Ever since I began subscribing to Disney+, I kept noticing a movie that looked intriguing, a movie called Togo. All I knew about it was that William Defoe co-stars with a dog, and there was going to be a lot of snow. With theaters closed, I turned to streaming services to curb my appetite for new movies, and so, I clicked on Togo, finally satisfying my curiosity about it.
The movie is based on the true story of the Great Race of Mercy in 1925. In Alaska that year, an epidemic swept across the town of Nome, and the antitoxin was...674 miles. Without the aid of planes or snowmobiles, the only way to get the medicine there was via sled dog teams. You may have heard of a dog named Balto. This was the event that made him famous. It was his team that made the final run and got the medicine to the town, but Togo’s team travelled the farthest, 260 miles to be exact. Knowing the true story already, I know how this story would end. The medicine would be delivered, and lives would be saved. What I wasn’t expecting was how much hope it gave me, especially during these times with a worldwide pandemic going on. The world awaits a cure as many people lie sick, overwhelming the hospitals, much like the town of Nome. Seeing the bravery and perseverance of the mushers as they traveled hundreds of miles across snowy fields and forests really moved me, and now knowing what exactly Togo and his team had to endure in order to deliver the medicine left me speechless. I wondered if Disney had exaggerated during a climactic scene, but after doing some research, I was amazed to find out that they didn’t exaggerate. That moment near the end of the film (that I won’t spoil) actually did happen. Togo really did do what the movie showed. That team of dogs did what seemed to me to be impossible, yet they did it. And I’m sure we’ll see something amazing like that happen soon with our pandemic.
As for the rest of the film, it plays out like a feel-good dog movie. William Dafoe plays Leonhard Seppala, a supportive husband and sometimes moody musher, especially when his dogs misbehave. Togo is one such dog. We see Togo’s journey from uncontrollable pup to the dog Leonhard relies on most. As a dog lover, the movie throws me a bone by reminding me of my days of raising my dog, seeing him grow up from infancy to his old, gray days, and it also doesn’t have one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to modern Hollywood: CGI dogs. I absolutely hate CGI dogs; they get under my skin and make me cringe every time I see it. Truthfully, there are CGI dogs in this movie, but they are used very rarely and for stunts that would be too dangerous for real dogs to do. So I’m happy. And because the dogs are living and breathing, it helps sell the emotional weight of the story. William can react accordingly to the dogs, and he certainly sells that he has a bond with the animals through his interactions with them. As heartwarming as a man with his dogs can be, the set-up for the plot can feel like it goes on for hours. At one point, I looked at the clock and was surprised it hadn’t been two hours. This movie has some fluff, and it will take some patience to get to the more exciting moments. However, I certainly think it's worth watching due to how relevant it is now.
The cinematography has many moments of beauty. If you’re going to make a movie that takes place in the wilderness of Alaska, you might as well get some incredible shots to show off the gorgeous scenery. With so many movies that rely on green screens and CGI landscapes, it’s refreshing to see an old-school approach to making a big budget movie, utilizing the skills and care of the crew as they film around the environment and the dogs. It’s a beautifully made film, both in its storytelling and in its cinematography.
I highly recommend watching this movie as soon as you can. The hope that it gave me was an incredible feeling and helped in making me a little more positive as we all try to get through this pandemic. Like dogs, this movie has a special place in my heart, and I will love it every time I see it.
When you went to the theater this past December, did you wish you had gone to see something else other than The Rise Of Skywalker? Yeah, me too. Which is why I watched Spies In Disguise, the latest movie from Ice Age-studio Blue Sky, and oh how I wished I would have seen this instead.
The story pairs up superspy Lance Sterling--played with all of the charisma and confidence that Will Smith could muster--and timid tech geek Walter--played by Hollywood’s favorite new adult-who-looks-and-sounds-like-a-teen-so-lets-cast-him-in-every-teen-role Tom Holland--as they work together to uncover a diabolical scheme that has Agent Lance on the run and framed as a traitor. Right off the bat, this sounds like another Mission:Impossible plot, but this movie adds a twist: Agent Lance gets turned into a pigeon. And yes, there are bird poop jokes. However, this movie pleasantly surprised me. As childish and immature it can be sometimes, Spies In Disguise has quite a bit of violence and talks about the themes of war and hatred. It can be pretty grim, and I’m glad it does. A lot of the violence is played for laughs and is so outlandish that it isn’t taken seriously; it feels mostly like a Bugs Bunny cartoon but with the style of James Bond. But then we see the ramifications of violence and what it does to people, which results in more violence and creates a never-ending cycle of destruction...until someone says “Enough.” It’s a great message, even for adults. 2020 is not off to a great start, and it’s progressively getting worse. I see death on the news. I see friendships ruined on social media. I see so much hatred, bigotry, racism, slander, and cruelty. And I wonder what kind of a world we would live in if we took to heart this movie’s message about kindness and mercy. I’m not sure if this movie would have hit me the same way it did if I had seen it just a few months ago, but today, it made me think about what I could do to help people. If a movie made for kids can make an adult stop and think about what I should be doing with my life, I say this story is worth sharing with your friends and family.
I remember the first time I saw the teaser for this movie. I was honestly impressed with the look of it, and I’m glad that it did not disappoint! The animation is enriched with a distinct art style, over-the-top yet well choreographed action scenes, and great use of dramatic lighting and explosive color. I have a problem with modern CG movies: they all look too similar. Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks can sometimes be
indistinguishable, and I would even say Blue Sky is guilty of this. However, Blue Sky allowed themselves to be creative with its character designs and visual flair, resulting in a movie standing out from the competition. The inventiveness of the gadgets also allow the animators to go nuts with their artistry as they try to outdo the outlandishness of each new invention. I was really glued to the screen when the action scenes kicked in. They had a nice balance of intensifying the danger while also incorporating physical humor. I can only imagine that the animators had free reign to do whatever they wanted in each shot while doing their best to stick to the script, and it seems like they had a ton of fun making those scenes. I think though the movie shines (literally) with its use of lighting and color, which is something that is overlooked in movies, but I have to mention it here because their use of flares, reflections, tone, saturation, and palette is really eye-catching and helps compliment the old-school style of spy films with the vibrancy of modern animated movies. It’s a treat for the eyes!
With an all-star cast that it has, it’s little wonder why the voice acting is so good throughout the movie. As I already pointed out, Will Smith plays Lance Sterling with all of the charm and bravado that you would expect from him, and he does a great job, especially when Lance’s world changes when he transforms into a pigeon. That’s when we get a more sarcastic and humorous Smith, and he provides some great laughs. Tom Holland also does a great job playing, once again in his career, a nerdy, unconfident teen, but I did appreciate that he changed his voice in this movie, so he didn’t sound too much like his other animated role in Onward. Ben Mendelsohn’s voice is always a pleasure to listen to, even if he plays a villain. Like Scar in The Lion King, he gives us a smooth, evil voice that makes listening to exposition and monologues more tolerable. The supporting cast that consists of Rashida Jones, Karen Gillan, Reba McEntire, and many others also do a great job in their minor yet important roles. It’s a great, fun cast, and they do a fantastic job making these animated characters feel unique.
Spies In Disguise is a delightful little film that has a great message and is surprisingly funny for both kids and adults. To be honest, I wasn’t sold on the whole pigeon premise, but after all was said and done, I had a fun time watching this crazy hybrid of spy movies with Saturday morning cartoon shenanigans. If you’re looking for something to make you smile during these bleak times, I suggest this movie, and who knows, maybe you’ll want to save the world after watching it.
Did the latest Star Wars movie let you down? Have you come to a place where you can’t tolerate Disney toying with your nostalgia any longer? Well, I’ve got good news for you! There’s another space epic that you can check out: Star Trek! WAIT! Before you go, listen. I get it. Watching Star Trek almost feels like a traitorous act to your beloved space opera, but it’s time to let go. It’s time to embrace something new--something that can’t hurt you. It’s time to boldly go where no Star Wars fan has gone before...and let these quick reviews help you find a good starting point on your journey of becoming...dare I say it...a Trekkie.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE--Don’t start with this one, unless you like background noise while you sleep.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KAHN--Not as boring as the first, this movie does manage to have some tense moments, but the most tense I felt during my time watching it was when I was 50 points away from earning 3-stars on Candy Crush.
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK--Ok, time to face facts. This series isn’t anywhere near as exciting as Star Wars, but I do like the aesthetic of these movies. They have their own visual flair, and they really did try to make these as dramatic and grandiose as they could.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME--This one was really good! The plot was incredibly stupid, but that’s kind of what made this more entertaining. It has more levity, a lot more humor, and I actually really like these characters now. Or maybe I’ve begun transforming into a Trekkie...
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER--Apparently, Trekkie’s hate this one. I didn’t. I thought it had some very funny moments and high-stakes excitement. It certainly kept my attention from start to finish. Also, that opening scene was absolutely brilliant. I want an entire movie to be based on that scene alone.
STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY--This is by far the best of the bunch. I liked pretty much everything about it--the writing, the cinematography, the pacing, the characters, etc. This was a great movie to end the original series on. It was certainly better than Star Wars’s latest finale.
Overall, not half bad--literally! It’s nice to see what Trekkie’s have nostalgia for, and at times, it has some pretty cool moments. I may watch some more of these movies one day. Until then, live long and prosper during these crazy times.
Taking place in a world that resembles ours, Onward tells the story of two elf brothers trying to bring back their deceased dad for one day, and so they go on a mystical quest to find a lost treasure that will help them.
One of the brothers has a fascination with board games and fantastical adventures, and he takes this opportunity to live out his fantasies of being a warrior on a harrowing journey. He clearly represents all of us nerds who have enjoyed playing games together and bonding over stories involving dragons, orcs, and great heroes. However, he has a hard time bonding with his brother, who is the polar opposite and doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for fantasy adventures as his sibling. He’s shy and has a hard time finding a place of belonging, but he tries to fit within the modern world, not caring about make-believe stories. So obviously, they get into some shenanigans, learn to love each other, make the audience cry, and end their journey with a lesson for everyone. You know, the Pixar shtick.
The heart of the movie (or hearts in this case) is with Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt). Their journey together is an endearing one. Even though I couldn’t relate to their brotherly struggles, I understood wanting to see their dad one last time. If I was offered the chance to extend my time with my dad for one more day, I probably would go on a crazy, magical adventure too. I feel as though this movie is more for adults than kids, like Up. It’s themes of life, death, and the emotional bond that ties family members together is heavily explored here, and kids may not have the understanding to fully appreciate the story. That’s ok because we adults want good cartoon movies too!
The animation is exemplary as usual, though it’s not as visually appealing as say Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, or Wall-E. Having fantasy creatures running around a suburb or a school just doesn’t feel as exciting as seeing what lurks beneath the ocean waves or the ruins of Earth. It feels almost bland. Whereas Cars and Monsters, Inc. had a similar concept, they gave the modern setting its own distinct look and feel, but here, it didn’t seem as creative. At times, it felt like I’ve seen this before. It still looks great though, and the characters all have their own distinct animation, making each one stand out from the others.
Onward is a timeless romp through a fantasy world filled with excitement and laughter. It’s very much a reminder of why so many people love Dungeons And Dragons, The Lord Of The Rings, and other fantasy classics; there’s something about this particular genre that creates a bond between people. We imagine ourselves in the bootstraps of dashing knights and fanciful elf princesses, and we create special memories sharing our love for imagining the impossible, like going to conventions, playing a game together, or reading a bedtime story. But Onward reminds us that the most precious thing about this genre is not the magic and wizardry; it’s about the time we spend with the ones we love. You know, the Pixar shtick.
Of course Sonic got a movie. Hollywood has been trying to make video game franchises into movies since Super Mario Bros, and each movie winds up being a disappointing mess. It’s actually quite impressive how many video game movies there are despite how bad they always wind up being, and it was only a matter of time before they got to Mario’s blue rival. So how bad is this one? How disappointing is it? How completely, insultingly unfaithful is it, and does Sonic still have those horrific chompers from the first trailer? Well actually…
...IT’S GOOD!!! I...I can’t actually believe I wrote those words! A video game movie ended up being good! And...it was a Sonic movie of all things! Isn’t Sonic known for having bad games? But hey, I’m not going to question how this miraculous feat was achieved. I’m just going to enjoy this warm and fuzzy feeling that I watched a good movie.
Let me be clear: it’s not a GREAT movie, but it’s not bad! It reminds me of one of Disney or Pixar’s lesser works--good moviemaking but without a whole lot of originality, and that’s what this movie is. It’s a buddy comedy road trip movie. This type of scenario has been done better, but it was still an enjoyable ride. Much like one of Sonic’s classic games, this movie is more concerned about having fun and not so much on going on a soul-searching journey.
The plot is fairly simple, and it should be familiar to fans of the games. Sonic has to collect rings and avoid being killed by an evil scientist. It’s literally that simple! No Chaos Emeralds, no alien invasions, no time travel, no humans kissing dead animals--it’s back-to-basics for the blue blur, and the movie definitely benefits from that. Keeping it simple makes it more accessible and helps the plot not get too convoluted. So many movies now are concerned with setting up a cinematic universe, but not this one. It just wants to take you on a fun ride that will make you chuckle at its corny jokes and smile when one of those classic tunes starts to play (I’m pretty sure I annoyed my girlfriend as I hummed along to them!).
The lead actors did a fine job. Ben Schwartz as Sonic was a good choice. He had a nice balance of cockiness and impatience with childish wit and affection. This is a very young Sonic who hasn’t even met his lifelong pal Tails yet, so this embodiment of the character made a lot of sense. James Marsden (Why does his real name sound more like a cop name than the character he played?) did a great job as well. This role was probably more fun for him to do than some other characters he’s played over the years (*cough Cyclops *cough), and you can tell he is having fun. But the one who had the most fun in the movie was clearly Jim Carrey. I really enjoyed his interpretation of Robotnik. He’s crazy in the most Carrey way, and it’s a treat to see Jim acting like a real life cartoon character again. All in all, everyone seemed to have fun acting in this movie, and in turn, I had fun watching them.
But now I want to address the big question: how does Sonic look? He looks great! The animators should be given praise for this achievement. In just a few months, they managed to reanimate Sonic with the updated design. I can’t even imagine how stressful the animation process was for this movie, since there’s quite a bit of special effects, and it all looks good. It’s not a spectacle like a Marvel movie, but it gets the job done. The character and robot designs help bring a fresh new look for the Sonic brand with familiar elements that fans know and love. When they initially announced this movie would be in live-action, I thought that was a bad idea just because of how cartoon-y Sonic is, but I am very happy with the final result.
Much like the classic games, Sonic offers a couple of hours of fun for the whole family. With a simple story and an energetic Jim Carrey, there’s not much to complain about, and for a video game movie, that’s a good thing. Let’s just hope they don’t ruin the next installment like they did with games.
Last year, Peter Jackson gave audiences the revolutionary WWI picture They Shall Not Grow Old. Its use of 100-year-old footage with today’s technology gave us the clearest picture of that time. I was awestruck by it. Now we have another WWI movie, and it too left me in awe.
1917 tells the simple story of two British soldiers traveling across the frontlines in order to deliver a message to a battalion that is being lured into a trap. It’s execution on the other hand is complicated. Instead of filming separate shots and editing them together, 1917 (for the most part) is just one, long continuous shot that follows the soldiers on their journey. Obviously, they didn’t actually shoot the entire movie in one take, but for the majority of the time, it’s pretty flawless. I even gave myself a challenge and tried to find the cuts, but aside from some pretty obvious ones, I missed several it turns out. The ingenuity and creativity involved in making this motion picture is a triumph. It does an exceptional job of capturing the horror and heartache of the war, and it does so with its simple yet effective story, with the audience being placed within the harrowing setting.
The camerawork isn’t the only thing that is great about this movie. The sets, the landscapes, the costumes, the choreography--everything was extremely planned out and brilliantly crafted. I was overly impressed with No Man’s Land. The mud, ditches, holes, corpses, etc. all told an incredibly scary story without much context. Even if you had no knowledge of WWI, this scene alone can send shivers down your spine and give you the impression of how bad things were in the early 20th century. The props and costumes were very articulate and precise with their realism. Someone clearly did their homework in history class. In fact, you could probably learn something new just by watching this movie. They Shall Not Grow Old gave us the most accurate visual representation of this historical event, but 1917 gives us the best immersive experience of The Great War to date.
The actors were astounding in this movie. It’s hard enough to act out scenes in the regular way, but remembering your lines, choreography, and even ad libbing in this movie must have taken a tremendous exertion on their part. Climbing around the trenches, fighting in the ruins of cities, and running across a battlefield is so breathtaking in this movie because of these actors. You sense the fear, the tension, the tremendous heavyweight that they experience, and it’s not because they tell you how they’re feeling or thinking. They are merely reacting to the world around them happening in (almost) real time. For instance, it’s so impressive to watch one of the actors escape Nazi pursuers, find solace in sitting in the woods, then getting up and frantically working his way through trenches and avoiding death in a major battle--all in one shot! This is such a unique way to extract emotion out of the audience, and without the actors’ ability to push themselves to their physical limit, this just wouldn’t be able to work as well as it did.
1917 is such an emotional, engaging, and bombastic way to start off the new year. If you were disappointed with December’s offerings, there’s no need to worry for this month. We have a truly unique and awesome movie that reminds us about the horrors of history, and hopefully by learning from it, we can make our century better for us and for our children.
Here we are, folks. The end of Star Wars…again...for the third time. But this is THE big finale! I know you're here for one thing: to know if it's good or not. Well, is it? No. No, it's not.
You’re still here and not angrily commenting about how much of a Trekkie I am? Cool. Let me explain why this is not a good film. Don't worry! There are no spoilers in this review.
I remember a very important lesson in college. I wrote a script with tons of world-building dialogue and epic battle scenes, and I thought it was the coolest story ever. My professor then handed me back my script after he reviewed it, and to my dismay, it was covered in red ink from his pen. "You have five stories going on at the same time," he said. "In doing so, you took away the quality of each story. Tell me one story, and tell it well." He was right. I had baked a delicious pie, but I had added too many, very different ingredients, that created a very odd and distorted concoction. What every writer needs to do is focus on one flavor of pie and hand it to the audience so they can experience all of the wonderful things inside of it. I wish my professor told the writers of this movie the same thing. This is one of the fastest movies I have ever seen. In almost two and half hours, the story retcons a lot of what The Last Jedi did by introducing a new talent for Finn, a backstory for Poe, new characters who share similar backstories that we don't see again, new powers for both Rey and Kylo, a new crisis for Rey, a rescue mission, a scavenger hunt, build up to emotional moments that never actually happen, oh yeah…and stopping the bad guy! Even with all of this, I felt like I missed some vital parts that would have made the story better. The plot got lost in the abundance of extra elements. This Star Wars pie had so many different flavors in it that I don't know what I tasted nor if I like it enough to want another slice.
This was extremely disappointing to me because J.J. Abrams is a good filmmaker. He made some of the best spy movies when he took over the Mission:Impossible franchise; he made Star Trek fun again, and made my favorite Godzilla-like movie, Cloverfield, as well as some extremely good TV shows. It makes me wonder what happened behind-the-scenes. I love his style of cinematography and camerawork, but for some reason, the direction of the movie felt sloppy. There are many instances where he makes you feel emotion, and then he reverses it and says, "Just kidding! Ok, back to explosions." After this happened twice, I didn't let myself feel emotion, turned my brain off, and just watched the splashes of color light up the screen for the rest of the way. While there are some visually stunning moments, when you do things like this in a movie, it naturally produces frustration and then emotional resistance from the audience, and they no longer care what's happening anymore. I expect lazy filmmaking like this from Michael Bay, but I expect much better from Abrams.
Is there anything redeemable from this movie? Yes, actually! The acting is quite good, and the actors make this as fun of a ride as possible. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, who do their very best to make the story as emotional as possible, offer great performances despite the lackluster story. I will have to give a shout out to the actor who played Chewbacca. There was one part where Chewie's mannerisms actually got me choked up a little, and Anthony Daniels gives the best C-3PO performance of his career and fully realizes the character's comical potential. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac try to have as much fun as they possibly can with what they have to work with. All in all, the actors do their very best and seem to have a blast.
The original Star Wars trilogy inspired me to become a filmmaker. It's intricate levels of religion, mythology, morality, and heroism were rolled up into simple stories, easily understandable to everyone of all ages, and it's brilliant directing and writing helped make these films timeless and beloved for the past four decades. It's stories like these that are used as teaching tools for parents. It's stories like these that inspire people to be better and fight to make this world a better place. It's stories like these that ignite our imaginations and fuel our creativity. The Rise of Skywalker, sadly, is not one of those stories.
By Hollywood law, if a movie makes $1 billion, the studio responsible for such a movie MUST make a franchise out of it. Disney, being one of those who signed this law into existence, has fulfilled this requirement by drowning us with Frozen merchandise and short films until we were too poor to pay for our child's 100th Olaf doll. And Frozen II is now a thing...and we shall suffer once again. Except when we watch the movie. It's actually pretty good.
Am I being a bit too dramatic and over-the-top? Yeah I probably am. After all, Disney has ingrained Let It Go into my psyche to the point, I suppose, I've started acting like Elsa (isolating herself because she can't get over how cool she is). Or maybe I'm like Anna, making a big deal about how awful the life of a privileged princess is. ...I've over analyzed the first movie, as you can see, by how much I've watched it. And you know who else over analyzed the first movie? Disney.
If there's one thing that differentiates this movie from the first one, it's how much more complicated it is. It seems like the writers looked at the first movie and said, "You know, I wonder what the king and queen were like when they were kids? What were their favorite childhood songs? What were their parents were up to? What did the natives of the land look like? What did they fear? Are there more magical creatures than trolls? What can we do to set up 50 more movies?" That's not, necessarily, a bad move on their part. I love a good fantasy story, and Frozen II certainly delivers! It's bigger, and at times, more epic than its predecessor. This isn't about stopping a force of evil; it's a quest to right the wrongs of others and to create harmony in the world. More is at stake and the danger is greater.
The heart of the story, of course, is the bond between Anna and Elsa. They both are challenged in their own unique ways. Elsa is finding her identity in the world, whereas Anna is discovering what kind of a legacy we carry on from our forefathers. It's really deep and will most likely resonate more so with the adults. In fact, there's a song in the third act that really resonated with me, because of what was occurring in my own life. The movie's multiple messages are great teaching tools for kids, though they may not fully understand exactly what those lessons are at where they are in their lives. However, it will certainly make some adults look back on their lives and contemplate their own journeys.
The music in this film is not as memorable as its predecessor's. The original had a nostalgic charm to it as it tried to replicate the Broadway-style of the Disney movies from the 90s, but this one tries different styles and, in turn, doesn't pack near as much of a punch in the nostalgia gut. Olaf's song in particular isn't as clever as the one he had before, and sadly, the lyrics to Anna's solo are not memorable. This is disappointing because of how powerful its message is. They obviously saved the best numbers for Idina Menzel, who absolutely sings her lungs out in two big performances. It's certainly not a bad soundtrack, but I think, if given the choice, audiences will let it go in favor of the original. (Sorry, I'll stop now.)
The animation, on the other hand, deserves praise! From character's hair to the dazzling, magical lights, every inch of this movie was painstakingly crafted to make this movie as stunning as it could be. At this point, the Walt Disney Animation department is competing with Pixar to see who can make the most visually stunning movie of all time. I think Disney just took the lead with this movie. It's quite impressive! Even if you could care less about this movie and are only seeing it because your kids wanted to watch it, you can certainly admire how gorgeous each shot is.
Frozen II dares to try new things with its story, animation, and music, and most of it pays off, creating a movie that succeeds in its execution in more areas than it fails. Like the sisters' journey, this movie has some bumps, but in the end, it's a good experience. A third movie is inevitable, but you know what? I'll happily go into the unknown with these characters again. (Ok, now I'll stop.)
As far as remakes go, Maleficent was one of my personal favorites. It didn't tell the story of Sleeping Beauty all over again. Instead, it chose to ask "What if Maleficent had found Aurora as a baby?" In doing so, it freed itself from the constraints of the original tale and told its own unique story. It wasn't a perfect film by any stretch of the means, but it stood out for its daring take on a classic story, even more so now with so many remakes being made. It was surprising to see a sequel to the film, but it wasn't surprising that it couldn't live up to the originality of the first film.
The story centers around the engagement of Prince Philip and Princess Aurora and ensuing bickering between Maleficent and Prince Philip's parents. Honestly, I would be so down for a comedy about these people fighting over who runs the show at the wedding, but alas, we didn't get a comedy. That's not a bad thing, but things tend to escalate when some magical mischief begins to take place and a war begins. Yeah, a war. This movie gets wild, but at the same time, it seems simple once you get to the root of the story. It's essentially another colonizing-is-bad-and-you-shouldn't-attack-people-you-don't-know type of story. There's nothing wrong with it, but it just seems cliche at this point. It doesn't try to do anything interesting with its premise, and its message is one we've heard before. It's a shame that it struggles to stand out from the crowd, whereas its predecessor easily remains one of the more unique adaptations of classic literature.
What this movie lacks in originality it tries to make up for in its cinematography. There are some shots in this movie that should be made as a wallpaper. One particular shot of the titular character is absolutely stunning with its contrasting colors. The CGI on the other hand is hit or miss. It's pretty obvious what is or isn't made by a computer animation software, but some of the creatures featured are not visually stunning. I didn't like how the Good Fairies looked in the first movie, and I still don't like them now. Some creatures that are a mix between practical effects and visual effects look great. For the most part, this will delight fantasy fans with its monster designs and some beautiful, fantastical imagery.
The actors do a decent job with what they have to work with. Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer are great actresses, but I was more impressed with Elle Fanning. She is not afraid to really put her emotions out there, and she offers a chilling performance during the third act. Everyone else isn't as noteworthy, but they can't be blamed for that. They just don't have enough to do to make them stand out or memorable. I just watched the movie, and I can't remember Maleficent's new friends' names. They look cool and sound cool, but we just don't get to know them all that well. We do get to know Maleficent better, and Jolie naturally shines in the role. However, she seems to struggle to balance the dark and light of Maleficent. The character is suppose to still be menacing but a good person too. It's a hard role to be sure, and I have the upmost respect for Jolie for taking on such a challenge.
I've been pretty hard on the movie, but the truth is I did enjoy my time with it. As a fantasy fan, it's always a joy to see new creatures and worlds on the silver screen, but I just wish the writers had come up with something more unique for this story. Admittedly, it still stands out from most Disney remakes as being, you know, different. At least it has that little element of surprise, so maybe there's still some magic left at Disney.
If there's one thing about the Batman franchise that is as iconic as the hero himself is his villains. Whether you grew up in the 60s, 90s, or 2000s, you've seen Batman's foes on TV and in the movies. You can probably name quite a few of them, but there's one that seems to stand out in every iteration of Batman, no matter the generation--the clown prince of crime, the Joker. Due to his incredible popularity, he's got his very own movie, and it's no laughing matter.
The movie is centered around Arthur Fleck, a mentally challenged clown actor who is trying his best to take care of himself and his mother in the grime of Gotham City. As the title implies, this is an origin story for the iconic comic book character, and we see the tragic downfall of this man in desperate need for help. Through this tragedy, we see political commentary on the powers above the downtrodden and the abuse that society can bring to those in need of help. It's a thought-provoking piece, and hopefully it encourages someone to help a stranger. It doesn't seem to justify the actions of the Joker. I believe the point is to make him better understood. After all, criminals don't just wake up one day and think, "You know, I think I'm going to be a crime lord." It starts somewhere, and it usually starts in a dark place, much like we see in movies like The Godfather, Scareface, and the like. Sometimes to understand how to fix societal problems, we need to look at the stories of criminals and see what causes them to do what they do. Joker does this marvelously and is a remarkably well-made film.
Outside of the artful and carefully crafted shots, this movie would not be near as good as it is with Joaquin Phoenix. Everything from his body movements to his laugh was played out disturbingly well. He made the laugh so uncomfortable to watch sometimes, and that is something no other actor had been able to do before in the role. The way he danced, smiled, and looked at people seemed so random yet finely tuned, so intricate yet complicated. Watching him on screen was fascinating. His decisions on how to act out the character were artistic, like one of those splattered paintings in a museum. It seems so random and distorted, but at the same time, it seeps into your soul and speaks to you in a unique way. I commend, Phoenix, and his performance in this movie. I can't even imagine to physically and mental toll it took to do what he did.
The Joker is a movie not for the faint of heart, but it is one with something to say. It's well crafted, well acted, and asks some questions about society. This is a comic book movie that doesn't want you to enjoy the ride. It wants you to see reality through its dark filter, and maybe, just maybe, bring about a small flicker of light through us.
With the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy now over, DreamWorks is lacking a series featuring a young, aspiring adventurer with a cute monster buddy to sell a million plushy dolls and make a ton of money off of. But not any longer! Introducing Abominable, a movie where a young, aspiring girl goes on an adventure with an adorable monster pal who will undoubtedly sell a lot of huggable plushy dolls.
This is the most inoffensive, OK movie I think I've ever seen. The characters are fine. The story is fine. The villain is fine. Everything is just fine. The jokes are hit or miss, but the visuals! Oh man, the visuals are actually the saving grace in this movie. The Asian setting makes it stand out from other animated films, showcasing the splendid grandeur of the continent. It almost feels like a big budget tourism advertisement, especially to, well, Mt. Everest--there's literally a giant billboard of the mountain in one scene. Additionally, there are some musical and action scenes that highlight the artistic talents of its animators. This is certainly a movie for you if you are a fan of color and vivid spectacles.
There isn't really much more to say about this movie because you've probably seen another movie with a similar story and similar characters. It just doesn't stand out for me and won't be a movie I will remember years down the road. Ultimately, it's a kid's film, and if you need your kid distracted for an hour and a half, this isn't a bad choice. It's not a bad choice. It's just an OK choice.
It has returned, and the Losers Club members have reunited to stop the killer once and for all. After a surprisingly fun horror film featuring a young cast, the sequel brings in older actors to face Pennywise the dancing clown, and they are just as fun to watch but overstay their welcome a bit.
The It movies succeed in their ambitious execution of Stephen King's wildly long book by splitting the story into two halves. This is most likely done because the TV adaption of the material did the same thing, but considering Hollywood enjoys milking a popular book for all its worth (Hunger Games, Twilight, Hobbit, Harry Potter, etc), it's refreshing to have a series end after two very memorable installments.
However, because King made the book gargantuan, the movie has a lot of story to tell, which results in a very long movie. Though fans may appreciate spending a lot with their beloved characters, it can feel rather overstuffed and exhausting to other audience members. In fact, this is where the movie's main problems occur. The director clearly wants to get in as many scares and as many weird visuals under three hours as much as possible, and it's admirable for the most part. It's a fun horror film overall, but there is a ton of fluff. For instance, there's a scene that involves a little girl meeting Pennywise. Is it creepy and freaks you out a bit? Yes, but it's not necessary for the story. There are also a lot of flashback scenes that tell more stories for the characters, but some of them could have been taken out. There's just too much fluff that hinders the story from effectively embracing its full emotional potential.
Speaking of those flashback scenes, another hinderance to the movie is its repetitive structure. Each character gets a flashback scene to their childhood. Then they get spooked, and finally they retrieve what they were looking for. It feels like a video game. Get a mission. Fight the boss. Get the reward. Rinse and repeat until you come to the final boss and win the game. The entire movie feels like this, and it's not terrible. It just gets boring after the first couple of times because you know what to expect.
Despite the overabundance of scenes and an unnecessary long runtime, the movie is a lot of fun, filled with some absolutely twisted imagery and freakishly hideous monstrosities. It almost makes me want this director to tackle the Silent Hill franchise...almost. The new cast does a wonderful job portraying older versions of the kids, and they manage to build off of each other, creating a chemistry that feels natural and fluid. I would love to see these actors reunite for another film because of how well they performed together. They helped convey the terror and also the lighthearted times full of laughter.
If you're a horror fan, you are pretty lucky. Not only did you get one of the best Stephen King adaptations of all time, you got two. With a delightful cast and an eery experience, you're in for a scary good time. Just make sure to use the bathroom beforehand.
After seven Spider-Man films, including an Oscar-winning animated film, the latest installment in the webhead's never-ending battle to make Sony as much money as possible has a lot to live up to, especially since it continues the story after the epic juggernaut that was Avengers: Endgame. This time around, the responsible friendly neighbor leaves his neighborhood to embark on a class field trip to Europe, in the hope that he'll win the heart of the girl he loves. He should have stayed home.
The movie was a letdown for me. It's disappointing after the very humorous and surprisingly captivating Spider-Man: Homecoming, and that is the first reason why this movie doesn't fully deliver--it's not a comedic comedy. Marvel Studios's reboot of the character made it very clear that this new iteration would take inspiration from teen comedy films like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, giving the character a youthful and whimsical atmosphere to exist in. Homecoming pulled this off with its clever uses of gags and jokes mixed in with all of the superhero antics we've come to expect from a Marvel movie, but the newest film just doesn't do this well at all. There were only a couple of times where I chuckled during the film, compared to multiple fits of laughter when I first watched Homecoming, which is not good since the movie is chockfull of "jokes." By "jokes," I mean failed attempts at humor by saying or doing awkward things on screen. For example, a secret agent tells Peter to take off his clothes so he can put on his new superhero uniform. She stands there. Peter hesitates. She strongly insists he changes then and there as she watches. This was meant to be funny. This scene does lead to, admittedly, an hilarious scene on a bus, but that particular moment to make the audience chuckle felt weird and out-of-place, as if we missed the punchline somewhere...or the setup. Overall, the film fails at being a teen comedy. Now, I get it. It's an action-packed superhero film, but it's trying to add elements of a teen comedy. Thus, it fails in its attempt to make this movie stand out from all the other 20+ Marvel movies and makes itself look like a first-time standup trying out some jokes and hope something sticks with the audience.
The second way this film disappoints is in its execution at a compelling villain. When the Vulture was announced as the villain to Spider-Man: Homecoming, I thought that was a horrible choice. Who cares about an old geezer in a bird suit? I was pleasantly surprised by how compelling the character turned out to be, thanks to his portrayal as an average Joe who struggled to keep a job due to those in bigger companies, mainly Tony Stark, and so he turns to a life of villainy to steal from Stark and make money to use towards the betterment of his family. From his point-of-view, his methods make sense, and at times, he is questionably a villain. Criminal, sure, but an evil villain who wants to rule the world or even kill someone? No. But in Far From Home, we are presented with a measly villain-of-the-week bad guy who wants to rule the world through fame and glory because...he's driven by jealousy I guess? The point is he's being a bad guy to better himself, not for anyone else, and we have seen this kind of selfish ambition time and time again, especially in Marvel movies. He just comes off a bit boring because of his motivation. It's just not a gripping conflict like the other film.
But what is the movie ultimately about, and does it succeed in getting its point across? Sort of. The plot centers around Peter trying to impress Michelle and enjoy a romantic getaway with her in Europe, but he gets tangled up in some shenanigans with Nick Fury and some monsters, making his plans very difficult to come to fruition. It's a simple story, but honestly, it's just not that interesting. Michelle is not that compelling of a character outside of her little nuggets of historical fun facts that involve the deaths of people. Not someone I personally gravitate towards, but maybe Peter enjoys depressing fun facts more than me. But the main take away from Peter's journey to get the girl is his overwhelming knowledge that he's responsible for protecting people, now more than ever. The world is not the same, and there are less heroes to protect it. He just wants to be a regular teen again and have fun in life, instead of having to deal with saving the world from evildoers. It definitely challenges Peter emotionally, and we see him examine his heart and finds it within himself to pursue what he deeply desires most for his life. The problem with this is that we've seen Spider-Man do this before--more than once! We get it. He has powers. He doesn't want to use his powers for a time. He doesn't get what he wants, but he becomes the person he was meant to be because he has to use his powers for the greater good. Got it. Great. Does he not go through any other challenges in his life? How about the stress of planning out his future like college and a career? What about dealing with criminals who are breaking the law in order to just live one more day? What about a kingpin manipulating the government system to better his own business? Why is it always about him learning he has a responsibility to uphold and struggling to get the girl in between fights with bad guys? Thankfully, the end of the movie teases a major change to the character, and hopefully the inevitable third installment presents a new, life-changing obstacle for Peter to face and learn a new lesson in the process.
With humor that isn't very humorous, an uninteresting villain, and a plot that doesn't offer anything new, Spider-Man: Far From Home is far from hitting a home-run. It's not a bad film per se; it offers some great fight scenes and excellent performances from all the actors, which ultimately does keep the movie entertaining from start to finish. However, you're better off watching this one at home.
11 years. 22 movies. 1 marvelous universe. Here are my quick thoughts on the third phase of films from Marvel Studios, marking the end of the Infinity Saga that began with 2008's Iron Man.
Captain America: Civil War--An otherwise exceptional political thriller, this film suffers from a disappointing final act that just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I mean, seriously...what's with superheroes and their moms? But wow that airport fight scene is amazing! Oh and Black Panther makes his cinematic debut in this film and has an exceptional introduction, but the same can't be said for Spider-Man's first foray into the MCU. Sure, he was everything fans wanted to see on screen--nerdy and shy Peter Parker with an acrobatic, overconfident, and obnoxious alter ego--but he was clearly shoehorned into the story just because Marvel got his film rights back and wanted to get him in the franchise ASAP.
Doctor Strange--A visually impressive and thematically deep origin story of Marvel's Master of the Mystic Arts that will delight your eyes with dazzling displays of visual effects, as well as offering a tale of a broken man transformed by overcoming his disbelief. It's darker than most Marvel offerings, but it certainly is a fun journey. Plus, it has Benedict Cumberbatch. Who doesn't enjoy watching that guy act?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2--Second verse same as the first.
Spider-Man: Homecoming--After 5 other movies, Marvel Studios manages to pull off something that no other Spider-Man movie has done before: the lead actor actually looks like a high schooler. Beyond that amazing accomplishment, the movie feels like a throwback to 80s teen movies, which is an unexpected delightful change of pace for the Marvel films.
Thor: Ragnarok--Did you feel like the Thor movies could have used a couple of more jokes in their scripts? Well fret not, True Believer, because this movie has all the jokes! Slapstick comedy, dark humor, bathroom jokes, and (my personal favorite) puns! Does this make for a good story? Who cares. This movie is hilarious and fun, and that's all it wants to do.
Black Panther--A great and entertaining story about the changing of the times that challenges the characters' morals and ideologies. One of Marvel's more serious films, this movie is packed with themes about politics, culture, and the responsibility of power.
Avengers: Infinity War--This movie is exciting, entertaining, bombastic, epic, shocking, and ultimately one of the best superhero movies ever made.
Ant-Man and the Wasp--I couldn't believe how much I looked forward to watching this movie, despite my childhood resentment towards Ant-Man. After adoring the first movie with its comedic tone, parental themes, and its unique take on heist films, I had high hopes for this one. Thankfully, it doesn't disappoint. It delivers on all the things that the first one did and then some. It is so much fun and had me laughing over and over again.
Captain Marvel--Like the main character's emotions, it's sort of lacking in personality and charm. The special effects are great, the sci-fi elements are cool, and Goose the Cat is adorable. However, there isn't much to make this origin story stand out from other Marvel films, and maybe that's ok. If it's goal was to introduce Carol Danvers as Marvel's heaviest hitter and give us an entertaining time while doing it, then it succeeded.
Avengers: Endgame--This is a landmark in filmmaking. No other movie has set out to do what many deemed impossible, yet it manages to conclude a saga that has spanned over a decade and spawned six franchises in an emotional, impactful, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and overall marvelous masterpiece that will be heralded as one of the all-time greats for years to come.
And with that, I have given quick reviews on every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie thus far. I've certainly enjoyed my time binge watching all of them, and I hope you've had fun watching Marvel's ever-expanding universe grow throughout the years. What were some of your favorites films in this franchise? What was the first MCU film you saw in theaters? Do you agree with some of the things I said, or am I completely wrong? Sound off in the comments, and until next time--excelsior!
Avengers: Endgame is one month away at the time of this writing, and we're getting more excited as each day passes. We're still binge watching every Marvel Studios film, and today, we're here to give you rapid fire reviews on Marvel Studios' second slate of films.
Iron Man 3--The third Iron Man film does what any good sequel needs to do--present a challenge to the protagonist that forces them to face it head on while also dealing with their own problems. It succeeds by telling possibly the most emotionally driven story out of the trilogy, causing Tony to grow even more as a character as he overcomes his personal problems, but the challenge he faces ends up being an issue for the movie. I won't spoil what happens, but they had to make a short film to apologize for what they did in the movie.
Thor: The Dark World--Honestly, I had way more fun with this film then I thought I would. It is said that this is possibly Marvel Studios' worst film, but considering it's not a bad movie, that's saying something about the quality that the studio puts into each of their films.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier--This is quite possibly the best Marvel movie. Ever. It's not only a great sequel, a great action movie, a great superhero film, and a great political thriller. It's a great movie. Period.
Guardians of the Galaxy--This is one of the most fun comic book movies ever made. The characters are delightful and hilarious. The soundtrack is catchy and will stay in your head for days on end, and the story is full of great character arcs, memorable quotes, and dance-offs. Oh, and of course Groot. What more could you want in a movie?
Avengers: Age of Ultron--It's a 2 hour 21 minute commercial for Phase 3, and that hinders the story from reaching its full potential. At least the titular characters are as fun to watch as ever.
Ant-Man--Out of all of the movies on this list, this one is the most astonishing because they somehow took one of Marvel's lamest characters and gave him a good movie. Yes, I'm serious. A movie about a guy who talks to ants is really good. The characters are charming, relatable, funny, and just lovable. You'll laugh from the hilarious jokes. You'll be emotional from the daddy-daughter moments. And you'll have a great time.