Friday, December 15, 2017

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It has been too long since I last reviewed a movie, and seeing how the last movie I did (Emoji) kinda dampened my spirit, it was nice to go back to the theater, and return to a galaxy far far away. Disney's third Star Wars film is here, and there's been a lot of hype and buildup for this film. Disney themselves seemed so confident in director Rian Johnson, that they've already given him his own separate trilogy, despite this trilogy not even being finished yet. What kind of film were we in for? Well if you remember last time, I thoroughly enjoyed JJ's glorified rehash. Yes, it's a rehash, but it's damn fun. There's nothing wrong with that. Yeah I probably gave it a bit high of a rating, but I did remember thinking that this movie would need to go into new territory if it wanted that same praise. So... does the Last Jedi deliver?

Well... despite a few vague similarities, it pleases me greatly that The Last Jedi really does seem like Disney's first major bullseye in the Star Wars universe. It doesn't just retread familiar territory, it explorers new territory that I wondered if diehard fans would even accept. This is a very bold film that pays off in more ways than one, and just keeps going and going. It's great to see characters like Poe, Finn, and Rey back at it again, while getting introduced to new characters in the process. And of course, it's great to see the old timers back in the saddle again (unless your name is C-3PO... I'm almost willing to bet he'll die next film).

Now before I get too far ahead, fair warning that you will notice a few similarities in this film to Empire, and even Return of the Jedi. There are similarities. The beginning of the film, the Resistance is on the run from the First Order, Rey is getting trained by Luke. It's all there. But they take this material and go about executing it in probably all the right ways... and even a few ways I'm not entirely sold on. There are certain scenes that my logistical mindset was scratching my head on. Only in Star Wars I guess. But I won't say anything there.  You'd think with certain similarities, that this movie would be predictable, but it's the exact opposite! There were twists I didn't see coming at all! This makes this likely one of the best films to come from Star Wars in decades! And unlike Force Awakens, it doesn't rely so heavily on nostalgia and fan service for you to get your kicks.

Now, at the end of Force Awakens, we got to see the return of Mark Hamill and I remember groaning when the film ended, because I wanted to see what Luke's contribution to this story would be so very bad. And man does this story deliver. Luke in this film can deliver some of the absolute best moments of the entire franchise I feel. He's badass and renowned, yet at the same time, he's gotten rather snarky and it makes for some genuinely great comedy in this film. And the way he goes Scott expanding the lore in this movie about the Force is absolutely beautiful. But that's literally all I can say here because I refuse to spoil his story. It's done just so incredibly well. You won't be disappointed. Guarantee that.

The action? It's there as always. Now that said, I do think the action of Force Awakens and Rogue One was a bit better. Here, it can be a bit more tame. I don't really feel like I'm in the scene as I did in Rogue One if that makes sense. But that said, it is still a lot of fun.

I think if I'm gonna criticize anything in this movie, it's that there are times this film feels oddly out of place in the Star Wars franchise. I don't wanna say too much, but there are times it feels like you're watching an entirely different movie. This can be both good and bad. And during these particular scenes, I did feel that the morality that these films are not exactly the best at graying in kinda stand out in the wrong way. It gets a bit preachy in certain areas actually that just kinda felt silly to me, but in the same way, the film's unpredictability can make for twists in this area that will make your eyes widen.

I could go on about what I loved in this movie, but in the spirits of keeping it spoiler-free, I need to wrap it up. This film is easily the strongest film to come out of Star Wars in decades. Better than any prequel,  better than the other Disney films, I'll go out on a limb to say this is on a level of excellence in the same ways of Empire Strikes Back. Is it as good? Probably not, but I believe most fans will definitely applaud the effort of this film by the time the credits start rolling,  and it's for this reason, I award The Last Jedi with a solid three and a half star rating out of four, and it just barely misses the full rating. Barely. This is one of the years most entertaining films and an absolute joy to behold, and sets up the final film of this trilogy up nicely. Let's just hope JJ Abrams is up to the task. Until then, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

Friday, July 28, 2017

REVIEW: The Emoji Movie

The Emoji Movie is about as dumb as you think it is. There. I spared you the pain of reading this full review, and hopefully, spared you the hour and a half of this stupid film. This dated, unoriginal, predictable, unfunny, product of the times.  How do you come up with a film like this? Who looks at their phones, texts whoever it is they're texting, brings up these face icons, and suddenly thinks "Hey, I can make a movie on this! A good... relevant... charming movie about text icons..." Well for those of you still reading, I might as well say it,  yes this film is as dated as it sounds. It relies on forgettable humor revolving around smartphone apps and whatever stupid jokes your kid can come up with using emoji on your phone. Along with anything the internet might find amusing. Hey, you like cute cat videos right, we got one of those in the movie! You like Spotify? It's in our movie!  Facebook? Instagram?  Is Just Dance still a thing? We're so relevant.

So what's the premise of this movie? Well... it's actually pretty creative. All your smartphone emoji live inside your smartphone, they have one sole emotion. And that's obviously what they're expressing. Happy face is happy all the time. Meh face is meh all the time. Sad face is sad all the time. Poop is...poop, and everything it says is either a poop joke or poop pun. Say for one Star Trek reference because Patrtick Stewart. You get the point. Here's the problem. This concept is actually... pretty cool. I could totally get behind a good well told story about characters limited to one emotion. I mean heck, the world they make is certainly creative enough and with the right creative thought pattern, a really brilliant movie can be made from this!

Oh wait. It exists.

You've probably heard this movie compared numerous times to Pixar's Inside Out.  And that's because this film can shamelessly rip it off to a t. And that movie, for as simple as it is, is one of the better films of recent years to really take command of such a concept and make something incredible. This film barely even tries. It's a generic outcast story, with a generic sidekick, who goes on a generic coming of age tale, while his generic parents try to find him before generic villain does, and he is involved in a generic romance and it's about as predictable as you'd think. If you've seen Inside Out, you can watch this, point to certain scenes, and say, "yup there's that scene from that good movie". They don't do anything new, or if they do, it's bland and uninteresting. But if Inside Out wasn't enough to rip off, they also manage to take elements from plenty of other films as well, like Wreck-It Ralph, and even things like The Little Mermaid. So where's the actual story come in?

Well... our phone owner is having girl problems, and since this movie thinks no one uses actual words anymore, he relies on emoji to try and express himself. But he uses our main emoji, a malfunctioning meh face and it sends his phone haywire. Chaos ensues. And its up to our hero emoji to try and fix his glitch before phone owner goes and gets his smartphone erased at the store.  Here's the problem. This films message. It's dull. Might as well say "emojis make your world go round, use them more". At the end of the film when boy phone owner and girl phone owner get together, she says she likes how expressive he is... after using emoji. Sorry girl, you're in for disappointment if you think emoji are what you gotta use to express yourself. The guy is still socially awkward and shy. But hey he's got one radical emoji! I guess everything's okay. I wanna say more. I really do. But... I just can't...

Have I mentioned how trendy this film is? I can't remember. Have I? Because it won't have a very long life. I don't care what the target audience is. If you liked this film at all, it won't last. Guarantee you'll forget about this film before too long. This film is a product of the times and nothing more. It won't age well, it won't ever know the word "timeless", and it won't ever be worth more than five dollars in the bargain bin. I can't even recommend it for the young young viewers because frankly, there just wasn't much going on in this film. The theater I was in was eerily quiet in laughter. Because the humor was very dull. Why does Hollywood seem to think that these trend or fad films can succeed?  If the Emoji Movie doesn't serve as one of the many nails in the coffin for these films, I don't know what will.

I'm having a hard time properly describing this film. Maybe because I think this is the first corporate film I've ever really experienced. A film I knew I wouldn't like. And yes, I made the mistake is looking at reviews prior to watching it, but I don't think it would matter. This film just doesn't have any life. I'll be surprised if anyone is on the theater watching it next week. There's nothing worth noting to go back to. Nothing at all. I'm struggling to give this a rating because I just don't have the proper words to describe how dumbfounded I am. Am I losing the ability to critique these films? I don't know. But what I do know is that this movie sucks, and it's getting no mercy from me.

The Emoji Movie is a monument to look up at when it comes to dated pieces of garbage in Hollywood. Similar to films like The Lorax, Sing, or other films desperately trying to stay relevant. These are films doomed to failure. The thing that separates those movie from this however, is that those films had at least some saving graces. The Emoji Movie lacks any of that. Laughter was scarce. The animation isn't impressive. The music is what you expect to hear on your mainstream radio stations. This should very much be Exhibit A on the definition of a dated film. The fact that it had to go to other better films for its life blood is just insulting to its audience, that I can't help it. I'm going to give it the lowest of the low. It deserves it. I don't care if it didn't piss me off as much as other films have. It didn't give me one reason to try and convince me that it could have had any potential at all. Shame on this movie.  It gets one big frowny face.

Am I being too harsh? Will some kids like it? I'm sure they will. Just do me a favor. Show them Inside Out first. They may thank you one day.

Please feel free to request any film you'd like to see me tackle in the near future. Leave a comment down below on your own thoughts to the film. And as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 0/4

Thursday, July 20, 2017

REVIEW: Dunkirk

Dunkirk is easily the best WWII film I've seen since Saving Private Ryan. It is full of some of the best tension I've personally ever encountered in film. I'm actually kinda struggling to give this the right words to describe this film, but I will say right off the bat that this is, in my eyes, a very strong contender for best picture, 2017. It's that good. 

Right off the bat, this film feels refreshing as this film doesn't take place in the latter half of the war. Dunkirk takes place during the title Battle of Dunkirk, when Nazi Germany has all but conquered France, and is on the verge of driving the allied forces out of mainland Europe, as threatening to invade Britain. It takes place when we're on the losing side of the war. America isn't even in the picture. And the film doesn't take long to get us into the action. It'll maybe even make you jump at how quick it can be. Now it does need to be said that the storytelling part of this film did take a while for me to catch on. Dunkirk doesn't tell one story, it effectively tells three in a very clever way. It tells the story from the perspective of ground, sea, and air. And each perspective is told within a certain movie-time zone. What I mean by this is that the story from the ground takes place over the course of a week. The sea, over the course of a day. And air, an hour. And the film will jump from story to story, so you'll need to pay attention, or you could get lost pretty quickly. But if you ask me, there's plenty of detail to connect the dots.

Dunkirk is very light on its dialogue. There are very few degrees that revolve around soldiers talking. This can result in characters not exactly being memorable, but ironically, it doesn't hurt this film, because the tense atmosphere and detail to the setting tells this story spot on. There is plenty of action, and this is just one of those rare examples in which a lot of action helps the story. And the action can get so tense. While not nearly as brutal or gory as Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk has a much more tense approach. You can cut the strong emotion of each scene with a butter knife. You will be feeling the tension all two hours in your seat. Despite the simplicity in the film's score, I must give props to it because it only adds to the tension of this film ten times over.

And that brings me to a praise I've never done in a review. The sound design of this film is absolutely phenomenal. From gunshots, to bombs, to the environment, to the planes (those Jericho Trumpets sound terrifying), the deep rumbles... please listen to me when I say this. IMAX THIS MOVIE. Your theater will not go a minute without rumbling. The sound in this film is just... practically flawless. Huge kudos from me there. 

I'm praising this film a lot, because honestly, I can't find too much to hey on this film about as far as problems are comcerned. And the relative few that I have like the characters who aren't too memorable, just don't really do much to hurt this film. The one thing that hindered me was the story jumping all over the place. But even that doesn't do too much to the film because when you get the hang of how this movie tells its story, and when you do start connecting the dots to what's happening and when it's happening, you're treated to just... one of the best films of the year.

With the simplicity of this film, my review may seem kinda on the short end. But I guarantee you that if you like WWII films, this will be one of the best you'll ever see.  Despite it taking place in some of the darkest hours of the world, it still managed to be uplifting, and downright emotional. At the very end of the film, I was shedding a few tears. I love it when a movie will give me such a reaction. It's been a while since I've had such a pleasure to see such a strong movie. It delivered on so many levels that I didn't expect at all, and it deserves all the praise it gets.

It is for this reason and more that Dunkirk gets the fullest rating I can give, the strong four star rating out of four. Ok ever of the absolute best films I've seen in years, and I will be astonished if its not in consideration for picture of the year. Despite a few moves they did that don't blur the line between reality and movie, Dunkirk is just too good to nitpick. It aimed at such a simple concept I feel, and crafted an incredible masterpiece that I won't soon forget. And I do hope you'll all experience it for yourself.

Please feel free to voice your thoughts and opinions on the movie down below. Leave a comment requesting a movie you yourself would like to see my thoughts on. And as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 4/4

Monday, July 10, 2017

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming is...a Spider-Man movie. What more needs to be said? Fans of the marvel Cinematic Universe have been begging for him to cook be over from Sony, and after a strong introduction in Captain America: Civil War, he's finally got a proper film of his own in the cinematic universe that is Marvel. And... it's fun. What now so I need to say? It's probably one of the most comic- friendly adaptations of the superhero that I've yet seen. And it's getting a lot of praise... maybe a little too much praise. Maybe that's my conservative mindset talking, but I'm not too sure I wanna flat out call this the best Spider-Man ever. Because despite it getting a lot right, there are a few things that bug me on this one (No pun intended).

Before I get into anything critical, let's highlight what I thought worked in the film. Spider-Man. I can't deny, the comic spirit of this young, witty Spider-Man is indeed present in the film. As much as I enjoy Tobey Maguire in the older films, he's not exactly the biggest... smart-ass that Spider-Man is. And since I have yet to see any of the films with Andrew Garfield, I'm not entirely sure if the spirit was captured there. And from what I can tell, the fans are pretty split with that reboot that got shut down. And you can definitely tell that Tom Holland is having a lot of fun with this role. I daresay that Spider-Man may have finally found its near perfect portrayal. He's both geeky, and a smart-ass.

I also gotta gotta give props to the action. When people are hit hard in this movie, I could feel it in my seat. Spider-Man takes plenty of hard knocks in this, and by the time the film ends, I'm sitting there, wondering how he's managed to stand up. It's quick, it's smooth, and a lot of fun. Some of these fights were so incredibly fun to watch, particularly the ferry fight, which does a neat callback to Spider-Man 2. And I might as well say it, Iron Man's role is pretty fitting for the film. I was kinda scared he'd be one of those show-stealers, but I gotta admit, it's a very fitting role for him. And when he's involved in the action, as limited as it is, it doesn't detract in any way.

I also kinda appreciate how this isn't an origins story. With a great trilogy already showing that, and a cancelled reboot also showing how Spider-Man came to be, Marvel put some thought into this film, and decided, hey, we're not idiots. We know how Spider-Man came to be. So they stent to give us a fun story which of course ties into the big Marvel cinematic universe. Unfortunately... in the same retrospect, this is where problems start to show up. While some will argue that it's good that this movie doesn't go all out in introducing Spider-Man to us, I honestly don't think they did enough of an interesting story here.

Yes, we're all happy that it's not just some big sky laser destroying the world, and whatnot, and that the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is indeed dealing with a rather local problem, but the problem here is that I honestly don't really see this story as all that memorable. The story is just about Spider-Man thwarting the illegal thefts and sales of weapons developed from alien technology. That's it. We couldn't... up the ante just a little here?  And it doesn't help that almost no characters we're familiar with in the Spider-Man canon appear here. It's literally just Peter Parker, and his aunt. The love interest is generic, we don't see Norman Osborn, even MJ isn't introduced by name until the very end of the film. Despite her actually drifting around in the film. Which brings me to my next problem. The villain

This film is exhibit A for me right now in terms of the classic argument of marvel villains not being so memorable. And conning from a Spider-Man film, that's inexcusable. This is a universe that includes the Green Goblin, Venom, Doc Oc... Some of the most iconic villains Marvel has at its disposal. And we get...Birdman I guess? Seriously, who is that guy? Some of the villains I've listed I daresay have that same elite status as comic book villains from things like Batman and Superman. Marvel right now has Loki, and Thanos. That's it. While I personally enjoy the villains from the other movies, particularly Guardians of the Galaxy, most will say that Marvel villains are pretty weak as far as iconic status is concerned. What could have been a great way to turn that argument around, sadly isn't taken advantage of here. Instead, we have the first Marvel villain that has yet to really make any impression on me in the least bit. The movie tries to pull a fast one on us as far as who he is and whatnot, but I saw it coming a mile away. I wasn't surprised at all.

And on a more personal gripe, I don't like Aunt May here. Maybe I still have my nostalgia goggles on from the early 2000's, but my fear from Civil War has been realized. Aunt May is nothing but a running joke. How so? In Civil War, Iron Man played creep, and made a bunch of "Your Aunt is hot" jokes that I just didn't find that funny. I had a fear it would be this running gag, and some people toss me, "Oh she's barely in the movie. Shut up. You don't know what they might do with her." Fair enough. We got a Spider-Man movie now. And the jokes just kept coming. If it was from Tony Stark alone, I'd probably be more okay with it as he's that Casanova we know him as, but it comes up multiple times, from different people. Can you see why I'm more prone to liking Aunt May from the original trilogy? She had more of a purpose in those films for Peter. Here... she's just comic relief. And not exactly very funny. So... yeah. I saw it coming, and I didn't care for it. If you laugh at it, all the more power to you.

I know I'm kinda harping, but truth is, the film is very much a lot of fun. One thing I'm not giving the story proper credit for is that this story does indeed flesh Spider-Man out. Peter finds out what it means to be the Spider-Man, without a rehash of another "Great power, great responsibility" story. Granted, it isn't the best, but it's still very well told. It does lead to some very strong development from Spider-Man, and I actually really liked how he had to find his true inner strength without his fancy suit. I daresay it's the strongest element of this movie, and while I'm sure diehards would have liked more of that classic Spider-Man formula we're all used to at this point, I don't think anyone will complain too much that they executed the film in this manner.

Spider-Man: Homecoming earns a three star rating out of four. While certainly not the best superhero film I've ever seen, the praise it's getting can be argued in its case. It's a good strong opening for Spider-Man in the cinematic universe that shows off a lot of potential, and promise for future films that are indeed coming. It has me wanting more from the cinematic universe in all the right ways. And coming from a guy who started off not really caring too much about these films in the first place, I think that's high praise in and of itself.

Please feel free to request a film you'd like to see my thoughts on. Leave a comment down before of your own thoughts on the film of you wish. And as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3/4

Saturday, May 6, 2017

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

When Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014, I originally thought it was one of the dumbest looking things out there, and just an overall dumb idea. I was thankfully very much proven wrong, because the Guardians easily have become my favorite aspect of all marvel right now. And when I heard the sequel was on its way? You can bet I was ecstatic. More awesome space action, big laughter, and awesome music? Yes please! And... well the sequel is fun. Is it as good as its predecessor? Probably not, but I guess that's to be expected nowadays. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 provides a gun enough story but honestly, it feels slightly bloated, and a bit of a small mess.

When I first saw Guardians of the Galaxy I  2014, I'd not seen anything Marvel in years. Not since Iron Man. And when I saw it, it was a followable story without me needing to know ANYTHING about Marvel. It did a good job telling its story, introducing and developing its characters, and it didn't need to unload all this information that I would have had to see the other movies to understand. This movie? Honestly it's a bit of a mess in that retrospect. And I think that comes from the fact that there are just so many characters they're trying to flesh out in this movie. New and old. The film does do a good job in developing these characters out, and developing their relationships with one another... but honestly that's all it kinda does right, because the story seems to go all over the place.

The story's main focus is of course Peter Quill's father being revealed and how they bond, and again the relationship they develop is rally believable and well done, but they also throw in this Raveger subplot which is barely touched throughout the film, these high priestess aliens that are absolutely forgettable (and it doesn't help that it seems they'll be back), and....(sigh).... baby Groot.

Who thought this would be a good idea? Let me take a step back here, because thankfully, Baby Groot doesn't take center stage so much of the film. He's not exactly the biggest focus. But when he IS, it can be very annoying. The opening sequence of the movie, we see the Guardians battling this big alien monster for some compensation, but instead of actually showing us that battle.... Baby Groot is the focus of the screen as he dances to the usual 1970's classic pop/rock. An obvious callback to the first film. I don't know why. It wasn't that funny then, and it's certainly not funny now. Seriously, no one was laughing in the theater at this part. And it goes on for quite a while too. It got stupidly annoying. And honestly, so did Groot. How did one of the most badass characters of the first film stoop like this? He has a few good moments, but everything that made him a genuine awesome character last film is gone here. "Travis, it's because he's a baby!" Yeah. And it was a bad move. What would you rather watch, Groot impaling multiple enemies through the chest with his arm, flinging them around a hallway, or a mini groot that is very much just eye candy, and takes out ONE single bad guy in this movie? In a Marvel movie, what do you think I'm gonna choose???

Sorry, I had to get Baby Groot out of my system. He's easily my biggest problem with this movie.

If you want some other criticism, I don't exactly care for the jubilee of CGI used either. I'm not gonna pretend that Marvel movies know when enough is enough in CGI, but when you have sequences that serve little more than to seemingly pad out the runtime and do their best to get a giggle from the viewer, I will dock points. There's a sequence I  which Rocket and Yondu need to make a jump through space, and the sequence involves the distortion of their faces, and... It looks like it came straight out of the late 90's. If that's not enough, some of the landscapes and environments don't exactly wow me either. There's just not a lot to convince me that their world is real. Too much CGI... and this is coming from a guy who doesn't often complain of the overuse of CGI...

And finally, though it's growing on me, on be of the biggest aspects of this film kinda fell short for me. The soundtrack. I wasn't alone in 2014 when I praised the selection of pop and classic rock showcase on that wonderful little cassette tape. It showcased quite a bit of fun stuff, from David Bowie, to Norman Greenbaum, to the Runaways, to 10cc. It's a wonderful soundtrack. And while this film's soundtrack is charming in its own ways, it does kinda fall short for me. I had quite a wishlist of artists I'd hoped to see featured, and not one of them was featured. (For the record I'm not saying this soundtrack sucks because nothing I hoped would be on there made it, I'm saying I had a big list of potentials,  and nothing made it to my surprise honestly) The music is still fun to listen to, with nice hits from Fleetwood Mac, Electric Light Orchestra, and George Harrison, among others, but there are songs I feel may have been misselected. Even the stuff I wasn't familiar with in the last film's soundtrack managed to impress me. I'm not really getting that same feeling here. Again, it is growing on me, and it is not at all a bad soundtrack, it just lacks the magic I feel of the first one.

Truthfully, I know I've been a bit critical in this review, and yes, I stand by that criticism, but this film is still a lot of fun. It does what the first film does in pushing that limit of fully embracing the fact that it is indeed a comic book movie. The humor can vey much revolve around that. In 2014, when I saw Guardians, I said it was about as literal a comic book movie as one could get, and that feeling is still there. There is very funny, unexpected humor (even if a lot of the humor centers on Baby Groot, and penis jokes.... yeah that was a thing). The action is tons of fun. From the fun space combat to the gunfights on the ground. And I will say that the big climax at the end of the film? It's great. They say that Marvel suffers from bad villains. I think they hit the target here.

But of course, I think this film's biggest strength is it's character development. The relationship between characters of the last film incredibly fleshed out. I found myself rooting for characters I never thought I'd root for. And even if a lot of these characters just let out as bunch of expositional backstories at times, I really did connect with all of them at one point or another. The film did get emotional on more than one occasion, and it does hey me very much excited to see what's coming in the future of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it gets me excited for the next Avengers film. Here's hoping it delivers.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earns a high three star rating out of four for me. The story is jumbled, but it is held up with the fun I've come to expect from both Marvel movies, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Would the solid story have been appreciated? Absolutely. Should some of the bloated sequences here have been cut? Sure. I mean... There's like five post credit scenes that barely do anything for any future story, except maybe one. But it's held up, it's fun, and I guess I couldn't ask for anything else. I will say my expectations for the third film that's been announced well be higher, even if the magic of the first film may not be able to be caught again, but I will expect more than what I got here. Don't get me wrong. This is a fun movie, but it does suffer the common problems of most sequels. And with some of these problems seemingly fixable, I will say I hope next time, we will get a bit more magic than what we got here.

Feel free to request a film you'd like me to view I  the near future. Leave a comment down below, expressing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3/4

Thursday, March 16, 2017

REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast

Before seeing this, my expectations were exceedingly high. If you remember from last year, I'm not exactly the fan of Disney's approach to their live action remakes right now. If the many they've released, The Jungle Book was to only one I seemed to really enjoy, mainly because it was the one movie that could have used a remake. If you want my reasonings there, read that review. But once I heard they were going to remake Beauty and the Beast, the 1991 animated masterpiece, the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture, into a live action movie? You can bet all sorts of red flags were going up in my head. Why? Why did this need to happen? Why remake something that DOESN'T NEED A REMAKE?

I actually wanted to write out a review for the animated movie beforehand, and I probably still will, just been somewhat busy lately. But long story short, I don't give that movie enough credit for what it was, what it did, and what it still is. The animation was incredible and even revolutionary. The music was timeless. The characters were some of the strongest of any Disney movie. It really is the Pinnacle of the Disney Renaissance. I may enjoy other films more, but it's rightly praised for a reason. And it has enough of an audience to the point where remaking it will likely turn up a small profit. Disney literally has nothing to lose by remaking this. It could bomb, and they would still be on top. So why not remake a Pinnacle masterpiece? They can do it! Unfortunately, to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm, I'm sure these studio heads were so focused on if they could do it that they forgot to ask themselves if they should do it.

Because there was no reason to. This film is completely unnecessary. There is no newer generation that's out of the loop, most people will still go to the original. The remake of Beauty and the Beast is disappointing, lacking, drug out at times, and just completely... I'm sure I've said this plenty of times already, but I'll hammer it home again. UNNECESSARY.

Strap yourselves in guys... This is a long one.

Right off the bat, the film starts almost completely the same as the original, though it gives us a more in depth look as to what exactly happened to the Prince as far as his transformation is concerned. It even explains why his castle is not known to the village, which is a small plot hole the original movie glossed over. Right off the bat, I didn't care for the costumes. I know it's time era appropriate and whatnot, but these costumes to me stand out as rather fake. They even keep the same color schemes and designs for Belle as she makes her first appearance. And it just stands out in the wrong ways to me. The setting of The entire movie can be incredibly hit or miss for me. Sometimes I feel that the scenery is chewing out all the actors onscreen almost. Quite the achievement. I also feel that there are times that they don't know what to do to make this remake stand out on its own. They do very little to make it seem as such. One of the reasons I love Jungle Book last year as much as I did was that it did more than simply remake is original animated source material. It improved and added onto it...A feat that's impossible to do with this film. Granted they do have a few additions that are kinda fun in the long run, but completely unnecessary. For example, Beast has this book that can magically transport him anywhere in the world. It's like the mirror he has, only apparently more literal? And they visit Paris, where Belle was apparently born. The she discovers what happens to her mother, which gives us more insight to Belle's character and what her past was like. This would be well and good, but the thing is, it really doesn't contribute a whole lot to the story in the long run. The can be said for a lot of things.

The cast of this movie does its job I guess. Emma Watson's autotuned singing is convincing enough, the voice of the beast I will say is absolutely wonderful (spot on casting there), Josh Gad has a lot of fun with Lefou, which I'll talk more about later, but as for the rest of the cast... I'm honestly not that impressed. Gaston feels very out of character for me. He's been watered down from the egocentric heartless fun villain that he was in the original. In fact, the first time he interacts with Belle, I thought Belle was crazy not to interact with him. All he did was give her flowers and invite her to dinner! Now you compare that to the original, where he takes her book, mocks her reading, and almost forcefully takes her to his tavern, and you tell me which is the better portrayal. And yes Gaston is no Romeo in this, and he does still have those rude moments, but then there are times that he just straight up becomes a cold blooded attempted murderer, and it makes no sense. Another thing to say is that in the original, he's the guy that people strive to be like. In this, the only one kissing his boots is Lefou. And that's probably more for other reasons than sheer admiration. During one of my favorite songs, focused on Gaston, the tavern doesn't seem that interested in Gaston, where in the original, they're drinking drink after drink in his name. This isn't the Gaston I know and love. Disney took one of my favorite villains they have and completely messed him up.

But that's not all. They also messed up the chemistry of characters like Coggsworth and Lumiere. I swear, Coggsworth barely says a word in this movie. Or his lines rarely go past five words. Most of the time he's just grunting or stuttering, where he's originally running around, trying to get people to straight up listen to him, and trying to get the last word in no matter what. Here, you'd have to pay me to believe that he's head of household. Lumiere isn't as bad, he's still the guy pushing for the spell to be broken and whatnot, and Ian McAllen doesn't do a bad job showing that. But he spends most of his time interacting with that feather duster than he does Coggsworth. Their friendship with each other is one of the most fun things of the animated classic! Why is it so noticably absent here?

I didn't like the choice for Mrs. Potts at all. One of the things I noticed in this remake is that a few characters have a lot of sass. And it feels oddly out of place.  During the musical number "Be Our Guest", I swear, there's one particular moment where Potts is flying through the air, and she does a kissy face to the camera....NO! Just... NO! Why was that needed? Someone please explain to me why they put that in.

And while I'm discussing characters, I guess I gotta acknowledge the elephant in the room. The controversial move to make Lefou a gay character. I didn't really have any problem with it since he's not the focus of the story, and it does make for some very silly awkward laughs. It's not in your face, it's rather subtle at times, and if not for a few obvious moments, I likely never would have noticed at all. But that almost makes me wonder if this is borderline tokening. Just a move from Disney to say "Hey we have a gay character now! That's relevant, right?" They have enough fun with his character in the film to the point where I don't mind too much, though I will say with as much crap Gaston puts him through, his added change of heart in the movie comes way too late. I half expected him to be the one to bust Belle and her father from the prison cart.

I'm gonna move on from the characters for a moment. Let's talk about the music. It's hit or miss. All the classics are here, and some are musical numbers I've never heard. I don't know if they're from the Broadway musical or whatnot, but these additional hits really don't do it for me. They're nowhere near as memorable as the original stuff. I guess they may have been written by original composer Alan Menken, but there's likely a reason they didn't make the movie. They're just not that good. Even the classic stuff can be hit or miss. On one hand, I loved the presentation of "Be Our Guest", but in another, the opening number was very dull. The village seems beyond dead. People just standing around, not moving, it's quite a bore to behold. "But Travis, that's the point! Belle is singing about how boring her life is there!" And even in the original the town at least seemed more lively. People were moving, conducting their everyday lives. Here there's a scene where literally the only two people moving are Belle and Gaston. Come on movie! Liven it up a bit!

I should also say that there are things in this movie that just don't fit, and are there mainly for what feel like "because movie" moments. Like in the opening act, Belle is teaching a little girl to read, and people mock her for it. They literally give this snobby "a girl, reading?! PREPOSTEROUS!" response. Then they go as far as to ruin her laundry. What the hell? These villagers are a bunch of jackasses! They also try to flesh out the backstory of the beast with this clichéd, he lost his mother, and his father was cruel trope, and that's why he's so selfish. I'm... So tired of these tropes. Sure the original movie doesn't give us the insight needed to understand why the prince is how he is, but it's almost stronger that way. I prefer seeing him just growing up to be a spoiled rotten little shit, because there ARE kids like that. The payoff of him learning to love again is that much greater! Here they constantly foreshadow that there's good in him and that he's not to blame for the way he is and it takes away so much...

I mean hell, in this movie, Belle KNOWS about the curse! She knows that they're under a spell that will become permanent if the enchanted Rose completely wilts, and yet when she's asked if there's a way to lift it, no one tells her. Would it not be so much easier to say, "Yeah there's a way. Beast's gotta learn to love, and she's gotta love him back." and potentially avoid future trouble? Or is there some small print in the curse that she can't know what's going on? Even the films climax is weak. In fact, it's drug out like nothing else. I hate to spoil things, but in this case... I'm not sure I'm giving away anything. The last petal falls from the enchanted Rose, and we get this long drawn out scene of all the minor characters losing their humanity and becoming more and more like objects, which is a fun concept, but one I didn't care for. I also gotta say that after that final petal fell, with the connection they built on it being connected with the castle decay... Shouldn't the castle have just collapsed? Oh well. Guess we need our happy ending. But it's a good minute or so before Belle confesses her love... AFTER THE PETAL FALLS. I hate to be that guy, but no. Happy ending chance is gone for me there. Instead, the Enchantress is there and I guess takes pity on the Beast because Belle is weeping over his dead body, which says she loves him in return. This ironically leads me to the most damning thing about this movie. The chemistry between our two leads.

The one thing you couldn't mess up in this movie is messed up. There is nothing present in this movie to make me thoroughly believe these two could fall in love. From the time Beast speaks with her in the prison tower as she's trying to free his dad, he doesn't say A WORD to her until he's pounding on her door, demanding she join him for dinner (one of my favorite scenes of the original movie which is a huge letdown here). He doesn't even speak to his servants about her. Here he's content to leaving her in the tower if not for the intervention of his servants, he doesn't care to feed her, he wants virtually nothing to do with her at all. While in the original, his servants are pushing for him to interact with her, and we learn more about his character and behavior. He's more demanding of her in that, which pushes her past her patience. His servants try to reform him in ways that strangely work. In the animated movie, after he's screaming at her to get out of the West Wing, there's a moment after she flees that he realizes his mistake. There's no such moment here. When Belle flees, there's no reason to believe that he would go after her, and no reason to believe that she would not just leave him to die. This would ironically work if they built off this hate relationship they have going on, but they don't. There's no interactions, there's no thoughts as to how to get things started, and the resulting relationship is beyond forced. They do that one scene where they bicker at each other as Belle tries to bandage the beast, and it felt more like a check mark on the movie more than anything. There was nothing convincing me.

Now granted, by the time the second half rolls on, things do get rolling. And there are some genuine moments between both Belle and the Beast. Belle's joy at seeing his massive library is actually really funny. And a few moments of them just reflecting on the land around then can be touching. But by the time the iconic ballroom scene passes, it falls down into this unbelievable relationship again. The scene after the ballroom dance of the original movie is also among my favorite scenes of that movie. When Belle realizes her father is in trouble there's one little moment where Beast looks at the enchanted Rose in despair. Because he knows that this is his one shot at breaking the curse. Yet he knows what he has to do in letting her go because of how much he cares for her. That moment is missing in this film. Instead he just let's her go. But it doesn't end there! The moment after this in the original movie, after Belle is released, Coggsworth comes in and begins to congratulate the Beast on the good night he has with Belle, before he realizes the Beast has released her. After he asks why, Beast replies "Because I love her." And the delivery, the emotion, the feeling of this one line alone is absolutely perfect. You are totally convinced that he genuinely cares for her. In this movie? After they question why he releases her...Mrs. Potts says that it's because he loves her...

NO. NO MOVIE! BAD!  You lost me! Anything you had going as far as chemistry is concerned is absolutely gone now! You gotta hear HIM say it! It's not the job of the servants to convince me the viewer, that Beast has changed. That's HIS job. HE has to break the curse. HE has to convince me he's learned to love. And NOT ONCE does he mutter the words "I love you". Not once. Even by the end when he's transformed, they feel more like a gimmick then an actual couple! There's nothing there. I'd like to see anyone even try and defend this aspect of the movie now.


I'm sorry, I'm sure most of you think I hate this movie right now. Truth is, I don't. Oh it's bad, and beyond disappointing, but it's hardly among the worst things I've ever seen. Some of the visuals in this movie are absolutely stellar, and some of the comedy is spot on. There's a scene where Belle throws a snowball at Beast much like the original, and the beast just throws this large ball of snow and BELTS her out cold in the face. And it's absolutely hilarious. But this movie is missing so much that made Beauty and the Beast so incredible to begin with. And when you mess up the one thing you need to nail in this movie of convincing us that these two do indeed love each other? You can tell I'll be hard on you. This movie has the look, even the sound of Beauty and the Beast. But all that spirit, all that emotion, all that essence that made it a Disney Legend? It's absent. The remake of Beauty and the Beast is a one and a half star rating out of four. And it barely earns that. It's not among my worst movies ever seen, but it's easily one of the biggest disappointments. I mean I knew it likely wouldn't hold up to the original... But to see it crash this hard blows my mind. It doesn't even hold a candlestick to the original film. And I'm sure some of you will disagree, like my sister who's a Beauty and the Beast fanatic. Some of you will find this enjoyable. But I'm willing to bet that if asked what they wanted to watch between this and the original animated masterpiece, nine out of ten people will point to the original.

Please feel free to request any movies you'd like to see me review in the near future. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the movie, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 1.5/4

Thursday, March 9, 2017

REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island

I've been watching Kong movies for ten straight weeks, all in preparation for this movie. I've seen very few results, seen a few posters, seen a few discussions about people's concerns over this film. It's the second official entry in the new Cinematic Monsterverse as they're calling it, and I just sat through it, ready to end it all. And the question on everyone's mind is, is the movie any good? Is it boring? And is it better than Godzilla 2014? The answer to those questions are in that order, YES, NO, AND HELL YEAH. Let's dive right into this because I'm sure I gotta convince at least a few of you.

Unlike Godzilla 2014, this film doesn't delay it's start. It thrusts us into the South Pacific in WWII, for a bit of an intro, before we get our opening credits, and let me tell you that small opening scene sets the mood for one wicked radical monster film, that doesn't waste time getting you to the action, doesn't waste time establishing it's characters, and doesn't waste time on plots you don't care about. People complained about Godzilla's lack of screentime in the 2014 film. Kong has plenty. People say the action isn't focused on enough in Godzilla. Oh my God is the action ever present here. People complained about the characters of Godzilla being bland and rather boring. The characters here are much better improved, with a likeable cast who's having a lot of fun, and you can tell it. And people complained about the story not involving Godzilla enough, instead revolving around family drama and whatnot. You won't have any reason to complain about ANY of that here. And if you even TRY to complain about any of it, I will sit your ass back in the theater and I will make you point it out to me if you have to.

Now let me take a few steps back, because are there some flaws? Absolutely. I expected as such. But strangely enough, none of the flaws I expected to come after watching trainers really came to mind. The things I have to say here are more like little nitpicks to things I still actually kinda like. One being how we get to our climax. Without spoiling too much, the military characters are a bit overly jarhead-y in this film if that makes sense. I'm unsure done if the character motivation here is completely justified, but when the climax actually happens, I just don't care. It's too fun, but more on that shortly. Another thing is that unlike Godzilla 2014, where I thought the CGI used to bring life to Godzilla was practically spot on, there are times I'm not as fully convinced here. Maybe mammals are just a bit harder to portray in that area.

Another thing I'll say is that while I'm thoroughly impressed with the portrayal of Skull Island, I still prefer Peter Jackson's portrayal. Now don't misunderstand me. This film does a wonderful job of showing off Skull Island. It's got a lot of really cool stuff to show off, plenty of new things, new surprises, new monsters, new creatures, but if you're going into the theater expecting dinosaurs, you're going to be disappointed. The creatures are very bizarre in a good way, at times even looking like they belong on another world, but this can also lead to a lot of Skull Island looking rather passive. I'm not spoiling anything here, but the first creaturr you see on this island are a bunch of deer..... See what I mean?

But that's behind me. Let's talk about the monsters. Specifically Kong, and the Skullcrawlers. I was skeptical to them both. I wasn't that impressed by the trailers. Well I love being convinced, because they're both wonderful to watch. Kong is intimidating. Kong is majestic. Kong even has some characteristics that define just what Kong is, like taking a small interest in a human female. It's all very convincing, even if it's not that well developed. The only thing I'd have wanted more of, was a roar to shake the theater. Godzilla wins there. The Skullcrawlers? They're terrifying. They're agile. And they'll make up for the disappointment some saw in the Mutos of Godzilla.

The action... Oh my God the action, my hands are trembling in excitement about how incredible the action is here. The film does NOT hold back. It's not a buildup like it is in Godzilla. It's not something that's constantly cut away from. When it happens, you see it happen, and you're in for the long ride, whether that's monster against monster brawling, or humans trying to survive the lush gorgeous jungles of Skull Island. Some of the sequences are over the top in all the right ways, and it's just one big treat to behold. It really did tickle my big monster fan inside me. Each fight is a treat to watch. They're brutal, they're massive. Even painful. You feel each hit. And this goes beyond monster brawls. There are times you WILL feel like you're watching a superhero movie! Action involving the humans can be a lot of fun. Each segment is done wonderfully to the point where I'm likely just repeating myself. I'm slobbering over how fun it is... This movie rocks! By the climax, you won't care how over the top it can get because of how much fun you'll have. That said, the find doesn't leave me on quite as big a high as Godzilla, but you know what? I don't care.

One thing however that surprised me was just how much I loved the characters of this movie. Those who know me know that I'm not one to praise the characters of most big monster films. They can be very clichéd, very weak, not exactly people I care much about. Here, I'm with them practically from the moment the film starts, whether they're just talking friendly with one another, jeering  another, expressing frustration, or even rocking out to this films absolutely wonderful repertoire of awesome classic rock (no joke, the music they okay in this is AWESOME, I love the 70's), I'm always following them, with interest. While the characters can have their cliché moments, I don't think there was one character I didn't care about. Your characters all have wonderful personalities, wonderful backstory, wonderful payoffs, these characters are some of the best in any monster movie you'll see. I'm hoping we'll see some of these guys return. I have to watch Godzilla again, but I think Adrian of this film first appeared in Godzilla. I'll have to look again. See? Already, the film is connecting the dots.

Oh and yes, the film does tire in nicely with Godzilla, and those who go, expecting to see something referencing the other famous monster King, will be thoroughly satisfied. In fact, by the end of the movie I was actually cheering. True story.

Truthfully, this is one massive step in the right direction for this new Cinematic universe. It is starting to subtly connect the dots with the other films while setting up future ones. I'm very excited right now for the future, and that's more than my big monster fan inside me talking. Other more serious critics may disagree with me, but if you ask me, they're the ones missing out. I'm giving Kong: Skull Island, a nice solid three and a half star rating out of four. And you guys have NO IDEA how close I got to rating it that full four. It BARELY misses it. It has so much going for it, and so little going against it that it's hard to not give it that four. But don't let a simple number make you believe I didn't enjoy myself. That's not the case. A few clichés, a few nitpicks, and a few other observations will not keep me from saying go see this. Because this film is a lot of fun. To have so much come from this film that honestly had a lot on its plate to do? You can bet I'm beyond impressed. And to finally have a King Kong film, that's actually really... REALLY good that isn't just another remake of the original? I'm happy it finally happened. What a film to end this marathon on.

Please feel free to request any films you'd like to see me tackle in the near future. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed my marathon of Kong these last few months. Now... I'm taking a well deserved monster movie break. Go watch this movie.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4