Category Archives: Movie Review

  • 0

Movie Review – Heat

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michael Mann

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer

Year: 1995

I’ve always respected Michael Mann because he directed The Last of the Mohicans, one of my all-time favorites, and I can still see his name on the screen when I picture watching the VHS one of a dozen times in the 90s, and a dozen more on DVD in the years that followed.  He’ll always have my thanks for bringing us something so special, and for casting Daniel Day-Lewis, who would obviously continue on his path to becoming perhaps the greatest actor we have ever seen.  But other than that amazing film, Mann’s other projects, and there aren’t really that many, have basically been disappointments.  This is his filmography: The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, Ali, Collateral, Miami Vice, Public Enemies, Blackhat.  That’s it, that’s all, except for a few early, amateur movies, and that’s not much to be proud of.  A few are thought of as good, but I’m here to tell you that they aren’t, including Heat, a classic crime flick that has not held up over the years at all, becoming just another bad example.

Neil McCauley and his crew are professional thieves who are good at their job, although each man has spent his fair share of time behind bars.  That petty stuff is behind them though, now they aim for the big scores, and they pull in millions instead of chump change.  Their latest job was an armored car robbery, which took precision and planning, but that’s Neil’s strong suit.  His team has their own skills and they get the job done, but they also attract too much attention and make too many enemies along the way.  Now other criminals are on their tail, and the cops have some clues that will might eventually lead them to taking down the gang before they can make their getaway.  Vincent Hanna gets the case when a couple security guards wind up dead, and he makes a living out of chaining up the big dogs, so Neil better beware.  The two will face off in an epic showdown of strength and wits, as the line between good & evil blurs and every man must fight for his own survival.

If it wasn’t for the cast, and the 90s time period that allowed such overacting and poorly written scripts, I think Heat would have already been forgotten.  But the cast really is crazy, it’s name power can’t be denied: Pacino, De Niro, Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Hank Azaria, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc, Jeremy Piven.  Who isn’t in this movie, yeesh, and they all do fine, but the script and the time period definitely weren’t in their favor.  The 90s was silly, it was a dramatic time, people were obsessed with death and sex and meaning, so the film reflects that, it just doesn’t translate well now.  The dialogue is awful, the heists aren’t that exciting, Val Kilmer’s hair is a distraction, and I simply don’t understand why this is a classic, other than that it must have made an impression in 1995 when it was released.  It wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, has become a cult hit since, but I simply think it’s another example of Mann’s poor style and lack of imagination.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


  • 0

Movie Review – The Lego Movie 2

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mike Mitchell

Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett

Year: 2019

The second Lego movie has a different director than the first, which is incredibly important and painfully obvious.  Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are complete lovable idiots, and their stuff is ultimately enjoyable, if ridiculously over the top.  Their humor works perfectly in a kids movie because they are boys who never grew up, and yes that gets tiresome after a while, but in small doses that can mean a ton of fun.  They wrote the screenplay for this film, but they passed the director’s chair over to Mike Mitchell, the guy who brought us Deuce Bigalow, Sky High, Shrek Forever After, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water, and Trolls.  After reading that list, is anyone surprised that he ruined what was shaping up to be a solid children’s franchise?  Lord & Miller have done their fair share of ludicrous, but they didn’t go full Deuce Bigalow, which is a place I don’t think you make it back from unchanged.

Emmet and his crew may have saved Brisksburg from the Cragle, and a father & son may have learned wonderful lessons together, but that doesn’t mean the end of The Lego Movie was exactly happy.  The perfect world in the basement was opened up to new ideas, which was great, but it was also opened up to The Sister, and that might mean a little more radical change than anyone is ready for.  Lego Duplo invades and begins attacking anything that looks remotely cute, leaving a wasteland where once everything was awesome.  Five years later, Emmet and his friends live in a post-apocalyptic desert where nothing is any fun, and it gets worse when a space invader comes and takes away the people who our hero loves most.  A battle will ensue for the fate of the universe, with an Ourmomageddon waiting on the horizon to stop the fun once and for all, which no one wants, but everyone might be powerless to stop.

What a disaster, and I don’t mean any of the hundred times the characters crashed, fell, or failed; well, no, those too.  But the real failure was on the part of the director, who let the animated personas run loose across an endless landscape, and while that might sound fun to the child within you, it won’t be quite as enjoyable to the adult watching.  It was literally a brother and sister playing imaginary games with Legos for two hours, but instead of being able to walk out the door or even look at your phone you had to stare at every storyline they produced from their teeming minds and pretend it was the best thing ever.  I don’t know about you, and I love my kids, but I’m glad I don’t have to enter their weird worlds as much as I used to, because only they understand them and only they find them funny.

This story was just that; an unfunny mess of ideas and action that could only have been cool to the people who thought it up.  Lord & Miller have a great sense of youth and exuberance, and that’s great, but someone was needed to be the grownup in the room and control the game, and Mitchell was powerless to stop the madness.  So every plot you could throw in was included, no expenses spared, and the result was utter chaos.  The musical numbers, which were unexpected and unneeded, only added to the muddiness of the story, creating a whole different genre of film that I’m not sure needs to exist.  There were too many characters, too many scenes, not enough cohesion, and my god was Tiffany Haddish awful as the villain; aren’t her 15 minutes up yet?  The credits were by far the best part of the movie, one because they were genius but two because it was finally over, this wild romp of childish excitement that needed to be guided, like the first in the franchise, down a path that made at least a little sense.  My kids had a good time, that’s something, their opinion matters here, but I wish I could have had fun too, which wasn’t possible given how much of my taste level I would have had to abandon.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


  • 0

Movie Review – Free Solo

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jimmy Chin

Starring: Alex Honnold

Year: 2018

I may not have understood just how packed the Best Documentary category at this year’s Academy Awards really is.  When both Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers were left off the nominations, I was shocked, and assumed that no other films could match their quality.  Admittedly, I haven’t seen a ton of documentaries this year, that’s not really my genre, but I was pretty sure that nothing could top Mr. Rogers.  And I’m not sure anything else has, it’s still my favorite documentary of the year, but Free Solo comes in at a close second.  It is nominated, it more than deserves it, and it stunned me with the scope of its story and the breadth of its lens.  You won’t spend a more adventurous evening this year than what you will experience sitting watching Free Solo, a transportative force if ever there was one.

Climber Alex Honnold has scaled the sheerest faces and tackled the toughest ledges; it’s been his passion since he was a boy and no one is better at gripping the edge between danger and excitement than he is.  His next adventure will be climbing El Cap, the famous rock in Yosemite that attracts thrill-seekers from all over the world each year.  But he doesn’t want to climb it like everyone else does, with a rope and harness, he’s done that countless times.  No, Alex wants to try something a bit more daring; scaling the wall with his bare hands.  Free solo climbers are adrenaline junkies and, some say, perhaps out of their minds, but none have ever reached the top of El Cap; it basically can’t be done.  But Alex refuses to walk away without conquering the fear that rises when facing something so daunting, and either he’ll go down in the record books or die trying.

Don’t watch this movie if you’re afraid of heights, because we go up right alongside Alex on his many climbs, as he tries to find the right path toward his destiny.  This is all real, this is really as dangerous as it looks, and at any moment Alex could fall 3000 feet to his death, because he’s only holding on with the tips of his fingers and the nubs of his shoes, that’s all that keeps him from tumbling to the ground far below.  I was worried at the beginning that I wouldn’t be able to understand the enormity of the situation, that it would just look like climbing to me, that I wouldn’t get how wild this was.  But wow did I get it, and man was I impressed.  Alex is a weird dude, some viewers are put off by that, but once you see past the surface level you understand his personality and its problems a bit more, you start to grasp what’s “wrong with him” and why he’d do something so insane.  It’s heart-pounding watching him work, and there’s enough of a human element to connect with that you truly get hooked, completely separate from the death-defying sport.  This documentary was painstakingly made and it shows, so hats off to all involved, and a standing ovation to Alex, the human spider who refused to back down from the world’s most difficult challenge.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • 0

Movie Review – The Mercy

Category : Movie Review

Director: James Marsh

Starring: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis

Year: 2018

The Mercy sailed completely under the Oscar radar this season, despite being released in the US in November and starring as stellar a British trio as you are likely to find.  I speculated, after seeing the trailer, that there must be a reason the studio wasn’t drumming up support for this flick, since it so obviously had AWARDS written all over it.  It seemed like they must have known something we ourselves didn’t, since the true story looked interesting, the cast was more than talented enough to support it, and the stars should have aligned quite nicely.  Well, now that I’ve watched it I’m of two minds: part of me says the studio guessed us right, this isn’t a movie we’re gonna rave about, but the other part wishes there was no such thing as Oscar Buzz, because The Mercy would have done just fine on its own, it’s an absolutely fine film, had it not been for the make-or-break level of pressure we put on any potential candidates come this time of year.

This is the real (or at least as real as we can know) account of the plight of Donald Crowhurst, the man who lied to England.  Don was an amateur sailor and a failed businessman, with a lovely family and a lot of debt waiting for him at home each time he put back into port.  In 1968, when the Sunday Times announced a prize for the first man to circumnavigate the globe my himself in a sailing vessel without stopping, AND a prize for the man who could do it the fastest, Donald sent in his application.  He built a boat using other men’s money, mortgaged his home and business, hired a PR specialist, and determined to make himself famous as the amateur who beat the professionals, the small town guy who faced the dangers of the southern oceans and came home a hero.  But his doomed voyage went nothing like he had dreamed, running into catastrophe very quickly, and forcing Don to turn back.  However, since failure wasn’t an option and going on was too dangerous, misleading all who awaited him at home seemed the best option.  And so began a madman’s attempt at fooling a nation, an escapade that was sure to end horribly.

This is a fairly remarkable story, one both sad and ridiculous, how a man with so much on the line could be driven to fabricate a tale he had no hope of supporting once he returned to the world he left behind.  And there’s a lot left in the air, a lot left unanswered; we may never completely know the hows and the whys, which makes this movie even more interesting.  It’s a cool idea, it goes by quickly, I was never bored, and when compared to something like Adrift is starts to look even better.  What else could you imagine, with a cast as strong as this one to see the plot to its ending?  Firth was great, Weisz was almost too good and beautiful and perfect to fill the wife-left-at-home role, and Thewlis is basically a global treasure.  But still, I do see why the film isn’t winning any awards.  It’s fine but not dazzling, nice but not too memorable, and the studio probably, and very quickly, understood this and so stopped trying to push it toward any sort of awards goals.  That’s also frustrating though, because, had the Oscars not been a consideration at all, we might have watched The Mercy one random evening at home in our living rooms and thought ourselves lucky to have watched a simple, steady, well-acted, true-life drama of this caliber.  That’s not where we are, I understand, these actors are capable of better, but I am still a bit annoyed that any film that we deem award-possible is cast aside if it doesn’t live up to those expectations.  Clear your mind of all that, watch without asking too much from it, and this movie will please; it definitely has that much to offer.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • 0

Movie Review – Jumanji

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jo Johnston

Starring: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce

Year: 1995

Twenty-two years before the Rock & Co. teamed up to bring us the surprisingly entertaining Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the original Jumanji rocked our worlds with a board game that came to life in our living rooms and cemented itself as a quintessential 90s icon that would never be forgotten.  The newer model ought just be called Welcome to the Jungle, because it resembles Jumanji only fleetingly, and goes down a very different, yet still enjoyable, path.  There’s nothing quite like the one that started it all, with its wild animals and its family fun, made all the more memorable by the passing of Robin Williams, who I made sure to point out to my kids and say “remember that man, he was special.”  He made this movie special as well, a childhood favorite that still holds up, even after all these years and all this growing older.

Alan Parrish, a rich kids whose parents didn’t have time for him and who didn’t have the courage to stand up for himself, accidentally discovers a board game boxed up and buried in the earth.  It calls to him with a drumming sound, and he is powerless to stop the urge to play.  He and a friend, a girl named Sarah, roll the dice and begin a game of Jumanji, not knowing that it will suck Alan into a jungle world and trap him there until a decisive winner is declared.  Twenty-six years later the game is rediscovered, this time by brother and sister pair Judy & Peter, who have just moved into town.  They play the game, release Alan from his lonely imprisonment, but now have to end the game themselves, before all the creatures and dangers that have emerged destroy the town and their very lives.

Joe Johnston hasn’t always directed the best movies, but his filmography is pretty impressive, even accounting for the duds.  Honey I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, The Pagemaster, Jumanji, October Sky, Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo, The Wolfman, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and soon The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair; that’s a pretty lengthy career, and not too shabby.  Those first four were a big part of my growing up, as was Robin Williams, who we all miss dearly, and I’m glad I can still watch Jumanji any time I want to be taken back.  It’s that sort of time capsule film, but it has aged well, and was as fun for me to watch again as it was for my kids to see for the first time.  The cast in this movie is pretty great: Williams, Dunst, Bonnie Hunt who isn’t great but has an iconic voice, David Alan Grier who steals the show, Jonathan Hyde, Bebe Neuwirth, Patricia Clarkson.  Add in some special effects, which were pretty cool at the time, and a fast-paced plot, which keeps the characters on their toes, and you’ve got a family film that can surely survive another few decades unscathed.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • 0

Movie Review – Velvet Buzzsaw

Category : Movie Review

Director: Dan Gilroy

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Zawe Ashton, Rene Russo

Year: 2019

Dan Gilroy is trending in the wrong direction after the third film of his directorial career.  Nightcrawler was dark and and strange and interesting, Roman J. Israel was unfocused other than its lead performance, Velvet Buzzsaw is all of those things but also miscast, misled, and mismanaged to the point of ridicule.  Gilroy has been blessed with some real talent in his films, enough to cover his lack thereof, but the paint is starting to rub off and we can see the rust underneath.  He’s also a writer, but not a very good one, except for The Fall, which I thought was excellent; the rest of his scripts are amateur at best.  I don’t mean to pick on someone I’ve never met and who can’t defend themselves because why would they ever read this, I simply can’t lay the majority of the blame anywhere else than at the director’s feet, and I can’t recommend watching any more of his movies.

In the vibrant art scene of L.A., careers are created and destroyed at the hand of Morf Vandewait, the city’s premier critic and harshest judge.  He says what’s good, collectors hang on his every word, and if he doesn’t like you you’re toast, don’t let the gallery door hit your installation on the way out.  Morf has plenty of enemies who wish he’d vanish and friends who know which side to be on, so he’s never without an angry artist, a lover, or a party invitation; such is the life.  But his real breakthrough, the art that will make his career and his book deals and his legacy come to life, comes when he least expects it.  A friend named Josephina stumbles upon the body of a dead man, who apparently was quite the artist, and she saves his work, which was destined for a trash bin.  And his work just happens to be amazing, sets the entire community ablaze, with Morf and his colleagues at the center of a bidding war for the pieces.  The catch is that anyone who gets too greedy for their favorite painting ends up dead at the hands of the oil and canvas they can’t stop staring at, this spirit of evil stalking the L.A. art world catching whatever prey falls into its net.

Straight to Netflix and billed as a unique take on the horror genre, Velvet Buzzsaw turns out to be anything but.  What at first seems like ingenuity quickly turns into recycling, as every movie you’ve ever even thought of seeing takes the stage under the guise of new wave frights.  It’s like Stephen King wrote a good short story 30 years ago, threw it out, Dan Gilroy found it, and somehow convinced Jake Gyllenhaal to star in its adaptation.  There’s no originality here, not from a movie about paintings that kill people one by one; to whom, exactly, did that sound like a good idea?  And then there’s the cast, which would take me hours to pick through and to describe to you everything that’s wrong with each of them and why they were all the exact wrong choice.  Gyllenhaal was fine; that seems to be Golroy’s saving grace, that he always has a stellar lead actor to lean on.  But everyone else; god.  Ashton was laughably bad, Russo was simply as bad as she’s always been in every film she’s ever been in, Toni Collette was silly, John Malkovich was unnecessary, Billy Magnussen was throwaway, and all Natalie Dyer did was look scared and scream.  A mix of pretentious ideas and obvious morals that mixed together to create something that no one should want to see, Velvet Buzzsaw is both a disappointment and a last nail in the coffin.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


  • 0

Movie Review – Pretty in Pink

Category : Movie Review

Director: Howard Deutch

Starring: Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer

Year: 1986

The shocking thing about Pretty in Pink is how much worse it is than Ferris Bueller.  They came out the same year, were written by John Hughes, and both feature a character who literally dresses the exact same.  They capture the 80s perfectly, teen angst in a way that very few films since have been able to accomplish, and have gone down in cinematic history as icons of the genre.  But one is far superior to the other, and it’s not even up for debate.  The problem is that John Hughes is a genius, but he didn’t direct Pretty in Pink, he directed Ferris Bueller instead, and that’s the film that got the magic.  The other just got nostalgia, but without a sense of purpose or the talent to back it up, resulting in a boring walk down memory lane that won’t end as happily as you had dreamed.

As Andie approaches her senior prom, she looks back on all she didn’t do in high school and regrets that she never made any move big enough to remember, never said what she wanted to say, never made the mark she was destined to make.  She spent most of her time helping her dad stay on his feet after her mom left, and the rest pestered by Duckie, a childhood friend who has loved her forever but who she simply doesn’t see that way.  But Andie’s got a spark, people see it; the rich, beautiful girls are jealous of whatever it is and some of the popular boys take notice too, though covertly.  Andie’s entire existence has been covert, until now, when Blane finally works up the nerve to cross the tracks and make his feelings known.  But it might be too late, and young love might not be powerful enough to break down the class divides that have always stood between us and won’t come crashing down without a fight.

What’s so sad, looking back, is that John Hughes only directed 8 movies; that’s it, that’s all we get, and that’s just not enough.  Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller, Planes Trains & Automobiles, She’s Having a Baby, Uncle Buck, Curly Sue; legends, pure legends.  And of course he wrote even more: National Lampoon’s Vacation, Mr. Mom, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, The Great Outdoors, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Dutch, Beethoven, Miracle of 34th Street, and some others that are mostly silly and often sequels.  Point is, Hughes was the master, but it took skill to take his stories and turn them into masterpieces, and not everyone was up to the challenge.  Deutch is the director of relatively bad movies and TV, and shouldn’t have been given this responsibility.  The story turned boring, dated, cliched, and not something audiences can particularly root for; I’m honestly not really sure why it’s a classic at all, despite Hughes’ talent and Ringwald’s era charm.  The cast impressed me the most: Ringwald was such an It Girl, McCarthy an It Boy, Cryer would go on to do Two and a Half Men *vomit*, Harry Dean Stanton, Annie Potts, James Spader, Andrew Dice Clay, Gina Gershon, Dweezil Zappa.  But that wasn’t enough to win me over, and the next time I go back to 80s cinema for some fun, I’ll be watching something else.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


  • 0

Movie Review – Maps to the Stars

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Cronenberg

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, Evan Bird

Year: 2014

I think David Cronenberg is a bit too weird for me.  I wouldn’t label myself as someone who is bothered by weird; after all, I think Yorgos Lanthimos is brilliant, and my favorite director is Wes Anderson, who is definitely odd.  But Cronenberg’s style is out there, and the way he has his actors deliver their lines has always rubbed me the wrong way.  The Dead  Zone, The Fly, Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis, and Maps to the Stars, his last film.  All weird, some better than others, and now the 75-year-old has slowed down, so we’ll see where he goes from here.  This film is bonkers, not in a good way, and not fantastically like some of his others, but still bizarre, and it sat badly with me from start to finish.

Hollywood makes very little sense, and the people who make it a tourist destination make even less.  One family, the Weiss clan, is more screwed up than the rest; Benjie was a child star but has since gone through rehab, his mother is his manager, his father is a life guru of some kind, and his sister burned down the house during a psychotic episode years ago and has since lived in Florida.  Well she’s back to “reconcile” with the family, she’s dating a limo driver named Jerome, and working for an actress named Havana, who keeps having visions of her actress mother who died in a fire.  All their stories are interlinked and running amok, as they travel down the paths of fame and fortune toward some unattainable goal.

Again, I don’t usually mind weird, but wow, Maps to the Stars lost my interest and my focus very early on and never gained it back.  It isn’t worth picking apart and searching for metaphors, it’s just such a mess of narratives and characters and meanings, until nothing makes sense and it’s too hard to even look at.  The story is strange enough, the interactions more so, but the casting might be where Cronenberg went the most off course.  Wasikowska, Moore, Bird, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon; why, why, and why again, when many of them had to hide their natural accents and none of them fit in well with the rest.  I don’t know what the director was thinking when he created the film, nor what the writer was going for when he put pen to paper; Bruce Wagner isn’t exactly  respected a screenwriter.  There is no one I would recommend this movie to, not a single person I can think of who would enjoy anything about it; I’m really not sure why it was ever created.

My rating: ☆

 

 


  • 0

Movie Review – Watership Down

Category : Movie Review

Director: Noam Murro

Starring: James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, John Boyega

Year: 2018

I want to start by saying how huge a fan of the book I am, how amazing I think it is, how it’s probably my third favorite novel of all time (behind Ishmael and The Hobbit).  I honestly don’t know anyone who loves this story more than I do, who has read it a dozen times, who forces it upon their kids, and who quotes it like it’s gospel.  Watership Down is that big a deal to me, but although I do believe that it is untouchable, I don’t mind attempted adaptations of it, as long as they acknowledge that they will never be as awesome as the original text.  The 1978 animated version with John Hurt is pretty widely known, there was a TV show for a while in the 90s, I’ve dreamed of writing a live-action screenplay based upon the plot; there are a lot of directions you could go, and I’d support them all, as long as, again, there was an understanding that the Adams book is legendary.  Netflix and the BBC teamed up to bring us this latest crack at Watership, and the result is mixed, with some great voices and some terrible animation that combine to form an original short-run miniseries that basically no one watched.

The Sandleford Warren is in danger, but only one rabbit knows that.  In southern England, in the summer, life seems bright for all creatures, especially for the rabbits of the warren, who eat and mate and burrow and frolic, always with an awareness of the danger that stalks them all around, but also with the understand that the moment is now, that life deserves living right now, even if the span of that life is destined to be short.  A small rabbit named Fiver, who sometimes has a sixth sense, warns his brother Hazel, a natural leader, that something worse than any of them can imagine is on the horizon, that the signs men have put up on the hillside spell their doom.  So the pair gather together as many rabbits as they can to leave the warren and start anew somewhere fresh, including Bigwig the fighter, Blackberry the thinker, Dandelion the runner, and many others.  They make their way through many dangers to Watership Down, a lovely place to build a new home, but their existence is soon threatened by another, much more aggressive warren called Efrafa, a place of military order, misery, and death.

The book works so well in part because Adams creates a group of animals that is somehow natural to their species and also partly human, relatable enough to us so that we can see pieces of ourselves in them, but still part of the natural world, and so unaffected by the unnecessary frivolities and concerns of lumbering, self-destructive mankind.  This miniseries, which is four episodes and basically watches as a long movie, fails to keep humans and rabbits separate, or perhaps fails to combine them as perfectly as Adams did, and so comes across as an anthropomorphized version that goes a touch too far.  Also, and this is more physical, the animation sucks.  The backdrops are beautiful, but the rabbits look like something I might have watched on an iMac in school in 1998.  Maybe they didn’t have the money for stunning graphics and motion-capture, but I w0uld have rather seen classic, hand-drawn cells, they would have carried so much more weight and would not have been as distracting.  The cast in pretty incredible, seemingly every talented British actor available: McAvoy, Hoult, Boyega, Ben Kingsley, Tim Wilkinson, Gemma Arterton, Olivia Colman, Mackenzie Crook, Taron Egerton, Daniel Kaluuya, Rory Kinnear, Rosamund Pike.  But somehow they all seemed to be phoning in their performances, to have one foot out the door, and the entire project never coalesced into something nearly as magical as the base story would have allowed it to be.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 


  • 0

Movie Review – The Kid Who Would Be King

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joe Cornish

Starring: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris

Year: 2019

I have always been fascinated by the Arthurian legends, from The Once and Future King to Over Sea Under Stone, from Pyle’s illustrated classics to the classic film Excalibur.  And not simply from media, I’ve enjoyed these tales from a historic perspective as well, wondered at the legends, and dreamed of someday seeing them come true.  There will never be too many Arthur stories out there, or too many films using his mystique as a foundation, I for one simply can’t get enough.  The Kid Who Would Be King is a unique take on the old idea of seeing the king come again, but in the vein of a modern children’s film that adults can still watch with their families.  It’s not the greatest take we’ll see, but it sure is easy to enjoy, a smooth experience of fun and frights that starts 2019 off on a fine foot.

Alex feels alone at school, with only one friend, and alone at home as well, with only one parent.  He wishes he was special or had a special place in life, but he’s beginning to feel that the whole thing might be a hopeless exercise in popularity and power, with your role predetermined and unchanging.  He and his friend Bedders often run afoul of a pair of older kids, Lance and Kaye, who beat up Bedders and chase Alex.  On one such occasion, he hides in a construction site, finding a strange sword sticking out of a stone, but pulling it out with ease.  A new kid at school, calling himself Merton, tells Alex that he has been chosen as the hero of the age, that only he can defeat the evil Morgana, and that he will have to unite the kids, the school, and all of England in order to save the world.

This kid is Andy Serkis’ son, which seems random, but he’s been doing voice-over work recently (Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle) and has done well, so now he’s trying his chops at acting.  He’s fine, as are the rest of the cast members, but none of them stood out as spectacular, all of them sliding by on their cool accents and CGI battles scenes.  Rebecca Ferguson and Patrick Stewart stepped in to lend their credibility, but the actor who stole the most limelight was probably Angus Imrie, young Merlin, who did a great job pushing the plot along and was fairly likable throughout.  The cast worked together well as a team and played well off one another, creating a group you could root for to succeed whenever the going got hard.

The film is reminiscent of The Mummy, if not as violent, but carrying the same action-adventure flair, with skeletons and magic and chases and escapes.  Obviously this movie is directed more toward children, and my own found it to be exhilarating; watching them watch was half the fun for me.  It’s a little scary, a little exciting, a little funny, combining in many ways to be just good enough to enjoy, never too much to push the envelope and risk any chance of failure.  I guess I’m saying that they played it a little safe, but maybe that also was for the kids, so that younger audiences weren’t expected to follow the story around too many tricky bends.  The fighting was fun, the actors were enjoyable, the morals were strong; I would recommend this family film to those who liked Goosebumps and appreciate that level of intensity and quality.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆