Current Mini Reviews

Hello readers! I hope you are  all having a better start to the new year than I am. Unfortunately today I am sick with a wicked case of a sinus infection/virus. In fact, I didn’t get to go to the Doctor Dolittle screening this morning because I was so worried I would fall asleep/cough throughout the film. Nevertheless, I have 3 recent films I need to update you all on my thoughts so here goes.

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Like a Boss

Hollywood sure seems to struggle in understanding women. So much of what they make for female audiences feels out of touch with any kind of women I know or interact with. For example, so many seem to suggest women spend way more time worrying about their makeup than most do. Most women have a makeup routine and every once in a while try something new and that’s it.

I was one of the only people who liked 2018’s I Feel Pretty (also set in the world of cosmetics and beauty) because at least it had a little bit of a whimsy which appealed to me. But even I will admit the parts involving the beauty industry and supposed female empowerment fell very flat.

Now we have the latest entry, Like a Boss, starring Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish who run (you guessed it) a makeup company. I actually didn’t hate this movie. It had some laughs with Haddish and Byrne hanging out with their girlfriends  (an authentic relatable situation and probably helped by improv).

However, all the elements involving business fell flat especially Salma Hayek as an over-the-top beauty mogul. It is not surprising this film is written and directed by men because the complexities of the female experience in business as presented are so reductive and cringe-worthy. I’m not saying a movie like this needs to be realistic but come on? They can do better than this.

Even though I did laugh at the friends scenes in Like A Boss, I can’t recommend you spend the big bucks to go see it in the theater. Go see one of the awards caliber films in theaters instead.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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Underwater

Next up we have another movie I didn’t hate but was pretty meh on: Underwater. This has its fair share of positives including a good performance by Kristen Stewart. They also do a great job in creating atmosphere with cool production and sound design. Everything felt on the same level as Ad Astra last year in that regard. I also liked that the action gets going right away without feeling a need for backstory or exposition to set up the world.

The problem with Underwater is it felt uneven in the storytelling. One minute the creatures would be attacking and then the next they’d be more quiet and observant. One minute Kristen Stewart would be fighting for her life and the next she’d be back on the ship looking through a locker. It felt like some needed transitions were cut in the editing room.

It is also a very derivative film of movies like Alien which takes some of the edge off of certain scenes. There’s definitely a feeling of ‘we’ve been there done all this before and better’.

Still if you see this airing on cable it’s not a terrible watch but I don’t think I can recommend watching it on the big screen. (Also the excuses they have to get Kristen Stewart in her bra and panties for long segments feels a little gratuitous and absurd).

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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Marriage Story

To be perfectly frank I have been putting off seeing the critically acclaimed film Marriage Story despite it being available to watch for several months. Especially at Christmas time the idea of watching a film about divorce did not sound appealing at all.

Well, now I have seen the film and while it isn’t my type of movie it is worthy of praise. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are both excellent as our feuding couple and the script doesn’t pick sides on the divorce. They are both petty and passionate all at the same time.

I’m a little confused at the high praise being given to Laura Dern for her performance as Scarlett’s attorney. She was perfectly fine in the role, but I didn’t see anything outstanding or Oscar-worthy but that’s just me. I do think it would be interesting to see this story from the perspective of people who can’t afford $25,000 retainers for their attorneys. Like what about a divorce between a couple who run a failing convenience story or are both teachers? That might be easier to relate with than these directors/actors.

But nevertheless, it’s a good film. I particularly liked Adam Driver singing ‘Being Alive’ from Stephen Sondheim’s Company both because I love that song but also I had no idea he could sing (what can’t the man do?).

I am sure if you have been through a divorce Marriage Story will have more emotional resonance. As for me it is good, just not a favorite or something I will ever watch again.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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My 2020 Blind Spot Picks

One of my favorite parts of this blog is a special series called Blind Spots I have been doing each month since 2016. The idea behind the series is every month I review a classic or well-regarded film I have not seen- my movie blind spots.

Each year in January I declare what my 12 choices will be. I try to make it a variety of films, genres and styles. For instance, last year I did comedies like Garden State, to anime like Tokyo Godfathers to war dramas like Son of Saul.

So, now is the time to declare my blind spot picks for 2020! Please let me know in the comments which of these films you have seen and what you think of my list in general! I would also love if you have a blog or youtuber to participate along with me in the project. It’s really fun!

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January

Spartacus (1960)

I think the coziness of a Winter month makes for the perfect time to finally check the sprawling epic of Spartacus off of my list. This film is directed by Stanley Kubrick and stars Kirk Douglas, Sir Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Peter Ustinov and more. I love Lawrence of Arabia which came along 2 years later so we will have to see how Spartacus shakes out!

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February

Born Yesterday (1950)

It’s always fun to pick a romantic comedy for February, and I have never seen the 1950 classic Born Yesterday. I love Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing and William Holden is super charming. The film is directed by the great George Cukor and it appears to be a political take on the Pygmalion story with Holden being hired to teach the uncouth Holliday social manners. I’m excited to watch it!

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March

Goodfellas

Created by the king of cinema Martin Scorsese I finally need to check his most heralded classic Goodfellas off of my list. I’m honestly not that big a fan of mob movies, which is why I’ve never seen this film. However, I am open to the genre if it is a good film. The story of Henry Hill eventually becoming an informant of the mob certainly has a lot of potential to be interesting and one cannot deny the acting talent. I hope I like it better than The Irishman, which was not my cup of tea (shocking I know).

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April

The Three Colors Trilogy

For April I am going to be extra ambitious and watch the Color Trilogy by famed director Krzysztof Kieslowski. These 3 films are named after the colors of the French flag: Blue, White, Red and they each follow ordinary people as they face challenges to the 3 morals the flag represents: liberty, equality, fraternity. Evidently the characters from all 3 films come together in Red to make for a beautiful treatise on human behavior. One article I read said this trilogy was the big hipster status symbol of the 90s and that it ‘still holds up today,’ so I will be the judge of that!

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May

Lethal Weapon

I figure after such a heady April I deserve some fun so for May I am watching the first Lethal Weapon movie (yes I’ve never seen any of the series). In this iconic buddy cop action series Mel Gibson plays the young hothead Riggs and Danny Glover plays the old tired detective Murtaugh. They are forced to work together with some classic 80s hair from Gibson. This film is written by writer/director Shane Black who I am not the biggest fan of but we’ll see if he can win me over or maybe I’m too old for this…

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June

Wolf Children

As a huge fan of director Mamoru Hosoda I’m almost ashamed to admit I have never seen Wolf Children. I know many friends who consider this his best film and I’m excited to finally watch it. The story is about a young woman who raises her half-human half-wolf children after their werewolf father dies. My friend Ron said it is his favorite movie of the decade so I definitely have to check this one out!

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July

Private Benjamin

I figure by the time July comes around I will be in the mood for a comedy and one classic I have never seen is the Goldie Hawn film Private Benjamin. So far on Goldie Hawn 80s comedies I liked Overboard and didn’t like Foul Play so we will see how this film lands. It was written by a young Nancy Meyers and is about a wealthy heiress who joins the army after her husband dies only for a very rude awakening in boot camp. I hope it will be a lot of laughs!

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August

House of the Flying Daggers

After really enjoying director Zhang Yimou’s film Shadow this year and admiring his film Hero from 2002 I thought it would be fun to watch another one of his famed works House of Flying Daggers. Evidently this is a love story and a martial arts film so that should be right up my ally and from what I’ve seen the production design, fight choreography and cinematography look stunning. I’m excited to watch it!

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September

Apocalypse Now

War movies are a great choice for blind spot because they are the kind of thing I don’t usually watch without a push. So for September I think it is finally time for me to watch the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now. Released in 1979 this film has an incredible cast including Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper and more. It is about a battalion during the Vietnam War who are sent on a secret mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade officer. I learned a lot about the making of the movie in the documentary I saw last year called Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound and I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Halloween

October

Halloween (1978)

One of my goals for next year is to try and get over some of my reservations when it comes to horror films. If I want to be a full time film critic I know I will need to watch more horror movies and I have been told by several good friends that the original Halloween film by director John Carpenter isn’t very scary. I’ve seen some scary movies like Scream, Psycho, and others so let’s hope I make it through this one! Ahhhh!

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November

The Last Unicorn

Honestly the number of classic animated films I haven’t seen is narrowing but there are still some and one of them is The Last Unicorn. This anime released in 1982 tells the story of a unicorn that goes on a journey with a wizard to defeat an evil King that wants to kill all the unicorns. It evidently has some scary and bonkers scenes that were quite shocking for 1980s audiences so I’m anxious to see what I think! The animation looks beautiful and it is a musical with voices of Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Angela Lansbury and more on the dub. We will see what I think!

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December

Remember the Night

My December pick is a Christmas classic I just learned about this year: Remember the Night. I don’t know how it flew under my Christmas-movie-loving radar but it is from 1940 and stars Barbara Stanwyck (who is one of my favorite Christmas movies Christmas in Connecticut) and Fred MacMurray (who is a scoundrel in the Christmas film The Apartment!). It is written by the great Preston Sturgess who was the king of romantic comedy writing in the 40s. Evidently it is about an attorney  (MacMurray) who ends up going on a road trip of some kind with a petty shoplifter (Stanwyck) while heading home for Christmas. Sign me up!

So there you have it! That’s my 12 films for the 2020 Blind Spot Series. If you have a blog or youtube channel I encourage you to participate in the project. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding at the same time.

What do you think of my choices? Have you seen any of them? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Happy New Year!

 

Blind Spot 48: ‘Tokyo Godfathers’

Anyone who follows my content knows I watch a lot of Christmas movies. This can make it difficult to find a good Blind Spot pick for December. However, I have long wanted to see the anime classic Tokyo Godfathers, so it became an easy pick for this month’s selection. Tokyo Godfathers is directed by master animator Satoshi Kon based on the novel by Peter B Kyne entitled Three Godfathers.

There are a lot of reasons why this film works, but I think at the heart is an emotional resonance we connect with. I’d wager to say the 3 main characters Gin, Hana and Miyuki are living wildly different lives than most of us; however, their responses to pain, joy, fear etc come from a truthful place we can all relate with.

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The story begins when our homeless trio finds a baby thrown into the trash on Christmas Eve. Ex-drag queen Hana is particularly excited to help the baby who they name Kiyoko. I loved Hana’s energy, which is always tinged with a bit of melancholy. She reminds me a little bit of Agrado in Pedro Almodóvar’s film All About My Mother. They both are transgender and homeless, yet full of life and energy.

Tough talking Gin helps ground the group and young teen Miyuki is a more of a nurturing presence. They are an unlikely group but one who’s story I was always invested in. The 3 friends set out to find Kiyoko’s parents and face all kinds of resistance along the way. Sometimes the shenanigans are a little too much but for the most part I was very engaged.

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Aside from the day it is set on, Tokyo Godfathers might not seem like much of a Christmas movie. There are no presents, Christmas trees, Santa etc. However, it absolutely gets to the core of Christmas. Each of our 3 characters is sacrificing to help Kiyoko who would have certainly died in the trash without them. Is this not the heart of what pure Christianity aka Christmas teaches?

There’s also a sense of wish fulfillment with this journey. Hana gets to live a day as a mother. Gin gets to be the hero he isn’t to his own children. Miyuki gets to be a part of a loving family unit. These are people who aren’t valued by society but to this baby they are invaluable. It reminded me a lot of both Parasite and last year’s Shoplifters in many ways.

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Tokyo Godfathers, however, is not a morose film. It actually can be quite hopeful and even funny. Like I said, especially Hana is a bright light in a difficult world. I loved the way Satoshi animated her big smile and exuberant responses to everything. It made me smile.

I loved all of the animation. Satoshi does such a good job of developing a sense of place with rich colors of brown, red and green. At one point a character is at her breaking point and there is such a piercing quality to her eyes that anyone who has had a mental health crisis will understand. It’s quite devastating (especially when compared with Hana’s bright energy).

I did struggle a little bit in Tokyo Godfathers to keep up with the subtitles but that is probably my own flaw more than the movie. There are some pretty fast-paced scenes of dialogue! But if you are looking for something different to watch at Christmas or just a unique animated film any time of the year I recommend it for anyone middle school and up. I really enjoyed it (rated pg13)!

In August I got to review Satoshi Kon’s other masterpiece Millennium  Actress over at rotoscopers.com. Check the review out here

 

[REVIEW] Cats: It’s Cats Singing and Dancing

Adaptations of Broadway musicals are a tough nut to crack. Due to fears of box office losses typically the movies come many years after the initial hype of the shows. Then to make matters worse, film directors often seem to have  a difficult time translating the energy of a musical show into a film. It’s a really strange phenomenon and it makes me wonder if the best is movie to Broadway (Mean Girls, Heathers, Beetlejuice, etc) rather than musical to movie.

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The latest attempt is one of the longest running shows in the history of Broadway: the strange Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. In the musical, ALW takes an epic poem by T.S. Eliot and adds songs. The problem is the poem is not very cinematic. It’s all introductions of various cats all leading to the jellicle ball. While there, the ‘jellicle choice’ is made. So literally we spend time getting to know cat A and then cat B until the cat Old Deuteronomy  (Judi Dench) decides which cat deserves to ‘ascend to the heavens for a new life’.

Fortunately where the narrative in Cats isn’t the best, the singing and dancing is enjoyable. I actually got used to the unique visual style very quickly and found songs like ”Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’ to be catchy. I also liked ‘Mr Mistoffelees’ and ‘Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat’.  They even have trained ballet dancers Francesca Hayward as Victoria and Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks.

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Of course. the highlight of Cats is ‘Memory’ sung by Jennifer Hudson. She is such a powerful singer, and I thought she knocked it out of the park.

I also appreciated with Cats seeing something different. Everything is to scale so the cats look like the size of a normal cat. I personally have never seen a movie like that so it was a neat experience at the theater.

Taylor Swift as Bombalurina in Cats, co-written and directed by Tom Hooper.

The downsides to Cats is because it has so little narrative the pacing suffers. Especially the middle is slow, and I got sleepy watching it. It almost seems like it would be better as a short or a series of youtube sing-alongs rather than a movie. There is just not enough meat on the bones for a feature film.

I was also not a fan of Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots or her song with mice and cockroaches (a step too far! I hate cockroaches!). James Corden as Bustopher Jones was also pretty annoying but I’m in general not a fan of his.

Sir Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat is probably the strangest of the group with his method acting song.  Taylor Swift fans will probably be disappointed that her character Bombalurina takes a long time to show up and only has one song in the film and another in the closing credits.

I think people expecting something super bonkers will be a little disappointed in Cats. It’s unusual but not something like Pottersville where you are just completely baffled the entire time.

I wish the choice to make it a stop motion animated film had happened with Cats. That would have been amazing. Alas this version is fun enough for a musical theater junkie. The songs are well done and the dancing is impressive. All the actors are trying their hardest and the visual style is unique. It’s far from perfect but take your other Broadway fan friends and go watch something different with some catchy tunes. You’ll have a good time or at least my friend and I did!

5 out of 10

Smile Worthy Barely

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[REVIEW] ‘Star Wars Ep 9: ‘The Rise of Skywalker’: Corny Fun Space Adventure to End the Saga

My Star Wars Background-

(I tried my best to keep this spoiler free but if you are someone who wants to know literally nothing about the film than see the movie first).

Sitting down to write this review of  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker feels like a hopeless endeavor. If I like it than I am a Disney shill. If I hate it than I’m a nostalgia tinged hater. However, I am going to show some confidence in you my readers and trust that you will be reasonable.

Let’s start out talking about what I want from a Star Wars movie. My favorite from the series is the original film now titled Star Wars Ep 4: A New Hope. I get that Empire Strikes Back is the deeper entry with stunning cinematography and quite possibly the best twist in the history of film. I just happen to think that A New Hope is more of a good time. A New Hope is an adventure that makes me want to stand up and cheer as the good guys blow up the death star! I like getting to know our characters and keeping the narrative small and succinct.

Being I watch Star Wars to have a rousing space adventure you can imagine my disappointment in the last few entries from Disney. I didn’t care for Rogue One and especially didn’t like Star Wars Ep 8: The Last Jedi (Solo: A Star Wars Story was entertaining but was hurt by the most annoying droid in the history of Star Wars L3). I know some people love it but I disagreed with most of the choices they made especially with how they treated Luke and Leia. To be honest it bummed me out.

Rise of Skywalker-

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All that said, let’s talk about the new film Star Wars Ep 9: The Rise of Skywalker. As is expected with Star Wars these days some people will not like this film, and I can understand why. It’s a flawed, messy film but it recaptures the spirit of adventure I love in Star Wars. There’s a corny innocence to the film I missed in The Last Jedi and it made me happy watching it.

Just as in A New Hope there are a lot of moments in Rise of Skywalker that will make you want to cheer as good defeats evil and our scrappy band of resistance fighters are aided at just the right moment. That kind of action and comradery is Star Wars to me.  Again to use A New Hope as an example it is full of cheesy lines, obvious heroes and villains and it even ends with a medal ceremony for the good guys.

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That’s the kind of spirit Rise of Skywalker aims for and achieves. Defenders of The Last Jedi will probably be disappointed because a lot of that film is retconned. Honestly I think you hardly need to watch it any more. At the very least almost every divisive element is either forgotten about or barely touched on, which was fine by me!

They also did a great job handling the passing of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Through mostly leftover scenes from The Force Awakens they were able to make her a bigger part that I anticipated and it was a nice way to leave her after my frustrations with her treatment in The Last Jedi.

They also try their best to wrap everything up from 9 movies (an impossible task) and throw in a lot of fan service, which the most part, I enjoyed. For example, the ewoks make a brief appearance for no reason except to say to fans ‘oh look at those fun ewoks’. I know some will be annoyed by this but I thought it was fun. This whole movie was corny, light, energetic Star Wars.

It’s a Lot of Plot

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The downside to Rise of Skywalker is there are a lot of characters and plot. For example, just in villains there is Kylo Ren, Hux, Palpatine and General Pryde played by Richard E Grant. Tons of pre-existing characters  get storylines and we have new characters like Zorri Bliss played by Kerri Russell or Jannah played by Naomi Ackle who make no impression and seem superfluous to the story.

Lando, Chewie, C3PO, Leia, Rey, Kylo Ren, Poe, Finn, Hux, Palpatine, the list goes on all have storylines and it feels crowded for one movie. You also don’t have as long to enjoy a moment because you are swifted off to the next plotpoint that must be wrapped up at the end of the film.

Even though I enjoyed the corniness there are definitely some reveals that push the limit, and I am sure do not hold up under deep scrutiny (expect many a raging fan video to come out about A LOT in this movie and they won’t be wrong).

An Era is Done

However, Rise of Skywalker was still a fun adventure where the good guys beat the bad guys with great music, energetic action and brisk pacing which kept me engaged. They retconned what I wanted  and ended the Skywalker saga in a place I am happy with.

Again, it’s not perfect but it’s a pretty entertaining time at the movies, so I’m satisfied.

7 out of 10

smile worthy

 

[REVIEW] ‘Black Christmas’: A Lump of Coal for Horror Fans

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Let me state upfront that I am by no means a fan of the horror genre. However, I am a fan of Christmas movies, and am trying to expand my palette as a critic. So when I heard that the remake of Black Christmas was coming out and it was PG13 I jumped at the chance to see it. Unfortunately jumping out of my comfort zone was not rewarded as I was presented with a sloppy, poorly written, unfunny film that evidently has little to nothing to do with the original 1974 classic.

I know there are some women who connected with this film and found watching it to be a cathartic experience for their own suffering at the hands of men. That is not my experience in life and it certainly isn’t my experience with this movie. In fact, from my perspective the movie waters down the stories of women so we are no longer unique beings with different opinions, tastes and experiences. Instead, it’s like we are all made from a mold that’s been approved by feminist think tanks.

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What particularly annoyed was a character who is viewed as the traitor of the women, only to be then rejected by the men she so stupidly followed. She dared to go against the correct definition of femininity and paid the price! All the characters who question the activist character suffer in the end. In fact, it’s kind of interesting that a film with such overtly political messages would also have so little actual diversity of thought…

All the men in this film are problematic and all the women are expected to respond to the men in the same way. I kept thinking of the quote from the new Little Women when Meg says ‘just because my dreams are different than yours doesn’t make them less important’. This film tries to stand as a feminist mantra to young women but what about the tomboy or the shy girl who doesn’t want to be a kick-butt female against the evil men? At least last year’s Anna and the Apocalypse had some variety of men and women fighting zombies!

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The other problem with Black Christmas is it isn’t scary at all, and I’m a super horror movie wimp. If I’m not scared that’s really bad. Most of the kills come to people we don’t care about and in ways that don’t provide any real dread. Everything is so predictable and bland that it’s not entertaining as some kind of escapist revenge feminist fantasy. It’s actually kind of dull.

Watching Black Christmas reminded me of a cheap knock off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s like they got to female empowerment and stopped. For a movie to be empowering we have to be presented with characters we care about, with dialogue that feels authentic to those characters. Otherwise we can read an article or watch a documentary and be done with it. Fiction needs to draw us in with more than just a message.

Black Christmas fails because of its sloppy script, poor production values and total lack of scares. Avoid it and support female stories with rich and dynamic characters. 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Babadook or the Happy Death Day movies are 3 recent examples that do a far better job. Even Coraline does a much better job of showing a layered interesting female character in a horror environment. Check them out instead.

Also if you want a truly feminist film watch the documentary Maiden from this year.

1 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Spies in Disguise’: More Spies, Less Birds

If you are a follower to this site you know I have a special place in my heart for Blue Sky Animation Studios. Aside from the Ice Age films they have consistently put out films that are bold and ambitious. I particularly think their films Epic and Robots are very underrated and anyone knows of my love for The Peanuts Movie.

So now we get their latest offering called Spies in Disguise and it’s a film I have been very nervous about. The trailers have not been great and with Disney acquiring Blue Sky in the 20th Century Fox merger I fear the studio will be dissolved if they have a big flop. To make matters worse it’s being released at a very busy time with Jumaji: The Next Level and Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker opening along with Cats and Little Women. Plus, Frozen 2 is still going strong.

Anyway, now that I’ve seen the film what do I think? It’s ok. Kid’s will like it but it lacks that boldness I so admire in Blue Sky and I still worry it is going to be a big flop.

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The biggest appeal to Spies in Disguise is Will Smith. He does a great job voicing Lance Sterling, ‘the world’s most awesome spy’. Tom Holland is fine as his nerdy sidekick. When the 2 characters are in spy mode it’s a lot of fun and it reminded me of a similar dynamic between Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the first Men in Black movie.

I also thought the action set pieces were well done with some very fast animation and engaging character designs. Kids will get a kick out of it especially the scenes with glitter grenades. There’s a nice message to the film about loyalty, hard work and trying to use non-violent methods whenever possible.

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However, the problem with this movie is the pigeons. I liked the sequences with the humans way better than with the birds. It seemed like the birds was merely there for cheap humor and the story and fun action stalled whenever they were on screen. All that personality we’ve built up with Lance Sterling was missing and instead we have a pigeon.

Going along with the pigeons the humor mostly didn’t work for me. It will entertain kids just fine but it’s pretty puerile if you ask me. There’s a particular part where they have a lot of laughs over the fat rolls of a passed out villain character that gets old fast.

I also felt some of the voice casting was strange. Like why have Reba McEntire voice the agency director? She has such a recognizable voice it is distracting to hear it coming out of a boss character. Also what is DJ Khaled doing in this movie? No thank you!

Nevertheless, Spies in Disguise is a perfectly serviceable action movie for kids. I worry that it will not be enough to save Blue Sky, but I hope I am proven wrong.

If you get to see Spies in Disguise let me know what you think.

6 out of 10

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Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! Merry Christmas! I hope you are all doing well. As you all know I am deeply ensconced in all things Christmas right now with my work on the Hallmarkies Podcast. I have currently watched and reviewed 85 Christmas movies with 2 more weeks to go! It’s a lot of work but it is also very rewarding.

This naturally hasn’t left me a ton of time to write about the feature films I’ve been seeing (yes still making time to go to screenings). So, I hope you will forgive me for doing one of my current mini reviews posts and hopefully I will be able to expound upon them at a future date. There are just only so many hours in the day for one human to work and write about movies! 🙂

FROZEN II

I will obviously be writing more on Frozen II including my Disney Canon analysis but here is my youtube review. Basically I really enjoyed Frozen II. I loved how the story made Elsa and Anna deal with the messy truth of their parents and how they treated the people in the midst. I loved Elsa and Anna’s struggles to understand each other and thought the music was incredible. I am particularly in love with Jonathan Groff singing ‘Lost in the Woods’. The animation is stunning and the voice acting is outstanding. The plot has a few problems but overall I was very entertained by it.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Klaus

Speaking of youtube reviews I also recorded my review of the new Netflix animated film Klaus (see above) and boy did I love this movie. It’s basically an origin story of Santa Claus with 2D animation (a Rachel movie if I’ve ever heard it!) Going into it I thought it would be similar to Santa in Rise of the Guardians (which is a movie I love) but it actually proved to be quite different. Santa here is a wounded person who is closer to the father in Song of the Sea than our typical jolly old St Nick. I loved the journey of all the characters. I loved the 2D animation and how director Sergio Pablos used light and music to create tone. If you haven’t seen it you really should. I just wish I could see it in the theater! 🙁

9 out of 10

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The Good Liar

good liarI often jokingly talk in my reviews about the new demographic of ‘old people movies‘. This is a new category where Hollywood makes movies starring in and for senior citizens. The new movie The Good Liar is probably the most violent of the entries in this category but it’s an entertaining enough little caper. Helen Mirren stars as a retired professor who meets a charming bachelor played by Ian McKellen. The 2 begin dating, and it turns out they are both not what we initially believe them to be. I will say this movie requires a major suspension of belief as each reveal gets more ridiculous than the next. But if you can take that leap there’s fun to be had and the acting is of course top notch. It all makes for an entertaining if silly ride. (The film does earn its R rating so be prepared)

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

1917

1917

I really want to write more about 1917 because it is an incredible experience but for now this will have to do.  In what is definitely one of the best movies of the year, director Sam Mendes has created a war film that completely absorbed me and left me an emotional mess afterwards. It reminded me a lot of Hacksaw Ridge which is another film I love. Both this and Hacksaw focus on one human amidst the horrors of war and leave you rooting for this person’s success.

In 1917, Roger Deakin’s incredible cinematography makes us feel like we are seeing one shot photography, which is more than just a gimmick. It makes the viewer feel like they are the 3rd person in this risky mission across No Man’s Land in World War 1. It is violent but I was rooting for the characters and riveted by every turn in their journey. Definitely seek this film out. It’s worth the investment and you will leave inspired.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Jumanji: the Next Level-

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I enjoyed 2017’s Jumaji: Welcome to the Jungle. It was a terrific way to do a remake of a beloved film. It has the bones of the classic but it’s own story and take on the world. More importantly it was funny. I will forgive a lot of problems in a story if I am laughing. This is where we run into problems with the sequel Jumanji: The Next Level: it’s not very funny. Or rather I should say, it has a few funny jokes they tell over and over again; thereby, weakening their impact.

This Jumaji film isn’t awful. The action set pieces are fun and the cast can be likable. However, there’s nothing new here. It’s like they got to old people jokes and gave up. Danny Glover and Danny Devito are fun enough but pretty cliched. Awkwafina is given nothing to do and Nick Jonas isn’t brought on until late in the 2nd act. I also did not appreciate the excessive profanity thrown in for no reason. It did nothing for the characters or story and makes it so I cannot recommend it as a harmless family adventure film. My advice is watch Dora and the Lost City of Gold instead. It had all the adventure and humor Jumanji: The Next Level fails to bring.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Playmobil: The Movie-

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Most followers of this site probably know about the epic failure at the box office that is Playmobil: the Movie. However, box office is not everything so I went to see this film yesterday with an open mind. Unfortunately cinema-goers didn’t see this film for a reason. The problem is there are too many ideas. At each turn we are presented with new characters, worlds, villains, motivations, and more. It becomes overwhelming. The film feels very shouty and especially the music did not work at all. I don’t even think small children will like it because most of the jokes are about dating, marriage and other adult topics. It feels like they put 1000 ideas into a bucket and picked one out each week to create the script. It so doesn’t work despite the animation being fine and the action quickly paced. Playmobil: the Movie is a definite skip.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Bombshell-

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Bombshell is a bit of an oddity of a film. It’s an attempt to tell a story about conservative women who stick up for themselves. This is very unusual for typically liberal Hollywood, and I think that’s a great thing. If movements like #metoo are going to work we need to tell all women’s stories not just the ones Hollywood agrees with on politics. Some people will not be able to get over the fact that Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly work for Fox News but that wasn’t an issue for me. The makeup on Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman is incredible. Really all the casting is spot on. They all look so close to the original people!

I was drawn into the story of Bombshell but I do think there are some problems. I understand the need for the fictional Margot Robbie character as an amalgamation of a bunch of women (and telling Gretchen’s story she couldn’t tell because of settlements) but it felt inconsistent and inauthentic. Also there is something about the production and direction that felt on a made for TV level. I love made for TV movies but I expect a film with such performances to feel a little more cinematic. Still overall I enjoyed Bombshell and recommend seeing it for the story and acting.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

There you have it! My quick updates on what I have been watching at the theater. If you have seen any of these films let me know what you think. Thanks!

[REVIEW] ‘Little Women’ and is 1 Amy Better than 2?

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If you have been following my writing for any amount of time you know I am a huge fan of Little Women, both novel and many film adaptations. In fact, it was the first big book I was proud of reading and finishing. I remember relating to all 4 March sisters and crying when Beth died and hoping I could be wild and independent just like Jo. It’s the best!

Unfortunately the film versions have been more than a little disappointing lately with a weak adaptation from PBS and a terrible modern adaptation at the theaters last year. So as you can imagine I approached this new version by director Greta Gerwig with a mixture of excitement and fear. Fortunately, for the most part, I enjoyed it and definitely recommend it for families during this Christmas season.

Pros

There are many strengths to this new version of Little Women. To begin with, most of the casting is strong. I especially liked Saoirse Ronan (who I’ve loved ever since Brooklyn) as Jo. She brought the independent spirit while keeping the character easy to relate with and likable. I also enjoyed Emma Watson as Meg and admire her for taking a small part in an ensemble film when she certainly could demand more.

Laura Dern is also strong as Marmee and Meryl Streep is fun as the crotchety Aunt March (although it’s weird for me to think of Meryl as so old!). Chris Cooper also puts in nice work as Mr Lawrence and Timothy Chalamet is a decent Laurie (a very difficult role to cast because you can’t make him too charming or you are mad at Jo nor too nerdy or there’s no romantic tension. It’s tough).

For the most part the big beats of the story are done well and I particularly think Jo and Laurie shippers will like the choices made. The film also looks beautiful with lovely period details in locations and costumes.

Mixed

The mixed aspects of LittleWomen mostly come from 2 areas. The first is the non-linear storytelling. Normally I am not a fan of this narrative choice as I think it breaks up any momentum the characters have (Man of Steel…) and I feel some of that here. However, because you see Amy and Laurie together very early on it makes the transition from him and Jo, to him and Amy, a lot more believable and effortless.

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The other problem is the decision to cast 1 actress to play Amy instead of 2 like they did in the 1994 film. Although not as absurd as the 1949 version with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy, 23 year old Florence Pugh looks weird trying to play a 12 year old. This awkwardness is enhanced by the non-linear storytelling where you are flipped around from young and older versions of the character while the actress looks the same at all ages. Florence Pugh is fine in the role but I just think they should have cast 2 for the character like they did in the 1994 version.

Cons

There aren’t many outright cons for this version of Little Women; however, I have a couple. The first one is I wasn’t crazy about Eliza Scanlen as Beth. Claire Daines is so much better in the 1994 version, and I think the non-linear storytelling hurt our connection to Beth and the mounting tension and stress on her family her illness brings the most.

I also thought the final scenes with Jo were a little too cute and overtly modern for my taste. The character is a classic example of the independent female archetype. She does not need extra scenes with her being snarky or clever to prove the point.

Other than that I enjoyed Little Women. I hope it will inspire a new crop of young girls to read the book and hopefully appreciate their families more each day.

When you get to see this version please let me know what you think.

7 out of 10

smile worthy