Floating Through Nearly 3 Hours With Fantastic Acting and Decent Plot

It Chapter Two Poster

 

Two years ago, the relaunch of yet another series started, taking modern day technology and using it to put a new face on it.  Stephen King’s legendary book titled IT came back in a new light that felt like a Stranger Things Episode with a little more demented/horror element added to it.  When the ending came and the credits finished, the promise of part 2 lingered in red, setting the stage for the second act of the book.  Two years later, the adventure arrives and the question is… will the movie live up to the potential or are we waiting for nothing. Robbie K coming in for another review of the latest film to hit the theater, hoping to give you some spoiler free insight on the film.  So let’s get set as we look into:

 

Movie: It: Chapter 2

 

Director:

Andy Muschietti

Writers:

Gary Dauberman (screenplay by), Stephen King (based on the novel by)

Stars:

Jessica ChastainJames McAvoyBill Hader

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Story Components
  • The Terrifying Forms
  • Decent Pace
  • Creep Factor
  • References
  • Acting

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Not Scary For Me
  • Plot Presentation At points
  • The Length Of The Film
  • The Stepped-Up Game
  • The Over Use of Cursing at Times
  • The Assistant

 

SUMMARY:

The genius of the film is that although a sequel it’s also a stand-alone film that manages to take the tale in a new light.  Chapter 2, at least this version, manages to make a multilayered story that holds part horror and part soul searching as our characters developed.  In a decently compact way, It 2 accomplishes the task of bridging the 27-year gap and keeping to the horror element all why pushing some heavy political issues and moral tasking topics in a classy way.  Not just a drama, the horror element still stands true in this film and Pennywise’s new tactics are a step up in the form of nightmare motivating images that will stay in minds for a long time.  Not the most realistic at times, IT’s new forms for the most part have enough skin tingling factor to them to make some squirm in their seats, especially given how they made Pennywise a much bigger threat than I anticipated. A small subtle component that I quite enjoy are the small references to the book or popular phrases about the book. It’s nice balanced humor and a clever ploy to sort of justify the decisions made in this film in regards to changing the story, which gets a nod of respect from this reviewer.  Hands down though, the best part is acting, which I can go on for hours about.  All the adult forms mirror the kids in many qualms, take the baseline characteristics and maximize them, and play off of each other so well that I can’t help but praise the casting direction.  As for the clown himself, Bill Skarsgårdagain redeems his role as Pennywise and takes the nightmare amalgam worthy as a legendary villain. He manages to add new levels of creepiness without trying too hard, achieving that skin crawling factor to new levels.

 

In regards of areas that are still working on improving for me, well the film did not quite scare me like I was hoping.  Again, I’m used to much of the scare tactics, but It Chapter 2’s use of computer effects and other designs did not quite scare me as much as disturb me at times (that scene at the Chinese restaurant). In addition the stepped-up game of Pennywise sometimes crossed levels that I wasn’t a fan of, primarily in some of the more torturous aspects that this film took.  Those that have a low tolerance for dragged out beatings or torture may want to avert their eyes at these points.  In regards to the plot much of the overall arc is wonderful, but the presentation at times comes off a little more convoluted than I had hoped.  During the middle of the film the constant intertwining of past and present did not quite make sense to me, until the end when the explanation came.  Not that it was not entertaining at times, I felt this approach sort of added fluff to the movie, almost as this was a director’s cut.  This brings me to the length of the film, while certainly not the slowest movie (Midsommar anyone), the nearly three hour run time did not quite feel necessary given that the first part was nearly an hour shorter.  Again it is entertaining for the most part, but it’s a commitment I don’t think was quite needed.  A small nuance again for most, the cursing sometimes goes down the avenues of being lazy writing, primarily in the overuse of the F bomb when there were better lines that the first film capitalized on.  My biggest beef is the assistant to the mad clown, to which I don’t want to ruin. A concept that starts to hold potential, the assistant is a wasted character in my eyes that serves for only a little bit of plot development and a few comedy moments.  So much could have been done with this character, but I think the squad found this character the one to cut out most of in favor of the other focus points of the film.

 

The VERDICT:

            Wrapping this up, two years gave the movie enough time to make a horror movie that is familiar, yet has enough flair to be its own. Sticking to horror roots, the movie focuses on the story and does a nice job integrating most characters into the film. It may not be scary to me, but Pennywise is still creepy and has upped his danger level with new forms and references that should have fans smiling.  Yet it’s the acting that holds the key to success and brings the movie to levels that are super entertaining and deep compared to most horror genre casts. Still, the movie is a little long winded, with a convoluted presentation at times that adds a little length, and a character that felt like a waste.  Otherwise, a semi-cheesy ending and some darker tactics are the only things that really didn’t impress me.  The summary though is that this film is definitely a worthy edition to the horror genre, and I believe it’s worth checking out in theaters.  My scores are:

 

Horror:  8.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

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Burning Through Plots To Finish Things Up

Dark Phoenix Poster

 

X-men, a series with so much storytelling and incredible characters that the comic book itself stands alone as one of the greatest franchises to exist in the comic book world.  Yet, the movies have had a rough patch in terms of execution, hitting some highs and some lows in their design and sequences.  So tonight, the last of the franchises before Disney takes over, tries to send it off in the a blaze of glory, focusing on the last saga that is a beacon in the mutant world: The Phoenix.  Can Fox put the shining beacon of power in the right light, or will it be yet another grandiose display of loud sounds?  Robbie K here to bring his observations and help you out with your movie pleasure.  Let’s go!

 

Movie: Dark Phoenix (2019)

 

Director:

Simon Kinberg

Writers:

John Byrne (story “The Dark Phoenix Saga”), Chris Claremont (story “The Dark Phoenix Saga”)  |4 more credits »

Stars:

James McAvoyMichael FassbenderJennifer Lawrence

 

 

LIKES:

Acting

Sophie Turner

Special Effects

The Action/Pace At The End

The Messages

 

DISLIKES:

Quicksilver Not Used

Pace For Much Of The Movie

Rushed Story

Cheesy Story

Lackluster Dramatic Moments

Action Scenes Fairly Short

Under developed Villains

Not Quite The Epic Finish

 

SUMMARY:

Say what you want about the X-Men, but they have picked a heck of a cast to bring into he mutant world.  McAvoy continues to do his part justice, making sure to bring the full fiery emotion that the part requires.  Fassbender and Lawrence do their parts well, but seem to have become the back-burner group for this movie, lost to some simpler writing and a quick dynamic shift to the main character.  Jessica Chastain does her job well, but I can’t say they utilized her to the full potential (more on that later).  No, the real star is Sophie Turner, the mutant with so much power that she’s not quite sure how to handle it.  Turner does the job well in regards to getting the suffering, the uncertainty, and even the hard-edged femme fatale that they wanted.  Her character is decently developed in these aspects and I think Ms. Turner accomplished her tasks well.  To sort of go with the grand power of the mystical icon, X-men had to pull out the special effects and again they accomplished this goal quite well.  Theater shaking sound effects, plenty of colorful and vibrant special forces that scream dark edge comic books.  That utilization accomplishes bringing the fiery force of Phoenix into a spectacle that works well to bring these exotic characters to life.  My highlight comes at the end of the movie when the big action scene happens, fully unleashing the powers of the other X-men and starting to get into the excitement I’ve been waiting for this series to discover again.  Much like the books though, Dark phoenix is ready to deliver the typical messages found in this saga and the ones contained in this movie sort of accomplish this goal.

Yet, much like many movies, this installment still suffers from balance issues and finding its identity in the transcription from comic to screenplay.  For one thing, a fan favorite of Quicksilver is grossly underutilized, the famous scenes that had fans raving, almost being missed completely.  And much like the quickness of the speedster, the movie’s pace suffers as well.  Dark Phoenix is very jargon and argument heavy, with more talk than walk seen so to speak.  So much of the excitement is done in a few snaps of the finer, mostly tuned to dramatic arguments and repetitive plot points than anything else.  The story not only seems rushed, but often very cheesy in its presentation as the classic saga is boiled down to the primal elements that try to speed the “evolution” so quickly it left me filling slightly unfulfilled and unimpressed.  Attempts to interject emotion were lost to predictable foreshadowing and sequences where only a few showed any interest.  Perhaps the action scenes make up for it?  Not really, unlike some of the earlier counterparts, Dark Phoenix’s fights are short lived, more grandiose displays of talking and delivered forced dialogue with only a few impressive moves to tickle the proud political statements, while leaving action junkies like me wanting more.  Perhaps if we had better fleshed out character and villains there would be some antagonist ready to drive the plot and really gives us the gauntlet that the Dark Phoenix saga was aiming for instead of the lacking end game to this genre.

Overall, Dark Phoenix shines as the modern-day movie of girl power and hastily wrapping a floundering series up in a nice bow. It’s not awful thanks to the acting, end scenes and messages, however the story just does not feel like the final installment, but instead like the opening issues of a series that try to whet your appetite.  Had Fox not been bought perhaps the movie would have held a trilogy on its own or at least more time to the story and action.  Yet this epic finish is really one that is best left for him, minus the theater experience of the flashy effects.  My scores for this adaptation of cheesy, grandiose goodness is:

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-fi: 6.5

Movie Overall: 5.0

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

 

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

Winter's War

 

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

 

The GOOD:

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

THE BAD:

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

 

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

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

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

 

THE VERDICT:

 

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

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Drama: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

Decent Ghosts, Okay Scares, Del Toro Plot

Crimson Peak

            In the season of horror specials, I look for special gyms among the mediocre Halloween specials of today. So naturally I turn to the theater to provide me with the scare, creeps, and thrills to put me in the spooky mood. One movie that has shown promise is Crimson Peak, directed by Guillermo del Toro, the supposed master of horror. His work has provided such thrills in the past, but is the Peak capable of pushing one over the edge into a realm of nightmares and screams. As always read on to find out.

With del Toro you never know what you are going to get, but in this film his direction seems to be story. Crimson Peak is certainly plot favored, actually focusing on the characters instead of just the scares. From the beginning we jump into Edith’s (Mia Wasikowska) story, getting a look into her life and her relationships with our colorful cast. After a rather slow, detailed opening, there is a little ambiguity that lures you in to the second act. Once at the house, the true mystery begins, as you try to decipher the nuances of the obvious plot. I knew the general details, but piecing the motives, the drive, and deeper details was the real challenge in this movie. The few twists in the tale were decent, if disgusting, but this was a solid tale for a genre that is often lacking in the story department.

In the acting department, del Toro’s casting director did her homework incredibly well. Wasikowska performed very similar to her work in Alice, very primp, proper, and elegant without the awkward curiosity. I felt her responses to the CGI ghosts were kept in check and blended well with the more grounded moments of the film. Tom Hiddleston plays his old hat as the eclectic debonair blinded by ambitions and driven with a dark intensity to sting. He delivers his lines with poise, amplifying them with the right emotional edge to drive the dialogue home. Charlie Hunnam looks handsome (according to a few female audience members), and his acting isn’t too shabby, though he takes a backburner to the rest of the cast. The best acting title of the movie though goes to Jessica Chastain who is like a chameleon changing tones, emotions, and parts at the drop of a hat. Chastain executes her part fantastically, capturing the dark environment and personifying it in her acting.

By now I’m sure you’re saying, “Cut the crap, I want to know if it was scary!” For this reviewer, Crimson Peak was not as scary as the trailers had made it to be. The scares are largely based on the surprising, jump out at you moments, but are so predictable (or obvious) that they lose their surprising sheen. In addition, the direction the film takes also dulls the edge of the scares, almost as if there is no threat to be had. The real “scare” factor is the design of the ghosts themselves. Rotten, decaying bodies drenched in crimson red and wraith black certainly establish a lovely picture. Their disjointed movements are also quite disturbing, the unnatural angles, the bone crunching and unholy screams mixing to form creatures that nightmares are made of. However, the house itself may play a big factor in upping the scare. A Victorian mansion filled with creaking floors, spacious halls, and dim lighting is a rather realistic stage to haunt. In fact, the creepiest aspect may be the manipulation of those shadows, to hide the visage of the dangers and steal the comfort of home away. Once more Del Toro allows your imagination to do the heavy lifting for making you squirm in your seat.

Crimson Peak is one of the better horror stories, filled with mystery and character development. While not the scariest movies, the setting and use of shadows is a great tool to scare audiences. Del Toro just needed a little more honing and a slight change in plot to give you the scares that most of us wanted. Though there was a lack of screaming, it was a lot better than half of the mundane sequels and thrillers that come to the theater. I can’t recommend this one for the theater, unless you are looking for a decent horror plot, so save this for watching home to maximize scares.

My scores for Crimson Peak are:

 

Drama/Fantasy/Horror: 7.5 (for drama)

Movie Overall: 7