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 “second 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 “Oh yeah, I remember that.” It shouldn’t take multiple viewings to make moments stand out.

I thought Onward was GOOD 🙂 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)

Movie Quote of the Week – 6/22/18

Answer to MWL 6/20/18: Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) – Jurassic World

Owen: Look, I get it. You’re in charge out here. You gotta make a lot of tough decisions. It’s probably easier to pretend these animals are just numbers on a spreadsheet. But they’re not. They’re alive.
Claire: I’m fully aware they are alive.
Owen: You might have made them in a test tube but they don’t know that. They’re thinking, “I gotta eat. I gotta hunt. I gotta…” [Pumps fist] You can relate to at least one of those things, right?

Thanks for everyone’s submissions and one back stage tour of Jurassic World to the following people for answering correctly:

Michael (Tall Writer)
Rob (Movierob)
Spike’s Mom (Roseann’s Musings)
Kim (Tranquil Dreams)
Carson

If you missed it, yesterday I announced this year’s Christmas in July Blogathon. If you’re interested in participating, you can go here for all the info.

Movie Quote of the Week – 5/5/17

Answer to MWL 5/3/17: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) – Guardians of the Galaxy

Ronan: [Peter starts singing and dancing] What are you doing?
Peter Quill: Dance off, bro. Me and you. [Continues dancing, motions to Gamora] Gamora. [Gamora shakes her head] Subtle. Take it back. [Peter keeps dancing]
Ronan: What are you doing?!
Peter: I’m distracting you, you big turd blossom.

Thanks for everyone’s submissions and one ticket to Xander to That Other Critic (That Other Critic) for answering correctly.

Lightning Review: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Magnificent Seven (2016) movie posterSynopsis
When gold baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) forces the residents of Rose Creek to evacuate their town, several people refuse. After her husband is murdered by Bogue for standing up to him, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) seeks help from the bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington). Chisolm recruits several other men to help teach Rose Creek townsfolk to defend themselves against Bogue and his men before they attack the town.

Review
I’ve never seen the original 1960s The Magnificent Seven and it has been a very long time since I have seen Seven Samurai, so I can’t really attest to how the remake of a remake compares to its predecessors. But what I can tell you is that it makes for a fun ride if you take it for what it is.  The Magnificent Seven is first and foremost an action flick.  There is the potential for great character development but this film foregoes that to pack in as much explosions, gun-slinging, and excitement as possible.  The titular seven are each given the simplest of reasons for helping the townsfolk of Rose Creek. But you know what? That’s OK.  Director Antoine Fuqua understands exactly what kind of movie he wants this to be and doesn’t try to pretend it is something it’s not.

The cast is pretty start studded, including seasoned stars like Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, and latest acting sensation Chris Pratt. I barely recognized Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays the Kingpin in Netlix’s Dardevil series, until a friend pointed out to me it was him.  Each character is unique and the cast is extremely diverse, making for some amusing and playful banter between them.  Pratt is a hoot as always and Washington gets the most screen time of anybody (mostly since he is the one who rounds up the group) but each of the other Seven gets their time to shine on screen.  The cast alone is well worth the time spent watching the film.

I thought The Magnificent Seven was GOOD :-). It is the definition of summer blockbuster. If you are looking for some deeper film with character study, then maybe check out Seven Samurai, one of this remake’s source materials. But if you want a popcorn flick with fun characters, good laughs, and a lot of action, then you’re looking in the right place.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Antoine Fuqua – Director
Richard Wenk – Screenplay
Nic Pizzolatto – Screenplay
Simon Franglen – Composer
James Horner – Composer

Denzel Washington – Sam Chisolm
Chris Pratt – Josh Faraday
Ethan Hawke – Goodnight Robicheaux
Byung-hun Lee – Billy Rocks
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo – Vasquez
Martin Sensmeier – Red Harvest
Vincent D’Onofrio – Jack Horne
Haley Bennett – Emma Cullen
Cam Gigandet – McCann
Peter Sarsgaard – Bartholomew Bogue
Luke Grimes – Teddy Q
Jonathan Joss – Denali
Emil Beheshti – Maxwell
Mark Ashworth – Preacher
Billy Slaughter – Josiah
Carrie Lazar – Leni Frankel

Lightning Review: Take Me Home Tonight

Take Me Home Tonight movie posterSynopsis
Matt Franklin (Topher Grace), an MIT graduate, is given a second chance to hook up with his high school crush (Teresa Palmer).

Review
I think I have become jaded towards romantic comedies. Take Me Home Tonight is not a bad film, it just has the same story as almost every romantic comedy out there. It’s very formulaic and conventional material. I’m a fan of most of the actors, like Topher Grace (he was great in That 70’s Show), Anna Faris (who I think is an underrated actress), Dan Fogler (some of my favorite movies of his are Fanboys and Balls of Fury), and Chris Pratt (more recently). The only actress I wasn’t real familiar with was Teresa Palmer. Most of the characters are generic and the script is nothing impressive. There is some 80s nostalgia given the setting, particularly the soundtrack, so it has that going for it. Like I said, I didn’t not like Take Me Home Tonight, this was just a case of I’ve-seen-it-all-before.

Rating
3/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Dowse – Director
Jackie Filgo – Screenplay
Jeff Filgo – Screenplay
Topher Grace – Story
Gordon Kaywin – Story
Trevor Horn – Composer

Topher Grace – Matt Franklin
Anna Faris – Wendy Franklin
Dan Fogler – Barry Nathan
Teresa Palmer – Tori Frederking
Chris Pratt – Kyle Masterson
Michael Biehn – Bill Franklin
Jeanie Hackett – Libby Franklin
Michelle Trachtenberg – Ashley
Demetri Martin – Carlos

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Guardians of the Galaxy movie posterSynopsis
When Kree extremist Ronan the Accuser (Lee Price) threatens the planet Xandar, five misfits, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper (voice)), Groot (Vin Diesel (voice)), and Drax (Dave Bautista), must work together to prevent its destruction.

Review
I’m not sure what Marvel put in the Kool-Aid but I’m drinking it up. Guardians of the Galaxy is pure fun. On top of that, it tells a great story and looks beautiful. I have often praised Iron Man for being the model on how to properly make a superhero origin story, now I can say that Guardians of the Galaxy is the definitive example on how to create a superhero team origin.

Ever since The Avengers, Marvel movies have had a lighthearted feel to them. I am a big fan of this because it prevents them from going too dark, although they still may have serious moments. This tone also allows for some great humor. With comedic actors Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper, Guardians is the funniest superhero movie since Iron Man 3. I don’t think there was one moment where I wasn’t smiling. Pratt is definitely the highlight of the film but I’d say Cooper is a strong second. Despite not having much screen time, John C. Reilly stole his scenes. He wasn’t overly heavy with the comedy but instead was more subtle, contrasting with his usual movie antics.

Currently, the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack is the best selling album in the United States, and for good reason. The music is a great mix of classic 1970s and 80s rock and pop songs. If I didn’t have most of the songs already I would probably go pick it up. Besides the music, there are many references to the 80s. My favorites being Quill calling Rocket “Ranger Rick” and Quill explaining to Gamora the plot of Foot Loose.

This is one of the most unique movies I have seen in awhile. I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching The Avengers but in a skewed, Thor setting. Not many movies have a gun-toting, talking raccoon who travels with a talking tree. Actually, I don’t think any others do. Being the Marvel fan that I am, I appreciate them dipping into their less popular franchises.

I absolutely enjoyed Rocket and Groot. The duo reminded me of R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars (except this time the small one was the interpreter). Besides Rocket being one of the stand-out characters of the film, several of his scenes were made better by his interactions with Groot. To go with the rest of the film, they were fun and goofy with the right amount of action sprinkled in.

With the set-up Benicio Del Toro’s The Collector had in the mid-credits sequence in Thor: The Dark World, I expected him to have a more integral role in the story.  But the more I thought about it, I realized that he could become Marvel’s next Agent Coulson.  In the comics, he is very involved in the cosmic side of things, and he could do the same in the films.  He could act as the glue that binds several of the cosmic properties that are sure to appear over the next several years, showing up to offer explanations and add cohesiveness to the films.

If there was one thing I wished this movie did better, it would be to expand on the relationship between Gamora and her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan). Guardians did well to build and showcase the rivalry between the adopted sisters, but didn’t do much more than that. There is large potential for stories based on their relationship, similar to Thor’s and Loki’s relationship, that I hope it’s picked up in future movies.

Marvel once again raises the bar on the superhero movie genre with Guardians of the Galaxy.  It’s playful tone, great action sequences, lovable characters, and beautiful special effects blend together perfectly to create one of definitive team origin movies to date.

Rating
5/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 2: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Gunn – Director / Writer
Nicole Perlman – Writer
Tyler Bates – Composer

Chris Pratt – Peter Quill
Zoe Saldana – Gamora
Dave Bautista – Drax
Bradley Cooper – Rocket (voice)
Vin Diesel – Groot (voice)
Lee Pace – Ronan
Michael Rooker – Yondu
Karen Gillan – Nebula
Djimon Hounsou – Korath
John C. Reilly – Corpsman Dey
Glenn Close – Nova Prime
Benicio Del Toro – The Collector