[REVIEW] ‘Eternals’ or The Script is Not a Marvel

Back in 2019 I attended the D23 Expo and one of the most exciting announcements was Marvel’s upcoming film Eternals. How cool to see Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek and more coming out on stage to be in a Marvel movie with a female director! This was going to be awesome!

Unfortunately I must admit to being completely underwhelmed and even frustrated by Eternals. It has some positive aspects of course but its main downfall is a confusing script with inconsistently written characters stuck in a timeline that makes it impossible to build momentum or tell a story that makes sense.  We don’t even have the ties to the MCU to help guide the new characters into the world (Wong for instance in Shang-Chi filled this role).

Other people seem to have enjoyed it more than me. I don’t know what to to tell you but most of the film I had no idea what was happening. There’s lots of exposition explaining the rules of the emergence and celestials, for example, but when these events are happening the conversation explaining said event had been so long ago I had forgotten what it meant and was left wondering what was happening and why our characters were behaving in this way.

It might help to watch this movie on Disney Plus when it is available and have a pen and paper to keep track of all the rules and what happens in each time period and how that matters. But should that be required of every movie? My friend seemed to keep track of details better than I did but my brain (I have some dyslexia and am more of a linear learner) struggles when plots are fragmented like they are in Eternals. It’s especially frustrating when they could have easily made different choices that would have made sense in the theater on the first watch.

Another problem I had was with the characters. Because the timeline flips around over centuries we see characters at weak and high points but since this is out of order it’s confusing and makes it hard to invest in the characters. One character is a hero in a timeline, in another he or she betrays and even kills our heroes, and then he or she’s back to being a good hero and then final redemption. I love the Marvel heroes but these will have to be explained better in other movies because I did not get to know them hardly at all. Also their powers seemed completely random and some hardly useful for defending the world against deviants.

All the actors in Eternals give good performances. The cinematography and visual effects are impressive. There are also grown-up moments that some may enjoy (Marvel’s first sex scene since Iron Man). I also appreciated the diversity and inclusivity but unfortunately it all sinks under the weight of a poorly written script and makes for a frustrating watch.

If you like Eternals I am happy for you. Indeed, I am jealous because I wanted to have that experience. Please keep comments civil. Anything threatening or unkind will be deleted.

3.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Current Mini Reviews (French Dispatch, Last Duel, Becoming Cousteau and More)

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I am writing this review update from Los Angeles, California. I am in town for the Animation is Film Festival, which showcases the best of animated films from this year. I am super excited to see Luca and Mitchells v the Machines on the big screen as well as new films like Mamoru Hosoda’s new film Belle.

In the meantime I have also been to a lot of screenings lately so I have some catching up to do on reviews. I wish I could write whole posts on each of these films but I am only one human and I simply run out of time. So here goes! If you have seen any of these films let me know what you think.

The Last Duel

The Last Duel Trailer Reveals Jodie Comer, Adam Driver, and Matt Damon in Ridley Scott's Epic Film

We don’t get many medieval epics these days so one has to admire director Ridley Scott and the team at 20th Century for even greenlighting The Last Duel. It is a sweeping story of war, revenge, friendship and betrayal. Unfortunately some decisions from the director with the storytelling kept me from loving the film.

The positives are like I said the scope of the filmmaking and the attention to detail with costumes, battle scenes and sets. I also thought Jodie Comer and Adam Driver did a great job in their roles. Matt Damon works hard but is miscast and given one of the ugliest haircuts of recent memory. Ben Affleck’s character and performance is very strange but effective.

The problem with The Last Duel is they tell the story of a rape 3 times and I don’t think there is enough to be gained from each perspective to make the storytelling choice worth it. It feels repetitive because it literally is repetitive. Plus, the fact they show the rape twice feels gratuitous and unnecessary. It’s not like each side has radically different takes. It’s clearly rape in both versions.

The Last Duel is not a terrible film. I am sure many will enjoy it but the story structure sank it for me. No thanks

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Becoming Cousteau

See the source image

For many of us the name Jacques Cousteau is synonymous with the ocean and marine conservation. During the 1960s and 70s ABC ran a series of documentaries from the French explorer called The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Now we have a documentary about the Cousteau’s life and it is a fascinating look at both a media figure and the environmental activist movement.

Part of what makes a documentary like this work is the footage the filmmakers have to use. Fortunately for this film they have tons of footage, Cousteau being a documentarian himself. It’s sad to see the deuteriation of the ocean from when he starts filming to the 80s and even 90s. It’s even more sad to see the toll that causes for Cousteau who takes the polluting of the ocean as a personal failing on his part when even he could only do so much to prevent humans from hurting the ocean.

I assume Becoming Cousteau will end up on Disney Plus so you can wait to see it then or if it is a theater near you check it out.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch: Four stars for Wes Anderson's latest - BBC Culture

Wes Anderson is similar to Zack Snyder in the fact they both make very stylish films with a near cult of personality that devours their work. It almost seems futile to write a review on either of their films because their fans are already signed up to see them. What I say won’t matter.

Anyway we have the latest from Anderson, The French Dispatch, and it’s very Wes Andersony… It has all of his best and worst qualities and in the end I thought it was…ok.

To start with the production design in the film is immaculate. The camerawork is fantastic and the score does a lot of the heavy lifting. The cast is impressive but many of the actors feel underused. When someone like Edward Norton appears for under 2 minutes it’s distracting. We keep waiting for such a big name actor to appear again and when he doesn’t it’s disappointing.

The short stories in The French Dispatch are hit and miss. My favorite was the prison chef story with Jeffrey Wright especially the animated section but then others went on too long like the story of Timothee Chalamet’s rebellion with Frances McDormand overstayed its welcome.

Nevertheless, if you like Anderson than you’ll get something out of The French Dispatch. It’s uneven but worth watching.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Ron’s Gone Wrong

Ron's Gone Wrong review: A kid-friendly, tech-upgraded Iron Giant - Polygon

For animation fans the new film Ron’s Gone Wrong is an exciting release as it is Locksmith Animation’s first feature film and the only CGI animated film to come out of the UK this year. It is also a 20th Century Studios release, which is now a part of Disney.

My favorite part of the film is the animation and the design of the b-bots (named Ron in this case). I honestly would like to have one of these robots- and not the ones at the end but the ones that work the way they should at the beginning.  I also liked the lead character Barney and his Slavic old-fashioned family.

Unfortunately it is impossible not to think of Big Hero 6 when watching Ron’s Gone Wrong. The movies are so similar but Ron doesn’t hold a candle to Baymax. I mean who could? Barney also doesn’t have to deal with the same level of loss (at least on screen. His Mother has passed on but that isn’t a part of the plot like it is for Hero).

All that said, the film does get intense and may be too much for very small children. I would say 8 and up should be fine.

Despite its flaws Ron’s Gone Wrong has enough imagination, creative character designs and heart to make it worth a recommendation.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Blind Spot 70: Frankenstein 1931

I think because I have never been a big horror movie person I have a ton of blind spots in that genre including the Universal monster movies. This is why I really wanted to include Frankenstein 1931 in my blind spot this year. Strangely I have seen Young Frankenstein which is a parody of this film but not seen the original. I have also read the book several times and seen the Kenneth Branagh version from 1994 (and I’ve seen Frankenweenie!). Now I have seen the1931 film and I loved it! It’s an extremely well made film with several scenes that really got to me.

Frankenstein 1931 is directed by James Whale and stars Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. It’s a simple story and at 71 minutes it doesn’t waste much time. Dr Frankenstein creates a monster and that monster is misunderstood and mayhem results.

The film starts off with the iconic image of lightning bringing the monster to life. We of course get the doctor calling out ‘It’s alive! It’s alive’. I love the black and white in these scenes and the way director Whale uses light and shadow to create mood.  They are scenes so often parodied they lose some of their impact but if you think about what it must have been like to see for the first time it is very exciting.

Karloff is great as the monster. He plays it almost like a zombie unaware of what he is doing but with just enough alertness to be cognizant of his actions. The most tragic scene is when he is playing with a girl named Maria and in the game he drowns the girl. That scene combined with the farmer bringing his dead little girl into the town is so sad. Devastating.

Like I said, Frankenstein 1931 is not a long movie so its elements are simple. However, I found it effective and very well made. It’s violent, tragic and exciting all at the same time and it has something to say about playing God and how we treat things we don’t understand. Is it a monster just because we are unfamiliar with it? Maybe? Maybe not?

I did think the film ended rather abruptly and I wanted a little bit more. I suppose I will need to watch the sequels one of these days.

8 out of 10

 

Current Mini Reviews (MLP: A New Generation, Lamb, Diana: The Musical and More)

So it’s that time again where I catch up on all the films I’ve been watching with a bunch of mini-reviews! Sorry I couldn’t do longer reviews but if you have any questions or would like more of my thoughts just ask in the comments section!

My Little Pony: A New Generation

My Little Pony: A New Generation' Review: A Fun Franchise Re-shoe - Variety

I was actually a fan of the MLP: Friendship is Magic and enjoyed the MLP movie based on that series. Now we have a new series with an introductory movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation. This is technically a sequel to Friendship is Magic (and we get a little intro from the FIM characters) but it is new characters with a new style and it is thoroughly charming.

In this story, Equestria has been divided into 3 lands with 3 different pony kinds- earth, pegasi and unicorns. One day a new unicorn named Izzy comes into town and they have to work to overcome prejudice and restore the unicorn magic. I love the bright and cheerful animation and the message is important and perfect for the whole family. It’s a great start to the new series

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Lamb

Lamb,” a Bittersweet Nightmare - Scraps from the loft

Whenever I see a movie from A24 I know I’m in for something different. The distributor prides itself on procuring strange eclectic films. Most of their films I enjoy like The Farewell, Minari and more. Others like The Souvenir or The Last Black Man in Francisco I did not care for. (or C’mon C’mon reviewed below is A24)

Now there is the movie Lamb, and I was actually looking forward to the film because the trailer looked like a fun horror movie. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver and was instead a pretentious dull marriage in crisis drama.

The trailer is one of the most deceptive I’ve seen in a long time because Lamb is not scary in the slightest. In fact, every time they showed the human lamb baby it looked so ridiculous it took me out of the movie. It was too goofy, and I honestly thought it was plain stupid.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Diana: The Musical

Netflix's 'Diana: The Musical' is a royal pain | Star Tribune

You all know I am a sucker when it comes to musicals. I famously went fresh on much maligned recent film adaptations of Cats and Dear Evan Hansen. So when I say a musical is terrible it’s really bad. Such is the case with the recent Diana: the Musical.

Everything about this filming of the new Broadway show about Princess Diana’s life is a complete mess. Maybe the costumes can be praised but the lyrics, music, book, casting, staging is all laughably bad. It’s almost worth recommending for the ‘so bad it’s good’ elements, but I can’t do that to you. I feel bad for whomever invested in the Broadway show starting in December because this thing is going to tank badly. I can’t imagine it lasting outside the previews…It’s so bad.

1 out of 10

Frown Worthy

C’mon C’mon

C'mon C'mon' Review: Joaquin Phoenix Delivers His Mellowest Turn Yet - Variety

I saw C’mon C’mon as part of this year’s NYFF59 and director Mike Mills was there to present it to the crowd. The film is thin on plot but its characters are endearing enough to make it all work.

It tells the story of a man named Johnny who is asked to take care of his nephew Jesse while the child’s parents are dealing with medical care. At first he doesn’t know how to parent but over time he and Jesse become very close. As an aunt I can relate to the bond between Johnny and Jesse and the beautiful black and white photography gives the film a grounded, authentic feel.

It is slow moving and the interruptions with documentary subjects waxing philosophical didn’t always work but still a sweet movie worth a few hours of your time.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Returning to Reims

Returning to Reims

My second movie at NYFF59 is a very unusual documentary called Returning to Reims. This film takes clips from movies, interviews, and selections from director Didier Eribon’s memoir to tell a history of labor struggles in France. Normally such a subject would be dry but the approach was unique enough to keep me engaged. I think it would have worked better as a documentary short but still I’m glad I saw it.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Muppets Haunted Mansion

Muppets Haunted Mansion Review - IGN

I don’t know if I mention it enough on this blog but I love The Muppets. I even have Muppet May every year over on my youtube channel. That said, the franchise has had a rocky road the last few years. I did not enjoy Muppets Most Wanted and the various TV series have not been good.

Now we have a new film for Disney Plus with Muppets Haunted Mansion. Fortunately it is the best project the franchise has made in a long time. I really enjoyed all the homages to the attraction (which is my favorite at Disneyland). Will Arnett is a lot of fun as the host to a great party Gonzo and Pepe are attending. We also get the adorable image of Piggy and Kermit dressed up as each other.

The only thing I didn’t like was a plot-line with Taraji P. Henson and Pepe getting married. It’s not that funny and took up a lot of the runtime I wish had been given to the rest of the Muppets.

Still, it’s definitely worth a watch especially for Disney parks and Muppets fans. It’s a gift from the Muppets for this Halloween season.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Baby-Sitters Club Season 2

The Babysitter's Club Season 2 Parents Guide Review - Guide For Geek Moms

I loved the first season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix. It was so well written and cast and felt like an authentic portrayal of teens today.

Now we have season 2 and I loved it all over again. I loved the books growing up and even had my own babysitting club as a tween with my friends. This show so captures the experience of being a teen girl with the insecurities, joys and struggles. But you don’t need to be a teen girl to enjoy the series. If you like good writing and authentic storytelling you will like this show. It’s fantastic.

Particularly great this season is the story for Claudia who faces a great loss. It honestly made me quite emotional. Trust me on this one- you should watch it!

10 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Have you seen any of these films/shows? What have you been watching? Share in the comment sections.

[REVIEW] ‘Dune: Part One’ or It’s Dune. Take it or Leave It

A couple of years ago my book club chose to read Frank Herbert’s 1965 scifi novel Dune for one of our summer selections. The whole point of book club is to get me out of my reading comfort zone so I dove in hoping to enjoy it…and I did not. It was a beast of exposition and ambling plot that went nowhere. None of us but one enjoyed the book and I hoped to never hear about Dune again.

Then of course the movie was announced directed by auteur Denis Villeneuve and of course it was delayed last year due to the pandemic. I feel like I have been hearing about this movie for ages. First the endless casting announcements and then trailers and other publicity as it became delayed. The hype for most was building to a promise I knew the film would not be able to meet- ‘the next Lord of the Rings or Star Wars and I knew from the book that’s not what Dune is unless they strayed far away from the source material.

Today we finally arrived at the big screening day and I had moderated expectations, which is what I recommend for each of you. Don’t go in expecting to hate it- that’s idiotic but expect a well made scifi movie and that’s what you will get.

That’s right. I did actually enjoy Dune despite my dislike of the book. I don’t love it and it has its issues but it’s about the best you could do in making a Dune movie and what more can you ask of filmmakers?

The strengths are in the visual effects and production/sound design. The acting is also all competent and they keep the story moving fairly well- far better than the book or some of Villeneuve’s other scifi films.

My problems with the film is in the character development. Timothee Chalamet does a good job with Paul but the character is flat and doesn’t grow in the way we need for this type of Chosen One story. In addition, none of the side characters stand out or are particularly memorable (no Samwise or Han Solo types in the bunch). It also has no comic relief or lighthearted moments to allow the audience to breathe away from the action.

As I said, the visual effects are strong but in the last third of the film there are a lot of night scenes obfuscated with sand storms. I know this is partly intentional as the story has become darker but it lost some of its visual flair to a muddy sameness by the end.

I know many will disagree with me, but I also was underwhelmed by the Hans Zimmer score. I thought it was bland and missing the dynamic theme we need in such an epic story.

After I see a film I always ask ‘did it succeed in doing what it’s trying to do?’ and I think with Dune the answer is yes. Sure I had some critiques but for a very difficult novel to put on film they did a good job and certainly fans of the source material will love it. When you get a chance to see it let me know what you think!

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] The Addams Family 2 or The Bland-dams Family

It’s always disappointing as a critic when you recommend a film and then the sequels don’t live up to the original film. I feel like saying ‘I was pulling for you!’. This year it happened with Bigfoot Family which was a lame follow-up to the surprise The Son of Bigfoot.  Now it has happened again with The Addams Family 2 which is a sequel to the first The Addams Family, which I actually enjoyed back in 2019.

The reason I liked the original The Addams Family is it kept me laughing throughout. I also felt the animation did a good job capturing the spirit of the Addams characters with a tremendous voice cast.

Unfortunately this sequel does nothing to improve upon the original (which wasn’t perfect despite my recommendation) and fails to provide the laughs needed to enjoy the film. They try but most of the jokes feel repetitive and lacking in any creativity. It all felt very bland.

Watch “The Addams Family 2” Full Movie: How to Watch “Addams Family 2021” Online Streaming at Home?

We still have the great voice cast with Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bette Middler and more. The problem is they are trapped in a boring road trip movie with the overprotective father Gomez fixating on his rebellious daughter Wednesday. You have Bill Hader as Cyrus Strange who is a decent villain but it all feels like the same movie we just saw in Hotel Transylvania with Drac and Mavis or even Tim and Tabitha in the most recent The Boss Baby 2.

There’s nothing harmful about The Addams Family 2 but there are so many better animated films your kids will enjoy more and that you can watch as a family. I would honestly recommend the recent Paw Patrol: The Movie more or My Little Pony: A New Generation. Both of those films were much better as far as story, heart, and creativity. If you want to watch an Addams Family movie watch the films from the live action films from the 90s or the original from 2019. That will give you a much better experience than this bland laugh-less sequel.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ or Superheroes Meet the Odd Couple is a Hoot

When I saw the original Venom movie I had mixed feelings but my big takeaway was the “humor worked for me” and then I added “I’d be open to a sequel where they could iron out the bugs”. Now we have a sequel and in my opinion they have done just that. The humor is still great and the problems with the supplementary characters and the sluggish pacing have been addressed. I walked away from Venom: Let There Be Carnage having been thoroughly entertained. Other people seem to be having different responses and that’s fine. I can only share my experience.

Sometimes I like a movie that’s just plain weird and both of the Venom movies fit that description. The buddy relationship between Venom and Eddie is bizarre, random and hilarious. I was laughing throughout- and so was most of the audience in my critics screening. Eddie trying to keep Venom happy which usually means he says funny, inappropriate and strange things. Tom Hardy is great as Eddie/Venom and it’s fun to see an actor of his caliber arguing with himself over chickens and what not. If my Grandma was alive she’d describe it as a hoot and I’d agree with her.

The rest of the movie is fairly standard but well done with Woody Harrelson playing Carnage. He always does a good job playing manic insane villains. Naomi Harris plays his love interest Shriek and she’s fine. They aren’t especially memorable but they do the job they need to do to get to the action and Venom/Eddie plotline going.

Much has been talked about the 97 minute runtime. I loved it. I was never bored. It never got bogged down in exposition. It was clean, concise and on its way. I found the pacing very refreshing. It’s actually simple. If you want to watch a weird movie about a very odd couple and have some laughs check out Venom: Let There Be Carnage. I sure enjoyed it and I bet you will too. If you are expecting a Shakespearean comicbook movie you probably won’t like it but if you want a kooky good time you will or at least I sure did.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘No Time to Die’ or Bond Makes Us Cry in 2021…

I must admit the James Bond franchise has never interested me much. Of the long running franchise I have only seen the Brosnan and Daniel Craig entries and they are a hit and miss bunch.

Now after seemingly endless delays we get the latest and final entry in the Craig saga of Bond films: No Time to Die. It’s not a perfect movie but it should more than satisfy Bond fans and I was happy with its emotional conclusion to a normally silly franchise.

Some may lament the loss of the stupid women and over-the-top action of past Bonds but I welcome the change. The franchise is finally making movies that appeal to me and make Bond into an actual person I care about. Plus you still get the pretty people and great stunts so win/win in my opinion.

If you want to get the full amount out of No Time To Die I recommend watching the previous film Spectre first. I have seen it but it has been a while so some of the plotpoints were lost on me and the film felt more than a little confused. It also definitely drags at times with the audience feeling the 163 minute runtime.

All that said, the action is well done. The movie is well shot with the style and panache you want from a Bond movie. Rami Malek makes for an intimidating and creepy villain. The little girl is cute. Léa Seydoux is fine as Madeleine although her and Craig don’t have much chemistry due probably partly from their large age gap (he’s 53, she’s 36).

My favorite part of No Time to Die is its humanity. It’s an emotional, gripping end to this version of Bond. Craig gives a great performance and like I said we actually care about the character this time around. That emotion is what makes it worth watching even with its flaws.

No Time to Die releases Oct 8th around the world. When you get a chance to see it let me know what you think  and how it compares to other Bond entries I might not have seen.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘We Rise Up’ or Saving the World One Documentary At a Time

Sometimes we all need a little pep talk. I remember as a child going into assembly hall meetings and hearing speakers designed to encourage us to be kind, not bully each other, not do drugs, be better friends etc. As adults we don’t really get that experience and sometimes I miss it.

This is type of inspirational presentation is essentially what we get in the new documentary We Rise Up. It is a slickly made film designed to help us put aside our differences for the good of the planet. It is also loaded with talented people “from all walks of life” sharing how they didn’t just become successful but they did so in a way that helps the environment.We Rise Up’s message is we can help save the world from pollution and global warming by moving from a system of consumption to one of contribution. Blake Mycoskie from Tom’s Shoes is given as an example. He made it part of his business model to give back and many pairs of shoes have been donated as a result.

The number of interviewees the documentary has is very impressive with everyone from the singer Moby, to the Dalai Lama, to Amina Mohammed (Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations). It’s hard not feel motivated and inspired with so many remarkable people all encouraging change and growth. It’s very effective.

On the downside We Rise Up does feel a bit too corporate at times. It seems like something you’d watch at a corporate retreat rather than a real authentic sharing of experiences. At times it doesn’t really feel like a movie but more a sales pitch for a product- except in this case the product is the We Rise Up movement. This is heightened by the way they do the graphics throughout that feels like a power point presentation.

Nevertheless, this documentary would make a great addition to a family home evening or homeschool lesson. It has so many interviews and the message is so encouraging (as well as the cinematography can be beautiful) that it will be a great jumping off point for discussions on how we can each do more to be a contributor and not a consumer.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy