Is This Fire Burning In The Right Way?

Playing with Fire Poster

 

In the age of modern movie goers, no idea is to silly, wacky, or ridiculous to warrant a trial on the big or small screen.  With celebrities jumping all over the place, one never knows what role they will dive into next.  Today, one of the popular stars and master of theatrics (at least in terms of sporting events) is diving back into the kiddy pool in hopes to bring an early season comedy.  Can Mr.  John Cena  make the latest kid flick be awesome or is it going to be lost to the cascade of cinema pieces this weekend. Robbie K back in for another review as we check out.

 

Movie: Playing With Fire (2019)

 

Director:

Andy Fickman

Writers:

Dan EwenMatt Lieberman

Stars:

Judy GreerKeegan-Michael KeyJohn Cena

 

LIKES:

 

  • Funny
  • Fast Paced
  • Good Writing
  • Lots of Comedy Styles
  • Cute/Adorable
  • Touching

 

DISIKES:

 

  • Predictable
  • Seems A Bit Rushed
  • Imbalance Of Styles
  • The Trailers Have Touched A Lot

 

SUMMARY:

 

Playing with fire brings the heat in terms of just being a fun, family geared movie that is charming on many levels.  The funny nature of the film is not the most original, but brings a happy energy to the theater and makes it enjoyable to watch.  Throw in lots of comedy styles like slapstick, misquotes, and bathroom humor, well you get a concoction that is going to entertain the young and young at heart.  Fortunately for those with short attention spans, the film does not smolder too long, but rather unleashes the torrent in a fast-paced tale that should keep most engaged in the short run time, so again great for the kids.  While not the most unique writing, this reviewer enjoyed the writing of this family film and felt that it balanced cute and touching moments in that same wrapping that is shiny to watch.  Playing With Fire is going to burn its way to the heart of many, utilizing those perfect angles, piano lead songs, and cliché writing to really warm the core of its viewers.  Is it cheesy?  Absolutely!  Yet, it works when looking at the cute package the film as a whole is.

 

Despite all this though, here are some of the things I usually dock in terms of points.  One, the movie is predictable, which I’m guessing most of you predicted.  Playing With Fire is not really into pulling punches, and from start to finish you know where the film is heading, with my only hopes of a comedic joke sending me crunched over laughing so hard.  As I said earlier, the film moves at a brisk pace, which while entertaining also cost the movie some time on telling a fleshed-out story.  Cena and squad’s stories could have had a lot more time to push characters further, give them some layers, and still mix with the cute atmosphere.  I think it’s going to appease most audience members, but given that other kids movies have found the balance of pace and telling, I feel this movie could have tried a little harder.  Something else imbalanced is the styles of comedy, or perhaps more so the audience this movie will appeal to.  Playing With Fire is all about families with young kids, so don’t expect those looking for a raunchy comedy or clever comedy to potentially love this film.  Finally, the biggest thing I’m always worried about is trailers ruining a movie, and Playing With Fire has burned the avenue down with how much has been shown in the numerous trailers.  If you’ve seen the trailers repetitively, as I have, then you’ll have many of the funny moments and story elements ingrained in your brain, which means less bang for the buck and even fewer surprises in this already surprise limited movie.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            If you’ve seen the trailers, you can pretty much expect what the trailers promised for this film.  Playing With Fire is all about being a cute, straightforward film that will tickle the fancy of the young and young at heart.  Within its family friendly environment comes writing that feels like a 90s sitcom/drama, filled with diverse comedy styles and touching moments to get the warmth of the holidays in. While this is all expected though, for movie scoring it would have been nice if the film could have burst out of the straight track and twisted into something better.  It’s predictably and rushed storytelling sort of cheated me out of a complete picture, while the lack of more adult based humor will potentially bore others who have outgrown the family friendly humor.  Finally, the fact this movie falls victim to trailer syndrome will further dilute the experience.  This film is worth a trip for the families, but in terms of special effects and overall picture, this could have done well on straight to cable release. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Family:  7.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

BumbleBee Did Not Stumble For Me

Bumblebee Poster

 

Hollywood touches everything it can, finding topics that can potentially be turned into a new movie franchises until every inch of profit is squeezed out.  A toy series turned cartoon, that soon became a live action motion picture series that at one time blew our minds and soon blew our wallets.  After many hardships, the series was about to crash and burn, until the Bay era was handed over to a new team to try and bring it back to life.  Tonight, the full world release is upon us and given the trailers, can this film succeed where the others have failed?  That’s where my review comes in, so here we go as I review:

 

Movie: Bumblebee (2018)

 

Director:

Travis Knight

Writers:

Christina Hodson (screenplay by), Christina Hodson(story by)

Stars:

Hailee SteinfeldDylan O’BrienMegyn Price

 

 

LIKES:

 

Character Development: Bumblebee starts off on the right foot by bringing some character development the film sorely needed.  The titular characters get a gross dive into the psyche, finding new ways to expand the quiet hero’s role outside of new weapons to shoot. In addition, Steinfeld’s character is much more realistic than the mess we had in the other five installments.  Her history, her outlook on life, and social dynamics are covered extraordinarily well, making sure to connect the points and actually give some growth.  The relationship between the robot and girl is heartwarming and an appealing dynamic to invest your time into.

 

The Story:  The movie succeeds again where the others had trouble. While not the most in depth, this prequel, and potential reboot, does make a much more connected plot that wasn’t too cheesy or stuffed in comic craziness.  It bridges the Cybertron to Earth transition well, while setting up the plot for potential sequels, while also standing on its own with the previously mentioned character development.  Dropping the convoluted tangled subplots opened the movie to more fun in both comedy and action.  Speaking of which.

 

Comedy: Ever since number one Transformers has had a special spot for overdone comedy antics and ridiculous levels of meme worthy gags.  Noticing the declining trend in quality of the jokes, Bumblebee’s writers did a fantastic job of integrating some fresh laughs into the mix without going too far into the stale territory.  The 80s nostalgic references and pop culture power with Bee is sensational and by avoiding the tacky toilet humor, it doesn’t lose its stride. Even more impressive is how the comedy flows into the story, working with it and not trying to overtake it as has been seen in the past.  A few tangential scenes did occur mind you, but limited their time limit to get back on track in the short time limit.

 

Pacing:  The last two films proved that the writing struggled to fill the nearly 3 hour run times with engaging material, leading to a sluggish rambling with little value.  Bumblebee shines here as well, not only by shortening the run time by nearly an hour, but also with a pace that kept moving and in time with the other antics. As such, don’t expect too much boredom in this installment.

 

The Action:  Hands down the aspect I was watching for the most, Bumblebee again manages to achieve the goal of improving upon the action that it sold for so long.  The yellow bug had much more epic and fluid moves, with improve choreography and some dynamic sequences that were captured beautifully and not lost too sketchy camera work.  Throw in the fact that the special effects weren’t too overdone, nor the focus of the film, and it led to cleaner action moments that hooked me into the get go.  By not forcing the action too much, I think it made the moments shine a little brighter, and kept the theater quality up.

 

The Soundtrack:  When it comes to the 80s, you know the music was legendary in its synthesizers and emotional rantings.  Well, Bumblebee seems to have a good ear for some legendary tracks and while comically integrated well, the selection was just wonderful to listen too throughout the film.  Be ready to tap your toes to the beats my friend, or at least get set for lip syncing.

 

DISLIKES:

 

More Action:  A small dislike, but an action junkie like me wanted more of the epic display of battling between robotic factions. Cybertron was a great introduction, but why could we not get more of it throughout the film.  Perhaps another prequel about the war for Cybertron will be in the future, but a little more of the fighting on Earth could have helped relieve this want.

 

Attention To Detail: Again, a small dislike, but Bumblebee’s writers may have missed some of the story elements from the previous film. The way this is set up suggests that this film will be reboot of the series, a good thing in terms of story. Yet if it is going to continue on and serve as the first film in the Michael Bay Series, then it loses points for trying to ignore the details they once cherished.

 

John Cena:  His character isn’t bad, and his acting fits the character, but I was disappointed with the way to took the character given the previous history of human agents.  Cena’s character goes through the usual ringers, but misses the target in terms of being a little too silly, not getting the full integrative procedures, and not having the same bite that others have had.  As such, I kind of felt it was a wasted character for me, and could have been an added character bonus and story plot for whatever the plans for this series are.  Not utilizing this actor to the mix… was a wasted opportunity.

 

The Decepticons:  The antagonist robots have got some more flare and sass than a few of the other portrayals, but something that still blows my mind is that the studio struggles to maximize on some of the heavy hitters the show once had .  Don’t get me wrong, the two in this film were still deadly rivals for Bee to fight, but they just lacked depth, and investment again when once more they had the potential to start out on the right foot.  Perhaps if there had been more Cybertron, or they had chosen a historical legend to be the main head this would have helped this area, but for now the record of still choosing some nameless borgs rings true ad they need to get a better handle for the next movie.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Okay, the cinematic Transformers is still not perfect, but this movie is definitely a fun installment that greatly improved on the weaknesses the original 5 were holding.  With greater character development, a wonderful relationship investment, comedy that worked with the story, and action that was miles better given they used better camera work and coordination, this series could finally get the upgrade it needed.  However, the film still needs to find some investment into the other characters for me, and choose the route it wants to take from here as either reboot (my preferred option) or continuation, as this will help make up for a few details and choices that didn’t quite work for me.  One thing for certain though is this:  the balance of story, character development, and action was miles above the Bay quintology, and proves that special effects is not the answer to Transformers.  Definitely worth a trip to theater for the special effects though.  My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi: 8.0-8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0-7.5

No Blocks About It

Blockers

 

Another weekend, another movie and tonight Robbie’s Reviews is hitting the comedic flick of the week with a few of his family members and friends.  In a made for television name, tonight’s film promises the possibility of some scenes that are going to be funny, but probably cringe worthy at the inappropriate scenarios at hand.  As usual though, I’m happy to share my thoughts on the subject matter.  So enough chatter, time to review:

 

Title:  Blockers

Director: Kay Cannon

Writers:

Brian Kehoe,  Jim Kehoe

Stars:

Leslie Mann,  John Cena,  Ramona Young

 

LIKES:

 

-Pace:  Many comedy movies have issues with pacing, often falling to the extremes and spoiling the atmosphere of the movie.  Blockers manages to keep much of the movie nicely balanced, spending enough time to deliver laughs, but escape drawing it out for too long to grow stale. The story continues to move, keeping the movie fun and manages to avoid dragging.

 

-Story/Layout:  Cannon’s direction finally returns to the quality I have longed for since Pitch Perfect.  Breaking from the series, this directors was able to lay a nice story down as the foundation, anchoring the comedy to a relevant point and thereby maximizing the laughs.  Too balance the chaos though, the movie actually drops some character development into the mix, helping evolve the characters from simplistic idiots with extreme flaws and have you like them in the end.  Then to throw some morals into the mix, some of which have some class and heart to them, to help pull you into this…adventure in parenting.

 

-Dynamic Comedy: A comedy has to have pizazz, remain engaging, and often take a few turns to really remain entertaining to me.  Blockers, despite all the wrong moments, managed to accomplish this for the audience and me chuckling/laughing through much of the movie.  This movie pulls no punches, spreading the humor amongst the genres of sexual promiscuity, slapstick humor, comedic banter, college antics, the awkwardness of sex, and surprisingly a lot of popular culture references.  With the writing keeping all these antics adequately mixed and pertinent to the story, they delivered a very fun film to deliver on the promise of laughs, laughs, laughs.

 

-John Cena: For this reviewer, the real champion of this film was the wrestling legend himself. Cena accomplished so much in this film in the way of comedy, managing to take the over-the-top writing of a naïve, overprotective parent and make it more humorous than annoying.  His delivery has that tone that adds that necessary factor to maximize laughs, and seeing his facial expressions as he continues to fall into the strangest traditions only helps to leave you chuckling so hard you might drown out the speakers.

Dislikes:

 

-Lazy Writing:  While much of the writing is well done, filled with wit and pizazz, the one element that fails is the language aspect.  While cursing may not be as annoying to other fans, having some of the words aimlessly thrown around just isn’t my cup of tea.  It’s lazy to throw in cursing as much of the sentence fillers and Blockers fails this challenge at times.

 

-Banter Comedy/Annoying Moments:  Banter comedy is a mixed bag of tricks for me, but seldom has a movie found banter to make me laugh.  Blockers had a few moments, but there are times where the banter is drawn out too long to remain entertaining.  Even more so, some of the banter lacked that comedic magic the rest of the film had, resorting to mundane arguing that dragged on a little to long for me, adding unnecessary length.

 

-Inappropriate Moments:  Rated R movies continue to push the envelope for what can be on screen, and Blockers shows plenty of private areas in situations I never want to see again. Still, this film is all about strapping on a pair and getting ready to see things that twenty years ago would never land in a theater showing, some of which make Fifty Shades scenes look like child’s play.  While not the worst I’ve seen, there were plenty of uncomfortable moments that weren’t so humorous as disgusting to me.

 

-Some Story Flops:  Past the comedic portion though, the only other major dislike I had was some of the story choices they made.  There are a lot of moving elements in this movie, and unfortunately the writing/directing dropped some major plot points.  Ike Barinholtz’s character’s story elements take the biggest hits of the bunch, elements that merely tease at a deeper/richer tale that could be relevant to many.  In addition, there are some other components that are somewhat forced into the mix, most of these being gross stereotypes of American lifestyle that are semi-entertaining, but nothing more than a visual representation of how superficial we can be.  There were even a few characters not needed for this film, so that more annoying moments could sneak in (I’m looking at you wife of Ike).

 

 

The VERDICT:

Blockers is by far one of the better comedies to move back into theaters for the longest time.  While not the wittiest tale to grace the theaters, it does accomplish a lot of over the top moments to bring laugh after laughs, thanks again John Cena. Even better, is the story to keep this dynamic comedy moving, with a pace that is incredibly structured to maximize everything they wished to bring this.  Yet, the movie still suffers from lazy writing at times, going down lackluster dialogue, overdone banter, predictable plot lines, and some incidents that cross way over the line.  Still, the movie accomplishes the goals of superficial laughs and a cute, weird tale earning it some bonus points.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Would say no, but it really works for a group movie so can be good to visit in this case, otherwise, stay home for this film.

 

My scores are:

Comedy:  8.0

Movie Overall:  6.5-7.0