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Missing Link (2019)
More laidback and lighter then other Laika media, Missing Link is an enjoyable bigfoot movie
18 April 2019
Cinema is full of explorers. Some like Luke Skywalker, are innocent, optimistic, and believe in the greater good by dwelling into the darkest of places. Others, like Jack Sparrow, are scoundrels, who are searching for redemption, even as temptation trying to steer them away. In the case of this movie's main character, we have a guy whose both happy to have furthered science, but is a bit of an egomaniac whose overconfident that everyone will understand his point of view. Again, HIS point of view. There's a moment when he goes to a group of scientists, he seems to forget that he's not well liked. Can you really blame him for his excitement?

You can already tell that the main human character is anther outsider, which is a common theme with the production company, Laika. These people also produced wonderful movies like Coraline, ParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings. Each movie had outsiders trying to escape their dilemmas and find common ground. The only difference is while those movies had darker subjects and environments, today's movie is a lot lighter in tone. It's not to say it isn't dark or deep, but it's something that even the littlest of children in the family can watch. Let's see how Missing Link fares.

Sir Lionel Frost (played by Hugh Jackman) is an investigator of odd creatures and returns home after a failed attempt to capture or get a picture of the Loch Ness monster. It doesn't help that his assistant quits when he's put into danger too often. Though he's worked hard, Frost simply wants to join the distinguished group of scientists called "The Great Men" who see him as a threat to their traditional ways. He thinks he has his answer through a letter that claims the existence of a Sasquatch or a "Bigfoot".

He travels to the Pacific Northwest to find that the Sasquatch (played by Zach Galifianakis) not only wrote the letter himself, but he also speaks English, reads, writes, and simply wants to live in peace. Frost gives him the name "Mr. Link" and wants to learn more about him. It turns out that Mr. Link needed Frost to take him to the Himalayas to meet up with his yeti cousins. Frost agrees and the two head off on their journey. Along the way, the come across Frost's former girlfriend Adelina (played by Zoe Saldana), a hunter Willard (played by Timothy Olyphant) and the head of the Great Men, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (played by Stephen Fry).

So far, I haven't seen a bad movie from Laika. Missing Link continues this trend as a good movie. Good but not great. It's shown from this that the company can get away from the gothic and spooky and still get across a nice movie. The keyword here is nice. Missing Link certainly feels like the most laidback and relaxed of the bunch. There is a plot, story, and character development, but this goes at a slower pace, especially when compared with something from Disney or Illumination.

I'd love to know how casting is selected, as everyone here seems tailor-made for these parts. Hugh Jackman does good as the good-hearted but selfish explorer. Zoe Saldana, Stephen Fry and everyone else do well. The performance from Zach Galifianakis is not what you'd expect. When I hear that name, I expected something very silly and goofy. But rather then toilet humor, you have a guy whose more of a naive tourist who read up on culture, but doesn't understand it once he's a part of it. It's a fish-out-of-water kind of comedy, but it's a lot lighter then you'd expect.

I'd say things don't start to get heavy until they get to the Himalayas in the third act (as it should). With this kind of story, I had my conclusions on how things were going to go, and yet...didn't. I will not spoil it, but it makes a good case for both Mr. Link and Frost and the decisions they make that show their understanding on how everyone else views them. It's that kind of thing that should help separate it from other bigfoot media like Smallfoot (which I'm guessing the timing of their productions was coincidental). I certainly liked this more then Smallfoot.

I'll give this four bigfoots out of five. This may not be their best movie, but Missing Link is still a good sit, especially if you have kids who want something they don't need to pay attention to. There isn't much for the adults on their own, which is why I recommend this to either families or fans of animation. If your in that camp, then come and discover this.
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Hellboy (2019)
Smells like fire and brimstone...oh wait; It's Hellboy and it's numerous missteps
17 April 2019
I was in college when I saw Hellboy II: The Golden Army with friends and I was blown away by it. Though I'm not sure if it was the first, it was certainly the first in my book that I saw an awesome combination of fantasy and the superhero genre. I didn't see the first movie. I think it had to do with my original perception that the idea was just too weird. I'm not sure what got me to see this (it might have been Comic Con or something else), but enjoyed the excellent special effects, the feeling that the fantasy elements fit in well, and Ron Perlman's perfect casting as the big red boy himself.

I'm aware he's based off a Dark Horse comic and that it's been running for a while. I also heard that director Guillermo del Toro had wanted to get another sequel made, but it got canceled. It would make sense that another production company would want to come in and try rebooting it. While I've been an advocate in getting more original content in Hollywood, I am open to new interpretations. So let's see if the new reboot of Hellboy can spark that same fire.

Hellboy (played by David Harbour) goes to Mexico to find a friend, only to find him a vampire, and being forced to kill him. Though told the world will end, Hellboy dismisses this and returns to B.P.R.D. headquarters where his adoptive father Trevor Bruttenholm (played by Ian McShane) assigns him to England. This turns out to be a Hunting Club who need his assistance in going after three giants as part of a tradition. Though he's ambushed by the hunters, he escapes and defeats the giants. He's saved by his father, but it's revealed that while gone, someone had stolen remains of an ancient witch named Nimue.

Nimue (played by Mila Jovovich) is resurrected and seeks to use Hellboy to start the apocalypse. In order to find her, he's introduced to a young woman Alice (played by Sasha Lane), who has magical abilities, and an agent Ben (played by Daniel Dae Kim), who can turn into a jaguar. They attempt to capture Nimue, but fail to do so when she appeals to his frustrations on his own humanity and struggle being a part demon. Though Hellboy gets a chance to understand both Alice and Ben, he knows that he's vulnerable and fighting Nimue will take a lot of will power to stop her magic.

As much as I hoped this movie would be fun, Hellboy feels like a product that wasn't finished before release. It has acting problems, story problems, editing problems, and even special effects problems. It's not a complete failure as there are some really good things here. One such is David Harbour as Hellboy. Though I'll miss Ron Pearlman, Harbour does a great job playing his crass and unforgiving personality that I rarely see from screen heroes. He seems like a guy you'd want to hear stories from at the bar he drinks from.

None of that would have shined through without the makeup work, which also looked good. I'm sure the production was more tempted to use digital effects (I'll get to that), but it's nice to see that good old-fashioned prosthetics and time that brings this character back to life. Now only if he was in a better movie.

The rest of the material ranges from okay to poor. The other actors, even Ian McShane and Mila Jovovich, aren't given much to do beyond yelling or looking intimidating. I can't blame this on them as they, along with a lot of characters, have little personality or development. Even when them movie forces this (they'll be moments where they just met and then their close in the next scene), it feels like either something was lost in the script or the editing bay. I'm guessing it was cut to try to emphasize the action and effects. The action itself is serviceable, but the R rating doesn't add much. It's one of those things where I forgot what I saw after I saw it. The effects, which are mostly digital, have a tendency to look fake or not rendered in time. Because of this, it feels like Hellboy is fighting a bunch of video game characters, similar to the climax of Justice League.

I'll give this four Hellboy comics out of ten. At best, it'll service those that want some okay action and a good Hellboy himself. At worst, it lacks anything that memorable that can't compete with Del Toro's movies. Throw this into Hell and watch the originals.
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Pet Sematary (2019)
Dead may be better sometimes, but Pet Sematary comes close. It's a somber, but spooky story that I had a good time with
11 April 2019
The afterlife is such a subjective matter for those that are religious and non-religious. For this reason, I rarely like to bring up my own beliefs. I just never found it fair to be the one to say "my way is the correct way" when I can't create proof. But it's also fair to say whenever we lose someone, we bring up again whether we'll see them again someday. It's a battle we deal with our entire life, even within our childhood. We all have that memory of having to flush that goldfish down the toilet or bring told from our parents that the lovable dog won't be living much longer.

It remains a heavy matter simply because we don't know what happens. Author Stephen King has done a great job of toying his readers with that notion with the constant figures that are ghosts, demons, and monsters and yet filling it with human characters that struggle with their religious beliefs. There has to be a lot of personal experience attached to his stories, and it was no wonder that people were attached to Pet Semetary, a story about bringing back those we've lost. It had a movie in 1989 and we're here to look at the latest retelling of Pet Sematary.

Dr. Louis Creed (played by Jason Clarke) has just moved from Boston to Ludlow, Maine with his wife Rachel (played by Amy Seimetz), daughter Ellie (played by Jeté Laurence), and baby son Gabe. Their new home seems like a nice, country-house that would be ideal for a lot of families. They even have a large forest as a backyard. When Ellie goes looking in that forest, she comes across a pet cemetery (though spelled as Sematary) and gets stung. A kind elderly neighbor Jud (played by John Lithgow) brings her back to her family and talk about the place.

Jud tells them that the cemetery is a popular town spot for people to bury their pets. This puts Rachel into a tough spot as she doesn't want to bring up the subject of death to her daughter yet, and is experiencing flashbacks to her traumatic childhood. Things become more troubling when the family cat, "Mr. Church" gets run over. Jud, not wanting Ellie to experience her first lost, tells Louis about the "real" cemetery, past the Pet Sematary. As Louis comes to realize, "Sometimes, dead is better".

Part of what makes the new Pet Sematary a good movie is what isn't spoiled. I can only say that the changes made were good changes. Does this make it better then the original. I guess it depends on what your looking for. I personally like the original Pet Sematary, but I can't say either is better then the other. It depends on what I wanted, and I prefer scary movies that can build a spooky atmosphere throughout. This does that well as right from the start, as based on how dreary a chunk of it feels, even when nothing scary is happening.

Pet Sematary creates a good atmosphere thanks to it's script, which I'll say is better creating claustrophobic tension and character development then the original. Though I was hoping for a little more history on the town and it's use of the cemetery (which I thought the original did better then), it does make sense that for a movie, it's better to keep focus on the main characters.

Speaking of which, Jason Clarke does a good job as the conflicted father who understands that his new is nothing like he's ever experienced, but still want to maintain a happy family. He's a guy for good for horror stories, as his eyes really know how define fear. To balance that out, his neighbor John Lithgow does well as the typical wise mentor. Though I'll always love Fred Gwynne, John Lithgow isn't as knowledgeable about the cemetery as before, so he's just as clueless about what will happen as Jason Clarke is. This makes for a spookier experience where there isn't someone that knows what's going to happen. Though I can't give it away why, the actress playing the daughter is amazing at playing...two sides to her character.

I'll give this eight Pet Sematary signs out of ten. I can say that even when comparing to the original (I can't do so for the novel as I haven't read it), it's a good horror movie. I will warn though that due to its themes, this is a more somber story then some might expect. If that doesn't bother you, then your in for a good story. Dead is better sometimes, but Pet Sematary is close. Go check it out if you're a Stephen King or horror fan in general,.
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Shazam! (2019)
Leap in the air and shout SHAZAM! Shazam! is a fun, hilarious story from D.C.
8 April 2019
As children, we all dream of being superheroes, but how often do we see stories of that happening? Whenever we see an Avenger, Batman or Superman grace the screen for another adventure, they are always adults that have evolved into the role of the cape and the one to save everyone. They'll make fans out of anyone, but let's face it; children are going to be their biggest fans. They're the ones that are innocent enough to not understand that there isn't really a Batman or Superman, but the image alone is still an inspiration that they'll want to try and make a similar impact.

We've made it clear that almost all the heroes tend to be adults and the youngest I see it go is Spider-Man, but it's fair to say he's not like other kids or teenagers. Today's movie may be the first that I've seen a more ordinary child become a superhero...sort of. It's kind of a cross of that and the Tom Hanks comedy Big. That was another fantasy that kids got into; the ability to grow up into a grownup without the responsibilities or true concerns of adulthood. Let's see how it ties together in the next D.C. hero, Shazam!.

Fourteen year-old Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) is a homeless foster kid who has spent him life trying to locate his mother who he was separated from at three, but no one has been able to locate her. He eventually gets picked up by the police and is sent to another foster home where he shares a room with a superhero-obsessed kid Freddy Freeman. Billy fights off bullies going after Freddy, but then they chase him in retaliation. Billy escapes onto a subway where it magically takes him to a cavern where a wizard (played by Djimon Hounsou) reveals he's been chosen for special powers.

When Billy utters the wizard's name "Shazam", he now can turn into an adult superhero (now played by Zachary Levi). Though he appears as a man, he's still a child on the inside. He goes to Freddy who he's able to convince of who he is. The two spend the next couple of days figuring out what his powers are and even have some fun (buying beer, getting money, etc...). The pressure starts to hit Billy when some of his antics almost get people hurt, but a scientist Sivana (played by Mark Strong) also arrives not only has similar powers, but has control of monsters called, "the seven deadly sins"

I'll say now that I really had fun with Shazam!. Compared to the earlier D.C. movies and even Aquaman, Shazam! is the lightest of the movies, feeling more like an 80's family film in the vein of Big and Goonies. Because of this, this feels a tad edgier then modern family movies as these boys aren't afraid to do inappropriate things. What makes this work is that none of them are doing this to be bad, but they feel like kids who learn their lesson and try to be better.

Speaking of which, both Asher Angel and Zachary Levi balance out perfectly in their roles as boy and man. Young Billy is a rebellious kid, but it's all in favor of finding his real family. Any kid can relate to this, whether their a foster kid or not. Once we do find out about his mother, I don't want to give it away, but it's not afraid to go to dark places. You know the screenplay is good when it's able to go from goofy & fun tone to dark and serious without it seeming jarring.

This is a good direction for Warner Brothers and D.C. who've needed a change from the gloomy Zack Snyder voice in favor of something that's not afraid to embrace its comic book nature. I know nothing about Shazam! and it's comic, but this movies makes me want to explore this character more. This is also proof that not all comic book movies need to follow the Disney and Marvel formula where everything is painstakingly connected. I'll be curious about how this follows the rest of the D.C. story is something is planned. If not, then there's a lot to build from here.

I'll give this ten Shazam! comics out of ten. This is a great family movie. This is a great comic book movie. This is a great comedy. This is a great kids movie. This is just great. I highly recommend this at all costs and present this as proof that Marvel may have some competition now.
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Dumbo (2019)
This technicolor pachyderm tries to soar, but Dumbo is filled with a jumbled and empty script that can't juggle
29 March 2019
"I can stand the sight of worms, and look at microscopic germs, but Technicolor pachyderms is really too much for me!" These lyrics come from the "Pink Elephants on Parade" song from the animated Dumbo from Disney. It's a sequence clearly meant to stretch the time, but it's still an impressively drawn sequence that adds to the original film's charm. Dumbo may be an elephant version of Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, it's still sweet and provides a nice morale about embracing what makes you different. There's a reason why despite being over seventy, Dumbo still soars with a lot of families.

I guess it should have not come as a surprise that along with a lot of it's other animated classics, Dumbo was also slated to receive a live action adaptation. I'll admit that unlike Maleficent or Beauty and the Beast, I was genuinely interested for two reasons. First, the remake was going to be helmed by Tim Burton, who despite having a career slump, still remains one of the most imaginative visual directors in Hollywood. Second, I felt that due to the originals movie's length, more could be expanded upon. So does the new live action Dumbo soar?

Set in 1918, the Medici Bros. Circus has hit fallen times due to WWI and an flu outbreak that has put ringmaster Max Medici (played by Danny DeVito) in a tough spot, along with his other circus performers who hope that the people will come back for entertainment. One performer returns from the war, a horse performer Holt Farrier (played by Colin Farrell) who has to fill in the role of father and mother to his two children Joe (played by Finley Hobbins) and Milly (played by Nico Parker). Though his horses were sold, he's given a chance to be the new elephant handler to which he accepts.

One of the elephants, Mrs. Jumbo, gives birth to a baby who has unusually large ears. He's dismissed by the circus and audience as a freak, but Milly and Joe still look out for him. It doesn't take long to discover Dumbo's large ears give him the ability to fly, so they manage to put him in an act that makes him a star. A theme park owner, V.A. Vandevere (played by Michael Keaton) offers Max and his troupe to join his circus show, which he accepts. Though Dumbo now has a bigger audience, Milly and Joe can't help but question Vandevere while trying to find Mrs. Jumbo to reunite her son with her.

I have to give Dumbo some credit for trying to recreate the animated movie while making the story different. I can say their clearly trying to do a whole lot, but unlike an ordinary circus that's planned, this is a storytelling mess that can't seem to juggle its act. If you're looking for the lovable flying elephant and his story as a star, it's definitely in there. The problem is that it's script tries to add so much to expand it's material, and yet very little neither adds to the classic or adds up at all.

The script needed a rewrite. The movie starts out with the Dumbo story, which works fine, but has a lot of trouble afterword. The story with Colin Farrell being a performer is brought up...but never follows through. Danny DeVito's story as an aging circus owner is brought up...but never follows through. Michael Keaton's story as a ruthless entrepreneur is brought up...but never explored. Even the kids (who give very wooden performances) who are the closest to Dumbo never really feel like the evolve or grow up.

This is another movie that feels like it's on autopilot. It's telling the bare essentials to a story, but never flies high enough to make an impact.

Where does this rank on the Disney live action remake scale? It's a step above a lot of them, thanks to the movie's visual style, which is the best thing. The circuses and it's world does feel large and you can tell a lot of the sets were built as apposed to heavy CGI as done in Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book. It's one of the better looking of Disney movies, but I wish the story was better suited for it.

I'll give this five pink elephants out of ten. While I can't call this the worst or even a bad movie, it is something that I doubt I'll return to. Though I'd rather show the original animated movie, I think families looking for fluff and a flying elephant will like this fine. It is harmless as best. But what Dumbo needed was a real magic feather to come up with a way to soar.
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Us (2019)
Whether your with others or just your shadow, Us is a fun ride through darker shadows
27 March 2019
All of us have problems. I might wake up with a cold, making me more tired then usual to do what I love. You might be worrying about how to pay an expensive medical bill when you don't have health insurance. Parents might be worrying about how their going to put their kids through college when the tuition keeps getting more expensive. The point is that when we have problems, the last thing we want is to make them such a big deal we cannot function. This is why we suppress these stresses rather then confronting them. Often, this will come back in bad ways. Perhaps as a bigger issue or a darker part of you personality.

I believe that we are often our worst enemy when were not honest with ourselves. This also happens to be a theme of Jordan Peele's newest movie. For a guy who originally came into the business with his comedic skills, he sure is showing hick knack for suspense. Even though I really enjoyed Get Out, I count that more as a social thriller then a horror, kind of like a Twilight Zone story (considering that he's about to reboot The Twilight Zone). Let's see how that compares to Us.

A mother of two Adelaide (played by Lupita Nyong'o) is on vacation with her family, but cannot shake her memories of running across a clone of herself back in the mid 80's. This makes visiting Santa Monica beach hard, but she puts up with it to please her husband Gabe (played by Winston Duke) and her children Zora (played by Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Played by Evan Alex). Their beach trip goes fine, even meeting with friends of theirs. The only slip up is when Jason finds a random guy standing still with blood dripping, but tells no one about it.

When they return home, things seem to be going fine until four random people show up in their driveway. Gabe tries to call them out, but they don't respond. When he threatens them, they run off, but later return. To the family's horror, the four people are all clones of themselves, only to be wearing red jumpsuits and seem crazy. The only one that can talk (though slowly and with a raspy voice) is Adelaide's that calls herself Red. Throughout the night, the family tries to outsmart and escape the clones, but there may be something bigger facing them.

I can say without a doubt that Get Out was not a lucky situation, as Us is just as entertaining and fun as the latter was. I'm more convinced that Jordan Peele really understands what scares people, not just black people. This is probably the most literal example of "the past coming back to haunt you" I've seen in a while. It's a staple within a lot of ghost and horror stories, but what this does different is that its more layered then you'd expect. I won't spoil how, but it takes the home invasion thriller in a different direction then you'd expect.

The acting is top notch with Lupita Nyong'o doing great as both Adelaide and Red. In fact, I also realized that since the plot calls for each main player to have a clone, everyone had two sides they had to play; themselves and their darker reflections. This is a gamble, but I couldn't see anyone that was weaker then the other. I think it's success comes from it's script, which was also written by Jordan Peele. He's a guy who certainly knows how to make good comedy out of these moments, but it's drama and suspense are still just as real.

Now when comparing this to Get Out, is Us better? I'd say the two are even, but for different reasons. Get Out showcased a darker story that probably scared me more then Us did. Us will probably have more of a rewatch, mainstream value as it's scares were a bit more expected, but it's story was simply larger. If I had any problems with the movie is that I wish the bigger twist was different. I won't spoil it here, but let's say if you've seen a lot of movies about clones, then you may already know what the twist is, as it's been done before.

I'll give this eight red jumpsuits out of ten. Horror and thriller fans will love this. If you liked Get Out, then I could see you also enjoying this. Whether your with someone or your shadow, Us is a fun ride through darker shadows.
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Captain Marvel is no marvel herself: Boring and uninspired is the best way to describe this
8 March 2019
When Wonder Woman came out two years ago, it got a step above Marvel with one aspect; DC was about to produce a solo female superhero movie before Marvel did. Marvel had managed to make use of Scarlet Witch, Gamora, and Black Widow, but they were all a part of teams. Wonder Woman made her debut in Batman V Superman, but had not only shown a good origin story in her own movie, but made something that was entertaining, could make audiences happy (not just comic book fans), and made a Greek goddess human.

While not perfect, I really enjoyed Wonder Woman. I had always wondered why Marvel had not gotten around to making a Black Widow or Scarlet Witch movie. If I had to guess, it probably has nothing to do with any sexism. It's more about having a semi-known name on the screen to ensure people that would come. As hinted in Avengers: Infinity War, it looks like Captain Marvel is the one that's going to get her shot at a solo movie first. This isn't a bad thing as it does take us back into the cosmic part of Marvel, which is my favorite aspect of the MCU. Let's see if Disney can pull off something similar to Wonder Woman in Captain Marvel.

On a distant planet, a member of the Kree starforce Vers (played by Brie Larson) goes on various missions with her commander Yon-Rogg (played by Jude Law). She has been trained to not use her emotions in order to channel her cosmic abilities. While going after Skrulls, she ends up getting captured by their leader Talos (played by Ben Mendelsohn) who probes her memory. This triggers images of her in the Air Force and having friends. Without any idea of this, she manages to breakout and escape, but also crash lands on Earth in 1995.

Her arrival is met by S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (played by Clark Gregg) who have a ton of questions for this woman who came out of the sky. She's also met by Skrulls and Taloes who can shapshift into anyone. Vers and Nick escape, but she wants to know more about her vivid images she keeps having. After investigating the information of Dr. Wendy Lawson (played by Annette Bening), she's comes to understand she used to be Carol Danvers. This puts her position as a human and starforce warrior into question. After a lot of anticipation, I found Captain Marvel to be incredibly...meh. Given it's story and charecters, this is a movie that's clearly trying to be a lot of things. An origin story, a science-fiction, a coming-of-age, a buddy-cop, and a superhero story. The problem lies in a lot of area, but the movie does have a lot of good things as well. A lot of it is on the supporting charecters. Not only is it nice to see Samuel L. Jackson play a bigger role in an MCU movie, but the digital effects to make him younger look cool.

Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, and Annette Bening all do well given their material. I thin my favorite was Jude Law, who takes a lot of command with his character. I won't spoil what direction they go, but it made sense and it's always nice to see him play slimy. I didn't even mention the cat Goose, who gets plenty of time to shine, though his big moment comes towards the end, in which I also won't spoil.

So what's wrong with the movie. Two things; first is the script. The story tries to juggle around it's plots from the various characters, but it becomes so jumbled that some characters disappear for a while and comeback without any segway. When we do get back to Captain Marvel's mission, once we do realize their goals, I found myself not caring to the point where much of it became boring. This mainly seems to be a filler story until the next. The other problem is Captain Marvel herself; Brie Larson. I've mentioned before that she can deliver a good performance, but it requires good direction. In many scenes where she needs to appear commanding and intimidating, I just wasn't buying it. Her performance happens to be more stoic and robotic that I can't figure out how this was meant to be an interesting personality.

I'll give this four Captain Marvels out of ten. I remember seeing this in a packed theater where the theater mostly sat in silence except for the ending. I don't know how this is going to play out, but I can't imagine this being a future major player. I'm sure Captain Marvel will have her fans, but I can't see them saying that this is the favorite of the MCU. Even with her cosmic powers, I found this boring and unoriginal. I'll wait for Avengers: Endgame instead.
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It's a slam! Fighting with My Family is a fun look at this young woman and her crazy family
1 March 2019
For a lot of kids and even adults, wrestling, especially WWE wrestling is the closest thing to watching real life superheroes and titans clashing. Sure, we all know it's a show and the callouts and insults are a part of it, but the smack downs and falls make everything look real and given the physique of the wrestlers, they still put in a lot of time to play the part and give us a circus of sweat and bruises. I don't follow it as much as I did as a child, but I have a lot of respect for the sport and show.

Most of us know Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Triple H, Big Show, John Cena, and the Rock. These are guys who've managed to create memorable characters that are almost as big as comic book heroes. But it's interesting to see what made them want to be wrestlers and how they managed to beat out other hopefuls. One such story not only focuses on the youngest woman to enter the WWE, but her family who are all die hard wrestling fans. That story is portrayed in Fighting with My Family.

In the early 2010s, two English amateur wrestlers Rick (played by Nick Frost) and Julia (played by Lena Headey) and their children Zak (played by Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Played by Florence Pugh) not only love the sport, but even showcase their own matches and organize an after school practice. They also have dreams of having Zak and Saraya becoming a part of the WWE circuit with constant tapes sent in. One day when a SmackDown event is happening in London, they get a tryout with many hopefuls with WWE trainer Hutch Morgan (played by Vince Vaughn). Saraya, now gping by Paige, is selected, but her brother isn't.

Paige flies to Florida for training camp, where she sticks out like a sore thumb, due to her looks and small frame. She also feels self-conscience as the other women selected look like super models. She's having trouble adapting to the WWE standards and training, and to top it off, still feels bad that her brother wasn't taken. Zac himself turns to alcohol and her parents start to make merchandise of their daughter's upcoming success. With a lot at her and moving really fast, she starts to understand that perhaps, wrestling is much more real then anticipated.

Fighting with My Family does take a lot from other sports movies like the underdog plot, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm okay with that as this is really good. This movie made me realize that not only are a lot of women sports not focused on enough, but even more so in the WWE. Paige's story is not only inspiring, but the family she comes from is a lot of fun. The family's time needed to be shown in order to come out a little different from other sport movies.

I really want to know what kind of training Florence Pugh went through, as I thought she was great. You really feel for her and her dilemma that she wants to be famous, but is afraid if she moves forward, then her family will be left behind. We all want to help our families, but it's understandable that things will get in the way as one climbs up the ladder. What's really going to help this movie's age is her family, who is one of the most unique families on film. They are trashy and have few manners, but they all care for each other and seems to want to help other kids that want that confidence. .

One of the weaker points of the movie is Vince Vaughn. He's does fine in his part, but even with his no nonsense attitude, I still mostly saw him and not a character. I thought it was because of the actor, but I realized he was phenomenal in Hacksaw Ridge. Another problem is the pacing of the end which does show her progression after training, but it felt rushed compared to the slower first half. Perhaps there's more to the movie that was cut, but I think a little more time could have shown Paige the dilemma of suddenly being a star.

I'll give this eight pictures of the real Paige out of ten. Something tells me that a lot of people, especially families, are going to like Fighting with My Family. Even if some accuse the movie as an ad for WWE, then so be it; it's like complaining that the use of the NFL in a biopic makes it an advertisement. It's a slam and worth watching.
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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World gives us a great reason to fly with the dragons one last time
27 February 2019
One of the major reasons world peace hasn't been achieved is that there is someone that's always going to disagree with the status quo and establish his own agenda. That doesn't make the world a bad place, but that's the nature of free will: that ability to debate and generate new ideas. Some will use it to help everyone and some will use it for their own power trip. This is also why when something amazing is introduced to everyone, there is going to be a natural resistance by some. People have done this. Politics have done this. Technology has done this. Nothing is out the window.

The beautiful thing about the How to Train Your Dragon series is that it's about the ideology of changing an established society and mainframe. What was once a simple Viking village of plunderers now has dragons to fly on. The first movie showed that beginning transition from a boys point of view. The second movie built on that evolution, and how there are bad people that will use them to their advantage. With the final movie of the series How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, we see what happens when we realize that people may never embrace something.

Set a year after the last movie, chief of Berk, Hiccup (played by Jay Baruchel) and his group of friends have been keeping up their mission to free captured dragons and give them a new home to be free. The problem now is that Berg is becoming so full of dragons that it's becoming too overpopulated. Hiccup decides that they need to find the legendary "Hidden World" that his late father Stoick (played by Gerald Butler) where dragons can be free. Hiccup is also facing pressure to marry his girlfriend Astrid (played by America Ferrera).

Things change when a white night furry they call a "Light fury" suddengly comes. This is good news for Hiccup's dragon "Toothless" who always thought he was the last one. But they also discover a series of dragon sized traps. The one responsible for those visits Hiccup, a dragon hunter Grimmel (played by F. Murray Abraham), who is looking to kill Toothless. Though he escapes, Hiccup understands he'll keep coming back. He makes the decision for the population of Berk to leave to search for the hidden world. As he deals with all of this, Toothless continues to try and woo the other Light Furry as a mate.

The first two are amazing movies that push the storytelling and animation as DreamWorks' best. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World marks for a very nice, very good conclusion to the trilogy. Is it as good as the first two? Not as masterful, but I still highly recommend this. To start with, the animation is still spectacular. The people still look good, the dragons are still, if not more, lovable, and the use of light and environment really gives this an artistic bump and the second movie started to build on.

The story is also effective. This may be a "boy and his dog" plot, but this has always been about Hiccup and his growth into a young man. Though high voice is still a bit on the annoying side, Jay Baruchel does manage to make me used to it, thanks to his commitment to playing his part as serious as possible. You really understand his dilemma of trying to please both the Vikings of Berk and the dragons he's so fond of. It makes it more painful for what happens for him and most of the dragons in the end, but I wont spoil that.

I'll admit the movie starts to dive in one area, and it's with the villain. F. Murray Abraham does well as a dragon hunter, but aside from that, there wasn't really more to him other then what you see from a lot of other hunter characters. I found the villain from the last movie much more intimidating and interesting as he was at least on a power trip and was smart enough to understand the dragons more then the main character. I wished he would have returned for revenge.

I'll give this eight Light Furry dragons out of ten. Though this has been a nice journey, I'd rather that they end it here then try to keep going. If DreamWorks is smart, they'll continue to establish the character as one that evolved over time and can pride a positive role model for those that feel let down when peace isn't easy to acquire. Go see it and fly with the dragons one last time.
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While the story can get lost in it's giant world, Alita: Battle Angel does showcase impressive effects and action scenes
21 February 2019
You have to appreciate movies like today's that are willing to take a big budgeted risk, especially if it's mostly original. Its not surprise that most studios tend to put more focus on established franchises...and I don't blame them. In the Hollywood system of actors and storytelling, it's still a business and they have to put as much focus there as well. One of the reasons we don't get too many original blockbusters is that more recent attempts have not done well. Is it because the movies aren't good? Likely. Is it because their not an established franchise? Maybe, but there's more to that.

Today's movie is based off of an Japanese manga, but those have not had a good track record when it comes to appealing a mainstream audience. Ghost in the Shell and Dragonball Z have large American fanbases, but their movies didn't do that well. This is where a lot of analysts tend miss the mark; it's hard to predict an audiences tastes. Sure, a trend might make it easier, but I believe that people don't know what they want until they see it. Will people be interested enough about Alita: Battle Angel to make it a franchise? Let's see.

In a post apocalyptic world after a large war, 2563 shows a mega city living under another one that's said to be nearly impossible to get to. Whatever the top city doesn't want, is disposed of in a large junkyard within Iron City. While looking for anything, Dr. Dyson (Played by Christoph Waltz) finds a broken female cyborg with a brain that's still functional. He takes it back to his lab, where he's made a business making robot limbs and repairs. He manages to repair the cyborg, wake her up and name her Alita, after his deceased daughter.

Alita seems to have no memory of her previous life, but is just as curious as any teenage girl. She makes friends with Hugo (played by Keean Johnson) who shows her the ropes of a popular sport, motarball. While learning more about society and the city, she uncovers Dr. Dyson as a hunter-warrior. She too decides to become a hunter-warrior when marital arts and weapons skills suddenly emerge. Along for the journey is motorball elite Vector (played by Mahershala Ali), Dr. Dyson's ex-wife Chiren (Played by Jennifer Connelly) and more cyborgs that make Alita question herself, her peers and the state of society.

It's clear that Alita: Battle Angel really wants to build a world where an audience can escape to (this is where producer James Cameron's fingerprints can be identified). For the most part, the movie does look really good. The design allows a lot of cyberpunk to be implemented, especially on Alita, who may be the first "live action anime" character. You'd think her big eyes would be a distraction, but I found myself forgetting about that and getting into her character and story. Rosa Salazar adds a lot of sweetness with a determined spirit that makes you root for her.

Most of the side characters work too. Christoph Waltz shows a lot of pain as a man whose looking to regain an entire life. Mahershala Ali has the presence of an experienced businessman who has every right to be arrogant. Though Keen Johnson can seem a bit on the "Hollywood hunk" side, he does fine enough as well. You understand why he would be drawn to Alita, acting both as a parent and as a love interest. Everyone seems to have the right motivation to get the story going.

What about the story? While I said the movie was designed well, it's writing is not as clean. This also wants to be a franchise so bad, that a lot of time is spent on world building. This can work, like Black Panther or Mad Max: Fury Road which blends exposition and story without much flaw. Alita: Battle Angel tries to get through a lot of story. It requires your attention if you want to have a full understanding. On one scene, were focusing on hunter-killers, then it's all about the motorball sport, and then it's about her finding her past, or it may be about the various gangs that roam Iron City.

I'll give this six Alita mangas out of ten. I did have fun watching parts of it, but I did also find myself tuning out when the story switches gears. While an average Joe could still watch and enjoy, this is something that I doubt a lot of people are going to connect with. If your into cyberpunk and science fiction, you'll probably find a lot to enjoy from this. I doubt I'll be playing along for the maybe sequel.
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Isn't It Romantic could have pulled darker laughs, but Rebel Wilson makes it good enough
19 February 2019
I've brought this up before, but I miss the days in which we received parodies in theaters. They've become more prominent on the internet, but the last attempts (A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5, and Disaster Movie) at making the genre popular only seemed lazy, tired and simply dumb. The best parody movies either know how to spoof popular movies or genres of those movies. But they also need to tell a good story within itself. This is why Blazing Saddles was hilarious about the first black sheriff. This is why Army of Darkness was fun as a horror and as a comedy. But I also realized that horror spoofs seemed to be the only parodies we've gotten.

I think it's because we get more horror movies then anything else, there's just more material to work off of. But we've also seen superhero, cop, thriller, and even science-fiction parodies. So what hasn't been done in a while? How about chick flicks? They have their quirks and tropes that people like to point out, are considered unrealistic and pandering, and yet, are still seen by a lot of people. I like the idea of someone being stuck within a romantic comedy as seen in Isn't It Romantic.

An Australian architect Natalie (played by Rebel Wilson) is living a less then magical life in New York, dealing with a small apartment, grim workplace and a lack of attention from men...and seems contempt about it. Her best friend Josh (played by Adam DeVine) tries to encourage her to stand up for herself, but understands it's hard to convince someone whose already happy to movie forward. Natalie's outlook comes from her understanding that her heavier appearance is something that typical Hollywood movies don't focus on, and thus sees herself as average. This changes when she's knocked out while subduing a mugger.

When she wakes up, she notices the hospital is beautiful and the doctors are good looking. In fact, New York City seems prettier and more like something out of a Hallmark advertisement. She comes to the conclusion that if this is real, then she's inside a romantic comedy. She's relived that Josh seems unaffected, but is annoyed when he falls for a "yoga-ambassador" Isabella (played by Priyanka Chopra). She also becomes the apple's eye for Blake (played by Liam Hemsworth). She deduces she needs for him to declare his love for her in order to escape. She plays along with the tropes and clichés, while determining the possible merits for believing in yourself.

I have to give this movie a lot of credit for not only trying to bring back a genuinely funny parody genre movie, but for understanding why people love and hate romantic comedies. Isn't It Romantic has the right frame and is doing everything not to fall into the pitfalls that regular romantic movies do. Whenever it's in the romantic comedy universe, it works well. When it's in the real world, this is where things become complicated.

Isn't it Romantic may have benefited more from a different beginning and ending. The middle has a good format and seems keen on going with it. Not all the jokes work, but there are plenty of moments I laughed. One of the highlights is a musical sequence to the tune of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody", all done in a format that parodies and celebrates those campy moments from romantic comedies. So whats wrong with the beginning and end? Though they have good intention, it seems too typical of romantic comedies. Perhaps if it was grittier and darker, that would have contrasted the middle segment a lot more, making it even funnier.

This is where I also have to give credit to Rebel Wilson who is giving it her all. She does a good job being the cynical girl within an overly happy universe. I can't blame her for some of the shortcomings. It isn't her fault; it's of the script which should have done more to contrast her further. I think it's because I've seen her in some romantic comedies like Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect that I wanted her to play her character darker and perhaps meaner. This is Rebel Wilson restrained; I'm sure should could have gone further, but she managed to get a lot of good material out.

I'll give this six rose bouquets out of ten. While I may not find myself rewatching it again and again, I can see a lot of people getting a kick out of this. You don't have to be an expert in the romantic comedy genre to get the jokes. I would have liked more, but I think people will be happy with this regardless. If you looking for something that's more of a light slap then a punch at a genre, then go see it.
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If you liked Wolf Children and Your Name, you'll love the bittersweet I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
16 February 2019
People are clearly looking for a variety of portrayals with both men and women. While I won't say it's a sexist thing on why we seem to have a limited view of characters, I think it's more of a factor in that we simply don't know how to write personalities we don't understand. Let's say you were the loner geek in high school who always wanted to be an acclaimed novelist. You'll certainly know how to write geeks, lonely people and maybe the people you dream of being. But chances are that if you were asked to write about the loud jock, you'd be stumped to make them as engaging as you would for the ones your more confortable with. I wanted to bring this up as the main characters seem to be people that I've seen, but don't often see in a lot of media...or at least in this fashion. We've seen people who are lonely and want attention, but we don't see those that like to be alone. We also see a lot of bubbly, outgoing people, but not as interested in those that otherwise wouldn't attract attention. Both of these people meet in the sweet but sad I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. A high school boy, only known as "Me" (played by Robbie Daymond) is quiet, reserved, and would rather keep to himself. He doesn't have friends, but isn't asking for them either. In fact, he seems happy to be living within the books that he reads and puts away at the library where he works. That changes when a girl Sakura (played be Erika Harlacher) suddenly wants to make friends with him. He tries to reject it, but not only does she keep wanting to talk to him, but she even gets a job at the same library. She gets him to hang out with her having tea or going to the park. Though still reserved, he does talk about the joy he gets from his books. In turn, she reveals that her pancreas is rotting and has a limited time left. She has latched on to him and not told her friends, as she wanted to confine in someone that wouldn't treat her differently. The two continue to hang while he understands how her cheerfulness has gained her a lot of friends and she starts to understand how stories like The Little Prince can be more appealing then the real world. I'll say first that I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a bit of a downer...but not for the reasons you may think. Without giving it away, we do find out why what happens to the main characters is more tragic, but how much it builds onto "Me". I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is also a great story about human connection, especially with those who don't want the connection. "Me" is the kind of loner I wish major studios would focus on. Not the ones that are too cool for school. Not the ones with a tragic past. Not the ones who are edgy. Simply the ones who find enough substance within their selves. The movie is not negative about those that like their own company. The script is more about how this affects those around them and the personalities that are there to reflect those ideals. It's a good thing that "Me" and Sakura are interesting people. Sakura is another example of something that can be very warm and bubbly, but isn't asking for a romance. She's looking for different kinds of friends that she doesn't already have. I could see these kinds of people making friends in real life. To top it off, the animation is really good. It wasn't produced by Toho or Studio Ghibli, but it is showing that not only has it been shown that you don't need either studio to put out good anime, but that it can also look spectacular. It's style could have been done in live action (to which I understand it already has), but I still think I'd rather see it in this style only.

I'll give this nine journals out of ten. It may be a really good anime film, but again, this is one that ends very bittersweet. But it'll make you think about how you've treated others and just what effect it has on them. Never take a moment for granted and look at this if you want a movie that understands friendship, depression, and of course, the pain of death.
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Cold Pursuit (2019)
Cold Pursuit is the Liam Neeson parody that combines Coen brothers-style storytelling with Tarantino-style pacing
13 February 2019
It's the January/February season, which also means it's time for a certain gravely-voiced actor to make another action movie we've been seeing around this time for a while. Yep, it's Liam Neeson time. Some people might see him as a one-note actor who plays similar characters in most of his movies. You'd be right if you were just referring to his recent revenge movies like Taken or "thriller on a mode of transportation" movie like Non Stop or The Commuter. You could even make that argument with his comedic roles like The Lego Movie or dramas like Schindler's List.

While I won't go as far to claim that Liam Neeson is one of the greatest actors, I do put him in the same category of similar actors to John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart who are more or less playing variations of their personas. You don't see them to slip into characters, but more for them in a different situation. No actor should be ashamed about this and should even be thankful they have fans that come for this. Even in a bad movie, I still like Liam Neeson and what he does in his movies. That's why it's nice to see him make fun of himself and his movies in Cold Pursuit.

Snowplower Nelson Cox (played by Liam Neeson) has just been awarded citizen of the year while enjoying his happy life, happy wife, and happy son. But then his son is found dead of a heroin overdose. Despite Nelson's pleas that his son wasn't a drug user, the police find no evidence of foul play and rule it a suicide. Still, Nelson feels that something fishy is going on and discovers from a friend that his son was the target of a mafia hit. Once he figures out who it was, be becomes a vigilante and kills off several people to get to the leader.

Mafia head "Viking" (played by Tom Bateman) becomes angry (and this is a hotheaded villain) and mistakes the killer coming from another Native-American mafia within the same town. They eventually instigate conflict and a mafia war, while Nelson continues to axe off more people. It eventually leads him to a point where he kidnaps Viking's son in order to draw him out...and the gang...and the other gang...and the local police as a war of confused sides come together just to figure out whose angry at who.

I'll say right away that while this has the plot of a standard thriller that seems tailor made for Liam Neeson; that because it is and is proud of it. In fact, this is more of a parody of those Liam Neeson movies that come out around this time. Cold Pursuit takes a lot of those elements, like the tough leading man with a combat background, an eccentric villain, a family member he's avenging, and even the use of a transport machine as a plot device (in this case, a snowplow), and put it into a movie that made me laugh at the dark elements that are typically easier to write in dramas.

What helps Cold Pursuit is two things. First is the tone, which seems like a mix of Coen brothers cinematography and Tarantino-style editing and storytelling. This brings up a lot of side characters that are usually sidelined in a lot of Liam Neeson movies. The main villain is delightfully over-the-top as an angry, yelling hothead, the Native Americans play off as wise while seemingly insane, and even some of the mafia goons get their little personality quirks that make them more then just throw away bad guys. There isn't much to Liam Neeson himself, who is basically the straight man to all the chaos.

I think that Liam Neeson would have to know at this point that his characters have gone through the same scenario so many times, that playing it up as a parody would only make sense from this point. Cold Pursuit is an example of how that can take up that idea and make a parody without it becoming too silly. This is a dark comedy and because of that, I can see this as being an acquired taste. Some may want an action with a more engaging story and some may want a comedy with more jokes. I say this is a happy marriage that isn't great, but rather simply remains a fun ride.

I'll give this seven snowplows out of ten. Other then those wanting a more unconventional comedy, this is also for those that like Liam Neeson and the movies he makes around this time. Even the title Cold Pursuit should tell you right away what your getting into. Go see it and get angry enough to take this ride.
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The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part builds and clicks a funny and sweet sequel, even if it isn't as good as the first
8 February 2019
Everything really is awesome! I've revisited The Lego Movie multiple times, and not only does it still hold up, but I think it plays an important part in how modern comedy can speak to modern audiences. It's no secret were living in an age of consistently evolving social landscapes, thanks to the internet and social media. It's also become a time in which more people seem to be taking an "us vs. them" principle. The Lego Movie took a hard jab at this philosophy and made it's story about how no matter how much we disagree with how people want to live, we have no choice but to try and work together if we want to find lasting piece. Would I consider it one of my favorite comedies? Yes.

Warner Brothers has been trying to expand it's foray into the Lego universe with varying results. While The Lego Batman Movie was nice parody over the caped crusader, The Lego Ninjango Movie was a mixed bag aimed mainly at kids. To be fair, The Lego Movie set the standard very high and reaching that same level has proven to be very challenging. So let's see if The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part can accomplish that.

Set after the invasion of the Duplo toys from the ending of the first movie, Bricksberg has now become a post-apocalyptic wasteland called "Apocalypseburg". Many of the Lego friends from before have been taken away, leaving Emmet (Played by Chris Pratt), Lucy (played by Elizabeth Banks), Batman (played by Will Arnett), Unikitty (played by Alison Brie), Benny (played by Charlie Day) and Metalbeard (played by Nick Offerman) all to survive. While everyone has toughened up and matured, Emmet is still his cheerful, upbeat self who keeps trying to find the positive side of things.

During another Duplo invasion, more people are taken to the "Systar System", including Lucy. Emmet converts his dream home into a spaceship to prove he's more then capable of rescuing his friends. At the same time, Lucy and the others discover the one taking them is Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (played by Tiffany Haddish). Her goal is to brainwash everyone into being just as happy as she is and marry Batman. Emmet almost gets lost, but is saved by a cool Lego, Rex Dangervest (played by Chris Pratt) who also agrees to teach Emmet how to be like him. Sides are taken and Lego people uncover not everything as it seems.

I'm happy to say that The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is also a very good movie and sequel. It's not as good as the original, but I've come to accept that was "capturing lightning in a bottle". Nothing was going to match it and whatever this was going to do, really had to embrace it's over-the-top nature further. As a story, it continues evolve Emmet (played again very well), while teaching us if we want to be upbeat in a dark world, then it's important to be ourselves.

I was trying to figure out something else. While the story, actors, and songs were all good, something felt a little different. I realized that it was the comedy. The comedy is really good and got me laughing in spots I didn't think would be. Some of it included Tiffany Haddish's new character it's connection to the real world. The problem is that it tries some obvious ad-libing where it doesn't always work. The first movie was tighter and probably stuck closer to what Phil Lord & Chris Miller had in mind. Otherwise, it does fit fine as a story on it's own and as a sequel.

Also like before, the animation is really good. It again goes for the photorealistic, Lego look that the first had, making it almost like a stop-motion feature. Though their brief, I also like a lot of the live action material and how it all ties into the events going on in the Lego universe.

I'll give this eight Lego starships out of ten. Those that like the first movie should like the second one fine. I'm sure some may not be that impressed, but they have to remember the first reached a level that was so impressive, that it was going to be difficult to recreate anyway. Give it a click or two and go see it.
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Stan & Ollie (2018)
Stan & Ollie works as a lighter, more relaxed look at the Laurel & Hardy duo
1 February 2019
I like to consider myself a student of film. No matter how many classic and modern movies I watch, there's always going to be more that I haven't seen. I haven't seem the majority of John Wayne westerns. I haven't seem a lot of Hitchcock thrillers. I haven't even seen the majority of Stanley Kubrick films (and I love his movies). Add another to the list is work of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. I've certainly seen their picture whenever "classic Hollywood" is brought up. Their usually seen amongst the other comedic greats like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and the Three Stooges.

One thing that they all share is that they were each prominent comedians that were once the biggest names. Like with modern comedians, they all have to evolve and find new ways to be surprising. It's harder as a group, as they also have to be consistently in sync and willing to update their act. This is why silent stars struggled with sound, shorts stars had to figure out how to expand, and even the eventuality that the act has to end. In the case of Laurel and Hardy, their final tour is documented in Stan & Ollie.

In 1953, comedians Stan Laurel (played by Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (played by John C. Reilly) are on another comedy tour, this time in England and Ireland. They know their act is seen as passé and dated, but hope that the nostalgia factor will help sell tickets. Laurel is hoping that the success of it can help get their next movie going, a comedic retelling of Robin Hood. Problems come when their marketing goes poorly, causing half empty small theaters. It doesn't help that Oliver's health has deteriorated and is morbidly obese, having difficulty performing his old stunts.

After they agree to make more appearances, their popularity climbs and they starts having more sellout shows. Their success brings hope that the Robin Hood project into fruition. But it also brings back past issues, including a time in which Oliver didn't join Hardy in signing with Fox studios back in 1937. This had made Stan bitter about their temporary breakup. This had also made Oliver think about what was best for each other. This and more were brought up as the two seek to finish the tour, even with Oliver's health continuing to decline.

I should mention that if your looking for a large, in depth look into the career of Oliver and Hardy, your not going to get that here. Unlike Chaplin, which did do that, Stan & Ollie is a smaller, more relaxed look at a moment that was clearly important to the two. In fact, much of the pacing and plot is similar to Steve Coogan's The Trip, except with these big stars reflecting on their choices. Audiences are either going to get into to this slower journey or may find themselves board. I was personally engaged with the trip and the issue they brought up.

What helps is that both Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are phenomenal in their roles. Steve fits in well with Laurel's understandable desire to keep going and John looks like he's been through hell, and yet continues his act because he loves doing it. I'll give a lot of credit to the makeup department for recreating their iconic look. It really felt like watching the two old duo back from the dead.

With the characters ready to go, it'll surprise everyone that the plot, though with a goal of finishing it, goes at a slower pace they'd expect this kind of project. That's completely fine as long as what they talk about is interesting. The bad news is that it doesn't dwell too much into their personalities (primarily Laurel), which can sometime cause their discussions to run off into dull territory. There's a moment when the two have an argument and I was wondering if I had missed something, as it felt rushed. There aren't too many of these moments, but this is where it's likely going to lose some people. The good news is that it makes up for at least discussing the duo's intention of continuing the act and whether the mistakes of the past could change anything.

I'll give this seven Laurel and Hardy pictures out of ten. I was happy with the product and hopes this proves that John C. Reilly is something that can be known for playing a good character. This is also proof that you can do different versions of the biopic, and not just as a three hour in depth look. You just need to make them interesting. Give it a watch and maybe Stan & Ollie will make you want to look at their old material.
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The Kid Who Would Be King comes close to being a family film similar to the 80's, had it not gone on too long
31 January 2019
You know what kind of movies I miss from the 80's and 90's? The stories in which the kids aren't just put through danger, but intense danger. I'm talking about E.T., Goonies, Explorers, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, and even Big, which got nominated at the academy awards. I can understand why parents and even critics would have problems with children facing too much danger. There's a certain responsibility about how much adults need to show that kids need to be protected. What they don't understand is that not only do kids like seeing themselves, often without adults, doing extraordinary things, but also that they can take a lot more then we realize.

It's important to make stories where children are just as likely to come out on top as heroes as the adults. That even seemed like a reoccurring trend with the teen audience with Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Twilight if you're desperate. But you may notice that the young adult demographic has not come back for similar franchises that have tried to continue the brand. This simply means that audiences want something different, but still reflect the ideology from past films and how they worked. This is probably why The Kid Who Would Be King will probably find an audience without a problem.

Young Alex Elliot (played by Louis Ashbourne) is your average boy in London going to primary school with his friend Bedders (played by Dean Chaumoo). What does make him different is that not only does he feel like the needs to be there for his mother, but is also willing to stand up to his bullies Lance (played by Tom Taylor) and Kaye (played by Rhianna Doris). One day when he escapes from those same bullies, he comes across a sword in stone and pulls it out. He and Bedders decide that it must be Excalibur.

The next day, they come across a young adult who claims to be Merlin (played by Angus Imrie) and says he'd been looking for the descendants of King Arthur and the knights of Camelot for a long time. He tells them that sorceress Morgana (played by Rebecca Ferguson) will unleash her army and magic onto the world in four days. Alex and Bedders, along with Lance and Kaye who end up apart of things, journey to a castle to find Alex's father along with coming to terms with their new Arthurian powers.

On the surface, The Kid Who Would Be King contains a lot of elements from family films of the 80's and 90's that I love. But it also contains story flaws that could cement it in. Don't get me wrong. I am overall recommending this as a fun movie. In fact, I'll start by saying Louis Ashbourne is a great little actor and had caught my intrest as he was dealing with the fact that not only is he of noble birth, but is also insecure about his relationships with his father, who he admired. In fact, all the actors do a good job. I liked his friend. I liked the bullies who understand the pain of their actions. I liked young Merlin as both comic relief and dealing with the fact this King Authur is more reluctant then usual. And they all have their own arcs within the story's journey. It all goes back to good story, good charecters, and good writing. Writer/Director Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) understands that kids are likely to take anything as long as the story ends in a happy ending.

So if the movie has good characters and a good setup, what's wrong with it? At a running time of two hours, it feels a lot longer then it needs to be. What I mean is that at a point in which you think the movie is going to end, something else happens that makes it another twenty-five minutes longer. The rest isn't bad, but it did feel sudden and even out of tone, given the slower pacing before. If the story had found a better way to continue, I would have been alright with it. But perhaps it either could have come into play sooner or had been saved for a sequel.

I'll give this seven swords of Excalibur out of ten. While it's not a great movie, I was surprised by how entertained I was and how close it was to recreating a feeling similar to family films of the 80s. This should serve as good entertainment for families, especially if they need a change of pace from a Marvel superhero movie or Goonies after the fifteenth viewing. Pull out the sword and journey to this film.
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Glass (2019)
Glass makes for a good sequel to Unbreakable and Split...until the ending retcons to tone of both stories
28 January 2019
Time to talk about M. Night Shyamalan again! He is a director who, a lot like many, have many hits and misses through their careers. What makes him unique that along with crafting his own stories and directing them, he's one of the few filmmakers to truly have their own voice. Many of his movies feel like slow burn thrillers and fantasies set in modern day (except for The Last Airbender and After Earth), but also try to focus more on characters and how the situation is affecting them psychologically. I give this guy credit for not changing his style, even when work he produces doesn't always work.

I've too made fun of his tropes, whether it's is odd dialogue or an overreliance on the twist of the story. It's not to say he's a bad filmmaker, but it's how the story is ultimately setup. So hence Bruce Willis as a psychologist in the The Sixth Sense worked because of the twist and why a child reading cereal boxes in Lady in the Water for the plot was just stupid. In an interesting twist, we are no getting a sequel to both Unbreakable and Split in Glass, which throws all three main characters together.

Nineteen years after Unbreakable, David Dunn (Played by Bruce Willis) has embraced his identity as a protector of people that the newspapers have dubbed "The Overseer", with the help of his son Joseph (played by Spencer Trent Clark) who listens on police scanners for local trouble. They trace an area where kidnappings have taken place, which lead him into a warehouse. He helps a group of cheerleaders escape, but comes across their capturer, Kevin Wendell Crumb (played by James McAvoy). They both fight, but are stopped and arrested by the local police who take them to a nearby mental institution.

Not only do the two find Elijah (played by Samuel L. Jackson) there as well, but all three of them are being cared for by Dr. Ellie Staple (played by Sarah Paulson). She's come to the conclusion that their belief that their super beings are all part of a delution. Joseph, Elijah's mother (played by Charlayne Woodard), and Casey Cooke (Played by Anya Taylor-Joy) all try to convince Dr. Staple otherwise against treatment, but all fail. Like any superhero at his lowest, David starts to believe he may not be the super human that he thought he was. But like any villain, Elijah has another scheme up his sleeve along with help from Kevin.

Glass has a lot to live up to for it's fans that have waited for the sequel. Like a lot of Shyamalan movies, I could see this as polarizing with people wither loving it or hating it. I'm personally somewhere in the middle as the film doesn't always know how to mix all three people into the story. It starts out fine enough by showing how David has changed since Unbreakable, but once he's in the hospital, he's almost left on his own without much to do. Probably because Split was more recent, the focus is on Kevin.

The good news is that his scenes, along with Dr. Staple, are actually interesting and kept my interest. It's good to note that also like a lot of Shyamalan movies, the pacing is slow, allowing the cold tone to blossom. This is why that despite the dialogue being a little too exposition-centered, it makes more sense for the sake of the story. As far as things went, I was entranced by what Dr. Staple (played incredibly well) had to say, even though I knew that she was doing more harm. Good writing allows it's audience to sway even if you don't agree with the character.

The part that's going to be divisive is the ending. Again, like a lot of Shyamalan stories, the twist either makes or breaks the entire thing. While I'm not judging the decision of how things end, it does end on a note that I wish would have been more in line with the hopefulness of Unbreakable. The conclusion that comes might have worked more before YouTube and social media became a thing, but I could see society not seeing things how the main characters saw.

I'll give this five green ponchos out of ten. Glass may not be as good as either Unbreakable and Split, but I still got enjoyment out of it. Its it's ending that left me on a sour note. It just wasn't enough to ruin it for me. It's highly recommended that you watch both Unbreakable and Split first, but it's not completely necessary. Check it out and see if this ending ruins it for you.
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The Upside (2017)
With a miscast Kevin Hart and inconsistent tone, The Upside is a boring remake of The Intouchables
18 January 2019
You really have to admire caregivers. Their in a career and position where not only do their lives revolve around their clients, but deal with people that require more attention then a lot of toddlers. What I'm getting at is that it takes a kind of person that has to accomplish two goals; to be willing to get through the tougher moments and to deliver it in a way that isn't patronizing. Many tend to forget that even if their dealing with a child, senior, or disabled, there's still a person inside that doesn't want to feel like a patient.

One of the better movies about caretaking was a French film called The Intouchables. This was a lighter movie about race and class difference about two people who are forced into positions that help them become friends, even though circumstance probably wouldn't have them do so in any other moment. It was nothing game changing or masterful, but it was still a nice story that put a smile on my face like how The Green Book did earlier. Its also common that if a foreign film did well, it's likely to get an American adaptation. Let's see if The Upside can generate a similar feeling.

Dell Scott (played by Kevin Hart) is a ex con who is trying to find any job so that he can provide for his wife Latrice and his son who wants nothing to do with him. When given a few days to acquire signatures to prove he's looking for work or he'll be sent back to prison, he answers an ad that he thinks is for a janitor job. It turns out that it's actually a caregiver job for a powerful businessman/author Phillip Lacasse (played by Bryan Cranston). Phillip takes a liking to Dell's honesty and hires him, despite having no medical experience.

Dell understands that because Phillip is now a quadriplegic, he has to help with everything including eating, lifting, exercising, and driving. Dell proceeds through this as the pay is no only higher then he could imagine, but it also gives him a nice place to stay. While Dell uses his street smarts to treat Phillip like any other guy who needs to loosen up, Phillip influences Dell to try harder at life and to appreciate the finer arts like painting and opera. Both even seem to learn about each others love life as they try to figure out where to proceed.

The Upside had to potential to be a lighter comedy if nothing more. I can't see much they can do to improve upon The Intouchables, but a remake can still be entertaining. Unfortunately, this is a project where a lot of the story and comedy don't go well together. This isn't a really bad movie by all means, but I have a hard time trying to figure out who this was made for. It's too sappy for most Kevin Hart fans wanting something really funny or too gross for those wanting an inspiring story.

The biggest problem is Kevin Hart. He can be a good comedic talent, but he needs to be attached to the right project in order to take advantage of his style of comedy. I can see him as an over sarcastic schemer, but not as a former thug just getting out of prison. It isn't really his fault, but this was probably an example of a studio putting in a project just because he's popular. I could see a Michael B. Jordan or Chadwick Boseman playing this kind of part better. It was going to be a flaw no matter how hard he tried.

Working much better is Bryan Cranston, who seems fine as a wealthy aristocrat whose now facing a new world with his disability. He even manages to have good chemistry with both Kevin Hart and his assistant played by Nicole Kidman. It only makes you wonder why they put all these people in The Upside. Had the movie either slipped into a lighter comedy or just go out all gripping drama, this could have had a more consistent voice, but it seemed that it was afraid to pick one and try to go all over the place tone wise.

I'll give this four wheelchairs out of ten. Perhaps there is an audience that won't mind a conflicting tone and want to engage in this story. If people want a better movie, I would point to either The Green Book or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, if their looking for something about paralysis. Or if you want a better story of this, then watch the original French The Intouchables. I just found this more boring then bad.
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Bumblebee (2018)
You've got the touch! Bumblebee is probably the best Transformers movie so far
9 January 2019
Oh boy, another Transformers movie and... wait a minute... Michael Bay isn't making this one? Okay movie, you've got one major thing fixed, but there's still some issues that need to be addressed. What about the characters, design of the robots, plot, effects...hmm...according to the previews, everything seems to be taking a turnaround from before. It's set in the 1980s and were focusing on a teenage whose not being objectified for the sake of sexuality? And the robots are designed similar to the animated series counterpart? Okay movie; now you really got me curious.

You can't blame me or a lot of people for having low expectations when it comes to Transformers. I'm not as well read on the toys, shows, or comics, but the movies have been examples of "fast food cinema"; where instead of substance and a compelling story, were given constant action scene after action scene set against well shot backdrops along with glorifying the military, bikini girls, and everything macho. I'd understand if people like that sort of thing, but it only worked for the first movie. The others have been overlong, dull, and even dumb. So with Bumblebee actually trying something lighter, it's persuaded me to give the series another chance now that director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) is in charge.

In 1987, a planet evacuation of Cybertron sends Bumblebee to Earth, where a special opts team called Sector 7 mistakes him for a treat and attack him. At the same time, a Decepticon follows Bumblebee and fights him while agent Jack Burns (played by John Cena) continues his assault. Though the Decepticon is defeated, Bumblebee loses his voice and hides in plain sight as a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle.

Sometime later, teenager Charlie Watson (Played by Hailee Steinfeld) is still mulling over the death of her father while making it as a loner eighteen year-old. While working at her uncles junkyard, she gets the same yellow Beetle as a birthday present. Upon working on it at home, it transforms into Bumblebee who is without a voice and scared from his encounter from Sector 7. This establishes right away that he's not a threat and Charlie vows to protect him. So while trying get his memory back, Charlie tries to get him to stay hidden. At the same time, two Decepticons intercept Sector 7 and agree to work with them in exchange to access to the worlds communications system in order to find Bumblebee.

I'm glad to say the big changes were all for the good as Bumblebee may be the best Transformers movie of the franchise, even better then the first. It wasn't just a good movie on it's own, but it felt like I was watching a live action adaptation of the 1980's cartoon. A lot of it is because a long with a smaller story, I finally felt like that several characters had genuine arcs. Bumblebee changes and learns to trust people. Charlie learns to accept her father's passing and move on. Even Jack learns about the value in something we don't understand. The script actually understood that personalities affect story and can go through something to make something of the plot.

If some of this is sounding familiar, it's because Bumblebee took a lot of inspiration from E.T., WarGames, and a lot of 1980's style movies. What Travis Knight knew was that the majority of those movies knew how to capture the innocence of an adolescent. Hailee Steinfeld does well at playing this kind of character (which some might see as similar to Edge of Seventeen, but she seems to have some idea of what she wants to do later in life).

The actions scenes are also improved upon thanks to the fact that their better shot and aren't as needed within the story. Bumblebee relies more on the connection between this car and human then on the thousands of explosions that Michael Bay had used.

Is Bumblebee a masterpiece? Probably the best a Transformers movie can become. What I mean is that it isn't a game changer to this story, but it is at least really good at it. It's entertaining and knows how much to give before taking the toys away.

I'll give this eight old Transformers animation cels out of ten. I'll be curious to see if this is going to a part of the old series (which it makes that connection) or if it's a part of a bigger reboot. I'm hoping for the latter as this deserves to be a starting point to something better. Autobots, roll out and go see it.
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Escape Room (I) (2019)
Escape Room in so uncaring about it's characters, that I found this puzzle thriller dull and uninspired
7 January 2019
If there's one rule that Hollywood likes to follow, it's that if something is hip and current, then it's bound to get a horror movie. In today's case, its about escape rooms. I haven't done an escape room, even through I like the concept; your with a group, locked in a room (or rooms in some cases) and you need to solves riddles, clues, and puzzles in order to get out before the time runs out. Not only does it almost make a real life video game, but it's a genius way to play up suspense where there is none.

The only way one could get genuinely frightened is if the people running the rooms were good enough actors. Escape rooms are another way of illusion, and the trick will only work if they can suspend disbelief that their only playing a game. It's the same idea with video games; even if your rescuing a princess from Super Mario Bros., your really only playing programing on a computer. So the idea of taking an escape room and making it a life or death situation isn't a bad idea. So let's see if Escape Room can develop potential like a cross of The Game and Saw.

In Chicago; we focus on several individuals who all receive puzzle boxes. We have college student Zoey (played by Taylor Russell), a slacker Ben (played by Logan Miller), and a successful business trader Jason (played by Jason Walker). They all solve it and receive invitations to a nearby escape room where it's also revealed that if they solve it, they'll receive $10,000. They arrive, along with former solider Amanda (played by Deborah Ann Woll), former miner Mike (Played by Tyler Labine) and escape room expert Danny (played by Nik Dodani). They all head for a waiting area for the game to start...or so they think.

When one tries to leave, only for the handle to come off with a set of numbers appearing, they realize that the game has already started. Things become dangerous when the room starts to heat up like an oven. When they manage to get out, they find the next room and several others to be just as perilous. In fact, they see some of their fellow players die. The race is on to see if they can solve the clues, find out who is behind this, and why they were chosen to partake in a most dangerous game.

I've said before that I think Escape Room could potentially be a good idea and I even like the angle their taking here. The problem is that the movie is dull and uninspired. Escape Room is another throwaway January release that might play better on streaming platforms, but has little reason for a theatrical release. The first problem is the characters. None of them are memorable or likable enough for care about whether they meet their death solving a puzzle or not. It's hard to tell if they needed better actors or a better script, but I'm betting on the latter, as it has to do with my other problem.

The plot is fine, with the goal of simply getting out. It's the overall setup that really fails, and it's worse as I see what they were trying to do. The rooms are supposed to be themed out of a traumatizing past that each character went through. But it only touches upon their past personalities without much rhyme or reason. A character went through a drunk driving history; so let them solves a riddle and their magically cured. One man killed another in his past; so he'll take a drug and confront it. You can tell the script was rushed in favor of focusing on the thrills.

I'll give this four escape room passes out of ten. I give it some credit for it's room design and idea in general. But it's too half-assed and non caring on it's characters for me to recommend. At best, if your looking for some thrills within a puzzle room, you'll get some. But for most, I'd say skip this escape room and go to a spa instead.
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The Favourite (2018)
The Favourite is so odd that you'll either love it or hate it. It's characters and relationships make it good
7 January 2019
In any high-pressure position (political, business, entertainment, etc...), power is the most addictive drug anyone can succumb to. Most can tell that once your at the top of something, it's hard to imagine your life before that or after. It really has to do with that subconscious instinct in which all people want to feel important. Once they do become important, it's scary for them to think that no one would want to listen anymore. They have more authority and can feel like a king in their own domain. So the longer they retain that power, the harder it becomes to accept should they lose it.

Today's movie deals with a interesting situation involving three people that are addicted to power; one who is starting from the bottom, one whose been at the top for a while, and another at the top whose mental state is becoming worse. Putting two together is bad enough, but a third one can only create chaos. The situation happened more often then not in a monarch, especially an older one. For the situation within The Favourite, we find a mad queen, her lesbian lover, and a woman who sees potential in a declining crazy person.

It's the early eighteenth century where Brittan is at war with France. Queen Anne (played by Olivia Colman) is suffering physical ailments and is losing her interest in politics in favor of wealthy parties and caring for her seventeen rabbits, which also represent her seventeen children that have passed on. Because of her disconnect with parliament, her confidant and lover Sarah Churchill (played by Rachel Weisz) has so much influence that she pretty much runs the country from ideas she passes onto the queen. At the same time, a new state tax is initiated from a landowner Robert Harley (played by Nicholas Hoult) that proves to be unpopular with the rest of parliament.

One way, Sarah's younger cousin Abigail Hill (played by Emma Stone) arrives in the queens court for a job. Abigail once came from a baron family, but lost it when her father lost her in a gamble. She's hired to work as a scullery maid, but ends up winning the queens approval when she offers herbs that soothe pain from gout. Abigail becomes the queens lady-in-waiting and soon learns about the affair between Anne and Sarah. It becomes a power game when the younger cousin starts to gain a friendship with the queen while Sarah's power is challenged.

The Favourite is the kind of movie that is the example of divisive. People are either going to like this or hate it. I personally liked it enough to say that it works more as a comedy then a historical retelling. The historical aspect is good, but ill get to that in a bit. The reason this works is because of the characters and the relationships their a part of.

This is a movie that belongs to all three of the main stars; Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone. I'm not sure how accurate everything was, but these feel like oddball, but dangerous people I could see within government. Olivia hits the points of carrying a lot of nobility and worsening mental state, yet never leaning too far to one side. Rachel Weisz is great as a serial manipulator whose had years of experience pulling off the job. And of course, Emma Stone is one of the better two-facers I've seen in cinema; playing herself as delicate when she needs to be, and then back stabbing the next. Her performance is almost on par with Scarlet in Gone With the Wind.

As far as the movie goes, this is where people are going to come at a crossroads. Director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) knows how to make the palaces and costumes feel big with the constant use of wide angles and fisheye shots. In fact, there isn't too much use of movement, even though everything still feels fluid. This is either going to pull people into the story or detract them. It can sometimes be a little distracting as it does try to be more "artsy" then it needs to be.

I'll give this seven racing ducks out of ten. The Favourite fits in the same category of Baroque historical movies like Barry Lyndon and Amadeus. It's clear that a mainstream audience isn't going to be as invested as they would for a blockbuster. But that's why I give this more credit; it knows it's audience it's trying to reach. If your hungry for power and a more oddball royalty movie then your used to, then check it out.
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Mary Poppins is a mixed spoonful of sugar that goes down in small doses. Great cast and songs, but a story that's too safe
4 January 2019
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Almost everyone knows this comes from the Disney classic, Mary Poppins. Most people, including myself, would agree that Mary Poppins is one of the greatest family movies of all time. Whether is the performances by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, the songs which are still incredibly catchy, or the story of a father appreciating the things he has in life. It's one of the few films that if it's playing on TV, I simply have to watch it and encourage others to give it a chance if they dismiss it as "kids stuff".

What makes it fascinating that despite it's critical phrase, five Oscar wins and timeless fandom, the author of the books, P.L. Travers never cared for the movie and denounced it. The movie Saving Mr. Banks goes into better detail, but it's because of her temperament and distaste for the movie that has prevented the other Mary Poppins books from being made. Though I haven't read the books, I could imagine that they must have a lot of material to tell more stories of the magical nanny and the Banks family. After nearly fifty years, we've finally been given a Christmas treat of a sequel in Mary Poppins Returns.

Now set in the 1930's, adult Michael (played by Ben Whishaw) is widowed with his three children Annabel, John, and George, and living with his sister Jane (Played by Emily Mortimer) in the family home from the first movie. Michael is facing financial problems as isn't able to repay a loan a got from the bank. They figure they could use their father's bank shares to pay them off, but seem to have trouble finding them. On top of that, Michael's children are misbehaved and chase away another nanny. As luck would have it on a windy day, a kite catches a flying nanny.

Mary Poppins (played by Emily Blunt) arrives at the Banks residence to say she's here for children (and Michael's kids as well). In order to teach the little ones about life, she does a variety of things including taking them into an underwater fantasy, a china bowl world (done in beautiful hand drawn animation) and even meeting with Mary's eccentric cousin Topsy (played by Meryl Streep). Also along with Mary and the kids is local lamplighter Jack (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda). As everyone is learning their lesson, they also have to see if they can wither find the shares or money that can save the house from the corrupt bank president William (played by Colin Firth).

You can tell the director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) really wanted to recapture the spirit of the original. In essence, he may have done his job too well for Mary Poppins Returns. Not only does it hit a lot of beats of Mary Poppins, but it almost does the same thing that the first movie did, without offering much new. I can't flag the moments too much, as the dancing is still good, the design is still good, and even the songs are catchy. I just think more could be done with Mary Poppins and the Banks children.

I'll say upfront the cast is spot on. Emily Blunt is perfect for Mary Poppins as she captures the difficult duality of Julie Andrews sweetness and stern personality. Both Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer do well in portraying adult versions of the kids and do feel evolved from the first movie. A lot of the side characters are fine (especially a cameo from Dick Van Dyke who does an impressive dance sequence. The only one who didn't do as well were the actors playing Michael's kids. I don't blame them for that, but the writing doesn't make them that memorable.

If the cast is all set, then why couldn't the script have taken more risks? I don't know if Mary Poppins Returns is close to the book sequels, but I'd hope that the books show how versatile these characters are. It doesn't help that while the original Mary Poppins felt like a magical slice of life, this tries to raise the stakes by having a villain and a chase scene. If your going to do that, then make sure it fits the spirit of the story. I can't give away why it doesn't work, but it does make me ask, "Why doesn't Mary Poppins just fly over to the bank to help the family?"

I'll give the five spoonful's of sugar out of ten. I can't go as far to say that this is a bad movie, but it's certainly not practically perfect. It's a movie that feels more like a remake then a sequel. If your looking for a movie like this that is just hitting the beats of the original with some good songs, you'll probably like this. My expectations for Mary Poppins is high because the original movie took itself more seriously then people remember. It's a mixed bag of sugar that goes down, but only in small doses.
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The Mule (2018)
The Mule is like a truck ride: slow and smooth, but is still enjoyable along with Clint Eastwood
30 December 2018
If you've ever seen movies like Midnight Run or a TV show like Locked Up Abroad, then it should be simple to understand that being a drug mule is extremely dangerous. It may be tempting to potentially acquire thousands of dollars for a simple run of a delivery. Along with the fact that the law is being broken, the danger is enough that your working for gun touting people that are too unpredictable to know how their going to react. This is why they tend to only look for people who have nothing to lose or those that are simply naïve to understand the consequences of what their getting into.

So why use a senior citizen for the job? Because it's much more unlikely to happen. But it can; and it did. The New York Times published an article I haven't read about a Korean War veteran who became a drug mule in his eighties. That is already an entertaining story, as you don't hear someone that old doing much, let alone something dangerous. Not to mention to be contempt with your position is another factor. This is a rare instance in which someone was both naïve and had nothing left to lose. Who better to tell this story then Clint Eastwood in The Mule.

Earl Stone (played by Clint Eastwood) was once a famous horticulturist who may have been popular with his flowers and speaking circuits, but had cost him his relationship with his wife Mary (played by Dianne Wiest) and daughter Iris (Played by Alison Eastwood). Now at ninety, he's fallen on hard times, due to his flower business getting killed by the internet. He's still estranged from his family (with the exception of his adult granddaughter) and his house is about to be foreclosed on.

While visiting his granddaughter, he's approached by a guy who tells him about a job where you just drive. Earl accepts and makes his way to El Paso to pick up the package. Though the people he works with give him instructions on what to do, he makes the trip fine, along with a couple of thousand dollars. It doesn't take long to realize what he's transporting (drugs), but decides to keep doing it to try and fix everything broken. At the same time, a new DEA agent Colin (played by Bradley Cooper) is investigating a variety of drug cartels, including the one that Earl Stone is a mule for.

I'm glad to see that Eastwood still has a lot of energy in his late life, as he's not only directing well, but also acting well in The Mule. As you may have read from the story summary, this isn't as deep or thick as his earlier work like Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby, but it's also supposed to be that way. The Mule is made as exactly as this story should be; a smooth, almost lazy trip through an urban myth that seems too good to be true. Eastwood has a talent for taking these kinds of stories and making them large without doing so.

Like a lot of Eastwood movies, I can't say this has a plot exactly. It's more of a darker slice of life and how their played out. He understands that while could appear boring for some people, it's a better way to establish personality and humanity. Everyone goes through their arcs, even some of the cartel guys, but I won't give that away. They each fulfill an emptiness within Eastwood's character.

Because this is a character reliant story, it was important for each one to be as interesting as possible. That is definitely the case as Eastwood is still the likable grump we know, Bradley Cooper does well trying to portray the justice he's trying to serve, and the extended family does fine in their moments whether it's the ex wife trying to find reasons to hate her husband or the daughter feeling the years of hurt from what happened.

Not all character actions work completely, especially for Eastwood's character. Even if he was that naïve, you would have thought it would take less time for him to realize that he was carrying drugs. Other then that, I don't have much issue.

I'll give this seven old trucks out of ten. I can understand a lot having issue with the slow pace, but it needs to be understood that's how a lot of Eastwood movies are. I think this won't have trouble finding an audience. Go see it and witness how this drive is quite enjoyable.
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Aquaman (2018)
Aquaman does not blow the man down. It's a visual spectacle and an entertaining superhero story.
30 December 2018
I've said before that the difference between Marvel and D.C. is that Marvel is humans becoming gods and D.C. is gods becoming humans. If there was a character from D.C. that embodies this type (at least on Earth), that would be Aquaman. Not only is he the king of Atlantis, but like a lot of people within the D.C. universe, he already has god-like powers. His story seems more classical then Superman or Batman; one in which he may have grown up amongst humans only to find that his connection to the sea makes him a king. Tell me this doesn't sound like something that fits along with Homer's Odyssey.

Aquaman had already been featured in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, but he had never gotten his own movie. Come to think of it, he's a character that hasn't been seen within a live action. Given how expansive the comic books have shown Atlantis and the majority of his powers, I can't imagine how this guy would have been portrayed without computer effects. It almost seemed that the D.C. universe was doomed after the negative reception to Justice League. Let's see how things have improved in the standalone movie Aquaman.

As shown through a flashback, a lighthouse keeper Thomas finds the queen of Atlantis, Atlanna (played by Nicole Kidman) washed up on shore. The two fall in love and have a child, Arthur. When Atlantis comes looking for them, Atlanna returns to the sea, leaving Thomos to care for his son. Cut to years later when Arthur (played by Jason Mamoa) has gained reputation as an "Aquaman" who stops pirates on the high seas. After coming home one day, he's approached by Mera (played by Amber Heard) who asks that he return to Atlantis to dethrone his stepbrother Orm (played by Patrick Wilson) who is ruthless and wants to become Ocean Master of all kingdoms. Arthur declines, but agrees to accompany her to find his mother's trident.

From here, Arthur and Mera return to Atlantis, meeting with his old teacher and a confidant of Orm, Nuidis (played by William Dafoe). While getting information, their ambushed and Orm attempts to fight him, but they escape. Traveling to the Sahara and Sicily, they figure out where the trident is, but the battle rages on as Orm wants to declare war on the surface world and Arthur has to fulfill his destiny as the Aquaman to stop his brother from becoming Ocean Master.

For the most part, Aquaman is the movie that Warner Brothers had needed to make in order to compete with Disney's Marvel brand. Is it a perfect comic book movie? No, but it was a lot more entertaining then I expected it to be. Director James Wan (The Conjuring, Fast 7) seems to have thrown out the brooding darkness from the previous movies and embraced the more fantasy elements of the DC universe. Aquaman is not a bad movie to do that with, given that the majority of the story is set underwater and the kingdom of Atlantis.

Environment is one thing, but it's all for nothing if the characters aren't interesting. The good news is that Jason Mamoa is not only charismatic, but he's also a welcome change to the typical, all American or strong women we see. He's more like the former jock from high school whose at least nice and willing to make a friend. Mamoa not only fits in well with his position as the son of a lighthouse keeper, but has a noble pose, giving him more of a royalty ambiance then I felt with Chadwick Boseman from Black Panther.

His journey is also interesting, as the goal is not only simple, but is genuinely fun. When we see him in Sicaly fighting high-tech pirates, im invested. When he's in Atlantis talking to his brother, I want to see where things so. When Arthur has to fight, I'm curious to see how the movie will incorporate the various elements of the ocean. Most of it is played out well, though if I had a problem, its that the movie is a tad too long. Without giving anything away, there's a second villain they could have cut, as the story is mainly setting him up for a sequel. Not to mention there are exposition bits of dialogue that could have been shortened.

I'll give this eight Aquaman comics out of ten. It's crazy to think that while Superman and Batman were not done well, its Wonder Woman and this that are the better movies within Warner Brothers. This is likely to help those who've been dissatisfied with the previous DC movies. All I can say is that Aquaman does not blow the man down. Go check it out.
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Even with a large story and five different Spider people, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining movie with a story and look that's all it's own
17 December 2018
We've got Peter Parker. We've got web-shooters. We've got a group of villains called "The Sinister Six". Yep, we've got a Spider-Man movie again. It used to be we would go several years between the further adventures of New York's web slinger. Now were going months. In fact, Spider-Man had a big part of the MCU epic Avengers: Infinity War back in May. So what's going on in December that requires an additional movie? You'd be surprised by how vast the comic world is that does justify another movie.

Like how many people have played a particular superhero, many people have played Spider-Man aside from Peter Parker. One popular addition is of another New York kid named Miles Morales. He garnered phrased for being the first half African-American, half Puerto Rican character to play a superhero. He was also noted for taking Spider-Man back to a youthful demeanor as Peter Parker in the story was getting a little old. But it doesn't stop there. There's also Spider-Woman, Silk, Spider-Noir, and even an anthropomorphic pig called Spider-Ham who operates on cartoon logic. While we don't exactly get all of them, we do get a bunch of them, along with an origin story for Miles in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Young teenager Miles Morales (played by Shameik Moore) is adjusting to a new life at a prestigious boarding school academy, at the insistence of his cop father Jefferson (played by Brian Tyree Henry) who wants a better life for his son. Miles wants to impress his parents, but finds comfort in his more free spirited uncle Aaron (played by Mahershala Ali). One night, while the two of them do some graffiti art in a hidden area of the subway, not only does Miles get bitten by a spider, but also witnesses a battle and death of the popular Peter Parker Spider-Man while spotting Kingpin (played by Live Schreiber) working on a large machine that takes affect.

Like Peter Parker's story, Miles starts to notice changes like sticking to walls and spider senses. He visits Peter's grave to think about what to do next. Its here where an older Peter Parker (Played by Jake Johnson) meets him and asks for help to help him return to his own dimension. While uncovering plans from Kingpin to open several dimensions, Miles also comes across Spider-Gwen (Played by Haile Steinfeld), Spider-Noir (Played by Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (played by Kimiko Glenn) and her robot, and Spider-Ham (played by John Mulaney) who all help figure everything out.

As you can see, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse juggles a lot and almost makes the mistake of cramming too much for one movie. Amazingly, the script not only keeps every character listed above in check, but also makes it a great story for young Miles Morales. If your worried that this is another origin story, this is one that puts a lot of focus of Miles and his relationship with his father and uncle. I can't disclose why, but it really creates new pressure that Peter Parker never had to face.

In terms of the rest of the characters, I really like this side to Peter Parker that we had yet to get from the other adaptations; a Spider MAN. A man whose gone through so much and had his heart broken several times, that he's more of a broken hero that needs fixing himself. His story balanced out well with Miles. He also gets a good scene involving the aunt May of this universe, almost like seeing a living ghost that was very sweet. While I don't want to give too much away, each Spider person gets their own arc as they navigate their way through Mile's world.

Let's talk about the animation, which looks great. Rather then going for a Pixar/DreamWorks look, this Spider-Man story has a comic book-look that takes advantage of that fact, along with that it's also animated. Unlike a lot of live action movies where use of computers can occasionally be distracting if not done well, it all blends well, especially with the action sequences. The angles remind me of the comic pages I still turn, given the use of color and word bubbles, that never become annoying, and are used accordingly to amplify the drama and comedy. This is a movie with the rare distinction where it's all it's own.

I'll give this ten Spider-Man comics out of ten. This was a fun and different Spider-Man movie that we needed, even more then Spider-Man: Homecoming. It could come off as too weird for some, but given the story's focus is still on this kid's growth as a hero and a teenager, it never felt overwhelming. It was an odd example of everything accidently fitting into piece. This is an absolute recommendation. Swing in and go see it.
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