Teaming Up For Comedic Zings, But Wasp Doesn’t Bring As Much Action Stings

Ant-Man and the Wasp Poster

 

Another weekend, another chance for Disney to take the box office with their franchises.  Tonight, the latest Marvel movie appears to try and steal the bucks from all other competitions as it tries to follow the biggest movie event of the year Infinity War.  Can the rogue hero Ant-Man make a film of wavering size… or is it just a placeholder until Avengers 4 comes to life next spring?  Robbie K here ready to write the review on:

 

Movie: Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)

 

Director:

Peyton Reed

Writers:

Chris McKenna,  Erik Sommers

Stars:

Paul Rudd,  Evangeline Lilly,  Michael Peña

 

 

LIKES:

 

Fun/Family Friendly: If you remember the first movie, you know that these movies are fun and very friendly to just about everyone. Ant-Man and The Wasp continues the family friendly fun and keeping it appropriate for all ages.  The pace keeps things moving, bringing with it a constantly entertaining movie that will keep the audience’s attention with ease. Little kids will be impressed with all the excitement and constant moving, while the comic fans will relish the graphic novel qualities of the film. 

 

Character Development: Despite all the chaos in this film, Ant-Man 2 is all about evolving the characters to the next level.  Scott (Rudd) is all about trying to balance work, family, and saving the world, all while trying to push past the fears that dwell around him.  Hope (Lilly) and Hank (Michael Douglas) are on a quest themselves, but while doing this, strive to push past the boundary established form mistakes past.  It’s heartwarming, cute, and surprisingly deeper than expected, but doesn’t divert from the story to make the point, rather integrating this into all the tales.  It works well and develops a crew you want to follow this journey through.

 

Good Main Villain: Marvel baddies have all been extreme characters who go over the edge.  From CGI titans to hormonal, vengeful aspiring kings, the Wave 3 crew has lost much of the balance some of the earlier villains had.  Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is a character that backpedals into a balanced character, an antagonist who won’t annoy you to hating them for their grandiose flaws.  She’s got some backstory, is integrated well to other characters, and remains embedded in the story to develop alongside the rest of the cast.

 

Funny:  See my previous reviews, but Ant-Man 2 rocks in regards to being comedically entertaining.  The writing is the start of this ride, a blend of comedic styles that will appease just about everyone who loves to laugh whether it be from banter or a well-timed insult.  Director Peyton Reed kept things balanced with this work, and therefore didn’t overdo the comedy, or should I say overuse a comedic style. Yet the actors who bring the words to life get the final round of applause for making the most out of comedic gold.  Rudd’s sarcasm, but his relaxed atmosphere works fantastically.  Douglas style is all about dry sarcasm and stoic delivery to counter the energy of just about every character in the crew.  Yet… it’s Michael Peñawho really shines in this movie.  His energy, his confusion, his surprise and his yelling were all fantastic qualities to make him the king of the comedy in this movie. 

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

More Bite from Bad Guys: Ghost has got skills and a story, but she is lacking that bite that Marvel Villains are known to have.  I can’t say much without ruining too much, but this more balanced mercenary is in need of a little more hate/angst to drive her actions, in hopes of making for a more suspenseful tale. In regards to Sonny (Walton Goggins) well he was meant to be a little more deceptive and menacing, but his malice was diluted due to the comedic direction of the movie.

 

Too Much Comedy?: Disney’s last wave of movies is very heavily focused on making people laugh in some form or manner.  While it is always good to laugh, I feel this approach is limiting the potential of the movie to be as balanced and exciting as the first few waves.  Ant-Man 2 is fun and entertaining, but the comedy becomes the primary focus and sort of dilutes the other qualities of the film at times. In the case of this movie it is the suspense and action that take most of the hits.  Speaking of which…

 

The Action:  The First Ant-Man had all the props out to utilize the technology of the hero of varying sizes.  As they train to break in, we get exciting military like strategy, before a very fast and engaging fight between two suits.  This movie started out with a good fight led by Wasp, which showed off girl power to all proportions.  After that… not much else happened even at the end where the exciting climax was a little silly than amazing.  Yes, it is entertaining, but it didn’t have all the pizazz and edge like the first film, and did fall into repetitive maneuvers that were okay.  Again, still fun, but just didn’t reach the levels of the first for me.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, the sequel to Ant-Man works on many levels and does its job at the follow-up to the big, bad Infinity War.  It’s placeholder status has plenty of fun, laughs, and entertainment for the whole family and will certainly keep everyone chuckling by some means.  In addition, it has a thousand times better character development than expected, and gives all the players ample involvement in the story, despite all the laughing you will be doing.  Still, it’s not the most thrilling or exciting of the bunch primarily that the bad guys are not as malicious and the comedy floods much of the movie and washing away the other qualities.  However, it is absolutely worth the trip to the theater with your friends and family, to just enjoy the ride.  Of note: The Mid-Credits scene will tie the film to Infinity War and the end credit is another laugh. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.5

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Incredible Follow Up

Incredibles 2 Poster

            It’s another weekend and with it comes another attempt for Disney to sweep the box office with another “masterpiece” to win the hearts of many.  After 14 years (according to the pre-movie showing), my favorite Pixar movie comes back to bay with the sequel to hopefully bring spectacular adventure back to bay.  Incredibles 2 is promising to be a lot of fun, but we never know what the studios of Disney will put into a movie to meet the expectations.  Robbie K here back with another review, to help guide your movie watching pleasures.  So, let’s get started.

 

Movie: Incredibles 2 (2018)

 

Director:

Brad Bird

Writer:

Brad Bird

Stars:

Craig T. Nelson,  Holly Hunter,  Sarah Vowell

 

 

LIKES:

 

Cute:  If the trailers didn’t paint this picture, take it from the reviewer that Incredibles 2 is chock full of adorable features to woo the hearts of many.  Both young and old are going to find something to hook onto in the Super family’s drama, whether it be the pint-sized baby or the warm feeling one gets of the strong morals of family, and it absolutely accomplishes the family friendly atmosphere.

 

Balanced First Act: Pixar’s team showed much promise of matching the first movie in regards to all the balancing it did long ago. The Incredibles 2’s first half is beautifully crafted to include action, story, comedy, and morals into an engaging tale that accomplishes the goal of setting up for an epic conclusion.  It’s primarily run by splitting the story between the two plots of Elastigril (Holly Hunter) working to uncover the mystery of the ScreenSlaver and Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) trying to a parent, making sure to give each section their due focus and efficiently switching between arcs.

 

Relevant:  While I can’t relate to some parts of the movie, I applaud Disney/Pixar doing everything it can to craft a tale that is relevant to so many people.  For comic book fans like me, the dilemmas of heroes doing their job despite the prejudice of society speaks strong in terms of your values challenging others.  Others will cope well with the girl power motif that Elastigirl’s arc portrays, keeping it mostly on the down low, yet hitting hard where it needs to be.  Yet, there will be many who will grip tightly to family moments and the challenges modern parents face given a changing society.  By broadening this cope, Incredibles II is going to rope in a lot of fans of varying ages, all once again getting captivated by the arcs in store.

 

Animation/Action:  The movie is well animated, no surprise there from the masters of CGI storytelling.  While Pixar always gets points for their world building, character design, and fluid motion, Incredibles 2 amps up the ante by including action sequences into the mix.  Fortunately, they accomplish the goal of adrenaline pumping stunts, comic like combat, and making sure it remained pertinent to the story so as not to appear random.  Your little one will be able to handle much of the stunts thrown in and become super impressed by all that comes with Pixar’s approach to action.

 

Comedy:  Of course, you want to laugh in a movie, and the Pixar group is happy to deliver a variety of laughs to the mix.  The first Incredibles have a number of inside jokes revisited in this installment, primarily in the obsessions of the characters. In addition, some of the melodramatic moments are going to be relevant to some, causing the age groups that relate to it to get the most laughs.  Jack-Jack’s cute levels are going to appeal to most of the bunch, as the baby with no limits defies just about everything to bring his high-pitched laughter out in full. My favorite though…Edna Mode whose attitude and mannerisms are back in full force, with little to hold back the Dahlings.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Predictable:  The mystery of Screen Slaver is certainly the factor to keep you guessing, until you figure out the twist a mile away. Incredibles 2 doesn’t do a good job of hiding the identify well, using some of the blatantly obvious dialogue to drop the hints long before the big reveal. In addition, the way they take obvious detours with some of the characters paints a bullseye on the back. It would have been nice to have a bigger twist, but sadly all the other antics took precedence in this movie.

 

Inconsistencies in Story Components:  The movie certainly establishes a lot of super powers to come in, but some of the gifted characters may have a little more power than one expects.  During some of the action scenes in this film, a few of the characters could have easily solved things with these overpowered components.  No limits are established to explain these components, and certainly that takes away from the suspense when you realize how easily they could have solved it. Most won’t care about this dislike, but eventually as people rewatch it and tear it apart, you’ll start to realize these moments.  At this point, I’ll state that some of the new characters didn’t have the best utilization of the new characters, showing off some abilities, but never the extent of warranting inclusion, with the exception of one.

 

Jack-Jack Balance: The first act broke the balance the first established, in order to bring more screen time to Jack-Jack’s antics. Merchandising is going to have a field day with the pint sized hero, utilizing all his new modes portrayed in the movie for toys, books, and whatever else you can think of.  The movie focuses so much attention on the little guy, that it soon started to go overboard for me.  In addition, the trailers only show you a fragment of the little guys power, and despite the attempt to explain his abilities, Jack’s-Jack’s power is insanely overdone to the point he is almost like a deity.  I said there were a few broken parts and this is the example.

 

Anti-climactic finish: Remember the end of the first movie where you were on the edge of your seat as the family fought that giant Robot that held no qualms with destruction?  Me too!  Incredibles had done a nice job building up the giant antagonist and covering their bases to design a challenging, but doable end fight.  The second installment however, resorted to some cheaper tactics that diluted what was supposed to be the most exciting moments of the movie. Part of it came from the predictability of the story, another part came from the focus on the comedy instead of the action/story.  Yet for me, the action scenes seemed much shorter and simpler, not bringing the heroes to a conducive dynamic that the first one shined with.  Why there could not have been more excitement infused in, I don’t know, but I was hoping for a repeat ending that I saw all those years ago.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

Incredibles 2 accomplished much of the goals set out since the sparks of the first trailer showed up on the screen. It’s a family friendly movie that appeals to both generations, the first part in particular absolutely accomplishing the level of quality the first had.  With the balance of comedy, story, animation, and relevant plot elements it is going to appeal to so many and hook you into the film.  However, the movie still didn’t quite strike the chords the first one did as the plot was predictable, the power levels inconsistent, and the merchandising approach of the baby it just didn’t maintain that balance I loved.  Plus, the finish could have used a little more work to help pull everything together in a satisfying way.  Still, this movie warrants a visit to the theater, and YES kids should have no problem handling this movie, though gauge their responses to loud noises, darker shadows, and one darker element of the plot about 45 minutes in.  Well done Pixar for managing to craft something well, now just strive for the balance again and you have it down to a perfect.

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Action/Adventure: 8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5

 

InFincible? Or Beyond Hype

Infinity Wars

 

The event is finally here, and boy does it have big expectations to live up to as the culmination of ten years of movies comes rushing in.  With perhaps one of the biggest expectations to meet, can Avengers: Infinity War meet everything we die-hard fans love, or does the over expectation syndrome come into play.  Robbie K with a spoiler free review coming at you to shed some light on the subject.

 

Movie:

Marvel: Avengers Infinity War

Directors:

Anthony Russo,  Joe Russo

Writers:

Christopher Markus (screenplay by),  Stephen McFeely

Stars:

Robert Downey Jr.,  Chris Hemsworth,  Mark Ruffalo

 

 

LIKES:

 

Character Development: It’s always nice to see character evolve and while the 18 installments before this movie have laid strong foundations, Infinity continues that trend.  Not everyone gets the full red-carpet treatment (with all the characters at hand), but those that do have some deeper trenches we did not expect. You’ll certainly feel things resonate if you’ve been following the story so far and a fantastic means to tie you into the story.

 

Story Twists:  We all have theories about this movie, most centered on who would survive the war for the Infinity Stones.  Despite everything foreshadowed in the trailers, you have no idea what is coming.  Infinity Wars is a universe filled with twists, throwing in suspenseful moments with ease and doing everything to keep you on the edge of your seat.  The trailers were certainly edited to leave out key details, and that mystery was very well appreciated as the revelations began to drop and the story began to click, up until the very end.  Be ready for some answers to lingering questions you may not have realized you have, and some surprises that will have you cheering in delight and excitement.

 

Acting:  A small quality to comment on, and way too many actors to hit up in detail, the acting still lives up to the potential we had set up. All the contenders easily reprise their roles, bringing delight, fun, heroism and heart wrenching moments to life with no hesitation. Mixing the team together, really did feel like an awkward, weird family trying to save the galaxy one minute at a time.  Despite all the characters crammed into this mega hit, the chemistry works fantastically.

 

Comedy:  Marvel’s writing continues to lean towards the comedic stick, trying to garnish the comic plots in a more expansive way to net more audience members in the box office.  Infinity War has plenty of moments mashed into the space epic adventure, a mixture of slapstick, insults, well-timed cursing, and comical references that keep the giggles, guffaws, and laughter coming.  Don’t worry of the darker atmosphere overshadowing the laughs, there will be plenty to try and keep things as bright as possible.

 

Action, somewhat:  The special effects are hands down impressive, especially seeing the stones powers better utilized than just exploding like previous films. All the sound editing and CGI are worthy of the theater spectacle, perhaps the biggest reason to come see in the theater.  Infinity War has some decent brawls that deliver the fist pumping, adrenaline rush you wanted to see as new tricks are unleashed and styles mix together. Especially near the end, there is one particular fight that feels much like an epic video game battle with all the bells and whistles ringing into one.  A little eccentric at times, but hey it is a comic book movie.

 

 

DISLIKES:

Lulls in Action: While there is good storytelling in this movie, an Avengers movie is known more for the fast pace and battles. There are some major lulls in the action, as the three story trails attempt to connect all the pieces in the quest for uncovering the stones.  These gaps are by far entertaining, but at times I felt another battle needed to be integrated, or others extended to keep the pace going. I liked the emotional warfare in this movie, but come on, a little more resistance.

 

The Black Order:  This is only a semi-dislike, but Thanos elite guards were not as “elite” as I had expected.  Gross and creepy looking, definitely. Deadly and threatening in design? Absolutely.  But in regards to their skills, these masters of destruction were kind of… weak and under developed.  It doesn’t mean they don’t get their 15 minutes to shine, but let’s just say these characters really needed more integration in the story for this reviewer to enjoy. 

 

Too Many Characters?: So many people mixed into one movie, brings with it the threat of potentially denying your favorite character the time you want him/her to hold.  It happens in this movie, so take what you can get and run with it as best as you can.  They do a nice job with most of them, but three of the characters got a bit stiff armed that I wasn’t expecting to see.  So, this element could have been tweaked to get a better immersive story in my opinion.

 

The Ending:  I can’t say much about this, but the ending to Infinity War is almost as mixed as the characters in this galactic quest.  There will be many questions generated from it and even more theories as to how the next wave will proceed, which I guess is good to keep interest coming.  However, it kind of felt cheaply delivered and rushed over, in a manner that was sort of a cop out to be honest.  Based on that last sentence, this component is why the ending was not as well-received, not for the questions it generated.

 

The Fight at Wakanda: The biggest selling point of the trailers was that war on the Wakandan plains, where Wakanda soldiers join the elite squad to fight thousands of CGI aliens.  With all the storytelling elements building up to the climax, I had very high hopes this battle was going to be the climactic piece to bring it all together.  I’ll admit, there are some parts that are true creative genius, but much of the battle was glazed over, dull, and missing so much of the battle chemistry I had expected. Quick finishes to semi-suspenseful moments, and much shorter than I anticipated, this battle was certainly the element I was most disappointed with.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Infinity Wars didn’t quite live up to the hype that the marketing brought with it, but this does not mean it was a bad movie.  A very edgy tale awaits the theaters, with twists and character development waiting to evolve our characters to the next level, with a few flashy battles to liven things up and comedy to ease the tension.  Yet, this project may have been a little too big to tackle, leading to many things being glazed over in trade for others.  Try to lower your expectations and I think you will be okay, just try to accept that there will be answers to come, one just has to wait.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.5

Movie Overall:  8.0

 

A Wrinkle In Story Telling, But A Time In Visuals

Wrinkle

 

Another weekend, another literary classic to be remade by the lovely folks in La La Land.  The movie world continues to scrape deep for the next big fad, Disney brings A Wrinkle in Time to life, ready to unleash magic into the world.  With super star Oprah Winfrey backing the project and a number of stars to further support the film, and potentially bring in the big bucks.  Does it succeed, or should you just read the book?  Robbie K here to provide some insight into the movies ad guide your experience.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

The Acting:  With a star-studded cast, one hopes for brilliant performances and Wrinkle in Time has some impressive displays of the theater arts.  Storm Reid’s career has started off well in this movie, a nice blend of passion fighting pessimism in a manner that feels very much like the whiney preteen age. Her fellow child actors are impressive, but the adult casts’ experience manages to shine forth.  Oprah’s words re limited, but her regality comes across well in her performance. Mindy Kaling’s lines are a little more dynamic, again executed to be entertaining, and while wise, not the most engaging of characters.  It’s actually Reese Witherspoon who was my favorite, bringing the most spunk, comedy, and character to the movie. Her chemistry with the cast was fantastic and her abilities certainly charmed much of the movie.

 

The Morals:  Like the book, the movie has a fantastic repertoire of lessons to teach the young audience members targeted by the film.  A Wrinkle in Time greatly praises the concept of hope, imbedding the driving, divine light of inspiring others to better themselves and motivate them to fight.  It’s focus on utilizing the positive to combat the negative emotions is something this world could easily learn from, and even more so in the ability to accept one’s faults and praise one’s strengths.  While a bit preachy in the dialog, the movie has those emotional moments to absolutely sell those life lessons and perhaps promote the next great person for them to endorse.  Still, use this movie as a means to educate those in the way of values of self-worth.

 

The Visuals:  What can I say, the best part of this movie is the fantastic world building is the world building this movie brought to the silver screen.  A Wrinkle in Time’s selling point is how beautiful the art department made all their characters and settings.  While the realistic Earth scenes are a cavalcade of traditional settings, the real majesty comes when our heroes begin to bend reality.  First the costumes of the misses are incredible, as their personalities erupt to life on each planet they visit.  Makeup and costume blend together perfectly, truly bringing out the beauty of each entity and reflecting their personal view of each world.  And once the costumes are recognized, the creation of the dimensional galaxy gets even better.  My favorite planet is the Flower planet (as advertised on the trailers) as it blended all the color and visual stunning goodness into one area. However, there are plenty of other things hidden in behind the trailers to be impressed with.

 

 

DISLIKES:

The Story:  It starts off so strong, but soon the plot takes a major hit in quality because of how rushed it feels.  Once the traveling begins, the movie’s plot hits a major break and takes a mighty plunged into rushed territory.  Character development, major plot hits, even the mighty antagonist were all kind of bland in this movie, never reaching the full steam past girl power junction.  Why such a literature classic could not build up steam I don’t know, but sadly this movie didn’t quite have all it took to be exciting.

 

A bit annoying:  The movie has plenty of cute, kid friendly gimmicks, but my word does it crush over into some rather annoying things.  The most annoying for me was how often they repeat the name Charles Wallace, a not only obnoxious name, but an obnoxious calling that was used every five seconds.  As picky as this sounds, I quickly got annoyed at how lackluster the name was and how it was used unnecessarily in every context.  Better luck next time in dialog adaptation guys, perhaps next time you’ll learn how to substitute a name with better descriptions.

 

The Simplistic Journey:  You might be thinking Disney would pour their hearts into making an interdimensional journey with some style, class and flare their studios can brings.  Sadly, the movie itself still seems to fail in this department for me.  Three worlds make up the entire leg of the journey and while they each have some magic of their own it didn’t feel like quite a detective journey.  So many worlds were reduced to a blurry montage that lasted less than a minute depriving me of a scavenger hunt in order to fit into the two-hour runtime package. With their studio they could have much better on this aspect to extend the mystery, perhaps adding their own leeway and integration of cosmic powers to uncover the clues to finding dear old dad.  Nope, again the movie is just a sad, sad display of tempting visuals and rushed plot.

 

The Anticlimactic End:  Again, there is buildup up to how deadly the darkness is and how it will be hunting for our heroes at every turn.  So maybe you might hope that the big, bad, black void had some actual tricks up its sleeve to hinder the young warriors’ journey.  Again, the movie has little exciting climax to act as an impasse, a few emotional shadows and musical sores to try to illicit a response.  However, there is little threat behind the darkness void, which symbolic as it can be is a boring end to what was supposed to be a crossing of the universe.  Sorry, but I expect my shadows to have a little more bite and might when they threaten to plague the universe.  The result is a cute, but rather dull finale to one of the most epic tales of the literature adapted world.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Wrinkle in Time feels like a child’s version of Annihilation, but without the unique and twists the genre could really have used.  It certainly isn’t awful as some may say, with good acting and world building to bring forth an emotional telling of valuable ethics and morals.  Yet, the movie does not meet the expectations placed by the book, for the story has been watered down into a hokey, gimmick filled manhunt that failed to reach its full potential.  Perhaps the director’s cut will go into more details with the abandoned worlds, but I doubt extra time will be able to bring the full might this movie needed to match the literary work.  Not the worst movie to grace the theater, but outside of visuals and some acting, I think this one can be held until home viewing.

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Family/Fantasy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  5.5

DCOM or D-Bomb

Zombies

 

Disney Channel Original Movies, are all the rage on the cable station, with epic promotion, marketing, and merchandizing to build up the film for your little ones.  Back in the day, these movies actually did a decent job telling predictable stories, that held some suspense and impressive stunts in a variety of sports and disciplines.  Since the new age of Disney though, these stories have taken a major hit in their quality, resorting to marketing gimmicks and dance numbers to do their lifting and dumping the story down the drain.  After the success of Descendants, the studio that brought the villain prodigy tales to you, brings another movie to the small screen, in hopes of maximizing the ratings again.  Robbie is back with another review on TV movies, so let’s get started, shall we?

 

LIKES:

 

The Message:  Disney is taking some bold moves in their political statements, doing little to disguise the messages contained in the movie.  Zombies is a flat-out statement about how wrong racism is, with the entire writing/cinematography set out to show the horrors of prejudice.  The movie shows the various responses to the candor of segregation, and the right and wrong ways to fight all under the prowess of changing things that need to be changed.  In addition, the movie has a strong focus on being yourself, learning to change things that are toxic about yourself, not because someone doesn’t like it. 

 

The Leads:  Milo Manheim and Meg Donnelly are the stars of the show, getting a majority of the camera time.  Milo has a fresh energy about him, giving the movie that entertaining, fun quality you want in a DCOM.  He manages to transition between silly and serious smoothly, never crossing into the realm of overacting.  In addition to acting, his dance moves, singing, and ability to act like a savage, brain hungry monster are worth noting as well.  Meg on the other hand is the strong, women protagonist that is the trend of Disney at the moment.  While not wielding spears or martial arts that leave extra reeling in pain, Meg’s public speaking and political games are the highlights of her character’s ability.  Like Milo, she has a good balance in her tones and acting style, alongside an impressive facial acting that speaks the emotions and tone of the scene.  She injects energy at the right moments but stands as the symbol of hope/change in this installment.  And in terms of singing, her harmony with the actors is astonishing and quite honestly my favorite voice of the group. 

 

The Dance Numbers:  The focus of this movie is obviously the musical numbers.  What will most likely be a hot selling item, these numbers capture the energy and spirit of the movie.  Unlike other musicals that focus on adjusting their styles to make a nice blend for the track, Zombies sticks to the major pop meets electronic beat.  While not as dynamic, this allowed for some impressive choreography that brought in some breakdancing, some line dancing, and even more so the cheerleading flips and dynamics.  These numbers work in the theme of the movie and again highlight the singing talents of our stars.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Story:  While the message is good, the story really took steps down in terms of quality.  For one thing, the story isn’t unique, just a carbon copy of half of their stories, which are often diluted versions of classic movie stories.  But ignoring this, the movie is not fleshed out very well with so many plot holes and stretches having to be taken to even semi-piece the tale together.  The character development is rushed and sloppy, the love story fairly cheap and pathetic (when they aren’t singing), and the impasses are laughable as they resolve with little to no effort.  It’s obvious that the focus was music, because much of this story looked for opportunities to introduce another song number, sacrificing key plot points.

 

The Other characters:  Not everyone will fall into this dislike, but a large number of the characters are lame to put it as nicely as I can.  These characters are those with extreme flaws/prejudice, who fail to move an ounce during the first 85 minutes and often present their grandiose ways in an overacted direction.  I can’t tell how much of this is due to the direction and writing, but these characters are certainly some of the weaker ones to grace the Disney line up.  Characters like Bucky and his squad in particularly are the worst, in terms of their inconsistency and presentation.  And the parents of the crew/fans are only a couple of paces behind.

 

The Writing:  This would explain a lot in terms of the other dislikes, but the writing was kind of shoddy in this film for me.  Dialogue is limited in terms of anything unique, with only the anti-segregation lines holding any sustenance to them so you can get some mimicking from your kids started.  Outside of that, I’ve already stated that the writing built everything around the dance numbers, leading to rushed plot lines, rapid character development that is almost nonexistent, and just poor planning in general. 

 

Cheap Production:  I know TV movies don’t have the biggest budget, but seeing as Disney is essentially the money maker of the world, they could have done better than this.  Zombie’s stunts are not the greatest in terms of special effects, with many props looking snazzy, but very cheap. Sure, the light shows and setting look decent, but they can’t mask another big dislike, they couldn’t find another team/different uniforms to switch them into.  You pay attention, you see that the football teams and cheerleaders are all the same.  It’s not the fact that unique teams are key to a movie, it’s the laziness that the movie had when they have the means to go all out.  In addition, beating the same team over and over, means again a lack of developing story/tension.

 

Lazy on Soundtrack:  You just heard me say I like the soundtrack, so why on Earth am I putting this as a dislike. Simple, because half the track is unique and the other half are just reprisals that often pale to the first mix.  Descendants, Teen Beach Movie, and even High School Musical do a nice job with keeping their tracks different, unique, and with as few remixes as possible.  Zombies failed on this level, cheating the fans out of unique mixes just to cut some costs.  Why Disney didn’t fun this DCOM more so, I don’t know, but it didn’t impress me in these regards.  At least the numbers didn’t have those annoying, lazy lyrics like some tracks have had though… right.

 

 

The VERDICT;

 

            Zombies, in my opinion, was a massively overhyped movie that promised a lot more than it delivered.  I’ll admit it was fun at times, energetic, and a great medium for promoting anti-segregation (always a plus) and that the acting and dance numbers did their jobs.  However, this installment makes me fear tor the future of DCOMs if all they focus on is the music and the merchandizing that will follow.  This team cut a lot of corners, shucking originality, deeper development, and meaningful dialogue and comparing it to other DCOMS that remain hidden in their vaults, it’s sad.  I’m hoping they will utilize the star actors and the supporting zombies in future projects, but the company needs to get their act together if they plan to keep their DCOMS from further plunging down into crappy depths. 

 

My scores:

Musical/Romance: 5.0

Movie Overall:  3.0

Coco will have you scream Ayeeee yeeeeee Yi Haha! Powerful Music To Bring To Live Culture

Coco

 

Thanksgiving, the holiday of turkey, football, preparation for materialistic shopping, and…Disney.  If you are an avid movie goer, you know the mega corporation is all about capitalizing on the holiday with one of their famous animation movies.  This year is no different, with Walt Disney Animation Studios taking a step back and allowing Pixar to come in with another big hit to sweep best picture category at the Oscars.  Tonight, yours truly hits the theater to scope out Coco, the Hispanic story of music, family, and the dead.  Robbie K here with another review, let us get started.

 

LIKES:

 

The Animation:  Pixar/Disney are the kings of animation, and they have proven themselves again in this CGI masterpiece. Coco’s characters are dynamic, presented in so many forms that give the family a spectrum of characters.  Despite a majority of the cast looking carbon copied version of skeletons, Pixar managed to inject subtle differences to make primary and secondary characters stand out.  The living members also got the anatomy altered as well, going so far to represent all stage of life (i.e. old and senile, young and energetic, and even pregnant).  Past designs, the movement itself is incredibly detailed. The subtle gestures in walking/running, the accurate capture of facial gestures for conversation, and more importantly the incredible finger motions of Miguel and cast playing the guitar.  A statement of Pixar having incredible attention to detail wasn’t kidding, because this thing was gorgeous.

 

Spirit animals:  One stand out feature of this movie are the cool spirt animals that inhabit the land of the undead.  The flying jaguar, while one of the most outstanding displays, is only the tip of the iceberg, and these creatures are sprawled out in the world.  I found it cool to see the creativity of blending common animals into a piñata like creation, each feature designed to add finesse and flare to mix and represent the culture of Mexico.

 

The Culture: Disney movies always have a way of capturing an element of the real world.  Coco’s theme is all about the Mexican culture and the various customs that we as viewers only have an inkling of understanding.  Pixar managed to bring that culture to life not only in design, but in the story, they have developed in this tale. Their belief in the afterlife is the foundation this tale is built on, allowing other things like soap operas, fiestas, food, and the western film culture.  And within all these elements are the important customs of family, the passion of music, and the pursuit of dreams through hard work All of these are beautifully integrated into the mix, occasionally crossing into cheesy territory, to craft a very stirring tale. 

 

The Music: By far the biggest element for me though, has to be the music of Coco.  Disney is always spectacular with their soundtracks, but Coco stands out to me as one of the more unique sets of music to come out of the studio.  Instead of grandiose symphonies, or Oscar designed symphonies, Coco’s music is all about representing the musical culture of Mexico.  Each song builds around the acoustic guitar as the primary instrument in its calm, yet vibrant strings.  Such a simple instrument packs an emotional kick, especially once the supporting instruments and the voice bellow out to unleash the pent-up emotion of our characters.  The songs build into the story, and are used as the primary tools for accomplishing Miguel’s goals and represents a variety of artistic styles this culture has.  It’s dynamic, it’s fun, and its relevant to the story, all big points in this reviewer’s eyes.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The opening short: While separate, the opening number is still part of the show. Olaf’s frozen adventure, while cute, was just another compilation of short songs to refresh Disney’s cash cow for the last few years.  Sure, some of the songs are powerful (the ending in particular), and the message tugs at my strings, but it lacked a lot of sustenance for just more songs.  Thank goodness Coco’s music redeemed this quality.

 

More with the creatures:  I like the spirit animals, I just didn’t like how much of a background they were.  With such cool concepts, you think that Disney would have found a way to capitalize on these monsters’ involvement in the world whether it be searching for clues, chasing our heroes, or having more bang in the final setting.  Even without their integration, the studio downplayed their powers a bit, showing inconsistencies with the potential they developed in these creatures.

 

Lackluster Excitement:  Thinking back to Pixar’s previous works, there are usually those edge on the seat moments that have you questioning the fate of the heroes (Toy Story, Incredibles, even Cars).  Coco not so much for me.  The movie stays pretty safe, with predictable antics, calm action scenes, and a final obstacle that didn’t do much for me in the suspense role. There seemed to be little hindrance to our character’s journey, and in many cases that hindered the development we could have seen.  This film blows the cultural relevance out of the water, yet it still missed its potential for a complete package without the action.

 

Many Book of Life elements:  This movie stands out on its own in so many concepts and the songs are much more original.  Yet, there is a lot of this movie based off of Book of Life, and in many cases less vibrant and unique than the predecessorIn my opinion, I felt the Book of Life was the more exciting of the two tales and I like this design more than the scale this one took.  Still, Coco holds a lot of finesse that the Book failed to have.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Coco is certainly one of the more culturally relevant Pixar movies to come out of the studio.  It’s design and animation are gorgeous, the creativity is on point, and so much of it is packed with tasteful portrayals of this beautiful culture.  Yet, it still has a few shortcomings for me to make it a perfect movie.  They dropped some of the potential they built up and the excitement element could have been amped up with more struggles as well.  When all is said and done though, Coco is by far one of the better films to hit the theaters this November and I strongly encourage many to flood the theaters and scope it out.  And for those with little ones obsessed with Frozen, this movie is only going to be better for them.

 

My scores:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.5

Descending Further Into Quality

Descendants 2

 

Robbie K here with a little change up.  Instead of hitting the silver screen with this review, I analyze the latest Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) to premier tonight.  Our film focus tonight, the sequel to Disney’s latest merchandise extravaganza Descendants.  If you don’t know what this series is about, it focuses on the offspring of the Disney villains and their quest to find themselves amidst a plethora of chaotic assignments.  Like many DCOMs, legendary director Kenny Ortega returns to bring you music and kid-friendly drama that keeps breathing life into Disney Channel.  Tonight, the sequel is back to keep the momentum going and try to retain some quality back to the cable network.

 

LIKES:

 

Villain Kids:  In most movies, the story is only as good as the antagonists to fight and in this case Uma (China Anne McClain) is an improvement over last movie’s band of baddies.  Descendants one tried to reinstate the classic baddies, with subpar casting and actors who semi looked the part. The direction of the movie though put the kids in the forefront and the villains in the back, resulting in rather boring/cheesy performances.  With the kids being the focus, the new villain of Uma gets the focus and development needed, and her malicious planning are nice qualities.  Her second in command Harry Hook (Thomas Doherty) is the enforcer who has some mad skills to bring to the table and actually does something to up the ante in a rather calm series.  With kids at the focus, the doors open wide for more adventure at hand.

 

The Message:  DCOM movies are all about teaching a lesson, and Descendants 2 keeps that time honored magic alive.  Where Descendants was all about not being your parents and marking your own path, the sequel focuses on finding yourself as the main theme.  A good lesson we can all use a refresher on that only loses a little power by the preachy delivery.  Of course, there are other minor plots to help teach a few more subjects on friendship, courage, confidence, and knowing when a rule needs to have a new spin. All good messages for young ones to get bombarded with, and an applause at Disney doing it right.

 

The Story:  The first movie did a nice job introducing all the relationships of the world while embedding it in plots of doing villains’ bidding, but also battling yourself when morals conflict. Yet the story was very simple and lacked the kick that it needed to be fully entertaining.  Descendants 2 was a step up, building on those relationships and using them to tell a new story that involved exploring more of the isle.  The added “suspense” was again a step in the right direction, and the increased urgency only brought more suspense to the mix. 

 

The Songs:  By far my favorite component was the soundtrack.  After seeing Descendants a thousand times over the last two years, I made my list and found only a couple of songs I found timeless.  In this installment, the five out of six tracks will most likely be coming to my Ipod.  The dance numbers were much better for me and they fit very well into the theme of the movie instead of just being jammed in at random intervals ( see Evil Like Me and Ridiculous).  The new soundtrack has edge and really kicks up the beat.  Nice improvements guys.

Acting:  One thing I must give props to though, is the acting.  Descendants cast is super talented and each brings a dynamic energy to the movie that really sparks magic into the DCOM world.  Dove Cameron steals the show with her fantastic ability to direct a character and mold it into a believable performance.  She also brings singing and dancing to the mix that mirrors the emotions present in her character. Cameron Boyce as Carlos has the energy and moves to impress, even more this time with the dance numbers.  Sofia Carson is brains, beauty, and passion with focus on her singing coming out in this movie.  Sofia’s dramatic air somehow brings the group together and keeps the extreme personalities grounded.  Booboo Stewart as Jay has more lines in this movie, and brings that action packed, stunt oriented edge the movie continues to need.  Just maximize his talents more please.  Finally Mitchell Hope does a nice job as King Ben, reprising his well to the full effect and refining it to meet the needs of the scene.  The cast’s chemistry is impressive and Ortega’s guidance keeps things strong, selling the relationships that this movie depends on.  

Dislikes:

 

Dropped plot elements: If you haven’t followed the animated shorts and accompanying books, then this won’t affect you.  However, the super fanbase will note other characters missing from Auradon’s halls.  Many characters are absent in this film, and even those from the first film have been reduced to back burner secondary appearances with little involvement in the main plot.  Audrey, Jane, even Doug are not nearly as involved, most likely to give the newbies more screen time.  Unfortunately…

New elements lacking:  Outside of Uma and maybe Harry, many of the new characters are also reduced to smaller roles than I anticipated.  Newcomers Dizzy (Anna Cathcart) and Gil (Dylan Playfair) have been the highlights of the recent advertising campaign, but sadly don’t do much in this film.  In addition, many of the dramatic buildups, foreshadowing, and magic are actually played less than I originally thought.  Guess dancing and sword fighting are more important than complete plots.  One warning I have for future installments is to not grow so big to drop other characters, or face the threat of devouring yourself by inconsistencies.

Rushed Plot:  Descendants holds a lot of potential to be an epic tale, and that first book by De La Cruz was an epic introduction filled with that potential.  The movies unfortunately have lost that balance and go for the rather rushed conclusions that make many DCOMs lacking.  Number 2 did not improve on this element, but worsened as they tried to shove too many plots into the short run-time.  Much of the conflict is dropped quickly, the tasks and trials are rapidly completed, and new elements are haphazardly dropped without any buildup or heat.  I know they are shooting for time constraints, but with something this big… you can take your time and go a little longer.  Younger audiences won’t care about this, but older ones like me would appreciate a little more dramatic play ups.  In addition, don’t set up potential plots and drop them like a bad habit (see Chad Charming subplot).  That incomplete presentation is a little disappointing with legendary directors in the mix.

 

Anticlimatic ending:  I know, this is a movie geared for younger generations, we can’t have too violent of a fight.  The sword fight did a decent job of bringing the appropriate action especially the tangle between Harry and Jay (Booboo Stewart).  However, another struggle at the end showed off some semi-decent computer work in a very…bland manner.  I can’t reveal much more, but an epic tangle could have come in that wasn’t so…abruptly stopped.  Kids watch lion King, Aladdin, and Incredibles, they can handle more than G rated punches.  Add some “fire” to the mix, or throw in some close calls to mix things up and actually bring fear to the mix.

 

The Verdict:

 

Overall, Descendants 2 stepped its game up on many levels with their villains, story, and songs.  Yet it still succumbs to the modern spin on DCOMs to go for musical gimmicks and diluted themes that while entertaining are not the only sustenance of the film.  Descendants 2 story has room for improvement in regards to integrating its characters more, and could take a lesson from the books in regards to adding some suspense to the film.  Still, it is one of the better DCOMs I have seen in a long time, and certainly the more impressive sequel to grace the small screen.  With a little more work and some other feedback from you fans… Descendants 3 (which I feel will come) can be even more exciting. 

 

My scores:

 

Family/Musical/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall:  6.0