Fantastic Fun Ferd The Whole Family!

Ferdinand

 

In the shadow of the epic saga, there lies an animated field where flowers grow, birds sing, and bulls romp around smelling the fauna.  No, I’m not drunk, I’m talking about Ferdinand the Bull, the latest kid’s animated feature to stamped on to the silver screen. Blue Skies Studio has been advertising this film like crazy, in hopes of nabbing the younger audience this weekend.  Yet with Disney knocking these films out of the park is there any hope for the other studios to put out quality work?  Robbie K here happy to answer that question, as we hit yet another Robbie’s movie review.

 

 

LIKES:

 

Animation: It’s an animated movie and as such you want the animation to be well good.  While not the most realistic looking film to drop into our laps, Ferdinand still has a wonderful style that brings the world to life.  The cartoony looks of the character, a common theme in Blue Sky production, adds to the fun of the film, and will be a welcoming sight to your little ones.  The world has dynamic shades of color to mirror the tone of the setting, and a majority of it explodes to life in a manner that kid’s movies only can. And of course… the anthropomorphized animals move beautifully in all aspects from the simple act of speaking to even break dancing. 

 

Voice work:  In an animated work, it’s up to the voice work to also bring the characters to life and Ferdinand accomplishes this goal quite well.  John Cena is surprisingly a great voice actor, bringing some range in his emotional spectrum I didn’t quite expect from the gigantic tower of a man. Kate McKinnon in all her glory, is the comedic punch to the film with a very energetic delivery that gets toned down a few times to roll her character back in serious mode.  Of course the other supporting voices lend their roles well with Anthony Anderson, Peyton Manning, Gina Rodriguez, and Gabriel Iglesias all contributing to the fun at hand in their own special way, and yes fluffy was my favorite. And as an added bonus, most of the characters have decent screen time, meaning you don’t get shortsighted like many films do.

 

The Fun:  This movie is exactly what the advertisements promise, a fun, simplistic adventure that brings a lot of enjoyment to the screen.  Ferdinand’s antics are simply cute, like a big puppy trapped in a big body that is awkward and klutzy. What starts as simplistic slapstick though soon evolves, recruiting some rather witty jokes, a poke at some cinema references, and a dance off that will be legendary on YouTube for some time.  All these little gestures combine to maximize the laughs, and while much of this is geared towards kids, there are some jokes that adults will appreciate.

 

The emotions:  While this movie is certainly more on the humorous side, it’s also got a great delivery to tug at the heart strings.  Ferdinand’s moral code is inspiring, his perspective of love, loyalty, friendship, and courage fantastically told in the camera work and cinematic score.  I didn’t tear up, but the things the digital bull did carved a smile on my face for a majority of the movie.  It’s nice to see such balance in the film.

 

DISLIKES:

 

A little too simplistic:  One thing that is difficult to compete with Disney is their unique worlds and ideas they build.  Ferdinand, despite being fun, is not that unique of an environment compared to the magic of Walt and is lacking that creative spark that has become famous in modern animation.  In addition, the movie doesn’t have the most complicated twists to the mix, which works for the younger audience, but could have added a little more pep to the step.

 

McKinnon’s jokes:  While McKinnon is a fantastic voice actor and infuses energy into the mix, there are times where she goes a little too far in her joking.  The writer’s capitalized on her SNL talents, but sadly they went a little too far.  Kate’s character Lupe is very sporadic, extremely silly, and at times very irritating.  Imagine a drunk toddler with an ADD twist, and you’ll get a good idea of what her character is like, including regurgitation and memory lapse for the whole family.  Yes, there are those golden moments where it works, but for me, well Lupe’s over trying was a downfall for me in the long run.  Thank goodness for those grounding moments, because without them… well I wouldn’t have been pulling for them.

 

More hedgehogs:  Final small dislike, wanted more hedgehog power to bring up the magic.  They were my favorite characters of the bunch, and I would have liked to see them shine a little more.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Ferdinand is fun, wholesome, family entertainment that will leave you with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.  With great animation and voice work to guide the way, this movie will be a fantastic trip for you and the whole family. Despite the fun to be had though, it still needs some tweaking in a few areas to really bring out the masterpiece.  In comparison to a Disney film, it has a lot of work to catch up on, but most families should not mind with the fun adventure to be had.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Yeah, I can say it would be, especially for a nice holiday church outing. 

 

My scores:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  8.0

Movie Overall  6.5-7.0

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The Story Is Big On This One

Star Wars 8

 

Well it’s finally here!  The epic movie that television has bombarded us with for the last three months has finally appeared from light speed to grace us with another epic installment, or so we hope.  Episode 8 has held the promise of the return of story telling, matching the epic lore of the originals told to hopefully breathe life in a series that has struggled.  Rumors even say it surpasses Empire Strikes Back, the movie that holds the throne of Star Wars quality.  Can this be true?  Has the Force grown strong once more?  Robbie K here to shed light on the rumors and hopefully provide some wisdom.  Get Started, Let’s!

 

LIKES:

 

The Cinematography:  My wise friends stated right off that this movie may be the best filmed of the bunch.  The Last Jedi is a beautiful example of camera work meeting state of the art technology, helping bring the world to life with spectacular visuals.  The various angles keep you engrossed in all the details, and paints a very dynamic battleground to which our cast fights in.  And unlike episode 7, the sound score is back to Williams’ creative work, a blend of old and new that fits into the scene and adds the life to an already vibrant setting.

 

The Acting:  A large cast of characters, requires acting to bring them to life, and the Last Jedi has recruited a phenomenal crew to accomplish this goal.  I can’t go into great details, but here we go.  Mark Hamill brings the fire back into Luke Skywalker with both classic and old Luke style clashing into a complex character. Daisy Ridley takes the simplistic Rey from last time and unleashes her character in full “force” expanding her into a fantastic character that is full of spunk.  Carrie Fisher another victory when on screen, that has the vim and vigor of the wizened princess we loved.  Newcomers Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran were welcomed additions to the cast.  Dern’s chameleon like abilities continue to craft respectable and honorable characters that fit well in Leia’s legacy, with a nice edge to keep things tense.  Tran on the other hand is the hopeful character, that has nice delivery of inspirational dialogue, with a dab of rebellion on the side.  Everyone worked quite well and I wish I had more time to compliment everyone, but trust me it’s good.

 

The Comedy:  A nice quality to have, the comedy in this movie is a nice relief to the darker atmosphere on this side of the galaxy.  The Last Jedi’s writing is a combination of good timing and wit, that beats in time with all the characters.  The ever changing ploys also keeps things fun to watch and had my mentor and I guffawing through much of the movie.

 

The Storytelling:  Perhaps the strongest aspect of the Last Jedi is the presentation in terms of plot in this movie.  Director Rian Johnson dug deep into the lore and ignited it in full form in installment eight, bringing with it rich details that answered much of our questions.  Much of the tale is character development, pushing them hard to expand upon their hastened roles of seven into more complete soldiers to partake this journey with.  The three tales were balanced quite well, spaced out to keep things relevant and each connecting to the big plot as a whole, much like the classic tales were in. These tales are not only adventurous, but filled with strong lessons that this series is famous for preaching.  And yet the biggest part of this I like are the twists integrated in this film.  Many surprises lie in store for this movie, and many of them fit nicely to take the story deeper down the dark hole.  These surprises are perhaps the most engaging parts of the movie, the likes of which weren’t expected much like Empire.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Salvaged Plots:  Despite the strengths I have mentioned in the plot, this modern trilogy still has issues with being too close to the classic series.  A blend of episodes five and six, much of this film is a retelling of those classic arcs that is a little disappointing on their dependence to the old and not trying out new elements. At least it is executed, well right?

Unnecessary Tangent:  One of the story points almost didn’t feel needed, or at least one section of the tangent wasn’t that big of a hit for me.  The world of Canto Bight makes statements, has a connecting point, and a memorable scene, but this small adventure felt out of place in the grand design.  It will bring merchandise opportunities, one of which is a book, but this world didn’t hold much value to me outside of a few laughs and some cool beasts.  Perhaps a little more struggle, or intensity could have redeemed it for me, though it still isn’t too bad for me.

 

Suspension of reality:  I get it, it’s Star Wars and that is Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  Still, there has to be some consistency in regards to how you are going to ignore the physics of real life and the lore that came before.  There are moments you will roll your eyes at in terms of the inabilities of the technology, or how uneven the skills seem to develop.  While we could ignore these if they were minor, the movie’s key situation relied on this suspension and it was a little too big of a stretch for me.

 

The Action:  Star Wars is a series that relies on action to pick things up and make add the fire that makes the story shine like the stars.  With a rather intense start, Last Jedi had potential, but soon that potential was lost to the void.  Much of this movie is dialogue, development, and connections, and with it one of the slower paces of the series.  Yes, there were a few moments to help pick up the pace, but much of this was short lives or lacking that laser packing punch I loved in the first installments.  Say what you want about the prequels, but they had some incredible fight scenes that livened things up and the Last Jedi really needed this element for me.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Last Jedi is indeed proof that the universe still has life left in the void of the galaxy Lucas created.  It’s got emotion! It’s got character development!  It’s got twists!  All of this is important in developing characters and making them fly off the screen.  Throw in great acting and beautiful cinematography and you have a really, well done film.  Yet, this generation still is not escaping the salvaging of the classic plot points, while their unique aspects need a little tweaking in terms of relevance.  However, the biggest improvement has got to be the action, working to bring the ship to ship combat back to full strength, and really getting those lightsaber battles back up to snuff.  Still, it’s a fantastic film to catch in theaters and definitely a worthy installment to Lucas’s world.

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

No Justice In This Crime/Drama

Roman

 

The legendary Denzel Washington is associated with so many legendary roles that will forever live in the hearts of millions.  And like many people, when I see he a movie of his about to release, I get excited I’m in store for another masterpiece.  Enter Roman J. Israel Esq, a movie that from the trailers, held potential to be an interesting biography of a powerful legal, pro-action character that was certain to stir up trouble.  Will it be powerfully emotional to fill your eyes to the brim with tears, or something else?  Robbie K here to give you some insight into yet another movie this holiday season, let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

The Message: Never say that a Denzel movie doesn’t deliver a powerful punch in the emotional level.  Roman J. Israel Esq, is another visual tribute to the topic of truth, honor, and the moral obligations of justice.  The whole movie portrays the struggle of holding on to your beliefs vs. diving into the acceptable flow the public/society deems normal.  We all have breaking points that push us into new areas and test our fortitude, the question is where does one cross the line and how far do they leap over it.  Roman’s tale shows the challenge quite well and more so what can happen when pushes the boundaries too far.  It will get you thinking and perhaps question your own philosophies, assuming you can get past the other parts of this movie.

 

The Acting…kind of:  Denzel still has his acting skills down pat. He portrays the awkward character quite well, capturing the serious thoughts, the quirky mannerisms, and even the speech patterns necessary for portraying the mind within.  Even more impressive though, is how well he acts out the struggles of the high stakes choices that bear heavy on his mind.  At times, one can feel the weight of the decisions bearing down on them, the anxiety of making the wrong choice radiating out in the sequences.  His supporting cast helps open up more dilemmas to tax him, but can’t say they have the most involvement in the town.

 

The Music:  The soundtrack is not the most toe tapping number, but one can appreciate the soul behind the songs selected for this movie.  There selections were choice representations of the tone of the scene, sort of artistically symbolizing Rowan’s mood and his answer to the current obstacles that plague him.  It’s a dynamic track list that constantly changes between genres, and fits so well into much of the movie, while perhaps bringing back some nostalgia for other fans.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The weaker character moments:  Despite all the quarks Denzel got, his character isn’t the most engaging or magical of the roles he has played.  Past the morals he boasts, Roman just doesn’t have a lot to him.  He was a fairly flat character, with disinterest seeming to ooze from Denzel during much of the performance, almost like he had to really push himself to play the part.  I had a hard time caring about him, the potential the trailers building failing to live up as Roman continued to just shrug more and more of the qualities I looked for.  A redeeming moment at the end got the steam going, but by then it was too late and the movie was over. It also doesn’t help that the supporting character actors don’t seem too excited in their roles, and are just as mundane as some of Roman’s personality.  The characters just aren’t engaged in the tale, and many aren’t utilized to their full potential.

 

Boring:  The emotional trials are strong, the food for thought even more of a rewarding experience, but did the movie have to be so dull?  While I never expected this film to be an action packed, guns blazing tale, I certainly didn’t expect the movie to lack so much suspense.  The plot didn’t have enough edge, there wasn’t enough action or peaceful protest, and the absence of any real villain just led to a very lackluster tale.  I had to fight sleep a couple of times in this movie, though it could be due to the long work day, but a Denzel Movie is usually more charged than what I was presented.  Which brings me to my next dislike…

 

Ambiguous:  The movie’s biggest problem for me was how aimless the plot was.  The writers didn’t seem to figure out which way they wanted to take the film, is a piece about being an activist, is it a biography, is it a crime/drama?  I couldn’t quite figure out the myself, but they settled on a little bit of everything, but didn’t hit the high-quality components of the genres.  The film could have used more crime/mystery to add the suspense, perhaps with a theme surrounding the hot political issues they try to cover, all showing the skills of the whomever Roman represented.  I don’t fell many will enjoy the approach they took, and the ambiguous story telling that was just stale and sad than anything else.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            It held such potential, but Roman Israel Esq, just couldn’t find its ground in the grand scheme of things. Denzel tried to do the heavy lifting, and accomplishes the messages of balancing morals, but outside of that lacks any big sustenance to him.  In addition, the boring pace, weaker character interactions, and ambiguous plots, the movie just fails to provide the very justice it wanted to serve.  Sad to see the legendary actor have a weaker film, but this reviewer encourages you to skip this movie and focus on the treasures that have already come out for your theater viewing pleasure, all while hoping Denzel will have another Oscar worthy film in the future. 

 

My scores:

 

Crime/Drama:  6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

BaHumbug!

Invented Christmas

 

Christmas gets started way too early for me most years, but nevertheless the holiday themed movies are happy to take to the masses in hopes of getting the spirit going.  Yet the definition of the modern Christmas we celebrate can be traced to legendary author Charles Dickens who made the timeless classic A Christmas Carol.  Such an epic story is stemmed in the spirit of giving, hope, and redemption, a symbol that we aspire to hit and often not succeed.  Where did the inspiration come from though? How did he get the ideas?  I don’t know, but the movie I’m reviewing tonight attempts to answer that question in an entertaining manner.  Robbie K here sharing his opinions on The Man Who Invented Christmas starring Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer.

 

LIKES:

 

The World:  If you read my reviews, you know I’m a big fan of world building and settings.  The Man Who Invented Christmas recreates the nostalgic world of 19th century London and all the class that once inhabited the world.  Seeing the society of the times reemerge from the London fog brought a homey feeling to me, invoking the beginnings of the Christmas season in a world that once treated as a minor holiday.  The attention to detail is astonishing, primarily in all the chaotic organization that was Dickens’ life, primarily the study to where he pondered all his works.  It is this factor that will pull you into the movie as the stage continues to unfold.

 

Clever Presentation:  When attempting to answer how Charles got his motivation and do it in an entertaining manner, the team has to think outside the box for this one. The Man Who Invented Christmas managed to do this quite well in most manners, primarily in rendering his thoughts as personified beings, capable of interacting with him.  His conversations with the characters is a creative representation of the stresses of his mind and how they influence the progression of the story.  And very much like a scene out of Slum Dog Millionaire, the movie was able to also bring his supposed history into the mix to also motivate moments of the book.  Much of it was predictable, but it was a nice homage to his life that filled in the gaps I had forgotten.

 

The Acting:  By far the best element for me though is the acting held in this movie.  The secondary characters do their part in serving as obstacles, motivations, and support for Dickens himself, especially his best friend and his father.  Yet, the main piece to watch are the characters of Scrooge and Dickens himself.  Christopher Plummer still has life within his older bones, playing the pompous Englishman to the letter.  He captured all the quips, jabs, and sarcasm of the character and managed to get that bitter attitude toward life.  Yet, Plummer also got the humorous part of the role down pat, almost like a rival/mentor showing tough love to accomplish the task. As for Stevens, his portrayal of the talented writer with the obsession for perfection was fantastic.  Stevens managed to take the dual role of Charles Dickens and personify the internal struggle that was his life as he pursued his muse of an epic story. All the anger, frustration, and joy were quite balanced in this movie, hooking me into his life and keeping me in my seat until the final sequence faded to black.

 

DISLIKES:

Scene Placement:  The movie does a nice job filling in the gaps, but at times I didn’t enjoy the placement of the scenes.  Mainly the flashback scenes, much of Dickens’ past was scattered through this movie, dropped at odd moments that offset the momentum of the sequence. Some of these moments could have been better delivered at earlier moments, and may have minimized the confusion of why he was so angry.  Not sure whose direction it was to place things in this order, but it didn’t work for me at times.

 

Background Characters:  As you watch his story progress, you get to see new characters emerge as his world starts to motivate him to write.  Yet unlike Scrooge, with whom he constantly interacts with, many of the other characters are just background bodies who smile, laugh, and kind of look odd.  Sure, I understand the personification of what they mean during his writer’s block and how they were connected to his central character, but why did they remain constantly in the background?  I don’t have those answers, but it was kind of odd having them randomly walking around with him and doing little past that.  Sorry guys, not a fan of limited use characters.

 

The diluted emotion:  I expected the movie about the guy who revolutionized Christmas to be a little more emotionally charged.  Sadly, this film didn’t quite pack the holiday joy and magic that his tale was able to elicit long ago when I watched the Muppet version long ago. While inspirational, I didn’t get overwhelmed with feelings that made me embrace the holiday season.  I felt this was due to some of the movie magic being left out of the movie, giving it that realistic twist, but unfortunately drying up the specialness those hokey, overdramatic effects bring to the table.  This tale would have benefitted from a page in the Hallmark channel book in terms of motivating you to inherit the spirit of Christmas.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Man Who Invented Christmas is an immersive film that uses setting, presentation, and incredible acting to bring the 19th century to life.  Despite all the cool insights into Dickens’ life though, this movie lacks cinematic magic, logical use of characters, and pacing that is important in films.  This movie could have done well on a television release, or streaming movie rather than a theater presentation.  It does hold potential for a church outing, but this reviewer recommends holding out until it comes to home viewing.

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Comedy/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Coco will have you scream Ayeeee yeeeeee Yi Haha! Powerful Music To Bring To Live Culture

Coco

 

Thanksgiving, the holiday of turkey, football, preparation for materialistic shopping, and…Disney.  If you are an avid movie goer, you know the mega corporation is all about capitalizing on the holiday with one of their famous animation movies.  This year is no different, with Walt Disney Animation Studios taking a step back and allowing Pixar to come in with another big hit to sweep best picture category at the Oscars.  Tonight, yours truly hits the theater to scope out Coco, the Hispanic story of music, family, and the dead.  Robbie K here with another review, let us get started.

 

LIKES:

 

The Animation:  Pixar/Disney are the kings of animation, and they have proven themselves again in this CGI masterpiece. Coco’s characters are dynamic, presented in so many forms that give the family a spectrum of characters.  Despite a majority of the cast looking carbon copied version of skeletons, Pixar managed to inject subtle differences to make primary and secondary characters stand out.  The living members also got the anatomy altered as well, going so far to represent all stage of life (i.e. old and senile, young and energetic, and even pregnant).  Past designs, the movement itself is incredibly detailed. The subtle gestures in walking/running, the accurate capture of facial gestures for conversation, and more importantly the incredible finger motions of Miguel and cast playing the guitar.  A statement of Pixar having incredible attention to detail wasn’t kidding, because this thing was gorgeous.

 

Spirit animals:  One stand out feature of this movie are the cool spirt animals that inhabit the land of the undead.  The flying jaguar, while one of the most outstanding displays, is only the tip of the iceberg, and these creatures are sprawled out in the world.  I found it cool to see the creativity of blending common animals into a piñata like creation, each feature designed to add finesse and flare to mix and represent the culture of Mexico.

 

The Culture: Disney movies always have a way of capturing an element of the real world.  Coco’s theme is all about the Mexican culture and the various customs that we as viewers only have an inkling of understanding.  Pixar managed to bring that culture to life not only in design, but in the story, they have developed in this tale. Their belief in the afterlife is the foundation this tale is built on, allowing other things like soap operas, fiestas, food, and the western film culture.  And within all these elements are the important customs of family, the passion of music, and the pursuit of dreams through hard work All of these are beautifully integrated into the mix, occasionally crossing into cheesy territory, to craft a very stirring tale. 

 

The Music: By far the biggest element for me though, has to be the music of Coco.  Disney is always spectacular with their soundtracks, but Coco stands out to me as one of the more unique sets of music to come out of the studio.  Instead of grandiose symphonies, or Oscar designed symphonies, Coco’s music is all about representing the musical culture of Mexico.  Each song builds around the acoustic guitar as the primary instrument in its calm, yet vibrant strings.  Such a simple instrument packs an emotional kick, especially once the supporting instruments and the voice bellow out to unleash the pent-up emotion of our characters.  The songs build into the story, and are used as the primary tools for accomplishing Miguel’s goals and represents a variety of artistic styles this culture has.  It’s dynamic, it’s fun, and its relevant to the story, all big points in this reviewer’s eyes.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The opening short: While separate, the opening number is still part of the show. Olaf’s frozen adventure, while cute, was just another compilation of short songs to refresh Disney’s cash cow for the last few years.  Sure, some of the songs are powerful (the ending in particular), and the message tugs at my strings, but it lacked a lot of sustenance for just more songs.  Thank goodness Coco’s music redeemed this quality.

 

More with the creatures:  I like the spirit animals, I just didn’t like how much of a background they were.  With such cool concepts, you think that Disney would have found a way to capitalize on these monsters’ involvement in the world whether it be searching for clues, chasing our heroes, or having more bang in the final setting.  Even without their integration, the studio downplayed their powers a bit, showing inconsistencies with the potential they developed in these creatures.

 

Lackluster Excitement:  Thinking back to Pixar’s previous works, there are usually those edge on the seat moments that have you questioning the fate of the heroes (Toy Story, Incredibles, even Cars).  Coco not so much for me.  The movie stays pretty safe, with predictable antics, calm action scenes, and a final obstacle that didn’t do much for me in the suspense role. There seemed to be little hindrance to our character’s journey, and in many cases that hindered the development we could have seen.  This film blows the cultural relevance out of the water, yet it still missed its potential for a complete package without the action.

 

Many Book of Life elements:  This movie stands out on its own in so many concepts and the songs are much more original.  Yet, there is a lot of this movie based off of Book of Life, and in many cases less vibrant and unique than the predecessorIn my opinion, I felt the Book of Life was the more exciting of the two tales and I like this design more than the scale this one took.  Still, Coco holds a lot of finesse that the Book failed to have.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Coco is certainly one of the more culturally relevant Pixar movies to come out of the studio.  It’s design and animation are gorgeous, the creativity is on point, and so much of it is packed with tasteful portrayals of this beautiful culture.  Yet, it still has a few shortcomings for me to make it a perfect movie.  They dropped some of the potential they built up and the excitement element could have been amped up with more struggles as well.  When all is said and done though, Coco is by far one of the better films to hit the theaters this November and I strongly encourage many to flood the theaters and scope it out.  And for those with little ones obsessed with Frozen, this movie is only going to be better for them.

 

My scores:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.5

The Message and Family Fun Shine Bright! Yet Would Have Been Better Direct Release

The Star

 

The spirit of Christmas a common theme of movie around this time of year trying to teach us the main reason we get a vacation and give gifts in December.  And about every five years, we get the retelling of the first Christmas that brought with it hope, grace, and salvation from how horrible of people we are.  This weekend that retelling comes through again, but this time from the perspective of the animals and what they went through that fateful night.  Robbie K here with a review on the Star, an animated movie that hopes to shine bright in this weekend of big releases.  What’s in store?  Read on to find out my friends!

 

LIKES:

Good animation:  With the age of computers, you expect fluid animation, and the Star doesn’t disappoint.  The animal movements are excellent examples of anatomical study, capturing the foot, neck, muzzle, or whatever other body part you want your animal to move in an accurate manner.  In addition, the designers do a nice job of anthropomorphizing the animals as well, creating a hybrid of personalities that are fun to watch.  And while your either admiring, or ignoring the animation, you can be sure that your little one will be stoked to see the characters clumsy antics and slapstick humor result in a laughable adventure with fluid details.

 

The Voice Acting:  While acting in full form is a highly challenging task to try to accomplish, there is something to be said about the art of voice acting.  The assembled cast gets two thumbs up for me in their ability to bring the simplistic animal roles to life with semi-memorable characters.  There are too many characters to name, but Steven Yeun as the main character carried a heavy load as the adventurous, yet stubborn donkey Bo who was a fun character to watch.  Keegan-Michael Key was another welcome addition to the cast, his solid comedic delivery perfect for the comical character of Dave the Dove whose quips have been diluted down for the kid friendly atmosphere of this movie.  However, my favorite character was the camel Felix, Tracy Morgan who had the most zany, crazy, and comedic punch of the whole movie with his sarcasm and sheer idiocy. All in all, they do their parts well, and create that wholesome family feeling.

 

Artistic Tale of Christmas:  When it comes to religious and kid’s movie, it can be difficult to find the balance that lays between cheesy, annoying, and of overzealous religious zeal.  Fortunately, the Star was able to accomplish this goal to the point that it delivers the manner in a heartfelt way without falling into Hallmark sappiness territory.  The Star maintains its cute, slapstick tones throughout the whole movie up to the predictable ending that we all know is coming.  And when that climax occurs, it somehow delivers the powerful message and keeps things fun, which isn’t easy given the imbalance that plagues the cinematic world.  Nevertheless, this movie has an art to its delivery, which nets points in my book.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Character Use:  The Star is another example of jumping the gun and hiring too many actors for a limited cast.  While there are a few characters, Bo, Dave, and the wolves, who get an adequate amount of screen time on camera, many of the characters are reduced to unnecessary cameos that serve little purpose.  The Field Mouse, the random goat, even the bad king himself are just expensive shout outs that could have been used towards developing a stronger story.  Hollywood may be doing favors for the friends, but this reviewer found much of the characters a waste of time.

 

The story: Before you shout blasphemy towards me, I don’t hate the first Christmas story, far from it.  What I mean in this dislike is how bare the story felt in this telling. It’s one geared towards kids, doing little to curtail the story to adults, which limits its entertainment purposes for a variety of people. Yes, I get it, it’s a kid’s movie, but think of how well Pixar can cater to both audiences and get the job done.  The Star’s message is great, the package is cute, but it’s limited in the audience members it can truly entertain. 

 

The Animation:  Other major studios know that every detail is important in animation.  While Bo and the main characters movements look great, the rest of the characters (primarily the secondary background characters) walk stiff or are limited in their movements.  While a minor dislike to some, this reviewer has developed an eye for world building, and the Star kind of failed on that level for me. Biblical times may not have been the mega city behemoths of the modern world, but I’m pretty sure it had more splendor than this movie made it out to be.  The Star seemed to cut costs on this movie where it could, unfortunately making the world succumb to characters caught in mundane worlds.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Star is cute, it’s spiritual, and it is one of the most family friendly movies of the entire year to bring your little ones too.  With good primary animation, voice acting that is energetic and fun presentation, this is a Christmas story I can get on board with.  However, this studio dropped the ball on using their characters and world building, cutting corners to give a simplistic presentation that is dull compared to Disney’s worlds.  In addition, the limited audience entertainment faction is also a strike against a tale that held much potential.  The Star is good for a church group to go to, but it’s place would have been better in a direct release film in my opinion, instead of a costly theater run.

 

My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall: 5.5-6.0

“Wonder”full Message And Acting:

Wonder

 

When people with differences come into our world, most treat them differently often in ways that hurt their feelings.  As often represented in films though, it’s these different individuals who often change the world and make it better.  This is the theme of yet another book turned movie, entitled Wonder, centering on a boy named Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) who after numerous surgeries looks a little different from the physical scoring. Upon his debut in high school, Auggie is introduced to the world he has hidden from, impacting it more than he ever imagined. Robbie K back with another review on Wonder!

 

LIKES:

 

Casting: Another example that a great cast can pull out some awesome work, Wonder’s assortment of actors and actresses bring this tale to life.  Tremblay himself has the victimized role down well, controlling his emotions and unleashing them in a realistic manner of a kid tortured by cruelty of others. His energy is infective and bleeds not only into the other kids, but into the audience on his journey of growth. The central role of the movie, Tremblay manages to connect well with his co-actors, and further strengthening their chemistry. Julia Roberts, no surprise, brings her magic to the screen, charging the movie with that intensity and control that the maternal role requires. Izabela Vidovic has some emotional charge to her role, a balance of anger, confusion, and excitement that breaks some of the tension this movie has.  And Owen Wilson, though not as involved as you expect, nailed his role with well-delivered comedy that again breaks the tension.

 

Pace is good:  For a movie all about drama, this movie moves at a good pace to keep the adventure entertaining and meaningful.  Wonder has to cover a lot of stories and perspectives established by the book, which meant potential convoluted storytelling and drawn out plot dynamics.  With the exception of a few plots, the team did a great job addressing each character’s story, moving them together at a speed that felt complete, yet didn’t feel like molasses flowing down a hill.  Mix this with all the great comedic devices and challenges, and I felt fully entertained and emotionally fulfilled by the tale at hand.

 

The message: Of course, the biggest thing Wonder has is the message that Auggie and the gang bring in regards to a lot of life qualities.  The importance of family, not judging a book by its cover, and lessons about friendship will ring loud at the presentation this movie brings.  While some of the dialogue is cheesy, with a little over/under playing involved, much of this movie hits you with a strong, hammer blow to crack the stone casing our hearts may dwell in.  The end scene in particular really speaks volumes and had me believe that not everyone is a carbon copy of the rude nature this world breeds.  Wonder’s message is simple, see people for the inside not the outside, and learn how to accept people for their differences.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Sadness:  A good sad scene can really draw a movie together and solidify the emotional punch of the movie.  Unfortunately, Wonder is chock full of depressing moments that can really bum you out in the long run. The bullying aspect is only the start of things, as other family turmoil reveals itself, one will find their mood further going downhill, bumming them out as you wait for something good to happen to this family. If you have a lot of depression on your mind, then do me a solid and steer clear of this movie, or you may find yourself further depressed at the end of the movie.

 

The Loose ends: Wonder’s storytelling is unique in that it tries to culminate a number of the characters and get into their heads.  Sadly, despite getting a nice underlining motif to their behaviors… many of these stories are a little shallower than I expected.  Like a wading pool, a lot of the characters give you a mere 1-2 sentences of their backstory before turning attention back to Auggie.  Others, don’t even get that shot to elaborate their story.  Such one layered storytelling was not only disappointing due to laziness, but also unnecessary for me, when much of their problems were again explained in their interactions with Auggie.  So perhaps not rushed ends, but another example of poor editing choices.

 

The character interruptions:  The group took a gamble mirroring the book and trying to break things into chapters.  However, as mentioned above, these little excerpts weren’t really needed and took away from the momentum of the movie for me. Why did I need to see so many flashbacks in this movie, when a simple dialogue or editing tip could have done this without interrupting the flow of the film?  The answer is… I didn’t, and no matter how unique this shout out to the book is, for a cinema presentation though… this film needed to rethink this option and tie them all together in the more formulaic manner.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Wonder is a beautiful, soulful movie that is all about teaching you important qualities that we should already know.  It feels much like a book in much of its delivery, keeping in time with the novel it is based on, which will most likely please many of the fans.  In addition to the great moral lesson, the pace and casting are the selling points of this movie that will charm your way into your hearts.  The real limitations to this movie are more in the presentation and how much it tried to copy the book, interrupting the momentum of the movie to try to give you a complete picture, but didn’t make it feel necessary to me.  But despite these limitations and sadness, Wonder works on many levels and is the heartwarming family movie of the weekend. 

 

Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.5