Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon ReviewSynopsis
When the Transformers learn that an ancient Cybertonian ship is on the moon, the Autobots must race to discover its secrets before the Decepticons do.

Review
After the disappointment of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I went into the third live-action Transformers film with caution. Thankfully, Transformers: Dark of the Moon seems to have learned after Revenge of the Fallen and treats the audience with more respect. The humor isn’t as immature as before. In fact, there is not as much humor as there was previous films in the franchise. Whereas the last two films had jokes coming from multiple sources, this movie primarily relies on Shia LeBeouf to carry that aspect of it. Instead, it takes itself much more seriously, which ends up helping overall because the story is much bigger and epic than before. Like Revenge of the Fallen, it goes bigger than the films before in a true sequel fashion. This focus on the story and characters rather than the childish humor creates a much more engaging and exciting experience.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the definition of a β€œblockbuster” movie. It’s big, it’s loud, and it takes you on an adventure. It isn’t as glob-spanning as Revenge of the Fallen but that’s okay. While the world trotting grandeur isn’t there, the action is much bigger, which is saying something considering the last film. The best part is that this movie does a much better job of framing the action scenes around the robots than the previous films. There are still multiple close-ups during the fights making it tricky to see everything but for the most part, the camera stays further back, giving a better view of the fight, especially against the backdrop of Chicago during the final act.

I thought Transformers: Dark of the Moon was GOOD πŸ™‚ Just like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen went bigger than Transformers, Dark of the Moon goes bigger than Revenge of the Fallen. Even though the film is longer, the story is much more focused and the humor is much better, being toned back severely and being more serious in general. Overall, it is a vast improvement on all counts than the let down of its immediate predecessor in the franchise.

Trivia
According to ILM, the company employed its entire rendering machinery to use on the film. This added up to using more than 200,000 rendering hours per day, the equivalent of 22.8 years of render time in 24 hours. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Ehren Kruger – Writer
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Shia LeBeouf – Sam Witwicky
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – Carly
Josh Duhamel – Lennox
John Turturro – Simmons
Alan Tudyk – Dutch
Tyrese Gibson – Epps
Patrick Dempsey – Dylan
Frances McDormand – Mearing
Kevin Dunn – Ron Witwicky
Julie White – Judy Witwicky
John Malkovich – Bruce Brazos
Ken Jeong – Jerry Wang
Glenn Marshower – General Marshower
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
Jess Harnell – Iron Hide (voice)
Robert Foxworth – Ratchet (voice)
James Remar – Sideswipe (voice)
Francesco Quinn – Dino (voice)
George Coe – Wheeljack (voice)
Tom Kenny – Que / Wheelie (voice)
Reno Wilson – Brains (voice)
Leonard Nimoy – Sentinel Prime (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Megatron (voice)
Charlie Adler – Starscream (voice)
Frank Welker – Soundwave / Shockwave (voice)
Keith Szarabajka – Laserbeak (voice)

Jingle All the Way: Christmas in July Blogathon 2021

Hello, friends!

It’s the moment I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: my entry in the 2021 Christmas in July Blogathon! As usual, I am wrapping up the blogathon and this year. For the closing entry, I am reviewing a guilty pleasure Christmas film of mine: Jingle All the Way.


Jingle All the Way movie posterSynopsis
Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sets out to buy his son the popular, and nearly impossible to find, Turbo Man action figure for Christmas.

Review
Do you have a film that you really enjoyed when you were younger, then when you watch it when you’re older you recognize all the flaws in the film but you still enjoy it anyway? That’s Jingle All the Way for me. I’d be lying if I said my enjoyment from this these days didn’t stem from my nostalgia of watching this in my younger years. Watching it now, I can see why it isn’t always regarded in high esteem. But you know what, I don’t care because I have a blast. An action star like Arnold Schwarzenegger going through hell just to buy a toy for his son (Jake Lloyd, aka young Anakin Skywalker) is a recipe for absurd entertainment. The underground Santa Claus counterfeit ring stands out in particular to me. I know it makes no sense but the visuals of the the different statures of the Santas always makes me laugh. Of course, it helps that Schwarzenegger is great here. He is having fun and his scenes with Sinbad are particularly memorable.

In a way, this reminds me of Christmas Vacation. Now before I lose you, I’m not saying this is as good as Christmas Vacation, far from it, but both films take some part of the holiday season and exaggerates it for comedic effect. Christmas Vacation views the extended family coming to visit for the holidays and amps it up. Here, forgetting to buy a specific Christmas present for someone and having to do last minute shopping to find it is something many of us can relate to I’m sure. While what we go through is not as extreme as what Howard (Schwarzenegger) goes through, we can relate to his struggle. And really, relatability is what makes a film enjoyable.

I thought Jingle All the Way was GOOD πŸ™‚ Is it the perfect film? Absolutely not. Is it a guilty pleasure of mine? Absolutely. A nice, healthy guilty pleasure is what we all need and I can always count on Jingle All the Way to scratch that itch

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Brian Levant – Director
Randy Kornfield – Writer
David Newman – Composer

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Howard Langston
Rita Wilson – Liz Langston
Jake Lloyd – Jamie Langston
Sinbad – Myron Larabee
Phil Hartman – Ted Maltin
Justin Chapman – Billy
Robert Conrad – Officer Hummell
Jim Belushi – Mall Santa
Martin Mull – DJ


My guest to the holiday party is known more for her television roles than her film roles. She was also featured on my list of five favorite redheaded actresses. Jane Levy is my plus one.

Levy was in two fantastic television series, Suburgatory and most recently Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, both of which ended too soon.

And that’s the final entry of the eighth annual Christmas in July Blogathon! Stop by tomorrow for the wrap up post, where I’ll share the full list of entries and final guest list to our imaginary holiday party.

Until next time, cheers!

The Trouble With Harry Review

The Trouble With Harry movie posterSynopsis
The trouble with Harry is that he is dead and, while no one really minds, everyone feels responsible. After Harry’s body is found in the woods, several locals must determine not only how and why he was killed but what to do with the body. (via IMDb)

Review
The Trouble With Harry is Alfred Hitchcock’s attempt to try something outside of what is expected of him. I didn’t know this was a romantic comedy going into the film so when the characters started cracking jokes, it took me by surprise. It was a pleasant surprise but a surprise nonetheless. However, if there was a non-horror story that Hitchcock was going to tell, this is very fitting of him. In true English fashion, the humor is very macabre and dark. The movie’s sense of humor might not be for all audiences but I enjoyed it; it reminded me of Weekend at Bernie’s in a way (which might not be the best movie for comparison but whatever). Even with the premise, no matter what happened, Hitchcock always managed to keep the film light and witty, never leaning too far into the dark humor that it becomes uncomfortable. The romantic pieces that were intertwined with the black humor made for an… interesting combination. Thankfully, the couple pairings of Edmund Gwenn with Mildred Natwick and John Forsythe with Shirley MacLaine were able to provide a levity to the film. Each pair was cute together and played well off each other. I’ve come to the conclusion that not only was Hitchcock a master storyteller but a master caster as well.

I thought The Trouble With Harry was GOOD πŸ™‚ It was good for what it was but definitely doesn’t compare to his other films that I have seen. The macabre humor was fitting for a Hitchcock film, regardless of genre, and I enjoyed it but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I like to see directors try things outside their normal cadence and while The Trouble With Harry might not be one of Hitchcock’s best films, it is entertaining all the same.

Favorite Quote
Sam Marlowe: When I saw him, he was dead.
Jennifer Rogers: He looked exactly the same when he was alive, only he was vertical.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
John Michael Hayes – Screenplay
Bernard Herrmann – Composer

Edmund Gwenn – Capt. Albert Wiles
Mildred Natwick – Miss Ivy Gravely
John Forsythe – Sam Maarlowe
Shirley MacLaine – Jennifer Rogers
Jerry – Arnie Rogers
Mildred Dunnock – Mrs. Wiggs
Royal Dano – Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs

Cruella Review

Cruella movie posterSynopsis
Estella (Emma Stone) is an up-and-coming fashion designer. She gets her big break when The Baroness (Emma Thompson) recognizes her talent. However, to rise in the fashion world, Estella will have to go through The Baroness.

Review
I’ll be honest, when it was announced that Emma Stone was going to play Cruella de Vil, I couldn’t see her playing the young villainess. However, being the Emma Stone fan that I am, I was all in. I don’t know why I had any doubts because Stone was brilliant and well worth the price of admission alone.

While Cruella does follow in the footsteps of films like Maleficent and tell the origin of its villainess, it breaks away by not making her a sympathetic character like what happens to Maleficent in her film. Cruella is a villain through and through and this film doesn’t try to convince you otherwise. Cruella is all about Estalla embracing her madness and her transformation into the villain we see in 101 Dalmatians. I’m really glad Disney took this approach because someone who wants to skin puppies does not need to be sympathetic in any capacity. Sometimes a villain can be bad for bad’s sake. This movie adds layers to Cruella without taking away from her character in the other films.

As I said before, I am a big fan of Emma Stone and she absolutely slays in this film. Her turn into the villainous Cruella is one of her best transformations to date. I normally associate Stone with the more β€œgood” characters but after this film, I can see her taking up more antagonistic roles in the future, and I’m all for it! Across from Stone was the other Emma of the movie, Emma Thompson, who might have just stolen the film from Stone (which is saying something given how fantastic Stone was). Being a bigger bad than Cruella de Vil is a tough task but Thompson tackles that task with ease. Thompson is another actress that I don’t usually associate with being an antagonist and that just goes to show her acting ability to pick up any type of role and make it absolutely brilliant.

Cruella clocks a run time of over two hours but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. It has a kinetic energy about it that keeps the film always moving and never really slowing down. Despite this, it never feels disjointed or jarring. Each scene flows into the next, carrying the energy from the scene before. The progression of of Estella’s decent to her Cruella persona feels smooth as the film progresses as well.

Now, for what may be my favorite part of the film: the costume design. Holy smokes is the costume design fantastic! I guess that should be no surprise given that Cruella is all about a fashion designer. So many of Cruella’s outfits are simply gorgeous and look amazing. Not to be outdone, The Baroness and Artie (John McCrea) have wonderful costumes as well. I don’t often comment on costume design so this movie definitely deserves recognition at the next Academy Awards.

I thought Cruella was GOOD πŸ™‚ As far as the recent slate of Disney’s live-action films go, this is definitely up there as one of the better ones. Even though it is a prequel, it doesn’t force much into the story just to align the characters to where they need to be. Instead it tells its own story that still fits within the larger canon. Emma Stone and Emma Thompson carry the film with their amazing villainous turns. The supporting cast of Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, and John McCrea hold their own with the two leading ladies. Topped off with an engaging story, as well as dazzling and lavish costume design, Cruella delivers on creating a compelling story for one of Disney’s most vile villains.

Favorite Quote
Artie: I like to say that β€˜normal’ is the cruelest insult of them all, and at least I never get that.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Craig Gillespie – Director
Dana Fox – Screenplay
Tony McNamara – Screenplay
Aline Brosh McKenna – Story
Kelly Marcel – Story
Steve Zissis – Story
Nicholas Britell – Composer

Emma Stone – Estella / Cruella
Emma Thompson– The Baroness
Joel Fry – Jasper
Paul Walter Hauser – Horace
John McCrea – Artie
Mark Strong – The Valet
Kayvan Novak – Roger
Kirby Howell-Baptiste – Anita Darling
Emily Beecham – Catherine / Maid
Ed Birch – Baroness Head of Security

Mortal Kombat (2021) Review

Mortal Kombat (2021) movie posterSynopsis
Cole Young (Lewis Tan) finds himself embroiled in a multi-dimensional tournament known as Mortal Kombat, fighting for the fate of Earth.

Review
Adapting a movie from a game franchise has had notoriously poor results. Some have fared okay while most have been disastrous. Thankfully, the latest adaptation of the popular fighting game of the same name finds itself on the better side as far as video game adaptations go. Mortal Kombat is by no means a thought-provoking or life-changing movie, but it does provide a good two hours worth of popcorn entertainment. The film opens with a brutal scene set in seventeenths century Japan, setting up that this film will be just as violent as the game series it is adapting. This movie actually does a good job of balancing the action scenes with character scenes. Unfortunately, because the film does provide a lot of time for character development, there are pacing issues towards the latter portion of the film when the movie finally gets to, and rushes through, the β€œtournament.”

The Mortal Kombat games have been around for nearly 30 years and has a roster consisting of dozens of characters that the film can pull from. Thankfully, it only uses a handful of these characters as to not overwhelm the story with trying to fit as many characters as possible. There are bound to be fan favorites left out but if they’re lucky, they’ll see their favorite characters in any potential sequels. There are also many easter eggs and homages throughout Mortal Kombat that audiences are sure to pick up, whether they are casual or hardcore fans of the games. Some of these call outs did feel forced but overall their inclusions were a nice touch.

I thought Mortal Kombat was GOOD πŸ™‚ If you are a fan of the game franchise, there is going to be a lot here that you’re going to enjoy. The focused cast, stylishly violent action sequences, and plenty of humor from Josh Lawson combine for a fierce and entertaining ride from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Simon McQuoid – Director
Greg Russo – Screenplay / Story
Dave Callaham – Screenplay
Oren Uziel – Story
Benjamin Wallfisch – Composer

Lewis Tan – Cole Young
Jessica McNamee – Sonya Blade
Mehcad Brooks – Jax
Josh Lawson – Kano
Ludi Lin – Liu Kang
Max Huang – Kung Lao
Tabanobu Asano – Lord Raiden
Hiroyuki Sanada – Hanzo Hasashi / Scorpion
Laura Bent – Allison
Matilda Kimber – Emily
Jose Taslim – Bi-Han / Sub-Zero
Chin Han – Shang Tsung
Sisi Stringer – Mileena
Mel Jarnson – Nitara
Nathan Jones – Reiko
Daniel Nelson – Kabal
Ian Streetz – Ramirez

Raya and the Last Dragon Review

Raya and the Last Dragon movie posterSynopsis
In a hope to rid the world of evil spirits known and the Druun, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) searches for Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon.

Review
With theaters slowly opening up, I looked to book tickets to Raya and the Last Dragon at a local theater. To my surprise, none of them around me were showing the film! I would have thought that the Disney brand would for sure have filled seats so it didn’t make sense that a theater would not be showing their latest movie. But alas, I settled for watching it on Disney+, which was a shame because the allure and scale of this movie deserved to be seen on the big screen.

From the get-go, it’s clear that Raya and the Last Dragon isn’t going to be like other Disney princess films. There are no dance numbers here. The first scene is an explosive fight sequence from a young Raya with choreography that rivals live-action martial arts films. From there, the action sequences only get better. There is also a grander sense of adventure that most Disney princess films, save maybe Moana. This higher sense of adventure and action lends for a pretty fast-paced film. At an hour and a half run time, a lot is packed into it. The fight scenes between Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and Namaari (Gemma Chan) especially are exciting. Since it is shown early on that these two could have become friends, their scenes are particularly emotional because you have a sense of the relationship these two could have had.

As Raya travels throughout the land of Kumandra, she recruits a new member for her adventuring group from each of the lands. Every one of these characters was fun and brought something unique to the group. Most of their motivations for joining the group are based around their lives being affected in some way by the Druun, the evil spirits who turn people to stone, and not much more. While it may seem thin, it is enough and works in the film. The point of the story is that people from different backgrounds from all across the land trust each other and work together, which is one of the central themes of the movie.

Disney has clearly found an animation style that it likes. Much of the character design in Raya and the Last Dragon is similar to recent Disney animated films such as Frozen II and Moana. However, that doesn’t take away from its beauty. The world of Kumandra absolutely pops with vibrant colors. There are a variety of atmospheres, from deserts, to a water village, to a mountain village and many places in-between. Each place feels unique and full of life. Sisu’s character design is simply gorgeous, combining elegance with strength. Unfortunately, regardless of how beautiful the movie looks, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve seen the style of animation before, taking away some of the awe of it all.

For as exciting and empowering as this film is, my biggest issue with it is the same issue I had with last year’s Onward, and that is that it lacked that big emotional moment for me. While it is full of emotion, there wasn’t that one moment that the truly great Disney or Pixar films have that pull at the heartstrings. Also, it had a Moana vibe to me. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since I think Moana is Disney’s best film to date. However, because of that feeling of familiarity, it took away some of the uniqueness of Raya and the Last Dragan.

I thought Raya and the Last Dragon was GOOD πŸ™‚ It is immediately apparent that Raya isn’t like most princesses in the Disney canon. Starting with a gripping action scene, this film offers one of the most exciting and adventurous films from Disney in a long time, which is saying something. The animation, while gorgeous, feels familiar when compared to films like Frozen II and Moana. The biggest thing missing from this movie was that one, big emotionally impactful moment Disney films are known for. Despite these minor gripes, Raya and the Last Dragon is a tremendous addition to Disney’s princess library, full of adventure, as well as fun and memorable characters. This princess doesn’t need a musical number and that’s perfectly okay.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Don Hall – Director / Story
Carlos Lopez Estrada – Director / Story
Paul Briggs – Co-Director / Story
John Ripa – Co-Director / Story
Qui Nguyen – Screenplay / Story
Adele Lim – Screenplay / Story
Kiel Murray – Story
Dean Wellins – Story
James Newton Howard – Composer

Kelly Marie Tran – Raya (voice)
Awkwafina – Sisu (voice)
Gemma Chan – Namaari (voice)
Daniel Dae Kim – Benja (voice)
Izaac Wang – Boun (voice)
Benedict Wong – Tong (voice)
Thalia Tran – Little Noi (voice)
Sandra Oh – Virana (voice)
Alan Tudyk – Tuk Tuk (voice)
Jona Xiao – Young Namaari (voice)