Taking A Shot At Play To Streaming, Hamilton’s Fervor Will Get You Going This Weekend

Hamilton Poster

            The world of the playwright is a fascinating one, where the dark aspects of the classical theater are still able to take stage without so much as batting an eye.  It’s created stories that have been unique, often making staple works of art that not only show for months to years, but often remain in the memories of many.  So given the state of COVID, as well as the limited runs with original cast and locations you can view it, I’ll admit I’ve not been much into this venue.  Disney + is trying to fix this by putting out the legendary Hamilton this weekend to let me check out.  So I have, and thus I’m getting another practice review out to determine if this craze is worth the hype, or just another entry into the continued world of entertainment.  Let’s get started

Movie/Play:  Hamilton (originally 2016 but 2020 release)

Cast:  

Director:

 Thomas Kail

Writers:

 Lin-Manuel Miranda (book), Ron Chernow (inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by) 

Stars:

 Lin-Manuel MirandaPhillipa SooLeslie Odom Jr. 

LIKES:

Makes History Entertaining

Clever

Powerful Messages

Some Extraordinarily Good Numbers

Fantastic Costumes

Talented Cast

A dynamic Stage for numbers 

The First Act Over The Second 

The ending Monologue Powerful 

DISLIKES: 

Underutilized characters for me

Constant Singing vs. Breaks with Dialog

Sound quality for Disney Plus not as Good 

I Felt Could use More Stage Changes

Dropped Story Elements

The Ending number

If You know History, You know The end

Does it Capture the Spirit Of The Theater?

SUMMARY:

            As I said above, the theater world allows so many stories to be told and in Hamilton, the lesser known founding father gets a nice entertaining twist and is certainly the fun experience you would think.  Miranda’s play has poise, charm, edge, and so many other factors that make the history of the revolution fun to watch/live in once again.  Much of it has to do with clever writing, jabbing at the faults of the traditional life of history, but managing to not rub its name in the mud.  The asides and breaking the fourth wall made me laugh the most, especially at how well most of it flows into the lyrics of the strong music that is heavy in this film.  Miranda shows how you can be political without getting too far away from the point, writing power messages into the dialogue naturally and having the performance speak as opposed to making everything about the message (see modern Hollywood/life today).  Hamilton takes all this cleverness and works it into its own style of poetry using the music style to emphasize so much I think he wanted and keeping the story moving through the decade or so of major historical moments and trying to develop the title character considerably.  And all of this power is brought about talented production values that help pull you back in time to the founding of our country.  A talented cast with names too extensive to include, brings up the various historical legends to new heights, attitudes and the spirit of revolution oozing out of their deliveries in the first act to inspire your own movement for change.  While a second act opens up more of the devious side in a spoof/magnification of the temptation political power brings.  All the costumes that reflect historical Colonial upbringing are there ready to help your eyes further accept the spectacle on stage so that you again put interest into the film.  

Let’s face it though it’s going to be the numbers that will show up on the walls of social media soon enough.  Hamilton’s numbers are all about that attitude and inspiration that the modern times love, and it’s those empowering performances that make up the meat of this play.  The emotional fervor of both acts is in almost every word of the dialogue and it does not hesitate to show the attitude that the cast wanted to bring in this time period.  Using the stage’s confinement to the advantage, alongside the costumes, the dance numbers have a choreographed splendor that feels organic as movements turn back into characters just going back to normal movements.  It works so well in seeing the fluid transitions from duels to dance and back again, and seeing a unique approach to the performance execution.  The first act in particular does this well for me, and was the better act because of the energy, fervor, and coordination the revolutionary war got in the confined 1-hour time limit.  Though the second act does accomplish a similar feel and certainly has less dancing, more coordination and the likes, I particularly think the first act is Miranda’s shining achievement.  However, that ending monologue is powerful, with words that struck home and broke the mold of the rest of the play’s fervor, a nice sendoff that leave one thinking. 

Now here is the tricky part of talking about the dislikes, partly because I don’t see many plays, part because of the hybrid movie/play, and partly due to the limitations of stage shows being streamed.  Doing my best to be fair though, I can say that one of the big disappointments were some of the underutilized characters for me.  Hamilton does a nice job working so many pieces through the set up, but there are several characters that held potential and showed promise that got dropped into the winds of a few songs before being lost to book footnotes.  I had hoped for a little more integration and references, but understanding time constraints it’s only a marginal dislike for me.  What hit harder for me was more so dropping some of the plots they were working on, or perhaps rushing through them and keeping them merely one to two lines in the story.  The development of Hamilton’s child, the third sister, heck even some of the soldiers are all lost in quick tidbits through this rush through history.  While it works in the rhyme scheme, I’m about stating if you are going to build up deliver on the end and I felt some of this was lost to the political prowess of the play.  I guess if you know history well enough, you know the ending, and Miranda might have taken that into consideration when he wrote the book, focusing again on a Spark Notes version of Hamilton’s life and accomplishments.  This is why Hamilton has the focus, so you can try to get into his mind, while also driving the audience to do the changes that our forefathers did long ago before technology took over.  

In regards to execution of the numbers well you’ve read I enjoyed much of the numbers.  However, something this play failed to do for me was take breaks from the music and go back into dialogue to sort of give the actors time to flesh out the characters more.  While good, I got tired of everything in a musical/poetry lyric, again missing key moments of tension and character building so that we can get more emotional music instead.  Again, I’m unsure how other musicals work, something I have to study, but the plays I have seen have far more breaks between their performances instead of nearly just one giant musical delivery.  Throw that in with if you are watching it on Disney+, the sound quality is kind of lacking thanks to the compressed file format the server uses.  I found myself having to turn my speakers up more for the quiet phrases than I wanted to, only for having to turn it down again when the more energetic numbers came.  Convenient as it is, I have to say that other streaming sites have got it down a little better in terms of sound balance, so I’ll mention in hopes that Disney will improve upon their sound quality.  Something else I as well would have liked, as I see in many musical numbers, is a more diverse soundtrack.  Wicked, Avenue Q, Book Of Mormons are great examples where a genre can be seen in the musical styles, but there are slight changes and performance tweaks to make the numbers stand out.  Not the case for on Hamilton.  Outside of when Eliza’s numbers came on, and a few moments where Hamilton’s darker thoughts hit the scene, much of the numbers is the same sort of rap beat with a slight change in tempo to boot.  Again, I get this was the focus of the play to have a rap play presentation, but doing it that way takes away from the originality of each track.  Fortunately, King George’s interventions stood out to me as comedic, a change in style to the show tune that stands aside from the rap.  If your style of music choice is the rap, then this will not be an issue, because it’s the perfect genre to get the emotions out and thanks to its ability to take poetry and spin it in new pieces.  For me though, many of the numbers feel every much the same, and without bigger dance numbers or the usual grandiose manner I’ve seen in the few shows I’ve watched.  In addition not changing up the backdrops, and relying on the one stage prop alone was again a dynamic I did not intend to watch.  Lighting guys get the props for making the stage versatile, but again, Hamilton’s journey through colonial times should have had more settings, but the reliance on a tiered stage means you use your imagination more than I had hoped.  Finally, the ending number may have an amazing message to convey and does so well for mopping up the remains of the story, but it pales in comparison to the final numbers you usually see.  Blasphemy I know, but after all the poetic majesty, after all the dynamic interactions, the last number I felt should have had pulled all the stops out to finish it strong.  

The VERDICT: 

            I’ve rambled long enough so let’s wrap this up for those looking for a quick summary.  Hamilton is certainly an impressive display of creativity, wit, and entertainment that proves that you can find some great balance if you do your research and work.  All the numbers hold such heart and fire, that the rap genre is perfect for helping maximize the wonderful messages I think Hamilton’s life makes for.  Amazing displays of acting, dancing, and singing blend beautifully to make engaging characters, that though are not fully developed have the engaging qualities you will certainly enjoy.  The wit and use of the limited stage fully is enjoyable, and rest of the play magic is super to bring out the masterpiece that Hamilton is known to be.  However, despite the epic, politically charged, poetry it is, I won’t lie that I wanted more variety for the masterpiece it was.  Some breaks from the music, a little change in the tone, some focus and inclusion of other characters, and set changes could have gone a long way.  It’s not perfect, but Disney+ has helped bridge the gap in play at home experience, but I don’t think it captures the full spectacle of the theater that streaming claims it can.  Still, I’d give it a shot if you like plays, more important like political jabbing rap, where the talent shines.  However, if you need a little more magic, a little more entertainment, and some less dense material, you need to hold out on this and pick another play to enjoy given the nearly 3 hour run time.  Overall, my scores are still going to be from a movie aspect, so here we go.  

Scores:  

Musical/Drama/Historical/Comedy:   8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0

Taking Flight To Realistic Portrayals

            The world is a scary place in this day and age, with all the threats and political fervor that comes with anything today.  Tonight’s review looks at the documentation of one such event, and the measures that people will go through to get out of the complicated situations they we often fall into.  A prime exclusive, tonight’s film comes with mixed reviews depending on what side of the spectrum you are looking at this movie from, but as always, I’ll do my best to approach this analytically to help you out.  Robbie K coming at you once more as I take a look at:  

Movie: 7005 (2020)

Director:

 Patrick Vollrath

Writers:

 Patrick VollrathSenad Halilbasic (co-writer) 

Stars:

 Omid MemarAylin TezelCarlo Kitzlinger 

LIKES: 

Decent Pacing 

Realistic Setting

Detailed Setting

Great Acting

DISLIKES:

Simplistic

Reliant on Captions To Get the full 

Sound Is Off Chaotic

Not Much In the Way of Character Development

SUMMARY

            While watching 7005 I found that the pacing was going to be interesting given how fast the credits were moving to the plane.  Cutting corners seemed to bring no sleepless nights for this group as they moved through this movie at a constantly fast pace to get you into the drama.  It works much in this film for it brings you into the film’s events as if you are actually living this experience with them.  That immersion factor is greatly appreciated for me in films like this for the suspense and drama actually build quite well with it.  The realistic setting does not hurt either in this drama and perhaps is the second strongest piece of this movie.  This film really goes through the motions of keeping the movie as lifelike as possible, from the flight prechecks we all go through on our flight preparations, to the psychological, tense conversations that a hostage situation like this can cause.  Don’t go in there expecting high fly shooting matches or intense fist fights in the narrow confines of the plane in this film.  Instead prepare yourself for witnessing a recreation of an event like this where the dialogue is not an award-winning playwright’s cathartic release, but instead mimicking day do day conversations and desperate pleas for help.  All of these moments are brought to life by good visual coordination, but it’s the acting that really hauls most of the quality of the film.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is certainly the front man, dropping his romantic and over dramatic flair, for a much more contained role that shows off his talented portrayal of emotional control and methodic acting.  Omid Memar, the newcomer for me, gets his hands wet in emotional acting, helping play a role that holds both stereotype and stereotype defying components all in one.  He manages to keep most of his outbursts in check, and thanks to how emotionally charged the world is, the over the top moments actually worked to balance the character.  These two are certainly the cornerstones of the world, but all other actors in the film accomplished quality levels of acting as well.  

            As for the limitations of the movie, it actually starts in the format of the captions.  If you hate reading, then avoid the movie now for much of the film revolves around translations and reading quickly to get an idea of what is going on.  I don’t mind the captions, but moving as fast as they did sometimes left me having to rewind to see what was said.  Minor thing aside, the movie also has some sound flaws as well, the tapering voices sometimes a bit muffled for me, while other times all the screaming drowns out moments that could have been better designed with movie magic.  Okay, outside of those nitpicky things here are the two major limitations for me in regards to this movie unleashing its full potential.  The first is character development, or in this case lack of any character development.  I’ve been spoiled by the award-winning films, who break the cinematic grounds with characters that start off one way, and we learn more and more about them.  There are changes brought from the struggle to survive and the emotional reference connections they bring.  While I definitely feel for Tobias (the main character), I can’t say there was as much investment in the character due to the lack of development.  The other members of the crew and terrorist as well feel very flat, and without the movie magic it’s hard to really engage for me since I don’t have the political spark that others do.  It boils down to the fact that movie’s realism and simplistic story, while appreciative, are also the limitations for this film for me.  By getting so ingrained in the realism and having you live an event like this, they have thrown out some of the other components that make a movie, well a movie for me.  While the realistic components are awesome to see, I’ll say that a hundred times over, I still would have liked more movie magic balanced into this film and more inclusion of the other casts to truly get the rip roaring tory I think they wanted to tell.  

The VERDICT

            Amazon’s original film is certainly an experience that breaks from the current trends of the modern film making.  The flight of 7005 is definitely one of the more realistic dramas, paying attention to details, political idealism, and the tension of these situation to really craft that virtual experience of the horrors of the world.  Yet, it’s this straight shot focus of realism that also hurts the film for some, because you don’t get into the lives of the characters, and the players of this game are very shallow compared to other movies of this genre that have withstood the test of time.  Overall, it’s perfect for a streaming movie and should be watched by those who can handle more realistic movies and the blood curdling shock factor that comes with it.  However, the movie still has improvements to be the experience I think all audience members would like to partake in. 

My scores are: 

Drama/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0 

7500 Poster

Does This Direct Stream Fowl This Story Up? It All Depends On your angle

Artemis Fowl Poster

            Movies today seem to run into more trouble than I can ever remember.  With politics, reshoots, budgets, fan pressure, and who knows what else, the art of making movies continues to be twisted into the former shelf of what it once was.  With Covid 19 coming into the mix, the age of direct to streaming has opened up a new era of movie transformation and I shudder to think what the results will be given potential cuts to the film.  Ranting aside, tonight’s review is another direct to stream movie, and one with a lot of delay history on hand, as another book series is brought to life in hopes of making money.  Will it work or once more are we sunk?  Robbie K here ready to give you his thoughts as he reviews: 

Movie:  Artemis Fowl (2020)

Director:

 Kenneth Branagh

Writers:

 Conor McPherson (screenplay by), Hamish McColl (screenplay by)  | 1 more credit »

Stars:

 Ferdia ShawLara McDonnellJosh Gad 

LIKES: 

Judy Dench

Josh Gad

Some of the Comedy

The Cinematography

Build For Family 

The Music

The World Building 

DISLIKES: 

The Pace

The Forced Acting At Times

The Special Effects

The Cardboard Characters

How Quickly Resolved Things Are

The Political Correctness

Too Family Theme/Inconsistent

A Massive Set Up Movie Instead Of Its Own film

SUMMARY: 

            Never having read the books, I went in pretty fresh thinking this would be Harry Potter meeting Men In Black with a  bit of a family style added in.  I believe on many levels my assumption was right and fortunately there were some heavy hitters leading the way.  The stars for me were Dench and Gad, two actors who have their tricks for making the most of roles no matter how invested they are in the project.  Dench’s old school tactics and pot shots at age mix well with the “charm” of those she commands, a case of sensitive caring meeting dutiful officer entertaining to watch as she engaged with the new generation.  Gad on the other hand continues to play his bumbling oaf of a snowman in a different form as the tricky dwarf who lives above the law in more ways than one.  He seems to have fun with the role, and it’s that energy that seems perfect for the character they developed for him.  Gad acts as a focal point for the comedy, but Fowl’s band of “criminals” sometimes have some tact to them that had me laughing at times, be it a well time one liner or maybe a sarcastic comment from Dench’s character.  It’s all well themed and much like the rest of the movie has many “family themed elements” that I think Disney was going for in its countless troubles and directions with the film to which the target audience should love. 

            However, the strongest elements for this reviewer are the fact the more technical elements of the film that brought the world of fiction to life.  For one thing, the music is great, despite having an AC unit blaring, the cinema design for Artemis’ first journey is a splendid symphony of orchestral wonder that helps add excitement to the scenes at hand.  More toned-down moments are complemented by a wonderful homage to Irish tradition with pipes, flutes, and the magical moor like tones bringing that fairy tale charm associated with Irish culture. This only further gets complemented by beautiful settings to which the cinematography captures beautifully and I for one was impressed with what they displayed on screen.  As for the fantasy element, Disney continues to kick butt in this department as they always do.  Computer design created a very elaborate world to get lost in be it the cramped halls of the Fowl manor with its hidden secrets, or the world of the fairy that dwells below the earth where science fiction and magic turn into a hybridized world that is both mystical and new edge.  Add the costumes and character design into the mix, and you get that unique flare that Disney’s money can make… when used right of course.  I think many of your little ones will have some new trick or treat costumes this coming fall.  

            Yet where marketing and splendor succeed, the movie fails for me at other parts.  Like much of Disney’s new family themed movies, the pace seems off for a typical Disney film as Artemis’ journey sort of contorts to odd angles in an attempt to put everything into a journey to inspire every person under the sun.  It’s too fast for yours truly, giving many of the emotional moments a blunt edge that fails to tug at the heart strings it wants to pull so badly, the way Disney movies like to do.  It does not help that the characters they tried to create are poorly developed, many having any dimension effectively ripped from them to make paper thin pawns for kids to aspire to be like.  There are some redeeming qualities, I won’t lie about that, but in terms of characters as a whole Disney’s band is set for the adolescent minds instead of all families in general.  It may also suffer from the fact that the actors are also still coming into their forte on this film.  The young cast sort of has one or two dimensions and have not mastered the spectrum of acting that other actors have.  Throw in some of the performances feel forced or not involved enough leading to less character utilization and the selling of this movie becomes harder and harder for me to do. 

            Maybe the plot and adventure aspect will be better and offset those limitations?  After all Twilight has enough romance and fighting to make the film worth it right, right?  No, the movie did not succeed on this aspect either for me.  Artemis Fowl’s limitations above carry over to this aspect of the film as well, leaving it a very skeletal framework with little sustenance for me.  The adventure again is rushed, tense moments reduced to dry bouts of conversation, little build up, and action that has that modern-day family approved stamp that seems to plague so many films.  Again those moments to grasp on to characters and worry about their fate become quick fix problems, where thirty seconds of an impasse show up and then resolves in some of the simplest story telling I’ve seen in a while.  The action scenes start showing some pizazz, building up to Fowl’s genius taking on this new world, only to quite in less than a minute.  What happened to that magic we saw in Mulan, the lion king, Tarzan, and Toy Story, where the franchises were still to family, but were not afraid to add some darker elements to the mix.  Fowl only does it with a few disturbing visuals, namely Gad dislocating his jaw, which would be more impressionable than a good action scene that actually uses its characters. An even weaker element is how some of these fights sort have had technical jerkiness to it, like a DVD skipping, the scene would pause and then quickly speed up.  While cool at some moments, it got overused and annoying for me, and felt like a distraction to the already limited scene. 

  The point this rambling makes is that the movie lacks intensity and connection to a majority of the audience, again too centered on the juvenile atmosphere that PG movies seem to have become.  I also felt there was a little too much political agenda in this movie, not in the manner/degree we’ve seen in other films like Star Wars, Captain Marvel, and Charlie’s Angels, but more like the Dream Big Princess campaign you see on Disney channel.  It gets in the way of the storytelling for me and while inspirational, fans like me may lose faith in Disney putting plot development aside to stay politically relevant.  Finally, this movie’s inconsistencies sort of amplify that this rushed tale seems much like an intro chapter or installment to the book (which I do know enough for it to be the case), but in series like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, those first stories also felt contained to their own tale as well.  For Fowl though, the first installment focuses too much on the promise of a new series or movie coming in, perhaps another attempt to hypnotize into more toy sales.  Had the other flaws not been so magnified in my eyes.  

The VERDICT: 

            Artemis Fowl is cute and definitely the family friendly adventure theme that seems to be the new age of acceptable to many new parents.  For this reviewer though, it gets in the way of bringing these young adult books to life, sheltering the intended audience from darker moments just to make a buck. Sure the acting will be good for the intended audience, and the music and visuals may be just the thing to hook you in to the film as you watch your children’s eyes light up in delight (after all mine did for much of this film). However, the rushed plot, the forced acting, the lack of suspense, buildup, and intensity and trying to play too much in safe politics threw this film into disarray for me.  While it certainly fits better on streaming rather than the theater, I can’t help but wonder how much was lost to the numerous issues this film had with release.  Yet, I worry even more that the studio I know can make out of this world films is losing their ability to story tell due to playing to the public interest movements.  Nevertheless, I recommend this film for viewing at home of course, but take caution as some scenes may in fact be scary for those who are sensitive to the darker, more disturbing visuals.  

My scores overall are: 

Family, Fantasy, Adventure:  6.0

Movie Overall:  4.5 

Not Hitting All The High Notes

The High Note Poster

            Another pandemic weekend, another chance to release a movie on to streaming services to try and keep some normalcy alive.  This weekend, a movie that snuck up on me until about the beginning of May arrives to your rental pleasure.  It’s a film with potential drama, comedy, and music, as a potential gaze through the window of stardom tries to make itself relevant in the modern day.  Robbie K here to assess the quality of the latest movie to home release as we look over: 

Movie:  The High Note (2020)

Director:

 Nisha Ganatra

Writer:

 Flora Greeson

Stars:

 Dakota JohnsonTracee Ellis RossKelvin Harrison Jr. 

LIKES:  

Portrayal of the Music Industry

Some Comedic Moments 

Kelvin Harrison Jr’s moments

The Ending 

The Music 

DISLIKES:

Disjointed Opening

Much Different Atmosphere of the Movie

Glorifying Shallow Behavior 

Predictable For Much Of the Film

Bad Pacing Of The film

Throw Away Characters

The Lack Of Direction Leading to Missed potential. 

SUMMARY:

            When it comes to portraying Hollywood, movies sometimes go too much magic and not enough reality leading to extreme views of the entertainment business.  I’d say from my studies and talking with friends who have professionally sang, this movie has it’s fingers on the pulse of the difficulties of the music world.  The High Note shows all the red tape, connections, and fickle shifts that can happen in building and maintaining one’s career.  In essence, this is the underlying tale to connect much of the early part of the movie and was the factor keeping me engaged into the film despite all the drama at hand.  To help break up the monotony there are some romantic parts, but the comedy was the more engaging part to liven up the movie with Ice Cube’s part being the main chuckle fest in his delivery and timing, though his scenes did get a little old after some time.  Instead the actor who really saved much of this movie for me was Harrison Jr’s role, the young man bringing a combination of acting and singing that will be those flash in the pan moments that will renew your attention and potentially inspire you to care about one of the characters.  Harrison’s scenes often held the most dynamic moments in all of the film, again expanding on rather shallow characters and adding the pizazz to the music industry movie.  He especially comes to life about half way and near the end of the film, which helps me transition into the next like of how the ending manages to tie stuff together with a little bit of surprise to help add some band, which given the start of this movie is definitely needed.  The ending finally starts making sense of the direction the film is going, and hits with those final emotional punches and gimmicks that left me satisfied and somewhat impressed given most of the movie I watched.  However, the biggest clap for me is the portrayal of music and the brilliant pokes this film does at the trends created over the decades.  The High Note is an homage, and almost a study, of the power of music, helping poetically dissect impact of songs, show the motivational power of the tracks, and even how tastes very for the sake of safety and commercialism.  Covers and plays of the original tracks await the ears of the viewers, but for me the original work holds a lot more heart and emotion to potentially lead to soundtrack sales in the near future.  

            Now those were the likes that I had to stretch out, but this movie definitely has a lot of shortcomings that I personally did not enjoy.  For starts much of the movie is disjoined, nearly the first 45 minutes a finger-painting mess of plots and genres that turn grey instead of a fabulous spectrum of colors.  Curiosity kept me going, but one again directors and writers seemed to try to cater to too many gimmicks to make a cohesive opening.  From viewing the trailers I expected this film to be a drama of pressures of assistant/music life that developed into a buddy movie, but that was only a sliver of the complicated weavings this group chose.  The change in atmosphere was not to my liking mostly because the atmosphere was not smooth, the chaos again just not working given my expectations I walked in with.  Of course, the shallow behaviors of greed, cheap laughs, and elaborate fashions await this film too, and while it works so well for painting the celebrity/high roller life, it at times also becomes too much the focus of the film.  Lost in this setting, dialogue suffers, character development becomes lazier, and the forced insertion of a track gets a bit stale, especially when the diva/bad behavior gets in the way of the messages and power the film I think was aiming for.  While the political aspects  are fortunately kept on a short leash, when they rear their head it’s bit in your face, not so much annoying, but again derailing the fluidity of the scene before me for what would be foreshadowing for an already predictable plot.  I think most of these errors could have had more slack by me, but they are magnified by the very slow pace this movie takes.  Yes, I know I like faster paced genres, but this film’s dragging out, bloated run time with no direction was an uphill battle I waded through, only finding it’s pace nearly 50% of the way into the film where that monotony started going away.  Yet even the second half cannot correct the throw away characters this film holds, which outside maybe four of them, plague this film’s writing.  Rival stars, self-centered best friends, loyal roommates, and even agents are secondary messes that play their part and nothing more, with many reduced to simple one-liners.  Little character development and integration makes this cast feel sort of mashed together, potential plot elements and feeling heavy anchors dropped to sink into the shallow dismay of a mention and nothing more.  Hopefully this review highlights that the film did have a lot of nifty ideas and potential paths for developing a struggling woman in a very chaotic field, but to repeat once more that lack of direction tears much of it to shreds with only the last 30 minutes present to tie it altogether and end with the things I sought out in this movie. 

THE VERDICT: 

            The modern age of movie writing seems to have a lot of agendas, changes, and catering pushed in favor of cohesive plots.  High Note hints at the potential it could have brought with the realistic dives into the entertainment world, the talent of some of its actors, and the awesome music that brings the biggest punches in this drama/music special.  Sadly, it is the lack of direction mixed with too many aspects that really destroys this film for much of the 2-hour run time.  With throw away character, shoddy plot development, and bad pacing with an already unfocused story, you will not get the full bang for the twenty-dollar rental in this reviewers eyes.  As such, this is a big wait for watching at home via streaming, and one should instead find the soundtrack and enjoy the numbers this group brought to play.  Overall, the movie gets the scores of: 

Drama/Music/Romance:  6.0

Movie Overall:  4.0 

Scooby Dooby Doo You In For A Fun Kids Flick

Scoob! Poster

 

The World of Hanna-Barbera changed the lives of many with its dive into cartoons that would become cultural icons.  Zany antics of the Flintstones, the futuristic mishaps of the Jetsons, and the exotic worlds explored by Johnny Quest, all painted the landscapes for many cartoons to venture down.  Yet one of the most beloved was beloved dog and his best friends solving the supernatural crimes that plagued the world.  Yes I’m talking about Scooby Doo, the loveable canine who over the years has taken on many forms, some great, and some not quite as epic.  This weekend the Corona Virus has allowed his latest adventure to come directly to home and hopefully inspire a new bunch with a new style.  Robbie K back for another limited review as he scopes out:

 

Movie: Scoob (2020)

Director:

Tony Cervone

Writers:

Matt Lieberman (screenplay), Adam Sztykiel (screenplay)  | 7 more credits »

Stars:

Will ForteMark WahlbergJason Isaacs

 

LIKES:

  • Fun
  • Cute
  • Like the New Animation Style
  • The Nostalgia
  • The Music
  • The Heart At Times

 

DISLIKES:

  • Treaded A little off the Path
  • Caught Up On a Few Ideas
  • Some Toxic Politics
  • Predictable
  • New Twist Took Away From The Scooby Antics

 

SUMMARY:

 

From talking with my parent friends they go to a kids movie to get their kids laughing and enjoying the adventure with them as they form memories.  That’s going to be accomplished in this film as young and older join together to take part in the antics of our animated characters.  The gang still has plenty of zany tricks up their sleeves with the leading duo taking lead in most of the phone of klutzy falls, cute one liners, and slapstick that the cartoon made famous.  It’s new adventure tone is family friendly, more cute than scary, as the comedy tries to remain on that G- PG level that many modern guardians will want in the kids flick.  The new animation style manages to pop the crew out, blazing colors, full of energy that manages to accent the scene and try to bring the environment out to full effect much like the drawings of the past.  Yet the driving factor of the movie is certainly the nostalgia, as the famous techniques of the classic cartoon brigade come out in full force to help immerse those who grew up with Scooby into the new style, while still pleasing the young.  The snack jokes, the sites they visit, background shots of famous monsters, and even the opening credits are all about taking you back into the past of the famous Scooby adventures.  However, the new twist goes a step ahead and potentially hints at a connected Hanna-Barbera universe where all sorts of classic characters may try to stay relevant in the modern universe.  I guess time and profits will tell right?  Still all the fun cute visuals and nostalgic themes get a hand with great music, compilations and covers of famous tracks that are sometimes used super creatively, and other times meant to make people just get up and dance. It’s simplistic sure, but it helped up the energy of some of the scenes again.  Then comes the heart of the show.  While most of the cartoons in the past are meant more for laughs and simple humorous adventures, Scoob decides to add a little more heart to mixture.  Themes like being best friends, courage, and empathy are just some of the strong components that drive this movie to heart string pulling levels that will make the sensitive cry and those with big hearts relate.  A few scenes in the middle to end are surprisingly deeper than expected and I give them props for expanding these simpler characters to some more fulfilling roles. 

 

For all the good though, there can potentially be a lot of bad and Scoob is not able to run away from some of these problems.  It starts off with treading off the beaten path for an attempt at something new.  While, the movie gets points for originality, the movie’s dive from comedic mystery to comedic adventure with a super hero twist is not the world I was hoping to start my journey in.  The focus of comedy, kid friendly ideas, and this quick opening into the universe made for a bit of a jumbled plot that was entertaining at times but just not the quality of the classics.  Some of the characters were reduce to political pieces, others block headed pieces meant to make potential statements or get cheap laughs, and others getting a decent dose of character development.  It’s this inconsistency that makes the movie feel a little sloppily put together, and being unable to blend all these directions together was a big limiting factor.  As such, the movie also got lost in some toxic motives again, political trends being interjected into the dialogue at times once again turning the characters into new agenda pawns.  Because of these agendas and some dialogue heavy in foreshadowing thanks to sappy, clichéd writing, the plot’s mystery and originality was diluted to a predictable film that some kids movies tend to fall into these days.   As for the voice acting… it’s okay, Frank Welker wins the best voice acting cast for me and of the adults, Ken Jeong and Mark Wahlberg are close seconds in terms of bringing their characters to life.  Others though felt sort of forced on them, choosing to really sell the political moments, while other times seeming bored with the fun dialogue.  Given all the directions they were taking though, it sort of diverted away from that spirit of Scooby that we all loved in his first adventures long ago, something I think of lot of people were looking for.

 

The VERDICT:

            For a kids film Scoob accomplishes the victory of being a cute bout of fun that the modern audience will adore with their younger audience members.  It’s new animation is fluid and fun and the use of color and music will really bring the energy of youth that we all look for in these films.  However, the heart and the nostalgia are going to be the key factors for many older audience members to look forward to in order to better buffer into the new twists.  Sadly, the movie’s lack of focus, splitting of agenda and forced character development took away from the film, and the mystery we so love turned into a comic like adventure with loads of simplicity.  Scoob’s overall presentation feels rushed, potentially thanks to COVID, and did not quite deliver on the full potential I was hoping they would.  Depending on the success though, a new universe could be born to the modern era… again, and we may see more team ups coming in the new future.  At that point, this story will start fitting in better. 

 

My scores for the movie are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0 

This Tour is a World Of Fun, Energy, and Morals, but Trolls 2 Still Missing Potential

Trolls World Tour Poster

 

It’s been a long time my friend, but fortunately a nice opportunity for a review came up in the form of a home release.  While not the arena I prefer to watch my movies in, it’s better than nothing and so tonight I take on the world release of the latest animated film that is hoping to make some money by feeding on youth’s ability for rewatching for the musical experience.  Tonight’s film is that musical melody of animated characters that was charming, kooky, and super fun when they debuted a few years ago.  And after a fun Christmas special, many wondered what would be the fate of the colorful band of trolls?  We get that answer tonight, as more genres join our pop theme in:

 

Movie: Trolls: World Tour (2020)

 

Directors:

Walt DohrnDavid P. Smith (co-director)

Writers:

Jonathan Aibel (screenplay by), Glenn Berger(screenplay by)  | 5 more credits »

Stars:

Anna KendrickJustin TimberlakeRachel Bloom

 

 

LIKES:

  • Cute
  • Funny
  • Many Song References and Cultures
  • Great Pace
  • Good Morals
  • Better Use of Characters
  • The Songs

 

Dislikes:

  • Not as Good Character Developing
  • Story has potential, but misses the mark
  • Lack of Real Impasse/Obstacles
  • More Songs or Complete Numbers
  • Almost Felt Too Short

 

Summary:

 

Much like the first film, I expected the trolls next tour to be cute and fun, and I was not disappointed.  The youthful vibe of the world somehow awakened the happy side of life for me, and got me into the spirit to dive back into the simplistic imagination of the world.  It’s ridiculous concepts, well developed dialogue, and good comedic timing held much of the essence of the film and was a great anchor point for older audience members.  Some of the fun also is held in the song references that they covered, new twists to fan favorites that though had a nice twist, kept much of the core elements of the song to still hold what entranced me to the song itself.  As the trailers highlight, the movie is all about exploring the musical culture of these genres, and I give them props for creativity and exploring the levels of the big genres, which I like again being the geek I am.  All of this exploration happens at a good pace, with little slowness present as the Trolls hope effortlessly between kingdoms in search of the sacred strings.  Amidst the journey are of course fun life lessons, which with an open mind/heart and a little luck will help motivate and teach you some good lessons, or at least the young ones accompany you.  Further review made me happy that the developers actually took time to spend some focus on the other trolls, managing to deviate from the two protagonists and integrate them more into the story.  While not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction and with a little time and focus… we might end up getting that perfect balance.  So if that troll merchandise feels like it went to waste years ago, you can rest assured those dolls may get new life.  Let’s face it though… Trolls is a big soundtrack and the new tracks are there ready to storm their way into your ear drums and leave you with massive ear worm.  World Tour’s tracks are catchy, fun twists that hit most of the genres and bring that essence I mentioned earlier, to bring out the feeling and energy of the scene.  I appreciated the variety they had to offer and fully enjoyed the magic this movie had.

 

Yet for all the fun I have, I won’t lie there are some major limitations to this film that still have not been mastered.  First off, character development is much weaker for me in this film.  A sacrifice of including so many characters means their depth sort of suffers and World Tour has no problem dropping deep dives into psyche for the superficial succulence to come.  Poppy and Branch have some expansion, but pales to many, and even the new characters hold little in the ways of diversity and deep stories, including the antagonist that had so much to give. The result is a bland story, where potential lies in every note and scene, but then falls flat in terms of really expanding the world that we were baited with back in 2016.  What also does not help is the movie is that the challenge and threat in this movie is… well missing.  We’ve seen animated films that bring the hammer with antagonists who are threatening, massive, and push our heroes to the limits to fulfill the quests.  Not the case with this one, Barb’s got edge, skills, and a wickedly designed arsenal, but it’s a little too one sided and boring in terms of an animated adventure.  In addition, the time in each world is rather limited, and that potential for creativity is lost to rapid passthroughs most of the towns.  Even more bizarre is that the heart and soul of the movie, the music, is reduced too sound bites, quickly dropped just as the number is reaching its crescendo.  Sure the numbers at the end do their job, and others are entertaining due to the vibe and twist, but it’s not feeling quite complete compared to its predecessor. Overall, the movie almost felt too short and needed another 1.5 hours to really get everything I wanted in this sequel.  Yes, I’m saying a longer movie, or maybe another movie that held that fire and balance I love.

 

The VERDICT: 

            Overall Trolls 2 comes back with the fun, cute, wonderful energy that made the first one so exciting.  If you are like me and have the pleasure and luck of texting a friend with references, you get more enjoyment out of the film.  Kids will love it alongside the young at heart, with silliness, laughs, and morals entangled together to give that satisfactory kids flick you love, plus the music does not hurt either as long as you are not a purist.   Yet, the movie still has not found the art of balance for reviewers like me.  All the new characters are great for merchandising, but miss the mark in terms of emotional investment, and the story is okay but again had so much more it could have given.  Even the things I was enjoying the most like the adventure and music got edited down and while they are fun during their moments, they could have been so much more.  Still being at home and looking for something to break the ice of Frozen 2, this is a fine rental to have at home and probably the best place to watch outside of the effects.  Thus, my recommendation is give it a shot this weekend when you can. 

 

My scores for this film are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

I Still Believe In Balanced Religion Movies

I Still Believe Poster

 

Religion is a touchy subject to many out there in the world, especially given politics of today and the verbal sharing of the world.  Yet, there is something inspirational in the stories that are told and the miracles they can bring in their messages .  Tonight is another one of those movies that hopes to bring the word of the Lord to life, in a format that’s slightly more modern than the bible they are based on.  Yet, the movie sometimes loses its focus when it gets too preachy, and only those are major devotion will enjoy those moments to the max.  Will this latest romance/drama follow suit, or will we be treated to a fun surprise.  Well sit down and enjoy the ride as we hit up:

 

Movie: I Still Believe (2020)

 

Directors:

Andrew ErwinJon Erwin

Writers:

Jon ErwinJon Gunn

Stars:

Britt RobertsonK.J. ApaMelissa Roxburgh

 

 

LIKES:

  • Cute
  • Moves At A Decent Pace
  • Passionate Scenes
  • Cool Display of Miracles
  • Some Of The dialogue
  • The Musical Performances… when they happened

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not Much Story With The Family Or Other Supporting Characters
  • Not many Songs or Length Of Songs
  • Almost Feels Incomplete
  • The Acting at Times Is Very Forced
  • Diluted The Impact Of The Story With limited writing
  • Preachy

 

SUMMARY:

A movie with young romance is often very cute in a movie like this, to which this film succeeds at achieving. The relationship may start at awkward, but eventually evolves into something that is adorable to see unfold, especially at the energy it brings to what can potentially be a depressing movie.  Unlike some other movies, the film manages to keep a good pace, always keeping the romance moving towards what will surely be an intense lesson and minimizing how many tangents these films can sometimes take.  Eventually, the movie crosses a barrier though, and drops into a passionate story that shows you just how much these two people love each other.  From all the acts the guy and girl do for each other, this true story is inspiring to see that there just may be hope for the world at times.  The miracles that come out of the woodwork in this film are also pretty cool as well, displays that no one can expect (unless you read about them) again helping drive you to the faith and salvation that comes with it.  Messages like these are only further emphasized by some amazing writing, which could have been adapted from the live letters the couple donated, that are poetic, heartfelt, and even brings tears to much of the audience.  Finally, the musical moments that show off not only praising, but the talented voices of our actors, helped add a little variety to the mix, my favorite being the beach scene that seemed to culminate the power of music. 

 

However, the movie happens to fail on some other things for me that took away from me from this film.  First, despite this being a movie about coming together in the name of the Lord, the family’s involvement was actually a little limiting. Their impact has its moments, but I felt very disconnected with most of the other members, as the two protagonists danced around their relationship, which I guess is what most go into looking forward.  Now maybe the songs make up for it, after all there are plenty of these films where the music comes in to save the day with a stunning performance.  This movie has one moment to have you lift your arms, but outside of a few numbers, the songs are mostly sound bites and quickened performances that get lost to dialogue.  My friend and I both really could have enjoyed the musical spectacles, but alas they did not put stock in it.  As such, the film feels very incomplete in terms of involvement and integration, a shame given the potential of the film from the trailers.  In terms of acting, they are okay, nothing that blew my mind, but was believable in the moments that counted.  However, the movie feels very forced at times, the dialogue in particular coming off a bit cheesy as the actors try to make the words come to life as the chemistry is developing.  Humorous at times, whether meaning to or not, I was hoping that some better writing or adaptations to the lines could have really stood out (which got better as the movie neared its finish).  It’s not that it’s bad, please don’t take it that way, but compared to other movies… the writing did not really amplify this tale like I expected.  Finally, you know it’s coming, but the movie dives into the realm of being preachy again.  If you are a devoted worshipper, this will not impact you one bit, and though faithful to the word I have to put my bias aside.  There are times where the dialogue is very forced to the written word, going to the preachy side that will make people roll their eyes and potentially turn away from the message at hand.  I’m warning you again to go in expecting this, and if you can filter the… cheesy moments out, the message can still get to you.

 

The VERDICT:

            I Still Believe has the intended audience built into the title as a passionate, religious focused movie that will either make you raise your hands up or roll your eyes at the antics.  A cute relationship with inspiring moments, the movie manages to move at a fast-enough pace to be entertaining, yet focus on those key moments to nail you with the religious prowess that they wanted.  However, the movie sort of leaves out the other characters, primarily their families that I would have thought would have been front and center in the relationship at hand.  In addition, the acting feels forced, the impact of the scenes dwindled down by incomplete storytelling, forced dialogue, and preachy moments that needed a little more magic.  Throw in that for a song singer there are not many songs to get into… and well you may be disappointed by the full-on presentation.  The key demographic is those of heavy faith, for the majesty of God’s words will fill these audience members with renewed energy.  However, this is not my favorite of the worshipping films and I think others are better at delivering the message at hand.  I think this film is best suited for home viewing, unless you can get a church group to go.  My scores for this film are:

 

Drama/Music/Romance:   6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

A Bloody Good Shot At Trying To Make An Action Spectacle

Bloodshot Poster

            The big hero action flicks have evolved over time with the changing technology, dropping the story driven plot components for the spectacle of booms, punches, and CGI work.  Still, you have to give them props at the creativity they can muster given this day and age.  As such, today, another action flick hopes to rear its adrenaline-fueled head and unleash the bullet storm of box office bucks for the audience.  Will the built, rogue soldier of Vin Diesel be able to bring his legacy to new heights, or is it another cop out of a comic book turned movie.  Robbie K  here to give you the insight in the latest films, before the virus suspends all the films for a time being.  Today we review:

 

Director:

Dave Wilson

Writers:

Jeff Wadlow (screenplay by), Eric Heisserer (screenplay by)

Stars:

Vin DieselEiza GonzálezSam Heughan

 

LIKES:

 

  • Fast Pace
  • Explosive opening
  • Cool Concepts with Semi Realism
  • Decent Fight Scenes
  • Comedic At Times
  • The Editing For the Scenes
  • The Hacker

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Bloated Dialogue At Times
  • Some Of the Overkill use of Slow Motion
  • Shaky Camera Syndrome
  • Limited Use Of Other Characters for Much Of the Movie
  • The CGI At Times

 

Summary:

 

Let’s get to the point at hand, you go to an action film you want the pace and effects to make your adrenaline pump right?  Bloodshot does not pull any stops, dropping right into a battle scene with an explosive opening that brings plenty of what is to come.  Once the story sets up after this, the movie dives into showing off some cool technological components, areas that could very well be seen in the near future given the focus.  It’s these technological prowess that the movie is anchored on, with much of the designs for story, development, and the action scenes all dependent on the augmentations seen.  Fortunately, the movie exploits this to full effect and brings some decent action sequences to the mix, primarily during the explosive climax when all styles of fighting are brought together in a decent finale.  However, the factor that really elevates this movies is all the sound and film editing that supports the CGI scenes in front of me. Explosive sound effects riddle the theater with wall shaking goodness, sound tracks of orchestra elevate the moods and adds that adrenaline rush, all while visuals are blended together beautifully.  It’s definitely these components that were my favorite part of the movie and I think the biggest selling point of this film.  However, there are some comedic moments to help spruce things up, usually well-timed jokes or a cliched line from Vin Diesel’s repertoire as the primary ammunition.  This reviewer though really liked the hacker character though, whose British mannerism and comedy attitude were the biggest relief and fit very well despite being the one pinpoint of light. 

 

However, the spectacle of the film can only distract so long from the rest of the things I did not like as much in this movie.  Predictability is the name of the game, thanks again due to trailers and just the linear telling this film takes.  Obvious foreshadowing from dialogue and a big early scene should give more than enough away for you to realize where the movie is heading, which should allow you to enjoy the spectacle. Bloated dialogue tries to paint a more engaging story, but it does little other than provide weaker backstory and attempts at character development.  Sadly, Bloodshot does not do the best job with backstories and character utilization outside of select scenes where they make a start at using them.  Perhaps a little more mission use of them, meeting some better development would have helped, but where comic books have time the movies did not so they cut their losses.  In terms of the action spectacle itself, the movie hit a few things that I’m not the biggest fan of.  Action scenes can really use their work to emphasize violence, bashing, and that epic finishing move.  However, in this movie, it gets a little overused, showing off cool portrayals of skin damage and anatomical healing, but at the same time making for boring bouts of Vin Diesel walking.  Tough atmosphere it may establish, the overuse was boring at times and I would have loved a little more dynamic work.  Dynamic work though does not mean having to have a camera that looks like it’s in an earthquake movie, and Bloodshot has its moments where sporadic camera shifts don’t bring me into the action, but rather take away from it.  Finally, you will hear the CGI looks bad, and I’ll agree at times it really does look fake and forced, similar to the Smith vs. Neo fight in the Matrix Reloaded.  I’m guessing budget to make the action fights the most realistic got cut, but at least it moves well and has the special effects to lessen the blow.  Still, given all the other impacts it was trying to make, I think Bloodborn could have used a little more polishing on this front.

 

The VERDICT:

            Overall, Bloodshot is an action movie that works to pull the thrill of the 90s action back into the modern day.  It’s got great editing to sell the action scenes and give you those thrills, alongside a pacing that works for this genre.  Amidst this technological stunt show, there are a few decent performances, and the comedic work of the Hacker character helps stir some things up amidst the constant fighting on hands.  Still, the movie has an okay science fiction plot that won’t leave as much on an impression, especially given bloated dialogue, limited secondary character use predictably.  Sadly, the stunning editing still needed some polishing with the CGI work itself, primarily during said action moments.  Still given the effects, you could probably find enough reason to check it out in theaters, but otherwise hang out for this one for a home viewing. 

 

My scores are;

 

Action/Drama/Sci-Fi:  6.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

 

Hunting For More Original Satire?

 

 

The Hunt Poster

 

 

The left-wing movies often are wild cards that have a hard time getting the recognition and credit they deserve.  Unlike so many other big chains, these movies dare to defy the normal with their approaches, taking radical chances to deliver an original film that manages to stick in your mind.  Unfortunately, these artistic visions can often be too out there, ahead of their time or too boring that they get shuffled into the forgotten realm.  However, reviewers like me are taking a dive into the ,movie to see if this film successfully defies the big chain tales that many love to hopefully do it justice.  Let’s get started I take a look at:

 

Movie: The Hunt (2020)

 

Director:

Craig Zobel

Writers:

Nick CuseDamon Lindelof

Stars:

Betty GilpinHilary SwankIke Barinholtz

 

Likes:

  • Run Time
  • Original
  • Campy
  • Funny In Weird Ways
  • Changing Tale
  • Few Slow Parts
  • The Ending Sequences

The Awesome Artistic Satire Of The Film

 

DISLIKES:

  • Broke a Cardinal Rule
  • Language At Times
  • The Opening Sequence
  • Crappy Character Development
  • Too Silly At Times
  • The Sometimes Too Political Nature Of It

 

Summary:

 

This tale already started off right with the promise of a shorter movie, not only for time saving components, but also for the potential of a good exciting tale.  Well, The Hunt did this for me in the weirdest ways.  First off, its ironically original, despite what the trailers suggest, deeper into the film though you get a much more original presentation that turns out to really fit in this crazy world they unleashed.  Campy tropes and movie mannerisms come out in full effect, and much like the movies of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s,, the cheesy approach really works.  That corny nature not only works for the action and pacing, but the comedy that again works in weird ways.  The Hunt is one of those movies that is overly aggressive for much of the film, but given the theme of the movie that quirky sense of humor starts to come out and wind up being funny when all is revealed.  In addition, the brilliant change in the movie’s presentation of the story opens up a sort of mystery as to what is the true bizarre source of the film.  By putting out so many questions and keeping that air of mystery keeps you intrigued as to how deep the rabbit hole of hunting goes, leading to again a more engaging tale.  An added bonus, the movie ends up having few slow parts to go with it too, with the pace, time span, and weird mystery leading to few drawn, out conversation heavy moments.  When all of these moments start finally converging at the end, the climactic finish really feels climactic as the ending sequences unleash the torrent of action goodness you were looking for in this thriller.  It pulls the pieces together, reveals much of the secrets, and just finishes in the manner you’ve come to both expect and not expect, just like this movie says it would and keeps that weird energy going all the way.  When pulling all this together, the movie’s artistic satire on political division, typical human responses to just about everything, and sort of the daydreaming fantasies of how some of this drama could be resolved.

 

As I have said before though, these left field flicks are not afraid to cross the lines and sometimes it’s a little too much for this reviewer.  While not the worst breaking of one of my rules, the film did hit one of my no-nos that affected me a bit more than I care to admit.  Fortunately, it was short lived, but still a slight rewrite could have fit with the scheme of the film and been a little better for me.  However, past that, the movies focus on crude language and threats occasionally got into the lazy writing arena that again is more annoying than creative for me to see.  Past these two though, the movie’s flaws that really stood out started with the opening sequence.  Upon the start, the movie throws some odd curveballs that made me start to hate it and walk out.  A very rapid introduction, and some rather crappy character development left me feeling like I had been cheated by the trailers again, and was left with a shock culture film that did little more.  Fortunately, the movie worked the story better, but the character development did not improve much past two characters… which stunk with the potential it had.  I would have liked a little more sustenance behind the characters, but doing that would have shattered the illusion of comedy they were going for.  This brings me to my next point, the silliness of the film.  While clever, witty, original, and artistic, the over aggressive comedy of the film may have also been a slight downfall in terms of the story/character development.  By taking this ridiculously campy focus, so much else was crammed to fit this scheme that I felt it got a little too forced at times.  Yet I will have to admit I’ll take the forced comedy over the forced politics that this movie does.  While artistic and wholly satisfying to see at the end, the very dramatic, politically charged dialogue hit a nerve, primarily in how much I dislike social media ranting.  The movie crossed the territory at times, and though pointed out how ridiculous things could be… the movie sometimes got a little too preaching of political agendas that were not fun.

 

The VERDICT:

         The movie certainly surprised me in how fun it was as the first act opened up too much better components that were hidden by the trailers.  It was campy and original, adding some nice surprise and  to create an engaging and fast paced film with an ever-changing premise.  Most things flowed naturally, and the underlying mystery of what pulled everything together and why kept me engaged in the film to get to that fitting end.  An exciting climax and the brilliant poking at the ridiculousness of our extreme society tendencies further wraps this odd piece with a casing of fun ridiculousness that will be remembered.  Yet, this is not going to be a hit for those too hooked on the limited violence and straight and narrow tale presentation.  The Hunt has a lot of times stepping over the line and if you are sensitive to that stuff, you may be blinded from the smarter things this movie has.  I implore you not to walk out of the opening sequence despite the chaotic, simplistic, nightmare it starts out as. Yet, be ready for some over silly moments, lackluster character development, and very in your face political components to raid your ears. If you can’ handle these annoying trends that seem to continue to grow and infest entertainment, you need to stay away. However, if you can enjoy that wit and see the bigger pictures and components, you’ll be in good shape to enjoy this film and can recommend hitting this one up in theaters. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Horror/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall:  7.0

The Way Back To Realistic Drama

           The Way Back Poster

 

Sports movies, they take on all sorts of shapes, sizes, and budgets, as studios try to tell inspiring stories through the world of athletics.  Tonight, the man of many faces and struggles, is recruited to help bring that face up to hopefully inspire millions to overcome the obstacles life throws at them.  Yet, in the modern age, balancing that budget and handling the politics gets in the way of execution of the movies and with trailers being master edit pieces one can only wonder what is in store.  So I’m going to do my best to give you my thoughts as I review:

 

Movie:  The Way Back (2020)

 

Director:

Gavin O’Connor

Writers:

Brad Ingelsby (screenplay), Gavin O’Connor

Stars:

Ben AffleckJanina GavankarMichaela Watkins

 

 

LIKES:

  • Inspirational Tale
  • Realism
  • Piano Work
  • Seeing Influence At Times
  • Affleck’s Acting

 

DISLIKES:

  • Disjointed Plot Elements
  • The Realism at Times
  • The Pacing Of the Movie
  • The Other Characters
  • The Lack of Movie Heart At Times
  • The Masking Of A Sports Movie

 

 

Summary:

Inspirational tales can be seen even in the simplest actions/speeches (just look at social media tales) and in a big screen adaptation, The Way Back accomplishes the goal.  Jack’s (Affleck) story is one that many people suffer from in the form of PTSD being handled by booze, and those men and women who have to work to find the light.  It’s a convincing performance that takes the realism of life and layers it thick into the film at hand with simple, direct dialogue and scenes that show that struggle.  An engaging piano score in the back leads to helping add on to the struggles of someone dealing with personal struggles, not really as a major orchestra or pop hit playing, but instead simplistic pieces that dwindle in the background.  The combination of these elements, alongside some grey camera filters, helps put you in the mindset of coping with trauma, and potentially finding the healthier means to get better and move from the incident.  I enjoyed the results, by seeing some of the players’ lives change, subtle changes in character that gradually got better, and the potential foreshadowing it brought (again goes with the realism).  Yet, the biggest like is the acting from Affleck himself.  As the central, and pretty much sole focus of the movie, Affleck takes his personal struggles and gives you a very good performance.  It’s not an original role, it’s not a massive role, it’s not even an Oscar role, but it’s a realistic figure that you can relate to in some form or manner.  Seeing the downfall, the remorse, the suffering in his face slowly change depending on the moment is a strong display of his acting skills to make this sort of adaptation of his life.  If you like realistic characters like this, who aren’t flashy or dramatically designed, you should be okay with this film.

 

   Yet, the trailers have not done this movie justice in how they are selling it, which is going to be the core of my dislikes for this movie.  It starts with the plot elements, The Way Back sort of crams a lot of life events and stories into 1.5 hours and watching this I felt it’s very rushed components.  The side stories that try to integrate Affleck’s characters are not very detailed or integrated, as they help add key moments to drive Jack’s life.  Unlike other movies like Hoosiers and Remember the Titans, the Way Back really drops the ball in the big picture aspect, choosing to hover around the gravity of Affleck’s character.  Realistic and potentially artistic mindset of a PTSD patient aside, the realism actually took away from this movie for me at times in how it limited not only the story, but the other pieces of the film.  First, the pacing.  The Way Back is not the most even paced film with slow moments taking reign in between big peaks of excitement.  While it is not the slowest movie for me, the consistent blandness does not make for the most entertaining film, relying on you the audience member to appreciate the realism at hand.  Second is the other characters of the film.  Having to do more with focusing one character than the others, the film fails to really make the other characters a worthwhile investment.  It feels like the Mighty Ducks film when we are just looking at Bombay alone, rather than having the team interact with him and drive him to be better.  As such, outside of some funny moments and a few grains to show what Jack’s actions sewed, the rest of the cast gets sidelined to focus on the issues at hands.  Now again, this realism is important for the artistic style, but the trailers sort of promised the magical sports treatment that I do rather enjoy seeing.  That’s where point three comes in is the lack of movie heart/magic that these films have come to enjoy.  Think back to your favorite moments of Remember The Titans, Hoosiers, or Miracle, those goose bump raising sequences where magic, planning, and over dramatization get you into the full energy of the movie and goes the extra mile.  That’s absent in this film, which was disappointing given how they could have designed some of the recovery moments with Affleck and the other characters.  Yet, the lack of magic is missed the most in the sports scenes.  I’m a victim of loving those overdone sequences of the good guys fighting the goliaths, with creative plays, dialogue to spur on the competitors, and the energy of being part of that fight.  Instead, this movie just shows brief clips of the players doing typical drills/shooting only to stop and show the score of the game in a rather boring and disappointing montage.  Even the big game sort of drops the ball, finally showing a little more of the game, but still not in the manner that other sports film icons have done.  It leads to again an offset pace and rather boring climax, bogged down again by the focus on one character.  That was the biggest disappointment is not integrating the sports part of his life with the personal and thus the disconnecting continued to shine through.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Way Back proves you can make a movie portraying pertinent issues with sports practice and not have the Hollywood effects drown it out.  You just have to make sure you are expecting it.  This film succeeds in the realism of portraying one man struggling to find his way back from a terrible time in life, but through work, patience, and support can get better.  It accomplishes the inspirational story in a calmer manner and using the central focus of Affleck, whose acting brings this role to life, you will be pleased with the story presented.  Yet, if you go in here looking for another sports film integrated with life lessons… you may disappointed.  So many disjointed side plots get the realistic treatment of being haphazardly integrated and not fully fleshed out.  It leads to uneven pacing for me, alongside underutilized secondary characters and the relationships that could have formed with the central character.  The realism also seems to take the entertainment magic away, especially when it comes to the sports moments that you might be coming to see.  Don’t expect drawn out games and those heroic moments that you’ve become accustomed to my friends, because they are not here.  As such, the final thing is that the inspirational tale is here for this film, but the problem is other movies have done this better like Remember the Titans, Miracle, and Hoosiers.  Given all this though, if you want realistic acting and a tale of succeeding, then this guy suggests a visit to the theater, but otherwise hold out for home viewing on this one.

 

My Scores are:

 

Drama/Sport:  7.0

Movie Overall: 5.5