The Old Guard Review

The Old Guard movie posterSynopsis
A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. (via IMDb)

Review
Charlize Theron has shown again and again that she can be a kick-ass action star and that continues in The Old Guard. Theron is the leader of the group and has the presence and attitude to back it up. Relative newcomer Kiki Layne, and the new immortal, held her own opposite Theron. This is the first film I have seen that stars Layne and I was impressed at her handling of the emotional moments as well as the action. Everyone did a good job in their roles but the two leading ladies stood out among them. It is obvious that a lot of work went into the action sequences. The stunt work looks fantastic! You can feel the impact of each punch and the way the action is framed is great. Maybe it’s just me being selfish but I would have liked to see a few more action scenes thrown in throughout the movie.

Despite the characters being immortal, which can often lead to flat characters when it does not feel like there are any risks for them, every character in The Old Guard feels well fleshed out. They each receive a good amount of screen time and backstory. The film also does a good job of adding stakes to the film regardless of the main characters’ immortality. The biggest downside to this film is the main villain. He doesn’t make a splash until over halfway through the runtime and he comes off as very generic and somewhat cartoonish. There are shifting motivations from other characters to keep the film interesting but the big bad ultimately falls short.

I thought The Old Guard was GOOD πŸ™‚ Overall it feels like your fairly generic action flick but the exciting and well shot action scenes, good acting, and a surprising amount of character depth makes the time spent worth while, stumbling only when the main villain becomes more prominent. The ending leaves open the possibility for a sequel and since this is based on a comic book series, I’m sure the material is there for a follow-up. I wouldn’t be opposed to visiting this world of these immortals again.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Gina Prince-Bythewood – Director
Greg Rucka – Writer
Volker Bertelmann – Composer
Dustin O’Halloran – Composer

Charlize Theron – Andy
Kiki Layne – Nile
Matthias Schoenaerts – Booker
Marwan Kenzari – Joe
Luca Marinelli – Nicky
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Copley
Harry Melling – Merrick
Van Veronica Ngo – Quynh
Anamaria Marinca – Dr. Meta Kozak
Joe Ansah – Keane

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Review

The deadline for submitting entries for this year’s Christmas in July Blogathon is fast approaching! There are still several spots left for the blogathon and if you’re interested in joining in, check out this post.


Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga movie posterSynopsis
Lars (Will Farrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), better known as the Icelandic singing duo Fire Saga, are given the opportunity to represent their country of Iceland at Eurovision.

Review
After my experience paying full price for the rental of You Should Have Left, I am skeptical of paying for on-demand film releases. Thankfully, Netflix is still releasing films on its streaming service and their latest release, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, came at the perfect time for me. Written by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele, this movie is cut from the same cloth as Ferrell’s similar films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Blades of Glory. So if you aren’t a fan of Ferrell then this might not be the movie for you. For me, I do like Ferrell’s films and his brand of humor so I did enjoy this movie.

The core of Eurovision Song Contest is a feel-good story focused around the characters Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), who are very easy to get behind and root for. From a story perspective, it hits all the beats you would expect but that doesn’t mean it also isn’t enjoyable. Rachel McAdams is an absolute sweetheart and a great actress to carry the story since, in my opinion, her character’s arc is more interesting than Ferrell’s character’s. However, the stand out performance is easily Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov, the singer representing Russia at the song competition. He serves as a foil for Lars and a love interest for Sigrit. Stevens is clearly having a good time on screen and that in turn makes the film more enjoyable for the audience.

I thought Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s a pretty generic film and I contemplated giving it a lower score but honestly, I’m a sucker for feel-good stories (and Rachel McAdams). Maybe I would have gotten more out of it if I was more familiar with Eurovision but I will admit that I had fun watching this. The songs written for the film are also good and catchy, nothing like the soundtrack of The High Note, but like the rest of the film, they are still fun. A lot of your opinion of this film is going to fall on your opinion of Will Ferrell and his other films; It is exactly what you expect from a Ferrell movie. It’s not the best movie out there but it is a good holdover movie while we wait for theaters to reopen.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Dobkin – Director
Will Ferrell – Writer
Andrew Steele – Writer
Atli Orvarsson – Composer

Will Ferrell – Lars Erickssong
Rachel McAdams – Sigrit Ericksdottir
Pierce Brosnan – Erick Erickssong
Dan Stevens – Alexander Lemtov
Melissanthi Mahut – Mita Xenakis
Mikael Persbrandt – Victor Karlosson
Γ“lafur Darri Γ“lafsson – Neils Brongus
Graham Norton – Himself

You Should Have Left Review

There are still several spots left for this year’s Christmas in July Blogathon. If you’re interested in joining in, check out this post.


You Should Have Left movie posterSynopsis
Theo (Kevin Bacon), his wife Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), and their daughter Ella (Avery Essex), take a trip in the Welsh countryside where their vacation house is not as it seems on the outside.

Review
For a long time I stayed away from any film in the horror genre. However, over the years I have found that supernatural horror is a niche that I do enjoy. When the trailer for You Should Have Left dropped just two weeks ago, it seemed like a film right up my narrow horror film alley. According to the trailer it had supernatural elements, some thriller pieces, and Kevin Bacon. Those are ll things that I enjoy in a film, so I gave it a chance. I was right that is was the kind of film I would enjoy, unfortunately it was better on paper than it was on screen.

Everything about You Should Have Left falls way short of being bearable. Firstly, the characters have little to no actual development. Theo, Kevin Bacon’s character, is completely defined by the death of his ex-wife. He does not go through any kind of growth as the film goes on, nor is his ex-wife’s death really expanded on. By the way, he was tried for and found innocent of his ex-wife’s death. You would think that would be a larger part of the Theo’s character but it hardly registers throughout most of the film. Susanna, Amanda Seyfried’s character and Theo’s much younger wife, also gets minimal development in the film. To be honest, other than Susanna is an actress, I could not tell you anything about her. Bacon and Seyfried, two great actors, are truly wasted in this film.

It doesn’t help either that two-thirds of this movie is used to set up this big mystery about the house Theo, Susanna, and their daughter Ella (Avery Essex), are staying in while on vacation. An attempt is made to create a mystery about the house, at the same time the film is also trying to build up the β€œtroubled past” of Theo mind you, but like the human characters, building the mystery around the house simply falls flat. Even as the credits roll, little explanation is provided about the place, other than some vague remarks by a local shopkeeper (Colin Blumenau). It’s not until the final thirty minutes or so before the mystery is even begun to be explored. With little time left, the film feels like it is sprinting towards the end, finding a way to wrap up the β€œarc” for the characters and gets lost along the way.

For a film billed as a supernatural horror and thriller, You Should Have Left has very little of any of those elements. The scare attempts are amateurish at best; the supernatural is a little science-fiction-ish but with little explanation it’s hard to even determine which one it is; and the thriller is completely reliant on the mystery element and since that falls short, so too does the thriller aspect. I am honestly surprised a film this abysmal was made by a filmmaker with such a storied history as David Koepp.

I thought You Should Have Left was BAD 😦 I am usually fairly optimistic when it comes to reviewing films. Even in widely panned movies like the recent Artemis Fowl I can often manage to uncover some sort of redeeming quality buried within the mound of bad. Regrettably, I can’t find anything in this film that I really enjoyed. The characters were flat, the set-up took too much time, the mystery wasn’t that gripping, the reveal wasn’t even that good either, and the payoff simply didn’t exist. In a perfect world I would not have taken the time to watch this at all. The next best scenario is I would have seen this in theaters rather than on-demand because there is no price worth the admission for this film but at least in the theater, I would have payed less for such a poor experience.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Koepp – Director / Screenplay
Geoff Zanelli – Composer

Kevin Bacon – Theo
Amanda Seyfried – Susanna
Avery Essex – Ella
Colin Blumenau – Shopkeeper
Lown Ann Richards – Welsh Woman
Joshua C. Jackson – Production Assistant – Susanna’s Movie
Eli Powers – Susanna’s Assistant

Artemis Fowl Review

Yesterday I announced the seventh annual Christmas in July Blogathon! If you are interested in participating or want to know more, check out this announcement post.


Artemis Fowl movie posterSynopsis
When his father is kidnapped for his knowledge of a powerful fairy artifact, Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) must use clues left in his father’s journal to find the artifact and rescue his father, Artemis Fowl, Sr. (Colin Farrell), from a mysterious figure.

Review
I’m aware that Artemis Fowl is adapted from a young adults novel series. I’m also aware of the troubled production history this film had from when its movie rights were sold until it was finally released. Then with the pandemic, this moved from a summer blockbuster slot to a Disney+ release. Between those issues and Disney’s difficulty adapting other popular young adult novels, such as A Wrinkle in Time, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this film is ultimately a let down.

For starters, the story is extremely shallow. There is a MacGuffin that both the heroes and the villains are trying to find because reasons. It’s never explained clearly what it’s for or why it’s so powerful, just that it is because magic. The main villain, who is played by the uncredited Hong Chau, is never really seen or given much motivation or backstory. The team of heroes band together because it’s needed for the plot to move forward. Oh, and there’s a disgraced fairy officer that is given his job back because the bad guy wants him to become a mole and no one seems to question it. So yeah, there’s a lot going on.

It is said it is better to show and not tell in cinema. Apparently, the writer of Artemis Fowl never heard that saying before because this film is littered with exposition. Between narration, news reports, and characters relaying back story, a good number of classic exposition tropes can be found in this film. We are constantly told how smart Artemis is, we are constantly told Artemis has a strained relationship with his father, we are constantly told how good of a thief Mulch Diggums is, but very little of any of that is actually shown.

Because we are always told things rather than shown them, this movie moves both too quickly and too slowly at the same time. The story and characters are constantly rushing from scene to scene and things happen for no rhyme or reason other than because the story needs them to. The break-neck speed of the story never really lets the audience get a good handle of what’s going on because by the time you think about think you know what’s happening in the scene, it’s on to the next one. This film moves too quickly for its own good. Yet with all the exposition, scenes themselves drag on. It’s truly a weird dynamic.

The actions scenes were really the only part of the movie that kept my attention. However, they were marred by middling visuals. Some of the set pieces were exciting, like a troll rampaging through Fowl manor, and actually kept the film from becoming a snooze fest to me. But as flashy as these scenes were, things looked a bit too cartoonish, which in the end took me out of the experience just enough to not get the full enjoyment.

I thought Artemis Fowl was OK 😐 I can’t convince myself to say this is a bad film but it’s close. Even with a non-existent story, mediocre visuals, and pacing issues abound, I must admit that I had at least a little bit of fun. Not enough to revisit it again but enough to call it mediocre at best. Too bad though, given the popularity of the novels. Once again we’ll have to settle for a book-to-film adaptation that doesn’t live up to its source material. Not even Disney, it seems, can solve that mystery.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Kenneth Branagh – Director
Conor McPherson – Screenplay
Patrick Doyle – Composer

Ferdia Shaw – Artemis Fowl
Lara McDonnell – Holly Short
Josh Gad – Mulch Diggums
Nonso Anozie – Domovoi Butler
Tamara Smart – Juliet Butler
Colin Farrell – Artemis Fowl, Sr.
Judi Dench – Commander Root
Nikesh Patel – Chief Tech Officer Foaly
Joshua McGuire – Briar Cudgeon
Hong Chau – Opal Koboi

Onward Review

Onward movie posterSynopsis
When brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) receive a gift from their late father that would allow their father to return for 24 hours, they embark on a quest to find the gem required for such a powerful spell.

Review
Of all Disney’s acquisitions over the years, it could be argued that Pixar is their crown jewel. Despite having made over twenty films since their debut feature film in 1995, the studio has had an impressive consistency of quality in both storytelling and pushing the boundaries of computer animation, with only a few slip-ups along the way. Driven by the voice talents of Marvel Cinematic Universe favorites Tom Holland and Chris Pratt and inspired by director Don Scanlon’s personal relationship with his older brother, Onward seeks to build on Pixar’s amazing legacy. While there is a lot to enjoy and take away from this film, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Pixar’s best.

The world of Onward is unique among the Pixar library, taking place in a fantasy world that feels like it was created by JRR Tolkein or JK Rowling. We’ve seen unique creatures in Monsters, Inc., so there is a familiarity to the inhabitants but they still maintain a freshness that prevents the character design from feeling rehashed. This film takes inspiration from fantasy stories of yore so of course there are plenty of call backs to be found. Having watched The Lord of the Rings films for an anniversary celebration a few years ago, one of my favorite references was a diner advertising β€œsecond breakfast.” That’s just one of many found throughout the movie and I’m sure someone more versed in the fantasy genre than I am will notice many more easter eggs than I did.

Being a fan of action-adventure films and fantasy films, I found this film to be very fun. It was full of excitement and laughs. There is some good physical comedy from the Dad legs, particularly some Weekend at Bernie’s style comedy that gave me some good chuckles. The musical score primarily consists of strings, giving the film an acoustic flavor. It fit the fantasy theme of the movie very well. There was also some guitar riffs reminiscent of Van Halen, perfectly apt of Barley’s rebellious nature.

Ian and Barley’s relationship is the core of Onward. The two brothers are brought to life by Peter Parker and Peter Quill – I mean Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. As an older brother myself, Barley’s protectiveness of Ian resonated with me. Throughout the film they were laughing together, fighting each other, and being supportive of one another, like the relationship I share with my siblings. There is a clear growth of the Lightfoot brothers, both individually and together, culminating in an emotional conclusion. Of all the things Pixar has done well in their films, portrayal of families has always been one of their strengths and their expertise is on full display here.

Another strength of Pixar is their emotional moments and for me, that’s where this film falls short. I will admit that the ending did surprise me; I thought I knew how Ian’s and Barley’s journey would end but I was pleasantly surprised that I was wrong. However, it didn’t hit me emotionally as hard as other Pixar outings did. However, I could easily see others getting hit more in the feels than I did. And that’s kind of how I felt throughout the entire film. While there are many fun, exciting, and wholesome moments, I didn’t find anything truly memorable. It took a second viewing for me to be like β€œOh yeah, I remember that.” It shouldn’t take multiple viewings to make moments stand out.

I thought Onward was GOOD πŸ™‚ Pixar has far and away established themselves as some of the best storytellers in Hollywood. Onward‘s tale about the bonds between siblings in one many can relate to and is sure to strike all the right emotional cords. Unfortunately, besides those strong emotions, and perhaps some good action sequences, this film lacks much else to really place cement itself as a top-tier Pixar films. Still, it is far from their worst and provides a feel-good story that is more than worth checking out.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Dan Scanlon – Director / Writer
Keith Bunin – Writer
Jason Headley – Writer
Jeff Danna – Composer
Mychael Danna – Composer

Tom Holland – Ian Lightfoot (voice)
Chris Pratt – Barley Lightfoot (voice)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Laurel Lightfoot
Octavia Spencer – The Manticore (voice)
Mel Rodriguez – Colt Bronco (voice)
Lena Waithe – Officer Spector (voice)
Ali Wong – Officer Gore (voice)
Grey Griffin – Dewdrop (voice)
Kyle Bornheimer – Wilden Lightfoot (voice)

The High Note Review

The High Note movie posterSynopsis
Maggie is an assistant to singer Grace, a dream job that makes her life hell. As Maggie looks for her big break to be a music producer, Grace seeks her next challenge. (via Amazon)

Review
With theaters shut down right now, I have been eager to watch a new 2020 film release. Some of the other films released digitally earlier in the year weren’t any that I was interested in seeing. I’ll admit that The High Note probably wouldn’t have been one of my must-see films in May 2020 if things were normal in the world. However, I’m glad that I was able to catch The High Note on digital release because I would have been sorry to have missed it otherwise.

Dakota Johnson carries this film with ease. Maggie is a woman who has a goal and his working hard and tirelessly to achieve that goal and Johnson brings the right amount of strength, vulnerability, sass, tenacity, and likability to her character. Also, her chemistry with the other members of the cast is wonderful. Her scenes with Tracee Ellis Ross are some of the most emotional of the whole movie. And that’s saying something considering how well she paired with Kelvin Harrison Jr. Harrison and Johnson together really drove the heart of the film so it’s a good their relationship was believable on screen.

Being a movie about the music business, you would hope that the soundtrack is up to par. The soundtrack for The High Note is absolutely fantastic. Every song is different and memorable. I’ve been playing it on near repeat since watching this film. Ross is someone I recognize more as an actress than as a singer. Let me tell you, this. Woman. Can. Sing! Her voice is a show stopper. This comes as no surprise after learning she is the daughter of Diana Ross. Her song β€œStop For A Minute” is hands-down my favorite song in the film. However, each of her songs stand out in their own right. I hope Ross takes the momentum from working on this soundtrack to record more music because her voice is worth hearing more of. I know I’ve talked a lot about Ross a bit but Harrison also has a great singing voice. His voice is so smooth and full of soul. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite song of his off the soundtrack because I like them all but β€œLet’s Stay Together” might, might, inch past the rest. Ross and Harris have a duet together that is pure magic. No matter how you feel about this film, chances are you will find a song to enjoy on the soundtrack.

If you watched the trailers, you might have a different idea of what the film is about than what it actually is as I feel the trailers are a bit misleading. Grace’s desire to create a new album, which seems to be the focus of the trailers, is more of the B-story. This movie’s focus is actually Maggie working towards her dream of becoming a music producer. Maggie’s story is very much intertwined with Grace’s story but a good portion of The High Note is devoted towards Maggie, which seems contradictory to what the trailers portray. Not a big deal but if you are reading this to decide to watch the film or not I just wanted you to have the correct expectations.

I thought The High Note was GOOD πŸ™‚ You won’t find anything plot-wise that is too surprising or mold-breaking but it sticks to a tried-and-true formula that is easy to get behind. The solid cast, centered around Dakota Johnson, brings so much heart and soul to the film. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a soundtrack to listen to.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Nisha Ganatra – Director
Flora Greeson – Writer
Amie Doherty – Composer

Dakota Johnson – Maggie Sherwoode
Tracee Ellis Ross – Grace Davis
Kelvin Harrison Jr. – David Cliff
Ice Cube – Jack Robertson
June Diane Raphael – Gail
Zoe Chao – Katie
Eugene Cordero – Seth
Bill Pullman – Max
Jonathan Freeman – Martin
Eddie Izzard – Dan Deakins