A Doll of A prequel: Creation of a Better Movie


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So many years ago, the Conjuring dropped into theaters and opened up a movie universe that would bestow nightmares to the audience members who saw it.  This weekend, the latest installment in this haunted world with Annabelle Creation.  A prequel to the last film, this possessed doll continues to be a popular figure head in the occult series to warrant another film.  Is this film a fitting addition to the franchise, or is it another money grabber fit to be lost in the horror archives?  Robbie K here to help answer those questions and share some thoughts.  Let’s get to work.

 

LIKES:

 

Answers Questions:  The first Annabelle gave the doll some basis and established her deadly legacy, but it lacked any true backstory of her creation.  The prequel, as so titled, helped fill in the creation story and establish the origin to its possession.  As the film progresses, more of the Annabelle’s journey is revealed, alongside a closer look at the creature that uses it as a puppet.  While not fully complete, we now have the connections needed to make sense of the first movie, and further engross us in the universe. Unfortunately, the name, the involvement, and other details of the demons still remain unanswered, but can be extrapolated with a dialogue hints.

 

The Pace:  Horror movies can have pacing issues at time depending on the story.  Fortunately, Annabelle Creation’s moves at a decent pace to maximize the movie.  Slow enough to provide build up for the scares, but fast enough to keep everything moving and on edge, the production team did a nice job keeping you invested in the movie.  There is little time between all the craziness, with just enough comedic relief to relieve the tension and keep things interesting.

 

Scares:  I guess we need to talk about the main element you go for these movies huh?  The scare factor is at an all-time high in this movie, continuing the Conjuring’s legacy of keeping things dynamic, fun, and suspenseful.  Annabelle’s creepy on so many levels, starting with the realistic setting to place the movie in.  That realism and the use of shadows has your imagination on fire trying to fill in the gaps of what lurks in the dark.  Once the subtle components are set, you can bet there a number of creepy tricks played in this film, alongside the fleeting glimpses of the demon that terrorizes the family in his cruel game. And of course, there is that doll. It’s soulless stare and deceiving smile continue to give me the willies, and had a number of audience members using colorful language before involuntary rising from their seats.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Character stories:  The movie had a lot of characters to play in our haunted setting.  The protagonists of the film held a lot of potential to develop as characters, and unfortunately, they failed on that level.  Sure, you can piece together the simple origins placed before you, but I would have liked more insight into the girls’ origins or perhaps a little more integration of Bee into the writing to help maximize scares.  With the conjuring able to unearth their demons and dreams in a quality manner, Annabelle should be able to mimic that magic.  Scares do not equal perfect horror movie.

 

Pointless characters:  Remember the big family in the Conjuring and how each sibling, parent, and exorcist were part of the tale in some way.  That’s gone too.  Annabelle Conjuring brought a large group into the home, but only about four-five of them have any real involvement in the plot.  The underutilization of these characters tripped up the plot, made for ridiculous scenes that didn’t have as much importance, and really left me asking, what was their point.  One girl has just one line and a few stares at the camera.  Why include them if you aren’t going to use them to develop the characters, or at least try to work together to escape the demon’s wrath. 

 

Predictability:  Scares are getting easier to predict in this day and age.  This is mostly due to the development team throwing their usual tactics into the mix to warn you of the impending jump scare. Annabelle Conjuring doesn’t escape this trend and much of the scares can be seen a mile away in some form or manner. While there are a few moments that were good tries, the tactics got repetitive and/or cheesy to be laughable rather than fearful.  Fortunately, some creepy special effects and the darkness offset this enough to still get under your skin… thanks religion nightmare inducing series.

 

The Verdict:

 

Overall, Annabelle Creation is one of the better horror movies of the summer and perhaps this year.  It is dark, creepy, and moves at that pace needed to keep you invested in the movie for the two-hour run time.  In addition, the filling in gaps and hints start to connect the world (a very popular trend), which will have you die hard horror fans screaming in delight at both scares and plot.  Yet, there are still elements of the story telling to clean up and utilizing your characters you bring in is a big step to improve on.  In addition, I hope the next installment forgoes the predictable moves and gives us that kick I haven’t seen yet.  Considering everything, this reviewer recommends a visit to the theater for this one, assuming you are disturbed by spiritual haunting movies. 

 

My scores:

Horror/Mystery/Thriller:   8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0

 

P.S. Stay for the end of the credits for some teasing.

Atomic Action

Atomic Blonde

 

Spies, they come in every shape and size from goofy men in naked gun to the suave iterations of James Bond.  Yet one thing is certain, they often are involved in incredibly threatening situations that require luck, training, and sets of skills to get the job done.  This weekend, a new agent appears in the world of the silver screen and her name is Charlize Theron.  This gorgeous actress has been teasing the trailers with some exciting, seductive, and sexy scenes of her movie Atomic Blonde, promising an adventure to be had.  Robbie K back with another review, so let’s get this mission started.

 

LIKES:

 

Theron’s acting:  Lead actresses carry a lot of the movie when they are the featured character. Fortunately, Theron nails the role of the spy on all the avenues promised by the trailer.  Her physical looks, capable of making people go gaga, are only the superficial wrapping paper for the talent within, as she unleashes her cold ruthlessness with a little twist. She plays the wise and sly role well, bringing a dynamic character who has great chemistry with her fellow cast, crafting a deadly board to run their games on. Theron may be monotone in much of her roles, and often may play the same types of roles, but it works in this setting quite well.

 

Funny:  While certainly not the sole theme of this movie, Atomic Blonde is a figurative blast in the laughter department.  One of my friends compared some scenes to Monty Python in their comedic ploys of minions constantly getting up.  Seeing these stooges fall, dive, and become injured in a number of manners, but have ridiculous stamina is entertaining on many levels.  In addition, Atomic Blonde has some well-timed, and well-aimed, lines to relieve some of the tension. Mix all this with the over-the-top shock factor of this movie and you won’t help but laugh at the presentation at hand.

 

Action: The trailers painted an exciting thrill ride of death defying battles and spy warfare destruction.  And the trailers didn’t lie at all.  Atomic Blonde knocked hard on the action door as Theron faced the insurmountable odds of the secret army of spies out to hinder her mission and end her beautiful life.  The film has a number of styles for you including hand to hand combat, gunplay (and lots of it), and a few car chase scenes to keep things interesting.  Each of the drawn-out battles fits into the mission well, and the dynamic setting adds to the heat of the moment that is satisfying on so many levels.

 

The Soundtrack:  As Frozen proved years ago, a good soundtrack is something to take notice of.  Atomic Blonde’s featured tracks are all in the 80s, and the sweet beats are utilized to an excellent level that brings out the spirit of the scene.  And if you don’t care about a track matching to the movie, but like the synthesizer heavy music of the decade, then good news, you’ll be dancing in your seat to the sweet beats of the movie.  Whatever the reason, note that Atomic Bomb’s soundtrack is certainly a blast to the past of energizing music.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Convoluted story:  You may not have expected much of a story, after all most action heavy films seldom have one.  Yet, the thin story was certainly a complicated mess given everything packed into the movie and the directions they took to present it.  There is a mystery there, but it is overshadowed by the stunts and combat that ring throughout the movie. While the action is exciting, it distracts from the main plot and left little to follow given the shock factor of the series.  The dry dialogue doesn’t help much either, nor the fact that the movie jumps through so many perspectives in a short amount of time. The bottom line is…the presentation makes for a rather dry story, with only a few emotional oases to breathe life into the film.

 

Violence:  Action often does breed violence, but Atomic Blonde’s battles are true spectacles of mutilation and torture.  All the extras in particular are brutally battered in the fights, bashed in extraordinary detail to turn a few heads or make one of my friends cover her eyes. Theron’s character gets hit pretty hard too, painting her a few shades of gore as well. The gunplay makes for a ballad of painting the walls red, and the emphasis of close up, head explosions can be a little overdone at times. However, the most disturbing components are seeing the up and close drawn out deaths of a few character and their agonizing last breath.  Keep that in mind before jumping into the theater.

 

The unneeded romance scene:  I’m not one for the hot and sexy sequences in bed, but I can appreciate it when either done with class or pertinent to the story.  A scene in the trailers, and of course the movie, showed a rather hot moment that just didn’t feel necessary to me in the story.  Certainly, editing could have left this out, or at least the director’s cut, but without the added emphasis of relationships to the movie, I could have done without it.

 

The Verdict:

 

Atomic Blonde held much of what the trailers promised. It is an off the wall, very shocking film that leaves little to the imagination.  It is a thrilling, adrenaline pumping ride that felt fresh given the unique presentation and a soundtrack to further add fun.  Unfortunately, the stunts, violence, and convoluted presentation derailed the story for me and left me wondering what it is I just watched. There is plenty of theater worthy material to justify a visit, but if violence isn’t your cup of tea, pass this mission on to someone else. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Mystery/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Nolan, Dun Got It Right

Dunkirk

 

War, huh, yeah, what is it good for?  Entertaining movies, that is what it is good for.  Hollywood has numerous examples of wars from the various historical times in our human legacy. Many of these installments focus on a hero who saved the war, or a band of brothers that bravely faced the odds to hold the line.  In most cases though, you can bet there will be violence, explosions, and often graphic portrayals of the hell contained in our squabbles.  I finish my weekend reviews with Dunkirk, which is the latest installment in the Christopher Nolan library.  Can the Dark Knight director work his magic in war?  Or does it fizzle out like a dud bomb.  Robbie K here to give his opinions.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

Layered Story:  Many war movies are the linear tales of the hero who will win the battle.  Dunkirk diverts from this main path and instead presents its plot from three viewpoints that overlap at various times.  A cryptic opening doesn’t do much to explain this, but eventually the plots coincide and your mind is blown by the presentation.  This element, though confusing at times, adds that unique flare to the movie that keeps your interest piqued as you connect the journeys of those involved.  In addition, the multiple viewpoints give you a more complete picture of the war, further bringing the history to life in a manner Hollywood special effects is famous for.

 

Realism:  We know the doctoring editing and story writers can make to score big bucks in the box office.  These moments often lead to overdramatic, eye-rolling moments that war dramas can be.  Dunkirk again shines in the unique department in terms of crafting the story to be realistic in many details.  You’ll be pulled into the war in this film, grounded in the nightmares that plague the battlefields and the internal struggle that all involved face.  I felt plagued with the emotional guilt in the choices made in this film, while also concerned with the consequences that could follow those choices. The film’s focus on the people and not the battle works on so many levels, and makes you interested in the characters more so than the special effects.  Nice choice again Noland!

 

The Cinematography:  Dunkirk doesn’t have a lot of lines, award winning dialogue, or even one-liners that we as humans like.  Instead it is the cinematography and editing that bring Dunkirk to life and make it shine in the theater’s dark halls.   While the special effects are certainly impressive (though not that showy), it’s really the camera work that brings the mood out in the form of hope seeking faces that are suffering through the onslaught dealt to them.  Throw in the powerful musical score and mix in the little line delivery and you get that recipe for emotional bombardment that brings respect, empathy, and pride of the sacrifices made by troops long ago.

 

Short run time:  Such a dynamic, sounds like it would take forever…fortunately Nolan’s direction kept the movie under 2 hours and brought quality out in that short time.  This is an example of good directing and editing, and proof that you can have a quality film in a short time limit.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Missing that Hollywood Story:  Realism is good, but I certainly missed having a flared-up story to grip onto.  Dunkirk is a quality movie, but it isn’t as much fun as I have had with other war movies.  It lacks some of the big, bang excitement made famous in other war movies, and the realistic psychological approach can drag at times.  The result is not the action-packed survival I had hoped for, but I can always rewatch Hacksaw Ridge for that. And while I enjoyed the layered story approach, I again think it was confusing at times to piece things together without a central story, plot, or goal (outside of survival/rescue) to hook onto.

 

The placement of certain scenes: My buddy and I agreed that there were points to this movie that were difficult to follow.  Much of this came from the odd placement of clips in the movie and the rapid transitions between these various stories with little guidance.  Things do get better when the lines start to come together, but there are still scenes that still stay confusing at points until the end of the movie.  In addition, the pacing of the stories was uneven at times, with a couple of stories rapidly concluding (so you think), only to reappear after a prolonged gap.  Not the biggest weakness, but things could have been a little better oriented for me.

 

Depressing:  We know war sucks, and this movie’s portrayal of the loss of hope amplifies those feelings. There are so many elements of depression in this movie that you may feel a little down following the opening.  I felt a little tired during this movie, especially during the drawn-out moments that were more depressing and less stressing.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Dunkirk is certainly one of the more artistic and clever portrayals of war, dropping Hollywood flare for realism.  Nolan’s impressive directing opens up new worlds of war theater and keeps things fresh with the impressive displays of heroism.  Yet all the good the cinematography and directing is… I missed the Hollywood flare that cinemas bring.  Without that story/entertainment value to it… Dunkirk has some confusing presentations and dragged out moments that can weigh heavy on you.  Still, this movie has plenty to qualify a visit to the theater, and one of the better movies of the summer.  Not the epic wartime thriller, but certainly one of the more realistic, war dramas I have ever seen. 

 

My scores:

 

Action/Drama/History:  9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

 

 

Descending Further Into Quality

Descendants 2

 

Robbie K here with a little change up.  Instead of hitting the silver screen with this review, I analyze the latest Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) to premier tonight.  Our film focus tonight, the sequel to Disney’s latest merchandise extravaganza Descendants.  If you don’t know what this series is about, it focuses on the offspring of the Disney villains and their quest to find themselves amidst a plethora of chaotic assignments.  Like many DCOMs, legendary director Kenny Ortega returns to bring you music and kid-friendly drama that keeps breathing life into Disney Channel.  Tonight, the sequel is back to keep the momentum going and try to retain some quality back to the cable network.

 

LIKES:

 

Villain Kids:  In most movies, the story is only as good as the antagonists to fight and in this case Uma (China Anne McClain) is an improvement over last movie’s band of baddies.  Descendants one tried to reinstate the classic baddies, with subpar casting and actors who semi looked the part. The direction of the movie though put the kids in the forefront and the villains in the back, resulting in rather boring/cheesy performances.  With the kids being the focus, the new villain of Uma gets the focus and development needed, and her malicious planning are nice qualities.  Her second in command Harry Hook (Thomas Doherty) is the enforcer who has some mad skills to bring to the table and actually does something to up the ante in a rather calm series.  With kids at the focus, the doors open wide for more adventure at hand.

 

The Message:  DCOM movies are all about teaching a lesson, and Descendants 2 keeps that time honored magic alive.  Where Descendants was all about not being your parents and marking your own path, the sequel focuses on finding yourself as the main theme.  A good lesson we can all use a refresher on that only loses a little power by the preachy delivery.  Of course, there are other minor plots to help teach a few more subjects on friendship, courage, confidence, and knowing when a rule needs to have a new spin. All good messages for young ones to get bombarded with, and an applause at Disney doing it right.

 

The Story:  The first movie did a nice job introducing all the relationships of the world while embedding it in plots of doing villains’ bidding, but also battling yourself when morals conflict. Yet the story was very simple and lacked the kick that it needed to be fully entertaining.  Descendants 2 was a step up, building on those relationships and using them to tell a new story that involved exploring more of the isle.  The added “suspense” was again a step in the right direction, and the increased urgency only brought more suspense to the mix. 

 

The Songs:  By far my favorite component was the soundtrack.  After seeing Descendants a thousand times over the last two years, I made my list and found only a couple of songs I found timeless.  In this installment, the five out of six tracks will most likely be coming to my Ipod.  The dance numbers were much better for me and they fit very well into the theme of the movie instead of just being jammed in at random intervals ( see Evil Like Me and Ridiculous).  The new soundtrack has edge and really kicks up the beat.  Nice improvements guys.

Acting:  One thing I must give props to though, is the acting.  Descendants cast is super talented and each brings a dynamic energy to the movie that really sparks magic into the DCOM world.  Dove Cameron steals the show with her fantastic ability to direct a character and mold it into a believable performance.  She also brings singing and dancing to the mix that mirrors the emotions present in her character. Cameron Boyce as Carlos has the energy and moves to impress, even more this time with the dance numbers.  Sofia Carson is brains, beauty, and passion with focus on her singing coming out in this movie.  Sofia’s dramatic air somehow brings the group together and keeps the extreme personalities grounded.  Booboo Stewart as Jay has more lines in this movie, and brings that action packed, stunt oriented edge the movie continues to need.  Just maximize his talents more please.  Finally Mitchell Hope does a nice job as King Ben, reprising his well to the full effect and refining it to meet the needs of the scene.  The cast’s chemistry is impressive and Ortega’s guidance keeps things strong, selling the relationships that this movie depends on.  

Dislikes:

 

Dropped plot elements: If you haven’t followed the animated shorts and accompanying books, then this won’t affect you.  However, the super fanbase will note other characters missing from Auradon’s halls.  Many characters are absent in this film, and even those from the first film have been reduced to back burner secondary appearances with little involvement in the main plot.  Audrey, Jane, even Doug are not nearly as involved, most likely to give the newbies more screen time.  Unfortunately…

New elements lacking:  Outside of Uma and maybe Harry, many of the new characters are also reduced to smaller roles than I anticipated.  Newcomers Dizzy (Anna Cathcart) and Gil (Dylan Playfair) have been the highlights of the recent advertising campaign, but sadly don’t do much in this film.  In addition, many of the dramatic buildups, foreshadowing, and magic are actually played less than I originally thought.  Guess dancing and sword fighting are more important than complete plots.  One warning I have for future installments is to not grow so big to drop other characters, or face the threat of devouring yourself by inconsistencies.

Rushed Plot:  Descendants holds a lot of potential to be an epic tale, and that first book by De La Cruz was an epic introduction filled with that potential.  The movies unfortunately have lost that balance and go for the rather rushed conclusions that make many DCOMs lacking.  Number 2 did not improve on this element, but worsened as they tried to shove too many plots into the short run-time.  Much of the conflict is dropped quickly, the tasks and trials are rapidly completed, and new elements are haphazardly dropped without any buildup or heat.  I know they are shooting for time constraints, but with something this big… you can take your time and go a little longer.  Younger audiences won’t care about this, but older ones like me would appreciate a little more dramatic play ups.  In addition, don’t set up potential plots and drop them like a bad habit (see Chad Charming subplot).  That incomplete presentation is a little disappointing with legendary directors in the mix.

 

Anticlimatic ending:  I know, this is a movie geared for younger generations, we can’t have too violent of a fight.  The sword fight did a decent job of bringing the appropriate action especially the tangle between Harry and Jay (Booboo Stewart).  However, another struggle at the end showed off some semi-decent computer work in a very…bland manner.  I can’t reveal much more, but an epic tangle could have come in that wasn’t so…abruptly stopped.  Kids watch lion King, Aladdin, and Incredibles, they can handle more than G rated punches.  Add some “fire” to the mix, or throw in some close calls to mix things up and actually bring fear to the mix.

 

The Verdict:

 

Overall, Descendants 2 stepped its game up on many levels with their villains, story, and songs.  Yet it still succumbs to the modern spin on DCOMs to go for musical gimmicks and diluted themes that while entertaining are not the only sustenance of the film.  Descendants 2 story has room for improvement in regards to integrating its characters more, and could take a lesson from the books in regards to adding some suspense to the film.  Still, it is one of the better DCOMs I have seen in a long time, and certainly the more impressive sequel to grace the small screen.  With a little more work and some other feedback from you fans… Descendants 3 (which I feel will come) can be even more exciting. 

 

My scores:

 

Family/Musical/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

Girls, They Want To Have Fun

Girls Trip

 

A girl’s trip. A novelty idea that starts out so innocent, but can turn down the wilder side.  Rough Night already attempted to depict this concept earlier this summer, but it didn’t quite deliver the punch it wanted.  So, this weekend, another (almost identical) movie tries the concept again, and we can only hope it’s more successful.  Robbie K reporting again on another movie review to give you the 411 on films.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Good Pace:  Many raunchy comedies, and let’s face it there are plenty of them, often have either too quick a pace, or drag out exponentially. Girls Trip gets the pace right though, keeping things fun and entertaining, without getting stuck on a scene or sequence for too long.  I found myself engaged in the movie and thoroughly enjoyed the fun at hand in the Flossy Posse adventure.  It’s nice to see things progress at an adequate rate and breathe some life into a plot that was dead of originality. And speaking of plot…

 

Story:  Believe it or not, comedies can still have a story and make you laugh.  Despite what the trailers promised, Girls Trip has a plot that creates a foundation for the laughs to spring off of and keep it grounded with a relevant purpose. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are times they go all out for comedy, however much of it goes with the flow of the story and is relevant to the plot.  Past the comedy though, the story is another heartfelt romp about friendship and love, going down the usual avenues that we’ve seen a hundred times.  One unique feature though is how all of the girls’ problems interconnect and cause drama to offset the mischief at hand.  The result is a dynamic relationship between the ladies, and the extras surrounding them, that feels relevant, relatable, and realistic on many levels.  So, nice to see this in a comedy again.

 

Acting:  Characters are good, but they require acting to come to life.  Rough Night failed to emphasize the acting and traded their talent for quick laughs.  This film learned from that mistake and encouraged them to act like characters with more depth.  Regina Hall has the drama acting down pat, being emotional while also steering from the overacting. Queen Latifah brings her sass back to the mix, a little edgier, but nonetheless the same style that works for these roles. Tiffany Haddish is like the Rebel Wilson in this film. She works well for comedic relief, and her loyal, unfiltered edge is executed well at most parts.  My favorite is Jada Pinkett Smith who presents the most balanced character of the bunch and played the broadest spectrum of the bunchTheir chemistry mixes well and really represents a girl squad who has drama, but has each other’s’ back.

 

Comedy:  A small, but important note, is that the comedy is well executed and quite balanced for this reviewer.  Sure, much of the theme is sexual natured, but fortunately the crassness of the jokes varies depending on the character.  There are some other comedic devices presented that are fun, but what’s nice is that comedy is balanced and not the center piece.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Language:  Yeah, no surprise, I don’t like strong focus on cursing.  Girls Trip sadly falls victim to using the F bomb, alongside a few other derogatory devices, for much of their conversation.  While not the worst I’ve seen, the writing could have used a few rewrites to add some class and more memorable lines to the mix.  But Lazy writing still brought a lot of laughs to the group so it’s probably not the biggest factor for most.

 

The Uncensored moments:  Despite the change up of delivery, and the dynamic nature of the women…much of the comedy is focused on sex. While this comedy is not my particular style, it can be entertaining, when executed at the right times.  There are points where Girls Trip gets really nasty though and drops the class for cheap laughs and gimmicks.  In particular, Haddish’s character gets old at times and her raunchy moments got old at times (though not as much as seeing near naked men and their organs).

 

Endgame/Lack of Originality: With all the good pacing and delivery of this movie, you would think there would be a strong endgame.  Unfortunately, Girls Trip kind of dropped the ball in the last twenty minutes when they threw a big wrench into the gears.  At this point a lot of tension is introduced, only to have it immediately resolved in a rather lackluster manner.  The final resolution has emotional power behind it, but it was very unoriginal and lacking the cleanup I expected from our ladies.  Not the consistency I had hoped for, but still not the worse conclusion I’ve seen this weekend.

 

The Verdict:

 

Despite my low expectations, Girl’s Trip is surprisingly very entertaining.  A well-paced, story-focused comedy is in store for those who come to see this film in the theater.  The cast keeps the movie fun, and the story is both emotional and entertaining to watch, especially with the comedy that goes in tangent with it.  However, despite the entertainment value in it, Girl’s Trip still has some areas to improve upon including comedy diversity, classing up the lines/censorship, and maybe working on an endgame.  Regardless, this movie hits its target audience well and is a fun adventure that I hope will stand at just one movie (no sequel needed).  Worth the trip to the theater?  In terms of comedy this summer, yes this is one of the ones to see.  Yet, there is nothing theater worthy to call for the expensive tickets. 

 

My Scores: 

 

Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

I Wish For Better Execution

Wish

 

I wish I may, I wish I might, make a demand that might cost someone’s life?  That’s not the way the rhyme goes, but this parody is pretty representative of the theme of my latest review.  Robbie K here, this time covering Wish Upon the latest horror genre flick to flood the silver screens across the country.  The “disturbing” trailers paint the picture of the next spine tingling film, but the PG-13 rating suggests it could be a little timid.  What’s the verdict?  Hopefully I can fill in some answers to help answer that question. Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Shorter Run Time:  I know what you’re thinking, not good if this is a like, but it’s nice to see a movie stick around the 90-minute run time when there isn’t sustenance to keep it running longer.  Wish Upon fills its short run-time purpose with the thrills you want, and keeps it concise, a sign of good directing and editing in an era what that so suffers.

 

Joey King: Singling out the actors in this rather new actor cast, Joey King reprises her horror acting in a “two thumbs up” manner.  King plays the role of a distressed teenager with class, bringing a delicate balance of drama, screaming, and shallow happiness to the character.  In many PG-13 or teenager focused films, the lead character often suffers from overacting or extreme tangents in directing.  For me, King was able to keep things in good proportions and didn’t have me rolling my eyes (a first in a long time.) While certainly not an award-winning performance, King gets props for carrying the load of the movie.

 

A Nice tangent:  Despite the common trend of demons, spirits, and ghosts… Wish Upon at least brings a slight twist to the themes of horror movies. The wishing factor is a nice gimmick to get sold onto and see what desires will tempt her to risk lives.  It set a nice pace for the movie to build upon, and made it a little dynamic in regards to whom would pay the blood price for Clare’s (King) decisions and selfishness. The wish factor also presented some character development, shallower but existing, that really worked in their favor.

 

Not overly graphic:  A PG-13 horror movie is often a lot lax in their grim depictions of death.  Wish Upon continues that trend, forgoing gross, exaggerated, drawn out torturous deaths in favor of ridiculous, and still horrible, deaths that are quickly executed. One can think of this as Final Destination meets Unfriended, which boils down to coincidental deaths with a filter.  Unfortunately, it means you have seen a majority of the executions via the commercials, but you will get a few sequences that have escaped the public eye up until now.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Very simplistic:  Despite the deaths being filtered and less intense, they were also very simplistic and not as impressive.  Yes, they were still awful (as death is), but the hype up of the trailers was sadly dropped with the simplicity of the deaths.  There was no extra edge factor to them, and the lack of suspense, which left the ridiculous nature of the deaths the eye-rolling component of the film.  If you want the mindless, over the top deaths without the blood… well your wish has been granted I guess.

Story:  Wish Upon’s tale has some decent character development in it to highlight the underlying theme of the horror movie.  It was great seeing Clare’s transitions and her attempt to find the solution to the curse kept in the box. However, outside of that, the story tanks.  It’s the same predictable mess that most of this genre is, with little sustenance so that they could cram more deaths into the movie.  The cool wish concept brought about a lot of potential to interact with the entity, as well as opportunities for a more suspenseful uncovering of the source of the evil.  I would have liked to see what the creature looked like, or at least more interaction with the invisible evil that dwelled within.  Other plot elements could have been a little more detailed in the delivery as well, to add the emotional impact I think they wanted.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Wish Upon isn’t the worst movie to grace the theaters.  This PG-13 movie brings a unique angle to a stale concept that is concise, decently acted, and not overly graphic. Unfortunately, the execution is still in need of work on a variety of areas.  A lackluster story that was underdeveloped and the lack of suspense are two key areas the potential sequel can bring to the table.  As for this film though, if you aren’t looking for a filtered death movie, you might skip this until haunts Netflix.  For those looking for a simplistic horror film though… you’ve got a ringer in the theaters this summer.  One thing is certain though…be careful what you wish for.

 

My scores:

 

Fantasy/Horror/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall: 4.0

Don’t Leavey Your Tissues Behind

Leavey

 

This weekend is certainly a mixed bag of movies from adventure/fantasy to horror/mystery. So why not throw in a military/biographical/drama into the fray as well, this time portraying a different, and more realistic, female super hero.  If you are reading past my confusing opening, (and the title of this review), you know I’m talking about Megan Leavey. With leash, and gun, in hand, this movie is the chronicle of her walk into the life of a hero and the struggles she had to climb over to succeed.  What’s the verdict?  You’ll have to read on to find out!

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Kate Mara was a fantastic pick for the lead of this movie.  Based on Leavey’s history (from the little research I’ve done), Mara was able to play the emotional rainbow required of this complicated role.  The angst of a rebellious young adult is perfectly portrayed, with enough saucy edge to keep things spicy, while only going over the line occasionally.  Yet, the real portrayal of her talents is her acting of honor, valor, and trauma that comes with being a real-life hero.  You’ll feel all the emotional turmoil, or in some cases lack of emotional turmoil, associated with marine life and the sense of duty before self.  Many audience members became entangled in all the feelings of the movie, captivating them in the story.

 

Good Pace: We know that many military dramas are a little long winded, whether in build up or the tail end of the spectrum.  Not the case for Megan Leavey.  This movie keeps things moving quite well, blending excitement, suspense, and character development in a decently condensed time.  The training portion of the movie is funny and heartwarming as bond between dog and human is formed, adequately building what will be the key foundation for the rest of the movie. Once the exciting deployment begins, the tension only surmounts and keeps one further fastened into the movie, constantly reeled in with each ticking minute as they perform their duty.  It’s engaging! It’s exciting!  And it is real!

 

The Dog:  Let’s face it though, the best part of this movie for most is going to be getting to see the dog or dogs trained to sniff out bombs.  Megan Leavey may be a tale about a woman transforming into a hero, but the director also does extraordinary work with the developing the dog’s status as a warrior itself.  Watching Rex perform all the duties required of him is awesome, feeling like a human actor himself rather than a four-legged accessory.  If you think Mara is the emotional lure in the film, then yes you are correct, but that would make Rex the lighthouse of emotions drawing you more into the flame of this movie.  Watching Rex with the consistent worry that something will happen is the true suspense of this movie, I myself silently praying he would make it home alive.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Movie magic drama:  We know that when it comes to describing drama, many films can exaggerate the truth.  While I’m not certain how tough Megan’s life was, this movie had many moments and characters that felt a little overdramatic to me.  I’m not talking about the war aspect, we know that’s hell.  No, the real overacted moments come in the form of her family life, primarily the interaction with her mom.  Eye-rolling moments aside, fans who like these overzealous characters are in for a treat, but it hit some nerves and took away from the movie.

 

The Final Act: Megan Leavey’s film is split into three parts for me and the first two parts are epically put together to keep the film exciting.  The third part however, is more on the slower side and not the area I would have spent a great deal of time on.  I can’t say much without ruining things, but here it goes.  This finale is certainly emotional, well designed, and a fine example of character development.  However, the pace changes at this part, doesn’t focus on the chemistry I fell in love with. Yes, it’s emotional, and the parts are well put together, I just wanted a little more time with the dog and woman.

 

Theater Worthy?: This is a tough component because there is a lot about this movie I like.  However, I can’t say the movie was really something that needed to be in theaters.  With few special effects and stunts, and a story that, while touching, isn’t an epic, adventure/book like drama that Hollywood theaters have captured.  Instead, this movie would have been solid on the History Channel or a Netflix original movie where you could enjoy it in the comfort of your own home.  So, don’t behead me people, I’m just trying to save you some money to maximize the quality of the film.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Megan Leavey is one of the better military drams I’ve seen in a while.  A fantastic chemistry between man and dog uniting to portray the honor of military service is a leading factor to see this movie.  With emotional sequences captured by beautiful cinematography and epic acting, you’ll find this at the top of a lot of drama loving lists.  Yet, it still lacks some finesse in terms of perfect pace and even more lacks the theater quality effects that make the expensive ticket worthwhile, unless you get the discount show.  Still it is a movie worth checking out when you can, to pay tribute to an honorable woman, her dog, and the heroes that are our military.

 

Biography/Drama/War:  8.5

Movie Overall: 6.5