The story - What would YOU do if you were a singer/songwriter and one day no one remembered one of the most famous bands in the world? I loved where this story went. The ending surprised me, and that almost never happens. I had no idea they were going to wrap it up the way they did, assuming they'd go the old, expected route that so many before it have taken.
Not only did it surprise me in the ending, but the story was heartfelt, funny, and fantastic. The characters felt real, and Ed Sheeran did an amazing job at poking fun at himself. Every time I thought I knew what was coming next, they took a different turn, all the way up to Jack following an address given to him after he really makes it big.
It's a fantastic story, and I'm so glad it's been told.
The directing - This movie had a lot of interesting camera angles that I ended up kind of loving. It gave it that *other* feeling that certain movies have. It's unique, fun, and different.
The acting - WHAT A TALENTED CAST! I can't gush enough about how I loved them all, but especially Himesh Patel, who is a wonderful lead (if somewhat new to the big screen). As many jokes as they made about him not being a handsome man, I'm fully in love. Kate McKinnon, to no one's surprise, kills it with her quirky take on a California manager ready to offer Jack the "poison cup" of money, fame, and everything he's ever dreamed of. Joel Fry is quirky, gangly, slightly out-there friend Rocky, and I loved every minute he was on screen.
The chemistry between all the characters is fantastic.
While, as I said above, I LOVE how it ended, I was surprised by it (in a good way), but a bit bummed, too.
***SPOILERSSSS***** Because the Beatles never come back. That made me sad. ****END SPOILERS*****
4 solid, hearty feathers
Go see Yesterday. Unless you hate the Beatles.
And all good things.
Toy Story 4: Real story - why?
The art is beautiful. The CGI is fantastic. The story is strong. The emotion is there, and sometimes the humor is, too.
Duke Kaboom and Forky are worthwhile.
That this movie exists at all? Why? Why even be here?
Bonnie - THIS LITTLE GIRL IS THE WORST. I can't forgive this movie or this awful little girl, and I definitely am not forgiving Disney.
Andy was going to take Woody to college. He would have kept Woody the rest of his life and passed him down to his children, just as his parents did before him. Woody would have been part of Andy's life FOREVER.
If it weren't for Bonnie.
This little brat was tender and sweet in Toy Story 3, loving her "Cowboy doll."
Too bad five minutes in to Toy Story 4 she's abandoned him, leaving him in the closet and TAKING HIS SHERIFF'S BADGE AWAY to give to Jessie.
She's the worst.
I actually, straight up, no joke HATE this little animated character. She is evil itself. She's also a brat.
I work with kids between ages 3-5 and none of them, unless poorly disciplined, are as whiny or bratty as she is.
Go home, Bonnie. You don't deserve any toys.
Cinematography: 4 feathers
Emotional Effect (and occasional manipulation): 4 feathers
Story: 4 feathers
Actual movie: 2 feathers. WHY DID YOU DO THIS?
If you have small children (under 9), then go for it. They'll love it, but you might feel a bit used.
If you grew up on Toy Story like I did...run, don't walk, to get away from this movie.
the flip from how we know them (Thompson as Valkyrie, Hemsworth as Thor), giving Hemsworth the seniority, experience, and more troubled past than Thompson is a new dynamic for them. Thompson is a strong lead as Agent M, a woman who is top of her class brilliant, but convinced the MIB exists, which keeps her from landing in the government job she seeks. Hemsworth, who we all know and love when it comes to his comedic side, plays Agent H - once the hero of the universe, now somewhat of a joke.
There are plenty of little tricks to keep you intrigued, as well as in-jokes and new jokes. The graphics are great, and Kumail Nanjiani's "Pawny" is a delight.
If you're expecting Shakespeare, Will Smith, or something you've never seen before...why are you even planning to see this movie?
The one downside, in my opinion, is how predictable the movie ended up being. I kept waiting for a final twist, but a final twist did not come. However, the person I went with didn't feel the same way and was pleasantly surprised with how things ended up.
3.5 solid feathers.
There's no reason NOT to see this movie if you're a fan of the franchise. It's better than MIB:II and competes with MIB:III for me in the rankings.
However, it's Jamie Bell who stole the entire show for me, making me wish he was in more of the movie than the small part he played. Bell captured Taupin's love for John, his struggle with what fame was doing to their lives and friendship, and his sweet commitment to the duo's magical pairing. I loved every minute of Bell's portrayal. Too bad that amounted to maybe 30 minutes.
The story - I never knew WHEN I was, which felt disorienting and jolting whenever the story shifted gears to wherever it decided to go next. Unlike biopics that came before it, Rocketman never gives you a place to land, jumping between decades without so much as a newspaper article to orient the viewer. Not only that, but as a story that is neither 100% truth nor 100% fantasy, it was difficult to be interested in what was going on around the central character.
John's life, which is sordid, crazy, and the kind of story that should be exciting and incredible to watch, gets lost amid the fantastical musical that takes place around him. The musical elements were occasionally more fun, and I can't help but wonder if they should have committed to a more Across the Universe with Elton John music style as opposed to attempting both sides of the fence. The elements of John's life that they decided to hit felt dropped in like a giant stop sign in what had seconds before been a bee-bopping dance number. This start/stop battle between the truth and the fantasy left me whiplashed and discontent.
Finally, when it comes to story, I found issue with the telling of what happens in John's life. As opposed to biopics who came before it, Elton John is very much alive and well, a producer for the film. He has a hand in how his story is told, and while he doesn't hold back on the debauchery (sensitive viewers be warned, there are a few more graphic scenes that are less about sex or nudity than they are about depicting the aforementioned in an attempted artistic style), his story seems one-sided.
I don't know Elton John's upbringing, and perhaps his family really was as horrible and unloving as the movie attempts to portray, but there are a few inconsistencies with the characters that make it difficult for me to sympathize or accept the presented story as fact. His mother, for instance, is shown as someone who openly is hateful to him, yet at a time of distress, is shown worrying for her son (maybe just a misdirection by Dexter Fletcher to Bryce Dallas Howard?).
More so, nothing ever seems to be John's fault. Throughout the movie, he makes decision after decision that affects his life in a negative way, but it's always because someone else is the villain. He plays victim time and time again, and if it weren't for the final scene, I would have written this movie off as a no-feather travesty that's blind to its own faults.
The direction - As I said before, there's no sense of time, which I blame on the director. More than that, while some of the interludes between time jumps are incredibly creative, they came in a way that felt confusing or disorienting until after the fact. I'm left thinking "Wow, that was clever" but in the moment, I pulled out of the story and couldn't find my footing. A true artist manages to pull off the clever without taking the viewer out of the moment.
For each clever moment, there was also a laugh-worthy moment (I'm looking at you, final piece of the "Rocketman" sequence). There's something about seeing Taron Eggerton's butt jiggle as he's rocketed off into space that just doesn't convey a serious moment for me...
The hardest part for the music, to me, was the way a song would be cut off at the wrong moment, times that were meant to be pivotal to the story ("Crocodile Rock" early on in the film, for example), but stopped my enjoyment dead at the wrong moment of the song*. They also added "Pinball Wizard" a song by The Who, without explaining any sort of significance. It wasn't until I looked after the fact that I found out John sang it for the movie Tommy, a movie I and most moviegoers won't have seen and will have no reference for (and no reference is made, as it's another time-moving montage piece).
Furthermore, the biography felt rushed. Am I to believe Elton John wrote the music to "Your Song" upon the first reading of Taupin's lyrics? No struggle? Just suddenly there?
Dexter Fletcher couldn't commit. He couldn't be consistent. I blame most of what's wrong with this movie on his inability to decide if he wanted something fantastical (the musical, all cast dancing/singing, fantasy elements) or something biographical (Elton writing the music, his life, his struggles).
2 feathers (for Bernie Taupin's portrayal and the artistic nature)
Skip Rocketman (especially if you were planning to go with your son/daughter mother/father). If you really want to see it, wait for streaming.
* A friend who doesn't know Elton John music enjoyed the movie more than her husband and I, who are familiar with his songs. For us, it felt like what we loved was being truncated, but for her, the artistic styling of the songs meant nothing other than what was happening in the scene.
Aladdin - A Whole World of Fun
The story - we all know Aladdin, and while there will be a few surprises along the way, this story stays true to the original. What it does best is expand on the original in regards to Jasmine. Already one of the strongest Disney princesses with a defiance toward being treated as a side-character, Jasmine has long been a feminist icon. Disney charges forward, giving Jasmine (played by the incredible Naomi Scott) more screen time, more music, and more chances to rebel against the man.
Jasmine is the best part of this movie, but she isn't alone. Aladdin, Genie, Carpet, Abu, and all the rest are along for the ride, and the story had a few minor twists and turns to keep things fresh.
The acting - Naomi Scott is queen of the screen, but Mena Massoud is another up-and-comer who cannot be ignored. His turn as Aladdin is charming, delightful, and has just enough of a rough edge to make him real. Together, Massoud and Scott are dazzling on the screen as the young couple.
Will Smith may have seemed controversial to some as Guy Richie's choice for The Genie, but he does a fantastic job honoring Robin Williams and creating something all his own.
Marwan Kenzari has been called "Hot Jafar," and I wondered how he'd work on the screen as the maniacal, unhinged, evil Jafar. After all, can someone so lovely really play someone so dark?
The answer is yes. Yes he can. Kenzari brings a craziness to Jafar that defies his good looks and brings the same squirm-ish sense of "no" that we got from the original.
The feels - this movie isn't perfect. It isn't the greatest movie ever made. But it DID make me feel great. It gave me childhood and adulthood rolled in one, and I think it's perfect for everyone in the family.
The directing - the music, dancing, color and life were fantastic. Choosing to use a cast of people of color who fit the world Agrabah lives in was brilliant. I loved the casting choices and shots Richie chose to use...for the most part.
No movie is perfect (though plenty come close).
The acting - I really wasn't sure what to do with the handmaiden Dahlia, played by the hilarious Nasim Pedrad. When she was on point, it was hilarious, but getting used to her strange way of talking took me a few scenes.
The story - I love they they honored the original so well in all ways except one: the second wish. I'm fine with how it was done - it was even updated and improved upon. Yet I wish they'd gone a different way. I wish (hah) that they'd made a different choice simply to freshen up the plot. There are so many wishes that can be made, but that one, I think, could have changed.
The directing - I have a love/hate relationship with Guy Richie. He's done some incredible things (Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and some boring things (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword). Unfortunately, there are a few scenes in Aladdin that aren't quite there, and it's because of a choice Richie made in filming these scenes. These scenes, I'd bet my hat, were sped up in post, and it feels just a *smidgen* forced. It's the little movements we make in real time that make these moments glaring for the trained eye, but, in the end, I don't think most will notice.
4 solid, strong feathers (4.5 even).
Don't you know? Go see Aladdin! In fact, take me with you.
I've Been Hustled
Alongside Rebel, Alex Sharp takes a stand in a positive light. He's a fantastic actor (don't take my word for it, the boy has a Tony), and he appears much younger than his thirty years would suggest. As the perfect mark for the competing lady cons, he carries the audience through the film, making us love him and care about him far more than either Hathaway or Wilson. The twist at the end, though slightly clumsy in execution (I blame the writing), made me love him all the more.
Most everything else.
Not only were lines taken directly from the original to pad the sad and sorry script, but the limping attempt to recreate something wonderful with a feminine twist fell flat on its face.
The story - The story has been done, as it was a remake. The clever thing to do would be to change up the script. Not just a gender-swap remake, but a whole new take on the story. They didn't even bother, recycling some scenes shot for shot, line by line, and disappointing the masses.
The areas where they did stray didn't hit the mark - Hathaway training Wilson how to be a violent but classy lady never came into the story. It was a useless montage that managed two laughs from my decently-filled-for-a-matinee theater. They also went for a vomit-worthy "gag" involving a french fry and a toilet. Pointless, gross, and a waste of precious minutes - not to mention a quick way to kill suspension of disbelief. In that moment I fell out of the story, gagged a few times, and struggled to find my way back in.
I read an article from a movie critique lamenting modern comedy - what happened?
I'll tell you what happened.
Most attempts at comedy these days are remakes, but almost none of them are clever. Instead of making an effort to do something new, they rehash old lines and old jokes, but expect audiences old and new to take them in without question. Between The Hustle, Overboard, and Arthur (and many others even outside the comedy genre), we have stale attempts to redo classics. They're the worst bits about Hollywood paraded before us.
Who cares if it's new, interesting, or worthwhile? Churn something out and expect the people to turn up.
In case Hollywood hasn't noticed, movies are down. People aren't flocking to the theaters like they used to, and this is why.
When Hollywood treats its viewers as intelligent consumers, they get good results: Endgame, Logan Lucky, Oceans 11, 22 Jump Street - some of these are remakes and some are brand new, but all did well on Rotten Tomatoes and at the box office.
The Marvel team and the Russo brothers knew Endgame was a game changer. They knew nothing else would ever be like it. They took their time, made an effort, and completed an enormous goal.
Oceans 11 is a remake that outshines the original, and like Logan Lucky (both directed by Soderberg) mixes comedy with heist intrigue.
22 Jump Street is a sequel, yet manages to outshine its predecessor by being smart.
Even Disney has found a way to (almost always) shine in a remake. With the exception of a few (Dumbo, Maleficent), they've been delightful, new, and exciting - a way for adults to relive their childhood and for children to experience something beautiful.
Cleverness, creativity, and passion go a long way, and until the studios realize they can't just keep handing over remade trash and expecting us to be excited.
I know many clever writers who have told fantastic stories - go read their books and make THOSE into movies.
The acting - Oh heaven help Anne Hathaway and her sad, strange accent. I'm not sure where she found it, but I would return it as soon as possible. It didn't help that she's playing a revamped Michael Caine, who is actually British, posh, and capable of an array of accents. Hathaway struggled all the way through the film, donning some odd, Vaudevillian voice and calling it Dutch halfway through the film. Between the two accents I struggled to take anything she said as funny.
None of Hathaway's jokes landed. It was painful to watch someone so talented struggle so much - especially when I know she's capable of comedy.
It was painful to watch, to listen to, and to yawn through. Michael Caine plays a likable character in the original, but Anne Hathaway quickly became a villain. Her character wasn't handled in any way that could create sympathy, and while Wilson's character was meant to be the most sympathetic, there should have been SOMETHING for Hathaway's to make the ending worthwhile.
The directing - The timing started off and remained off all throughout the lagging hour and a half run time. Every joke took a second too long to say (unless it was Rebel Wilson, who can handle herself just fine), leaving most of the jokes stale and flat by the time they arrived. Chris Addison didn't know how to handle these two powerhouse women or Alex Sharp, and he didn't deserve them.
2 feathers (One for Wilson and one for Sharp)
Go watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and if you're still curious, wait for The Hustle to be on streaming.
I wasn't a huge Pokemon fan - I had the Gameboy Blue game, but I never got into the cards. Because of this, I didn't know a lot of the names of the pokemon. This never seemed to be a problem, and I had a great time.
The acting - Ryan Reynolds is always fantastic. There's something about his irreverent humor that goes well with everything. Even as a fluffy, CGI pikachu he's cracking jokes and adorable. I have to admit that the pokemon were my favorite part of the film, not the humans. Justice Smith won me over eventually with his heart.
The story - Pokemon make things unique. The story isn't technically anything new - a parent dies, the child follows the clues to solve the mystery, all is not as it seems. I've been watching a lot of detective movies lately, so I had the ending pegged pretty early on, but there was still a twist or two I didn't see coming that made it fun. The ending was sweet and touching, and it tugged at all the heart strings.
I wasn't sure if this was for adults or for kids, but I will throw out that Pikachu says a few curse words and adult jokes, so if that makes you uncomfortable for your kids, don't go.
However, if you're comfortable, it's very bright and colorful - kids will love how fun it is.
There are also a few scary Pokemon, but unless you have a very sensitive kiddo, you should be fine.
The acting - Lucy. Wow. I don't even know how to begin. I'm not sure if her character was just poorly written, if the director rushed a few of her earlier scenes, or what, but I was instantly antagonized by Lucy's character. She rubbed me the wrong way in all manners. She felt forced, silly, and shallow. I didn't see Tim's attraction to her, but I liked her psyduck.
The story - There were a few moments where the story lagged and my mind started to wander. I think they could have tightened it up as opposed to throwing in pointless scenes (and especially Lucy scenes) for the sake of scenes. However, this may go over better with true fans who love everything Pokemon.
If you love Pokemon, Ryan Reynolds, or silly fun, go see Detective Pikachu. If you're lukewarm on any of these things, wait for Netflix.
If you have kids, be aware that there's cursing and some adult humor coming from Pikachu. While the jokes will go over your kids' heads, the cursing likely won't. If you're sensitive to that, you've been warned.
Ranting, raving, loving every minute of it - let's talk movies.