Need An Upper For This January

The Upside Poster

 

Remakes they come and they come again because of the work being laid out for them.  Not going down that road, my last review of the week is yet another remake of a true story that hopes to ring its own bell in the world of comedy and drama with a modern flare.  Welcome to another Robbie’s Movie Reviews and today we hit the film:

 

Movie: The Upside (2018 wide release date)

 

Director:

Neil Burger

Writers:

Jon Hartmere (screenplay by), Éric Toledano (based on the motion picture “Les Intouchables” by)

Stars:

Kevin HartBryan CranstonNicole Kidman

 

 

LIKES:

Acting Chemistry

Comedy

Balance of Comedy

Pace

Energy

The Cars

 

SUMMARY:

 

The Upside is a remake that really mirrors the predecessor, but brings the modern spin on it.  Where the first installment was a little more artistic in the telling of the sad story, this remake has more energy and pacing to its approach.  The Upside takes a sadder story and brings with it a fun adventure that tries to fight the darkness for much of the film. It reminded me of the presentation from the Bucket List and given some of the trips and cars that atmosphere adds to some of the entertainment value.

Yet the stars of the show really come in the comedy direction and the actors who bring it out.  The Upside’s comedy is not the usual Hart hat of tricks, which is usually yelling fanatically and shoving one-liners down your throat.  Instead, the Upside focuses on putting the comedy into the story, preferring to time simple comedy antics and add a realistic conversational tone to it.  The result, is a grounded comedy scheme that keeps things entertaining, all while keeping the film going.  To make the jokes sparkle, the two leading actors bring their talents to the front, mixing their styles together in an acting favorable mixture that is the solid pillar of this film.  Cranston’s sarcasm and character focused approach works for this title, bringing dryer humor and some story to keep the film running.  Hart on the other hand has really dropped to a more serious role, mixing his usual edgy delivery with a laxer approach.  The two play-off of each other really well, building that buddy relationship that is always fun to join in on the adventure.  It’s the heart and soul of the movie, and fans of these two will probably enjoy this dynamic like I did.

 

DISLIKES:

Story components

Missing the Adventure component

Secondary Character Use

Editing

 

SUMMARY:

 

Ironically, the thing this movie has trouble living up to, is the storytelling aspect for me.  Don’t get me wrong, the movie has a solid story in terms of the buddy/buddy relationship of the film, but it doesn’t quite maximize the potential of it or the backstory components.  Some side stories about both characters histories are included for completion sake and give you the info you need, yet the film lacks the facing the impasses and trying to grow.  As such, much of the problems are sort of swept under the rug in a solution like manner. Perhaps you are thinking the fun of the movie will offset it, and at times it does, but the Upside does not quite get to the same levels as the Bucket List for Me.  The adventure is gone out of it for me, and while still entertaining, could have been maximized to offset the lackluster story elements.

In regards to the secondary character development… it is okay.  Nicole Kidman was a plus, not quite fully utilized, but included enough to not overshadow the central characters, yet again not fully utilized when her backstory and involvement started to get into the mix.  Hart’s family characters, the rival, even the other supportive members of Phil’s team were not as inclusive as I think they could have been.  The result as you are hearing is again, the attempts at telling an all-inclusive story, but not quite delving into the details like they wanted.

As such, the main thing I had an issue with in the movie, was the editing/direction not quite coming together the way I expected from the trailer.  It’s not awful at all, but I think this production had a little trouble figuring out what direction it wanted to take the movie into.  Enough inclusion to give you the story, but not enough to reach the full potential it’s European cousin was able to tell years ago.  Still, it is a fun adventure to say the least.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Truth be told, I enjoyed the Upside and felt that I get a little something in each of the categories.  It’s funny, with great acting chemistry and energy to offset the sadness of the situation that the trailers painted.  Yet, the buddy comedy we might have expected is not going to be to the full effect for most and the story elements could have used some bulking up to reach the expected magnitude I think it really wanted to go far.  All in all though, this remake is certainly something to check out when you can, but I can’t quite say it was the movie theater visit of the month (though it was the best of the four this week).  As such, here are my scores:

 

Comedy/Drama:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

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On The Basis Of Girl Power

On the Basis of Sex Poster

 

Historical documentaries always fall victim to the dramatization treatment of the cinema world.  As such, we end up eating them up, except for the purists, as we become enthralled in the spark’s notes version of the historical legacy these people left.  So, in the age and time of politics, let’s pick a supreme court justice as the next one and see what stories are told. Robbie K back on review duty as he checks out:

 

 

Film: On The Basis Of Sex (2018)

 

Director:

Mimi Leder

Writer:

Daniel Stiepleman

Stars:

Felicity JonesArmie HammerJustin Theroux

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • Use of most characters
  • Makeup and Costumes
  • Good Writing
  • Jargon translated
  • Message towards key demographic

 

Summary:  You can certainly get this from the trailers, but the hallmark of these movies is often the acting, and this film is no exception. Felicity Jones talents continue to soar in her bravado, mannerisms, and wonderful delivery of a lawyer fighting for what’s right.  Hammer as well finds his stride as the supporting character working to help Ruth’s goals.  The rest of the crew have wonderful acting ability, and most of the characters are well integrated into the tale to really bring the most out of the case that would change so much.  And in regards to looks, the makeup and costume department gets special props as they bring the times of the past into history and capture the looks of that era.

Yet while the look is there, does this film have the feel?  For the most part, yes it does.  On the Basis of Sex has good writing behind it, as a grand display of passionate speeches, impressive vocabulary filled monologues, and fiery, passion filled scenes unfold. It’s smart, witty, and quite fitting of the prowess of the woman and probably something the older audience will enjoy.  Not familiar with the law and all the technical terms that come with it?  No problem!  This film has got the spark’s notes version of relevant information there to keep you integrated into the case and not get too lost in all the convoluted terminology. In addition, the film makes use of the speeches to really try to inspire and fire up the young women watching.  It held the heart and soul of the movie and I think was the central aspect of the film.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Pace
  • Not utilizing other characters
  • A little convoluted
  • The Opening’s necessity

 

Summary:  With these types of films, the key is to work hard to make it entertaining and yet truthful.  On the Basis of Sex’s pace was not for me, becoming a little tedious at times as it hobbled along to get to the big case at hand.  This uneven pace brought rough patches that had me fighting sleep, that took away the momentum of the movie.  What helped amplify this component was the convoluted moments where the law jargon took over the movie magic.  While Basis of Sex has interpreted much of the heavy technical terms there may be some very detailed moments that can bring a fog to your brain and potentially tire you out.  Fantastic attention to details, but not the most engaging at times.

In addition, the other thing that also didn’t woo me was some of the characters they didn’t put as much focus on.  Kathy Bates, the legend herself, has little appearance in the movie despite being a selling point for the trailer.  The rivals led by Sam Watterson  were semi-used, but only in the latter half instead of throughout the movie.  The result is taking away some of the heat and suspense I think they wanted to go for. As for the opening moments of the movie, well they are okay.  Yes, they do justice in setting the stage and introducing all the pieces to the puzzle. However, these rather important moments feel a little fast forwarded to me, rushed over and almost feeling unnecessary as much of the focus is on the big case instead of her entire life as the trailers portrayed.  Thus, I think the direction was not all there in terms of how they wanted to bring her entire life into focus.

 

 

The VERDICT:

On the Basis of Sex accomplishes the goal of appealing to its key demographic, showing off the amazing talents of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and waving the girl power flag high.  It’s acting and character to use are fantastic for the most part, with makeup and writing to really bring out the full prowess of the scene.  However, the movie still needs some balance in terms of using all characters, trying to tone down the legal jargon, and figuring out what they wanted to highlight.  As picky as this sounds, the movie was good and has artistic nature to it, but it didn’t quite deliver the ultimate performance they were going for.  Worth a trip to theater? Not so much, but still worth checking out when it comes to home viewing.

 

My scores are:

Biography/Drama:  7.5

Movie Overall: 7.0

Escaping The Horror Formula! An Escape Room Review

Escape Room Poster

            The age of horror took a major turn when the Saw series unleashed its gory thrills to the Hollywood industry.  Sadly, the very edge and gimmicks it brought grew stale, as sequel after sequel appeared to dilute the quality and originality.  Soon carbon copies came in, eventually flooding the market with mediocre films that didn’t do much to progress the genre.  Still, there are always those hopes that some quality still lurks in the chaotic slew that is this genre.  Hi, Robbie K here with his first review of the year on the latest Horror movie entitled:

 

Movie: Escape Room (2019)

 

Director:

Adam Robitel

Writers:

Bragi F. Schut (screenplay by) (as Bragi Schut), Maria Melnik (screenplay by)

Stars:

Deborah Ann WollTaylor RussellTyler Labine

 

LIKES:

  • New Twist
  • Attention To Detail/Creativity
  • Good Acting
  • Character Development
  • Story
  • Stuck To Gimmick
  • Suspenseful Energy
  • Short Run Time

 

SUMMARY:  These types of films fall victim to stale presentations and lack of originality.  As such, the Escape Room approach was a nice twist on this film bringing with it a new creativity and approach that was refreshing.  Each of the rooms had extraordinary detail, planned out to feel like the intense game of survival, filled with snares, baits, and clues to spur the threats on. Such design brought with it new arenas to engage your mind and held much more sustenance.

What further advanced the story were the characters, contenders who for once had more dimension than simple, snobbish, cannon fodder that often take center stage.  These players held backstories, opportunities to learn, and personalities that evolved with each passing minute.  As such, I found myself rooting for the team to succeed instead of rooting for a timely demise to end their flawed personalities.  The actors had more room to use their talents to cross the spectrum and do a surprising job expanding upon what was once simple roles.

Tying all of this together those, was an engaging story that managed to combine all the backstories, gimmicks, and flair into an engaging cinematic piece that delivered on its promise, but remained interesting on many levels.  Uncovering the mysteries, solving the clues, and keeping the energy flowing through the film with a presentation that was filled with anticipation and excitement. Given that they balanced the gimmick with a story it gets bonus points, even more so keeping it in the short run time leads to even more bonus points.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Cliché
  • A few stretches
  • Wanting More Backstory for some characters
  • Ruined by Trailers

 

SUMMARY: Sadly, all the planning and details laid out still haven’t escaped the cliché and unoriginality that follows these types of films.  Escape Room falls into these own sets of traps, but fortunately the spin, ingenuity, and suspense are able to divert the blunt of this area of improvement.  One of those that is a bit eye rolling, is that the rooms takes some stretches of the imagination and ignoring reality to get on board.  While most of it is acceptable, there are some times I had to turn my brain off extra to get over the unrealistic hurdle.

In addition, there was a little bit of adjusting the story order I would have liked to see, placing all the character stories closer to the beginning where their lives were explained in more detail.  Had they done this, I feel some of the parts rushed over for me would have been improved, but this minor detail is nothing compared to my big limitation.  That much of the story, twists, and fates have been revealed in the trailers to great detail.  If you’ve got a good memory, and watch the trailer with enough focus, you’ll get about 60-75% of the movie revealed.  So avoid the trailers enough and you will be okay, but otherwise look forward to the last 25% to really give you the last tidbits.

 

The VERDICT:

 

         This genre is what you pay for, but fortunately Escape Room renews the potential for greatness in this type of movie.  With a focus on detail, character designs, and story integration this addition to the group was fantastic for me.  It’s engaging pace and suspenseful energy will offset most of the film’s limitations.  Given all the visuals and fun I had, the movie is well worth a trip to the theater and certainly one of the better horror movies to show up in a while, at least in terms of thriller/slasher.  I certainly enjoyed this film and look forward to this direction for future installments if possible.  My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror/Mystery:  8.0-8.5

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0

 

 

Off the Chaney? Vice Review

Vice Poster

 

The world today is a politically charged place and with it comes a war of opinions, views, and media mayhem that many thrive on. So of course we have Hollywood raring to go, bringing a production of its own to toss into the game and hopefully wow.  So Robbie K is here to give his opinions on that movie as he reviews the latest film:

 

Movie: Vice (2018)

 

Director:

Adam McKay

Writer:

Adam McKay

Stars:

Christian BaleAmy AdamsSteve Carell

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Makeup
  • The Editing
  • The Presentation, somewhat
  • The Pace
  • The Acting
  • The Explanations

 

Summary:  Hands down my appreciation of this movie starts in the art of making the characters come to life in their looks.  Hollywood’s resources of time traveling makeup artists continue to be abundant as Vice brings their talents to new levels.  Creating Chaney in all his ages alongside his family is spectacularly done, transforming Bale and his colleagues into the various political players of the game.  It’s sleek, it’s beautiful and worthy of an Oscar award in my opinion.

Past that though, the rest of the movie is very well presented at parts to grant you a political biography that is certainly comedic at times.  The editing work of integrating their characters into real life footage is certainly impressive, keeping you immersed into the film without losing too much screen time for the actors.  Speaking of which, the acting is super well done, with Bale obviously getting top billing for how well he matched Chaney’s mannerisms and presentation quite well from the footage I’ve seen.  The rest of the cast supports them well in this semi-political farce working to bring the turmoil of the political warfare into the screen.

  Yet the thing this reviewer appreciates in regards to the presentation, outside of the impressive recreation of events and use of footage, is the sort of semi-narrative taking place to explain what is going on. The history of acts, scandals, and who was involved in what escapes me since leaving high school, but this movie is there to fill in the gaps.  As the narrator takes you through the times in a semi-quick pace, one begins to learn the various acts and ratifications Chaney went through in his supposed goals and plans. As such, one should have a small compass to guide them through all the red tape and get to the end, even if you are not up to date on the latest history of our politicians.  Thus, it’s not too hard or boring to follow.

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • The Presentation At Times
  • Episodic At Times
  • More Integration Of Other Characters
  • The Jaded Energy

 

Summary:  When it comes to artistic style, you give them points for originality and creativity, but that indirect manner sometimes was a little convoluted.  The back and forth between time periods, the representation of Chaney fishing, and the nonlinear presentation muddied up the water for an already heavy story.  In addition, all of Chaney’s historical “triumphs” felt very chopped up, the episodic principles sort of thrown up in the air and landing in bite sized pieces that had just enough sustenance to whet your appetite, but not provide the most power it had for the drama component that I think the trailers painted.

Instead the film focused more on the comedy aspects, sort of looking to point out Chaney’s involvement in politics from a certain point of view. For one thing, the characters were very extreme, grandiose displays of political characters that while impressively acted, was a little lacking in terms of the characters the trailer painted. The comical approach is certainly unique, but I guess I was expecting a little more of the biography component than the farce they chose to approach.  Certainly, the biggest limitation for audience members might be the jaded energy this movie has to offer.  Like the new stations of cable television, this film presented Chaney’s reign from a certain angle, some of which is based on truth and some of which could be Hollywood magic. If you are a particular side of the political spectrum, you might just find yourself angry with the movie, rather than entertained or engaged by the political venue displayed.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Critics certainly have got the right idea about praising Vice as the work of art in terms of editing, acting, and make up get mad praise for the investment made in these areas.  Yet in terms of the story and drama the trailers painted for me, the film doesn’t quite agree with the atmosphere in the trailer for me.  If you agree with the views of this team, the film will be right up your alley, but depending on your political alignment and your views on Chaney, the jaded presentation may not be the style you want.  So is this movie worth the trip to the theater.  The answer is kind of, but only if you are ready for a dryer comedy version of the Fox or CNN News presentation.  Otherwise, wait for this one to come to home viewing. 

 

My Scores are:

 

Biography/Comedy/Drama: 6.0-6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Will This Be your Favourite?

The Favourite Poster

 

Robbie K with another quick review as he hits the more artistic nature of the film this holiday season.  With a wonderful reception at the various film festivals, this movie held high hopes for being a winning masterpiece for the late year.  With a promising cast, good direction, and a unique twist to normal films, I went in eagerly to see what awaited.  What was the verdict?  Robbie’s reviews here to share his opinions as he reviews:

 

Movie:  The Favourite (2018)

 

Director:

Yorgos Lanthimos

Writers:

Deborah DavisTony McNamara

Stars:

Olivia ColmanEmma StoneRachel Weisz

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Acting
  • The Setting
  • The Costumes/Makeup
  • The Character Development
  • The Strategy
  • The Presentation, mostly

 

Summary:  Film festival features are seldom squandered out of acting, and the Favourite is no exception.  Rachel Weisz succeeds in her abilities as the lady of the manor, with poise, regality, and a cunning nature fitting of the character designed.  Stone’s transition throughout the movie is admirable, starting on end of the personality spectrum, yet showing the evolving psyche of the players of late century politics.  Colman as well is an integral piece, ushering in the role and acting as the key pillar for this mad state of affairs.

But acting aside, The Favourite stands out for it’s beautiful setting, with the location team and set crew working hand and hand to fashion a fitting battlefield for our femme fatales of the silver screen.  The manor and all its hallowed halls and manicured lawns will take you on that international trip to historical England, immersing you into the themes at hand.  As such, the characters themselves are quite dashing in their costumes, every politician, maid, and governmental officiant a welcoming tribute to the paintings of old.  The leading women in particular have ravishing costumes and makeup, helping to unleash the full effect of the movie.

Yet it is the character centric story that really takes all the aforementioned strengths and pulls them together.  The Favourite’s focus on developing all the characters, including a few secondary characters that at first seem mere parlor tricks. As the film progresses, the strategy at hand also starts to evolve in a Game Of Thrones like technique without so much blood and murder, as inner wants and jealousy lead to some rather interesting choices. And all of this is presented beautifully in the film work’s techniques.  Odd angles and dark hallways mirror the tone of the movie, as a haunting soundtrack of European orchestra plays in the back adding more to the emotions of the characters. Presenting all of this as if it were a Shakespearean play only adds to the ambience of the movie, and helps this film stand out a little more in terms of artistic wonder.  Yes, it certainly feels like a Thespian tragedy at hand and a nod to this approach and helping it shine in victory.

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • The Pace at times
  • The Animal Cruelty
  • The Inclusion Of Seedier Culture
  • The Ending’s Finesse

 

Summary:  While artistic and brilliantly presented, the movie for me ran a little slow at times.  The opening of the film did its introduction well, with the first couple of acts taking time to introduce the world in appropriate detail.  Eventually as the rivalry develops. Things really start to take off, only to slightly take a rather large detour that offset the pace disrupting the very thing I fell in love with on the movie, with the end probably being where the steam was fully lost.  Certainly some of the loss of detail comes in with the focus of documenting every move in this game of human chess, which I didn’t mind.

Instead, the  real loss of pace came from some of the extra details added for more of a cultural reflection of the times (details Shakespeare loved).  While some of the animal cruelty showed the off the past times of the British high life, I did not need to see the repeated defeat of the small creatures, while other times were just unnecessary quirks that seemed forced and rushed in at the end.  In addition some of the seedier shots such as rape, self-pleasure, and other acts of hazing didn’t quite add anything to the story or feel of the movie, when my main goal was to see the power play between the two champion actresses.  Sadly, this semi-focus on the animalistic side of the characters sort of deterred from the plot for me and added unnecessary length to the movie.

And like my fellow reviewers, I do agree that the film’s ending did not quite suit me given all the build-up.  It ends rather vaguely, and although it mirrors the Greek Tragedy’s delivery, it did not quite have the same satisfaction that those ancient playwrights had.  Instead, it seemed that the Favourite had a rather rushed, messy finish that gives you all the pieces you need to draw up your own conclusions of what occurred.  Outside of throwing off the pace in the final two acts, the ending just didn’t deliver that last punch I had wanted, or at least in the manner I wanted.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall the Favourite is worthy of much of the praise it received from the festivals.  The presentation is beautiful on many levels as it deters from the usual linear fashion, and it seems to really pay tribute to the tragedies that this tale is based on.  In addition the story really speaks out to the culture and darker parts of history that sometimes don’t get told in the text books. Yet, it’s ironically that very presentation that took some of the flair away from the movie, as getting lost in the grimier aspects of human nature threw off the pace of the film and left the ending a semi-complete telling that could have used twenty minutes more to flesh out the final number with that woman’s scorn I think we wanted. Overall, the movie gets points for its presentation style, but it may not quite have all the categories needed to warrant a trip to the movies in my opinion.  Still, give this one a try at home if you are looking for something.

 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Comedy/Drama: 7.5-8.0

Movie Overall:  7.5

A Second Act Of Recycle J-Lo Plots

Second Act Poster

 

Welcome to the abbreviated reviews of Robbie K reviews. Today we hit the latest romantic comedy to storm the sea of cinema for the holiday season.  In this world of increasing competition and unequal opportunity, is there a way for one to climb the ladder of success despite not taking the same choices others did?  That’s what this film’s motif is all about as I review the latest Rom com/Chick Flick entitled:

 

Director:

Peter Segal

Writers:

Justin ZackhamElaine Goldsmith-Thomas

Stars:

Jennifer LopezVanessa HudgensLeah Remini

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • Good Chemistry
  • Use of A Majority of the Characters
  • Fun Approach that isn’t mushy
  • Good Life Lessons
  • Jennifer Lopez’s style
  • Pace

 

Summary:  Second Act’s strengths lie in how well it uses its characters to tell the stories it wants to show.  Lopez and Hudgens are a fantastic duo, whose energy feeds well off of each other and provides the solid relationship the movie flourishes off of. As the other secondary and tertiary characters hover around the rivalry, it opens the gates past the typical rom com and instead makes it a very fun film where each character helps to bring the life lessons to bear, and mostly staying relevant to the story. Utilizing a quick pace and bypassing a majority of the stereotypical mushy themes and going for a stronger moral based theme that is a little closer in representing life, Second Act really brings that girls night out fun/date night film that will hopefully appeal to more fans.  In addition, Lopez still always has that stylish flare that makes her incredible, bring the poise and prowess despite the role she was directed to play.

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Cannibalized plots of J-Lo Movies Past
  • Plot points rushed over or lacking build
  • Predictable
  • The Boyfriend semi-pointless
  • Forced Comedy at Times

 

Summary: Second Act may be fun and quick, but it’s originality is lacking which may take away from the audience.  Previous J-Lo films have been ripped apart put together in this mosaic of references that are decently intertwined.  As a result, many of the plots are only semi developed, a few trying to have built, but then revealed in a very calm demeanor.  Sure there is some emotional bond to it, but the rushed approach to  many of these predictable story lines denies the satisfying plot telling her previous movies had done super well on.  Perhaps the weakest of the stories for me was the boyfriend element, to which that particular cast member Milo Ventimiglia, has been promoting on the various talk shows, did little to advance the movie.  His integration into the film is very thin, offering little emotional turmoil, or any real character development, which was a missed shot. Finally, some of the comedic antics are beautifully executed, but for others it’s another example of jamming the stockings with as much comedy gimmicks as you can.  These moments did not do it as much for me or the audience, and could have been focused on developing the plot more.  Oh well cute jokes are the lifeblood of comedy these days.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, the movie is exactly what the trailer promised, fun, simple minded comedy that is just a nice break from the big budget films that are super popular.  While certainly entertaining at times due to the great acting chemistry, character usage, and Jennifer Lopez’s style classing it up, the movie still fails to drop the same quality he earlier films did.  Too many unoriginal, predictable plots we’ve seen done better plague this film, and with the rushed storytelling, it felt this was a mini-series that could have been executed better in episodic telling of TV and Netflix specials. Still, definitely a good group night out or date movie, but best reserved in the comforts of your home. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Romance:  6.0-6.5

Movie Overall: 4.5-5.0

Welcome To Another Review: Welcome To Marwen

Welcome to Marwen Poster

 

Hello all, Robbie K is back with another movie review, and this time with one that looks a little unorthodox.  Amidst the superhero films, CGI spectaculars, and new comedies that are trying to make their mark, a few movies are up for bringing some more unique experience to the film and trying to teach some lessons.  My first review comes in the form of a PTSD trauma film, trying to inject entertainment with a serious lesson.  Just in time for the holidays, here comes Robbie’s movie reviews on:

 

Film: Welcome to Marwen (2018)

Director:

Robert Zemeckis

Writers:

Robert Zemeckis (screenplay by), Caroline Thompson (screenplay by)

Stars:

Steve CarellFalk HentschelMatt O’Leary

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting: Carell and his female entourage do their jobs justice.  Carell’s portrayal of a PTSD suffering victim is spot on for someone with severe traumatic disorder.  The terror, the paralyzing fear, and even the nightmares are beautifully crafted to show the suffering some have and the interpretations from their mind’s eye.  When the girls don their action figure forms, the attitude and spunk come out in full force, and craft cool characters that are a combination of symbology and entertainment.  It may not be the most developed characters, but they do very well with the task at hand.  As for the real life counterparts, it’s really Leslie Mannand Merritt Weverwho get the thumbs up from me as they hit their parts well, and help advance the story outside the fictitious town, which means different approaches outside the action/soldier role.

 

Story:  The story is certainly a dramatized biography, hitting the highlights of a fascinating story, and casting it over with that Hollywood magic.  While not the most put together, the film gets props for portraying the journey of Hoagie’s recovery from the introduction of the terror to the various impasses he faces in his mission to find himself.  Along the way, one will get to gradually uncover the backstory, while helping progress his recovery. This balance gives you a lot of focus on Carell’s inner struggles and his external life at the same time.  As such, you’ll find a lot to grasp onto in this drama filled tale.

 

Pace:  While many biographies can sometimes drag, this movie does a good job keeping most of the drama at an entertaining dynamic.  This is mostly in thanks to the action scenes that decorate the screen, gun play between dolls and action figures that mirrors the war within Hoagie’s mind. By placing these components into the film, the movie kept its entertainment value while helping speed things up to the next act. Thus, don’t expect too many dry/slow parts in this film.

 

The Art Style:  Let’s face it, perhaps the biggest like of this is the art direction they chose.  Marwen’s victory is utilizing the presentation to represent the struggles of the mind of a PTSD patient and the war that lies within them to succeed. The dolls that act as his recovery are sculpted beautifully, and the blend of makeup with CGI is a style I quite appreciate as it’s something unique.  As the symbology continues to progress through the plot though, the artistic style continue to be more impressive as the styles continue to evolve to encompass the ever-changing mind of Carell.  I totally enjoyed the integration of the doll world with the real world, and think this is the true shining moment of the film.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

More Character Development: Hoagie may be the star and therefore get the character development, but the females that were so integrated into his life, probably needed some more work as well.  A couple of them got inklings of background information dropped into the mix, expanding upon their characters and maybe bringing them back into the story. Sure it might not be the most accurate portrayal, but for the cast included in this film, I figured maybe you would get the bang for your buck.  This is especially true for two of the characters whose doll forms were gorgeous, but inclusion was rather lackluster outside of the look of the dolls.

 

The Bad Guy Inclusion: You would think that the antagonists would have a little more inclusion of the bad guys outside of generic Nazi figurines.  The trailers really highlighted these gentleman as the main source of Hoagie’s dismay, yet they were surprisingly one dimensional in this film.  Perhaps more artistic rivalry, perhaps a little more background story for them as well, to actually warrant the repetitiveness that plagues this film.

 

The Jokes: In an age of politically correct fervor, Marwen surprisingly crosses the line with soe of its terminology.  The focus of Hoagie’s interests is going to be a little hard for some to enjoy, and for me it didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the movie given how much fly by they did on this interest and that was just not fitting into the film for me.

 

Dropped plot points: Marwen suffers from too many plot points jammed into a 2-hour run time for me.  There were so many aspects they tried to cover with Hoagie’s life and while I think they brushed on many things well, there were some under focused plot points that did not work for me.  I don’t want to go into further details, but Marwen needed to pick and choose some more points or perhaps bring back the extra moments in a director’s cut.

 

The Repetitiveness:  My biggest limitation with Marwen is the repetitive sequences and scenes that plague the movie.  Many of the action scenes blend together, a very concise gun fight that has the feel of the movie, but starts to blend together by the third bout of bullets.  In addition, seeing the extravagant terror laughs of the Nazi doll over and over again just gets old after a while when there is little development in the fight. Again, the style works for me, but perhaps a little more dynamic aspect to the action could have helped get past the monotonous tone set in the movie.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            I don’t think Marwen had quite the impact the movie promised, but it doesn’t make it a bad movie either.  Carell’s acting is certainly the strong point alongside the art that helps make this mental health problem come to life in new ways.  It’s true, not all the elements came together in terms of character inclusion, the plot points, or maybe the action scenes, but I think it does it’s role fine in terms of a biography.  Probably not the movie meant for the theater so much, but certainly worth taking a look at in the near future. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Comedy/Drama: 7.0-7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0