Nuts On Visuals, Cracked On The Story: A Nutcracker And The Four Realms Review

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Poster

 

The holiday season has begun and with it comes a number of specials and big budget movies to cover the anticipation.  Tonight marks the first of a long list of big films to grace the silver screen, with Disney attempting to go strong with a retelling of a legendary, immortal piece of the Nutcracker.  Will it be the light hearted, poetic fantasy that the ballet has captivated audiences for years on, or will it be the dark, foreboding tale of war?  Robbie K back with a written review to help determine what tale lies in store.  Let’s get started.

 

Film: The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018)

 

Directors:

Lasse HallströmJoe Johnston

Writers:

Ashleigh Powell (screen story by), Ashleigh Powell(screenplay by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Mackenzie FoyKeira KnightleyMorgan Freeman

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Foy is the center of the Four Realms universe and blows the part out of the water.  A model example of the girl power, modern woman role, she has grown much past her cinematic days of Twilight.  Graceful, fierce, creative, and more importantly human, Foy played the balanced character well and made the most of the dialogue. Knightley hits her part on the mark as well, using that lighter pitch to bring the sensational sweetness of the fairy in her attempts to capture the hearts of the younger group.

 

The Ballet:  Paying tribute to the most famous form of this story, Four Realms makes time to portray the art at the nexus of the four areas. A beautiful display of the dance form, the ballet Misty Copeland’s form was splendid to watch as she pirouetted and leaped amidst a wonderful stage that felt much like attending the ballet.  For aspiring dancers of this form, this will be the favorite part.

 

The Music:  Classic and modern meet together in this wonderful soundtrack, utilizing the theater technology to blast your ears with a symphony of sweetness.  All the famous pieces are there for you to enjoy, whether it be the classical Nutcracker Suite to the wonderful balance of the Rat King’s theme.  Fans of the music should be fulfilled with Disney’s use of these tracks and how it supports the visuals.

 

The Visuals:  To save room, I’ll combine everything together in this like. The Four Realms is gorgeous, a true feast for the eyes at seeing everything come to life in a bountiful display of color, texture, detail, and magic of the world.  Settings were dynamic representing high rich culture of the real world, and the whimsical wonder of Clara’s own world as each realm utilized a different countries architecture as a basis.  Once the world was built, the computer animation came in and cleaned up the designs, bringing smooth transitions, realistic looking creatures, and that same Disney magic we love to be wrapped up in.  Finally, the costumes and makeup are stunning themselves, crafting some of the most unique, fun, and curious characters to come out of the Disney woodwork. Expect lots of copying of their designs in future Halloween costumes my friends, because Four Realms deserves big praise and awards for makeup and wardrobe combining into this magical display.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Mice Design Choice:  Okay, this is a small dislike, but one nonetheless. The mouse king and his subjects have a creative utilization, and are cute as a button when the field mouse design comes into play (in fact he is the most humorous and adorable part of the film). However, the letdown is that the mice are almost a carbon copy of the ones from Cinderella and quite simplistic compared to the rest of the visuals this movie held.  Disney’s got the money and the imagination so I would like to see them use it more than this.

 

Under Utilization of Characters:  This one is pretty self-explanatory, but after going through the motions to design all the wonderful characters, the studio did a lackluster job of using them.  The denizens of the Four Reams disappear in the background, stifling their potential to tell a fantastic story, remain involved in the full movie, and really bring characters that we can grip on to. So while they sine bright in their 15 minutes on screen, there was so much more for them to bring to the table.

 

Story Presentation: The Nutcracker’s complex plots and multiple portrayals mean rich lore to dive into and immerse oneself in.  Shame that Disney could not deliver on that story in this movie.  While geared towards the target audience, Four Realms splendor is skin deep as much of the tale is lost like the fourth realm.  Backstories are incomplete, questions are left unanswered, character development is surprisingly weak for most groups, and even worse those characters left out feel even flatter.  The major saving grace is Clara whose girl power, dream big princess that will inspire the key demographic, but outside of that, the preachy morals cannot save the skimming and predictability this story focuses on, so can’t say I was impressed in this aspect.

 

The Action:  No surprise, the action has been diluted for the key demographic in this group.  Four Realms battles are really small skirmishes, that are cute, simplistic dances of choreography that lack any real bite to them.  While this might be good for younger members, Four Realms needed more suspense to break through the predictability of the film.  Some of the battles are also difficult to follow, due to dark settings, odd angles, and the speed of the film.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Four Realms continues to prove why Disney reigns high on the imagination train of visual perfection.  Costumes, setting, ballet, and characters shine bright in this film, helping to bring one into the realms and root for Clara to succeed. Sadly, the movie’s focus on visuals and effects means that the story took hits, with only one story really holding any spark to net my interest.  Disney didn’t utilize their characters to the full effect, and sort of robbed us of the complete experience that they were going for.  Worth a trip for aspiring princesses, ballet artists, and the target audience of girls, but otherwise outside of visuals you can hold off on this one.

 

 

MY SCORES:

 

Adventure/Family/Fantasy: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6..0

For the “Win”chester?

Winchester

 

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” such a truthful phrase in this modern-day world.  Well take this phrase, combine it with legendary house, and some events that occurred in the past and this mixture results in the plot of our next movie.  Welcome to another Robbie’s movie review, and tonight I’ll be posting on the latest horror movie entitled Winchester.  This interesting spectacle holds some wonder to it, but does it have the goods to deliver, especially with sensation Helen Mirren leading the charge?  I’m here to answer that question for you, so let’s get going.

 

LIKES:

The Setting: One of the coolest things about horror movies is the potential to craft new, dark, incredible settings that bring life, or in this case death, to the screen.  The movie has one of the most interesting settings I’ve seen in a while, a glamorized mansion modeled after the Winchester estate.  This jigsaw puzzle like house is not the friendliest on the eyes, but it works to craft a twisted chamber that plays games on the mind.  It holds great potential for a lot of scares with the uncertainty that lies around every corner and angled stair case.  And once the lights go down and only the candles flicker, that is when the true craziness of the house is unleashed.

 

The Character Development:  Scary movies are mostly about scares, and in much of the modern-day media that’s all they care about.  Fortunately, Winchester goes a different route and brings focus back to the characters walking the hallowed halls.  Both Mirren’s character and Jason Clarke have some decent plot arcs to tie them to the central story contained within Winchester’s elaborate walls.  Their journey through their struggles has some potent emotion behind, specifically Clarke’s whose path to enlightenment takes a few dramatic twists that are impressive.  I liked the personalization of the characters, even the big bad spirit, that had a little more backbone to it than simply being dead.  And how all these characters mesh into this story, helps give a purpose to all the scares that are at hand. 

 

The Twist:  The story itself is not too unique, but it is stronger than most horror movies hold.  While character development certainly has a hand in it, and a fairly linear story to tag on to, the movie really shines in the twist that awaits those brave viewers.  The director and cinema crew were able to hide the truth quite well, using subtle camera work, dialogue, and timing to really draw your attention away.  And when it finally all comes to a draw, you applaud at the integration to the plot it holds and transforms into the final act of the movie.  Certainly not the creepiest of the characters, but also held some impressive makeup to help seal the deal.

 

DISLIKES:

Minor Scare Factor: I’ll admit, one scene got my flinching, but Winchester didn’t have the scares the initial trailer laid down for us.  They rely on the same scare tactics throughout the 90-minute film, jump scares galore that rely on the sound suddenly dropping and something popping out.  While diverse in the things that come out in the dark, the tactics stay pretty much the same and eventually lose the edge they wanted to keep.  Even the exciting climax was nonchalant because it had crossed into the overdramatic and away from the scares.  A little more creepiness, might have helped this factor out, but maybe the implied sequel will come in.

 

Under Utilization of Characters:  The movie is primarily about Mirren and Clarke’s characters. The other characters, they unfortunately are reduced to secondary roles that are semi-significant, but still lacking that needed edge that could have helped them stand out.  Henry and his mom, and John the head carpenter, they were specifically mentioned, and then…they quickly faded into the background until their hasty conclusions.  Again, not the worst use of characters, but some finesse and better integration could have been the key.

 

The Story/Other Ghosts:  I mentioned that the story was a big improvement over much of the horror movies I have seen, but I also said there was room for improvement.  Winchester’s story has some depth to it, but there were some plot points that were built up and then fizzled out.  Mirren’s family tragedy, the trauma young Henry and his mom truly faced, and even the ghost’s master plan all kind of dropped short of the details I had hoped to see.  Had these stories been taken a little farther, not only would the story have improved, but it also would have given the story a little more edge and allowed for other ghosts to enter the mix.  Speaking of ghosts, I believe the trailer promised many spirits trolling the halls and torturing our heroes.  And once again this movie failed to deliver.  Plenty of spirits fell victim to the Winchester rifles, but only one of them had the guts to have any bite to the story.  The rest had a few jump moments, but their stories were lost to the background, contained in the books that line the wall of the main room.  And those hidden in the bolted rooms, most of them didn’t even bother to make an appearance, or any meaningful one at that.  No, Winchester needed to conduct a séance to recruit more spirits to its cavalcade.

 

The VERDICT: 

 

            Winchester wasn’t the scariest movie to haunt the theaters, but it is a better piece of storytelling than most horror movies have these days.  Solid character development and a twist help bring this twisted setting to life, and provide a semi-entertaining movie to the audience.  The film still needs some amplification to boost things along.  Primarily in the story and integration of the characters, Winchester fails to capitalize on the ghosts of the manor to provide all those scares, and falls victim to failed scare tactics. And had they integrated and dived further in all the characters stories, perhaps this too could have soared to higher quality.  Not the worst movie in the world, but this one can be saved until the Redbox picks it up. 

 

My scores:

Biography/Fantasy/Horror: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

B-E-A-UTIFUL Acting!

collateral-beauty

 

We all know Charles Dickens’ classic tale the Christmas Carol and all the lessons it teaches this time of season.  It’s a story that has been told through many mediums that continue to entertain the masses.  This weekend, we get a similar tale to grace the theater entitled Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith and a slew of other characters. The question is though, does this twist work?  Hi Robbie K here, privileged to share some thoughts on another movie.  Shall we get started?

 

LIKES:

  • Fantastic Acting
  • Equal Screen Time
  • Good use of Music
  • Fantastic morals

 

With a star, studded cast that includes Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Hellen Mirren, and Edward Norton you expected good acting.  Well good news, the acting met the expectations placed on the cast.  Smith of course takes the lead, delivering another grand performance of someone suffering in life (7 pounds and pursuit of happiness). He sells the anger and hurt, while maintaining his emotional balance to prevent falling into overacting territory. Edward Norton, again delivers a sound performance and probably has the most diverse energy of the cast.  Newcomer Jacob Lattimore surprised me with his performance, which although a little skewed, had the teenage angst and aggression representative of time.  But the champion actor is Helen Mirren, who continues to prove that age brings experience.  Mirren was the funniest of the group, but managed to sell the morals of the movie the most without going too far.  She engages so well with the entire cast, and does a good job as the keystone of the movie…you know past Will Smith.  The entire group again does a fantastic job altogether, and even better are all balanced through the movie, each member getting close to equal time (which is sometimes unheard of).

While the acting certainly helps make the story come to life, the editing of the movie helped amplify the emotions of the film. The cinematography is beautifully executed, combining the enchanting scenery with the raw pain of our suffering characters.  You’ll get plenty of close ups on tear stricken faces and troubled stares as our characters face the ordeals at hand.  But it’s the background symphony music, that helps add that edge to get the tears flowing. Beautiful piano work helps sell the scene, subtle at times before unleashing its full power as the lessons are learned.  The culmination of audio and visual are fantastic tools to seal the deal for the morals this film has to offer.  And speaking of morals, the writers did a nice job twisting the tale to focus on dealing with life’s problems.  Aside from Will Smith’s trial of accepting his daughter’s death, the other characters each have their own trials to face that involve self-assessment, acceptance, and a willingness to try and make things better.  Preachy as it can be, these important lessons are taught with the fantastic lines and strong acting premise.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not as deep as I thought
  • Felt Incomplete
  • Lackluster
  • More spirit interventions would have been nice

 

Despite all the good I reported, Collateral Beauty still has some rough edges that need some smoothing out.  For one thing, I felt there could have been more emotional punch to this film.  I felt the lessons in my heart, but I wasn’t borderline crying in this film.  It felt like they held back on the emotional punch. Whether this is due to some production quirks, some shallower plots, or the fact that the trailer delivered much of the film could have diluted it.  The movie also felt incomplete at parts, as if other scenes were needed or perhaps scenes deleted to take out the incomplete feeling.

In addition, the movie is a bit lackluster from the various tellings of the Christmas Carol.  This film doesn’t have the terror or suspense that Dickens’ three spirits contain, although they are much more entertaining.  This movie, despite teaching values, was just not as unique as I think it wanted to be. There were no grandiose twists, no outstanding spirit designs, and no key features to help make this movie stand out from similar morale tales.  I think I also wanted more spiritual interventions as well, another round to drive the point home to Howard.

 

The VERDICT

 

Collateral Beauty is certainly an example of great acting, as our stars have incredible chemistry, integrate through most of the movie, and have the emotional balance we would want in such a cast.  In addition, the morals are taught well thanks to the strong dialogue and wonderful audio/visual techniques to amplify the emotions.  However, there was something missing that just didn’t make this movie as emotionally deep as I expected.  Still, this is a movie that will move many and a good, fun movie for the holiday season.  Is it needed to be seen in the big screen?  When looking at the technical qualities and the unique aspect of the film…no this movie is worth a Redbox rent. However, in regards to the moral lessons and heartfelt story, this one is worth a visit. 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5