Trying To Dance Into New Light, But Claws Away It’s Own Potential

Cats Poster

 

 

There is something to be said about the theater.  This avenue of artistic storytelling has produced some of the most interesting and unique stories the world has ever seen, deriving a plethora of fan bases who play their tracks everywhere.  That field requires demanding performances with limited technology to bring worlds to life, requiring a little imagination to fill in the gaps.  So for an era where imagination can be a struggle given the variety of media we have to do the lifting for us, and thus movies like this one I’m reviewing are there to give access to the majesty of the theater.  Tonight, the legendary Cats is on the prowl, in hoping of raking in a few bucks despite the power house of Star Wars coming out.  Will it be a dance to success, or is it going to be a dying cat only capable of crying out for a few scraps of attention.  Robbie K here to give you some insight as I look at:

 

Movie:  Cats (2019)

 

Director:

Tom Hooper

Writers:

T.S. Eliot (poetry collection “Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats”), Lee Hall (screenplay)

Stars:

Taylor SwiftFrancesca HaywardIdris Elba

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Setting
  • The Design Of Each Cat (though odd)
  • Some Of The Song And Dance Numbers
  • The Pace

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Limited Story
  • Some Song and Dance Numbers
  • The Fake look sometimes
  • Not utilizing the Cast Well
  • Not Taking The Creative Liberties When They should have
  • Just Limited Over All

 

Summary:

As stated earlier, the theater is able to bring out some truly wonderous things with the limited technologies they have compared to CGI computer animation.  The movies accomplished those limitations by helping turn the limited set into a magical paradise of alley cat wonder.  Kitchens, alleys, bedroom, and more are all magnified to new proportions, giving us the perspective of the cat and adding sort of an obstacle to it as well.  This new playground offers avenues for unique dancing, creative colors that blend well with the cats design, and keep to the realistic world the play painted so long ago.  As for the cats themselves, the world of animal meeting human takes a new realistic sheen in the movements of tails, ears, and paint, really capitalizing on the mannerisms that the actors are asked to do.  Those realistic movements, along with the fur that surrounds them really gives a sheen to the actors and helps keep up with the performances.

Speaking of performances, the true spectacle of the movie comes from the performance factors that the stage show is always known for.  With the impressive visuals, the performances sort of explode on stage, new choreography mixing with old to unleash the true amazingness that the art of dance brings.  Old styles like ballet, classical dance, and tap dancing will captivate the classic fans, while the new styles of hip hop, break dancing, and other styles add a modern pizazz to them.  All the style mix well, and the giant dance number in the middle proves this the best, taking place just before my favorite number of the alley cat who tap dances.  Those who are big on giant musicals, and like the modern retake on it are going to find this as the selling point for the movie, especially given the pace most of these numbers bring to the movie, which is another positive given some of the limitations.

 

Yet the movie’s theatrics can only carry it so far in the grand scheme of movie comparison for this reviewer.  First off, the limited story.  I know, it is Cats a play all about introductions that was derived from a poetry book. Despite this though, the movie could have expanded upon the story, taken some creative liberties, and helped diversify this film from the play and give it that movie spin, (potentially this was to appease fans).  While not the movie’s fault, there are some numbers where the modern twist did not improve upon, and these numbers were a little boring for this reviewer, but again they at least keep these numbers in tune with the original so I can’t really dock too many points for this.  Instead, a more valid point could be some of the details that they did not buff out in the transition from humans to cats.  The CGI work is impressive, but I’ll admit that the faces for most of the cast still look a little fake. I would have liked some make up and prosthetics to help with the blending and correct this, for the stage make up I think still reigns supreme in this contest and should not have cost too much to add on in the grand scheme of the budget.  As for the cast, there are a lot of stars that came to perform and to be honest… I don’t think they utilized them well at all.  The film had only a handful of cats running the show from scene to scene, and all the big names had their numbers and dropped to the background.  I know, again they are keeping in time with the play, but in the regards for the cast of this movie, the price tags that came should have been expanding upon and utilize these big stores to the max.  That is where I believe the limitation of this movie really lies, not maximizing on the potential they could have taken to expand the story.  While I appreciate loyalty to the fans, a film version of this could have taken some liberties to expand the story, integrate the characters more, and even add some new formulations to make this movie shine (like Disney has done with most of the live action remakes).  Instead, the traditional approach has left this movie feeling very plain, one dimensional, and kind of boring in the grand scheme.  Given the potential they had going, that might have been the biggest let down.

 

The  Verdict:

            Cats is what you expect from the trailers, a big musical number that is all about dancing and soundtracks and little of anything else.  The technology prowess reigns supreme in bringing the world and visuals to life, and many of the new twists to the songs give it a breath of fresh air to liven things up.  Yet, this face paced dance flick just really does not deliver on many things outside of the lavish numbers.  Rather than taking some liberties to expand the story and use of the characters, the movie sticks a little too close to the traditional roots, leaving it very simple and kind of dull in the grand scheme of things.  If you are looking to experience the show for the first time, this could be a decent substitute, but for those in love of the plays or looking for a musical with more sustenance, heart, and coordination, well you should go in with lower expectations.  As such, I’m mixed in terms of telling you if worth a theater visit, but for the stage show, effects, and visual numbers the theater will assist, but for everything else, watch this one at home instead.   Due to the missed potential this movie could have done, I’ll give this film a: 

My Scores are

Comedy/Drama/Family:  5.0

Movie Overall:  4.0

I Came, I Shaw, Hobbes Conquered

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw Poster

 

Seems like eons ago when we were blown away by the cars and ferocity that was Fast and Furious.  Many installments later, the serious sort of left its dark heist roots and hit the highway to the ridiculous imagination of pushing cars and crew to the max.  Despite losing a valuable cast members and several other characters, the series emerges once more from the garage with a new paint job though it’s core is very much the same.  Tonight yours truly looks at the new comedy duo to take the next leg of the furious race. What lies in store?  Read on to get my thoughts on:

 

Movie:  Fast And Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw (2019)

 

Director:

David Leitch

Writers:

Chris Morgan (story by), Chris Morgan (screenplay by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Dwayne JohnsonJason StathamIdris Elba

 

 

LIKES:

Funny

Great Pace

Fitting Story

Great Acting for franchise

Action

 

DISLIKES:

Jokes Too Far

Ridiculousness Gets Out Of Hand

Predictability

Some Story Gaps

The ruining by the trailers

 

SUMMARY:

 

If you have been a follower to the series, you’ve learned the formula by now and it is one that despite how tired it may be, still seems to work.  Hobbes and Shaw is an entertaining ride that runs on adrenaline and comedy as the main fuel. The comedy is in many forms, though primarily in the banter between the star characters, but also has some surprises in the form of cameos and unexpected side roads that are well timed. It delivers an atmosphere of fun, which in turn leads to a great pace to keep you engaged in the film and to the adventure at hand. The actors who bring this to life all work super well, the chemistry between Statham and Johnson is awesome as the rivalry and alpha male syndrome of two extreme males is super believable and exploited well.  Meanwhile, Elba as the supervillain is fantastically balanced, despite being in this series, as he is both lethal and wild at the same time.  Vanessa Kirby as well is a welcome addition, as she brings one-part female inspiring character and one-part romantic interest.  She’s a great anchor point for the story and an engaging character overall that seems to balance the macho meatheads of the other two.  In terms of story, Hobbes and Shaw shows promise for picking up the pieces of the last installments while opening up some new rivals for the speedsters to follow, with little to no layers beyond what is presented and plenty of preachy morals that the series has thrived on over the last five movies.  Finally the action.  Hobbes and Shaw has pumped high-octane fuel into the engines and ramped it up to a new level as technology meets good old-fashioned fists.  From nearly start to finish, the movie does not let up on the exciting moments and despite how cheesy it can be, it fits the action junkie want so beautifully.

 

Yet, the movie (like most of the latter installments) finds issues with balance and uniqueness that once was present in the film. The jokes, as entertaining as they are, go a little too far, the banter in particular bloating the run time at points where we could have moved on to something better.  In addition, the movies continue to push the boundaries of reality with the ridiculous aspects, relying on suspension of belief and focus on adrenaline doing everything superhuman to accept these feats.  Surprisingly toned down from other movies, Hobbes and Shaw is still not for those who can’t stomach the cheesiness of this franchise. Sadly, the effort and interest in these action sequences is not being used in their storytelling originality. Hobbes and Shaw is still a predictable tale with things laid out for you at the start of the movie with dramatic dialogue that is obvious foreshadowing.  In addition, some details given suggest some story gaps and perhaps a little more attention to detail to help.  Yet, much of the movie is ruined by the trailers, which have given away much of the action sequences you are probably going to see.  Sure, the full spectacle is still awesome, but be warned you’ve seen much of the stuff already laid out.

 

Outside of a few other minor dislikes, like a few characters built up in trailers, but then laid to the side for future movies, Hobbes and Shaw turned out to be better than I anticipated.  It’s still a cheesy special effects ride that continues to rope money in, but it works quite well to bring the entertaining action spectacle to open August up.  I really enjoyed the familiar aspects of comedy, pacing, and acting, though I still think they have not obtained the balance or adventure that Fast Five was. So in terms of a theater visit, for those who are fans of the series you should hit this up ASAP to get your fill of action and machoness.  Yet, those who do not enjoy the spectacles of CGI and stunts, should skip this one and hit one of the five movies coming next week. 

 

My scores are: 

 

Action/Adventure:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

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 Royal Flush In Acting, Writing and Fashion. Be Game For This Smart Film

Molly's game

            Celebrity status is sometimes not all it’s cracked up to be, especially in these days where every eye and ear is monitoring for a juicy story.  This was never truer than the case of Molly Bloom, the former Olympian turned lawbreaker all through the flip of a card.  If you’re like me, you had no clue about this tale, but thankfully the studios have pulled together another cinematic marvel to tell another story.  Will this movie live up to hype and do a biography right, or is it just another glory trip to pull our addictions and con out our hard earned money?  Robbie K here is back with yet another review on the latest movies to hit the theater.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

The Costumes/Wardrobe:  As a reviewer, I strive to appreciate all aspects of a movie, including the wardrobe to make a part come to life. The department achieved its goal of designing outfits to fully portray the professionalism of Molly (Jessica Chastain), all while being a stunning sight for your eyes. Each dress, coat, and accessory beautifull accented Chastain’s naturally beauty, but also managed to reflect the attitude/mood of the scene.  As the wardrobe reflected the emotional tension to indirectly add took the movie, it also serves as a fashion show for those who love this aspect

 

The Pace:  The movie is one of the longer films this year at nearly 150 minute run time, and for a drama that can seem like a lifetime.  Fortunately, the team did a stellar job keeping the pace quick and moving, but not so fast to devoid details. This balanced presentation kept my interest in the details without becoming too lost in the convoluted, emotional warfare that dramas are famous for.  I at one point looked at my watch and stated, wow 90 minutes have already past, not something I normally see.

 

The Presentation of the story:  Molly’s game is a very interesting tale to say the least, seeing the tribulations she faces and her character’s resilience to it all.  Naturally, this is not the original tale, but the presentation helps pump life into the plot.  One component is in the past, a self-told narrative guiding you through her journey up the ranks of the poker pit and the players who participated in it.  The second component are the events of her case presentation, where she and her lawyer work to uncover the psychological game going on in Molly’s head.  These two parts constantly wrap around themselves during the movie, each part escalating the tension of the adventure and guiding you to the goal of what the consequences will be of Molly’s choices. This presentation has been done before, but this movie really finessed it, possibly leading to the pace I enjoyed so much.

 

The Writing:  I agree with fellow reviewers that the writing in this movie is one of the strongest pillars this movie is based on.  It’s realistic, it’s emotional, and it’s clever on many fronts as it balances various ploys to make the lines come to life. Well-timed sarcasm, monologues that convey a large emotional spectrum, and the dialogue itself feels very realistic, but yet has enough magic in it to charge the scenes with that fire you strive for in a drama. And with this strong foundation, the acting has a base to spring off of for award winning performances.

 

The Acting: Hands down though, the acting of this movie is what brought it too life and tied all these pieces together.  The supporting cast of secondary characters did their jobs well, capturing the pompous, greedy nature of the gambling addicts and mixing in the frat boy irresponsibility that Molly describes.  Michael Cera and Kevin Costner shine in their moments that speak of the great writing that this film has to offer.  Hands down though, it’s the two leads who deserve the most credit.  Idris Elba continues to show off his skills, portraying intelligence, concern, parentage, and moral obligations to craft an engaging opposite for Chastain work with.  He anchors Molly’s strong will and turns into constructive storytelling, all while bringing the benign terms of law to a relevant life.

Yet it is Jessica Chastain who does most of the heavy lifting in this movie, playing the title character and running with it on all levels.  In addition to the looks (both in similarity to Molly and stunning fashion), Chastain brings Molly to life on all fronts.  You feel the suffering in the character, and almost get pulled into the mental struggles that hit her as the moral tests come at her from all fronts.  She manages to keep all the emotion in check, and crafts a complex character that has your opinion shifting of her over the course of the film. The directors managed to design so much in this role that is going to inspire and empower many to achieve the greatness she portrays.  I hope she wins the best actress for this film, because she was phenomenal.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Hollywood glamor:  It’s always tough to write this dislike, but you have to wonder how much Hollywood buffing they put into the film.  Of all the biographies I have seen, I feel this one was one of the more grounded tales that hit both sides of the argument.

 

The Editing Direction: For the most part this movie is solid in terms of run time and details.  However, there was extra fluff at times that was unnecessary for me.  Some of the montages involving clients making jerks of themselves didn’t seem necessary for me and added unneeded length to the film. The result was a few boring parts that were a little tiring, but even these weren’t the worst I have ever seen.   Outside of a little tightening on the dialogue, there wasn’t much for this category to comment on.

 

The Jargon: Perhaps the most unenjoyable thing about this movie for me is the heavy use of jargon in this movie.  Molly’s game is loaded with poker, law, and business lingo that many audience members may not appreciate during the heated moments.  It adds the intelligence quotient to the mix, but without the definitions in front of you, and the amount of traffic in the scenes, this is the weakest aspect of the writing.  Positive side, it inspires me to research these terms, but in the heat of the moment it’s a little overhwhelming.

 

The Verdict:

            Molly’s game is a great movie that is an artful representation of biography meeting drama.  A blending of smart writing, an engaging presentation and incredible talent to bring it all to life is what you’ll get in this movie, and much of it is held in the arms of Chastain.  Her character has so much for audiences to grasp on to and in the case of female goers, empowering performances shine bright in this film. Yes the movie is not original, and it is subject to Hollywood magic fluffing things up as well as some jargon heavy dialogue.  Yet, this movie still wins for one of the better dramas to grace the theater in a while.  I highly recommend a vist to the theater for this one.

 

My scores:

 

Bigoraphy/Drama:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

 

The Mixture Between Us

Moutain.jpg

 

The mighty majestic mountains that line the world.  These monolithic displays of nature are icons for so many forms of expression such as poetry, video game stages, and yes even movies.  Such symbolism is perfect to craft such an obstruction for heroes to face, all while teaching valuable lessons.  And thus leads me to my next review, on a movie that centers on the immobile giants that watch over the world.  The Mountain Between Us is the name of the film and its trailers have certainly stirred up a storm in the world of reviews.  Robbie K here hoping to guide you through the mess to help guide your viewing pleasures.

 

LIKES:

 

The acting:  Like the mountains they are stuck in, the lead actors in this movie are giants themselves, displaying their talents to high levels.  Idris Elba once more blows my mind out how well he executes his roles.  He sells the suffering surgeon well, playing the internalization well and the survivalist even more.  Kate Winslet as ever brings her character to life, taking the fiery spirit she has within, and unleashing it in a manner that is wild, yet honed as the movie progresses.  The two certainly have the portrayal of suffering down pat (they can really shiver) but on many levels they play well off each other, especially in the beginning.

 

The Dog:  While not the main human actor, the dog is by far the character I cared about the most.  This animal, while of course like many of his canine brethren, was cute to me and impressive in the work it had to do. Trekking through the show, climbing mountains, and a variety of other things the dog certainly caught my eye for much of the screen.  In addition, because I’m a big animal fan, the dog was the character that kept me engaged in the film. Every scene transition, or new challenge I couldn’t help, but think “What happened to the dog.” That component is perhaps the biggest hooking element in the movie to keep you into the film.  What is its fate?  Can’t tell you, you’ll have to watch.

 

The Scenery: While it is no substitute for the real thing, The Mountain Between Us is a great example of stunning camera work. My breath was taken away by all the panoramic shots of the wilderness from the ever expanding sky in the peaks, to the silent wonder of the forest littering the valleys below.  It brings out the deadly force that mother nature holds and stunned me by the majesty of the visual prowess cameras can pick up.  So while it is again not the same thing as hiking these majestic peaks, it is the next best thing.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Diluted Suspense:  If you are like me, the trailers might have you believe this was going to be the most suspenseful movie of the year.  Unfortunately, I was fooled again. This film has some moments that got my anxiety building, but a majority of it is an almost peaceful trek through the snow.  While they are certainly cold, our character’s journey through the frozen wastelands lacked many elements to build up the intensity.  Perhaps the lack of a cinematic score, or the fact that obstacles seemed cleared too easily thanks to convenience, this movies frozen fury was almost a little too fragile for me. Or maybe it was the other focus of the movie that downgraded the suspense for me…

 

The Love Theme: Yes, just like the symbolic title suggests, the main wedge is the character’s backstories preventing them from moving to the obvious sign of starting a romance.  Much of the film tries to get the two to address their rather quick development of passion for one another in some rather lackluster ways.  I wasn’t sold on the romance for the most part, and the actors themselves didn’t seem quite charmed by each other outside of one rather pointless scene. The friendship factor at the beginning was much stronger, and would have been the route I had taken in developing the story.  Again, I don’t necessarily hate love, but I would like it better portrayed for my investment.

 

Disproportion:  Timing the movie, as good geeks do, it took only 8 minutes to get up on the mountain.  While I appreciate the fast pace, it gave little time to get to know the characters or at least give them a decent introduction to the madness about to be had.  This opening was rather shallow and quite disappointing in the grand scheme of the movie.  Yet it’s not quite as bad as the dragged out ending of this film.  While not as long as Return of The King, and all its false exits, The Mountain Between Us sort fizzles out in the end.  This tangent was not necessary, a quick closure to try and tidy up some loose ends of a weaker component of the film. Worst off, the chemistry started to falter, making this an awkward mess with a rather cheesy, albeit poetic, ending.  Not sure why these last 25 minutes needed to exist, but it could have been better spent in the beginning and end of the movie.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Mountain Between Us is a beautiful spectacle of what the world can provide in terms of a stage, certainly blowing my mind on the visuals.  Alongside this majestic scenery comes some quality acting and a hooking factor in the form of the dog.  Yet these tools alone couldn’t save this movie from being semi-dull. With the tension dropped to a PG level for symbolism and awkward love, alongside disproportioned parts, I can’t say this movie delivered all I wanted.  The visuals might be the main theater worthy component, but this reviewer suggests holding out for RedBox to catch it.

 

My Scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Drama:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.5

Beyond The Federation, There Lies An Okay Adventure

Beyond

            Space, the final frontier, a line that continues to repeat over the years in one of the most popular science fiction movies to grace entertainment. Less than a decade ago, J.J. Abrams decided to reset the series and open up a new universe in the Star Trek universe that led to a lot of controversy. This weekend the third installment of this series has warped into our theaters this weekend and I assembled a crew to journey into the unknown and report our findings, (aka a review). So bold up, get set, and read up on my review of Star Trek Beyond.

 

The GOOD

  • A true Star Trek adventure
  • Beautiful special effects
  • Comedy that kills
  • Great acting

 

As mentioned by a few fans, Beyond drops back from the federation centered tales and returns back to exploring the unknown. Beyond goes into the exploration of nebulae, running from CGI crafted natives, and facing technological warfare that always seems to be deadly to extras. As Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew are forced into the seemingly abandoned world, you get pulled into the nostalgic voyages made famous all those years. While some of the wild live and environmental hazards are a bit lacking, this adventure focuses on what the crew must do to complete their mission with the most members possible. Just like the Star Trek episodes of yore.

How this adventure is brought to life, is by the special effects department.  Abrams use of special effects is top of the line, blending live pyrotechnics with computer generated magic. All of the space stations, starships, and stunt work are incredibly animated, flowing into sequences that are somewhat exciting and worthy of the silver screen. The alien world as well holds the same magic, and feels like a Star Trek landscape, albeit a little more simplified and unimaginative than some of the other places we have visited. Regardless the special effects will certainly be the wow factor to the audience members and will help break up some of the mundane parts of the movie.

My friends and I agreed though that the most entertaining feature was the comedy in this movie. Kirk gets a few laughs in here, but Pine’s character takes a more serious role in this installment, but his well timed snipes got a chuckle from the audience. Scotty the ever angry/irritated engineer still brings the laughs with his irate venting rants and Simon Pegg’s delivery to maximize the enjoyment factor. But it is the dynamic duo of Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) that really had me in stitches. Spock’s neutral stating of the obvious and his failures in love provide enough ammunition for the good doctor to bash with it. The constant bickering between the two continues to evolve which leads to great character development and dialogue that continues to remain funny throughout the two hours. As I mentioned, none of this would have been possible without the insane acting abilities and fantastic deliveries of our acting cast.

The BAD

  • The lack of danger/challenge
  • An almost pointless plot device

It was somewhat hard to find faults in this movie for me, but one thing was the lack of challenge our heroes faced in this movie. Think about the Star Trek saga, our crew gets pulled into some crazy situation and it takes every ounce of energy to penetrate, attack, or defend their target. In this movie, both enemy and hero had too easy a time accomplishing their goals. Our crew snuck into places without much resistance, and even when their presence was known the confrontation was a little too one sided and quite poorly executed. Therefore the movie was a little on the boring side for me at times, or at least dull to say the least. It was missing the adrenaline rush and suspense of the second movie, which must have been traded in order to achieve the adventure part of the movie. Even newcomer Jaylah was a bit lackluster, with her combat stances and speeches more impressive than the skills she displayed. And despite the visual effects, the blaster fire was colorful, but seemingly pointless in the ship-to-ship battles. Oh well, number four may be able to correct this…if there is a number four.

In terms of the plot, the movie is pretty sound and focuses a lot on character development than anything else. Don’t get me wrong…this is a good thing, but I was still hoping to have a bit more in terms of action/suspense balance to keep me engaged in the tale. Krall’s (Idris Elba) goal in this movie was almost pointless, his path to revenge centering on a trinket that almost pointless in the grand scheme of things. There was little strategy, and again struggle, to implementing this device and as such I found the central plot of this movie a tad daunting.

 

The VERDICT

Nevertheless despite these weaknesses, Beyond’s delivery is solid. The visual effects craft a wonderful world for our crew to explore and the cast certainly looks the part on all fronts. The biggest strength is certainly the actors bringing characters that we love to an even deeper self, and the comedic punch many provide gives you the laughs. However, I don’t think this one reached the level that Into the Darkness did, especially in terms of excitement and suspense. This reviewer though has to recommend a visit to the theater for this one though, and was the best of the three I saw.

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.5

Beautiful World, Fun Adventure, But Oh That Singing

THe Jungle Book

Disney is in the zone with their live action remakes. With Maleficent and Cinderella being box office hits, the animation studio finally bridged out of the princesses and went to another kingdom. This time around we dive into a wilder world filled with danger, death, and of course…talking animals. That’s right, today’s review is on the Jungle Book and once more I’m here to give some insight on the latest films to grace the theater. So enough chatting, let’s get started.

 

The GOOD:

  • Incredible Graphics
  • Voice Acting
  • Emotional/Suspenseful Story
  • Very fun and cute at moments

 

If you have seen the trailers, then it should come as no surprise that Jungle Books strongest quality is the animation. Disney continues to push the boundaries of real life animation. The denizens of this jungle are incredibly detailed, with rippling fur, incredibly detailed muscle movements, and a glorious shine that screams high definition gold. There are some moments where the realism is lost and the sheen shows the CGI, however these moments are overshadowed by the story and not much of a weakness. And the jungle itself is even more breathtaking as the flora pops to life in both color and contrast. Where props end and CGI begins is hard to tell, but trust me the world was brought to life much better than I ever imagined.

Where the technology brought the animals to life, it was the voice acting that brought the characters. Ben Kingsley as the regal Bagheera was a perfect choice. Kingsley brought all the qualities of the mentor with his stern voice, but adding that emotional sentimental edge that showed he cared. Idris Elba as Shere Kahn was another rocking pick, his deep, bellowing voice spiced with the sinister edge that was perfect for the villain role. Yet the best voice casting goes to Bill Murray who we all know has a long track record of playing the care free, high on life character. Baloo is essentially the animal version of Murray, and if they had added a cigar to the mix, would have been a furrier version of his St. Vincent character. Our other cast was spot on as well and Jungle Books voice cast fit every role necessary.

In terms of the story, Jungle Book gets points for this as well. It sticks to the 1967 cartoon version well, deviating at a few moments to give it a darker edge The emotion in the story is surprisingly lacking at parts, maybe due to the delivery or perhaps the fast pace. But the emotion really hits at the right moments to get your skin tingling with goose bumps. Now I can’t lie that much of the movie lacked suspense for me, a predictable tale that I had memorized from my cartoon watching days. Yet I would also be lying if I didn’t say Shere Kahn’s scenes had me on the edge of my seat at times, wondering what decisions his devious mind would make. Baloo and Mowgli’s relationship though goes the lighter sides of things and fills the cute and cuddly role to the T, while also bringing some of the audience to tears. This relationship was an essential component to the fun of this film and one of the best real life to digital character relations I’ve seen in a while.

 

The BAD:

  • Short sighted scenes
  • A few over-exaggerated moments
  • Singing

 

What do I mean by short sighted scenes? I mean that some of the scenes could have been epic, but were delivered in a manner that left me feeling cheated. The Kaa scene is one of these moments. The Indian python was the leading voice for the trailers, but in this film the snake was more of a cameo than anything else. Sure she played a role in shedding light on Mowgli’s origins, but shortly after that she is cut from the film (quite the opposite from the cartoon version.) There were other moments that were very similar, but lacked the finesse I was expecting and instead turned into a convenient scene meant to fill in a plot hole. Many of these moments, due to their rushed nature, felt very over acted and lost the emotional appeal it was going for. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) did well overall, but the little guy occasionally trekked into a whiny, unimpressive delivery that was a little annoying.

The biggest weakness for me though was the singing. I give them props for effort and award them points for taking a risk, but the singing paled so much to the original soundtrack. Bill Murray doing the Baloo song had some pizazz and again was a cute dynamic to their relationship. Christopher Walken singing King Louie’s song though is a different story. It’s more comical then good, and is lacking in a lot of things that not even Auto tune can fix. Pretty much, it’s just another method to extend the movie and merchandising for this film. Fortunately the symphony scores makes up for these songs, but unfortunately they can’t give you back the time the singing takes away.

 

Final thoughts:

 

This rendition of the Jungle Book impressed me. The adventure is fun and fast paced while also bringing a little emotion to the picture. An incredible cast makes for fun characters that your little ones and you will latch on to. But it is the incredible artificial world that brings you into the movie and makes you feel as if you stepped into a Disney theme park ride. I strongly encourage everyone to hit the theaters for this film and can say this film merits a screening in 3-D if you have the chance. Word of warning, there may be moments a bit too intense for little kids, especially if they jump at loud noises.

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Drama/Family: 8.5-9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0