The Art Of Depressing People Until They Cry

The Art of Racing in the Rain Poster


Books to movies hold the potential to be some of the best films to hit the screen. With stories laid out for the directors, one would think that an adequate investment could bring the words to life.  Yet, as often the case, the movies can only do so much with a budget to get the mindset and perspective the books bring, often not being able to match the magic of the written word.  Still, they are a popular option to the masses and often the focus of my reviews.  So Robbie K back with a 4threview this week on the latest book turned movie as I look into:


Movie: Art Of Racing In The Rain (2019)



Simon Curtis


Mark Bomback (screenplay by), Garth Stein (novel)


Kevin CostnerMilo VentimigliaAmanda Seyfried




The Cars

The Acting

The Musical Effects

The Dog Himself



The Pace

The Dragged-Out Components

The Depressing Atmosphere




I can’t comment on the book as much as I have only read half, but the film has not done a half a bad job following the atmosphere and plot line of the book.  So rather than going down how accurate it is, I’m focusing on some other aspects that I liked for the audience.  A movie about racing means you got to have beautiful cars (yes I know this is symbolism), and this film succeeds in bringing powerful vehicles in beautiful designs to the screen in all shapes, colors, and sizes.  Past this superficial component though, the highlights really come in the form of the acting of this dramatic piece.  Milo Ventimiglia takes his Gilmore Girls and This Is Us roots and throws them full force in the smoldering way he does and if you love that then you’ll eat this up.  Seyfried as well does her job well too, though not quite as involved as I would have hoped nor in the same manner I have seen her in the past.  Costner though wins the best role for me as the voice of Enzo and like many great voice actors does a lot with little.  He hits a good dynamic range of emotions and sells the comedic delivery of the lines, matching quite well with the adorable golden retriever that represents his avatar.  Speaking of which, the dogs they get for movies continue to impress me in their training, not only in their ability to do tricks, but more so in how they can personify human emotions.  This dog, or dogs depending on his age, accomplish the goal with good camera work to really sell the emotions of the book and was the character I, not surprisingly, latched onto.  Helping to also bring all the emotional turmoil to perspective is the music editing, the use of orchestral pieces and sound editing to really add the background ambience to layer extra emotion to the mix.  As monologues pour out of Enzo’s thoughts, the musical work compliments this well and may just impress you if you open your ears.


Unfortunately, the book’s emotional atmosphere is one of those that may not be the most exciting thing to show in a movie and I believe this made it difficult for me to enjoy in the movie.  We start with the pace of the film, a rather unbalanced component that seemed to have difficulty finding its footing.  One part too fast, the movie seems to skip the early adventures, getting to some heavy stuff within the first hour of showing which did not quite match the pace in the book.  Upon hitting these heavy events, the movie’s pace suddenly shifts back to a lower gear, really maximizing on these moments and dragging out the suffering/drama of these moments.  If this is the kind of drama you want in your movie, then fans will enjoy diving into what feels like hours of somber approaches then you have got it.  Me, I like a little more pep in my dog movies, and this movie failed to give me much of that.  Enzo’s tale contains wisdom, spirituality, and some great outlooks in life, but overall the feel of the movie is depressing which almost seems to maximize the sluggish pace.  Movies like this are beautiful representations on life, but for this reviewer it is difficult to fully enjoy when there is little to break up the drudge that comes with this. 


   To quote my friend Austin, the title sort of gives you an idea of what to expect with this film.  It’s a beautiful movie that takes life’s problems and gives us a unique perspective on how to handle it.  With some great dramatic acting, musical overtures to emphasize the emotion, and a wonderful four-legged star to pin your hopes on.  Yet, like modern day ABC dramas, especially This Is Us, the movie is super depressing and left many in my theater with teary eyes and sniffles.  While I’m sure the book holds much of this too, I myself would have rather handled this content in a book, as my biggest issue (outside of the depression I felt) is the pacing having difficulty balancing the hope and sadness.  Still, if you are a fan of dramas like this and want the spiritual, sob fest for a film, then this is the movie for you this weekend.  Balancing all of this, my scores are:


Comedy/Drama:  7.0-7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0 – 6.5

Will Your Eyes Glow Bright As You Dive Into Darkness?

          The Darkest Minds Poster

  Literary works seem to come a dime a dozen, but to many they became the spring of hope that a movie will be made to bring their imagination to life.  With giants like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the Hunger Games, some studios can do the masterpieces justice with their films.  Others though, well they take a wrong turn or two to make subpar renditions that disappoint many.  Tonight, my first review tests me with another teenage drama to hopefully bring in the bucks.  Robbie K here to bring another review, to hopefully help your movie choices picking. Let’s get started on:


Movie:  The Darkest Minds (2018)



Jennifer Yuh Nelson


Chad Hodge (screenplay by),  Alexandra Bracken (based upon the novel by)


Bradley Whitford,  Mandy Moore,  Amandla Stenberg




Decent Acting:  The group does a nice job of bringing these teens in the dystopian world to life, paranoid enough to be believable as kids being hunted, yet also capturing the desire to be normal.  These youthful actors hold great potential in the future, but they’ll be iconic heroes to the target audience.  Stenberg does a beautiful job in the lead role, using a wide array of emotional delivery methods to narrate the thoughts of the story, while also interacting with her crew.  Her fellow survivors get their characters quirks out to the light as well, each focusing on one extreme quality to maximize.  My favorite was Skylan Brooks, who was funny, respectable, and perhaps the only with logic and a sense of morale justice.  Yep, the casting director hit the mark with this group.


Pace:  Based on the quarter of the book I’ve read so far; the movie has certainly sped the movie up.  By foregoing all the emotional turmoil of Ruby, the film itself moves at a brisk pace to get the story delivered in the 2-hour run time.  For action lovers like me, this was a step in the right direction, to try and pump as much excitement in this movie.


The Eye Color Effect: Simple, yet sophisticated, the eye color effects added a little stylish pizazz to our delightful teens and tweens.  In this day of trending fashions, it is not a surprise that these simple adjustments can be the next wave of cosplay.


The Music:  The movie’s biggest like for me is the fun and fitting soundtrack pumping through the high definition speakers.  The Darkest Mind’s songs help bring life to the scenes, a few in particular providing the biggest emotional force of that scene or sequence. Nevertheless, the music is worth a check out for those that don’t get to the theaters.




The Story:  We know the movie is seldom better than the book, but in this case it’s one of those films that really missed the mark in terms of plot.  I don’t think the minds came together as strongly as they could.  The fast pace might have been more entertaining, but it felt like it was just short skits messily pulled together in a very quick manor. While the romance had the bite to it, the rest of the movie was less impressionable than the nearly worthless guns of the bad guys.  It’s fragmented style left many story components lost to the wind, and others so limited it almost shouldn’t have been included.


Not suspenseful:  Because of all the haphazard editing and rushed story elements, the movie lacked the suspenseful bite that it really needed (and strived) to achieve.  It’s focus on the romance and drama is going to speak volumes to the teenagers of today, but for those looking for that on the seat moment… not really there.  As such, the movie is a little boring if you aren’t ready for nearly two hours of dystopian romance.


The Lackluster Villains: Most of them are grandiose jerks, talking and shouting more than anything else.  In this movie, didn’t deviate far from that formula, but in this case they were really lame and boring for the most part.  A few had some skills that barely made an appearance, but others only tool seemed to be an intense stare and that was it.  Sorry guys, next installment needs bad guys who have more bite than bark.


Underwhelming Action: Some moments shined like the eyes of the chosen, but much of the exciting battles mentioned by fans are far from the truth for me.  Cheap parlor tricks of impressive CGI make up much of the epic fighting they were trying to bring to the screen.  These confrontations did little to add to the movie, something felt randomly thrown in, and concluded in very underwhelming manners that again felt skipped over.  Guess action gets in the way of love huh?





The Darkest Minds had potential to be awesome, but it fell to the bottom levels of the book to movie script for me.  Sure, there is decent acting to bring the love story out, and there are some special effects that are simplistic and neat, but the movie’s foundation is very shaky to me and not off on the right foot for a potential movie franchise.  It needs to dive into the dystopian waters of rage, fighting, strategy, and suspense to try and breathe life back into the dark nature of the film.  Therefore, you can guess I don’t recommend this one for the theater and instead encourage to wait for it on Netflix (or read the book again).  It’s not awful, but the movie has much improvement to achieve in the near future.


Sci-Fi/Thriller:   6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

Here We Go Again! Fun, Dancing, Emotion, but Sloppy Transitions

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Poster

            Musicals are often best left in the world of plays, where imagination and the acoustics maximize the song and dance number.  Yet, Hollywood just loves a good run at recreating the world in their high stakes glory, leading to some renditions that are fantastic and others not so much.  So, a sequel to an already obscure Mamma Mia, glorifying the incredible group Abba, seems like a bit of a stretch for a blockbuster movie.  Oh well, Here We Go Again as yours truly does his second movie review of the week on:


Movie: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018)



Ol Parker


Ol Parker (screenplay by),  Richard Curtis (story by)


Lily James,  Amanda Seyfried,  Meryl Streep





Toe Tapping Numbers:  For a musical you need, well you need music, and fortunately the film is loaded with a number of tracks to leave you dancing in your seat.  From upbeat, dance filled sequences to the more emotional, slower tracks there is a tempo for everyone in this film.  As the tracks play, the choreography is just as vibrant, packed with a fun energy that fits the tracks well, and brings you into the party.  If you liked the performances in the first movie than you are in luck my friends for this one.


Cute:  The movie may not be a big animated smash hit, or something crafted by Disney, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cute all the same.  Mamma Mia 2 is super friendly to many ages, and brings an easy tale of love and friendship all wrapped in a sunny bright wrapping paper.  Those fans who are really looking for an easy to handle movie where nothing intense happens are again the target demographic for this one.


Surprisingly Emotional:  If you’re this far in the review, you surely know that this movie is a fun ride, but there is a little more emotion to the film than I expected.  As the tale goes, there are more than a number of fun avenues and soap opera theatrics to catch your attention.  However, the movie manages to strike into deeper waters, resulting in some performances that had my audience tearing up/sniffing.  The fact the film did this emotional part well surprised me despite how extreme the film is, but trust me in saying that these moments are not quite as grandiose as they could have been.


Two Stories Are Integrated: You saw from the trailers that there were going to be two stories to balance.  Surprisingly, they did this, though not in a traditional sense for me. Mamma Mia 2 gives you about fifty percent in each story department, helping give each set of characters ample time to explore the uncharted waters of Donna’s adventurous life.  They manage to cover all their promised avenues and still keep the music infused into each aspect, thereby expanding the range of performances.


Lily James:  I’m a huge fan of this star, not only due to her charming beauty, but her talent of bringing characters to life.  Once again I was super impressed with her acting, happy to see her take classic Donna and put a more youthful energy to the mix. Her fellow divas captured their characters to the T, and the young squad really was my favorite part of the movie as they were the more interesting, and utilized.  Ms. James did a fantastic job carrying the weight of the movie, and I only hope for more leading roles for her to wow me in.





Not Every Character Utilized Well:  It’s a large cast, we know people are going to be short sighted, but sometimes it’s a little too much.  Much of the cast has really fallen back to the wings with only a few having adequate time to hold up the movie.  So much potential to relive the fun of the first movie gone because of too many cooks in the kitchen. As for some of the more publicized names, they don’t have quite the involvement you wanted, while others get a little more billing than you might expect.


The Story:  The story is cute and gives you all the pertinent information, but it doesn’t present it in the best light for me.  There are gaps in the plots, skipped over to allow you to fill in the details.  Relationships develop quickly, the pace rushed and glossed over so that more songs could be jammed in.  It’s a complete, yet incomplete set of stories, with sloppy transition between the two (at parts at least), with the random transitions jumping wildly with little organization at times. True, they did time some transitions perfectly, but for the most part not the best organization.


False Advertising:  The movie does deliver its promise on the fun, but some of the plot elements are very minor despite them being central in the trailers.  In fact, these plot elements feel rather limited and underdeveloped, so can’t state I was the most impressed with these parts.


Too Many Songs: The killing blow for a story of a musical is when the songs become the primary focus. Mamma Mia 2 really tried to pack as many numbers into the 2-hour running time as possible, sometime without regard to if the song was appropriately fitting in the story.  As a result, the story components suffered, the characters got catalogued into singing (or autotuned ability), giving it an erratic presentation that only semi impressed me. If you are just looking for musical numbers, your wish is granted, but for guys like me, I missed the complete picture.




         Mamma Mia 2 has expanded its emotional diving compared to the first, but manages to maintain the fun energy, charming cuteness, and beauty that was the first movie.  The song and dance numbers are the central focus, so those that love this glorification of Abba’s hits will be buying a ticket to musical gold.  However, the components I miss is the integration of all the characters into the mix and the linear story to tie everything together. The sequel gets points for balancing two stories, but needs to work on directing better transitions and details than what it did.  Still, this is definitely the upbeat movie of the month, and once I’m sure will please many audiences.  Recommended theater goers should be the midlife to elderly, girls trip out, and of course the musical lovers. Otherwise just skip and wait for something bigger to come.


My scores:


Comedy/Musical:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0