Nolan, Dun Got It Right

Dunkirk

 

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

 

LIKES:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

DISLIKES:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The VERDICT:

 

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

 

My scores:

 

Action/Drama/History:  9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

 

 

Everything You Have Seen Before

everything

 

Coming of age movies have come in a variety of styles, packages, and of course quality. While the number of generational novels (and subsequent movies) have increased over the decades, their quality has decreased for many, lost to the gimmick of modern, superficial entertainment it has become. And so here comes yet another addition to the teenage book movie collection Everything, Everything! Interesting title aside, I must admit I didn’t have high hopes for this movie, but nevertheless I’m back in the theater to give you the thoughts on yet another film.  Let’s get it on…figuratively that is.

 

LIKES

  • Good pace
  • Great chemistry
  • Realistic, not annoying
  • Twist

 

Summary:  Okay, when it comes to love stories…we know I find the pace to be slow and often boring, (yes, I’m a robot). However, in Everything, Everything, that trend was finally broken.  No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you my friends, you read right.  Everything, Everything keeps the pace moving, making sure to bring prompt, concise introductions and dive right into the story at hand. No this doesn’t mean they skip over too many things (admit haven’t read the story), but it keeps the adventure going, all while maintaining the romance involved.

What helped accomplish this?  In all honesty, I think it was the chemistry that made the movie, with the two stars Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson having a fantastic relationship with each other.  They play off each other’s emotions, seem to like working with other, and maximize the energy they bring to the screen.  It’s like they are actually in love with each other, or at least friends, and that sold the relationship/story for me.  An added bonus is that the relationship felt like a real example of a developing relationship, forgoing the cheap antics of cheesy love that most romantic comedies choose.  They weren’t instantly soul mates or magically destined to succeed.  So, nice to see that portrayed every once in a while.

Yet the main thing that sunk me into the tale was the twist in the story.  It takes a lot to surprise me in movies (I’ve seen so many after all), but this movie was able to covertly hide some nuances that seemed inconsistent were instead hints at what was to come.  While it took place a little late, it really brought the film to full circle and ended the film with a powerful finale.  Nice job my friends… nice job.

 

DISLIKES

  • A slow abridged start
  • A few overacted moments
  • Some odd directions
  • Dropped characters
  • Uniqueness is kind of missing

 

Summary:  I know what you’re thinking, you’re contradicting yourself again.  Hear me out, overall the pace worked for me, but the opening took a little time to take off the ground. The introduction was a little dragged out and slow, merely a compellation of moping scenes with a monologue overlapping to explain the abridged, somewhat underdeveloped details. 

In addition, the movie takes some odd turns in the film, going into some pointless tangents that were odder than anything.  A common metaphor is the astronaut to which she compares her life to, a symbol of being a long individual stuck in the vast, empty void.  Cool symbolism, but it gets lost in these trippy side arcs of the astronaut trying to do mundane tasks in the background while our characters act out their text messages.  I’m guessing it was trying to be funny, but this weirdness was an unneeded distraction that did little but make me think some drugs could have been involved.  Well that and helping distract from some of the more overacted moments. Despite a rich chemistry between each other, there were times that reaction failed to activated, leading too some flat attempts at get tears going.  Fortunately, these eye rolling moments were kept to a minimum.

And while the story was good overall for me, there are still a few other flaws that hit me.  First of all, the trailers spent some time building up a few characters (such as the nurse and for a while the mother), only for them to drop them out of the picture for a long while.  Why the dropped story?  Why the potential for a little emotional build up to really kick things up?  Probably for more kissing and declarations of love I suppose.  Still they cheated us out of some good character interactions, leaving us to explore those components by reading the book.  How dare they!

This brings me to the last dislike, the lack of uniqueness.  Despite the twists, surprises and decent pace, Everything, Everything still lacks that unique touch that we all still look for.  It has all the familiar elements of this genre, with little deviation and originality to compliment on.  If this familiarity is what you want, then great, because that comfort is present in the movie.  However, if you are looking for something with a little more pizazz and originality… then you will want to move along.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Despite lacking originality, this reviewer is pleased to see a quality coming of age movie hit the theaters this weekend.  Everything, Everything certainly has everything you want in a teenage chick flick with a decent pace, good acting chemistry, and a nice twist to spruce things up.  Yet it still is that familiar story of love Hollywood likes and lacks a lot of theater worthy elements that make it worth the admission price.  Therefore, I can recommend this movie for a visit if you’re looking for a good book movie, but I still recommend waiting for Redbox to see this film. 

 

My score is:

 

Drama/Romance: 8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

A Ring Story, Without the Scares

rings

            Seven days!  A simple phrase that struck terror in our hearts oh so many years ago.  Certainly, you know I’m talking of The Ring, the horror movie about a death delivering video tape certain to scare you to death.  Samara’s tale has fallen on to the backburner for some time, but like the cursed video, the series has resurfaced to the modern world to once more have you cowering at your screens.  Will Rings live up to the potential?  Robbie K here, once more sharing his opinions on yet another film.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

  • Decent acting
  • Nice blend into the modern era
  • Strong story for a horror

 

Summary: Okay, this movie is certainly not going to win awards for best performance, but Rings’ cast has some skill in their performances of college kids plagued by an evil spirit. Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz and Alex Roe are the leads of this tale, doing a great job of balancing romance and detective work, finally a power couple who wasn’t annoying.  And Johnny Galecki trades one nerd role for another, though this time his scientific qualities had a little darker twist to the mix.  Overall, the cast gets a pat on the back for establishing some good characters to hook on to.

Yet the major things this reviewer liked involved the story components of the movie.  Rings has jumped into the modern area, dropping the outdated VHS tapes for modern day MP4 files.  It will help bridge the generation gaps, and add a new element that the other installments were missing.  And the story was much stronger than I anticipated.  Rings has more mystery to it, trying to find the answers to the elusive mystery of Samara’s origins.  Where it fits in the grand scheme of things is a little up in the air, but at least there is some character development and drama to spice things up.  And as for the ending, it too is a little ambiguous, providing some delightfully dark closure, but still leaving it open for future installments.  Not the strongest finish, but also not bad.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Scare Factor at A Low
  • Some plot elements lackluster
  • Not the same Ring

 

Summary: Rings story may be on target, but the scare factor still didn’t reach the same levels that the first movie was able to achieve.  This installment resorted to jump out scare moments, mainly trying to make you jump with sudden loud noises and hallucinations appearing from out of nowhere.  Many of these moments weren’t well timed, and to be honest many of the objects just weren’t scary.  Think of the first film and how creepy everything was, the unknown always teasing you until something sprung out of nowhere. All that was very diluted in this installment.  Even though they finally show you how she kills her victims, the team didn’t quite make it as horrifying as I thought it would be (think ghost rider’s soul stare without the flashy fire).  Rings was lacking this element, and had more of a mystery theme to it than an actual horror.  In addition, there were also some plot elements that didn’t shine as much as they wanted. For this reviewer, there is still some questions they still haven’t fully answered that you have to draw yourself.  The bottom line of the dislikes is that Rings didn’t quite hit the same level the first movie had all those years ago.

 

The VERDICT:

 

In conclusion, Ring is not so much a horror movie in this round, but a mystery film about uncovering the origins of Samara.  While the cast is decent, the story is mostly thought out, and we have some answer, it still didn’t feel like the Ring series we’ve come to know. If you are looking for a movie to scare the pants off of you, sorry this isn’t the film to do it. And you can probably guess, but yours truly doesn’t recommend this one for the theater and implores you to wait until it hits home rental stands.  Only people who might enjoy this one in theater are those who care about the story element of the movie, but I still think you can wait for home (I mean we have been waiting twelve years for this one right?). 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror:  6.5

Movie Overall: 5.0

Life, Death, Lessons: A Dog’s Philosophical Tale

dogs-purpose

            Robbie K here with another review on the latest thing to hit the silver screen. Today our focus is on a movie about man’s best friend, the dog, and the incredible things they do for us.  Despite all the discussion this movie has drummed up, I still paid a visit to the theater to see what they had in store.  What’s the verdict?  As always read on (or skip down) to what my thoughts are on what looks to be an emotionally uplifting movie.

 

LIKES:

  • Cute Puppies
  • Comedic
  • Emotionally powerful Sequences and Dialogue

 

Summary: If you have seen the trailers (or read the title), you hopefully know this is a movie about dogs and what they can do.  And fortunately, this movie delivers on the promise of showing just how adorable our canine compatriots areMuch of my fellow audience members squealed in delight as the dogs chased their tales, ran all over the house, and shared their love in hugs and kisses.  An added bonus is that many of these moments are also funny, either at just how cute they are or an intentionally funny line.  Josh Gadd voicing the various dogs was a smart decision, his casual observations and delivery matching the dogs looks so well. Yes, there are moments where they try a little too hard, but overall the family friendly themes will be a welcome sight.

And for the older audience members, be ready for some powerful punches to the feelings with this movie.  A Dog’s Purpose is filled to the brim with moments that will have many tearing up, primarily at just how much these four legged friends do for us.  The messages in this film hit hard thanks to the visual and audio editing, the scenes design to capture the raw emotion behind the dog’s eyes.  Yet, even Gad’s dialogue gets the water works rolling, not only for the wisdom they share in those words, but also in how well it matches my vision of how a dog would speak.  A Dog’s Purpose certainly has the emotionally fluffiness you would expect, however there are some limitations we must address.

 

DISLIKES:

  • The imbalance of stories/Simplicity
  • Dennis Quaid as the selling point
  • Depressing

 

Summary:  Okay, so did I really think this tale was going to be a deep well of twists, turns, and surprises?  The answer is no. However, I had hoped that such a straightforward tale would have had a little more balance to the mix.  A Dog’s purpose is told in four tales that turn out to be one full circle (which is cool), however there was an imbalance in how much they spent on each story and their purposeThe first tale about Bailey gets the greatest emphasis (and time), building up the relationship between man and dog.  However, the other tales are far less developed, much more rushed in terms of character building with a focus on fun and quick lessons.  Don’t get me wrong, these stories do have a place, I just expected more contributions from these parts based on the trailer.  I also expected Dennis Quaid to have a bigger role, but the “legendary” actor is surprisingly simple in the grand scheme of the movie.  His fans shouldn’t expect much from him in this movie, as his part is reduced to maybe fifteen minutes of a quick wrap up to what could have been a deep relationship.

Yet the biggest dislike for me in this movie, is how depressing it can be at times.  We all know this movie was going to have tearful moments (again see the trailer), but never did I expect to see so much suffering and detailed scenes of the dog passing.  A Dog’s Purpose will certainly get animal activists screaming, for the directors decided that in order to deliver the full emotional effect, you had to see them suffer or die on screen.  If you can’t handle seeing this amount of detail on screen, then skip this film. The after effect of the scene will linger for a bit, but the cuteness and happy themes eventually return.  However, I’m not the biggest fan of a dog death scene, let alone three of them.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

A Dog’s Purpose is indeed one of the most emotional movies of the year. It is certainly one of the best portrayals of an ideal relationship between man and dog, and will have many families laughing at the cute antics at hand.  But don’t let the puppy faces and Josh Gad fool you, as this movie has many depressing moments of abuse and death to get your anger boiling.  Overall the story has much to teach, but don’t let the promise of Dennis Quaid, four dogs, and the cuteness fool you into thinking this is a perfect story.  Yet despite all the hate this movie is getting, it’s still a decent drama overall that doesn’t drift too far into what I call soap opera territory.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Honestly I would say hold out for home, but if you want to see this make sure your family is prepared for the depression at hand. 

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Comedy/Drama: 7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

 

Doesn’t Live To It’s Full Potential

live-by-night

 

Gangster movies have been a major component to American cinema for quite some time. With established films like The Godfather series, Scarface, among other films, sometimes it can be hard to produce a quality modern day crime film. But Ben Affleck has made an attempt this weekend with the movie Live by Night. Can Affleck’s recent resurgence revitalize the gang movie, or does his operation go belly up before it gets started?  Robbie K here with another review and as always appreciate the read.

 

LIKES:

  • Solid acting
  • Incredible Setting and Costumes
  • Very Detailed Description of a mob rising

 

Summary: Affleck’s stoic, monotone, performances continue to find footholds in a variety of parts, and his portrayal of a gangster with a conscience is spot on.  Although not the most emotionally dynamic character, Affleck’s tactics work in portraying a man struggling with the trials at hand. Chris Messina as his sidekick has more of an edge that helps offset the monotone delivery of the lead role. Other actors do their job of crafting the seedy mob family, being cunning, ruthless, or strong to accomplish their goals.  If the acting doesn’t sell the gangster setting than the costumes and scenery will do the trick. Live by Night uses the big budget of the film industry to recreate the roaring 20s, complete with old fashioned zoot suits, classic car models, and the nostalgic traditional models of high-end restaurants.  I felt I had traveled back in time in this flick, with only the high definition cameras and a recognition of modern day fabric to shatter the illusion.  Finally, the other component that sells the crime theme is the attention to detail of starting a crime syndicate.  Most other crime movies often have our character in an established family, but Live By Night twists this concept and casts Affleck into raising a satellite family in Florida.  Much of the film is focuses on how he establishes business contracts, allies, love, occasionally throwing in some conflict resolution that brings a little excitement to the film.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Slow pace
  • Awkward Summaries
  • Boring At times
  • Rushed over ending

 

Summary: Although some of my favorite mafia movies don’t have action, they at least have an engaging plot that is suspenseful.  Not the case for this movie. Live by Night is slow, often paying a little too much attention to monotonous details for building the empire.  The film tried to build the suspense with their overdone explanations that promised some heart crushing moments… only to wrap things up with a monologue from Affleck describing what happened.  These mundane, overlapping comments did little for me other than decrease the run time of the movie and I was disappointed at the lack of effort for drama.  The result for me was a very boring film not only in terms of action, but in emotional suspense as well.  If you look at the classics, the storytellers built up tension that climaxed at those gut-wrenching moments as a character was killed.  However in this film, they seldom came close to matching that suspense, the only exception being two moments near the end of the film. And speaking of the ending… it felt out of place for me.  Live By nights “exciting” climax has a heated battle that fits well into the theme of the movie, but finally relieves the boring moments.  Had they ended with the monologue after that it would have been perfect.  Yet, the movie didn’t stop and added an extra twenty minutes that summed things up, but in a manner that to me was very simplistic, rushed, and lackluster. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Live by Night is a gangster movie that felt more like a video guide to starting a bootlegging operation.  It certainly has the look and feel of a gangster movie, complete with family drama, but it lacks that edge the mobster classics had.  Outside of a few moments, this movie was a little toned down for my tastes, and I didn’t like the monologue summaries as they robbed us of some exciting conclusions.  Therefore, this reviewer can’t recommend this movie for the theater outside of the look of the movie. 

 

My scores are:

 

Crime Drama: 6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Shut In, Shuts Out Some Quality

shut-in

 

Another Friday, another excuse to release a horror movie in the sea of mediocrity. Robbie K here, and today I join two other souls to review Shut In starring Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay, a supposed thriller movie that flew under the radar.  But is Shut In going to deliver the thrills, or like many just give you chills from the AC.  Let’s get started shall we?

 

LIKES:

  • Realistic
  • Good psychological portrayal
  • Nice Twist

When it comes to horror movies, there is a fine line between boring and corny scares. Shut In treads this line well dropping the monsters, grandiose serial killers, and aliens for a more realistic source of fear. You, the audience, will be subjected to the worst monster of all, the human psyche forced to figure out what is real and what is an illusion as Mary tries to uncover the mystery at hand.  This film drops all the theatrical gore and maiming of the stereotypical horrors and forces your imagination to paint a scarier reality that gets under your skin. The team also loves the use of darkness to play with your mind, utilizing both sound and video editing to maximize the feeling of isolation in the domestic setting.

Even more impressive is the portrayal of schizophrenia or parasomnia in this case. Hollywood often designs sequences to be trippy, horrifying, or overdramatic.  In this movie though, the hallucinations are accurate to those described by mentally disturbed patients.  You’ll see nightmares illustrating guilt, terror at the inability to distinguish fact from fiction, and the lack of peace associated from hearing noises that go bump in the night.  Shut In is certainly all about getting locked in, but not so much the house as in your mind.  The result of this approach, is some added suspense to get you invested.

But the real surprise is the twist that pops in the end, which is somewhat hinted in a few scenes.  While certainly not the biggest surprise (hello Arrival), Shut In’s revelation takes the tale down a different road and leads to a semi satisfying, albeit dragged out, conclusion.  And unlike some films in this genre, the twist actually fits in well with the realistic tone of this movie instead of dropping it into the dimension of corny, convenient write ins. 

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not that scary
  • Not that suspenseful
  • Could have been a Netflix Movie

 

Despite all the realism and psychological shocks in this movie, Shut In didn’t really frighten me that much.  For one, the team decided to use the usual array of scare tricks (e.g. camera angle of an abandoned hall, music going silent, and dialogue that foreshadowed the coming jump scares) which after the third time grew stale. In addition, there wasn’t an entity that got under my skin or would give me nightmares.

In addition, the supposed suspense was lacking for most of the movie. The underlying mystery was certainly intriguing to say the least, but I didn’t find my heart rushing, my eyes darting, or my butt at the end of the seat.  The suspense did pick up once the twist was revealed, but the sequences drowned out and diluted the threat thereby reducing the adrenaline rush.  Does this mean it was bad?  No, it just wasn’t the spine tingling chill the trailers made it out to be.

Yet the thing that probably took away from the film the most, was how much it felt like it belonged on Netflix.  Outside of acting and good use of speaker sound effects, Shut In really doesn’t have much uniqueness to warrant big theater release.  It’s very simplistic with formulaic scares, that lacks the bite you hope a movie brings.  As I made this realization, I found myself bored. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall Shut In has the realistic horror element most films lack in this genre.  The added psychological element helps keep things intriguing alongside the mystery of the little boy, and Naomi Watts is still a stunning actress to watch.  Unfortunately, Shut In uses stale tricks to scare you and is bland in the grand scheme of things, not counting the twist.  The good news is it runs at a short run time of 90 minutes, so you’ll get out of the theater rather quickly. If you are reading this review, you can guess this movie is best left to Netflix or Redbox. 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Thriller: 6.5

Movie Overall: 5.5

 

Say Checkmate to Katwe’s Inspiration

katwe

            Robbie K here with another movie review and this time one focused on the game of…chess?  Disney Studios latest creation Queen of Katwe is a tale on a Phiona Mutesi’s journey to becoming a chess master. As there are few movies where the board game is the focus, I was interested in seeing what the entertainment giant could do with such a tale. As always, I’m here to give my thoughts on the tale. Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

  • Good Chess Montages
  • Major Character Development
  • Inspirational

When it comes to sports movies, we always enjoy seeing scenes that involve the game right? The same thing can be said for a movie about a board game loved by so many. Disney will do their fans justice and give players plenty of shots at our players bouts on the board. Phiona’s numerous challenges are shown throughout the two hour time limit, each showing her evolution into a chess champion. If you’re not a fan of the game, don’t worry too much as the sequences move fast enough to keep it exciting and are often accompanied by her fellow chess players reacting to each move. 

But Robbie, I hate chess and therefore will certainly hate this movie! No problem my friend, Disney’s got you covered. Queen of Katwe is far more than just moving piece on a board. A large part of the plot is focused on Phiona’s life, especially on the struggle she and her family faced.  Drama lovers will eat up the family tension between mother and daughter, or perhaps get caught up in how many people looked down on the young girl and her obsession for a title. I myself appreciated the other characters’ tales running in tandem with Phiona’s tale, especially watching the coach and her fellow players grow alongside her.  The intermingled tales, alongside great actor chemistry, brings a complete tale that makes you feel a part of the Katwe Pioneers.

Amidst the drama and chess though, one will certainly find some inspiration buried in the film. Like all Disney movies, our writers have gone through great lengths to motivate their audiences to accomplish great things. Queen of Katwe is no different, as it uses orchestral work, ideal camera shots, and well written dialogue throw the emotional punch. The coach in particular preaches these lessons, using various analogies and life experiences to make his point across. Whatever message comes across to you, know that Queen of Katwe has a future place in many classrooms and Sunday Schools.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Editing/Plot Gaps
  • Intense focus on close ups instead of the game
  • Family extremes are a little too extreme

 

The major dislike for this reviewer is how unbalanced the editing was in this movie, especially in terms of the plot. As mentioned, Phiona’s tale has a lot of moving pieces, some of which have a lot of buildup and focus such as tensions with her sister or the fears of her fellow teammates). After such focus you would expect a decent wrap up right? To me, many of these plot points were dropped or hastily concluded, probably to allow more “suspenseful” game scenes or another celebration montage to premier. While this helps expand the diversity of the movie, this move weakened the story and made some of the drama kind of pointless in the end.

Plot points aren’t the only editing blunder though. Queen of Katwe’s chess scenes also suffer at times, especially in terms of making dramatic tension in the game.  If you remember movies like Bobby Fisher, you got caught up in the game as you followed each of the protagonist’s moves, with someone explaining the maneuver. The Queen however, sometimes lost that suspense either due to the quick pace they played, or that they chose to put their focus on the player’s faces.  Yes, if you wanted to see numerous close-ups of people looking tense, disappointed, and occasionally happy, you’ve come to the right movie, as our director thought this would bring more suspense. For me though, it only provided more drama and less of the game I wanted to see.

Finally the family extremes were a little too much for me.  You will find in Queen of Katwe that most of the characters are stuck to one major quality, some of which are good and others that get used a tad much.  What do I mean by this? One example is Phiona’s lack of smiling or expression at all, her lines and flat attitude doing nothing to help me relate to the character. Her mother on the other hand, lost her cool at the slightest drop, yelling at everyone, pouting, or dropping to her knees at the drop of a hat. I understand this had much to do with the harsh life, but to be subjected to these and other extremes for two hours didn’t help entertain me as much.

 

The Verdict:

Queen of Katwe gets props for the inspirational power contained in its writing and cinematography. Phiona’s tale is one with many complex pieces that revolve around character developing drama and the thrill of the game. I have no doubt many audience members will find motivation in this movie and use this to teach generations to come.  Unfortunately the editing and direction take away from this tale, and proves yet again that too many things in one movie reduces the quality. Is it worth a trip to the theater? I can’t say it is, but check this one out when it hits shelves in a few months.

 

My Scores:

Biography/Drama/Sport:  7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0