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

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That Cute, Wascally Rabbit

Peter Rabbit

 

The beloved tale of Peter Rabbit are stories that many of us remember watching/reading growing up.  Yet like many beloved childhood series, they are often lost to memories and stored away to be forgotten.  So how in the world did this tale resurface after being buried for so long?  Well, get set my friends, because this weekend, Peter Rabbit is back in town to make his mark back on the world and get kids interested in his merchandising.  Robbie K back with another movie review to try and help you answer the question, “should I see it in theaters?”  As always read on to find out my thoughts.

 

LIKES:

 

Animation:  Let’s get over the obvious, Peter’s transition into 3-D, realistic looking visuals was a smooth process. The designs of all the characters are on cuteness overloaded, and are certain to be the next line of plush animals for your young ones to grab on to.  Past the design, the movement of the animated five is fluid, a nice balance of natural rabbit movement meeting anthropomorphized anatomy that really brings the action and gimmicks to life.

 

Cute:  A movie like this relies on being adorable, and by golly this too was a big factor in this film.  Peter and company’s adventure into the new age has adapted well with the times, and the campy, fun, warmhearted nature of the adventure was totally adorable for many.  Both young and older will have a hard time choosing between barf inducing cute and just the right amount, so it really depends on your preferences.

 

Comedy:  Surprisingly enough, Peter Rabbit’s comedic antics are surprisingly humorous on many levels.  From the trailers you can certainly expect two things:  Slapstick comedy and Repeatable Quotes from Kids.  And the film delivers these expectations using a variety of material to have your little ones in tears at the juvenile antics.  Like Home Alone meets Hop, Peter Rabbit pulls out loads of tricks to keep things fun and wasting little time on other tricks.  Yet, what earns major points with me is the cleverer writing that is indicated for adults.  Not so much in terms of sexual comedy, Peter Rabbit uses other forms of comedy to get laughs from older adult groups, primarily at poking fun at how ridiculous the story is itself.  Throw in some comedic jabs at movie stereotypes alongside some movie references and you got yourself some comedic gold.

 

All 5 bunnies used:  Though it may be titled Peter Rabbit, this tale is not shy of utilizing all of the rabbit family into the film.  Certainly, it is going to be for advertising, but this installment did a nice job using all five of the rabbits to further the plot.  From sisterly arguments about being the oldest, to the naïve friend who gets dragged into plots, this film will keep the little fuzz balls as involved as possible.

 

Soundtrack: Props to the music selector for this film, because the movie picked tracks that felt perfect for the sequences.  Sure, many of them are outdated 90s songs, but they are utilized so well many won’t care.  Throw in a few parodies and some dance remixes and you have a nice track list to keep everyone’s toes tapping.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Lacking Emotion:  We all know that the animated films we remember are the ones that tear are hearts out right?  Peter Rabbit does have a few emotional zingers, but none of them really have that childhood ruining edge that will scar your mind.  Thankfully this means no unhappy endings, but Peter Rabbit could have used a little more emotional growth to round out the tale.  Certainly, there are life lessons to be learned, and Peter’s crew does somewhat develop over time, it’s just not in a form or manner that is life changing/memorable in comparison to others.  Therefore, the movie could have used a little more feeling to give it that emotional edge it was looking for.

 

More Rose Byrne:  She had plenty of screen time in terms of montages of laughing, smiling, and skipping, but her character is a little limited compared to the others.  Like the CGI supporting animals, Byrne’s character simply appeared at the convenient moments.  For being a central chess piece to the whole farmer vs. rabbit dynamics though, her character was a little disappointing.  There were few interventions by her character and she didn’t expand much as a character outside of joke fodder and that motherly atmosphere.  For such a big name, they might have made the extra effort to expand on this role.  I mean, even the climactic ending was missing the thrills, partially because Rose didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm in solving the ordeal.

 

The trailers show a lot of the movie:  if you’ve seen the copious number of showings for this movie’s trailer than chances are you have seen much of the shenanigans involved in this film already.  Much of the McGregor bashing has been captured in those short airings, so don’t expect too many surprises or laughs if you are sick of it.  Thank goodness that some of the more adult humor has been left out as a nice surprise, but much of the movie has been revealed in the three trailers.  Don’t you hate over advertising?

 

The VERDICT:

 

          Peter Rabbit is a fun tale that all ages will enjoy.  It holds many movie references and comedic styles to keep one entertained, and is certainly the family friendly movie of the year so far.  One will have a lot of fun at this movie, becoming lost in either the cuteness overload that is the movie or having their young at heart selves chuckling at the craziness within.  However, aside from having fun, the movie suffers from a lack of emotional punch to really drive the lessons home.  In addition, thanks to the simple dialog and over advertising, the movie loses some of its uniqueness/edge to boredom at seeing it a thousand times.  Still, if you can stomach the downfalls and accept it for the cute factor it is… than you should have no problem enjoying this film with the family this weekend.  Worth a trip to the theater?  I would say yes. 

 

My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

An Icon of Lost Potential

Emoji

 

In today’s world, the phone isn’t used quite as the inventors pictured, with actual calling being replaced by texting and snapchat.  But one item has been developed to replace the words that are too difficult to write: Emojis. In desperation, Sony has developed a film about these icons in an attempt to break the bank with another hit animated series.  Can they succeed, or will this movie be nothing but a bombardment of sad faced emojis?  Robbie K here to answer that question for you with another review.

 

LIKES:

 

The Animation:  You can say a lot of negative things about the movie, but one plus for this reviewer is the beautiful display Sony’s team has designed.  Like many movies, the characters move with fluid grace, transitioning through their adventure with little jumpiness.  High Five (James Corden) in particular has impressive moves, as having a hand expand beyond simple hand movements can be tricky business.  In addition, I enjoyed the visualization of the world within our phone, finding clever design in the development of the internal universes of each app (primarily Instagram’s frozen pictures).  I’ll admit, the characters aren’t realistic like Pixar, or even super creative design, but there is cleverness in the world itself.

 

It’s Cute:  When it comes to cartoons/animated marvels, the pendulum can swing to either side of the age spectrum.  Fear not those with little kids, this movie is certainly geared towards the younger side, filled to the brim with color, simplistic jokes, and over the top slapstick that will make many giggle.  Sure, there are a few drier jokes that adults will get, but for the most part this movie goes back to basics for family friendliness.  One won’t have to worry about inappropriate gestures or innuendos in this film.

 

The Morals:  Movies are a powerful tool to teach the lessons we humans are too ignorant to learn from mentors, school, and the quickly fading trend of reading.  Emoji’s movie solid lesson of being yourself and not conforming to the traditional ways is as good rehash of the traditional lesson.  Those who stand out from the norm will find great relevance to Gene (T.J. Miller)  and Jailbreak’s (Anna Faris) quest and most likely grab on to the characters.  It’s also always good to see a lesson in friendship as well, quoting the movie as “Better to have one good friend, than a bunch of fake fans followers”.  The strong emphasis on this will hopefully break through the persistent firewalls of your subconscious and get you contacting your buddies.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Story:  Despite the morals infused into the story, the overall quality of Gene’s tale is very basic at best.  The Emoji movie has little sustenance to it, diving more into cramming the jokes in the short run time. After all the world building I had hoped for a little more depth to navigating the apps, facing the dangers of the cyber terror that lurk in our phones. I wanted suspense! I wanted exploration of a selection of apps. I wanted an adventure that had a little more depth behind it. I got very little of that.  All the obstacles they faced were fairly easy to circumvent, and often not worth mentioning at how lame they were. Certainly, they did a few things right (Just Dance 4), but for the most part, it was a huge loss of potential at decoding the craziness of our obsession with phones.

 

Humor:  Humor can be fun when balanced, but unfortunately Emoji movie lacks that balance, once again swinging the pendulum to the younger audience.  Most of the jokes are very simple statements that lack any finesse, or decent delivery to maximize the laughs. Much of the humor is dry, and although has adult components, lacks that clever zing that other films/programs do. James Corden rectifies this a little with High Fives self-absorbed personality, but even his banter gets stale after a while.  With all of the comedians in this movie, I really had expected more of this movie, but again missed potential.

 

Boring: If you haven’t gleamed it from the first two categories, then this should sum this up, Emoji movie is boring. There is no suspense to the adventure, and let’s face it no point, to the challenges at hand.  I found myself looking at the clock wondering how much longer I had in the ridiculous presentation of smart phone gimmicks.  Cute is always great, but it is better left to YouTube and Kid shows that are in short spans of time. Without the jokes to back it up, nor an impressive voice performance, there is just little to scream entertainment outside of watching a child’s smile light up at the colorful presentation.

 

The VERDICT:

 

You’ve seen the reviews of my colleagues, and they aren’t far from the truth… Emoji movie was a miss for Sony in terms of quality.  The lackluster jokes, lack of challenge, and reserved wit were not the right steps to take in this inconsistent adventure for success.  In fact, the best thing of this film is the animated short for Hotel Transylvania that precedes it.  Still, if you are looking for a safe, family trip to the movies, you’ve got the Emoji movie to save your bacon.  However, I highly recommend reserving this one for Netflix. 

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  4.0

Movie Overall:  2.0  

Take A Drive With Baby Driver

Baby Driver

 

Baby Driver!  When I saw this trailer months ago I had no idea what to think about it just from the title alone.  Yet seeing a star studded cast that included Jon Hamm, Lily James, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx, I had hopes for a good movie.  So, with it rushing into a midweek premiere I managed to finally check it out this weekend.  What’s the verdict on the action/crime movie to hit the screen.  Robbie K here always appreciating your views on his blog.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting:  I don’t say this too much, but this cast was aces across the board. Let’s start with the lead Ansel Elgort who plays Baby.  At first I was only impressed with his ability to be the awkward silent type, but as the movie progresses Elgort is able to bring a little more to the screen to round out Baby.  His range broadens as more characters are introduced into the film and he has to balance between the two worlds that he lives in.  As kind of his looming shadow, the master villain Kevin Spacey continues to play that cool, calculating, manipulative role that he made famous in House of Cards.  Not too much to be annoying, but not too little to be cheated Spacey really brings depth to a cliché role and keeps things heated up.  As for Foxx, well his acting continues to improve me in spectrum he can cover.  Taking more of the jaded thug approach, Foxx adds the comedic heat to the film with the darker theme taking hold.  I could spend the whole review on the chemistry of everyone, but Baby Driver’s cast is stellar.

 

The Action:  For a crime thriller toting about the stunts and guns, the movie certainly delivers.  Baby Driver shifts the gear into R for reality and manages to deliver sequences that are exciting chases through obstacle laden courses with all the bells and whistles.  Unlike the Fast and The Furious, this movie keeps things on a believable level, requiring actual stunt driving instead of high tech gadgets.  Even the gunplay is exciting, finally adopting the crime motif we had in the mafia movie days instead of the explosion loaded productions famous of modern cinema.  The action is well directed, and used as a supporting tool to keep the film exciting and fast paced without being the only aspect of the movie.

 

The Story:  Most crime stories bore me these days because they get too caught up in either sex or malicious violence.  While Baby Driver is certainly darker in its own accord, it has a story that doesn’t dance in one area.  A combination of love, action, and crime drama, the storyboard writers get props from me for crafting a decently balanced story.  Baby’s character is complicated (though the trailers might mislead you), and they managed to gradually peel this character apart and help him transform into someone completely new.  To do this all while bringing forth a story that doesn’t put me to sleep but keep me on edge is certainly worthy of two thumbs up.

 

The Music:  The theme of Baby Driver is music (he is always wearing headphones if you haven’t seen the trailers), and that means you need a strong soundtrack.  Mission successful on this part too.  While I’m not quite familiar with some of these classics (yes boo me), they music directors selected a fantastic spread to entertain us with.  Across many genres and decades, your ears will be swallowed by a deluge of classics, each fitting with the tone of the movie and providing great sound support to the impressive visuals.  And if you don’t know these tunes, well the internet is still a wonderful thing when used appropriately.

DISLIKES:

 

No unifying crime plot:  In many crime movies, there is a big score, a key target, or some unifying goal.  Baby Driver though doesn’t have that big, impending doom I often like to see, choosing instead to focus more on Baby himself.  While certainly a small dislike, I felt the unifying theme or grand plan could have provided a little more oomph to the story and a way to integrate Spacey’s character even more.

 

Romance Aspect:  I’m not saying this is bad, and again I’m grasping at most straws, but Baby Driver’s romance component needs a little work.  Lily James and Elgort have some decent chemistry and work well together in the scenes where they are paired.  However, I feel that this component was a little glazed over up until the climax where the crap starts to hit the fan.  Expanding this role again would have tied some things together and integrated the cast a little better to complete the story.

 

Part of the Ending:  This dislike is again complicated, but I’ll do my best to explain.  Baby Driver’s ending is certainly unique and took many directions I liked in the form of being non-cliché, artistic, and exciting on many levels.  Yet about fifteen minutes of the ending was dragged out entirely too long and started hitting that ridiculous level Hollywood often hits.  The vicious parts were a little overdramatic and the predictable twists just led to more run time that wasn’t really needed. Still it wrapped up nicely and had a self-gratifying finish, it just didn’t need to be that complicated.  

 

The Verdict:

 

I agree with many that Baby Driver is one awesome film.  Despite the weird title (which yes is a song title), it works on many levels primarily in regards to a suspenseful action tale with strong story elements.  Baby Driver is an example of what movies can be if done right and I for one recommend hitting this movie in theaters. Of note, use caution when taking younger audience members due to the violence please.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Crime/Music:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

Shyamalan’s latest Movie Is Not A Splitting Headache

split

 

No please not that, anything but that!  This might be the screams you hear when another M. Night Shyamalan film rolls into theaters.  The man who started out so strong, only to fall so far has tried his luck at horror once more in the featured film Split starring James McAvoy.  Will a movie about split personalities kidnapping girls be the step he needs to climb back to top notch director, or will his movie be laughable at best?  Robbie K here with yet another review, and as always I appreciate your reads.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKE:

  • Creepy kind of horror
  • Decent plot to keep it interesting
  • Complex morals
  • James McAvoy

 

Summary:

Fans of my reviews know creepy horror is better for me than jump scares, and Split is a prime example of spine-tingling chills.  Shyamalan and his crew get incredible effects from such simple tactics, using isolation, subtle piano background music, and gradual information revelation to keep you in suspense.  By using a believable human as the monster instead of some cheesy creature, the creeps are only further amplified by how horrible such a thing can be.

 

But scares alone don’t make a movie and Split does a decent job of crafting a tale to keep you hooked into the movie.  While certainly not original, Split’s plot is a culmination of smaller stories that detail the background info of a majority of our characters, helping to develop them in the short run time.  All of these tales have a moral twist to it, but one story in particular raises an intriguing concept that may provide some food for thought, or at least an ethical dilemma for future talks.

 

However, the piece de resistance is the leading actor James McAvoy who carries much of the movie.  The man can play multiple personalities well, tweaking his mannerisms and dialogues in subtle ways to craft an entirely different identity. His talents, as well as the direction, kept all his characters in the realistic zone, which while creepy, also made engaging characters to grab on to. There are few actors to which I could see doing the spectacular job he did.

 

DISLIKE:

  • Predictable Story
  • Trailer has shown much
  • Don’t see all the personalities
  • Mixed on the ending

 

Summary:

Despite the story being very well-developed for a horror story, it also isn’t the most unique either. Outside of the twenty-three-personality quirk, you can guess much of the backstory of each character and where the film is going by about the 30-minute mark. Part of the predictability can be attributed to the trailer revealing a lot of key details in the short collection of scenes, including the big revelation at the end.

 

The trailer also harbors on the twenty-three personalities, but in reality, it’s more like four with a few cameos from the others.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (as too many personalities could be very sloppily done), it also was a wasted gimmick. What do I mean by this confusing statement?  I mean, why make twenty-three, instead of say ten, or even five? What was the significance of twenty-three outside of a nickname if you weren’t going to integrate all of them?  This dislike comes from the trailer’s focus on high number only to once again let it fizzle out.  And as for the ending, it’s a very open-ended finale that leaves a lot of questions up in the air.  Perhaps the potential sequel will answer these components, but only time will tell.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Split, to my surprise, was much better than I thought and was a horror movie worthy of the franchise.  If you are looking for realistic chills, a satisfying plot, and fantastic acting of someone with a mental health disorder then certainly check this movie out.  In fact, in regards to the horror genre I would warrant this movie earns a trip to the theater.  However, as a movie overall, it still has its shortcomings, especially in regards to the twenty-three-personality gimmick.  Yet one thing is for certain, if Shyamalan can continue this trend he may fall back into the favorable director field once more.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Thriller: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0