Running to See This Film? Check This Review Out First

The Front Runner Poster

 

The world of politics was once a thing with gusto, a means to which to represent the people and bring change that benefitted the many.  Now it seems that the arena of governmental officials has become a new level of entertainment, especially given the portrayal of the players in a number of media designs.  Tonight though, the film I review is focusing on this playing field, portraying that fine line between media circus and political justice.  Robbie K here with another review, this time taking a look at the latest biography/drama called;

 

Movie: The Front Runner (2018)

 

Director:

Jason Reitman

Writers:

Matt BaiJay Carson

Stars:

Hugh JackmanVera FarmigaJ.K. Simmons

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting:  The movie doesn’t have many special effects to battle for your attention.  Instead it relies heavily on the actors to bring their talents to full speed in hopes of bringing the tale to life.  Jackman leads the way with his portrayal of a council man, dropping his Australian accent for American drawl filled speeches.  A balance of many emotions, he claims a victory in the polls of talent from this reviewer.  Simmons as well reprises his Whiplash majestic talents to bring a counter balance to Jackman’s antics.  In addition Farmiga brings her talents to the screen with piano playing, voices of reason, and a nice break from the political game.

 

The Use Of All Characters: This film may be about Jackman’s character Gary Hart, but it dives into much deeper facets of the political running for president.  In doing so, all parties have a decent amount of screen time and involvement in the film, helping to add their approaches, morals, and thoughts to the collective pot of political prowess.  Seeing these angles adds more dynamic nature to the film, helping to piece together the entire story at hand.  And having all these characters throughout the story, should give you someone to tune your attention, should senator Hart not be the one you wish to focus on.

 

The Multiple Angles:  Hitting each of the perspectives of this movie brings with it a more engaging film.  Hart’s journey for presidency is certainly very deep, and the fact it happened over three weeks, is a bit mind blowing given how much things cascaded out of control. Still, in this day and age of political fire, the supposed act may turn you off to the main storyline.  So it is nice to have so many parties included in this film, each one’s philosophy made apparent to show the heated war that occurs between the media and the political group.  It was nice to see this approach, seeing as most political dramas get a little too embossed in the main character’s agony and mistakes.

The Topics Of Discussion: This movie is one designed to stimulate discussion among the group.  Did the media have the right to take the stance they did?  Was his actions enough to cause such an uproar?  What about the individual reporters recruited in this chase? These are just some of the questions to run through the film as the events transpire.  As such, the Front Runner will certainly be a valuable tool for an ethics class/lesson, helping future generations weigh the decisions in their quest for the truth.  Perhaps this is the ideal place to display this piece of work.

 

The Speeches:  Say what you want about the movie, but it gets points for the adapted script and dialogue that brings with it.  The Front Runner is all about inspiring a lot of ideas and that comes through the motivational force of the writing.  What is the real words and what was the magic, but the Front Runner has those moments that give you goosebumps.  The turn of phrase and emotional impact of those moments will hopefully drive the point to you like it did to me.  Very nice writing guys.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow Pace:  Don’t be expecting a fast-paced movie here my friends. Gary Hart’s journey is very meticulous in detail, and though they skip days at a time, they do everything they can to cram the nearly 2 hour run time with all the details.  If you love the drama of a modern ABC show, you’ll be fine in this film, but for others like me needing a little more tension, well this won’t be the film for you. Speaking of which…

 

No tension:  Political dramas are supposed to have looming threats, with close calls and a ravenous hunger for the truth to be revealed, or at least some looming mystery.  Sadly, the movie leaves these out, going for more realism and moral discussion than entertaining bouts of political angst.  This is fine, except that is takes away from the theater visiting quality in this reviewer’s eyes. So don’t anticipate the House Of Cards spin my friends, they didn’t go this route.

 

Some Stories Not Full Circle:  A lot of plot points means a lot of threads to tie up, and this movie did a decent job of accomplishing this goal.  But not all stories got the nice finish I think they deserved, primarily involving the woman he held interest in and the campaign manager.  With such strong characters and the information starting to be gathered, why would they not finish in the strong manner the main tale ended?  Not entirely sure myself, but given this isn’t a mini-series on television, well it’s no surprise.

 

What Is The Truth?: These movies are always generating the question of how much is truth and how much is the movie magic.  Front Runner seems to be on the realistic side, but how much was left out or blurred is something to always question in these films. Depending on your political alignments, your morals on the topics of political hot topics, and other things at hand. Ergo, the movie is still up in the air of the extent of what happened.  Guess we have the internet to find out.

 

The Verdict:

 

The Front Runner may not be the political drama of the year, but it certainly brings a lot of unique perspectives on the outcomes.  I myself certainly enjoyed the multiple outlooks on the event, and the topics it spurred, while of course relishing the acting and dialogue written.  Yet, a little more movie magic in terms of suspense alongside some clarification of stories could have gone far for me. Nevertheless, this would have been best left to the history channel or mini-series, leaving this reserved for classroom discussions or at least in your home apartment.

 

My scores are:

 

Biography Drama: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

Saved The Greatest For Last!: A Real Show Stopper

Greatest Showman

The Circus, a collection of assorted talent meant to wow and amaze the people the audience with their stunts.  At the head of this arena was P.T Barnum, a name associated with the Big Tent and imagination to continue bringing the magic to the world that so desperately needed.  So naturally, Hollywood would design a movie after him entitled The Greatest Showman, a musical piece that looks to be a big sensation this season.  But can Hugh Jackman

lead his cavalcade to victory, or is it just another flop the trailers bulked up.  Robbie K here to provide some thoughts, as we do yet another movie review.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Entertaining Pace:  You know I like a movie that moves, and Greatest Showman takes little time to get into the fun territory.  The excitement starts from the moment the opening credits begin, holding back little in order to get the magic started.  It’s a risky, but smart, move as their execution led to one of the most engaging movies of the holiday season.

 

The Acting:  I love a good cast coming together to bring the film alive, and again this film manages to accomplish this task.   Jackman takes the center stage as Barnum, capturing the imagination drive of the legendary ring leader and energizing the movie with his spirit .  The rebellious nature to take risks is portrayed quite well with him at the reigns, and the evolution his character goes through is spectacularly acted.  Michelle Williams was a great lead actress for the character Charity, bringing both beauty and class to role of a supportive wife doing her best to keep Jackman’s spirit in check with reality. Zac Efron and Zendaya, are wonderful supporting actors to the leads, they just needed a little more integration into the plot.  The rest of the cast knocks the movie out of the park, but I have more things to talk about so let’s move on.

 

The Messages: Greatest Showman by far has my favorite presentation of those pesky, yet important life lessons. Living your dreams, accepting yourself, and helping others are the key factors held in this movie.  This portrayed primarily from Barnum’s view, but the movie blends the perspective from the other performers and their judgement by the high society. A classy nod to the traditional, now outlandish, views, the movie does a great job clashing the concepts of society norms vs. uniqueness and the struggles of being brave to change the world. Seeing the emotional warfare unleashed on the performers tore at my heart strings, but made the relevant topic come to life in a fantastic way.  It’s a bit preachy at times, but given the quality and the use of multiple devices to bring it to life, it really does work .

 

The Numbers/Soundtrack: By far, my favorite aspect of the movie are the musical numbers.  Incredible is not nearly enough to describe the musical extravaganzas, each dance number being dynamic and fun with a well orchestrated choreography that combines Circus stunts with Hollywood footwork.  Outside of the thrilling movements though, these numbers are charged with emotion, bring the relevant messages to life with a powerful punch to penetrate the walls of hardened halls and bring with it joy, inspiration, or in some tears of joy. But if you don’t care about that component, then perhaps you’ll appreciate the story telling and relationship building of the numbers that help speed up the formalities of socializing. And if all that fails, well then just be stoked for awesome numbers with a good beat. I’ll admit that they all sound quite similar in many aspects, but there is enough of a twist to grant them their individuality.  Nevertheless, this is one soundtrack I plan to pick up.  Can you tell I liked the movie?

 

DISLIKES:

 

Wanted more:  For once I can say I wanted the movie to be longer.  Greatest Showman is a story that balances numerous things over the 105-minute run time with regards to love, loyalty, pressures of success, etc.  However, I wish that many of these qualities were either elaborated more, or held a little more struggle to provide a stronger development arc to the characters I loved so much. Most likely the extra content would not have felt longer due to the energy of the film, but this might have increase the run time to 3 hours so maybe it was a good thing. In addition, I wanted to have better integration of some of the other characters into the story, (i.e. Napoleon guy, bearded lady, and the wife) rounding out the experience of the film and giving us better backstories on our oddities. Those connections between the dots would have expanded the experience out and only further strengthen the story.

 

The CGI:  This component is not bad at all, but despite the spectacles you would have thought this production could have acquired some real live animals for the numbers.  The CGI work is good, fluid motion and semi-realistic design, but given everything they did with the live actors for the numbers, the CGI animals seemed a little like they were cutting corners.  Yeah, this is a picky dislike, it’s hard to find many big weaknesses in this film.

 

The Hollywood Treatment:  From the quotes we know the aspirations of P.T. Barnum, but like many biographies, one has to wonder how much of this is the Hollywood shine.  While uglier sides of Barnum do come out, I think the movie flew by his money making, business side because it didn’t fit into the story’s other moments or perhaps meant fewer musical numbers for our auto tuned cast to come up with. Still, I’m a sucker for seeing an uplifting tale, where the positives are the focusing point of the film.

 

 

The VERDICT

            Hands down, The Greatest Showman is one of my favorite films of the Hollywood season.  The movie is constantly entertaining the audience, utilizing the acting, the special effects, and more importantly the music to sell the moral points hidden in the 105 minutes.  Such a positive tale of friendship, self-discovery, and acceptance is a perfect match to the Holiday season and I for one cannot wait to see this film again.  Yes, Hollywood glamor is at work, and the movie could have expanded on both characters and plot elements to connect the dots a little more, but I was very pleased by this film.  Therefore, I highly recommend this one for the theaters, not only in terms of quality, but also because the songs rattling the theater adds to the experience that only the most expensive surround sound systems can begin to match. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/Musical:  9.5

Movie Overall: 9.0

Three Slashes For Wolverine. Slash, Slash, Slash Hooray!

logan

 

The X-men series is a story that on many levels is close to my heart in the form of comics, games, and the 90s animated TV show.  In the movieverse though, there have been some triumphic downfalls and surprising successes in Fox studios’ telling of the mutant force. This weekend, Logan attempts to breathe life back into the series, with what looks to be a different take on the hero genre. What’s the verdict?  Unless you have clairvoyance as a super power, you are going to have to read to find out.  

 

LIKES:

  • Fresh Twist
  • Comedic Relief
  • Strong Character Development
  • Strong Villain
  • Action we Really Wanted

 

Summary:  Fox seems to have realized that twists can be a good thing (Deadpool) and have decided to integrate the anti-hero switch-up into the mix. Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) journey dives into the darker corners of the X-Men world, to a place where allies are few and hope is practically nil.  This more forlorn setting opened up avenues for greater storytelling, primarily in developing Logan as a character (which seems to have been the goal for most of the X-men movies). One will get to dive into his inner character, facing the specters that haunt the supposedly invincible Wolverine from media past. It is in this regard that X-Men finally got the villain quality right in regards to Logan being his own worst enemy.  Logan’s inner doubt is perhaps one of the strongest villains this universe has known, and provides a constant challenge to the development and well-being of not just him, but the other characters of the film. And it is thanks to this that Logan has a lot more emotion packed in than other superhero films have had in the past.  To my surprise, Logan has a nice balance of comedy to relieve the darker moments, timing most jokes perfectly to emphasize the simple dialogue.

Biggest relief from the “darkness” though comes in the form of the action, which finally delivers the promised fights we’ve been waiting for.  That five-minute clip in Apocalypse was a sample of the high-adrenaline fights in this movie. Logan traded flashy CGI light shows for a choreographed chaos that involved blending martial arts with classic Wolverine claws.  The intense dances of death, mixed with the exciting score and sound effects, will make up for much of the lackluster fights of the past and match the expectations are imaginations set all those comic books ago.  And while I wanted more action (because I always do), Logan does a nice job spacing the fights out to be mostly relevant to the plot of the story. A small side note, I wished there had been a little more diversity to the fights, but it’s a small critique.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Boring at Times
  • A Weak Villain
  • Language at times
  • Animal Grunting
  • The Psychic moments
  • Unnecessary Gore?

 

Summary:  You’re probably laughing at my contradictory statements, but Logan is a movie that is kind of boring at times.  Character development takes time, dialogue, and more “peaceful” moments of not tearing someone’s throat out to do right.  Unfortunately, Logan’s dark atmosphere mixed with these dialogue rich moments can drag at times. Their cross-country journey has more than a few unnecessary sequences, where detailed tangents added little benefit other than a few whimsical jokes or build up to a fight down the road.  It’s not that these scenes didn’t need to be deleted, just shortened to be more relevant (and time efficient). But much like a Western, which this movie feels like, these slower, moral filled moments are the deserts that span between oases.

What also didn’t help was how the villains in this film were still kind of lame.  Inner Logan is deadly, but the ranger with the metal arm and his employer’s other “elite” projects still fall into the lame category. Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) is all bark and little bite, barely doing anything but making threats and occasionally firing a gun, when his more effective lackeys were spent. It’s fortunate these bad guy roles are limited, including the mediocre twist to the mix.

The other biggest dislike is the unbalanced aggressiveness this film has with it.  I know, Wolverine is an aggressive character. Does that mean we have to reduce his normally clever dialogue with an unhindered use of the F word?  Apparently in this film it did, and the lazy dependence on the cursing still remains a tiresome ploy for me.  In addition, this film really dipped into the animal grunting and roaring of not only Logan, but Laura (Dafne Keen) as the two continuously (and at times annoyingly) scream. Also overdone were some of the aggressive psychic moments that became drawn out sequences of torture that is both fulfilling and unnecessary at the same time.  And as for the violence, Logan steps this game up (which is why the fights rock), but the level of gore involved has been upped as well.  Those thinking of taking younger audience members need to note the R rating, because you’ll be subjected to maiming, decapitation, and other blood filled moments that for me really didn’t need to be to that level.

 

The Verdict:

 

Logan is an improvement over many of the X-men films in regards to storytelling, action, and character development.  Yet it’s failings for me come in the form of some editing quirks, unbalanced dialogue, and overly aggressive gore. It matches the themes of the modern graphic novels, but I felt with some balancing the movie could have been even better.  I feel the movie is worth a trip to the theater though, but please think twice before taking kids to see it.

 

My scores:

Action/Drama/Sci-Fi: 8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0

Holy Pudding for the Visuals, Eh for the Story.

pan

                  Robbie K here bringing you another review on the latest movies to hit the theater. This weekend we start off with another iteration about the famous boy who flies, fights off pirates, and flirts with mermaids. That’s right I’m talking about Peter Pan. Over the decades we’ve experienced numerous spins on the tale, and yet I can’t recall too many films portraying Peter’s origins. Well hold on to your hats folks, because director Joe Wright has brought his tale to the silver screen entitled Pan.

Let’s start with the story. We know all the classic elements of Peter Pan, but perhaps you have questioned the origins of our title character. Pan’s tale dives into the impoverished England, once more strolling down the Oliver Twist orphan path as the opening of Peter’s tale. The origin lacks much in terms of originality, but bypasses gross details to get to the meat of the story. Once Peter is abducted to the ageless Neverland, the tale begins to liven up. Pan forgoes a lot of the character development and emotional buildup for superficial thrills. Peter’s relationship with a lot of characters evolves rapidly, from simple hellos to becoming their wards. Fans will certainly not suffer a drawn out plot, but may not like the rapid and abrupt scene transitions. I give Wright his props for adding some darker moments while maintaining the kid friendly environment, but I felt he was a little to ADD in organizing the story. Peter’s journey reaches many impasses, however they blow over without much struggle with our good guys able to overpower their oppressors with ease.

The characters that are part of this plot were also lacking. Acting wise I give them a round of applause, each member certainly doing their best to breathe life into their characters. Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard has the gruff and ruthlessness of a pirate Captain, but soon becomes annoying with his constant screaming and pompous braggart. I did enjoy the use of metal songs as his anthem, a nice touch of modern metal. Garrett Hedlund as Hook captures the classic voice, but his look and presence comes off more Midwestern desperado than future pirate. Levi Miller plays the adolescent Peter quite well, nailing the devious, adventurous, and vulnerable sides of Pan while keeping everything balanced. However it is Rooney Mara who takes first place, bringing a nice balance of wonder, courage, and emotion as the warrior princess Tiger Lily, minus a few flat moments.

Simplistic story and characters aside, Pan’s action is surprisingly higher intensity than I expected. The opening chase between pirate ship and plane is quite exhilarating with all the stunts, explosions, and elements of a World War II movie. From there the action remains dynamic as our characters navigate the various hazards of the world, interjecting combat and comedy to keep it entertaining. Again these conflicts sometimes end without much of a struggle, and a bit anticlimactic at times. Still I appreciate Wright slightly breaking the PG mold and adding some quality edge to the mix. I warn parents there are a few moments that might seem a tad too mature (i.e. executions), so evaluate your children’s psyche before attending this film.

Finally the best quality of Pan for me was the setting. Wright’s team designed a world that is majestic enough to have you say “Holy Pudding”. The jungle is ominous, filled with deep foliage that offers shelter from the pirates, while also concealing ominous predators. Pirate ships are decorated to mirror their “helmsmen”, such as Blackbeard’s ship being cold and lifeless to personify the merciless man he is. And mermaid lagoon, while not as passive as it was in the cartoon, still held the serenity, especially once the gorgeous glowing, (CGI enhanced) mermaids who glow showed up. Even the costumes help pull you into the moment, the pirates having styles that span from traditional buccaneers to more formal, butler ware…okay not everything makes sense. Fortunately the tribal people bring about the hunter atmosphere, blending multiple cultures into their attire and dwellings. While certainly not the most impressive, Pan’s world has the color, whimsy, and magic that captured all our hearts years ago.

Overall Pan is not the best movie to “soar” into theaters. However, it offers a good, kid friendly movie to entertain until the holiday season arrives. It’s a fun thrilling ride for all ages that lays foundation for other movies, (either existing or new), while recapturing the moments you grew up with. Unfortunately the story just wasn’t as put together as I hoped it would be, or as thrilling as the trailers made it out to be. Worth a trip to theater? Only for the special effects and setting can I say it is worth a theater trip, but your money is best saved for other films.

My scores are:

Adventure/Family/Fantasy: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0