Don’t Ruin My Movie! Is Maleficent’s Next Spell Worth Falling Under?

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Poster

 

This weekend seems to be the one for sequels, as two big hits come out this weekend in hopes of making off with a lot of cash this Halloween season.  Tonight we start this review with none other than a big Disney smash that is hoping to cast a magical spell on us.  The first of the new age live actions, tonight’s sequel is following up with perhaps my favorite of the studio’s reimaginations of beloved classics.  Yet, can the vile dark fairy accomplish the task of charming us once more, or have we fallen into the moors of crappy sequel.  Robbie K here to cast his thoughts on:

 

Film: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

 

Director:

Joachim Rønning

Writers:

Micah Fitzerman-Blue (screenplay by), Noah Harpster (screenplay by)

Stars:

Angelina JolieElle FanningHarris Dickinson

 

 

Likes:

  • World Building
  • Animation
  • Designs
  • Costumes
  • Musical Score
  • Story Continuation
  • Darker Elements Integrated yet controlled
  • Angelina Jolie

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Predictable
  • Contained at the Wrong Parts
  • Under Utilized Characters
  • The Twist
  • The Final Battle

 

Summary:

 

Say what you want about the politics of the studio, but Disney certainly knows how to make their imagination come to life.  Maleficent 2 is a beautiful display of the power of their animation studios making the fantasy world of Sleeping Beauty shine in all its magical splendor.  While last time accomplished this task, part two manages to expand upon the inner dwelling of Aurora’s world and bring new attitude to the mix, impressing those who love to see fake worlds become reality.  The animation of all the creatures, alongside their designs, are something best captured in comic book form, and yet blend well into the dark dizzy dreams of the dark fairy.  All the creatures you love are back, with a few more to take their place as all of the worlds magic begins to unfold in a new light.  For those not requiring full on CGI, their costumes are nice to look at too, not quite as stupendous, but certainly elegant and fitting of the world.  Okay, past the visuals, Maleficent’s sound and musical elements really pack the punch in terms of adding to a scene as blaring orchestras drive a thunderous boom into the theater only to give way to the sad soliloquies of more somber moments.  It really adds to every sequence and gave me goosebumps at times.  When it comes to the story, again the movie succeeds, managing to continue five years from last time to explain the age gaps and offer a reminder of the events that transpired.  Maleficent’s tale then further expands, pushing all characters to new levels, but never dropping their core foundations for sudden changes.  It works and shows character development is not dead, not only for the dark fae herself, but for just about every character in the cadre as well.  An added bonus is the darker themes of the tale.  We know Maleficent’s tale is not the lightest one in the bunch, but Disney accomplishes the balance in this film bringing looming threats without dropping into nightmare territories.  I can’t say much more to avoid spoiling, but let’s just say the added edge of bad outcomes makes this movie more suspenseful.  Hands down though the centerpiece to this movie is Jolie herself.  She seems born for this part, mastering look, attitude, and delivery in this character whose spectrum expanded past the usual scale.  Jolie’s beauty is utilized well to bring new style to the dark queen, but never exploited or too focused to take away from her acting.  Bravo Angelina, Bravo!

 

For all its worth though, Disney is still not able to trick me much or throw too many curveballs to shake it up.  Maleficent 2 is certainly a rather linear tale, whose predictable nature is only overshadowed by the some hasty development of other character and containing the movie too much at the wrong parts.  This is especially true for several henchman, and even the prince himself, who have enough bang to their roles, but not quite utilized to the fullest potential that they could have done.  While certainly not the worst drop of characters I’ve seen, the movie could have scored more points for mixing these secondary characters into the brew to add their own glow.  Past that though, the twist they got me on was okay, it’s utilized well to allow for other plot devices, but it also kind of does not fit into the lore for me given the hasty explanation.  More time, or perhaps a book, will explain this connection, but I can’t say I was impressed with the turn.  Finally, the final battle.  Truth is, it is a fine spectacle of technology, integrates many characters well, and more importantly is an awesome display of action-based story telling.  However, it missed the mark on suspenseful battling because of the one-sided approached they took.  I can’t say much, but despite the battle having fine length, it was the biggest containment I had issues with and I would have liked to see more battle involvement, despite the added violence it might have brought.  This could have been the perfect climax for me had they done so.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Sequels are hard to make worthwhile, but I feel Disney corrected the mistakes from the other live action and delivered a fantastic addition to the Maleficent world.  Maleficent 2 accomplishes the storytelling aspect quite well, expanding upon its characters and adding darker elements that give this movie more bit and suspense.  Throw in beautiful world building and I can only say I was further impressed by what they brought to the big screen.  However, the movie did not unleash the full might of the magic spell they can, still suffering from predictability and containment to keep it kid friendly.  A little more expansion on battles, characters, and even the twist and this movie would have been another top sequel of mine.  Still, there is enough bang for buck to catch this in theaters, though I will exercise slight caution in taking children who scare easily, they might get spooked. 

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Family/Fantasy:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.5

Pretty Lesson Wrapped In A Mundane Package

I Feel Pretty

 

Comedy takes on many forms and faces, sometimes absurdly clever and other times simplistic slapstick meant to be over the top.  It’s a genre that offers the most variety, bringing many people into the theaters to make the movie-going experience fun.  Given the volume of movies pumped out by the studios though, I find it hard to get stoked for movies that look questionable.  So, tonight’s review held much mystery as to what was in store.  Nevertheless, Robbie K is back in action to share his thoughts as he reviews:

 

Film: I Feel Pretty

 

Directors:

Abby Kohn,  Marc Silverstein

Writers:

Abby Kohn,  Marc Silverstein

Stars:

Amy Schumer,  Michelle Williams,  Emily Ratajkowski

 

 

LIKES:

 

Cute, Not Crude:  Schumer’s quality is usually how much vulgarity one can cram into a 2-hour film in hopes of bringing nonstop laughs. I Feel Pretty washes that crude nature away, focusing instead on a cuter movie that’s more awkward than bluntly grotesque.  Such a change was refreshing to see, and for once not too distracting from the story/morals of the film.

 

One component of the Story:  I Feel Pretty’s story is very basic, but one component in particular stands out and that is the lesson of inner beauty and self-confidence.  Like a distorted version of Shallow Hal, the movie is designed to isolate the importance of believing in oneself and how one can succeed if done right.  Yet go too far, and one crosses the line to arrogance, becoming the very thing they hated being judged by.  These lessons were fun, structured, and in the final scene delivered well with writing that actually had fire, fury, and emotional punch to deliver the teachings they wanted to present.

 

Ethan:  This comedy had me chuckling at times, often due to a well-placed quip, or awkward scenario playing out.  Yet the most consistent source of laughs was Rory Scovel as Ethan.  The male lead had in both my friend and I’s opinions the best delivery of his lines, writing that was the least over the top, and reactions that were appropriate for the mess Schumer’s character landed in.  Even his nonverbal comedy hit the mark, the simplistic facial expressions enough to emphasize the shock factors this movie brings.  In addition, Ethan was a major adorable factor for the relationship, grounding the ridiculousness the relationship held.

 

DISLIKES:

Rather Bland:  Surprisingly, the lack of crude comedy resulted in the movie feeling rather bland at times, almost like a forced, water downed version of usual style.  The slower, lackadaisical parts were hard to keep my eyes open for, making the movie drag at parts that could have been left out.  In addition, the lack of gimmicks that she is known to bring were quite absent in this movie, making this movie feel quite off for both my friend and me.  So, don’t expect to be in stitches the whole time in this film.

 

Ruined by Trailers: It happened again, despite the few times I saw this trailer, I hadn’t expected practically all of the funny parts to be revealed in the movie.  I Feel Pretty was sorely ruined by the trailer, leaving little sustenance in the actual movie itself aside from some cute romance, a few chuckle worthy moments, and of course some attractive models.

 

Over the Top Comedy:  While not cruse, I Feel Pretty still suffers from overusing comedic ploys as the sole means of laughing.  The movie lacks much clever comedy, or even a dynamic array of comedy to mix things up, forcing one to sit through mindless banter, half-mumbled complaints, and dare I say boring dialogue for most of the movie.  Even her drunk moments lack that bite to shake things up, again resorting to whiney, bouts of crying that did little to make us laugh.

 

Messy Story:  A strong message brings about a solid foundation to build a story upon, but again the movie got lazy, failing to expand beyond what was shown in the trailer.  Character development is practically missing in this movie, lost to the mockery of inner beauty to outer beauty.  Ethan may be sweet, but his history is a mystery, with little evolution past the quirky, heart of gold man ready to sweep in and start a relationship with the protagonist.  As for the best friends, I can only laugh at the fact they were even introduced, for these women are practically absent during much of the film.  And in regards to the impasse of work, even that was rather anticlimactic and weirder than anything else.  The summary of this dislike, too many loose ends and lack of comedy to offset these weak story arcs.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

I Feel Pretty held so much potential, but once more the comedy realm has failed to expand upon gimmicks.  The film holds an incredible moral lesson, and the final scene drops the hammer to shatter the glass of believing in oneself.  That’s it though, for the cute nature and the quirky relationship… this game just does nothing to help with the shortcoming of the film.  It’s bland, with over the top (stale) tactics doing little to correct the rather messy story.  Throw in the trailers containing the gold nuggets buried deep in the movie, and you realize there is not much to warrant a trip to theater with this one.  It’s target audience is a girls’ night out for a group looking to relate to a comedy. Otherwise you are just wasting your time.  My scores are:

 

Comedy:  5.0

Movie Overall: 3.0

Saved The Greatest For Last!: A Real Show Stopper

Greatest Showman

The Circus, a collection of assorted talent meant to wow and amaze the people the audience with their stunts.  At the head of this arena was P.T Barnum, a name associated with the Big Tent and imagination to continue bringing the magic to the world that so desperately needed.  So naturally, Hollywood would design a movie after him entitled The Greatest Showman, a musical piece that looks to be a big sensation this season.  But can Hugh Jackman

lead his cavalcade to victory, or is it just another flop the trailers bulked up.  Robbie K here to provide some thoughts, as we do yet another movie review.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Entertaining Pace:  You know I like a movie that moves, and Greatest Showman takes little time to get into the fun territory.  The excitement starts from the moment the opening credits begin, holding back little in order to get the magic started.  It’s a risky, but smart, move as their execution led to one of the most engaging movies of the holiday season.

 

The Acting:  I love a good cast coming together to bring the film alive, and again this film manages to accomplish this task.   Jackman takes the center stage as Barnum, capturing the imagination drive of the legendary ring leader and energizing the movie with his spirit .  The rebellious nature to take risks is portrayed quite well with him at the reigns, and the evolution his character goes through is spectacularly acted.  Michelle Williams was a great lead actress for the character Charity, bringing both beauty and class to role of a supportive wife doing her best to keep Jackman’s spirit in check with reality. Zac Efron and Zendaya, are wonderful supporting actors to the leads, they just needed a little more integration into the plot.  The rest of the cast knocks the movie out of the park, but I have more things to talk about so let’s move on.

 

The Messages: Greatest Showman by far has my favorite presentation of those pesky, yet important life lessons. Living your dreams, accepting yourself, and helping others are the key factors held in this movie.  This portrayed primarily from Barnum’s view, but the movie blends the perspective from the other performers and their judgement by the high society. A classy nod to the traditional, now outlandish, views, the movie does a great job clashing the concepts of society norms vs. uniqueness and the struggles of being brave to change the world. Seeing the emotional warfare unleashed on the performers tore at my heart strings, but made the relevant topic come to life in a fantastic way.  It’s a bit preachy at times, but given the quality and the use of multiple devices to bring it to life, it really does work .

 

The Numbers/Soundtrack: By far, my favorite aspect of the movie are the musical numbers.  Incredible is not nearly enough to describe the musical extravaganzas, each dance number being dynamic and fun with a well orchestrated choreography that combines Circus stunts with Hollywood footwork.  Outside of the thrilling movements though, these numbers are charged with emotion, bring the relevant messages to life with a powerful punch to penetrate the walls of hardened halls and bring with it joy, inspiration, or in some tears of joy. But if you don’t care about that component, then perhaps you’ll appreciate the story telling and relationship building of the numbers that help speed up the formalities of socializing. And if all that fails, well then just be stoked for awesome numbers with a good beat. I’ll admit that they all sound quite similar in many aspects, but there is enough of a twist to grant them their individuality.  Nevertheless, this is one soundtrack I plan to pick up.  Can you tell I liked the movie?

 

DISLIKES:

 

Wanted more:  For once I can say I wanted the movie to be longer.  Greatest Showman is a story that balances numerous things over the 105-minute run time with regards to love, loyalty, pressures of success, etc.  However, I wish that many of these qualities were either elaborated more, or held a little more struggle to provide a stronger development arc to the characters I loved so much. Most likely the extra content would not have felt longer due to the energy of the film, but this might have increase the run time to 3 hours so maybe it was a good thing. In addition, I wanted to have better integration of some of the other characters into the story, (i.e. Napoleon guy, bearded lady, and the wife) rounding out the experience of the film and giving us better backstories on our oddities. Those connections between the dots would have expanded the experience out and only further strengthen the story.

 

The CGI:  This component is not bad at all, but despite the spectacles you would have thought this production could have acquired some real live animals for the numbers.  The CGI work is good, fluid motion and semi-realistic design, but given everything they did with the live actors for the numbers, the CGI animals seemed a little like they were cutting corners.  Yeah, this is a picky dislike, it’s hard to find many big weaknesses in this film.

 

The Hollywood Treatment:  From the quotes we know the aspirations of P.T. Barnum, but like many biographies, one has to wonder how much of this is the Hollywood shine.  While uglier sides of Barnum do come out, I think the movie flew by his money making, business side because it didn’t fit into the story’s other moments or perhaps meant fewer musical numbers for our auto tuned cast to come up with. Still, I’m a sucker for seeing an uplifting tale, where the positives are the focusing point of the film.

 

 

The VERDICT

            Hands down, The Greatest Showman is one of my favorite films of the Hollywood season.  The movie is constantly entertaining the audience, utilizing the acting, the special effects, and more importantly the music to sell the moral points hidden in the 105 minutes.  Such a positive tale of friendship, self-discovery, and acceptance is a perfect match to the Holiday season and I for one cannot wait to see this film again.  Yes, Hollywood glamor is at work, and the movie could have expanded on both characters and plot elements to connect the dots a little more, but I was very pleased by this film.  Therefore, I highly recommend this one for the theaters, not only in terms of quality, but also because the songs rattling the theater adds to the experience that only the most expensive surround sound systems can begin to match. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/Musical:  9.5

Movie Overall: 9.0

Fate Smiles On Eight!

Fate of the furious

 

A couple of years ago, we had what we thought was the final chapter of the Fast and Furious legacy, ending with the montage of the fallen hero Paul Walker.  Sadly, it seems that the cinema world can’t let it go, and thus comes the subject of my latest review Fate of The Furious (or Fast 8 for short). After the fake, ridiculous of number 7 (minus the ending), I can’t say I was happy from the trailers for this film and how it looked even cheesier.  What is my verdict?  Read on to find out my friends.

 

LIKES:

  • Action more controlled
  • Comedy stays strong
  • Soundtrack
  • Story Is Much Better

 

Summary:  If you remember Furious 7, you remember how over the top the stunts were and the sheer ridiculous factor they had (e.g. superhuman feats, near invincibility, invulnerable cars). Fortunately, Fast 8 toned the action back to the baseline ridiculous of this action franchise, keeping things reeled in to a point of somewhat believability.  While this may tone down the action somewhat, this installment still packs plenty of punch with diverse sequences including: drag racing, gun play, martial arts, and of course car combat.  It’s suspenseful, it’s fun, and at times it is really funny, providing that popcorn flick entertainment value you like.  In addition, the stellar soundtrack contains both musical scores and music that fit well with the movie, (I myself enjoyed a few original R&B/rap songs near the end of the film).

Speaking of funny, Fast 8 doesn’t hold back on the comedic antics that the second film brought. Dwayne Johnson interjects his brand of corny insults and tough talk, establishing a banter rivalry with Jason Statham, who not only has a few clever quips, but finally redeems his pitiful character in this film.  Yet the main source of laughs comes from Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris. This comedic duo performs plenty of stunts, deliver plenty of well-written insults, and put their foots in their mouths so many times to keep you chuckling through the entire film. All of the laughs keep things light and relieve the tension to help ground the film into a PG-13 environment.

            Hands down though, is the improvement over the story.  Fast 8 reaches back into its roots for our plot, bringing back the character development and crime element of the film that started it all.  Dom’s tale of deceit throws plenty of nostalgic shade at our leading hero, including some unexpected twists that help tie together SOME of the loose ends. Fans will find plenty of emotion in this film, and hopefully will enjoy the action built around the plot (instead of the other way around). In addition, the fact that Statham’s character is released in this film (making the plot of seven almost useless) was a good thing for all the redemption they brought with his character.  I give the group applause for the improved story element, despite how bad it looked in the trailers (guess you can’t judge a movie by its trailer…sometimes).

 

DISLIKES:

  • Still ridiculous at times
  • Some Cameos not worth it
  • Editing Still needs some work
  • There is going to be a number 9

Summary: Let’s face it, this installment is famous for how ridiculous Hollywood special effects teams want to push the limits of cars.  Fast 8 does not escape this curse, for it is still filled with absolutely hilarious (though somewhat impressive) stunts.  I don’t wish to reveal too much, but let’s just say the submarine racing them isn’t the most ludicrous thing you’ll see, nor the biggest stretch (bad guys can’t seem to aim) of the imagination. Still it is an improvement over 7.

As I said earlier, Fast 8 has some twists you might not see coming, which leads to some unexpected cameos (unless you look at the cast list cheaters!). Some these moments are impressively, or spot on timed to maximize their appearance.  Yet there are others that were wasted and could have greatly been expanded upon to further amplify their involvement. I can’t say much, but I will admit that almost all the guest appearances held pertinence to the story, they just needed more time.

Yet the biggest flaw is still the editing of the films. Fast 8 may have lots of excitement to keep the movie going, but there are plenty of moments that could have been left for the directors’ cut.  A random cousin at the beginning for an almost pointless race, an overdramatic taunt that gets lost in the scheme of the movie, and even a few punch fests just weren’t needed.  In addition, some of the characters felt a little robbed, until that one factor comes in where they are needed.  These sloppy moments feel disjointed, unnecessary, and dilute the story into those eye-rolling moments that could have been so much better.  Perhaps these moments will be strengthened in the next movie, which is a strong hint to come (a shame compared to how well this movie could have tied things up).

 

The Verdict:

 

      Overall, this reviewer liked Fast 8 much better than Furious 7.  With a much better story (strengthening the limitations of its predecessor), toned down stunts, and an atmosphere that feels much like the earlier installments, this movie is a step in the right direction for the impending sequels to come.  Yet, it still doesn’t reach the balance some of the previous films have.  The editing and character balance still needs some work so that all the characters feel absolutely necessary instead of convenient.  Still, it is a worthy theater film, and will provide the aisle stomping entertainment you are looking for. Let’s hope “Fate” smiles on the next sequels to come from this series…and hope they can keep the momentum going.

 

Action/Crime/Thriller:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0