Does the Jingle Jangle Equal Christmas Spirit?

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey Poster

            Tis the season for new movies… at least it used to be before the virus hit.  What normally would be a busy Friday night has turned into scarce pickings over streaming and trying to keep up with the idea of specials that these sites are loading out.  Tonight though, I managed to catch the early seasonal film, an attempt to get a Christmas spirit going in hopes your little ones will catch the magic of the holidays.  So, what do I think of the latest direct to stream film?  Please read on to hear my thoughts as I review. 

Movie:  Jingle Jangle:  A Christmas Journey

Director:

 David E. Talbert

Writer:

 David E. Talbert

Stars:

 Forest WhitakerKeegan-Michael KeyHugh Bonneville 

LIKES: 

The Cute/Charm of the movie

The Costumes

The Setting/Effects To make the Setting

The Storytelling CGI at parts

The Messages

The Music

DISLIKES

The Rushed Opening

The Lack of Christmas Energy

The Lack of Suspense

The Story is Weak AT a lot of parts

Too In your Face/Preachy

Summary: 

            I give Talbert and his crew props for crafting a tale that feels much like a children’s novel meant to inspire and ignite the dreams of the young.  Jingle Jangle is a movie with all the trimmings and charm that feels like it came out of Disney or Nick Jr. studios.  Very little darkness, very little dismay, the diluted hard knock lives only act as a means to ignite the spark of hope that this movie carries with it.  The inspiration of hope, creativity, and belief are strong messages in this film and you can be sure those who love their Hallmark and young adult films will get caught up in the aura this movie unleashes.  

            In regards to the manner it tells this story, that is my favorite part at this stage of my life and where I think the movie does things quite well.  Costumes bring you into the Christmas Story vibe as a much more ethnically mixed cast shows off the designs and brings you into world Talbert wants to build.  Settings using stage pieces and CGI take that journey one step forward, but mixing in a bit of fantasy clockwork that the Nutcracker made a few years ago that is intriguing to see.  Regardless the world building is rather impressive, and other movies can be seen as the inspiration for the direction they chose.  Amidst the different acts, a nice telling using clockwork robots is used to fill in the interluding space, again capturing the charm of a Christmas specialty shop I visited when I was younger.  It’s a nice twist in style that I appreciate, though maybe it did get a tad overused..  However, the real wow factor for this movie’s presentation is the songs that come with it.  While not as diverse, Jingle Jangle’s soundtrack reminded me much of The Greatest Showman.  Wailing orchestral music combines with hip hop, funk, and classical to make a toe tapping ordeal with numbers that are both motivating to get up and dance and also emotionally layered as well.  The opening number in particular was one of my favorites, and a middle number as well hit the spot, while others serve to be whacky and entertaining for all ages.  Like many of the modern day musicals, lots of time and resources went into this element, and I believe some story sacrifices were seen to load the 2 hours with as much music as possible.  If that’s your angle, this movie should be number one on your spot this weekend, if not, well read on to hear my limitations with the film. 

            A strong opening that promised magic and a true Christmas adventure, quickly become rushed, musical numbers overshadowing the story and character development at many parts of the movie.  Never did I feel this more than the opening where so much set up was cast into an interlude in order to fast forward to where our younger cast could make a splash so to speak.  It seems during this rushed opening where villains and supporting characters quickly got crammed in and swept aside that the Christmas components also got lost, dropped into the pre spirit visit of Scrooge’s life and not really escaping this until the very end.  The movie sort of diverges from even the Christmas error, instead becoming more towards rival toymakers, greed, and some inventing components similar to Hugo meeting Wall-E’s designs so to speak.  Was it cute?  Yes, quite adorable, but I don’t know if I would call this a Christmas Journey, more than journey for self-growth near the end of the year.  In addition, the suspense and challenges we see in movies (Santa on trial in Miracle on 3rth street, Home Alone’s Kevin defending his home from robbers, or even the Rugrats trying to trap Santa in the chimney) were missing in this film..  A few challenges and test of character, Jingle Jangle trades real development of threat and ingenuity to solve problems for more musical numbers, feel good monologues, and kid friendly slapstick for lack of a better word.  It leads to sort of a haphazard story that is a bit weak for my tastes and loses the collective picture I think we all look for in the seasonal films.  And perhaps the worst of all… it feels like a sappy, political, Facebook post when trying to deliver its messages.  Again inspiration, but I agree too much that it misses the mark of a truly motivational movie for another filler meant to be added to the collection of the streaming movies, but again if that speaks to you, you should have no qualms with the film. 

The VERDICT: 

            Given what passes for Christmas movies these days in a world of mass produced generic films, Jingle Jangle stands out in several departments.  It’s got the charm and magic of a kid’s imagination that the season is about, with costumes, CGI, and setting that finally took me back to my childhood.  Throw in some toe tapping numbers and some cool storytelling effects and you once again add points for raising the positive factor for the season.  However, the movie is again about the superficial entertainment pieces and misses the full cohesiveness that several classics have maintained from over twenty years ago.  The story is nonsensical and not much of the Christmas direction it promised, and the film’s pass on adventure did not quite keep me as engaged as the opening number did.  Still above all else, it’s going to serve as an inspiration to a number of families and given it’s accessibility is perfect for a direct release at home.  Given the thoughts, the ideal is for those with young families, primarily ages 3-12 who like the song and dance gimmicks and not so much about complete stories.  

My scores for the film are: 

Family/Fantasy/Musical:  7.0 (Family/musical themes)

Movie Overall:  6.0

Will you Love This Monster Flick

Love and Monsters Poster

            The day of movies are currently loaded on to streaming and keeping up is much harder, nevertheless I’m doing my best to go over the latest and greatest films to hit the small screen.  Tonight, the latest spoof, horror, adventure movie comes out in hopes of injecting a little life in the mundane works that have been coming out.  So seeing the advertisements of this movie you might be thinking what I did, Will the dog survive?  Okay maybe not that, but you might also be wondering… Is it good?  Well my friends I’m here to give my input as another movie hits the media library in hopes of impressing.  Robbie K here to review:

Movie:  Love and Monsters (2020)


Director:

 Michael Matthews

Writers:

 Brian Duffield (screenplay by), Matthew Robinson(screenplay by)  

Stars:

 Dylan O’BrienJessica HenwickMichael Rooker

LIKES: 

Decent Pace

Great Introduction To the World

Clever Creatures

Good CGI and world building

Some funny writing

Some good Emotional Scenes

Some Good Music To liven up Things 

The Dog

Dislikes: 

Action Scenes Are lacking

Predictable

Rushed Character Interactions

Backstory for many characters is pretty lame

More Monsters Needed

Summary:  

            Trying to be concise on this review, the movie surprisingly opens up well given all the bases it is trying to cover.  A humorous cartoon drawing showing the world going to pot, the new Armageddon takes little time to get things going and drop you into the world of despair and big creatures.  This pace continues, with little hesitation as Joel and his furry buddy go from point to point in their quest to find love and survive the horrors of the new world.  Those horrors are really cool too see, mutated insects and amphibians with a true macabre design that has hints of human qualities, hybridization of other creatures, and the natural instincts of the creatures themselves.  It works, and paints a horrifying set of monsters that if they existed would mean much trouble for the human race.  The CGI to paint these creatures, and the world itself, is impressive for this movie, bringing the post-apocalyptic world to new realms of high definition details of despair.  

            Now amidst impressive CGI work that will snare you into its trap, the movie also brings about some other gimmicks to help cast that net wider and catch more groups. The writing is quirky, a combination of a self-depreciating monologue, some insult humor, and slapstick/fall down comedy that all mingles well.  Other styles get thrown in here or there to help liven things up and it tries to keep the mood of the film as high as it can be given the material.  Yet, there are emotional moments that will help bring most back into the film, in an attempt to bring you closer to the characters, or help gain some suspense in hopes you won’t see your favorite character reduced to bloody remains.  Add some music to help add edges to further liven things up, again a nice selection of components to help round out the movie.  Though the part that kept me pulled into the movie the most was the dog.  Yes, another display of impressive animal training, the dog kept me into the movie, with most of the suspense coming in the form of will the dog survive.  I can’t tell you the answer, but I loved the cute puppy in every shot and I think many will as well. 

            Then comes the dislikes section of this predictable tale, the usual manners of a cool concept being pulled into a short time span resulting in some limited portrayals.  For one thing the action scenes are rather boring, again most of the suspense geared towards the dog, as intense bouts of running from artificial creatures with loud sounds filled much of the film.  Even those with combat scenes are rather limited, only a step above the SyFy channel original movies in terms of plot, build up and excitement.  Thus, the action part needs a tune up for this reviewer, injecting close calls, good character involvement, and some major upgrades in suspense. .  But you may not care about the action, you are drama lover who wants good characters well again those moments are kind of strewn.  Joel’s story is well done, but many of the other characters, as well as the relationships between them, is not as well developed as it could be.  The compressed time frame has much to blame for this, as well as a potential budget for creature development, but I was rather bored with the rest of the characters.  Sure some words of wisdom were shared, a few moments of hugging, and a few orchestra laden realizations have their moments.  Yet, the rest is sort of background noise, who after their gimmicks are lost to the background for most of the movie.  Given the casting they pulled in, I had hoped for more to help tell this tale.  Again this is due to time, but perhaps planning this out, and not having a pandemic as well, could have helped strengthen the resolve.  

            The VERDICT:

            Love and Monster is trying to impress a wide variety of people with their writing and CGI involvement and the promise of emotional, young love.  On parts they succeed given all the circumstances with a well-designed world, gorgeous and creative creatures, and some well-timed comedy.  Yet for the other parts, they manage to scratch the surface, promising more than they deliver in the run time provided to them.  Love and Monsters almost needed a plan, and the money to support it, to make a planned series where emotional build up could  have had time and we could have gotten more investment with our characters.  This film almost felt like a good TV pilot or mini-series, and had they done that approach , many of the limitations would have greatly improved.  Still, the movie breaks the mediocre movies I’ve seen at home, and I would give it a shot if you find the time for it.  Otherwise, pray that blockbusters return to the theaters soon to help break the mundane films we’ve been getting.  

My scores are: 

Adventure/Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0 

It’s Ante-Horror and More Political Thriller

            

Antebellum (2020)

The weekend is upon us again and we once more get to see how the former art of movies has further tumbled down the mediocre realm with COVID effects.  Tonight’s review is a movie that looked to be the next twisted horror that would have everyone talking.  With an odd advertising campaign, some delays, and now an at home review, does this film have what it takes to defy expectations and be a masterpiece?  I’m taking another dive into the movie trenches in hopes of giving you some good opinions to assess if you should check this movie out or if you should skip it, as I review:  

Movie:  Antebellum (2020) 

Directors:

 Gerard BushChristopher Renz

Writers:

 Gerard BushChristopher Renz

Stars:

 Janelle MonáeEric LangeJena Malone 

Likes:  

The Acting

The Setting

The Music

Some Creepy Gimmicks At Times

Original… in some regards

Dislikes: 

The Pacing

The Plot is Rushed and Disappointing 

Character usage is cheap and underdeveloped at Times

The ending is somewhat fulfilling, but not suspenseful

More Vicious Than Engaging At times

The Focus On The Political Aspect Than The Story 

Not Really Scary

Summary: 

            A strong thriller like this where political idealism seems to be key is going to require a strong acting cast to lift the crew.  Well… Monae accomplishes this and does so much of the lifting that the rest of the cast is almost absent.  Without revealing any details, Monae’s character spans this odd tail and requires her to play across the range of character traits from the oppressed slave trying to keep things together despite being tortured, to the strong headfast modern woman that is the hot trend.  She does each role with poise, professionalism, and fervor that I was able to murk through the swamp of this movie by just focusing on her talent alone. The other characters do their part, for the little time they have, but they work to add some comedy, love, and attachment, though oddly placed, that our character needs.  

            Moving on the setting of the movie is interesting at times serving the theme of the movie and sometimes providing the necessary visual chemistry to get your spine tingling. Primarily the hallways of the hotel and the dark bliss of the night, Antebellum’s setting adds some realistic fervor that is the true haunting part, but serves more so for the other them of this message as a political thriller.  The music further helps add its own emotional fervor to the film be it creepy ambience to hint at something happening, aggressive tracks to represent the mood of the film, to even the inspiring orchestral piece designed to inspire and send you into battle.  The audio and visual are certainly the gimmicks that will help set the mood and help try to drown out the limitations of the film, which with Monae as the center star are pretty much the main positives for this reviewer.  In terms of originality, it at least took a different manor of presenting a limited used concept, which artistic goers will love to watch unfold, while casual goers may find a bit convoluted and forced.  

            However, this reviewer found more dislikes than likes for this film given the direction the trailers led me to believe would be the source.  It starts with the pacing and the fact that the film is super slow and dragged out for a horror movie.  Timing the film as I did, I found that the aspects I was looking for did not hit until around 45-50 minutes, with the first part being an elaborate set up for the potential twist.  It’s not so thrilling, and with my expectations, I believe that was the part that dragged the movie out.  Despite the slow pace, the movie’s plot unfortunately was not layered, developed, or entertaining for me and when looking at the frame of the movie was disappointing.  Part of this had to do with the artistic presentation to be original, but for me it was the character usage that took away from the plot the most.  So many promising characters she engaged with were limited in names, back story, and even emotional depth for me that they were almost negligible.  Sure, each character presented something of the lead’s life, but only fell into the background to try and keep track on what I think the film’s real focus.  Even the antagonists held little names, threat, and development, reduced to a realistic farce of what the usual antagonists of films like these are, but this forced background information, though late, was nice to see to help close the tale.  Regardless, this limited tale you might hope has a fulfilling ending and in a way it does, but again depends on what you expect going into the film.  On one side, you will feel some great justice, pride, and vindication for how the film ends, the messages, closure, and symbolism/representation so high you’ll be beaming with pride.  Yet, if you go in expecting that suspenseful, on the edge of your seat finale where characters are pushed to the brink, then lower the expectations because it is not that thrilling, engaging, or exciting for this reviewer.  Simplistic sneaking around, some very lackluster and off balanced fighting, and monologues that do little to scare and build suspense are what await the eager horror person at this point.  

            In terms of the scary element of the film, you can guess that I was not chilled, disturbed, or creeped out by the “horror” element, outside of the realism this film held. The scary elements were more vicious bouts of violence, where the uncomfortable abuse factors are hard to watch at points, alongside some of the consequences that result.  As I’ve said/hinted, the film really dilutes the horror element by instead choosing to go down the political drama avenue that I knew would be integrated, but not this prominent.  Antebellum’s writing, character usage, visualization, and twists are all on track for the current political hot trend track that social media seems to eat up these days.  The writing in particular is a bit too in your face for me, going overboard to push the agenda and in doing so drop the mystery, horror, and much of the thriller aspect for me.  While I agree the message is important, I’m not a fan of the modern trend of message over storytelling, so I can’t say that that aspect alone is deserving of a high grade

The VERDICT:  

            Let’s wrap this up.  Antebellum is definitely a disguised movie that teases horror, intrigue and mystery, but turns out to be more of a strong suited political drama with little else embedded in its backbone.  The majorly talented Monae executes her role fantastically, hitting so many designs and directions that I could not help but be impressed with her skills as an actress.  While the original presentation, visual elements, and sound editing are also strong aspects of the film, they don’t help the pacing of the movie, barely establish the horror elements, and do nothing to improve the limited character/developed story of this film.  As such, unless you need a new approach to the political movements of the day, this film is best left to cheaper renting later on down the line, and filling your day with HBO Max series like Lovecraft country instead.  

My scores for this film are: 

Horror/mystery/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall:  4.5

Mulan Poster

            It’s another age old question that comes with each year, why are we getting a live action remake of a Disney classic?  Well the answer comes in many forms, but I’m more about is this remake worth it/good? Given my experience with home releases… these films have not quite held the same bite that the theater has, so I was a bit worried about this delayed feature.  However, my reviewing call has me diving in as I take a look at the latest to hit the small screen from Disney, the live action remake of the film:  

Mulan (2020)

Director:

 Niki Caro

Writers:

 Rick Jaffa (screenplay by), Amanda Silver (screenplay by)  

Stars:

 Yifei LiuDonnie YenLi Gong 

LIKES:

The Culture And Mythos of China

The Looks

The Fighting at Parts

The Sound Track 

The Cinematography

DISLIKES: 

The rushed Story

The Political Prowess Vs. Storytelling

The shoddy Attempts At Making Other Story Components

No Attachment to the Main Characters

Villains are highly downgraded

Comedy Is Forced

Missing the memorable music

The Battles Are short, A bit Cheesy, and Uncoordinated

Battles Lack Suspense

Missing the Spirit Of the Original 

Summary: 

            It is always inspiring to see the surrounding lands of international countries and Mulan gives one the sense of visiting China and it’s beautiful world.  This film’s camera work and design dive heavy into the mythology of the Asian provinces, helping to bend them into the winds of the tale and introduce us to some symbolic values of the culture.  This production focused very heavily on the concepts of honor and the discipline the feudal era of this land instilled on men and women who served the dynasty.  Maybe a bit stereotypical, but I felt the director was able to integrate the components well and give us the political and story elements that we expected to drive our heroine.  The live action Mulan also has a beautiful aesthetic to the characters with the rich patterns, artistic makeup, and props I expected from my limited studies of the ancient lands of China.  I loved the build of the world and settings, feeling immersed partly into the field and taking my place next to Mulan and the world that would be her arena. 

            Speaking of arenas, the fighting of this installment at times steps up its game from the cartoons, breaking out martial arts and weapon styles that I dreamed of doing as a kid.  Mulan herself shows off several styles that mirrored the great Kung Fu Works of Lee and Chan (not nearly as fluid, but grandiose) as she fought the army of extras.  Other characters managed to pull out some impressive moves, with rapid sword play and archery poses that held that exciting touch I love to see in my fights.  While these moments are sparingly, I do give them props for the execution at times and the panning shots of the war as CGI meets real world.  And if you’re a parent you got to appreciate the censorship so that the little ones won’t be corrupted.  Amidst all this is a beautiful soundtrack, filled with the symphonic works of regular cinema orchestra and Chinese instruments working in tandem to help bring more emotion to the scene or sequence.  And despite not having the most vocal work, Christina Aguilera gets her reprise in this film alongside a few other artists at the end to help further broaden Disney Soundtrack creations, which I think came a little too late, but better late than never right?  Yet the best thing for me was the cinematography, and how well it captured the environment, the scale of the fights, and those key moments to help bring this live action more to life.  Mulan’s visual team deserves a lot of credit for helping add flare to the movie, and give you many references and approaches into one semi-cohesive product. 

            However, there were a lot of shortcomings for me in this film, which could have been due to watching it at home magnifying them or just the movie itself.  The story is rushed, with a lot of pieces thrown into the story and then quickly diced out in various sizes.  Caro and her staff tried to inject a lot of things that included stories of training, friendship amongst the soldiers, potential romance, the concept of honor, several villain developing, fighting for herself, and trying to hide her identify.  Sure the other version did this, but it did it better, as this film lacked the balance it needed and the fluid execution that other films have done.  So many of the characters were background, their names barely mentioned and their stories even sadder as they tried to force everything into bite sized pieces.  Only Mulan’s moments held any backbone as her father and hers’s relationship promised a strong beginning, that petered out to Mulan being the only one capable of doing much of anything.  I was not attached to most of the other characters, as there was just no focus on them, little personality, and diluted involvement compared to the loveable band of the cartoon.  To get the arrows shot at me, I feel this is due to the current method of political agenda over story, this one being the focus of a woman defying all odds to save the war.  I have not read the full legend of Mulan, but I expect the writers amplified the woman hear me roar and kind of forgot the other parts of the story.  It was that focus that took away from so much of the potential of the movie and all the other characters that could have made Mulan’s tale even better and more fulfilling.  Even the villains held potential, but sadly the two main villains were reduced to elaborate, overacted one liners, some empty threats, and few ridiculous looking stunts.  I know Shan Yu held little backstory, but there was fear, power, and a merciless mindset to him that made him deadly and a true villain.  This guy had a slight mention of his back story and goals, but that was about it as so much of his promise was washed away with the scattered displays of the other characters and the focus on Mulan’s struggles.  

            In regards to the other areas of improvement, Disney seems to have a hard time being naturally funny anymore, and instead works to force laughter into a film that doesn’t need so much of it.  Live action Mulan has little that made me laugh, only the innocence of a youth and few funny tatters getting a chuckle for me.  Though the movie had great music to set the stage… it still was not the same magic that Disney laid on my ears years ago.  Gone where the whimsical thoughts of the fellow soldiers in song and dance, or the deep ballad Mulan questioning her identity that brought so much life to the cartoon.  Those songs obviously would be out of place in a more serious film, but when you don’t support those components strongly, I started to really miss the campy numbers.  But again this movie was supposed to be more on showing off the warrior side of Mulan and as I said earlier in ways it did.  Yet… in many ways it still failed to pull everything together.  This film’s approach again seemed uncoordinated in how in depth they could go, perhaps due to the political focus, perhaps due to the censorship that Disney seems to force on its groups.  Mulan’s fights are short with most lasting less than ten minutes, and most of the good fighting scenes lasting less than two.  While paying tribute to the classic fights via flying through the air with cables and over the top acrobatics, the movie did a little too much of this and forewent crafting a battle that was coordinated.  Scenes jumped around, passing glances of our main cast doing a movie haphazardly interlaid with Mulan doing know wrong, and even the clashing of armies was reduced to overhead shots that were only okay to watch.  I felt no suspense for any of these fights, because there was no heat and without caring about the characters I did not really have any ties to the fights at hand.  As you can guess, though the cartoon did not have the most action set and worthy fights, it had characters and tense sequences for me because I had grown to care for the small army and that’s what made them special.  This one though… missing so much of that and thus while visually beautiful, creative and storytelling wise they were arrows that missed it’s mark. 

The VERDICT

            Disney made a fair shot at the tale of Mulan and succeeded on the fronts I think they were wanting to succeed on.  It’s a powerful display of culture and opening up the world of Chinese myth, with costumes and cinematography to really wow those who appreciate these effects.  Those looking for the girl power tale will also be highly pleased with this, for many highlights of the fighting are indeed Mulan’s moves and the training she shows off amidst heavy instrument work and sound editing.  Yet, the film fails to grasp the magic of the last movie and the components it wanted to focus on were disjointed, not well fleshed out, and very lacking if it did not center on Mulan herself.  I did not grasp onto the other characters much at all, I felt no real development of so many elements, and all the facets of the story failed to reach their full potential that I know Disney can make work.  As for the battles, again visually the look beautiful and have nods to classic styles of fighting, but they lack the heart and suspense I think these moments need.  As such, this Mulan lacks much of the spirit the original cartoon held in more ways than one.  Was it worth the thirty dollar admission for early viewing?  The answer is no for me, and I would wait this one out for viewing in December when it opens up.  My scores for this film are:  

Action/Adventure/Drama:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0 

A Brilliant MultiLayered Concept Twisted By Some Limitations In Sound

           

Tenet Poster

 Another weekend where a delayed product finally unleashes to the theaters given the delays by COVID.  Tonight’s review is an interesting piece from the mind of the psychologically teasing Christopher Nolan ,the man who brought you Inception and Interstellar in their odd glory.  Nolan’s work is legendary on many levels as you know, standing out for its weird concepts, mind bending concepts/twists, and true dive into Sci-Fi genre themes.  So after all the work up and a very interesting trailer, we finally get to see the work unfold.  What’s this reviewer’s thoughts?  Robbie K here to share his thoughts as we review:  

Movie:  Tenet (2020)

Director:

 Christopher Nolan

Writer:

 Christopher Nolan

Stars:

 John David WashingtonRobert PattinsonElizabeth Debicki

LIKES:

Fantastic Acting

Rather Fast Pace

Clever use of technology

True Science Fiction Plot

Unique Ideas and Fight Sequences

Nets your Attention By Making You think

Good twists

The Visuals and Special Effects

Dislikes: 

The Action Scenes Are A Bit Underwhelming At Times

The Muffled Voices At Time can a bit Troubling

The Jargon heavy descriptions are dense and boring at times

So Stacked Is It Fun? 

            After a wonderful performance in BlackKKlansman, is it any surprise that Washington is able to take a role and run with it?  The man works well to take the monotone presentation of The Protagonist and somehow adds layers to it that give him more depth.  Around the intriguing mystery of the movie, the Protagonist has mystery behind him that allows for an intriguing performance to be delivered.  Debicki as Kat does a wonderful job in her strong role, a complicated chess piece that goes through more emotional spectrum than anyone else in this film and does it so well to be believable engaging, and empowering without being in your face. Kenneth Branagh as the antagonist Andrei has the look, feel, and sinister method that I love to see in a villain, a prime example of Nolan’s ability to develop a villain that really fits the title well.  Yet the biggest surprise for me was Pattinson, as the former shiny vampire/heartthrob knocks this convoluted role out of the park, making a likeable, complex supporting role that I absolutely loved, and perhaps redeeming other roles I’ve seen him in.  

            Acting aside, the movie succeeds on many fronts for this reviewer, achieving the goal of being 150 minutes and not feeling that slow or drawn out (which other movies have failed for me).  Tenet’s pace hits the ground running, but manages to balance stride and sprint parts to make a balanced presentation that gives enough details without falling asleep.  As many reviews have said, there is a James Bond aesthetic mixed in with several other movies that made for a good use of clever tools that were not too far down the fiction path.  It’s by not over using the gadgets that the unique plot starts really coming out, allowing the story and concepts to take center stage while the action and stunts serve their purpose of supporting and adding excitement.  The fight sequences are not overly flashy, and hold a unique air about them (well most of them do) that circle about the core concept and feel very at home with Nolan’s focused theme, while at the same time showing off the technology this film uses so well.  Other ideas that seem ridiculous, are somehow layered and fleshed out to stay on the pulse of reality while also not being too stale or boring that so many films fail at. What all this wraps up to is a strong Science Fiction plot, that dives away from fantasy and allows the unique atmosphere to thrive on and keep you hooked on the story that is presented.  Tenet’s brilliance is the engaging mystery, or in this case mysteries, that you are trying to solve, digging into the complicated world and trying to understand and guess the twists that Nolan has built into the plot.  And most if not all of these twists are good… and again fit well into the physics of this bizarre spin on our world.  True, I did guess much of them to some degree, but I was impressed at how well-integrated they are and not forced or wedged as some movies thrive in.  

Yet the highlight of the movie for me outside of the writing is the technology that was executed super well.  Cinematography wise it’s beautifully detailed, multiangle, dynamic goodness that immerses you into the film.  Computer graphic wise, it brings the Tenet spin to life beautifully in the form of combat sequences, property manipulation, and weird fights with great attention to detail that seldom crosses into fake territory.  As for the sound and music, well the bullet sounds are in loud definition and not too out of the ordinary, but pay attention to the music during certain moments and you might be impressed by the audio cues that will help orient you to the maze this movie is.   

As you know with my reviews though, there are areas of improvement for me I would have loved to see improved if I could.  While the action scenes fit very well in the scope of this world, to call this movie an action film is a bit of an understatement.  Sure there are exciting parts, but some parts at the end lacked the flare or even aim that I like my thrillers to have.  I can’t say much to not ruin things, but the end fight has a lot of coordination, but there blind shooting at unseen enemies is not my idea of the perfect ending some say it is.  I would have liked to see Nolan’s concept with a little more finesse and excitement to help add that tension he did in inception and Dark Knight. Something that might have been due to my theater’s speakers was the muffled voices.  Nolan’s direction for delivering a very jargon filled movie is sometimes quite muffled, almost like a sound bar without an equalizer that can’t find the balance between dialogue and special effect scenes.  For a movie where details and dialogue are important, I kind of would have liked to have some better voice editing, but again could just be me.  As for the Jargon, it’s a great way to explain what is going on, but there is a quote in the movie that states trying to understand it will only make things complicated and you have to accept it.  A lot of the explanations are convoluted and help shape the world piece by piece, but there are times the technical heavy jargon’s attempts get a little long winded, boring, and may make things worse in terms of the trying to understand the presentation.  Many of those who don’t want complex dialogue and lines are going to hate much of the writing in this film, and even those who enjoy some thought provoking lines may also find Nolan went a little deeper than many would enjoy.  Which brings me to the biggest piece to analyze, is Tenet too complicated?  He has teased my brain plenty of times in the past, but the level this film does may take it to the level only Sheldon Cooper would enjoy the most.  Tenet’s layers are deep, confusing, constantly changing, and requiring absolute focus to the movie to get it.  Trying to figure out the order of events and all the connections your first go around might be frustrating, which succeeds in multiple viewings, but at the same time is not going to be the best for the casual goer.  

The Verdict: 

            The wait was worth it for me and I can say that Nolan delivers the same bizarre, truly Sci-Fi themed tale that he is so good at delivering.  It’s thought provoking, unique, with a layered tale that takes the gimmick, incorporates it well, and keeps you hooked into the plot.  So many special effects and sequences support the theme well, and I was impressed by the actors making the characters come to life in a spectacle that was refreshing to see.  Yet, this monster film is going to have a lot of layers and if you have a short attention span or only want entertainment factors made famous by modern cinema, this film is not going to be for you.  Some unbalanced sound effects, a heavy emphasis on jargon filled dialogue, and action scenes that need some tweaking to help get the full effect.  However, it might be the convoluted nature of the film that could be its undoing, the attempt to mess with your mind taken a little too far that I think takes away from the story he has presented.  Again, it will lead to multiple watches, but I think Nolan needed to take a step back and simplify things for this project to maintain the balance.  Still I certainly enjoyed this film and I agree that it is a movie needed to be experienced in the theater for its presentation, story, and special effects. 

My scores are:  

Action/Sci-Fi: 8.0

Movie Overall:  8.0 

Is It Time For the Series To Face the Music

Bill & Ted Face the Music Poster

            Despite the theaters open, not every theater has opened back up enough to have every movie, but that is not stopping the studios from pumping out a new movie to try and keep things entertaining.  Tonight nostalgia tries to rears its head back to the modern world as a sequel of a “classic” series comes back in to try and get us to spend our hours watching them again.  Can 80s/90s hit of “absurd humor and plot” find its way into the modern days of drama, stoner comedies, and over the top stunts?  Let’s find out as I check out:  

Bill and Ted Face The Music (2020)

Director:

 Dean Parisot

Writers:

 Chris MathesonEd Solomon

Stars:

 Keanu ReevesAlex WinterKristen Schaal

LIKES: 

Familiar tone

Nostalgia

Updated Visuals

Some Funny Moments

The New Actresses 

Decent Balance Between Stories

The Musical Numbers

DISLIKES: 

Plot is predictable 

Ridiculous Concept That Just Gets More Ridiculous

Humor is Very Forced, At times 

Running Jokes Become Very Stale

The Wives Needed More time and other new characters

End Credit Scene Not Worth it

No sense of urgency

Summary: 

            My fellow reviewers have called it that if you are a fan of the series you are going to find the familiar tone fun, entertaining, and right up your ally.  Part of the fun is of course the nostalgia, as tons of previous movie references and plots are littered through this interdimensional  trash can of jokes and psychedelic obscurities.  Bill and Ted’s antics from the first two films continue to carry over, and with updated visuals through technology, their adventure has never been more excellent in coming to life with updated sets and worlds to appreciate.  For this reviewer trying to avoid the bias of the fanbase, I found some funny moments hidden amidst the sea of humor in this film.  In particular a few lines from supporting characters had me laughing more so than the two protagonists themselves, especially seeing Schaal react the way she does to the stupidity of the plot (a nice clever poke at themselves)  Still those who just love the cult classic of the group will find plenty of humor if these movies stole your heart all those years ago.  As for the new additions to the group, surprisingly they felt very at home to the world of Bill and Ted.  For me, the daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) were a fun addition, their small adventure loaded with some surprisingly deeper levels of plot and development than I had expected from my first introduction to the group. These two not only helped the plot, but their impressions are pretty good to take on the roles in case they ever decide to transition into a new series with these two.  The two plots are able to go hand in hand with each other, somehow being different and yet feeling well tied together as the two tales progressed through the 90 minute run time. Yet, the highlight for me was the musical components they bring in, from nods to the classic acts that we are familiar with, to some new combinations from a synthesizer that makes for an epic finale worth of the time traveling duo. 

            Yet the movie’s antics may run dry in the modern age due to the same attempts to get a laugh and hoot being a bit outdated for modern audiences.  It starts with the predictable plot, whose ingenuity is essentially lost to gimmicks with few plot twists thrown in.  The linear tale is all about testing how ridiculous the movie can go, as it layers on an already crazy premise of these two man-teens continue to search for their vague quest.  That ridiculousness comes out in very forced humor, the banter between the groups sometimes getting tedious as we go into the third or fourth bout of circular arguing and stupid grips of the truth.  Again some of these lines are a home run, but others did nothing for me other than hope for a scene transition to keep the story movie.  Running jokes that tried to run with the tale were okay, and again heavily fan based, but for me, Bill and Ted’s parts got stale when they continued to essentially do the same scene over and over again, only clipping the banter time to less and less, until the final mode gave me the development I wanted.  It’s essentially an example of modern cinema about giving us extremes and sort of foregoing balance, but given this series it seems to not be too surprising or out of place.  Even more disappointing were the wives and new character Kelly who held such promise and kind of got swept to the side. Heavy plot building and suspense at the start showed promise these characters were going to help the boys face the music.  Instead they merely were tools for more jokes and did a few things at the end to justify their inclusion at all.  Again, I might have enjoyed the third story with the wives and Kelly working to clean up the mess, instead of these quick glimpses to bait Bill and Ted into doing stupid things.  These plot devices and focus on humor did little to help the “adventure” side of the plot, the urgency of the matter sort of lost as 77 minutes were humorously spread throughout with little to no suspense or excitement.  Again, only the kind side of the adventurers and the music kept me hooked and swallowing the old hat tricks of the two protagonists and their like sounding daughters. As for the end credit scene… well it’s again a reach out to the fanbase with a classic gag, and though offers no premise of the future of the series, ends in a pointless scene meant to pull one last laugh out to me.  

The VERDICT

Bill and Ted are still the same goofballs we loved back before the turn of the millennia and it’s nice to see the nods to the past come out into modern style.  This blend of old and new works on many levels without dissing the fanbase too much and is sure to be a hit to those who love the original series and are not purists. With two stories running well together, a new cast to help spruce things up and totally bodacious music that accomplishes things on multiple fronts, these factors will be the components to come into and focus on.  However, the movie’s focus on nostalgia and reviving old gags goes a bit too far and becomes stale given the promise they post.  Character development, plot advancement, and even character balance are lost to the focus on Bill and Ted humor.  It’s a shame that the forced comedy got in the way of so much, but again these series are quite well known for taking this approach.  Given this, the finale to the trilogy lost some momentum to me, in the fact of too many things happening in one last movie, a call for either more time or one last film.  Still overall it was a fun home watch, and I appreciate the option to buy the film instead of just renting it for a major price tag. 

My scores for this movie are: 

Adventure/Comedy/Music:  7.0-7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

The New Breakfast Club Mutants

The New Mutants Poster

            Finally the theaters have opened and I can return to the foxholes of high definition screens, loud speakers rumbling, and large picture wonders of the movies.  Today a movie we never thought would see the light of day finally awakens in hopes of making a big flash on the screen.  But will Covid and a massive delay screw up the project promised months ago or are we merely to be a crowd of the incompetence of Hollywood and the business politics of the studio getting in the way of creativity.  Robbie K back again to give you insight into the latest film as he reviews:  

Movie:  

New Mutants (2020)

Director:

 Josh Boone

Writers:

 Josh BooneKnate Lee

Stars:

 Maisie WilliamsAnya Taylor-JoyCharlie Heaton 

LIKES: 

Good Graphics

–  Haunting graphics brought to life with decent animation and style

–  A great setting that feels haunted, enclosing, and very much foreboding

–  Mutant powers that have the comic and movie atmosphere that comes through at the end of the film and reminds me of X-men series I love

Some Decent Acting From Young Actors

–  Talented cast brings out the teenage angsts of a hot headed mutant academy group

–  Good spectrum when they are directed too with Maisie Willaims and Blu Hunt who have the highest spectrum

–  Great chemistry together that many times feels very much like a group forced together into odd situations

Some Deep Meaning

–  Without ruining the plot, plenty of character development to address relevant topics

–  Some are done fantastically to really integrate with the story and will be the shining moments of the movie 

Decent Run Time

– About 90 minutes, hard to beat that for a movie like this.  

Some Great Horror Delivery at times

– The setting is truly haunting, with creepy shadows, feelings of being alone, and the chilling psychological torment of the colors of the wall

– Some chilling things that go bump in the night and may induce nightmares to young audience members (be warned)

 – Some back stories are certainly deeply disturbing, a darker comic book splendor that may resonate deeply and certainly chill you at points. 

Rahne and Dani

–  Best part of the movie, as the two have great chemistry, the most character development, major growth, and a dynamic that works well.  

– Great acting as I said. 

Okay climax:

–  Displays of Power come out

–  A nice suspense of the movie, that is okay to say the least

–  Some of the funniest lines to date at this time.  

DISLIKES:  

Predictable

–  Even without reading the comics can see so many things a mile away

–  Makes the movie boring at times knowing where it is going and took away the edge of the horror points

Slow at times

–  Takes a little while to get off the ground, the first act in particular a long drawn out intro

–  Second part feels very uneven, exciting at times only to drop to low, drawn out displays of quickly portrayed character development

–  The third act gets much better to offset, but again very quick, needed more action and conflict to offset the slow pace. 

A Little too progressive at times

–   Takes some political components into the mix and sort of makes it the focus, contributing to the slow pace

–  There will be some character moments that are a bit too millennial and drama oriented that some will not enjoy, can’t say much without ruining things. 

–  Leads to some overacted moments. 

A bit too forceful in acting

–   The characters are a bit too overdone at times, the progressive themes forcing them to act a bit too cliché in drama moments

–  Illyana was the one whose tough attitude got a bit in the way, though several others have flaws greatly over exaggerated

Powers Come a Bit too late

– Again I like my movies about mutants to have some better displays of power used in the super power way

-This way was more drama focused and horror than the usual superhero part.  Unique yes, but the slow none the same and a bit too bland. 

Addressing the deep roots a bit too easy and rushed

– The strong character moments get rushed for most to overcome their weakness, randomly finding strength to defat their demons

–  Outside of one girl’s struggles, the others surprisingly are less impressive and more shoved to the background, the constant struggle of multiple characters

–  Needed to keep to the horror elements at the end to really bring the character out instead of jumping into the overdramatic action part. 

Illyana a bit too much for me 

–  Understand she is supposed to be the overzealous one, but still a bit too much for me

–  The in your face, rogue element has its place, but often forces too much for my like that it gets in the way of progressing the character

–  Has the coolest looking power, but at the end drowned out by jokes and drama to really get the full effect.  

SUMMARY:

            After two long years I had my doubts about the movie having any sort of quality.  However, the movie had some enjoyable components and was more put together in terms of the themes it was trying to deliver.  Like Teen Wolf meets the Breakfast Club, the rogue like drama of this film manages to keep much of its characters interacting to make a heck of a drama.  Some elements of the horror really are executed well and had they focused more on this element, we could have gotten one heck of a thrill ride.  Sadly for me, the drama elements get in the way with a rushed plot, leading to overdone, in your face moments, rapid development for many of the characters, and some pacing issues that I hope to have settled in my comic movies.  Still if you like drama/horror movies with a bit of a super hero flair, then check this one out, otherwise hold out for the bigger releases coming in a few weeks.  

My scores are: 

Action/Horror/Sci-Fi:  7.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

The One and Only Family Film To Premier This Weekend

The One and Only Ivan Poster

            Another weekend, another potential to talk about all the crazy things the entertainment district is cooking/ releasing for us.  Today is no exception as the war of streaming continues to push us into a new world streaming from home, while studios fight back to get into films.  But today is not about a political movement, but rather doing my best to cover another film that sort of went under the radar to streaming.  On Disney+ you will find a potential new movie for you and your kids to react to, perhaps in hoping for the next star studded drama to watch over and over again.  Robbie K here sharing his thoughts as he reviews: 

Movie:  The One and Only Ivan (2020)

Platform:  Disney+

Director:

 Thea Sharrock

Writers:

 Mike White (screenplay by), Katherine Applegate (book) 

Stars:

 Sam RockwellBryan CranstonPhillipa Soo  

Likes: 

Short and To the point

The Decent Pacing

Adorable

Emotionally Deep on a level

Great CGI design and animation

Messages
The Music

The voice acting/acting

Dislikes: 

The Semi Lack of Balance

The predictability

The aimless wondering

The conclusion somewhat

Missing the Movie Flair

Summary: 

            When it comes to streaming, some films have knocked it out of the park and some have been exactly what you pay for in this crazy times.  Ivan is almost in the middle for me on this one given the quality and limitations the film has.  Fortunately, it does so in a concise manner, with decent pacing designed to try and capture/keep your attention despite the distractions of home.  It’s a film exactly meant for the platform, as cute displays of animal buddy comedy unfold on stage at the Big Top Mall, in the focused theater section of a dying business.  Kids and those with big hearts are going to love all the creatures before them, and get hooked to seeing just how functional this small time family is.  Don’t think this is one of those only for kids movies though, no Ivan and his crew will dive deeply into the emotional act, somehow managing to strike both drama character development aspect, and feelings towards animal aspects.  The gorilla’s journey has a lot of layers to it, and despite the fact that it’s supposed to be family friendly, it still does enough to deliver the messages at heart that this “based on a true story” tale has for you.  Those who cry easily or don’t want their kids experiencing some sadder things, need to be cautious with this film, but while it can be heartbreaking it does work well to drive the plot and open the characters up past the one dimensional role, well at least some of them.  

What further helps deliver the messages of friendship, confidence, facing change, and self -reflection is the great animation and music that go hand in hand in this film. Starting with the music, it’s nothing revolutionary, but I give props of the circus show numbers to draw you into the experience of the fun scenes that indeed make you feel as part of the show.  While the piano work and string instruments are the heavy lifters for the emotion, mixing well with the dialogue, thanks to my soundbar, that work to illicit the mature emotions of the more serious scenes.  But most don’t care about that so go into the animation.  Despite the COVID running amok, Disney animations still destroys the bank with their teams, as Ivan and company’s movements are beautifully captured in the form of CGI.  While not the most realistic looking compared to some other projects, this show number is pretty darn close in terms of animal design, the skin textures, contrast, and whatever other terminology you need all flowing well.  Even when talking, the human like qualities come out beautifully and was probably my favorite part of the whole show.  In regards to acting, so many great performances despite so little being seen.  Cranston is still an amazing artist capable of crossing multiple lines and keeping his character within the bounds of reality and likeability.  Rockwell as the lead doesn’t quite cross the spectrum, but delivers his performance with that a of a philosopher’s grace that is caring, observant, and confused all at the same time.  The whole cast mixes to feel like a family, each playing their part to contribute something to the simple tale. 

However, ranting on about the positives, the negatives still exist that sort of take away from the film, at least for me.  There is a lack of balance in this film in regards to the characters as the movie puts a heavy focus on Ivan, Ruby, and Bob, while the other animals are sort of reduced to passing glances.  Despite a big introduction, and several fantastic voice actors, many of these animals are reduced to background shots that while realistic sort of rob the meat of this story.  Ivan’s tale is also very predictable, the opening mantra painting the picture for at least three big reveals, which helps to accept the blows of the film, but is disappointing when you are hoping for some boom to drop the hammer on the film.  Much of this is also due to the movie sort of wondering around as opposed to having a clear set goal in mind.  Sure, we know what the end game is, but prior to this and even during this film, I kind of felt stuck in a monotonous routine of life.  If that’s what he was going for to show realism and symbolism, it works, but in a kids film, I kind of sway towards the entertainment goal with a purpose like we see at the end of the film.  And when all the things come to fruition at the end, the emotional release of two of the main characters is great, but what in the world happened to everyone else?  You won’t find out unfortunately, and despite all the stacking we had done, the loose ends of the Ivan family were annoying not to quickly complete in an additional five minutes.  I guess when many of them did not exist based on the small documentary at the end you don’t have to close up shop.  I guess when all is said and done, Ivan’s tale is missing that movie flair that theaters often bring out with their tales, or maybe it’s just me.  

THE VERDICT: 

Let’s wrap this up!  Ivan’s group is certainly an example of a better quality streaming movie over the rest of the world.  It’s got a great atmosphere for families and does not hesitate to pull fun and messages into one package.  An adorable atmosphere that isn’t too adult awaits to amaze all those at home with great CGI, voice acting, and pacing to keep your attention and invest a bit into these characters.  However, it still needing some work with balancing characters, working on adding flair and helping round out some parts of the tale to be honest.  Ivan’s tale has some of these flaws that while small at parts, really could have been improved on a number of levels.  Still overall it’s a fun viewing that accomplishes a lot more than the other films did for me, and I enjoyed it on many levels despite the limitations.  

My scores are: 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:   8..0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Black Is King Of Musical Diaries and Political Fervor Pieces.

            

Black Is King Poster

It is an age of call for change, and an age of inspiration for opinion.  So why would Hollywood not take the shot to make a memorable ad venture to cash in on the moment.  In the age of streaming and “opportunity” movies are trying to still exit at a fraction of the budget and the choices that come with.  Leading the way in this movie is the Queen Bey herself Beyoncé who is taking on a lot roles in this movie in an attempt to culture up the streaming service and inspire change.  Will it work?  Is the Divided commentary true or is there a go between the two worlds. Yours truly is here to give his opinion on the latest movie:  

Movie:  Black Is King

Directors:

 Emmanuel AdjeiBlitz Bazawule  | 1 more credit »

Writers:

 BeyoncéYrsa Daley-Ward

Stars:

 Folajomi ‘FJ’ AkinmureleAdut AkechYemi Alade 

LIKES:  

Visuals

Culture Representation 

Some Of the Music

Short Run Time

DISLIKES: 

Not Really A movie

Not a Fan Of the Music at some points

Abstract Approach a bit too abstract

The Lion King Clips/adaptation not needed

Could have used other singers and numbers

The Monologues 

Politically Charged Over Anything else

Limited Audience Enjoyment? 

SUMMARY:  

            In this divided world of review I have found a few things that I agree are strong components that most should agree on.  The visuals in this montage of Black culture are beautiful, a varying array of camera techniques that help add finesse and diversity to a movie with sort of a common theme.  Overhead shots of the lands allows you to capture the majesty of the African realms, before falling down into the “journey” of the little king running through the streets of the various realms.  Filters help further from bringing back the 90’s style of filming, dark filters to add the dark dangers of the night, and others to bring out the vibrant colors of the costumes, body paint and setting.  That spectacle was the most captivating for me and one can find artistic and non-artistic appreciation for the choices they made.  As sort of stated in the last like, the culture of this film is certainly a big them of the film.  The audience will be subjected to a collage of black life interspersed with the one central character working through it, and seeing that transform to the America side of things is going to be a source of power for many.  I have to say that I enjoyed the costumes, the body paint, and some of the dance styles more than anything else, but others may find more to enjoy that I cannot appreciate.  The music that is in this film I feel fits many of the sequences, and some of them had me feeling the rhythm, style, and energy of the song better than others.  I can’t state the names of the songs or what parts without giving away too much, but those that had more upbeat tempos, or an R&B softness to describe the love aspects of this culture were the things I appreciated the most.  Finally, it’s nice that this visual diary was only one hour and twenty minutes long for it made the things I did not enjoy less impactful due to not being dragged out. 

            On the other spectrum of dislikes for this film, I again found things I agreed with that I did not particular enjoy.  For one thing, its presentation in advertising and samples states the movie of the year, but this is not a traditional movie.  Black is king is more of an abstract collaboration of art styles that tries too hard to be unique for me and is too loose for the plot that was promised.  This very artistic nature means that without an appreciation or relevance to the culture, a bias toward the movement, or loyalty to the artists and culture… you may not appreciate the plot presented.  While the theory of adapting the Lion King to this style seemed promising, I did not enjoy the random quotes from the film, the thin transitions between human and animal characters, and the divergence from the Lion King really did not deliver on the potential it had for me.  Yet, part of this struggle came from trying to balance the Lion King through a new soundtrack while injecting the political fervor of the movement. Black Is King for me seemed more about the musical numbers and compilations than any actual plot and I think many will agree that this style is not going to be for everyone. As stated, not every song and numbers was a winner for me, some of the more hardcore rap and hype rap just not my speed when talking about the struggles and journey of this human Simba.  Second, Beyoncé takes center stage for most of the numbers, sometimes stealing the show right with her ravishing moves and beauty, and other times seeming to be a self-glorifying, look at me number that was lost to me.  Given the number of artists out there to represent the story, and could surely have designed numbers that felt more towards the lion King motif they wanted.  

However, I think that adding that showmanship may have gotten in the way of the other aspect of this movie, the political motivation and inspiration.  The title is only the start of the political fervor in this film, and I can’t say that I agree with the others who say that is not what this movie is about.  The monologues alone are loaded with plenty of lines geared towards inspiration, some poetic and beautiful, and others a bit too strong for me and matching the social media posts I’ve seen.  Eventually the visuals and numbers mirror this and get into a call for change that starts again mirroring the movements you see on the internet.  Without the story and balance I appreciate, this component started too grate on my patience and take me away from the beauty the visuals were keeping me in.  This brings me to the final point, is that this last paragraph sort of makes me think this is a limited audience appreciation and that I believe leads to the dividing results. 

The VERDICT

            Both sides of the argument have fair points in terms of the quality of this movie.  Visuals are beautiful, a strong and diverse approach to let you see the beauty of black culture and the various components of the ethnicity.  With some on the mark numbers and a soundtrack that again represents the culture well, I feel these are the positives to the film that I watched.  However, removing the political bias, the fervor, and other components that are needed to get into the moment is where this film failed for me.  The very abstract approach to storytelling is going to be lost to some, and the Lion King integration was cute and clever but not executed well for me.  With the story sort of lost, the movie then is again a music video empowerment piece that gears towards a certain audience mainly and goes from inspiring to overzealous for me with the political charge.  Thus, if that is what you want, then hop on Disney + and binge watch it with glee. However,  if you are like me and want balance, integration, a story, or at least more of those artists who could blow this representation out of the water, then even one viewing might be a bit much.  I’ll say this… if you go in there with the idea of hating or loving it purely for the name, Beyoncé, or the movement, you are wasting your time, because both styles and scoring extremes I don’t think are true.  With this, my scores are: 

Adventure/Drama/Fantasy:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0 

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