A Journey Towards Improvement

A Dog's Journey Poster

 

 

 

Animal movies are always a mixture in terms of emotions from funny to awfully sad.  If you are an animal lover, directors love to get the tears rolling with sequences and scenes that will break your heart and have you pine for four legged friends.  This weekend, a sequel to a movie that was received with mixed reviews due to PR stunts, is going to try again in an attempt to make amends and hopefully have a better tale.  Robbie K coming at you with another review, this time on the film:

 

A Dog’s Journey: 2019

 

Director:

Gail Mancuso

Writers:

  1. Bruce Cameron(book), W. Bruce Cameron (screenplay)

Stars:

Josh GadDennis QuaidKathryn Prescott

 

 

LIKES:

 

Cute

Dog’s adorable and impressively trained.

Much Better Pace

Josh Gad’s voice acting

A More Cohesive Story

Funnier Than Last Time

Decent Finale

 

DISLIKES:

 

Some Actors Really Not Needed

Sad Moments Again

Unnecessary Story Component

Depressing

Trailers Reveal too much

 

 

Fans who like these movies may like this film:

Dog’s Purpose

Dog’s way Home

Old Yeller

Movies with revival and journey home

 

SUMMARY:

 

The movie had to do some damage control from the first and for the most part the movie accomplishes the goal on many levels.  It’s cute, primarily thanks to the dogs they selected and the talented performances from those who cannot speak.  The canine thespians show off their impressive training and managed to add that cute/cuddly component that dog lovers latch onto. The extra characteristics and comedy aspect are from Josh Gad who’s voice acting mimics the looks and energy of his animal avatars quite well, again adding that extra adorable nature into the mix.  Utilizing the animals well, the movie helps add some hope and optimism to the story at hand, which provides that entertainment aspect.  In addition, the movie also has some stronger pacing to avoid getting lost in the monotonous sadness that does nothing but spread out the movie. The comedy provided by the voice acting and the puppies also does a wonderful job of adding entertainment value, with well-timed jokes and a delivery style that fits so well with this film, only crossing the lines occasionally. Perhaps things worked better as well due to the more cohesive story, an underlying and defined plot that ties each segment together and puts a purpose and goal to work towards. Everything finally wraps up nicely at the end and perhaps shows that a salvageable ending can be obtained despite the rocky opening.

Yet the movie still has components that I’m not the biggest fan of.  It starts with some of the actors cast into the film, the trailers suggest lots of use of Quaid and his human companions, but outside of the various ages of C.J., the human actors promoted don’t quite sell me in their involvement to this movie, outside of some key moments to work towards the ending.  More things could have been unleashed to assist with the story and perhaps make their inclusion worthwhile.  Sad moments are still present and even going in knowing there are times where the amount of suffering seen is just not enjoyable and we could have been spared some of this.  In addition, there is one dog story that as cute as the puppy was, held little importance to the story, though providing another sad scene to take the wind out of your sails. Despite some of the lighter moments, the movie still has an overlying atmosphere of depression meaning that this one will not be for those who are suffering from any down times.  If you wish to take a trial, check the trailers again, they’ll give you enough warning, but if you want surprises, then make sure to avoid this as the trailers are going to give a good amount away.

Overall, the movie is a major improvement over the first one for me in terms of better storytelling and utilization of cuteness.  This leads to more entertainment value, a better pace and some better outlooks that the first movie just could not capture in its presentation.  Yet, the movie cannot escape the cloud of depression that continues to hover over, focusing too much on extending the sad moments and sometimes adding useless scenes that offered little more than more depression involved with these animals.  Given all of this, it is still worth a watch, but you need to be ready for potential tear jerkers, especially in animal lover populations. My scores are:

 

Adventure/Comedy/Drama: 7.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

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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

Transformers: Action In Disguise

Transformers 5

 

Decades ago, they were toys that dominated the shelves of the local dispenser.  Next came comic books and a hit animated movie that set off a chain of events resulting in a number of animated series.  And in 2007, Michael Bay tackled the challenge of bringing them to life in the big screen motion picture event of the summer.  Now, ten years later…he is still trying to keep the series alive with a fifth installment. Despite all the bad reviews of previous film, DreamWorks still believes in this big budget money raking machine.  Has Bay learned from his mistakes, or have we yet another special effect wreck on our hands.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

Animation/Ending:  DreamWorks animation studios still has their finger on the pulse of animation.  Once more their studio proves they can make the fiction world come to life in stunning realism, filling the 2.5 hours with fluid motion, breathtaking special effects, and dynamic sequences.  Bay’s fixation on the special effects continues to shine through in the pyrotechnic, CGI laden visuals that fill the silver screen.  This is great for the last 45 minutes, where the high speed, action packed climax comes to life, infusing adrenaline into the theater and getting things ramped up.  Nice work again guys!

 

Funny:  From the get go, Bay’s writing team has set out to bring laughs amidst the acting (which is about the only thing he is good at bringing). Good news, the 2.5 hours brings plenty of laughs to the mix.  Bantering is certainly the mainstay of the film, but Transformers 5 has a few other bouts of whit, cleverness, and fun to add to the mix.  I found myself laughing at a number of insults to the ridiculousness of the film, and some well-timed quips from a few of the robots and special guest actor Anthony Hopkins.  Speaking of which…

 

Actor/Actress:  I agree with my fellow reviewers that Anthony Hopkins stole the show in this film.  His charming delivery mixes well with the vigor that an old historian of the transformers would certainly hold.  Hopkins delivers his lines in that elegant poise he’s famous for and creates a wonderful character to alleviate from the other humans that inhabit this film.  Certainly, guys like Wahlberg, Duhamel, and newcomer Isabella Moner do a fine job, but they don’t hold a candle to the majesty of this seasoned actor.  Nice pick casting director.  In addition, the new leading lady Laura Haddock is a fantastic addition as well.  Trading characters that are purely sex appeal, for beautiful, respectable, and powerful woman is an A+ in my book.  Haddock has poise much like her other English counterpart, and blew me away at how much I liked the character.  She was a beautiful addition in more ways than one.  Nice work guys.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Human focus:  For a movie titled after giant robots, you would think there would be more focus on them.  Bay once again chose to forego his expensive artificial crafted creations for his real-life actors.  I just ask why?  Transformers has always had human components, but not as the main focus.  In the Last Knight though, it’s all about the human backstories in this film, and trying to wedge them into the story to keep you engaged.  Not the smartest movie, and the amidst the story, the attempt at all these new characters with backstories just didn’t work.

Jam packed story:  Remember the last Transformers movie and the eight plots it had?  Yeah, it gives me shudders too. Unfortunately, the storyboard writers didn’t listen to the last set of reviews, because Last Knight once again is jam packed with multiple stories all trying to wedge their way to the front.  The result is another rushed, sloppy mess that fails to put an engaging story into the midst.  Part treasure hunt, part emerging threat, part character testing for Optimus on top of all the character issues floating around, was just too much to grasp.  And the unifying factor tying all of them together was pretty weak again.  Certainly, the Transformers have never been strong stories, but they have been better and less of a stretch than this mess.  Such a deconstructed plot was not entertaining and left little to ground the action too outside of the finale.

 

Action deficits:  It’s an action movie and as a result you would like to see a chunk of the 2.5 hours filled with the special effects they were so focused on.  Once more this movie fails.  After a decent opening sequence (amidst a hasty opening), the film starts to hit the brakes on the action department.  In an attempt to story build, they extend to drawn out explanations and more comedic banter that wasn’t necessary.  Had the story been worth it, I would have given them props, but nope, just added fluff that wasn’t that engaging to me.  Certainly, there were some fast driving scenes and a quick history of fighting, but these were short lived.  Not cool guys.

 

Unbalanced Robots:  Ever since the second film, Transformers movie have been awful about utilizing all of their creations.  Optimus and Bumblebee take the lead again, and the rest of the Autobus have their moments to “shine.”  Hound, Hotrod, and Squirt get a few gimmicks here, but others like the dingbats and Drift are barely needed having little lines or involvement in the movie.  And the Decepticons, after a major introduction were even more pathetic at being underutilized.  If you’re going to go to depths to recruit cars and voice actors, do something with them!

 

The VERDICT:

 

Transformers the Last Knight showed promised from the trailers as returning to the action roots we loved.  Too bad it didn’t deliver to the level the first production did years ago.  While animation and acting were bullseyes, the rest of the movie is a disproportioned mess with too much going on.  A weak story focusing on humans going on an extensive search and find didn’t do much for engaging plot, and the inability to focus on a plot made it even worse.  Throw in a lack of action and underutilizing of all the other robots and more points get derailed.  While this certainly isn’t the last installment, Transformers needs some repairs to bring it back to the light. Outside of the special effects, this movie isn’t necessarily one for the big screen. 

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

Life, Death, Lessons: A Dog’s Philosophical Tale

dogs-purpose

            Robbie K here with another review on the latest thing to hit the silver screen. Today our focus is on a movie about man’s best friend, the dog, and the incredible things they do for us.  Despite all the discussion this movie has drummed up, I still paid a visit to the theater to see what they had in store.  What’s the verdict?  As always read on (or skip down) to what my thoughts are on what looks to be an emotionally uplifting movie.

 

LIKES:

  • Cute Puppies
  • Comedic
  • Emotionally powerful Sequences and Dialogue

 

Summary: If you have seen the trailers (or read the title), you hopefully know this is a movie about dogs and what they can do.  And fortunately, this movie delivers on the promise of showing just how adorable our canine compatriots areMuch of my fellow audience members squealed in delight as the dogs chased their tales, ran all over the house, and shared their love in hugs and kisses.  An added bonus is that many of these moments are also funny, either at just how cute they are or an intentionally funny line.  Josh Gadd voicing the various dogs was a smart decision, his casual observations and delivery matching the dogs looks so well. Yes, there are moments where they try a little too hard, but overall the family friendly themes will be a welcome sight.

And for the older audience members, be ready for some powerful punches to the feelings with this movie.  A Dog’s Purpose is filled to the brim with moments that will have many tearing up, primarily at just how much these four legged friends do for us.  The messages in this film hit hard thanks to the visual and audio editing, the scenes design to capture the raw emotion behind the dog’s eyes.  Yet, even Gad’s dialogue gets the water works rolling, not only for the wisdom they share in those words, but also in how well it matches my vision of how a dog would speak.  A Dog’s Purpose certainly has the emotionally fluffiness you would expect, however there are some limitations we must address.

 

DISLIKES:

  • The imbalance of stories/Simplicity
  • Dennis Quaid as the selling point
  • Depressing

 

Summary:  Okay, so did I really think this tale was going to be a deep well of twists, turns, and surprises?  The answer is no. However, I had hoped that such a straightforward tale would have had a little more balance to the mix.  A Dog’s purpose is told in four tales that turn out to be one full circle (which is cool), however there was an imbalance in how much they spent on each story and their purposeThe first tale about Bailey gets the greatest emphasis (and time), building up the relationship between man and dog.  However, the other tales are far less developed, much more rushed in terms of character building with a focus on fun and quick lessons.  Don’t get me wrong, these stories do have a place, I just expected more contributions from these parts based on the trailer.  I also expected Dennis Quaid to have a bigger role, but the “legendary” actor is surprisingly simple in the grand scheme of the movie.  His fans shouldn’t expect much from him in this movie, as his part is reduced to maybe fifteen minutes of a quick wrap up to what could have been a deep relationship.

Yet the biggest dislike for me in this movie, is how depressing it can be at times.  We all know this movie was going to have tearful moments (again see the trailer), but never did I expect to see so much suffering and detailed scenes of the dog passing.  A Dog’s Purpose will certainly get animal activists screaming, for the directors decided that in order to deliver the full emotional effect, you had to see them suffer or die on screen.  If you can’t handle seeing this amount of detail on screen, then skip this film. The after effect of the scene will linger for a bit, but the cuteness and happy themes eventually return.  However, I’m not the biggest fan of a dog death scene, let alone three of them.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

A Dog’s Purpose is indeed one of the most emotional movies of the year. It is certainly one of the best portrayals of an ideal relationship between man and dog, and will have many families laughing at the cute antics at hand.  But don’t let the puppy faces and Josh Gad fool you, as this movie has many depressing moments of abuse and death to get your anger boiling.  Overall the story has much to teach, but don’t let the promise of Dennis Quaid, four dogs, and the cuteness fool you into thinking this is a perfect story.  Yet despite all the hate this movie is getting, it’s still a decent drama overall that doesn’t drift too far into what I call soap opera territory.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Honestly I would say hold out for home, but if you want to see this make sure your family is prepared for the depression at hand. 

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Comedy/Drama: 7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0