And It’s All Downhill For This Remake

 

Downhill Poster

            The age of remakes and rebranding continues to reign supreme in the modern Hollywood days, and this weekend we have several movies falling into this category.  Today my first review is on a movie that looks to hold some semi-promise upon viewing of the trailer, as a potential comedy or drama with an interesting cast.  Based on the film Force Majeure, today’s reskin attempts to add a Western twist to the mixing the culture of European films with the energy of American cinema.  Will it work?  That’s where I come in to give my thoughts as I review:

 

Movie: Downhill (2020)

 

Directors:

Nat FaxonJim Rash

Writers:

Jesse Armstrong (screenplay by), Nat Faxon (screenplay by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Julia Louis-DreyfusWill FerrellMiranda Otto

 

 

LIKES:

  • Beautiful Setting
  • Orchestra Music
  • Deep Morals and Meaning
  • Occasionally Funny

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Acting Is A Touch Overdone
  • The Kids Involvement In the Film
  • Focus On the Awkward
  • The Banter That Is Not Fun
  • Feels Both Lows and Truncated
  • Attempts to insert Culture With Art
  • Could Not Pick Drama Vs. Comedy

 

I guess it’s not a good thing when the setting is one of the highlights of the film.  Well Downhill accomplishes capturing the European mountain setting in all its splendor and lights the fire to want to go participate in the winter wonderland of the Alps.  All the snow, culture, and promises of a good vacation are very appealing in this movie and made for a wonderful landscape to play this remake in.  When the orchestra music cues, the ambience only grows and helps immerse you into the world a little more, helping again expand into the cultural territory that the film is trying to capture in this repaint.  Then comes the actual story, one thing about European films is their focus on strong morals told in artistic ways, and Downhill manages to do this decently from my perspective.  The art of loving a family, but trying to love yourself is something I think many people this day and age don’t realize is important to balance and the film tries to show that balance in a rather odd manner.  It’s not perfect, but there are several moments of dialogue that are well written or at least adapted, that I think can be used in schools and youth groups to educate.  Finally, this does have two comedians in it, and there are some funny moments in here that have a fine timing to relieve the more somber tone of the film, so points for trying to balance the American comedy style into the mix.

 

Yet the film’s likes fall off from those points and begins to tumble into the tundra of incomplete or odd for me in terms of this movie’s presentation.  The acting, a staple in a movie like this, is not quite fitting for me on most levels. Ferrell himself seems to struggle with being serious and in this position, grabbing any rope he can to come off suffering and filled with drama. Much of his acting with suffering involved looking hungover, and I felt the struggle was only presented a few times well.  Dreyfus succeeds better, but her character’s direction for this film was a little more complaining and whining, rather than balanced suffering.  I enjoyed her scenes more, but even her performance did not rope me into the film.  When the kids come into play, again they are annoying characters who seem to portray a particular generational stigmatism to the film, but do little to actually contribute to the story.  As such, the tools they became were almost not needed and I can’t say I enjoyed their inclusion in the film, not due to the acting but just the character development.

Instead the film seems to focus on the awkward atmosphere of the topic of divorce, especially in a unique circumstance involving an avalanche.  Unlike Marriage Story, this film seems to dive deep into how a couple can turn a conversation into a war, and make life difficult for all who get roped in.  Comedic moments with friends getting pulled in do little to alleviate the monotonous banter that fills this movie, with the two lead actors doing nothing but having these either prolonged shouting matches with the same dialogue, or short quips cutting each other off.  Most of this was not fun for me and thus having to watch the sadness that follows these fights, left me fighting sleep, and a cold. It almost feels that this movie ran out of time when I got to the end of the (mercifully) short run time, where they were trying to find a balance between artistic presentation and entertainment.  I appreciate trying to adapt the European presentation, but with the cast assembled and the trailers presentation, it seems this reskin should have focused more on the comedy given how many people walked out of the theater during my presentation.  However, the truncated character development moments, alongside a rather quick finale, let me feeling robbed of a true spectacle.  In addition, the inability to pick a lane of comedy vs. drama did not help as well, for many times the movie flipped its approach like a car sidewinding through morning traffic.  These jerky, quick transitions messed up the atmosphere of the movie and by the time they stopped making this transition, it was time to wrap things up.

 

The VERDICT:

            This reskin was not the best face lift Hollywood has given in my opinion.  Though cinematography has revealed a wonderful setting and the artistic approach sells the lessons at hand, the film itself is rather boring.  This is primarily due to the presentation having difficulty choosing a lane to present the film, with artistic display vs American entertainment battling it out for first.  Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus can’t seem to find the chemistry for an award-winning performance and the other characters do little to enhance the experience outside of awkward banter and some forced comedy.  It goes to show that a movie like this can keep an original skin and be appreciated, like we saw in the Academy Awards, but for this reviewer, the remake is not worth the trip to the theater.  I would suggest this is at best a free stream or watching on cable to get your best investment. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Drama:  5.0

Movie Overall: 3.0

A Family Adventure that Does Little To Excite

Dolittle Poster

 

 

Another night, another time at the movies and with that we set forth on an adventure that will hopefully be worth the time investment.  Former Iron Man runner, has changed into a new set of duds as he goes into exploring a new universe.  The trailers paint this one as a fun, adventurous movie, that looks to have mystery, comedy, and a little excitement in search of the next big thing.  However, we all know trailers can make things look more golden than they actually are.  Well yours truly is back and ready to give some thoughts as he sets sail with Robert Downey Jr.in the film:

 

Film:  Dolittle (2020)

 

Director:

Stephen Gaghan

Writers:

Stephen Gaghan (screenplay by), Dan Gregor(screenplay by)  | 3 more credits »

Stars:

Robert Downey Jr.Antonio BanderasMichael Sheen

 

LIKES:

  • Great Voice Acting
  • Decent Balance Of Characters
  • Okay CGI
  • Some Meaningful Moments
  • Funny At Times
  • The Ending Credits
  • Cute Family Movie

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Direction Of Dolittle
  • A Little Too Forced Humor
  • The Adventure Is Boring
  • Villain Doesn’t Deliver
  • Action is Simplistic
  • The Story Predictable
  • Low Impact Impasses that Are Too Easy To Overcome

 

Summary:

 

The story of Dolittle has come in many packages, but this one held promise as Pirates meeting cute animal stories.  The digitally created cast has fantastic voice acting, with many creatures being a dead ringer for the people embodying them.  It’s not the most emotionally distraught or tight performance, but it works for the funny characters at hand and should delight the young and young at heart.  With a star-studded cast and plenty of animals, I have to say they accomplish their task of getting as much of the participation of the characters as they could.  I enjoyed the contributions they had to the adventure and found their comedy a selling point for most audience members.  The CGI work is not the most impressive at times, but it worked for me and helped get the animal movements down well, and making this odd cast come to life.  The animation is fluid, and the ability to anthropomorphize these cast of creatures.  While most of this works is to bring comedy to the film, presented in slapstick, goofy delivery, and a few ridiculous sequences designed for the young, it somehow also adds some other level of connection to the movie as you root for the safety of our crew.  Most of the film is about that level of comedy, but at its core lies some of those heartwarming moments that we love to see in these types of films.  Some of these moments are fully appreciated at the end, primarily in the closing moments and end credits that bring yet another art style to the mix that was interesting and fun to watch.  The result is that the movie is all about the classic family movie that has sort of been missing for some time, and will be perfect to take the grandkids too. 

 

However, the reviews coming in make some valid points and I believe these areas could have been improved upon to make this a better movie.  For one the direction of Dolittle himself is odd, a man broken by events, the eccentric genius approach is one part interesting and two parts odd.  A complicated history awaits, but yet the movie never goes with it, lost in him being too silly, isolated, and single track minded to really expand upon this complex character.  And much like the other animals, the comedy is sometimes a little too forced for me, jokes jammed into awkward moments and banter that took the adventure from exciting to corny at times for me, as it became a quest for the next joke.  For me, the adventure became boring very quickly, too simplified and linear with little challenge to stand in our crew’s way.  Where were the exciting ship to ship battles that made our crew face their fears?  What mysteries and challenges await in the palace halls we saw in that trailer?  What about that dragon?  Well… the trailers deceive you into thinking these are real threats, but the truth is that the watered-down action and the challenges just don’t really deliver much outside of a G rated starter movie.  Even the villain is kind of lame, an eccentric looking doctor is about all the threats he has got, as the former leader of vampires/werewolves has taken on the role of one liners and being kind of a nimrod, who poses little threats.  Again this makes for a cute, family friendly film adventure, but in terms of exciting story that could start a series, that’s where it fails for me.

 

The VERDICT:

            I did not hate this movie, but I was disappointed in the direction it chose to take in this rendition for this story.  The trailers painted this as an epic adventure with CGI animals, but instead we got a much kid friendlier adventure that was more about the laughs, slapstick, and cramming of animals than anything else.  It’s positives for me are all about how cute this adventure is with them capitalizing on the CGI animals as the main anchor point the target audience will love.  This film sort of felt like the films I watched as an introduction adventure growing up, simple and wholesome, with just enough added spunk to be above a nick junior movie.  However, where I think the movie fails as the reviewers have said is the missed potential they had suggested to me with the trailers.  The central character is loveable,  but not really a detailed RDJ character that we’ve seen him master like his other films.  The animals are fun, but again they seem so simplified and prop like that I have a hard time investing in most of them.  And worst of all, the atmosphere is so kiddy that the adventure aspect is diluted down to lackluster levels, which may not please the parents or older siblings that are accompanying them.  Therefore, all the conveniences and incomplete story for me are going to be the hardest blows to the quality of this film. 

 

My scores for the film are:

Adventure/Family/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Whatcha Gonna Do? Hopefully See This Movie

Bad Boys for Life Poster

 

Legacy films are always difficult to pick up after retiring them from so long.  This is especially true for movies made in the decades of the 90s and 2000s, hard hitting films that leave an imprint in form or another.  Hollywood’s dive into the past though, does not fear going back into the past though to bring into the present, especially in the ever-maddening drive for money.  So tonight, another relic attempts to handle the modern times, as our resident buddy cops come out of retirement to try to bust our guts and the bad guys once more. Are you ready to Ride Or Die?  I know I am as I review:

 

Film:  Bad Boys For Life (2020)

 

Directors:

Adil El Arbi (as Adil), Bilall Fallah (as Bilall)

Writers:

Chris Bremner (screenplay), Peter Craig (screenplay)

Stars:

Will SmithAlexander LudwigVanessa Hudgens

 

LIKES:

  • Nostalgia
  • The Feel Of Nineties In A Modern Package
  • Good Character Use
  • Fast Pace
  • Decent Character Development
  • Balance Of Comedy With Action
  • Comedy Itself
  • The Chemistry Of Smith And Martin Lawrence

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable For Much Of Film
  • A Few Action Scenes Are Over the Top Or Too Quick
  • A Few Comedic Moments Dropped Too Soon
  • One Of The Main Antagonists Is Okay

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

If it’s a revival of a series, we need those moments we fell in love  with or it’s crap, at least that’s the mindset many on the reviews state.  Well good news guys, the Bad Boys are equipped with some of their old tricks and it works beautifully to restoke the flames of fun we had in the past.  The banter, the comedy, a few references all take you back and anchor you to the adventure at hand. Yet, the film is not just about blowing you up with blasts to the pasts, but also working on modernizing the system and blowing off the cobwebs.  Bad Boys 3 manages to rejuvenate the old as it works to pass on the franchise to a more modern audience, but never loses sight of keeping the two times balanced.  The film has plenty of new characters, yet manages to keep all of them decently integrated into the plot, seldom losing someone to the background (quite a shock I know).  Even more impressive is that there is decent character development for most, with the Bad Boys taking center stage, but still opening up hints for other characters to follow for later.  It’s this type of storytelling I like to see and makes this film all the more impressive for being a sequel and this amount of time that has lapsed.

Still you might be wondering what else this film has in store.  For first off it’s fast, the same as the two precursors, these Bad Boys continue to speed through crime without missing too many details.  It works well given this is an action movie, helping amp up the coordinated scenes that have a combination of chases, gun play, and a little fist fight to go with it.  Like the story, the movie also manages to evolve the action style and again show old school and new school moves that works with the theme of the movie.  Those looking for comedy though are going to get their wish as well, for the laughs are trained into the scenes, with most coming off natural and seldom too forced for me.  If you like the banter, it’s got the banter.  You want slapstick and insults?  You get the same spiteful blows that two brothers can share with each other.  Want to try something new and modernize comedy?  Mission accomplished on this as well.  Bad Boys 3 is all about bringing these styles and mixing them together and the chemistry of Lawrence and Smith is the thing to tether everything together.  Strong brotherhood, natural reactions to each other, and the practiced talent they have continues to shine through this film and really bring everything home. 

 

Still, the movie is not shy of a few limitations for this reviewer that took away from the experience.  One is that the film is predictable, a combination of trailer syndrome, foreshadowing with lines, and me seeing too many movies, these moments all predict most of the film’s surprises.  A few twists manage to sneak in, but I can’t say they were my favorite and given the soap opera themes that go with it.  I wish they had gone another route, but points for originality and I can’t say much more.  I’ll say there were times that the action got a little too ridiculous for me, more so in that they were very choreographed stunts, or drawn out effects that took away from the fluidity.  In addition, some of the fights sort of stopped quickly, and I missed the drawn-out fights that the past decades perfected long ago.  The same can be said for a few comedic moments, which like the action, starts to hit its stride and then petered out too soon, though there are so many laughs in store it’s not as prominent.  Finally, the movie’s antagonist, or at least one of them, is only okay.  So much potential shown only to be diluted for another story development, this antagonist really could have been something more as well if they had learned to balance the two primary antagonists together.  I guess given the difficulty to juggle everything, it had to take a hit, but again there are elements to cushion this blow as well.  Sure there is some cursing that gets me and a few times the jokes go a little long, but the truth is that the movie manages to help make up these limitations with how much fun it is.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            How can this movie live up to the legacy before it?  Truth is… it really can’t, but to go so long and be this put together, I give it applause.  Bad Boys For Life is a lot of fun, and full of the rush we fell in love with a long time ago.  It brings the past and present together in a manner that should help rope fans in, while never losing sight of the goals and story it set forth.  Good use of characters, balancing the comedy with a special effects ridden action set, and tying everything together with that champion acting leads to one of the best reboots I’ve seen in a while.  Yes, it still has some balance issues that have not been perfected, primarily in getting the right time for some action moments, some comedy elements more fine tuning, and most importantly working out their bad guys a little more.  Still, this is one for the theaters for me and I encourage most to pay the trip to enjoy it in surround sound.  From all this my scores are:

 

Action/Comedy/Crime:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5

Is This Movie Boss?

Like a Boss Poster

 

The realm of comedy is interesting these days, as the genre has opened up avenues that have expanded the variety of styles available. With subgenre classes like stoner, dark, slapstick, classy, and more, the movies falling in this realm are enjoyed by the a wide variety of people.  However, as the studios continue to churn them out, the quality starts to waiver and the audience making a big impact as to how it will succeed.  Tonight, another one of these films comes on stage in hopes of making a lasting impact on the world.  Will it succeed?  As always I’m happy to share my opinions on this matter as I review:

 

Movie:  Like a Boss (2019)

Director:

Miguel Arteta

Writers:

Sam Pitman (screenplay by), Adam Cole-Kelly(screenplay by)

Stars:

Rose ByrneTiffany HaddishSalma Hayek

 

 

LIKES:

  • Short Run Time
  • Comedic Gold At Times
  • Great Chemistry Between Cast
  • Nifty Ideas
  • Good Morals
  • Billy Porter

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable Story
  • Surprisingly feels slow
  • Sometimes Too Much Comedic Insight
  • Joke Barrage
  • Some of the Language
  • The Pointless Side Stories/Characters
  • Antagonists And Stupidly Accepting Them
  • Time Skips that did not make sense
  • Nearly Half the Movie Ruined By Trailers

 

 

SUMMARY:

When looking at the trailers, it’s hard to expect the movie will have anything more than what is presented and in this case Like a Boss fits that cut pretty well.  The first like of mine is the short run time, because of all the things I’m about to mention, it’s nice to have it compressed into 90 minutes, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Like many movies, Like a Boss is able to strike oil in the comedy realm, hitting those fantastic and unique lines that had me bursting out laughing several times.  This dialogue is brought forth by a fantastic chemistry between the two leads with Byrne and Haddish having that sister like buddy comedy style that works on so many levels.  They complement each other through the movie, the styles like yin and yang bringing a balance that I believe will please the fans of their styles.  Hayek does well too, but based on the direction her integration is not quite the buddy duo that the stars have, so I can’t integrate her into the mix. Nevertheless, the movie has a few other nifty ideas in store, this time using makeup as the canvas to get some creative comedy, merchandising, and potential inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere. And to my surprise, the movie shows the beauty of human character beneath the shallow comedy styles, with a few good (and relevant) morals that I believe the target audience can always use a reminder on.  These heartwarming moments not only ground the story, but somehow add that layer of character interest I strive to see.  My favorite aspect though is Porter, who somehow has the comedy, the sass, and the heart all wrapped up into one supporting character.  I really wished they had used him more, but some of my favorite moments came from the secondary character whose imagination and heart outshone most of the rest of the movie.

 

But that’s where most of my likes stop and my personal dislikes start to take over, because seldom is a movie perfect in terms of film overall.  No surprise, the movie is predictable, with the traditional friendship vs. business motif being the star and all the awkward comedy to follow.  It’s predictable flow leads to you hoping for some fun sequences to help add diversity, but it missed it’s mark for most of the time and surprisingly made the film feel slow.  It’s pacing is uneven and that leads to things sort of going in peaks and troughs that are okay at best.  For the highlights, they often involve a lot of comedy stuffed into a short time frame with a joke barrage hitting you that is all about how ridiculous or out of touch awkward our characters are.  Other times it’s clever, but sort of steps over the line between funny and obnoxious that it’s more uncomfortable than fun for me.  Fans know that when it comes to language I’m not the biggest on straight up slang or cursing, and while this movie is better than others, the sexual descriptions are still a little too centered for my tastes.

In regards to the last three points though, well these are the elements that made the limited foundation resulting in the unbalanced movie.  For one thing the side characters and stories are almost not needed. Reduced to one the two lines or a small sequence that is dropped, the opening arc with the supporting friends and moral questions is easily dropped for the comedy antics.  Throw in some other build ups and mentions occurring through the movie and you find the typical approach of trying to fluff characters but not give enriching profiles to cast at hand.  It’s half-finished story telling that drops the potential of these characters, even the antagonist, who could have potentially had some more things to uncover.  The antagonists in addition are incredibly shallow, gross examples of weak characters, only designed to instill hate the way modern movies do.  While the characters achieve this, it’s the stupidity of most other characters accepting these gross flaws that turns me away from the characters, hoping that someone will finally turn the switch off.  Throw in these odd time skips of weeks to a month at a time, where background details are lost, and time starts to not make sense anymore.  I believe this is why I felt the movie seemed to drag was this ignoring of the time and sort of shoving everything together at once.  Finally, nearly half of the movie has been beaten to death in the trailers and to me that adds to the predictability and staleness of the film.  One maybe two trailers should be able to give enough without ruining the movie, but in this case Like a Boss has mapped out most of the tale, and the scenes that try to support it are limited at best, such as one karaoke scene.

 

The VERDICT:

    Comedy is tough in this age of politics and changing acceptance of rude vs. crude, and Like A Boss tries to succeed in finding the balance.  The actors chemistry, alongside some fun writing moments and good morals are the selling points for this film, with fans of Haddish and Byrne comedy being the target audience to see this work.  However, this girl’s night out flick, as described in the trailers is still missing the balance and art that other comedies have achieved.  It’s catered to the modern attention span and presentation and while it works, it’s not something that has to be seen in theaters.  I encourage this one for a home viewing or group night out to get your bang for your buck, but the potential for these two I look forward to seeing with some more complete writing in the future. 

 

My scores are:

            Comedy:  6.0-6.5

            Movie Overall:  5.0

 

Do You Come To Play In This Film?

Playmobil: The Movie Poster

 

The Lego Movie shattered the expectations of toy-based movies with a dynamic story, great comedy, decent sequences of actions, and a balance of kids to adult audiences.  While the sequels that followed took stride in their own remark, the first one really opened our eyes to quality kids animation.  Enter tonight’s movie, in the form of Playmobile, a similar design to the classic pegs, but with a little more movement and cost-effective price to appease the younger crowd.  Tonight’s movie offers the same sort of approach, hoping to get the animated holiday feature in before Oscar season swoops in.  What is the verdict?  Robbie K coming in, to give you insight into the next movie and determine if it’s worth a trip to the theater.

 

Movie:  Playmobil: The Movie (2019)

 

Director:

Lino DiSalvo

Writers:

Blaise Hemingway (screenplay by), Greg Erb (screenplay by)

Stars:

Anya Taylor-JoyGabriel BatemanJim Gaffigan

 

 

LIKES:

 

Animation Is Decent

Cute

Heartwarming Story

Short Run Time

Fun Music

 

DISLIKES:

 

Acting Is Mixed

Predictable and Linear

Jokes Sort Of Forced Into The Movie

Action Is Rather Dull

Music Numbers Are Sometime forced

Lame Villain For Me

Not As Well Balanced

 

SUMMARY:

 

Like many animated movies, Playmobil is very nicely designed to bring the family fun atmosphere to the forefront of the show.  Smooth movement, cute design, and nod back to the days of creating worlds with the simple figure, this movie manages to bring imagination back on the big screen.  Like many of my fellow reviewers have stated, this film is certainly cute, with the short run time of about 80 minutes (not counting credits) being focused on heartwarming, moral filled lessons in a nice dynamic package. It’s a great lesson for the ideal audience of kids, which should bring smiles to the young faces and the parents that accompany them.  Finally, like most kids films, Playmobil is ready to pump the speakers up with original music, that is toe tapping selection of catchy tunes about the morals we need in our lives.

 

Yet the other side of the coins have valid points for me in regards to this film, especially when one sees what was accomplished in other animation films.  For one thing the voice acting is okay, which can either be due to performance or direction of the character.  Anya Taylor-Joy does a decent job, and young actor Gabriel Bateman accomplishes the vulnerable child in over his head role well as he starts discovering himself.  My champions are Gaffigan and Daniel Radcliffe whose characters are probably the most engaging of the supporting characters and bringing the dynamic cast to a rather one-note movie.  Unlike other films, the movie falls short of the dynamic storytelling that other company productions have excelled in.  It’s plot is thin and very predictable, a linear tale with few bumps or surprises to amazing and wow as the writing continues to favor the younger generations filled with jokes and preachy speeches crammed on in.  Sure the humor is cute, but the movie needed better balance for this reviewer and working on making a more exciting tale that utilized the humor and lessons as a supporting role instead of the central pillar.  The action scenes are rather limited, mostly due to the G rating, but also because the villain is another example of a grandiose, pompous, speech expert who does little else.  Because of these two factors, alongside the linear telling, just results in a bland adventure that might not be as entertaining to the older crowd, which is a shame given what they can do in these movies.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Playmobil is not an awful movies, it just doesn’t have the same balance or execution that the Lego movie, or other films for kids have been able to pull off.  Certainly, the animation, story, and cute atmosphere will certainly impress the target audience of youngsters.  Sadly, the fact that the film struggles to find balance in the presentation to the audience with its predictable, G rate film is going to be the biggest obstacle to see this movie.  With a feel much more fitting of a Nick Jr. or Playhouse Disney feel, Playmobil is much better suited to a home viewing where the little ones can corral into the living room and watch it for the short run time.  Overall, the movie will deliver to the young generation, but given Frozen is out, Spy in Disguise is on its way, and Star Wars, this film is going to be out of the theater quickly unfortunately.  Therefore, my scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:   6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

Unsheathing the Comedy And Drama, Knives Out’s Tale Is Sharp!

Knives Out Poster

Mystery movies can certainly be fun, but the refined art of mapping out a crime can be a challenge in this world with ever shrinking attention spans.  However, there are still writers and directors out there ready to give it a try in hopes of bringing thought out plots back into the popular trend.  Tonight’s review holds such a promise and even more so it holds another redeeming trial for a director whose involvement in Star Wars was not the best received.  With lots of advertising, I’m sure you have seen the trailers so let’s get going as I review:

 

Film: Knives Out (2019)

 

Director:

Rian Johnson

Writer:

Rian Johnson

Stars:

Daniel CraigChris EvansAna de Armas

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • The Cinematography
  • The Plot Is A Good Mystery
  • Better Twists Than Anticipated
  • Involvement With Most Of The Cast
  • The Comedy

 

DISLIKES:

  • Some rather worthless characters
  • The Run Time
  • The Pace
  • Perhaps A Little More Murder

 

The VERDICT:

With an assembled cast such as this, you can best bet the acting will be at least moderate, and for me it was a fantastic display of work.  All parties assembled really play the dysfunctional role well, portraying the motive filled shouts and complaints to an art that did not annoy or go overboard.  Too many names to place, I’ll say that Craig was entertaining in his role of Colonel Saunders (a running joke) meeting James Bond as the detective, primarily in his interactions with Marta.  Ana de Armas was the star for me not only because of her character, but more so in the way she played the levels of emotion perfectly and interacted with the squad the most to balance this art.  Past the acting, the movie really picks up in terms of the visual presentation, feeling much like a detective movie from the 50s-80s, but modernizing it to the present day.  It should captivate many mystery lovers, but more so generic fans who can point out a lot of devices and nods to famous detective sagas.  However, the movie’s main selling point is the presentation of the story that let’s face it has been told time and time again in a Hallmark like fashion.  Johnson, for me, accomplished the role of bringing out a good mystery, not only in the classic hunt for clues and mapping out suspects, but adding some nice twists to the mix.  If you are paying attention to time and some info, you’ll start getting an idea, but this film’s twists (no matter how convoluted) do manage to spruce up the dusty manor of detective works.  An even better angle for me, is the character utilization, while not perfect, every character has a purpose in some form or angle, with few sitting off to the sides as just mere bodies to fill a convenient hole or bridge.  If not for the sake of the plot, then the character was used for comedy and that may be my favorite part of this movie.  Knives Out manages to be very humorous in the regards of the comedy aspect, with well written dialogue, delivery of those lines, and timing wrapping up nicely to leave many laughing during my showing.  That I feel will be a pull for many audience members, though don’t expect usual slapstick, banter, and ridiculous, logic defying stunts to be pulled here, or you’ll be disappointed.

 

For such an artistic film though, there are still a few things I would have liked tightened up.  Though all characters were utilized in some form, I can’t lie at least three could have had more involvement than what they did.  Hinting at being a part of the plot, these characters were left to the passing comments or joke props until that one moment a clue contributed.  That family engagement they sold in the trailers, needed some more development for me to keep everyone entangled in the mess as opposed to on the side.  In addition, the plot could have used a little more murder and threats to help spice up the drama/mystery, as I am partial to the deadly games of hunting in my movies, than anything else.  For a movie selling that murder, I had kind of expected something else, but it’s a mere trinket.  I can say the thing I had the hardest time with was the run time and the pace.  Knowing it’s a Johnson movie, I expect it to be long, and for the most part the movie ran at a good enough pace that it did not feel super long, but other times did show the dragging I dreaded.  I can say that there were parts that could have been cut out to shorten the length, or at least rewritten to include the character interaction I mentioned above.

 

So in conclusion, what are the thoughts on this controversial movie/tale.  To be honest, I do think it is a reimagining of Clue, and took a step into the modern world to help reach out to the new audiences.  It’s got the presentation of a mystery, with twists to help bring our well-acted characters together and entertain us with their drama. Comedy is also pulled out of the sheath and I think these two elements are the biggest selling factors to brave the nearly 2.5 hour run time Johnson has put forth.  As such, I feel this movie is worth a shot at hitting the theaters for those looking for a drama/mystery/comedy, while others will most likely enjoy from the comfort of their homes.

 

My scores for Knives Out are:

 

Comedy/Crime/Drama:   9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

The Movie Storm Is Strong In Showmanship, But Brittle In Storytelling

          Frozen II Poster

 

Years ago, Disney unleashed a movie that stormed its way across the theaters and bringing with it a blizzard of merchandising in the form of Frozen. This empire would span across the years, allowing Anna and Elsa to find their way into many avenues, including the shorts that were mixed in reception.  While a little overrated in regards to avenues, the movie proved a soundtrack could flourish when putting just the right touches to it.  After reading the bridging book and seeing the trailers, the inevitable Frozen II looked to be promising for breaking away from the song and dance, love musical and push towards a more fantasy lore, a direction I so looked forward to it.  Robbie K is back to give you another look at the movies, and help guide your movie going preferences. So let’s get cracking at:

 

Movie:

 

Frozen II (2019)

 

Directors:

Chris BuckJennifer Lee

Writers:

Jennifer Lee (screenplay by), Jennifer Lee (story by)

Stars:

Kristen BellIdina MenzelJosh Gad

 

LIKES:

  • Voice Acting/Vocals
  • World Design
  • Pace Moves
  • Beautiful Animation
  • Touching At Times
  • Olaf’s comedy at times

 

DISLiKES:

  • Predictable (majorly)
  • Spirit design/usage
  • The Story Is Weaker
  • Under Utilized Characters… majorly
  • The Twist
  • The Lack Of Impasse
  • The Preachiness/Politics
  • The Overdone Humor
  • The Forced Singing… again

 

SUMMARY:

Animated movies rely on the art of voice work, and for a Disney animated film that often requires the ability to sing as well.  Fortunately, the cast is able to bring both in a variety of styles to bring the atmosphere of Frozen back in full form Menzel’s ability to blow us a way with bellows was mesmerizing and certainly my favorite of the songs in terms of style and storytelling, while Bell’s work leaned more towards the regular conversations and bringing emotional punches.  The chemistry between them is certainly decent, and the bonding of sisterhood comes out with every performance.  As for Gad, well he reprises his goofy side kick role with that childlike voice that works so well for the naïve collection of ice crystals, sticks, and coal.  Past the voice acting though, Frozen II is a beautiful display of animation pushing the boundaries, bringing more realistic edges, the contrasting colors to add spice, and fluid movements that continue to bring the magic of these movies.  It’s a stunning display of time commitment to details, bringing nature and Nordic culture to new levels and yet wishing you could make that light show come to life.

Moving past the vocals and animation though, the movie’s content continues to be awesome depending on who you are and what you are looking for.  For parents and guys like me, the pace moves better than the first in terms of getting the plot moving and keeping the adventure spirit alive.  Kids should like the fact of not diving too big into the details of fantasy, while adults can take a breath in not getting stuck in a drawn-out film that is boring.  In regards to an older audience, Frozen II continues to find moments to be touching, still kicking to its roots of promoting Princess power and sisterhood, and finding other avenues to pull at heart strings in a better way than the first film.  There were scenes that gave me goosebumps and that’s powerful in my book.  Finally, the silliness of the franchise is still ready to come out and entertain both groups, primarily in Olaf who has matured into new avenues of comedy that are charming, funny, and somehow innocent all at the same time.  A step up from the last film, the loveable snow man serves as comedic relief and supporting actor, a nice job as always.

 

Now comes the things I feel the movie took hits on in terms of quality. In regards to the design elements the movie does not have many flaws with only one maybe two things that could have used some updating.  Mainly, the spirit design was what got me, a potential to really unleash some Nordic creativity and make some truly wicked designs.  Two of these succeeded for me, one was cute and a nice change, and one, the wind spirit, failed to impress me.  I understand the elements they used it for, but it missed the mark in terms of creativity and ingenuity compared to its fellow spirits.

Plot wise however, the movie starts fizzling out and showing Disney’s vulnerabilities sometimes in their creations.  For one thing this is one of those films that is super predictable.  Within the first 10-15 minutes of the film, many of the story elements had been super foreshadowed and it did not get better from there as one predicted just about everything by midway.  Combine this with the pacing, and well you start seeing the weaker story that like first freeze is shaky in terms of supportParts of this are at fault for the poor character usage, as both old and new characters are tossed to the backburner in favor of the dynamic sister duo and their frozen side kick.  Fans of Sphen and Christoph, or looking for new characters to really be involved need to tone down the expectations now, for they have become diluted in this installment and are there to serve only small plot advancements or comedic sticks. The twist that comes at the end, well it was not much of a twist if you are paying attention, and instead one of those plot devices there to be inspiring to a key demographic, in that oh so preachy, political way that modern story telling loves to go.  If you were a fan of the first movie’s presentation, then you will love this one, but for those like me looking for balance, head in with a grain of salt to help stomach the very dramatic moments.  Something else for this reviewer is that impasses are also very brittle, with much of the conflict very shallow, one-sided and quickly resolved without much of a challenge.  If you remember the first one where things got pretty tense, where hunting, deceit and manipulation danced with our characters to cause deeper dives into the character psyche was very memorable.  This one tried to go a little more adventure like, but those moments blew over in minutes and seemed simplified which was disappointing for me.

I think the biggest contributor to the weaker story is the fact of Disney’s focus in jamming humor and singing where it is not needed, or in the amounts they do it in.  Olaf’s humor may be cute at all points, but the gags start to get old when they are force in there, which are obvious at times.  That pales in comparison to the songs though, which once more are trying to get the soundtracks selling like last time.  The second go round has some more emotional songs that are less gimmicky, fun, and dorky, but the problem for me is the volume they come in.  Once more i found many of the tracks to be sort of random moments to sing about emotions, and even worse the fact that the plot seems built around the songs again.  Frozen II also lost points for me at not utilizing the awesome musical pieces they used in the trailer and blowing me away with the symphony work, though they redeem with the covers at the end.

 

The Verdict:

 

            With a movie like this that has been too blown up, the expectations are high to be just as good as the original.  Frozen II casts a magic spell that was incredible in regards to animation, utilizing the elements well, and really bringing the elements of the first movie back for fun and trying to evolve on them.  It moves well, has humor that lightens up the mood, and yet very touching at others with its inspirational moments.  The movie certainly feels like a slightly beefed up version of the first  in terms of gimmicks of presentation of non-story elements, which in this day and age is often more important.  Yet, the story feels very deprived of the richness the book promised, not utilizing its characters well, getting a bit preachy at the end, and for me forcing songs in again rather than finding that balance.  When looking at this for recommendations… it works for a theater visit for many reasons and I really think fans of the first one will be spelled by the things its brings.  However, the sequel needs some tinkering for me to be the next best Disney film, and hope it’s not as overrated as the first one. 

Also stick around as there is a post credits scene following the covers at the end of the credits

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5-7.0