A Family Adventure that Does Little To Excite

Dolittle Poster

 

 

Another night, another time at the movies and with that we set forth on an adventure that will hopefully be worth the time investment.  Former Iron Man runner, has changed into a new set of duds as he goes into exploring a new universe.  The trailers paint this one as a fun, adventurous movie, that looks to have mystery, comedy, and a little excitement in search of the next big thing.  However, we all know trailers can make things look more golden than they actually are.  Well yours truly is back and ready to give some thoughts as he sets sail with Robert Downey Jr.in the film:

 

Film:  Dolittle (2020)

 

Director:

Stephen Gaghan

Writers:

Stephen Gaghan (screenplay by), Dan Gregor(screenplay by)  | 3 more credits »

Stars:

Robert Downey Jr.Antonio BanderasMichael Sheen

 

LIKES:

  • Great Voice Acting
  • Decent Balance Of Characters
  • Okay CGI
  • Some Meaningful Moments
  • Funny At Times
  • The Ending Credits
  • Cute Family Movie

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Direction Of Dolittle
  • A Little Too Forced Humor
  • The Adventure Is Boring
  • Villain Doesn’t Deliver
  • Action is Simplistic
  • The Story Predictable
  • Low Impact Impasses that Are Too Easy To Overcome

 

Summary:

 

The story of Dolittle has come in many packages, but this one held promise as Pirates meeting cute animal stories.  The digitally created cast has fantastic voice acting, with many creatures being a dead ringer for the people embodying them.  It’s not the most emotionally distraught or tight performance, but it works for the funny characters at hand and should delight the young and young at heart.  With a star-studded cast and plenty of animals, I have to say they accomplish their task of getting as much of the participation of the characters as they could.  I enjoyed the contributions they had to the adventure and found their comedy a selling point for most audience members.  The CGI work is not the most impressive at times, but it worked for me and helped get the animal movements down well, and making this odd cast come to life.  The animation is fluid, and the ability to anthropomorphize these cast of creatures.  While most of this works is to bring comedy to the film, presented in slapstick, goofy delivery, and a few ridiculous sequences designed for the young, it somehow also adds some other level of connection to the movie as you root for the safety of our crew.  Most of the film is about that level of comedy, but at its core lies some of those heartwarming moments that we love to see in these types of films.  Some of these moments are fully appreciated at the end, primarily in the closing moments and end credits that bring yet another art style to the mix that was interesting and fun to watch.  The result is that the movie is all about the classic family movie that has sort of been missing for some time, and will be perfect to take the grandkids too. 

 

However, the reviews coming in make some valid points and I believe these areas could have been improved upon to make this a better movie.  For one the direction of Dolittle himself is odd, a man broken by events, the eccentric genius approach is one part interesting and two parts odd.  A complicated history awaits, but yet the movie never goes with it, lost in him being too silly, isolated, and single track minded to really expand upon this complex character.  And much like the other animals, the comedy is sometimes a little too forced for me, jokes jammed into awkward moments and banter that took the adventure from exciting to corny at times for me, as it became a quest for the next joke.  For me, the adventure became boring very quickly, too simplified and linear with little challenge to stand in our crew’s way.  Where were the exciting ship to ship battles that made our crew face their fears?  What mysteries and challenges await in the palace halls we saw in that trailer?  What about that dragon?  Well… the trailers deceive you into thinking these are real threats, but the truth is that the watered-down action and the challenges just don’t really deliver much outside of a G rated starter movie.  Even the villain is kind of lame, an eccentric looking doctor is about all the threats he has got, as the former leader of vampires/werewolves has taken on the role of one liners and being kind of a nimrod, who poses little threats.  Again this makes for a cute, family friendly film adventure, but in terms of exciting story that could start a series, that’s where it fails for me.

 

The VERDICT:

            I did not hate this movie, but I was disappointed in the direction it chose to take in this rendition for this story.  The trailers painted this as an epic adventure with CGI animals, but instead we got a much kid friendlier adventure that was more about the laughs, slapstick, and cramming of animals than anything else.  It’s positives for me are all about how cute this adventure is with them capitalizing on the CGI animals as the main anchor point the target audience will love.  This film sort of felt like the films I watched as an introduction adventure growing up, simple and wholesome, with just enough added spunk to be above a nick junior movie.  However, where I think the movie fails as the reviewers have said is the missed potential they had suggested to me with the trailers.  The central character is loveable,  but not really a detailed RDJ character that we’ve seen him master like his other films.  The animals are fun, but again they seem so simplified and prop like that I have a hard time investing in most of them.  And worst of all, the atmosphere is so kiddy that the adventure aspect is diluted down to lackluster levels, which may not please the parents or older siblings that are accompanying them.  Therefore, all the conveniences and incomplete story for me are going to be the hardest blows to the quality of this film. 

 

My scores for the film are:

Adventure/Family/Comedy:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

I Don’t Think You Will Sleep Through This One

Doctor Sleep: The IMAX 2D Experience Poster

 

Stephen King is on a role this year with two stories turned to movies, among other products, and potentially raking in even more cash. The age of taking author’s works and putting visual spins on them continues to thrive and sometimes we get an interpretation that brings our nightmares/expectations to life.   On the other hand, the limitations of movies can sometimes lead to bad projects that are disappointing more than anything.  What will happen in this interpretation?  Well I’m here to share my opinions to help you get the most out of your movie going experience.  Let’s get started as I review:

 

Movie: Doctor Sleep

 

Director:

Mike Flanagan

Writers:

Stephen King (based on the novel by), Mike Flanagan

Stars:

Ewan McGregorRebecca FergusonKyliegh Curran

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • Feels Like A Visual Form Of Book
  • Nice Haunting Atmosphere
  • Pacing For The Most Part is Good
  • Great Antagonists
  • Fantastic References To original/With modern twists
  • Story Telling As a Whole

 

DISLIKES

  • The Run Time
  • Expecting More Integration of Shining’s connections
  • Not Scary
  • Graphic Violence That is Haunting But Disturbing

 

SUMMARY

 

When the revealed the cast of this film I was interested in seeing how they would adapt into King’s Universe.  The result is positive for me with the three main characters really taking a shine to the multi-layered characters each contributing to the terror in some way.  McGregor takes much of the lifting in his evolution of tortured spirit, keeping that quiet intensity famous of his younger counterpart, but somehow pulling out other tricks when the time is right to give a psychiatrically tortured counterpart.  As for the antagonist, Rebecca Ferguson is wonderful counterpart to McGregor, keeping that same creepy tone, but this time bringing a savage/psychotic edge that fits well in the horror genre, think villains from Walking Dead before it went too far.  As for the talents of Curran, well she was the perfect balance that sort of inherited both sides of the Shining coin, executing her vulnerable side well, but also managing to bring girl power to an even medium.

Acting aside, the rest of the movie thrives in the element of bring King’s imagination to life.  To be honest it does feel like a visualization of the book, the intricate details, outlines story, and connecting points a wonderful example of the art of literature translation.  King’s words always paint a picture of sheer horror, immersing one into a nightmare realm that goes into the darkest corners of the minds and dreams.  Doctor Sleep’s haunting chills line just about every minute of this film, bringing with it characters that fit into it, primarily the antagonists that Danny faces.  Such fitting characters and truly nightmarish villains make a wonderful centerpiece to get hooked onto.  Yet, the movie does not just focus on making the characters the star, instead finding way to integrate the Shining into the film while sticking to the originality of the tale.  Seeing various nods back to the original tale, though with modern face lifts, and having them there to support the tale, again getting an applause from me. With such details, you might think the pacing will suffer, but Flanagan accomplished the task of keeping all these details and plot dynamics balanced, but not sacrificing the entertainment value that movies are expected.  In conclusion to this like section, the story telling is told well at an engaging pace that makes for one of the better horror movies and book translations in a long while.

 

Yet for me, it’s rare to see a perfect movie that I love everything about and this was true for Doctor Sleep as well.  For one thing the run time is a little long for a later night showing, I know my fault, but despite how well the balance of this tale is, there was some pacing that made the 2.5 hours a little too long for me.  Perhaps it was from working a 15-hour day, or maybe it’s due to wanting a little more of the Shining’s plot components brought in, given how long the opening was about the time lapse between the two stories I might have wanted a little more integration into the mix to help fully get my horror element on. In addition, the movie did not do the most in the scare factor for me, going more down the  drama/thriller category than the actual horror element.  I’m not saying others will not get scared, but it all depends on what you like to jump at creeps vs jump scares.  For me though, the aspect I know was needed, but I did not like is the torturing and graphic violence components.  I can say I like action movies and over the top stunts, but in this movie the violence is all about inducing the disturbing, skin crawling factors that these books are famous for.  Weak constitutions to graphic displays of fear inducing dismantling need to rethink diving into this, for there are several scenes where this factor comes into full swing with little mercy.

 

  The VERDICT

            I have to agree with my friends who saw the film, Doctor Sleep is one of the better novel interpretations that I have seen in quite a while.  My favorite aspects of this film are how much like a book it plays out, yet never sacrifices the entertainment factors and visualization components that films need.  A haunting atmosphere to play in, with great characters to bring out the solid story, I feel many King and horror films will be impressed with the presentation of this tale.  While the run time is a little longer than expected, and the scares are at a minimum compared to the first film I watched a long time ago, the true component to warn people about is the graphic violence/torture that may haunt your memories for some time.  It’s true I would have liked a little more of the Shining aspect, but overall a solid story telling from King and company again.  Is it worth a trip to the theater?  Absolutely, as it has theater quality effects and good storytelling for most audience members to enjoy.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Fantasy/Horror:  8.0-8.5

Movie Overall:  8.0

IT’s A Remake That Rocks!

IT

 

Remakes, remakes, remakes.  It seems every time you turn around, Hollywood is out once more make money by simply updating a previous hit.  Often these remakes pale in comparison, but every once in a while, you get a film worthy of social media blow up and hype. This weekend, the highly anticipated, and over-advertised, IT remake crawls out of the studio shadows and attempts to make us face our fears.  Can Hollywood bring King’s famous work into the modern century of film, or will it merely make us scream in fright at horrible it is.  Robbie K back from a two-week hiatus to bring you another review.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Creepy:  Horror movies are supposed to be scary, and fans of my work know I love it when the studio crawls under my skin.  IT has plenty of moments that creeped me out, primarily the use of shadows, sound, and those small details that teased the audience to the scares.  A nice variety of tactics exists in this movie to make you squirm in your seat, all led by the deliciously evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) and all his pasty white glory. One may find another of disturbing scenes in this movie, primarily in that cold, seeking stare he loves to use so much.  Yes, It certainly mirrored the atmosphere portrayed in the book.

 

Acting:  Seldom do I say a horror film has good acting, but IT hit a home run with all the actors chosen to bring the characters to life. Instead of the usual airheaded, shallow characters who did nothing but scream and curse, this cast portrayed a much broader emotional role…while still cursing. This group did such a good job that I actually liked and invested energy into the characters, which isn’t usually the case in modern horror cinema. While I can’t give shout outs to each one, I certainly will give props to how much they sold the summer adventure to me, almost like Stranger Things meets the Goonies, with a little more demented atmosphere on top. Of course, the real props go to Skarsgard, whose portrayal as Pennywise is certainly a major part to the horror he brings.  His delivery is incredible, that shadowy, whisper like voice that mimics the element of the movie.  Throw the laugh and creepy body acting, to get the complete demonic nature of Pennywise.

 

The Story:  Stephen King knows how to write a story, and thank goodness, this director knew how to bring it to life.  IT finally proves you can have a scary movie with a plot worth investing in.  This version follows the book very well, managing to develop the characters, lay out the story, and still bring all the creepy parts into beautiful detail and length.  The result is a more engaging movie, increased suspense, and an emotional roller coaster as you live the adventure through these kids. This aspect is my favorite component of the movie and certainly worth the price of admission, including the little revelation at the end…which fans of the book will know.

 

DISLIKES:

 

More Suspense, Less Scares:  IT might be creepy, but I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be.  I, nor my friends, didn’t jump at all. Despite creepy build-ups and a setting that welcomes scares, IT still has the same predictable foreshadowing that is used a little too often that it dilutes the big revelation.  While it was certainly more suspenseful in regards to the adventure, I don’t foresee myself getting nightmares from this movie.

 

Unbalanced at times:  IT has a lot of things perfectly done in this movie, but there are a few moments where they seemed to drop the ball on their characters.  True, I haven’t read the book in a long time, but I seemed to remember each kid having almost equal involvement in fighting the shapeshifting embodiment of fear.  In this film though, I felt they dropped the characters at time to the backburner, choosing to focus on just three of the main characters.

 

The Computer Effects:  The past two dislikes are minor and just space filling, but the only major dislike was the CGI effects.  When IT conforms into the more realistic entities crafted by makeup and costumes, I would feel grossed out, sickened, and get goosebumps.  However, when the CGI moments came into play, the realism faded away to cheesy effects that were more humorous than terrifying. Sure, the creatures themselves would make anyone wet themselves, but their portrayal In this movie could have been maximized if they stuck to makeup effects.  In addition, some of the convulsing moments were funny to watch, again due to the semi-realistic effects.  While certainly not the worst visual effects, it could have used a little tune up to be honest.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            IT proves that you can make a remake that doesn’t stink and may actually be truer to the book.  While not the scariest movie to haunt the theater, it is fantastically creepy and will certainly get your skin crawling.  In addition, the acting and story are fully developed and bring about a wonderful tale that will keep you hooked into the movie wondering where the end of the adventure would be.  Yes, the computer effects need a little work, but otherwise a solid addition to the horror genre and a worthy trip to the theater.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

Towering Potential Falls

Dark Tower

 

Stephen King is a master of many things, and Hollywood has never been afraid to capitalize on the epic tales he has crafted over the years.  This weekend his legendary Dark Tower series gets its own chance to “shine” and prove to fans that the series can continue on. Did Sony studios plan to make a “sequel” to the books thrive, or will if fall victim to the shortcuts the film industry often takes.  Robbie K here to share his thoughts on another movie.  Why don’t we get started then?

 

 

LIKES:

 

Nice Set Up:  Doing my research, I realized where the directors were planning on taking this film franchise and the books it is based on.  The Dark Tower acts as a “sequel” to the books and builds as an introduction to the series.  It sets a nice framework up for those who haven’t read the series and prepares us for an adventure that could span multiple films/shows in the future.  It has simplified the complexity of King’s work and thrown hints at how his worlds are connected, perhaps inspiring some rewatching of his classics.

 

Action Scene: Dark Tower primarily is about opening us up to a world and setting the pieces and that unfortunately doesn’t bring much action.  However, the group managed to put a dazzling piece together involving our gunslinger and a round of minions.  Idris Elba finally gets to show off his legendary skills, outside of acting, as the lone gunslinger in his quest to stop the forces of evil.  The stunts are epic, the editing is on point, and the violence is contained to not be overly gory but still strong enough to be considered action instead of a bland use of a gun.  It took the movie long enough to get to this point, but I thoroughly enjoyed the climax fight.

 

The Acting:  I’m not calling this the world’s best acting, or even Oscar Worthy on most levels, but the acting is decent in the Dark Tower.  Tom Taylor as the new kid with the shine, does a decent job playing the troubled, awkward kid and portraying that strange view of the world.  His other emotions, however, needs a little work as these come off dry, awkward, and sometimes a bit underwhelming given the circumstance.  Matthew McConaughey brings his Lexus commercial approach to the mix, the cool delivery of his lines, holding an air of superiority and malicious intent.  He has the villain role down and instills a bit of chill when he appears on the scene.  Of course, the champion of this movie is Idris himself, hitting the role with 100% accuracy.  Elba’s got the rogue part down and the edgy, loner bravado brings the bang to the proverbial gun.  And the chemistry Elba has with his cast only amps up his skills, a talent I always like to see.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Rushed:  Sure the movie made a nice framework for introducing the series to nonreaders, it failed to deliver those important details.  The Dark Tower leaves a lot questions unanswered in terms of the origins of all the pieces involved in this war.  As for the parts they do fill in, these are lacking on so many levels, lacking real depth or mystery to get you hooked into the film. Even worse, much of the quest has little in regards to obstacles, with most problems being solved with little effort.  You get to hear all about the things lying in wait, but their actual involvement in the movie is little to none.  While this not only limits the story, it also limits the special effects and creature design we could have gotten as well.  A few CGI and makeup effects stand out, but the Dark Tower’s first film is rather lackluster given the potential of King’s books.

 

Anticlimactic:  Much of the movie is rather dull, drawn out in a manner of theoretical talks of ideal brain power, anarchy, and abduction.  All the fancy words and magic didn’t help a limited dialog that can be boiled down into a single-minded set of plots that we hear over and over again.  When things finally get going, and all the hot air from the cast is lit aflame… the action barely catches light before being snuffed out.  With the exception of one scene (see likes), The Dark Tower’s gun slinging is not what I expected.  This is particular true for the final fight between antagonist and protagonist that was more lame than impressive.  All the hype and rivalry to end so abruptly, not the direction I would have taken.

 

Predictable/Lazy:  There was so much potential placed on this movie, and the trailer painted what could have been an epic adventure.  Yet, somewhere the film fell victim to cheap shortcuts, low use of nightmarish effects, and a direction that went down the wrong tangent for an opening. It felt uninspired and lazy at times, and perhaps they cut a lot of good parts to fit into the short run time.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall the Dark Tower is not bad when you understand the plan to expand upon in the years to come.  As a stand-alone film, it does the job of introducing characters and the world, but it failed to reel me into the full-on adventure.  With a rushed plot, easy challenges, and lazy production approach, this film is mediocre at best given the hype of everything.  Therefore, this reviewer recommends holding off seeing this film until Redbox gets it in stock.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0