they pulled into the project (like Forrest Whittaker).  Outside of that though… a solid movie.

 

So, there you have it.  Just a few women of the silver screen that I wanted to talk about.  These are just some of my observations on the femme fatales of modern film, and for the most part, I hope you find my analysis in good favor.  Like all good characters there are strengths and weaknesses and one can only hope that the characters whose stories aren’t closed yet will get the epic tale they deserve.  We will see what Wonder Woman brings in the next movie in September and from there one can only guess what is next in the world of Hollywood.  I’m Robbie K, thanking you for another read and inviting any constructive discussion you might wish to share.

 

 

Take A Drive With Baby Driver

Baby Driver

 

Baby Driver!  When I saw this trailer months ago I had no idea what to think about it just from the title alone.  Yet seeing a star studded cast that included Jon Hamm, Lily James, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx, I had hopes for a good movie.  So, with it rushing into a midweek premiere I managed to finally check it out this weekend.  What’s the verdict on the action/crime movie to hit the screen.  Robbie K here always appreciating your views on his blog.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting:  I don’t say this too much, but this cast was aces across the board. Let’s start with the lead Ansel Elgort who plays Baby.  At first I was only impressed with his ability to be the awkward silent type, but as the movie progresses Elgort is able to bring a little more to the screen to round out Baby.  His range broadens as more characters are introduced into the film and he has to balance between the two worlds that he lives in.  As kind of his looming shadow, the master villain Kevin Spacey continues to play that cool, calculating, manipulative role that he made famous in House of Cards.  Not too much to be annoying, but not too little to be cheated Spacey really brings depth to a cliché role and keeps things heated up.  As for Foxx, well his acting continues to improve me in spectrum he can cover.  Taking more of the jaded thug approach, Foxx adds the comedic heat to the film with the darker theme taking hold.  I could spend the whole review on the chemistry of everyone, but Baby Driver’s cast is stellar.

 

The Action:  For a crime thriller toting about the stunts and guns, the movie certainly delivers.  Baby Driver shifts the gear into R for reality and manages to deliver sequences that are exciting chases through obstacle laden courses with all the bells and whistles.  Unlike the Fast and The Furious, this movie keeps things on a believable level, requiring actual stunt driving instead of high tech gadgets.  Even the gunplay is exciting, finally adopting the crime motif we had in the mafia movie days instead of the explosion loaded productions famous of modern cinema.  The action is well directed, and used as a supporting tool to keep the film exciting and fast paced without being the only aspect of the movie.

 

The Story:  Most crime stories bore me these days because they get too caught up in either sex or malicious violence.  While Baby Driver is certainly darker in its own accord, it has a story that doesn’t dance in one area.  A combination of love, action, and crime drama, the storyboard writers get props from me for crafting a decently balanced story.  Baby’s character is complicated (though the trailers might mislead you), and they managed to gradually peel this character apart and help him transform into someone completely new.  To do this all while bringing forth a story that doesn’t put me to sleep but keep me on edge is certainly worthy of two thumbs up.

 

The Music:  The theme of Baby Driver is music (he is always wearing headphones if you haven’t seen the trailers), and that means you need a strong soundtrack.  Mission successful on this part too.  While I’m not quite familiar with some of these classics (yes boo me), they music directors selected a fantastic spread to entertain us with.  Across many genres and decades, your ears will be swallowed by a deluge of classics, each fitting with the tone of the movie and providing great sound support to the impressive visuals.  And if you don’t know these tunes, well the internet is still a wonderful thing when used appropriately.

DISLIKES:

 

No unifying crime plot:  In many crime movies, there is a big score, a key target, or some unifying goal.  Baby Driver though doesn’t have that big, impending doom I often like to see, choosing instead to focus more on Baby himself.  While certainly a small dislike, I felt the unifying theme or grand plan could have provided a little more oomph to the story and a way to integrate Spacey’s character even more.

 

Romance Aspect:  I’m not saying this is bad, and again I’m grasping at most straws, but Baby Driver’s romance component needs a little work.  Lily James and Elgort have some decent chemistry and work well together in the scenes where they are paired.  However, I feel that this component was a little glazed over up until the climax where the crap starts to hit the fan.  Expanding this role again would have tied some things together and integrated the cast a little better to complete the story.

 

Part of the Ending:  This dislike is again complicated, but I’ll do my best to explain.  Baby Driver’s ending is certainly unique and took many directions I liked in the form of being non-cliché, artistic, and exciting on many levels.  Yet about fifteen minutes of the ending was dragged out entirely too long and started hitting that ridiculous level Hollywood often hits.  The vicious parts were a little overdramatic and the predictable twists just led to more run time that wasn’t really needed. Still it wrapped up nicely and had a self-gratifying finish, it just didn’t need to be that complicated.  

 

The Verdict:

 

I agree with many that Baby Driver is one awesome film.  Despite the weird title (which yes is a song title), it works on many levels primarily in regards to a suspenseful action tale with strong story elements.  Baby Driver is an example of what movies can be if done right and I for one recommend hitting this movie in theaters. Of note, use caution when taking younger audience members due to the violence please.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Crime/Music:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

The House Wins…The Audience Loses

The House

 

Will Ferrell, a king of comedy in his days of SNL and the early years of his movie career.  Despite some flops in the box office, Hollywood continues to select him for the new standard of comedy.  And this weekend is yet another notch in his belt, as he stars alongside Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukas in the film entitled the House.  Robbie K back to give his thoughts on yet another movie to hit the silver screen, in attempt to save you some money and time in regards to your viewing pleasures.  Here we go!

 

LIKES:

 

Original concept:  We’ve seen plenty of casino themed movies, but they often involve breaking into steal or being mindlessly drunk and stupid.  The House though decided to carry the stupid over, but approach the casino story from the point of the house. Seeing the development of the casino from the ground up was a cool idea, and it gets points for originality in these regards.  All the troubles they experienced in developing it offered some nice variety in comedy as well.  Stupid idea?  Well yes, but hey at least they are trying to be unique.

 

Short run time:  I can’t elaborate much on this, but the House has a short run time to minimize the amount of sitting through meticulous jokes from Will Ferrell.  An added bonus is that the pace of the movie also moves, avoiding being caught too long in the repetitive repertoire of bantering and jokes. Hooray for decent editing.

 

Jason Mantzoukas: Not the most Oscar worthy performance, but Mantzoukas was a blessing in this movie.  His character, while not the most respectable, is very funny and provides excellent comedic relief from the…comedy… Okay, he provides a fresh comedy role to Ferrell and Poehler’s style.  His lines have a little more wit behind their development, and his delivery is spot on with that angle that adds some finesse to it.  And how casually he delivers the lines is impressive, not putting too much behind it to come off overacting or abrasive.  Perfect given the rest of this movie and again an oasis.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Lazy Writing:  I guess this isn’t a surprise, but the House is another example of how lowered expectations leads to mundane writing.  Much of the dialogue is curse ridden, filled with a number of expletives that are so overused it gets back into the annoying zone…again.  Throw in the number of lackluster innuendos and genital humor and you only end up further drowning in boring writing.  I’m not saying get rid of these gimmicks, I’m saying just use them in moderation and integrate them better.

 

Ridiculously stupid and mundane:  I’m sure you are saying, “Robbie, did you really not expect it to be stupid from the trailers?”  Of course, I wasn’t this naïve, but I had hoped the stupidity to be kept in check and a little more dynamic then what I got (see earlier comment about his Ferrell’s early work).  Unfortunately, the House just continues to hedge their bets on Stupid 27 (or whatever number you like in Roulette).  They continue the amp the ridiculousness into grander proportions, foregoing any logic, common sense, and eventually even fun for simplistic mind candy. And for me that got old and tiring with how much it matches to other films in this genre and how it barely stands out from all the milieu.

The Overacting:  Again no shocker here, but the cast certainly should not win much out of the popular choice awards for their portrayals.  Ferrell’s shouting and mindless banter were cute back in Elf and balanced in his other movies where he wasn’t the star.  Not the case here.  His mindless rants in this movie get old fast and his efforts to draw out every word didn’t impress more so as annoy me.  And Poehler wasn’t much better.  Her character had some inkling of intelligence, until the drug jokes come in and her attitude becomes crap.  At this point she joins her costar in being as obnoxious and loud as possible.  In regards to chemistry they go quite well together, unfortunately it is primarily in bouts of mindless babbling that get staler and staler with every iteration.

 

Unlikeable characters:  A final component is how unlikeable much of the cast is.  Despite how funny they are and how noble their intentions are, most of the House are awful on all accounts. Usually in comedies there are people who act as the moral grounds to bring the craziness back down, but outside of the daughter (who is hardly in the movie), everyone just escalates the craziness with their constant bickering, unhappiness and addictions.  Throw in that they just jump to obnoxious proportions with few moral rationing and you just can’t help but hope the thing blows up in their faces. Bitter and mean?  Probably, but this just further shows too much of any vice often leads to bad quality.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The House isn’t the worst thing to grace the theaters, however it certainly isn’t the best. Despite a unique concept presented in the trailers, the writers chose to travel down the mundane yellow brick road of innuendos and lame jokes we’ve heard time and time again.  Throw in the overacting and exponential stupidity and you’ll see the payout for this gamble is pretty low at best.  However, if you are a die-hard fan of the cast’s comedy style, by all means hit the theaters for this one and you’ll score a major laugh fest.  This reviewer recommends saving streaming services though, to maximize your resources.

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy:  5.0

Movie Overall: 3.0

A Rough Night For This Reviewer

Rough Night

 

Bachelorette parties, a sacred ritual to help a young woman transition from single life into the world of marriage.  Of course, like most things, modern traditions have adulterated with new traditions and rituals that leads for a rather “exciting” night. So why not make another movie about it.  Tonight, my friend and I hit the theater to cover the latest comedy to “grace” the big screen entitled Rough Night!  What does this obviously titled film have in store for us?  As always, please read on to find out and help determine whether or not it is worth your money to hit the theater.

 

So what do you get?  For once the trailers were pretty spot on with their portrayal of this movie.  Rough night is a very raunchy, simplistic, and over the top comedy that has little sustenance outside of the attempt at humor.  It’s ridiculousness at times is clever, but these moments are few and far between, buried under the comedy rubble that fills this movie. Aggressive innuendos come rushing out of the woodwork, many delivered in the overdramatic manner that somehow seems to be popular and entertaining to many.  The all-star cast assembled to for this film are okay, dropping their dynamic acting range for superficial roles filled with cursing and satire. Lazy writing also doesn’t help sell the comedy factor, primary thanks to the consistent cursing, shouting of the male genitalia, overzealous drug use, and cringe worthy catchphrases.   Kate Mickinnon is able to salvage some parts of the film with her usual tricks, working the Australian accent with her pizazz and spot-on timing.

Story wise, nothing special here.  Rough Night’s plot is about 80% revealed in the trailers and there is little surprise left for you in the audience. Some of the more adult moments will be the eye widening magic you are seeking, but again these are often awkward uncomfortable, or unnecessary.  Still the movie’s tale had some surprising character development and a nice twist thrown into the mix to help keep things dynamic.  The morals hit close to home on some level, but again are robbed by another bout of stupidity.  I know, you aren’t there for the character developments and rugged plot, but other comedies have learned to balance things and that is where this movie fails.

 

In the end though here are my likes and dislikes:

 

LIKES:

  • Kate McKinnon
  • Good, upbeat soundtrack
  • Short Run Time
  • More dynamic storyline

 

DISLIKES:

  • Incredibly stupid
  • Excessive cursing
  • Aggressive humor
  • Trailers Ruined most of the movie
  • Inappropriate at many times
  • Shallow story
  • Annoying characters
  • Dropped plots
  • Overacting
  • Limited target audience

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            It’s nice to see a movie fit the expectations set by the advertising, but it’s sad that this is a form of entertainment.  Rough night fails to find balance and resorts to cheap parlor tricks known as adult humor.  Sure there are clever components (primarily thanks to the boyfriend and Kate), but even they can’t save the movie from the monotonous laziness that is to come.  kWhy must it be overacted?  I don’t know, but nevertheless this movie failed on many accounts.  Recommended audience members include bachelorettes, girls nights out, or fans of one of the cast.  For the rest though, skip this movie until it darkens the library of Netflix. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy:  5.5

Movie Overall: 3.0

Training Pants Off, Underpants On…For Kid Focused Comedy

underpants

 

Superheroes seem to be the theme of this weekend at the movie theater.  For those not interested in the Amazon princess’ tale another caped crusader awaits in the hallowed halls of the silver screen.  No, it isn’t Batman, but instead a more childish hero to fight ridiculous antagonists.  And tonight, my review is on the waistband warrior himself… Captain Underpants and his first feature film.  Based on the hit children’s comic book/novel series, the latest kid’s movie is here to try and bring the laughs contained in its pages.  Did it succeed?  Robbie K here to help answer that question, so let’s get started, shall we?

 

LIKES:

 

  1. Cute Factor: We all know kid movies can vary like the flavors of Baskin Robbins ice cream. Captain Underpants is along the cute variety, filled with that fun, G rated goodness reminiscent of the Peanuts Movie. The trailers are accurate in stating there is a great moral lesson about friendship, one that just may touch your heart and call up your best friend.  If the sappy parts don’t make you say awwwwww, the sound of your child laughing certainly will.

 

  1. Nostalgia: If you read the books, or co read with your young one, then good news, the movie captures the spirit of the series. Watching Harold and George trying to control their gallivanting hero is sure to bring a flood of memories back at the adventures in the book.  In addition, you’ll find ridiculous villains, potty based humor, and even Flip-o-rama all integrated in the short run time of the movie. Ahh, the power of reliving your childhood is a strong thing indeed.

 

  1. Voice Acting: No academy award worthy performances in this movie, but the voice acting fits well with the ludicrous tone of this movie. Kevin Hart’s high pitched voice fits so well with the character of George, primarily the obnoxious laughter I pictured the character having. Thomas Middleditch helped compliment his co-actor in his wispy voice. Ed Helms was a toss-up for me.  I didn’t find his portrayal of Mr. Krupp the same tone as my imagination, but he certainly nailed the boisterous, whimsical tone of the superhero nimrod. And finally Nick Kroll certainly has the over exaggerated accent down pat, and made for an entertaining antagonist at times.

 

  1. The Art Style: DreamWorks animation nailed the media for this movie for me. Bright colors, dazzling lights, and a trippy spin were exactly what I expected for the Captain Underpants universe.  This film “flips” between animated panels of a child’s drawing to the 3-D cartoon CGI image and it works to capture that kid friendly energy and nostalgic blast to the past. And as there aren’t too many kid’s movies using this style yet, so the uniqueness is always appreciated.

 

DISLIKES:

 

  1. Very Kiddy: The trailers warned us about this, and even the comic books did as well, but Captain Underpants lacks the adult factor many cartoons hold. Much of this movie is simplistic potty humor, incessant laughing, and mindless bantering that may hold little humor to those above the age of 12. And to be honest, much of the movie loses its comedic spin within the first third of the movie. A little more wit could have gone a long way to save this movie from getting stale.

 

  1. No solid story: Masterpieces from Pixar and Walt Disney studios have a blend of humor, character development, and story. In Captain Underpants… that is sadly not the case.  The spirit of adventure is missing in this film, diluting the suspense aspect of the film to stuff more bathroom humor in the mix. And without a solid story to base the humor upon, it feels kind of like a failed stand-up comedy routine than a theater worthy film.

 

  1. Lacking Emotional Kick: While the movie does portray the power of friendship well, it still lacks that the emotional slam dunk that others have perfected. Captain Underpants doesn’t have much tug to the heartstrings and while you can laugh with the two of them, you can’t really connect to the characters at hand. Without that investment, it makes it that more difficult to invest in the movie. Therefore, I was bored for much of the movie, jealous that the younger audience could relate to the fart humor more than I could.

 

  1. Over exaggerated Voice Acting: Yes, we know the characters are all supposed to be overdramatic spoofs meant to tickle the funny bone.  Doesn’t mean they had to go over the top on the voices ALL THE TIME. Much of the voice work eventually drops into the annoying zone and for some characters very quickly (how many Tra-La-Las did we really need to hear?). Without the clever writing to back it up, not even this star-studded cast can save the eye rolling, or teeth grinding moments contained in this film.

 

The VERDICT

 

Captain Underpants is a different spin on the superhero genre, and one that is very welcoming to the younger generations.  With a very focused comedy towards its demographic, parents aren’t going to find much gold to this movie outside the art style and the melody of children laughing. Despite the nostalgic run it brought, there is not much to this film to make it theater worthy (unless you need a 90-minute tranquilizer for your kids). Therefore, I recommend this one be saved for Netflix or Redbox instead of the theater.

 

Animation/Action/Comedy:  6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

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

Dead men

 

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

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

 

LIKES:

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

 

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

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

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

 

DISLIKES

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

 

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

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

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

 

VERDICT:

 

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

 

Scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0