Returning In A Style For Both Old and New. Mary Poppins For The Family Feature Win

Mary Poppins Returns Poster

 

Years ago, the nanny that changed everything charmed her way into the theaters, bringing song and dance to her teachings as he helped sculpt family lives.  It was a wonderful movie that shed so much joy and wonder to the families who gave it a try. Decades later, the mystical nanny has decided to return once more, in hopes of bringing the same magic to the mix. Will her resurgence bring the same joy and whimsy, or has her relevance blown over too many generations to warrant the same quality?  Welcome to Robbie’s movie reviews as I take on:

 

Movie: Marry Poppins Returns (2018)

 

 

Director:

Rob Marshall

Writers:

David Magee (screenplay by), David Magee (screen story by)

Stars:

Emily BluntLin-Manuel MirandaBen Whishaw

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting: While no one can replace the lovely Julie Andrews, it does not mean that Blunt has not done wonders with the character.  Still holding the same nostalgic quality, the new Mary Poppins has a little more edge, sass, and a wonderful balance of love that is quite endearing to see with her cast mates.  Lin-Manuel as well adds his own fun to the crew, bringing his theatrical qualities to the character of Bert. Nostalgic enough to have that same childish demeanor, but different to stand out, his musical skills were quite welcome to the mix. And as for the rest of the crew, they all do a bang-up job of adding to the film, and the young cast of the Banks kids are well directed to avoid being the annoying twerps these roles can be.

 

The Numbers:  Mary Poppins was all about bringing the energetic numbers that would forever ingrain themselves in the music hall of fame.  With her return, Mary once more brought the energy back to the screen, utilizing Miranda’s talents well to once more bring the showmanship of the theater.  This film is filled with the magical song and dance routines made famous in the first film and will have the young and young at heart dancing in their seats.  Each of these numbers accomplished the goal of being resident, and in true musical fashion was able to portray their inner feelings and lessons.  A wonderful ensemble of songs awaits the audience members, and holds great potential to become that new song to be repeated a thousand times.

 

The Story:  Thank the idea of nostalgia, or thank the director because the return of Mary Poppins brings with it a charming delight that holds both old and new motifs in its well-timed shots.  Lessons for all generations lie the nanny’s wisdom, utilizing a variety of worlds and settings to help the Banks family find their way in the harsh London streets  Much of the story contains nods to the original plot, while others hold something new and exciting in their powerful sequences. In addition, there is enough nod to other characters to establish the fate of the various characters, while also being original to stand on its own.  Regardless, there is so much delight and balance to the story to help rope many into the plot.

 

The Classic Animation:  Think back to the classic version and one might recall the dive into the 2-D cartoon land and the epic scenes and songs that came with it.  Over 50 years later, and Disney was not afraid to return to the cartoon theatrics again.  I thoroughly enjoyed the return to Disney’s origins, seeing the classic art style fill the screen and integrate with our live action friends.  Again, the memories of youth rush back in with it and bring perhaps my favorite number that held so much pep and vibrant enthusiasm.  A wonderful nod to the old, while making sure to balance the new style into the mix as well.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

More Of the Older Banks Children:  The trailers painted heavy integration of Michael and Jane as they fall under the care of the nanny to relearn things left behind.  While they have a decently strong integration into the mix, it’s not quite the same level I was expecting and as such wanted them to go on the journey a little more with their kids.  Again, nothing remotely weak, but perhaps a little more integration could have taken the element farther.

 

 

More Time In the Animation: The classic horse racing scene had plenty of time in the 2-D world, making sure to really give the audience the full fun of the scene.  This movie did a fantastic job in the short time they were there, but I was hoping for more time or at least another visit to an animated world where the two styles could meet.  Poppins may do a great job balancing a lot of components, but yours truly wanted another masterpiece in 2-D/live integration that could bring with it the same memory etching greatness it did.

 

The Meryl Streep Number: Is it cute?  Yes!  Does it serve a musical number with catchy lyrics and beats?  Yes.  Does Meryl Streep do a good job?  Yes. So why a dislike?  Well, this number as fun as it is, is very irrelevant to the story.  The dive into the workshop held some potential, but stuck out like the sore thumb at its inclusion into the whole plot, dropping it after the nearly 10 minutes of inclusion.  I just wished that they had continued the story, and perhaps brought another number in, again relevant tot eh story.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, the second visit to Mary Poppins’ lessons still has plenty of charm, love, and energy that will bring so much joy to the audience.  Get ready to have your family film of the holidays, ready to bridge generation gaps, and help one learn old lessons in the new age.  With relevant, energetic song and dance numbers, a fantastic cast with great chemistry, and whimsy from a number of sources, this reviewer encourages hitting the the theater for this one. And while it is not the same as the first movie, it holds its own charm and wonder that was long overdue for the cinema. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Family/Fantasy: 8.0-8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0-7.5

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Can’t Keep Quiet About This Great Horror Film

A queit place

 

Horror Movies continue to flood the theaters, each one hoping to stake its claim in the Hollywood world and actually get a decent rating.  One such candidate comes out this weekend, with a well-received preshowing, and a festival to support it, this movie holds high potential to accomplish the goal of a good horror movie.  Tonight, my second review hopes to bring good news on this movie and promote it for being a horror film that will leave you reeling.  Robbie K back again, as he reviews:

 

Title: A Quiet Place

Director:

John Krasinski

 

Writers:

Bryan Woods (screenplay by),  Scott Beck

 

Stars:

Emily Blunt,  John Krasinski,  Millicent Simmonds

 

 

LIKES:

Editing:  Horror movies miss the mark quite often in this category, usually adding unneeded details to increase the length of the movie.  A Quiet Place manages to really tighten this element up, with almost 100% of the movie holding pertinence to the movie’s storytelling.  The result, is an immersive horror tale that doesn’t dive too far down the hokey realm and instead towards the quality thriller tale we’ve been seeking.

 

Acting:  For a movie with few words, the small cast was able to maximize their screen time with their nonverbal acting.  Blunt and Krasinski (the actual married couple) play their roles to the T, unleashing all that primitive rage of protecting their offspring from the elements.  There is love, passion, and fear all rolled up into the mannerisms and facial acting.  As for the kids, again impressive openings as they portray kids stuck in a dangerous wilderness where life hangs in the very balance.  The family dynamic reigns strong in this small cast, including all the interpersonal dynamics and drama that comes with a close knit group.

 

Creepy:  The movie wins points in the scare department for being a realistic fear factory that delivered on two levels.  One is of course the good use of jump scares that had a number of people jumping in their seats, not over utilizing it as many films in this genre doHowever, the real chills come from the creepy atmosphere contained within the deadly frontier our world becomes in this reality.  The creatures themselves are horrific, mutated abominations that are the stuff of nightmares as these alpha predators hunt our heroes.  Even creepier though, is the feeling of isolation and being watch (or heard in this case) by the threat looming out there.  That delicate balance brings with it an inherent suspense that will keep you locked up until its all released in one giant flinch/scream depending on the audience member.  This energy carries on throughout the whole movie and is more than a welcome factor this genre needed.

 

DISLIKES:

A Few Unnecessary Scenes:  A small dislike, but there are a few scenes/ideas that didn’t pan out for me in the film.  Some of these scenes seem to be nothing but an opening for a death or to provide a passing glance of the creatures (which they tease for a lot in the first half of the film).  Others, I think try to add a little more tension to the scenario (such as an injured foot), only to not prove pertinent in the long run.

 

The Pregnancy/Baby Dynamic: On the one hand I liked this component because it helped add more to the family dynamic/character building this genre often fails at.  Past this symbolism of hope though, the whole dynamic adds a slight cheesy flavor to the tension more so at the speed, ridiculousness, and semi-cringe worthy handling of this factor.  I can’t say much without ruining the story, but the direction took a steep drop in believability for me when this gravid plot line came into play.

 

Trailers:  Given the only 90 minute run time, the other factor that provides enough glimpses to ruin the surprise are the trailers. Depending on how many times you have seen the trailers, you can see the twists have been ruined and the movie become predictable.  So be prepared my friends, because the more you watch advertising, the more you have revealed before the movie starts.

 

The VERDICT:

 

A Quiet Place has accomplished the goal of good storytelling meeting the thrills of a pending game of cat and mouse.  The movie has heart, character development and a number of the positives, but nothing is more important is how well the movie manages to ring in terms of tis advertising and how focused they were for a 90 minute scare fest.  While those who have seen the trailers a lot may be at risk of a so-so movie, A Quiet Place reigns high in my horror genre and is worth a viewing in the theater if you are looking for a movie to really drop you back in the creepy level.  If not, definitely check this one out in rentals

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror/Thriller:  8.5

Movie Overall:  8.5

Elementary My Dear Gnome

Gnomeo

 

Sherlock Holmes, an iconic literature/media character who forever scoped our ideas of English crime solving.  Portrayed in various forms, the entity of this crime solver continues to entertain the masses and provide a media outlet that is not only entertaining, but brainteasing.  Yet, I’ve never seen the iconic detective portrayed as a…garden gnome.  No, you didn’t misread my friends, this weekend the English detective has transformed into a moveable garden gnome in today’s review of Sherlock Gnomes, the great detective has been downsized to London’s gardens attempting to uncover the secret behind the abducted gnomes and bring piece back to the neighborhood they share.  What will be the verdict of this adventure?  As always, please read to find out my thoughts on the latest movies to hit the big screen.

 

LIKES:

Fun:  This sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet is very energetic and full of fun gimmicks to entertain.  The kid friendly atmosphere of the film is vibrant and full of color, while the references to a number of movies, shows, and other older themes keep the adult population in check.  A quick pace and lots of quips also help keep the thrills coming and help one pay attention through the whole adventure.

 

Clever: Fortunately, the British trend of clever comedy and storytelling carry in to this animated feature.  For one thing the adventure is well-designed, with a direction that combined the mystery of the BBC series with the imagination of Disney.  Seeing the clues cleverly hidden, the various cultures represented at each clue sight, and even the character relationships of Holmes are captured in the various sequences of the film. Integrate the relationships from Gnomeo and Juliet, and the cleverness takes another turn down respectable levels.  As for the humor, it is balance of slapstick-childish antics and dry wit that expand across all audiences.

 

Voice Acting:  While the animation is a treat on the eyes, it’s the voice acting that really brings the characters to the full life.  Emily Blunt and James McAvoy do a bang up job playing the star crossed lovers, and Julio Bonet as Mankini is just as delightful, though not as prominent as he was in the first installment. Yet it is Chiwetel Ejiofor and Johnny Depp who really hold the center stage in this movie.  Both men held all the mannerisms and prestige in their voice work, while solidifying the relationship felt between the two garden gnome detectives.  I could feel the tension between them and picture these two as a live version adaptation in the future should they decide to make it.

 

The Music:  Finally, the same beats from the first film return in that toe tapping, move in your seat manner that the little one’s love.  Mostly covers of the great Sir Elton John’s work, Sherlock Gnomes sequences get a little more energy from the song director’s choices and I quite enjoyed the extra kick you got from these upbeat songs (that for once did not result in a dance number).

 

DISLIKES:

Character Usage:  Saw this coming, but Gnomeo and Juliet suffers from not utilizing all the characters well.  Most of the new characters get their decent share of screen time, but the veteran characters have fallen victim to a few silly moments, with Mankini being the only cameo I really enjoyed.  While the new characters do need the development, Sherlock Gnomes needed to almost forgo most of the other characters to avoid this dislike for me.

 

PredictableThe movie may be entertaining, but it is predictable to say the least. Disney has proven the masters of throwing in that heart stopping twist, but Sherlock Gnomes apparently falls victim to reason and intellect to let this happen.  So, I was a little disappointed to not have a few more twists thrown in to give it some more suspense.

 

More Elton:  One of my favorite things of Gnomeo and Juliet is the music from the Captain of the Keys Sir Elton John.  So why in the world would they limit their track to one original song?  Obviously merchandising and budget, but I would have loved more of the knighted performers tunes filling the screen instead of just the covers that came about.

 

More Adventure:  Normally I’m thrilled for a short run time, but this movie was one that needed a little more to really maximize the movie. Each of the obstacles/clues could have gone more in depth, as they passed through the obstacles quite easily.  Instead, the movie blew through the obstacles very quickly, giving little time to capitalize on the mystery/adventurous aspect.  In addition, adding a little darker edge would have won some more brownie points to help develop the mystery.

 

The Mary J. Blige song:  Respect to the artist for her performance is on spot, but in the movie…it doesn’t work for me outside of merchandising.  The song tries to alliterate on what could be a good character developing role, but they go nowhere with this thereby further making this song irrelevant.  And of all the obstacles that stood in Sherlock’s way, this was the one that took the most time. Again, had they taken this component further, it may have won more points for me.

 

The VERDICT:

            Sherlock Gnomes is one of the more fun, kid adventures I’ve been on in a long, long time.  It’s got a nice balance of comedy that fits well with the adventure and a soundtrack that further pumps up the volume of detective fun in this crazy sequel.  Despite all the balance this movie has though, it still needed some work in character integration and expanding on the adventure element of the film.  Don’t get too caught up wanting to root for your favorite characters from the first film, unless they were the titular characters.  Otherwise give this film a try and get out there with the family to see it.

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

All Aboard! Dramatic Complicated Movie Ahead

girl-on-train

 

Drama, it’s a category that sells like hotcakes in the entertainment field.  Soap operas have been abusing this genre for years, and this weekend another big budget blockbuster will attempt to capitalize on affairs and deceit.  I’m talking about Girl on a Train, another book turned movie that looks to be a mirror of Gone Girl from a few years past. Does this movie hold true potential for suspense, or is it just old hat tricks?  Robbie K here, hoping to provide some insight into those questions.

 

LIKES:

  • Wonderful Cast
  • Delivers promised drama
  • A decent mystery

 

This film’s ensemble certainly deserves credit for bringing the tale to life. Emily Blunt leads the team off playing a part that was both emotional and complex. Blunt can portray pain well, bringing suffering out of the screen in a believable performance that seldom crosses into overacting territory.  Her emotions are in good balance, fluidly transitioning between each mood to capture the crazy edge required by her character. Haley Bennett has less emotion to cover, but portrays depression quite realistically in terms of emotional bluntness seen in the disorder.  As for Rebecca Ferguson, the third leading lady must have a jealous house wife inside of her, for she nails the distrustful nature down to the letter.  While these ladies take center stage, the rest of the cast do justice to their roles and create a world fitting of the mystery thriller story. Speaking of story…

Girl on a train is a tale that is filled with promised drama and mystery, perfect components for a suspense/thrillerOur three…”heroines” for lack of a better world, weave complicated relationships within the city. Some are good and some are bad, but all are dramatic and over the top to hook you into the characters’ lives. While I normally am annoyed by characters inability to let things go, this approach works for this film as it led to important character development while shedding light on the mystery at hand. As for the suspenseful mystery, it’s not the most unique puzzle to grace the silver screen. However, it is one with many layers and depth that require you to pay attention in order to uncover the truth behind the alibis. it. Such depth added to the suspense and kept into the movie as I waited to find the light at the end of the dark tunnel.

 

DISLIKES

  • Predictable ending
  • Convoluted presentation
  • Pointless scenes
  • Characters dropped at points

 

Having a mystery with many levels makes for a grasping tale, but sometimes getting too creative can be an issue. Girl on a train’s presentation is a bit convoluted, as the tale integrates past with present via a series of intertwining. I’ll admit it was an original presentation, but the flashbacks offset the momentum of the ship and sometimes transitioned back into the film so well you might have not realized you were back in the present. The result can be quite confusing and should you turn your attention away for a second, or go to the bathroom, you might become a bit lost. Fortunately, the ending is nicely wrapped up for you, but the rather predictable conclusion doesn’t make this complicated presentation worth the trouble.

Another dislike comes in the form of unnecessary scenes, primarily the ones involving sex. Call me whatever you want, but seeing forceful sex imposed on women, or seeing women seemingly bored with the art of making lust, does not make a good movie friends. I get it, sex sells as made evident by many films, and I will admit some major clues are dropped in these heated moments. Doesn’t mean I need to be drowned in all the naked, groaning details in such a short time span. Needless to say, the film earns its R rating for something other than cussing and violence.

Finally, some of the characters I feel got stiffed in this film. The trailers built up so many characters, but unfortunately they failed to deliver on some of them outside of dropping some key information before fading into the shadows. This hurt the movie in two ways.  The first is these supposedly spooky characters fizzled out, weakening the suspense of the film and making for boring characters. Second by doing this, the mystery becomes much easier to solve and further sacrifices the thrilling “surprise” at the end. Don’t worry though, you’ll still get that drama you so crave, even if you can get the answer in thirty minutes.

 

The VERDICT:

      Girl on a train certainly feels like a Gone Girl wannabe in terms of its dramatic atmosphere and complicated storytelling.  Yet it still lacks some of the things that made its predecessor so good, including better editing, more suspenseful characters, and not having flashbacks run interference.  Still it provides a good mystery to open the month up with the relationships many will sink their teeth into. Is it worth a trip to the theater?  I can’t say it is, but check this one out at home when you get the chance. 

 

My scores are:

Mystery/Thriller: 7

Movie Overall: 6

 

A Beautiful World Of Drama, Great Acting, and Underutilized Characters

Winter's War

 

Snow white, a tale that has been beaten to death over the last five decades. From cute cartoon masterpieces to cheap knockoffs you can get the classic Grimm’s tale in a variety of forms that you can deem the “fairest” of them all. This weekend, we get the sequel that drops Snow White and substitutes with her handsome, axe wielding sidekick Eric entitled The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Can this tale succeed without the beautiful, raven-haired beauty, or will it fail like its predecessor? As always I’m Robbie K and this is my report on the latest movie.

 

The GOOD:

 

  • Beautiful visuals
  • Fantastic Acting
  • A nice portrayal of love
  • Decent comedic relief

 

If you remember the first movie Snow White and The Huntsman, you remember that the world was beautifully designed. Winter’s War takes that trend and runs with it, filling the screen with a beautiful fantasy world that brings you into the fairy tale. Breathtaking shots of gorgeous countryside are intermingled with CGI creatures that are a blend of flora and fauna that reflect their very environment. The kingdoms that surround this wilderness are also well designed, the houses, temples, and palaces mirroring the personalities of their rulers, who themselves are in stunning costumes.

But seldom do visuals make the movie by itself and fortunately Winter’s War has a great cast to further bring the world to life. Chris Hemsworth leads the cast, playing the same role he always plays…the hot guy. Girls swooned in my showing over the smoldering grin and strong chin as he battled fictional enemies and argued with just about everyone. Fortunately he brings a balanced performance that contains fun, honor, love, and some choreography. The lovely Emily Blunt also brings her A game as the ice queen Freya. Her ability to play such an emotional and detailed role never ceases to amaze me and other than the ugly (guttural) crying she won my heart for favorite character. Jessica Chastain revisits her role of strong woman kicking lots of ass and being pissed off at everything, only this time with a strong (and comical) Scottish accent. While certainly not the most unique role, she still manages to pull the performance off with two thumbs up. Charlize Theron reprises her role once more as well, an arrogant , power hungry, ruthless queen who is a good example of the B word. And Theron plays it so well that you can’t help but hate her for it.

Actors aside the story is another generic plot about Snow White’s kingdom. Once more we get a tale all about love and the twisted game it plays with us all. Despite the annoying broken record of its power, the movie does a nice job at capturing the magic of infatuation in more ways than one. While it can be preachy and overdramatic at times, it does hit home and the actor’s portrayal of love is very well received. Throw in a comedic portrayal with the dwarves and you have an entertaining love story.

 

THE BAD:

  • Very rushed story and a little underdeveloped
  • Dulled down action with the other Huntsmen
  • Character imbalance

 

Hard to believe I’m saying this, but the love component was the best part of the whole movie. The rest of the plot was rather simplistic/rushed for me. Winter’s War is shown as a prequel in the trailers, but it is actually a prequel and sequel, which I think was the problem. Our story team could not decide where it wanted to take the movie and as such tried to cover everything it could. The background of the huntsman was a montage of punching, only to quickly transition to the love component. This motive carries for all of the characters, leaving much of the cast underdeveloped and relying on superficial qualities (like looks) to latch on to. In addition, this uncoordinated plot was boring at times that I wanted to take a nap to make them pass faster.

While the rushed story is a large hurdle to jump, the underutilization of characters is the bigger crime. Theron and Chastain have a much more dilute role than I thought and I was very disappointed that the former’s role was pretty much portrayed in the commercial. This disproportional use of characters dropped wrenches in the cast dynamic and their conventional reentry into the world only made me laugh or shake my head. You would think that with big price tags they would get their money’s worth, but sadly balance seems to remain an issue in Hollywood.

Finally the action component. Good news is that the action is a step above the cataclysmic failure of the first installment. Bad news is it is still simple and kind of corny at parts. The Huntsmen are supposed to be elite warriors, but this movie downplayed this component and made them rather pathetic. Many battles were very corny bouts of extras standing in a circle, stern looks filling their faces before getting pummeled by the only warriors with skills. The special effects helped a little, but the excitement quickly waned as the momentum was starting to build. However, it does fit well with the theme of the movie and the world crafted by our studio.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Winter’s War is a decent love story with a blockbuster cast and gorgeous visual prowess. Unfortunately, it still feels like an underdeveloped story whose characters still haven’t reached their potential yet. Should there be a third movie, I hope that we get more character development and some more bite to give the world some edge. Is it worth a trip to the theater? For a visual standpoint yes, but this reviewer thinks Winter’s War should be reserved for a RedBox rent.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Drama: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0