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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All Aboard! Another Mediocre Adaptation Is Heading To Station

Murder

 

Mysteries, a genre that intrigues so many with complex tales, intertangled deception, and often drama to help build suspense before the big revelation.  While many people try to combine mystery with other genres, there are those who choose to focus on mystery alone.  One of these artists is Agatha Christie, a forefront writer who continues to tease our brains with crimes that dive into deeper levels.  And with great literature, comes great grounds for Hollywood to make movies from it.  This particular tale has gotten a remake this weekend, one with a star-studded cast to try to bring people into the movies in this modern telling.  What’s in store?  Please read on to find out as we review Murder On The Orient Express.

 

LIKES:

 

Setting:  Start off with a simple like, this film is a shining example of green screen visuals blending with real world shots.  The snowy wilderness of the mountains is a dazzling spectacle of symbolism that mirrors the foreboding crime that hangs over the Orient Express.  It’s a breathtaking display of technology that keeps the darker spirit of the movie alive, and may leave you chilled at the menacing nature hanging in the air.  But the highlight is the train and the recreation of those elegant cars and cabins the locomotive industry was famous for.  This recreation takes you back in time and immerses you in the classical setting, while also designing a death trap to which our players partake in.

 

The Mystery:  For a movie that focuses on the classic question of who done it, Murder on The Orient Express did a nice job keeping the mystery going.  The screen adaptation drops enough hints to throw one off the path, all while keeping you engaged in deciphering the identity of the culprit.  As our detective interviews all the characters, you will start getting an idea of how complex the whole case is, further shrouding the scene in a veil that tries to keep you from the answer.  It works, keeping suspense going and the film moving, which isn’t easy in mysteries these days.

 

Kenneth Branagh: Acting wise all the cast do their jobs very well, some better than others in terms of screen time, elegance, and of course capturing their accents down correctly.  Yet of all the group… it was Kenneth Branagh who I enjoyed watching the most.  True, he is the main character and thus gets the most screen time, but his acting was very enjoyable to watch for nearly 2 hours.  His French accent is not the best at times, but he gets the OCD detective role down pat, catching the nervous energy and single minded focus that comes with the disorder.  His explanations of the crime are delivered in such a serious tone, confidence filling the voice as he presents his logic and convinces you of all the facts. Finally, his comedic delivery is also very well done, not too forced and well-integrated into the conversations, Branagh carries a lot of the movie on his sharply dressed shoulders.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow: We know mysteries have to go slow to build things up, but Orient’s wheels really slog at times. Primarily when it comes to linking a few backstories together, the movie sort of derails into from the path at hand.  Losing this momentum takes away from the suspense, and sort of gets a yawn if you don’t pay close attention to the dialogue.  And even when they resume chasing the mystery once more… they drag things out in a grandiose display that does hold emotion, but steps far over the line for this reviewer.

 

Unbalanced Characters:  A star studded cast again calls for time management and using your resources well.  Orient took a nice shot, but they failed to really give the characters equal time on the screen.  I don’t know how the book is written, but it was obvious the casting favored certain actors over others.  Certain characters really get the shaft in this installment, brought out of the shadows for mere seconds and a few answers, before dropping off the screen.  This happened with at least four characters for me, brief introductions that were certainly important, but almost confusing at some points.  Certainly, Christie did better in displaying her suspects in the book, but they didn’t do it as well as I think they could.

 

Rushed development:  It’s a plus to have a mystery that moves, it is not so much a plus when your key development areas move like a blur.  Murder on the Orient Express involves one having to listen to the dialogue extensively to piece things together, primarily in the alibis of the characters.  For me, there were a lot of rapid dialogue exchanges that hastily were spilled out in an attempt to give our characters some background.  This background information is incredibly important, so perhaps they should have shifted to a lower gear to clarify this information and establish that depth they were going for.  Such a shame to have all these details smeared in a half-sloppy manner when there was such potential to be had.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Compared to the book and the older rendition of this movie, Murder on The Orient Express 2017 is not the shiniest noire in the box. Great visuals, a luring mystery, a phenomenal main character will carry the audience far in this film and provide the main source of entertainment in the film.  The main problem is that the team didn’t deliver on the potential that this story/cast had.  It was unnecessarily slow at points, characters were lacking in a very character centric plot, and it was rushed in areas that was the sustenance.  Therefore, the movie overall is mediocre, and better left for a free pass/RedBox in this reviewer’s opinion.

 

My scores are:

 

Crime/Drama/Mystery:  7.0-7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Set Sails For Calmer Waters: Pirates 5 Drops The Sword For The Comedy Pen

Dead men

 

Avast ye scurvy scoundrels, it be Captain Robbie of the S.S. Review, sailing the seas of the cinema in search of the treasure known as a good movie.  Alas, this weekend Admiral Bruckheimer’s armada set out on a fifth voyage with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)

taking the wheel once more. Will this adventure be smooth sailing and reward us with a crown jewel, or will we be drowned in the sea of sorrow at another hand me down adventure? Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A pirate’s life for me, drink up me hardies, sit on your captain’s chair and read my thoughts on Pirates of The Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

 

LIKES:

  • Character Centered Story
  • Acting
  • Special effects
  • Soundtrack
  • Comedy

 

Summary: When it comes to the plot of these movies, one never knows if they’ll find gold or mere rocks. The fifth installment is fortunately back on the path to good storytelling, focusing on the characters instead of well… immortality. Among the number of scallywags, we get some background on about five of the cast, each with a unique angle to help them stand out.  While certainly not the best story, it is miles above the mess number four was.

The story is a nice component, but the acting is really the aspect that brings the pirate’s life to well…life.  Newcomers like Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario are a welcome addition that have spunk, class, and a number of other qualities that many will latch onto, (especially the cute factor) and they aren’t bad to look at either. Scaring is way into another antagonistic role, Javier Bardem brings his bag of tricks back to the screen, including the suave accent and cantor that oozes evil.  Of course the main two you are probably coming to see are Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp, the legendary captains we fell in love with in the first movie.  Rush is incredible, bringing the sea saltiness and arrogance that is the famous Captain of the Black Pearl.  Depp on the other hand is as enigmatic as ever, capturing the goofiness, lackadaisical attitude of Sparrow with a dash of heroic charm.  Together, the two actors lead not only the character development, but the comedy.  Yes Pirates 5 certainly has the laughs in spades, using every in their arsenal to get a chuckle.  I loved the clever word play, idiotic banter, and comedic timing in this movie, which helped relieve the darker aspects of the film.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a pirate’s movie without incredible special effects.  Yes Disney and Bruckheimer combined their studios to bring the magic back to the screen. Chaotic maelstroms expand across the vast screen, as ships sail across dead infested waters, firing explosive cannons at the specters that haunt the blue.  The journey is certainly beautifully illustrated in a mix of art and excitement, all under the unifying banner of the epic orchestra work we all have come to love.

 

DISLIKES

  • Still shallow story
  • Action scenes somewhat bland
  • Lack of suspense/Simplistic end
  • Worthless cameos

 

Summary:  Alas, despite the jewels that sparkle in the distance, the story still needs some work.  With five main stories, each a different motif to quest for the elusive item, the plot gets spread thin and deprived of real sustenance into the character’s history. Sure, one of the stories has more bite than the others, but this Pirates took a hit in the rich depth we have come to expect. Therefore, the bland characters were lacking at times and not as strong as I had hoped.

Even more bland are the action scenes that they tried to bring to the movie.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautifully animated battlegrounds in the movie, it’s just that they lack the same sting I feel in love with.  Where were the epic sword fights between two swashbuckling men amidst dangerous landscapes? Where were the notorious ship to ship battles where a well-placed cannonball and evasive maneuver meant the difference between life and death? And where was the suspense and thrills that kept me on edge all those previous installments?  I’m not sure, but Pirates 5’s action scenes were malnourished forms of battle I loved, with many scenes reduced to pan over shots of extras fighting CGI enhanced ghosts. A few scenes were gaining the potential to be awesome, but comedic relief set in and reduced it to some quick ended scuffle that quickly turned to running.  Glad to know our pirates could have run track.

And finally, the cameos.  While certainly a great tool for nostalgia, most of the cameos were shallow shout outs to the characters we have wondered about.  It allows for some neat little tie ups at times, but these less than 5 minutes screen appearances were missed potential.  Only Paul McCartney, the legendary beetle, was able to pull off an appearance that was worthy of being included… well done Paul.

 

VERDICT:

 

Pirates 5 took a step in the right direction with its returned to character driven story, comedic style, and special effects that scream pirates. However, it still has room to improve to get back to the glory of the first film.  It’s unbalanced at placed, and lacks the excitement of the battles, or an exciting conclusion at all to wrap up the supposed final entry.  Seems they wanted more of a comedy than anything else, and one will certainly enjoy the laughs, and most likely the movie, if you go in for the comedy over everything else.  Worth a trip to theaters?  I’m sure you would still go regardless what I said, but the special effects are certainly worthy of the theater’s sound and video. Yet you could still hold off on this film and check it out at RedBox, because this finale sets up the series for yet another installment.  Finale chapter my butt!

 

Scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Wonderland Looks god, but is Missing Some Magic

Through the Looking Glass

            Hey, Hey, Hey it is Robbie K and I’m unleashing a second review for this holiday weekend. Today’s movie is one that promises wonder, excitement, madness, and of course Disney magic. Yes, today’s review is on Alice through the Looking Glass, an unexpected sequel given that both of Lewis Carroll’s stories had already had films dedicated to them. Nevertheless James Bobin and Disney studios are giving it another go to bring Wonderland (or is it Underland?) to life. So why don’t we get started with…

 

THE GOOD:

 

  • Beautiful world and creature design
  • Plenty of Comedy
  • A decent beginning
  • Good acting

 

One thing I always love to see in these movies, is the design teams’ ability to

bring Wonderland to life. Through the Looking Glass once more grabs hold of us and drags us into the trippy imagination of Carroll in glorious detail. Brilliant colors, twisted towers, and distorted scenery are all present in spectacular effects that immerse you into the world. And filling the landscape are bizarre creatures who add their own touch of magic to scenes, each befitting of the environment they are in. The new minions of Time and The Red Queen will entertain young ones and are a welcome addition to the CGI world. Unfortunately, they (alongside the classic characters) are somewhat underutilized in this movie (more on that later).

 

While the world is thrilling and impressively designed, it is not the only thing entertaining in this film. Through the Looking Glass has plenty of laughs within the two hour run time that will have both young and old laughing alike. For this reviewer, the writing had some well-developed puns and jabs that had the theater chuckling. The Time puns are somewhat clever, but do get a tad stale at times when they abuse the simplistic comedy. Alice, the Red Queen, and The Mad Hatter also get some unique one-liners in as well, the timing more comedic than the actual lines themselves. But it’s actually the acting that truly brings the punch. Cohen as Time was a perfect casting call, as he was able to deliver great accents, annoyed looks, and some original material were the funniest aspects for me.

 

In terms of story, how did this original tale fare in my books. The opening was well developed, a fantastic introduction that reintroduced to the lives of our characters while setting up the dilemma at hand. Once Alice steps back into Wonderland, the mystery begins and the suspense builds as you try to uncover all the secrets at hand. It’s the second half of the movie where the problems hit. Speaking of which, let’s hit on….

 

 

 

 

 

THE BAD:

 

  • The second half of the film
  • Under utilized characters
  • Missing some of the magic

 

The second half of the film was not nearly as developed as the opening and felt a bit rushed in my opinion. After a great set-up, the solutions began to come too fast, and there seemed to be little challenges standing in the way of Alice and company. Even the Red Queen’s threats felt a bit shallow at points and she was nowhere near as menacing as the first (I missed her powerful beasts). In addition, the time travel tale began to unravel and they found a convenient loop to bring the final dilemma at hand. A nice try for originality, but the execution needs some fine tuning to deliver the satisfying finish.

 

In addition the characters were not nearly as integrated as the last film. Old classics like the Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, and the Door Mouse had key parts in the last film. But in this sequel many of them dropped into the background where they managed to make a few fun comments or look cute before disappearing again. The White and Red Queen got a little more time thanks to their story, but as mentioned earlier their characters seemed a bit diluted compared to what we saw eight years ago. But don’t fret because Time, Alice, and the Hatter are the key players in this story and as such will be the ones you see the most of, which isn’t a bad thing just disappointing that our characters couldn’t all be in the show longer.

 

Which brings me to the final weakness, missing the magic. We have a lot of great things in this movie, but something about it feels off from Alice’s other adventures. Maybe it was the rushed ending of the story, or maybe the lack of key character integration, but Through The Looking Glass is missing the oddness its predecessors have. And with the lack of threats from rampaging beasts and a tyrannical queen, the dilemma was much less suspenseful than I wanted. I also feel this story took a turn down the PG lane, which may not have been the best move creative wise.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Through The Looking Glass certainly has a spectacular look and has some of the adventure we loved in the first installment. In addition the actors play their parts well, and the writing is great in terms of adding a comedic zest to the cuisine. Yet it still is missing some of the magic and wonder that Tim Burton brought us and makes this film duller than I had expected. I think that the visuals took a little more precedence than the second half of the story, as well as not integrating all the characters into the tale. Thanks to this…I have to recommend this one for a Redbox rent at home instead of a theater visit. Should you choose to hit the movies for this one, I encourage a 2-D showing to save some money.

 

 

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Family/Fantasy: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

 

Grim, Depressing, but Well Acted Biography on Bad Guys In Boston

black mass

            Icy Blue eyes stare at you, their cold, blue gaze promising fear and death with every blink. Who or what do these eyes belong too? None other than the notorious criminal Jimmy Whitey Bulger, one of the most notorious crime lords in history. Okay… so maybe it was Johnny Depp playing the mob legend, but regardless of the source, those eyes sum up the tone of the movie Black Mass. This film kind of snuck under the radar for most, but I’m here to help shed some light on what it beholds. Returning after a three-week hiatus, it’s Robbie K with another movie review.

As the title suggests, Black Mass is a tale that is perhaps one of the darkest movies I’ve seen in a long time. The visual portrayal of Bulger’s rise to power is one without filters, where violence, threats, and death rain in high definition splendor. Unlike older mob movies that resulted to gunfights and quick, clean kills, Black Mass gets its hands dirty with detailed torture and gore painting the silver screen a sickly red. Those with weak constitutions will need to avoid this picture, especially during the instances where Whitey results to other means to deal with the “rats” of Boston. I give props to Scott Cooper and his team for unfolding a portion of the mafia world, but like so many took it a little too far than was necessary. How many random characters being shot in the head does one really need to see to get the message?

The major component that I felt was the greatest aspect of this movie was the acting. Once more Johnny Depp has impressed me with his talent, temporarily chucking the whimsical and wacky for the dark and dismal. Depp brings a level of unease and terror I never thought possible in both looks (great makeup) and delivery of his lines. Like many of my fellow reviewers have stated, this could indeed be an Oscar worthy role for Depp and while he was the main pillar of this movie there were other supporting actors who need a little praise.  Joel Edgerton as the corrupt CIA officer packs a pretty mean punch, oozing with festering greed, as he feigns ignorance for Whitey’s services, while trying to cover his hide. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of a politician to the T, with the confidence, arrogance, and cheesy grin to sell the crowd. The movie could have been even better if Cumberbatch could have been more integrated in the film, but he made the most of his time. And of course Kevin Bacon uses his familiar tactics , which although not impressive, did help tie the story together.

Now what about the story? Whitey’s tale is very detailed, showing the life changing events that shaped him into the threat he became. Even more detailed is the corrupt deals Whitey makes, and the drama that unfolds with each shot. However, despite all the attention to detail, the tale isn’t all that exciting. Black Mass felt more like an upscale documentary, devoid of any movie magic or exciting choreographed scenes. The pace of the movie is slow; at times feeling like it’s going nowhere, primarily due to a lack of suspense. Maybe if there had been a rival in his history, or at least some glimmer of hope it could have had a little more thrill to it. The details also make things a bit convoluted as well and hard to follow until they literally state the purpose a few minutes later. What does this boil down to? A need for editing, to not only assist with the clarity, but also keep the depression to an absolute minimum. However, if you are one for the facts and wish to avoid the fluff that Hollywood thrives on, this movie’s dynamics will more than entertain you.

Black Mass certainly has some of the best mobster betrayal seen for some time, capturing the ruthless nature of the Boston underbelly. However, if you can’t stomach intense violence, and you are looking for some more exciting twists to a film you need to pick another option. This film has a lot of quality to it, but overall it wasn’t the most entertaining or impressive film to grace the silver screen. Being a biography, this movie probably would have been better suited for a TV special on the History channel. My suggestion is to wait for this one to come to Redbox to watch in the comfort of your own home, unless of course you are an avid mob movie fan, or Depp enthusiast.

My scores are:

Biography/Crime/Drama: 8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5