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

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

The Polar Express Review: Christmas in July Blogathon 2019

Hello, friends!

Merry Christmas in July! I hope you’ve enjoyed the blogathon so far. I know I have! For the finale, yours truly will close out the blogathon with a review of the Tom Hanks-led animated holiday film that turns 15 this year: The Polar Express.


The Polar Express movie posterSynopsis
On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express, while learning about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas. (via IMDb)

Review
As long as there has been cinema, there have been Christmas films. Many struggle to become holiday staples. Some take a while (like Miracle on 34th Street) while others become instant classics. The Polar Express is the latter. It has the traditional holiday messages but it wraps them in an adventure unlike any other film. I’ve heard people say this movie’s animation is too far in the uncanny valley but I would disagree. While it is more realistic looking than many films around the same time, it has enough of a cartoonish feel to not go over into that territory. I really enjoy that this tells the story through a child’s eyes to really helps captures the movie’s sense of wonder. Tom Hanks plays five parts throughout the film. Despite being so prevalent, each of his characters feels different from one another, showcasing his talents. I forgot how musical this film is. Not in the Broadway musical sense, although there are some great musical numbers like β€œHot Chocolate,” but how much the score complements what is going on on screen. Although I shouldn’t have been surprised once I learned the extraordinary Alan Silvestri was the composer.

I thought The Polar Express was GREAT πŸ˜€ Its sense of adventure is unlike any other Christmas film but with a message just as powerful. Accompanied by terrific animation, a great score, and Tom Hanks at his best, it’s no wonder that fifteen years later, this movie is still a holiday staple.

Trivia
The Polar Express was the first β€œall-digital capture” film, where all acted parts were done in digital capture. The film used 3D motion capture techniques to digitally record the actors’ physical performances before “skinning” them with their animated forms. The children’s roles were acted by adults, using oversized props to get the movement right. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Robert Zemeckis – Director / Screenplay
Wiliiam Broyles, Jr. – Screenplay
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Tom Hanks – Hero Boy / Father/ Conductor / Hobo / Santa Claus
Daryl Sabara – Hero Boy (voice)
Nona Gaye – Hero Girl (voice)
Jimmy Bennett – Billy the Lonely Boy (voice)
Eddie Deezen – Know-It-All (voice)
Andre Sogliuzzo – Smokey / Steamer (voice)


As for my guest, I have chosen none other than Princess Jasmine and Kimberly Hart (aka the Pink Ranger) herself, Naomi Scott.

Naomi Scott

And that’s the final post for the sixth annual Christmas in July Blogathon! If you’ve missed any of the entries or you can’t wait to see the full guest list, the wrap-up post will be posted later today, so be sure to check that out.

Until next time, cheers!

Ready Player One Review

Ready Player One movie posterSynopsis
In the near future when a virtual reality world known as the Oasis serves as the most popular social getaway, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is on the hunt for three hidden keys hidden by the game’s creator. His search puts not only his virtual self but real-world self in the sights of IOI, a corporation looking to control the Oasis.

Review
I wanted to see Ready Player One for exclusively two reasons: 1) it is based around a video game (one of my favorite past times), and 2) it is directed by Steven Spielberg (my favorite director). A marriage of the two was guaranteed to get me into a seat. I know that it is based on a book of the same name, written by Ernest Cline. However, I have never read it so I can’t say how it compares to the source material. What I can say how it stacks up as a film and boy does this film deliver!

As soon as the movie steps into the Oasis, you are overwhelmed with breathtaking visuals. While much of the world looks realistic, it does just enough to prevent itself from falling into the uncanny valley territory, making sure you know it takes place inside a video game. With that, a wide range of environments are visited throughout the film. There’s a race track, a night club, a bustling city, tundra, literally every kind of place imaginable makes an appearance, driving home that the Oasis is a place is inside a video game.

Since half the movie is inside a video game, where literally anything is possible, this movie takes full advantage of that. Every turn of the camera reveals a plethora of pop-culture characters, icons, and items from anything including video games, movies, or television series. Nothing is left out. I can’t wait for the home video release so I can comb through the movie and find all the easter eggs that I missed in the theater. As someone who loves to play video games (one of the reasons this review is so delayed), I felt a real love and reverence for the medium oozing from this film.

No video game movie would be complete without some action and adventure. The action is big and the adventure is exciting. This film takes full advantage of the “anything is possible” aspect of its video game setting that I have mentioned several times already. The opening scene is a car race along a track filled twists and turns and loop-the-loops, populated with all kinds of movie characters. Later the characters have to make it through a portion of The Shining. And then a huge fight sequence happens in and around a castle in an icy world. Even in the real world, there are car chases and excitement throughout. All of it, in the Oasis and the real world, everything is well shot. It doesn’t rely on too much shaky cam or cut-a-ways. What’s important stays in the frame.

World building can be a tricky thing to do. Some movies use flashbacks, some use exposition, Ready Player One does a little of both, as well as its own special method. While Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) narrates some of the basics of how the world works in 2045 after a virtual reality world takes over the real world, the Oasis’ history is given through flashbacks but not in the standard fashion. Instead, the game’s tasks requires Wade and his friends to look through the game’s creator’s memories. This way, the history is integrated into the story itself and doesn’t derail the narrative. I found this technique unique and engaging.

One of my favorite characters was actually the villain I-R0K, voiced by TJ Miller. I-R0K is a gun-for-hire, tasked by the main baddy, Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), with eliminating Wade’s avatar inside of the Oasis. Miller infuses I-R0K with his signature wit and humor, creating a character that you know instantly is Miller. His voice feels like a mismatch compared to I-R0K’s large and sinister figure, making it all the more comical (appropriately so).

I thought Ready Player One was GREAT πŸ˜€ From simple things like appearances of popular characters or items, to classic genre tropes, to easter eggs, even to why people play video games in the first place, I felt connected to the story and the characters themselves in a way that I can’t say happens very often to me during a movie. Director Steven Spielberg weaves a dazzling pop culture tapestry and a love letter to games and what it means to be a gamer. There isn’t anything more exciting than playing with your friends or more satisfying than playing simply for the enjoyment of the game. This movie understands that and shares that pleasure in a genuine and beautiful way.

Trivia
Oasis is actually an acronym. It stands for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. This is mentioned in Ernest Cline’s source novel but not mentioned in the film. (Via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Zak Penn – Screenplay
Ernest Cline – Screenplay

Tye Sheridan – Parzival / Wade
Olivia Cooke – Art3mis / Samantha
Lena Waithe – Aech / Helen
Philip Zhao – Sho
Win Morisaki – Daito
Ben Mendelsohn – Sorrento
TJ Miller – I-R0K
Mark Rylance – Anorak / Halliday
Simon Pegg – Ogden Morrow

Tomb Raider Review

Tomb Raider movie posterSynopsis
Seven years after her father went missing and was presumed dead, Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) discovers his hidden office containing research on Himiko, the ancient Japanese β€œAngel of Death.” Along with boat captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), she travels to the hidden island containing Himiko’s tomb, facing many perils along the way, including her father’s old associate Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins).

Review
Mentioning a film is a video game adaptation is often met with a moan and a groan. While some are a few diamonds in the rough, most are OK at best, if not downright dreadful. Going into the theater to see Tomb Raider, I was cautious but at the same time hopeful. The Angelina Jolie take on the character was fun and I really liked what I saw in the trailers. It helped, too, that I’ve heard a lot of good things about the 2013 Tomb Raider game reboot (which this is what this film is based on). Leaving the theater, I was actually optimistic about the future of an Alicia Vikander-led Tomb Raider series.

One thing this movie is not lacking in is adventure. From start to finish, Lara is zooming from one place to another, running from something or fighting someone. Not exactly edge-of-your-seat stuff but it was exciting. There was an Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or National Treasure element to it so of course I was going to enjoy it. Even when the film was between action pieces, it kept your attention, moving Lara towards the end goal.

My mom watched this with me and when it was over I asked her if she liked it. Her response was β€œYeah, it was easy to follow.” The plot wasn’t overly complicated. Nothing felt extraneous or unnecessary. There were no extra side-plots, nor any crazy twists or turns. Every scene had one goal: getting Lara to the tomb. There are clear breadcrumbs laid to be picked up in potential future sequels but they do not take away from this film. This is the correct way to start a film franchise.

Lara Croft is an iconic video game character. Portraying a character who is beloved by so many can be intimidating. Luckily, Alicia Vikander is up to the task. She was fantastic as a younger, less experienced Lara. She nails the look of Lara’s most recent incarnation to a tee. And the muscle she put on for the role is remarkable. It really help sells that Lara would be able to pull the crazy stunts she does, no matter how improbable they may seem. In the same vein of films like John Wick, she, despite being the hero, isn’t invincible; She constantly is getting beat and bruised but continuously finds a way use her brain and skills to come out on top. Vikander performed many of her own stunts, clearly showing a love and dedication to the role that comes across on screen.

It seems lately Hollywood has been moving away from making women in film damsels-in-distress or helpless love interests. Instead, we are seeing more bad-ass and kick-ass heroines than ever before. The beating Lara endures throughout the movie is what you would expect from an 80s action hero. It’s over-the-top, insane, gritty, and quite frankly, unbelievable but oh-so enjoyable to watch and root for. I can’t think of many films where the lead role is a woman and can be comparable to an Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kurt Russel, or Sylvester Stallone role. If that’s not progress I don’t know what is.

I thought Tomb Raider was GOOD πŸ™‚ Director Roar Uthaug not only managed to make a decent video game movie, but a decent adventure movie as well. While it was mostly unoriginal as an adventure movie, pulling inspiration from many successful adventure films, and generic, it was generic fun. And really, fun is all I ask for.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Roar Uthaug – Director
Geneva Robertson-Dworet – Screenplay / Story
Alastair Siddons – Screenplay
Evan Daugherty – Story
Tom Holkenborg – Composer

Alicia Vikander – Lara Croft
Dominic West – Lord Richard Croft
Walton Goggins – Mathias Vogel
Daniel Wu – Lu Ren
Kristen Scott Thomas – Ana Miller
Derek Jacobi – Mr. Yaffe
Alexandre Willaume – Lieutenant
Tamer Burjaq – Mercenary
Adrian Collins – Mercenary
Keenan Arrison – Mercenary
Andrian Mazive – Mercenary
Milton Schorr – Mercenary
Maisy De Freitas – Young Lara (7 years old)