When it comes to the Wizarding World franchise, I'd consider the 'Harry Potter' story to be where my interests lie, and I've never really felt the need for much more. That said, it didn't stop my curiosity in watching all three of the 'Fantastic Beasts' films that followed, as secondary as they are. While I enjoyed the first, I was disappointed in the second, and ended up meeting this one a little bit in the middle.
Before getting into it, however, it should be noted that I might as well have gone into this blind. While I did see the first two of these, I don't really remember any of it since my last time seeing them both was on the big screen, upon their respective releases. So there may have been some stuff that was a bit confusing throughout, but I was able to get the gist of things here, and I think it felt like it had more substance this time around as well. It's not quite the first 'Fantastic Beasts', which felt very 'Harry Potter', but it's better than 'Crimes of Grindelwald' which officially seemed to make the whole wizarding thing a bit "old" (at least for me).
In the grand scheme of a timeline, this one takes place about ten years after 'Crimes of Grindelwald', where Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen - Johnny Depp in the last movie) is moving to take control of the Wizarding World. For quite personal reasons, the great wizard Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) cannot face him alone. He then recruits our series hero, Newt Scamander to head a collective of wizards and witches, along with our favourite new Muggle, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to try to stop him from going full Voldemort (before Voldemort is a thing). There's more to it, but I wanted to keep this one a bit simple.
To give credit to the rest of the team, however, Newt's brother, Theseus (Callum Turner) joins along with charming Charms teacher, Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam) who works as a spy, and Newt's assistant, Bunty Broadacre (Victoria Yeates). Together, the collective tries to stop Grindelwald before things get out of hand, but also have to face Grindelwald's acolytes, led by Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who was understood in the last film to be the only one who could actually kill Dumbledore... and I don't really remember why. Although I'm not sure that's altogether important here.
I'm not entirely sure what all else to say about this one. Truth be told, there's a bit of me that's bored with the Wizarding World because it all seems to be about "world take-over" now, and while there's still a bit of "magic" left here, it is dwindling. The 'Harry Potter' series introduced us to so many cool concepts that go beyond cool new creatures, and there's a ton of solid character development within those pages - especially for Neville Longbottom. Here, things feel like more of the same and, I daresay, "adult" and even "political" as opposed to the original material. One could say this is the "prequel trilogy" (quite literally) of the 'Wizarding World' franchise (comparing it to 'Star Wars').
For me, the 'Harry Potter' series was just that bit more magical, charming and adventurous with great imagination packed behind every book/movie. The 'Fantastic Beasts' films feel, to me, largely like a big desperate attempt to keep the Wizarding World going for fans. But don't let me take that away from any fans either - I know this has its audience. I just so happen not to be someone these were really made for. I think I'll stick to my 'Potter'. Although one day I may give these three a marathon viewing to get the full effect that I'm probably missing at this point.
Within about the past five years, I'm pretty happy to admit that I can appreciate a good musical, so long as I enjoy the subject matter (so like any other movie, really). But it has been a little while since I've watched one on par with some of those old Disney classics; something to make me feel like a kid again, and just enjoy it for the fun time it is. I got all of that with this movie; a two-hour Christmas musical featuring an all-black cast, and directed by David E. Talbert. Talbert sticks out for me, as he also directed 'Almost Christmas', which was a recent one I thought was pretty underrated.
Things open with a kindly old woman (Phylicia Rashad - who I don't think anyone has seen since 'Cosby'), telling a bedtime story to her two children. The story tells of inventor and toymaker, Jeronicus Jangle (Justin Cornwell/Forest Whitaker) who one day gets his hands on a final component to his latest invention. Said invention is a mechanical matador doll named Don Juan Diego (Ricky Martin), brought to life with this "component". Unfortunately, this sentience also comes with a bad side, as Diego convinces Jangle's apprentice, Gustafson (Miles Barrow/Keegan-Michael Key) to steel Jangle's book of inventions. Over the years, this leads to Gustafson's ultimate success as "Toymaker of the Year" for about 28 years in a row.
Meanwhile, Jangles and Things (Jangle's shop) falls into financial ruin, his wife Joanne (Sharon Rose) passes away, and he grows apart from his daughter, Jessica (Anika Noni Rose), who moves away. Thirty years pass, as Jangle becomes a bit of a hermit, but a kindly one... like Obi-Wan! He's lost his creative spark, and Jangles and Things has turned into a pawn shop. He will lose the shop entirely, however, if he doesn't either pay whatever debts he owes, or come up with some spectacular new invention to show the bank. His savior may very well come in the form of his visiting granddaughter, Journey (Madalen Mills) who shares Jangle's passion for inventing, and is incredibly smart. Can she help her Grandfather get back on his feet, and start competing with Gustafson; a man who doesn't deserve anything he has?
For starters, let me just put it out there that this is very much a magical, whimsical adventure that will likely appeal to kids a little more than adults. If musicals, or the whole Broadway thing aren't for you, then this probably won't be. That said, it's a good way to go for something new for the kids to watch and enjoy for Christmas. The two lead kids here are great, starting with Madalen Mills. I'm just gonna go long-story-short here and say she's 100% Oscar-worthy! This girl is 11-years-old, her personality lights up the room, and she's an incredible singer. This would be her first big role, and I'm gonna go so far as to say that she AND her character are a great inspiration to growing children, and I really think and hope she gets nothing but success in the coming years; what an amazing new talent.
That said, there's a lot of great talent here. I haven't even brought up two other main characters who deserve good credit for their roles all the same. First we have Ms. Johnston (Lisa Davina Phillip) who plays a woman, smitten with Jangle, but while Jangle still misses his wife, he's pretty standoffish about it. She's a great character though, and you can tell she's having a lot of fun being a flirt. Secondly, we have Edison Latimer (Kieron L. Dyer), Jangle's young new apprentice who joins Journey in her... well, journey, to help out her grandfather. He's there to play the awkward and nerdy scaredy-cat who has to come into his own. He does a good job of it though, for this being his first and only role. Odds are, he's another one to keep an eye on - I just hope he doesn't get typecast.
This is a Netflix Original, and it seems to be further proof that Netflix Original Christmas movies are nothing to really turn your nose up at. The first 'Christmas Chroincles' is great, 'Klaus' was Oscar-worthy, and I get the feeling this might be able to at the very least get nominated next year for certain songs ('This Day' and 'Square Root of Impossible' probably being the front-runners) along with Mills' outstanding performance. I'm saying it right now, she is almost bound to get SOMETHING for her efforts here, and if she doesn't, I will hereby swear off award shows forever and make up my own awards here... the Take 5 Awards! Heck, maybe I should do that anyway. Nevertheless, only speaking for myself, I'd consider this probably the best Christmas movie I've seen yet this year. It's a big, magical, whimsical production one can lose themselves in, if only they're able to accept their inner child. I am, indeed, feeling generous with this one, as it really did make me feel like a kid again.
A couple of Christmases ago, Netflix treated families to the first 'Christmas Chronicles'. I for one enjoyed it pretty thoroughly as a great new Christmas movie for the whole family. It even rekindled some Christmas spirit for me that year with a lot of the imagination that went into it, bringing back that childlike sense of wonder I once had as a kid. Very few Christmas movies have pulled this off in recent years, so there's definitely a special place in my heart for it. But, with a title that contains the word "Chronicles", it's only a matter of time before we see sequels (and I don't believe it means to end here, either)
For the story on the original, refer to my review. This one picks up a couple of years later, where the lead kids from the first one, Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis) are on a Cancún Christmas vacation with their Mother, Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and her new partner, Bob (Tyrese Gibson). While Teddy is enjoying himself, making the most of it, Kate is distraught at the idea that Bob is trying to replace her father, who has passed on. She makes a wish to Santa (Kurt Russell) to basically help out with her situation, because she fears her Dad is just gonna get forgotten before long. It's the typical teenage angst set-up involving "Mom's new guy". Overhearing her solo conversation to Santa, however, is the elf-turned-human Belsnickel (Julian Dennison)
Belsnickel is an elf who has broken all of the rules that come with being an elf. If all of those rules are broken, the elf becomes human, and his fate is all because Santa became too busy with the children of the world, and didn't have time for him. While an upset Kate attempts to run away back to Boston, she is picked up by Belsnickel who uses her "true believer" magic to transport through a worm hole to the North Pole. Here, he'd set out for revenge on Santa by trying to ruin Christmas for kids all over the world. So, Kate goes on another Christmas adventure alongside Santa in an effort to stop Christmas from falling apart. This time, however, her tag-along is Bob's young son, Jack (Jahzir Bruno) who, through Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn) has to learn to overcome his own anxieties and such.
First, I'll just get to the personal criticisms of it all. For starters, Jack doesn't make for an altogether interesting character to me. It's got nothing to do with Bruno's performance; he's a child actor, and he's still very new on the scene. It's just that they don't do a hell of a lot with everything he apparently has. He does have to overcome is fears, and probably manages to cater to the young crowd all right, but there's almost too much of a leap to innocence with his character when Kate's counterbalance in the first one was her brother, who was a freaking car thief. That brings me to my next nitpick, in that while the first film was really good for the whole family, striking every emotion, this one seems clearly more directed at kids. You don't get a whole lot of depth with either Kate or Jack here, and the outcome of everything is super predictable from the get-go.
Things are not all lost here though. I have to admit that there was a lot about it I thought was cleverly done. It was interesting to me that Santa's Village (or Mrs. Claus' Village, just to refer to a certain running gag in here) got its power from the Bethlehem Christmas Star, which is an interesting way to combine the Christian aspects of Christmas with the fun, Santa side of things. On top of that, the elves are always a lot of fun to watch, but they are especially fun when a magic dust turns them all basically into vicious little Gremlins. Imagine one of those cute elves from the first one wielding a chainsaw and running amok. Truth be told, thought he overall plot and some character are kind of weak, the Christmas fun is still there. And I really, really enjoy Kurt Russell's Santa Claus - he's got a certain charm to him, he's super friendly, he's convincingly warm, and just fits so well.
So, all in all, this one really has nothing on the first one. I remember the first one really relighting that magical Christmas candle in my heart, leaving me with a warm, happy feeling, and empathy for the kids; especially Teddy, who wasn't even really a part of this one. This one didn't quite leave me feeling the same way. I had fun with it, and certain aspects were actually very interesting. But things seem to be aging backwards a little bit, aiming this one more at younger kids and keeping the first one aimed at whole families. It's worth checking out for a giggle or two, but I wouldn't say you're missing out on this particular sequel if you skip it this year either - the original CAN still stand on its own.
Much like with 'Onward' and 'Trolls: World Tour', 'Scoob!' was to be released in theaters for the family to enjoy on the big screen. It's another case of coming straight to streaming, and questioning whether the original theatrical price (or more) is worth paying to watch it on our small screens. That decision seems up in the air right now, as people are extremely split on this movie, and that actually includes me.
'Scoob!' starts out with a cute, fun origin story where we see how Shaggy (Iain Armitage/Will Forte) met Scooby (Frank Welker) and the rest of the mystery gang - Fred, the "tank" (Pierce Gagnon/Zac Efron); Velma, the "brains" (Ariana Greenblatt/Gina Rodriguez); and Daphne, the "people person" (Mckenna Grace/Amanda Seyfried). Together, they solve their first mystery, old school Scooby-Doo style, decide to become good friends and keep doing this sort of thing.
Fast-forward over the opening credits, and we see the gang 10 years later. They make a business deal with a certain celebrity cameo I don't really wanna spoil, but Shaggy and Scooby are excluded from the plan, as they don't have much to bring to the table. Distraught, Scooby and Shaggy go bowling, only to run into an army of small robots called Rottens who chase them right into an... "abduction beam", if you will.
This beam belongs to the Falcon Fury, where we meet the original Blue Falcon's son, Brian Crown (Mark Wahlberg), along with his trusty sidekick, Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and pilot, Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons). They reveal that the sinister Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) is after Scooby for his own selfish purposes. This all leads to an... interesting plan which adds to Scooby's overall lore, but you have to wonder if it's a bit too much. Eventually the rest of the Mystery Team also gets involved, and the film does become a collaboration of lesser-known Barbara characters.
So, I'll start with the bad. The biggest problem I had was with some of the voice acting. If you've ever been a deep fan of these Hanna Barbara toons, a couple of major mistakes really stand out. First up, Dynomutt was originally the bumbling fool while Falcon was the straight-edge hero. That said, I can reluctantly let it pass, since in this case it seemed to be going for a sort of role reversal thing, and the Falcon here is the original Falcon's son. I guess I got what they were going for, but it will be irksome to some old school fans.
The worst of it is when they come across Captain Caveman, voiced by Tracy Morgan, and everything you loved about Cap Cave is completely thrown out the window. It was just grating to me that Captain Caveman may as well have been renamed Captain Morgan, and not in a good, booze-related way. It was just Tracy Morgan wearing a Captain Caveman costume, and I kinda hated it. This is bothersome to any parents watching this with their kids, trying to find the nostalgia in all of it while it totally misses the mark.
Getting to the good, though, perhaps my favorite parts revolved around the Mystery Team. Whenever Fred, Daphne and Velma are on screen, it definitely plays a bit more with the parental humor which makes up for some of the nostalgic disappointment mentioned earlier. There were actually a few jokes and gags here that got a genuine laugh from me, but they are unfortunately met with an equal amount that fall flat. The humour is a combination of clever jokes and annoying slapstick, and it makes you wonder who they were really making this for at times.
I will say that I was actually quite impressed here and there at certain moments of prediction. There's a whole lot of "here comes a cliche" only to be surprised that they didn't follow through at the last minute. It's a relief that so much of it wasn't necessarily predictable, but with that said, these surprises are more a matter of "Oh, they didn't do it after all" as opposed to "Woah! I can't believe they did that instead!" But then they make decisions like they did at the very end, where there's a fake-out that genuinely bothered me. It's one of those endings that almost kills a film, because the lead-up is all actually pretty solid and even kinda mature.
As far as I think, unless you have some kids who are chomping at the bit, and you're paying for a generously filled house to watch it, it's just not worth it. For adults like myself, there's some good moments here and there, but the screw-ups on familiar characters are kinda glaring, and it doesn't play into your nostalgia quite like you want it to. Again, these characters weren't broken, and they didn't need fixing. At the end of the day, it just made me appreciate the old cartoons much more. If you wanna see it, but you're not in a rush, I'd just as soon wait for it to cost less.
I need to make a few things perfectly clear before getting into this particular review. For starters, I have never read the book that this is based on, so accuracy for the story's adaptation here isn't something I'd pick up on. On top of that, I haven't seen any of the previous makes of this. Starting with Charlton Heston in '72, it was also done in '76 with John Beck, and another was made for TV with Richard Dreyfuss in '97 ('The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon'). So this is reviewed here as a first-timer to this story, and thankfully, it's a generally positive review.
We start out with narration from our lead, John Thornton (Harrison Ford) as he introduces us to Buck- a big, loyal, rough and tumble dog. One day, left outside for punishment, Buck is picked up by someone looking to fetch good money for strong dogs who can be on sled teams, leading them through the Yukon in search for gold, during the Klondike Gold Rush era of the late 1890's. He's picked up by a couple of friendly mail deliverers, Perrault and Françoise (Omar Sy and Cara Dee, respectively), and soon learns the hard way about what it takes to not only pull a sled, but be on a team, especially with a bully for a pack leader named Spitz - a vicious and almost wolfish husky.
Through this whole process, Buck's character develops, and he becomes a fiercely loyal and strong character who eventually bonds with John (our narrator) while in the town, between mail deliveries. Without spoiling too much, John and Buck eventually discover that each other is exactly what they need in their lives, and the bond between them grows strong enough that the film's main adventure we see in the trailer finally does take place. It takes a while to get there, but it's not wasted time, either, as we see how both characters get to know and like one another over a steady period of time. That, and while they last, Perrault and Françoise are likable characters we can spend some time with while Buck's character develops.
Now, to be perfectly clear, I really liked this movie. It's got a great story, and it's easy to fall in love with the relationship John and Buck develop. I also found myself routing for Buck fairly often, and it took me back to being a kid, reminding me of movies like 'White Fang' (which is not a far cry from this). We see all the turmoil Buck has to go through, and while at times hard to watch, it's super easy to get on this dog's side and cheer him on. It's a good underdog story (pun intended), relating both to Buck and John, who are both very easy to empathize with.
My only real criticisms include the utter disappearance of a few characters (I won't say who, but you'll realize who they are very quickly if you watch it), and the fact that for some, the completely CG dogs might seem to lean a bit towards Disney cartoonish. Seeing this so much in the trailer, I didn't let it bug me, but I'm also not blind to the fact that there seems to be an overabundance of films recently, meant to show off what CG can do now (mainly Disney films). This was most abundant with 'The Lion King' from last year. While impressive, it's kinda gotten to the point where I feel this needs to be used to touch up older films (seriously, go revisit 'Rogue One' with this technology) and bring in new, creative material, instead of just taking an old story and remaking it just to show off what CG can do. A lot of these stories aren't broken and don't need any fixing. I still say for as beautiful as 'The Lion King' was, it has nothing on the original '94 animated film.
A lot of people seem to be coming out of this one a little underwhelmed, or disappointed in the quality of the adaptation. I haven't found anyone mad about it yet, 'cause it's still a great story with a couple of really likable characters, but people seem to wish the execution was different, and "closer to the book" (as you get with literally any movie based on a book). Personally, I have to give Ford some strong credit for acting alongside a fully CG dog, which I can't imagine he's used to (but someone else might know better). I also give the film full credit for managing to take my breath away with a lot of gorgeous scenery that helps bring you into the cold, harsh, but beautiful climate of the Yukon.
You might not have as good a time as I did if you know the story already, but for me, this was a great family adventure (albeit kind of intense at times), the likes of which I have seen before, but haven't seen in so long that I realized how much I missed this kind of adventure story. It's another fine example of bringing a nostalgia to the screen for me in a roundabout way, so while going against the grain here, I simply can't deny the good time it provided me, and how much it made me miss the dogs in my life I previously cared for. I think if you're a dog lover who's a little more unfamiliar with the story, it's a good time. But purists of the book might wanna turn to one of the previous adaptations, or even just back to the book instead.
Isn't it interesting that Hollywood can take a classic book, and kinda just keep screwing it up? The original 'Doctor Dolittle' wasn't one I particularly liked, myself, but it does have its following. Then we have the Eddie Murphy remakes that might have been fun as a kid, but are hard to go back on. And now, we have this, which may be the worst attempt yet. I mean, to be honest, I've never actually read the book, but it does seem abundantly clear that the original version is a stand-alone classic of sorts, and doesn't really need to be revisited.
Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), after losing his wife, has since kept himself hidden from the world, amongst his beloved animals, Each animal is representative of an otherwise promising voice cast, that includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, and several more. One day, he is approached by a boy named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), who implores him to help a squirrel (Craig Robinson), eventually forming a friendship with him.
When Queen Victoria falls ill, Dolittle is approached by a young girl, representing the Queen. He is asked to set sail to an untouched island, to find a cure that apparently only exists there. Taking his animals, and Tommy along for the ride they encounter old adversaries, finding himself again along the way. Meanwhile, Tommy slowly learns Dolittle's talent for talking to animals, himself.
Trust me when I say that this is much worse than I might make it out to be, potentially becoming a front-runner for worst film of 2020, according to yours truly. I know it's early, but there are several reasons to reach such a conclusion. For starters, it ends up being one of those kids movies that tries very hard to be "cool", completely ruining a period piece by saying words like "bro" to try to relate to the kids. To compare it to other movies that have tried this, 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' or 'The Smurfs' come to mind.
It seems to be something Hollywood can't quite wrap their heads around - never assume that you know what's cool for kids. The best movies for kids out there never try so hard to be culturally hip, they just tell a really good story. If you want proof, look at the 'Toy Story' trilogy, or even better yet, 'The Iron Giant', which takes place in the 50's. Unfortunately, the biggest problem is, this is about all there is for kids in theaters right now.
Beyond that, we get toilet humor out the wazoo (no pun intended), and just terribly written dialogue for these animals. I heard it said best that it's as though they let all these voice actors in, let them all adlib where they could, each with their own completely separate act, and then it all gets thrown together. The film is kinda just loud and obnoxious, and makes absolutely no sense for the fine period piece it ought to be. I'm saying this aware of what I just mentioned about Victorian Era stuff in my 'Little Women' Oscar review, but I can at least respect it for what it is.
It also has no idea who its trying to speak to. It's a silly mess that little kids could potentially have fun with, but they try a lot of adult humor here as well. The whole thing feels like too many ideas at once all coming together, and the finished project is an unfortunate mess. It's early, but this one unfortunately stands the chance of being one of the worst films of the year.
Tim Burton returns to lend his hand to Disney with his vision of 'Dumbo' - the story of a baby elephant who learns to fly with his unnaturally gigantic ears. The general moral of the story is, don't be a jerk to people with abnormalities 'cause those abnormalities could be seen as a gift. Or something like that.
Most of us are familiar with Dumbo and remember the animated Disney version from 1941, when it was still considered okay to jive-talk as a black crow named Jim Crow. Other than that moment, though, the movie's great, and has gone down in history as a sort of Disney staple. So how does this new live action take on it compare?
First off it's important to know that unlike the animated version with talking animals, this one tries to stay somewhat within the realm of reality. Timothy Q. Mouse is just a white mouse in an outfit, and most of the story revolves around two kids, Milly and Joe Farrier (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, respectively), their father, Holt (Colin Farrell) and the ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito) and their dealings with entrepreneur, V.A. Vandervere (Michael Keaton) and his most special performer, Colette Merchant (Eva Green). Dumbo, sadly kinda gets pushed to the side, and while the underlying original plot points are still there, it now lacks a lot of the heart of the original where the main focus WAS Dumbo.
However, it's not without its charm. Honestly, it's cute, it's okay for the family, and it's harmless. But all in all, it's just kinda "meh". This is another one of those movies where there's this near-perfect balance between what's good about it and what's bad about it. Good, Danny DeVito's performance, bad, Nico Parker's performance. Although she's still very young, so I'll chalk it up to bad direction, but she's absolutely stiff and deadpan and boring. Good, the creative idea they had to portray the 'Elephants on Parade' sequence, bad, the fact that Dumbo's story is off to the side.
Anyway, this is perfectly fine as something to show the kids who might get a little more freaked out by the original (I know of many). It's pretty innocent, and pretty basic. Credit to them for trying something new, but it didn't quite work out in the same way it did for something like 'The Jungle Book'. But thankfully it wasn't a carbon copy like 'Beauty and the Beast' (that's right, I said it, but don't worry, 'The Lion King' is something I'm looking forward to and it looks like I'm about to eat those words).
It's perfectly passable, but it sadly lacks the potential for what it could have been. The original story is just far more charming in my eyes, and likable characters like Timothy Q. Mouse kinda lost their chance to be in the spotlight again here. I wasn't its biggest fan, but people do seem to be split on it. I can pass it as a 3, but it's on the lower end of things for certain.
This is gonna be a bit off, as I have no reviews up for either of the previous two films. So I'll have to give away a bit of the whole story between the first two, but I'll try to keep it relatively spoiler-free (for those who care).
To make a very long story very short, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) befriends a "Night Fury" dragon, despite frequent dragon attacks on his Viking home town of Burk. He names him Toothless, and discovers that dragons aren't to be as feared as they are.
Soon, Hiccup dedicates himself, along with a team of teenage misfits consisting of Astrid (America Ferrera), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Ripple) to rescuing and housing captured and misunderstood dragons, giving them a home and protecting them from the various dangers of the human world.
On this particular outing, we discover that Toothless isn't the only Night Fury out there, after the previous films have pretty much suggested it. Upon discovering this new dragon, legends come up of a "Hidden World" where dragons of all sorts live in harmony. This could potentially provide a better home for Berkians and their now overpopulated town of dragons.
In the meantime, a dragon hunter named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is discovered to be trying to capture this new Night Fury, and he and Hiccup find themselves at odds - Hiccup now being pretty much a leader-type since his first appearance when he was deemed a bit of a wuss. So much of the film is trying to get the dragons to the Hidden World with Grimmel hot on their heels the whole time.
Granted, it's a bit of a rushed explanation for everything, but what you really need to take away from it is that it rounds the trilogy off really nicely. If you liked the first two, this one is really no exception as far as quality goes. The flying scenes look incredible, especially in in 3D, and it's our usual combination of comedy, drama and all out adventure. On top of that, I greatly appreciate the overall development of Hiccup's character through this trilogy.
The film ends on a nice note where it genuinely seems to wrap things up. However, I said the same thing about 'Toy Story 3' which makes me almost dread a 4th movie just because of the fans and easy money. I'm not opposed to 'Toy Story 4' per se, but that really was a solid trilogy that ought to have just ended, saving whatever's left over for TV specials and the like. I'm kinda hoping this just sticks to what it is and doesn't feel the need to keep on going. Hopefully the same filmmakers can get another project off the ground instead.
Anyway, this is a trilogy that I could recommend to just about anyone. It's great storytelling combined with likable characters and solid development that takes place over several years. We really do get to watch Hiccup grow up through this. Add to that the comedic aspect as well as a lot of it tugging at heartstrings, and we've got one of the more solid overall trilogies of the past decade. At least, that's my humble opinion. I know it's only the end of February, but this will get its Oscar nom for next year, I'm sure.
Much as the title suggests, 'The Second Part' actually picks up where the original 'LEGO Movie' left off. So, for those of you who haven't seen 'The LEGO Movie', spoiler alert ahead.
When we last left the fictional town of Bricksburg, it was revealed that things were pretty much all taking place in the imagination of a young boy. Bricksburg was essentially a massive Lego model, owned by his father (Will Farrell). The kid made a bunch of stuff out of the model town, using his own imagination, and the underlying message (at least what I got) was basically, don't be an uptight father, and let your kids use their imaginations when it comes to play.
When it was all said and done, the boy's sister was allowed to play with all of it as well. This introduces aliens from the planet Duplo who come to destroy Bricksburg, and the credits role. This opens up as though it's perfectly connected with he first film (Lego pun). The aliens create a post-apocalyptic Bricksburg, and our story picks up five years later (appropriately enough, as the first film was February, 2014).
We reconnect (Lego pun) with Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) and Wylstyle, now known as Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), who have since made a connection (okay, I promise that's the last one), and are pretty much a couple now. All of our favourite side characters make a return as well, including Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) and Benny the Spaceman (Charlie Day). However, fair warning, they all kinda take a back seat here - and I mean further back than they had it in the first film. Although, I will say, Unikitty makes a pretty bad ass transformation in this one.
Anyway, long plot short, Duplo aliens take over, and our heroes are approached by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) who kidnaps everyone but Emmet, bringing them to the Sistar System where Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) promises the group happiness, and plans to marry Batman in order to bring their worlds together in peace.
Meanwhile Emmet heads out on his own to rescue Lucy and the others. He stumbles across Rex Dangerfest (Chris Pratt) who is a combination of some of Pratt's most famous characters, and the two of them work together on turning Emmet into a "manly man".
If I'm honest, of the four Lego movies that exist, I'd probably put this in third place. It still has the comedic charm that the first one had, along with a few good pop culture jokes and gags. Some of the environments were kinda cool, like the idea of the "Stair Gate" that was kinda the portal to the sister's room. But on the other hand, things like the Sistar System altogether felt like a sort of rehashing of the first movie's Cloud Cuckoo Land - very upbeat, shiny, sparkly, happy, etc.
I guess a lot of it just kinda felt altogether similar to the first one, as far as the real-world aspects of the story went. The only real difference is that this time the boy is trying to fix things with his sister instead of his father. We also have that in the first one, no one really expected that real-world twist. Now, it's not a twist anymore, so the impact just isn't what it was.
Then when it comes to what's going on within the Lego universe, parts of it are great, but parts of it are just kinda lame. One thing that threw me off a little here were a few musical numbers. It's not to say musical numbers didn't exist in other Lego movies. Hell, 'Batman' had the best one, in my opinion. But something about these felt a wee bit forced.
That said, much of this was taking place in the sister's imagination, and being a little girl of about probably 6 or 7, one might imagine her to be into the Disney singalong thing. So perhaps it was done for that reason. Anyway, most of my problems with the film are just nitpicks on some of the decisions made. It didn't give me the laughs that the first one did, or 'Batman' for that matter, but it's still fun. I mean, it's a Lego movie based around the imaginations of children. It can't be taken too seriously.
If I'm honest, when I first saw the trailer for this one, I was more or less expecting a Nickelodeon-type, damn near Disney Channel-like movie. Think something along the lines of a 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' meets 'The Sword in the Stone' (the animated Disney version). But I'm actually happy to say that it ended up being more Disney's 'Sword in the Stone' combined with something like 'Moone Boy'. For those unfamiliar with 'Moone Boy', here's this.
Anyway, upon realizing that this was written and directed by Joe Cornish (writer of titles like 'Attack the Block', 'The Adventures of Tin Tin' and 'Ant-Man'), it was a fairly easy sell. And I'll be damned if I didn't actually enjoy myself quite a bit upon seeing it.
Here we meet two boys by the names of Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis [yes, Andy Serkis' son]) and Bedders (Dean Chaumoo). The two are your typical victims of bullying from Lance (Tom Tyler) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris) - and yes, it's fairly easy to see where the names are going here. One day, while on the run, Alex stumbles into a construction sight, where he finds a sword and pulls it out of its stone. This of course will eventually turn him into the "chosen-one" character.
A new, strange boy comes to the school, who we soon learn is Merlin (Angus Imrie/Patrick Stewart), who has traveled into the mortal world to help Alex with the upcoming war between mortals, and the forces of the evil sorceress, Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson). And oh yes, this means Alex has to rise to the occasion and fight off a whole bunch of demons and whatnot and... I mean, I'm not gonna lie, I thought this was the perfect new take on an epic kid's fantasy adventure.
It's by no means perfect, but just for the fun and fantasy of it all, it's really quite enjoyable. The only thing that really got to me was how some of the magic was done' involving a lot of fairly annoying finger-snapping and clapping. But that's just a nitpick on my part. It otherwise hit me just like 'This is the End' did, in that I was expecting something much more low-budget, and it shows, not the least of which in its creature effects.
It's a PG-rated movie that has the potential to scare little kids with how some of these demons and creatures look. On top of that, the action involved is actually quite fun. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be a very healthy box office draw, because as I said in the beginning, it really does strike you as a Nickelodeon/Disney Channel movie when you watch the trailer. It also doesn't help that it's sandwiched between the trilogy sequel of 'Glass' and surefire family success, 'The LEGO Movie 2', either.
So, while parts of the story admittedly lack a bit, I still got pleasantly surprised by this movie. As I said, it's not perfect, but there was definitely something enjoyable about it, and I encourage people to give it a chance. At the end of the day, it's just a fun, feel-good movie that might take you back to what it was like watching movies like 'The Goonies'.
Taking place six years after the events of the 2012 film (makes sense), we revisit the world of Litwak's Family Fun Center and Arcade. A game villain named Ralph (John C. Reilly) and a game racer named Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) have become best friends, and they live among a variety of other famous video game characters like Pac-Man and Sonic the Hedgehog, just to name a couple.
Vanellope mentions one day that she's kinda bored with the same old game routines, and wants a bit of change. Now able to freely jump between games, Ralph ends up making a secret track for Vanellope's racing game, 'Sugar Rush'. While Vanellope is fulfilled with something new and different, her actions cause the machine's steering wheel to break.
With the company that made 'Sugar Rush' now out of business, the kids of the arcade turn to eBay in an attempt to help Mr. Litwack. The wheel is found, but it's too costly, and Litwack sees no alternative but to shut down the game. This leaves the racers and other characters pretty much homeless. However, Ralph and Vanellope jump into the new Wi-Fi that the arcade was recently hooked up with, in order to visit eBay, and get the steering wheel, themselves.
Along the way, they find themselves having to turn to a deadly racing game called 'Slaughter Race' where we're introduced to newcomer, Shank (Gal Gadot), a kinda badass racer who gives Vanellope the thrill of her life, and causes her to start questioning whether she's happy enough with 'Sugar Rush'. Meanwhile, Ralph struggles with his feelings of jealousy, as he's afraid of losing her to this online game. So we have some generous development of these characters.
However, the true charm of this movie lies within the internet world itself. I'd compare it to something like 'Inside Out' in that it's completely imaginative in its execution. It's essentially one gigantic city, with skyscrapers representing various internet companies; the most massive being Google. Pop-up ads are represented as those annoying people who throw signs in your face, eBay is seen as one big auction, the list goes on.
For me, the highlight of the movie will probably surprise most, but it's honesty the scene we see in the trailers where Vanellope is mingling with the Disney princesses. This is mostly due to how incredibly self-aware Disney seems to be with these princess stereotypes, and it's even punctuated with a sort of jab at Pixar when it comes down to Merida from 'Brave'.
The film is a generous combination of heart-felt experiences between Ralph and Vanellope, plenty of Easter eggs, a great sense of humor, and in the end, even a lesson or two here or there that are quite grown-up, and commendable for their execution. I absolutely loved this movie with how clever it was with everything, and I'd even put it one step above the original. One of the best animated films of the year!
Allow me to begin with the fact that going to see this was a last-minute decision, the day I went to see it. I didn't bother re-watching the first film, and that may have been responsible for me not being able to follow this one very closely. So, I'll be fair in admitting that this review isn't gonna be up to the best of standards, but I'll do my best.
The film opens in 1927, as the notorious criminal, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), makes a pretty badass escape during a transfer between the Magical Congress of the United States of America's (MACUSA) New York prison and London, where he is to be tried for his crimes in Europe.
Meanwhile, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is trying to retain his international travelling rights that were revoked after the events of the last film, taking place in New York. After that, it's a whole big back story reunion of characters I don't know or remember, plus the return of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler)and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), among others I had since forgotten about from the last film. To be fair, the last time I saw it WAS two years ago, in theaters. But I digress.
To shorten a fairly complex intro, basically, Dumbledore (Jude Law) makes a return here, and persuades Newt to find Creedence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who, Grindelwald believes, is the only person who can kill Dumbledore - a man Grindelwald considers his equal. Meanwhile, Grindelwald is kinda goes Voldemort (but not to such a degree) in the attempt to have Wizards take things over. If Voldemort was Hitler, Grindelwald is... Magneto? Yeah, we'll go with Magneto.
Onto some criticisms, one thing I DO remember, was Jacob being "obliterated" (losing all memories of something) at the end of the last film. The excuse is that it only gets rid of bad memories, and Jacob only had good ones. The problem being, this basically means that Hermione's parents must have hated her or something, because Movie #7. To be perfectly fair, I MAY have missed a loophole, but really, it felt like a sort of cheap excuse to bring those beloved characters back. But I guess it worked well enough 'cause they are still all-around likable characters. In fact, I'll hand it to everyone's acting throughout this, because all of that magical charm is still there. It's just roughly written and often confusing (at least for me - again, I should have re-watched that first one).
To be perfectly honest, missing stuff or not missing stuff, this is probably the least favourite of mine throughout the whole Wizarding World franchise. In my defense of not seeing the first one again before going, and forgetting much of it, what about some of the newcomers out there? There won't be much of a hint of exactly what's going on if you haven't seen the first, and that's a little less forgiving here because this is a film-only franchise. The 'Harry Potter' franchise had its original books for reference, so I consider it to be a little bit of a different monster. An honest-to-God recap at the beginning probably would have been enough.
Now, to say something positive about a film from this universe (because I still dig this universe), again, the magical charm we've come to know and love is still abundant here. The familiar characters are well-portrayed, and it's probably a perfectly good treat to those who have seen and loved the first one of these a few times since its release. As a 'Harry Potter' fan, I appreciated a lot of it, but as a movie fan, it felt like a bit of a mess when it was all said and done. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it.
If you're anything like me, you might suffer from those winter blues. The sun is always down, it's cold, it's quiet, this season can just feel so lonely. So, may I recommend, very highly, going to watch 'Paddington 2' (er, after watching 'Paddington' first, of course). It'll cure what ails you.
I was lead down this road by paying attention to how things are doing in theaters right now. 'Paddington 2' seemed unusually highly rated to me, with a very solid 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, an 88 Metascore, an 8.1/100 on IMDb, and 3 BAFTA nominations. This is like, a Pixar-level family film. Personally, I never paid much attention to Paddington Bear growing up, but I wasn't at all unfamiliar either. I kinda got that he was a Curious George type of character who just got into mischief once in a while and had to learn some sort of lesson, as per average children's story. But the interesting thing about these movies is that they speak to the adult viewer's youthful and fun side just as much as it speaks to the children watching.
Following up a couple of years after the first film, the plot here involves Paddington (Ben Whishaw) trying to get his paws on a popup book to give to his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) as a thank you for bringing him to London to live with the Browns. However, the popup book is a very special antique, and worth a pretty penny, so Paddington decides to get himself a job to save up for it.
Meanwhile, a master of disguise named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) is also chasing after this book, as it holds some sort of special secret. In a mixup, Paddington is soon framed and arrested, and much of the film is him in jail while the Brown's try to clear his good name. However, I make that sound worse than it really is, 'cause... well, just imagine the most innocent and polite bear possible being surrounded by hardened criminals in a kid's movie.
If you are looking for anything that isn't 'Star Wars' to bring the family to, I can honestly highly recommend this one. It's often bright and colorful, it's hilarious at times (no, really, a few genuine "lol's" were had), it's innocent, and it's sweet. Much like the first movie in mood and style, but perhaps a little less harsh and a little more fun family adventure.
So far, I would have to say that it's the feel-good movie of the year, despite it only being mid-January. We'll see what else comes out to outdo it, but this might end up being the best family outing you have this winter. If nothing else, as mentioned before, it'll chase those winter blues away, and bring some warmth to your heart. You just can't help but love this little bear. Kids movie or not, it worked very well on me, and I've grown fond of both of these titles.
For the third film of the LEGO movie series, the attention is now focused much more on the children watching. That's not to say that 'The LEGO Movie' and 'The LEGO Batman Movie' weren't for kids as well, but they were two movies that managed to speak to the adults too. I suppose it's a different angle, but it feels like it's losing it's touch by speaking to the kids who are watching OVER the adults. Between the first two, there was the advantage of making things for the whole family. This is still for the family, but primitive in comparison.
To begin with, this one takes it back to the idea that what you're seeing played out is actually toys being played with. It begins when a young boy enters a relic store owned by Jackie Chan. Jackie proceeds to tell the boy the legend of Ninjago, which centers on Lloyd; the Green Ninja. Every now and then, his father, Garmadon, attacks the city of Ninjago, and the five colored ninjas have to stop him with their mechs - not at all unlinke 'Power Rangers', complete with the cheesy dialogue.
The whole city knows that Garmadon is Lloyd's father, so they shun Lloyd at school. However, they, and Garmadon himself, don't know that he's the identity of the Green Ninja. It's eventually revealed, and the rest of the movie is mostly about Lloyd trying to find some sort of bond with his father. As for the other ninjas, they just don't do a hell of a lot other than offer comic relief.
It's interesting to think about, but there's an ongoing theme about "daddy issues" throughout all of these movies. 'The LEGO Movie' portrayed that cool twist of reality about a father letting his son play instead of being so strict. 'The LEGO Batman Movie' was largely about the idea of Batman "adopting" Robin and mentoring him. And now we have the neglectful father trying to make ammends (in a way). If these movies wanna continue, they're gonna have to start steering away from that theme.
'The LEGO Ninjago Movie' is not without it's funny moments. There were a few good laugh out loud spots here and there, but it had nothing on the other two. And I hate to say it, but now that we've dived into an actual LEGO property, this feels like commercialism. They are pandering to your kids at this point, and it takes away a lot of the magic the first two had going for them with their excellent stories and jokes.
This was by no means a bad movie for the age group it's targeted at, but I don't think the grown-ups are gonna get as much fun out of this. In the end, the movie feels rushed out, and it falls flat as a result. That said, there doesn't seem to be anything for next year, but a 'LEGO Movie' sequel is due for 2019, along with something called 'The Billion Brick Race'. I dunno what exactly that will be about, but hopefully these next two can bring that spirit back that the first two had.
We have our first really big hit of 2017! As it stands, 'Beauty and the Beast' holds the #6 spot on the All-Time Box Office Opening Weekend list, topping 'Iron Man 3', but not quite topping 'Civil War'. I have to say, I didn't truly expect it to hit so big. I knew it was gonna do well, but in the Top 10 of all time? Well, kudos, Disney. But how worth it is the film, REALLY? (Oh yeah, I'm going there)
Now, before I get lynched, let me make it clear that the original 'Beauty and the Beast' was always a film I found to be decent. It ultimately earned my respect for trying out newish CG technology to its advantage, and succeeding in such a way that even today, it's regarded as one of the greatest achievements in Disney animation (remember, this was a few years before 'Toy Story'). It was also the first animated film to ever be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The only other two that have ever made this category were 'Up' and 'Toy Story 3'. So anyway, the point is, even if it wasn't quite for me, I give it credit for being such a landmark.
In the vein of live action Disney remakes, it seems like a logical step to bring such a movie up. And they even got a true beauty to play Belle, Emma Watson. A clever move to not only put butts in seats, but bring her more out into the open in what is probably her first BIG role since she last played Hermione Granger. She does a pretty good job here, too, playing a truly likable character, and we even get to hear her sing... she ain't bad, either!
But here's where I run into my first problem of the film... the songs. Holy good God almighty, what the hell happened? They have pretty much all of the original songs going here, but they have even more than that. They pretty much made it into a musical. And I don't necessarily mind that, but I certainly didn't expect it. If I had fully know that it was gonna go full tilt musical on me, I would have given it a little more wiggle room. But 'Jungle Book' has two songs in it, one of which is just a casual almost drive-by song, and the other, which although unnecessary, was sung by Christopher Walken. This... this was almost a cut and paste job. But therein lies the problem.
To make SUCH a classic among the masses into a live action film, I get the feeling audiences would get pretty upset if they didn't get to hear their favorite songs, etc. In a way, it almost had to do the copy and paste to keep people happy. But don't get the wrong idea, there IS stuff to like about it, still. It, being a musical I didn't expect is hardly a fair reason to complain... but I'm still gonna complain about the AMOUNT of songs.
Anyway, to add to the positive side of things, the movie looked rather amazing. The visuals were really something to write home about, especially when they actually decided to go all out on the 'Be Our Guest' musical number. Hell, they even made the Beast look pretty spot on without making him look too goofy. Even the costume designs were lifted right out of the animated film. So visually, it gets solid marks. It was also acted well, and again for the fans of the original, all your old songs are here again.
I have to appreciate the fact that a bit more of the story focuses on Belle's father, and we do get to find out whatever happened to her mother... even if it is in a sort of crow barred-in scene, the way it's executed is rather touching. But it's otherwise not a hell of a lot more than you'd get from the original, animated movie. This brings me back to that Oscar nomination though. Because the original did so incredibly well for itself, really all this ends up being is a neat new way to see it. You'll pretty much just be watching the same story if you choose to stay home and watch the 1991 classic version.
But for those die-hard fans, either the title 'Beauty and the Beast' is gonna be the draw, or Emma Watson as Belle is gonna be the draw, and in neither case will you truly be disappointed. If you wanna just see a live action version of the animated movie, you will not be disappointed. But I gotta say, if you're looking for a new take on things, you might be disappointed.