Once Upon a Deadpool

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This is a fascinating experiment.  Taking the rated R Deadpool 2 and recutting it to make it PG-13 is intriguing.  I especially liked the fact that part of the money made from the box office of the movie goes to fight cancer.  “Fudge cancer” is the PG-13 version of that.

Then, they shot a bunch of new scenes featuring Deadpool and Fred Savage, whom Deadpool kidnapped, tied him up, dressed him as Fred’s character from The Princess Bride and read him the story of Deadpool 2.  This framing device is all new and very creative, filled with a ton of meta jokes.

I LOVED the Fred Savage stuff.  Every scene with Deadpool and Fred are GOLD!  I absolutely loved watching every second of these creative bits.

The problem is that the rest of the film felt wrong.  Maybe the fact that most of the parts that are remaining was the parts of Deadpool 2 that I did not love.  I did not love them killing Vanessa.  I was not a fan of of the kid, Russell (Julian Dennison).  This movie felt as if it really doubled down on these aspects of Deadpool 2.

Then there was Cable (Josh Brolin), who I thought was great as Cable, but Fred Savage had made a joke about Cable in one of the framing sections.  Fred was excited in the story when Deadpool mentioned Cable because of how developed and intricate the character in the comics is, but the joke is that the Cable in this movie was nowhere near as developed as the comic.  So they were making crap out of their own film character.  I found that strange and I hadn’t considered that.

Then, the story itself just felt off.  It did not fit the PG-13 rating.  What they did with Deadpool 2 was neutered.  Even the best part, the introduction and immediate dispatching of X-Force, is considerably less funny here.  Maybe I just knew it was coming, but I think the overall brutality of that moment is what makes it so hilarious and it just is not as funny in this one.

Now, what this tells me is that Deadpool can absolutely survive in a PG-13 world, as they prove with the Fred Savage scenes, but Deadpool 2 can not be redone to be PG-13 and be effective or anywhere near as entertaining as the rated R version.

The most emotion that I had in the film was at the last post credit scene which was a tribute to Stan Lee.  It almost brought me to tears.  It was a beautiful tribute to the man.

When I first saw Deadpool 2, I loved it, but did not think it reached the level of the first Deadpool.  Once Upon a Deadpool’s framing scenes with Fred Savage are every bit as good, if not better, than either film.  The rest of the movie is just not up to snuff when compared to the other Deadpool movies.

3 stars…(overall-  but 5 stars for the Fred Savage-Deadpool stuff)

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Mowgli Movie Poster

Netflix’s latest release comes from the mind of director Andy Serkis, and is the newest adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale, The Jungle Book.  However, this is not your Disney version of The Jungle Book as Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is considerably darker and edgier than the animated Disney film or Jon Favreau’s live action adaptation from a couple years ago.

The story is similar to start.  Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is a baby when his parents are killed by the violent tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch).  Mowgli winds up with the wolf pack and is protected from the tiger’s teeth as Khan swears to eventually taste the man cub’s blood.  Mowgli is raised in the pack until the tiger returns to cause further chaos by inciting the humans by killing their cattle.

The panther Bagheera (Christian Bale) and the bear Baloo (Andy Serkis) do what they can to protect the man cub from the dangers of the jungle while still trying to teach him how to survive.

There is a lot of violence in this version, so do not mistake this for a children’s movie.  This is more in line with the original version from Rudyard Kipling than it is with the other theatrical versions.  The dark tone is not a problem as it seems to fit fairly well with the life of these animals.

The CGI of some of the animals are nowhere as smooth as the Favreau version.  There are times when these talking animals were simply weird to look at and that is a major drawback after we saw the exact same type of CGI pulled off flawlessly.

While it may not be fair to compare the two versions (or the animated Disney one) of this story, it is difficult to avoid, especially with the said version coming out just a few months ago.  And with WB selling this to Netflix for release, there is the idea that WB did not believe that this film would have survived a theatrical release.  I think they were probably correct in that assumption.

Again, that does not make this a poor movie.  It only makes it one with flaws.

The voice cast is tremendous, including the wondrous Cate Blanchett as Kaa.  There was no music, not a sign of “Bare Necessities” anywhere and that is a good thing since it would have felt totally out of place with the story this film was telling.  The young actor who played Mowgli, Rohan Chand, was solid in the role.  He may not have stood out as much as did Neel Sethi did in 2016, but Chand was respectable.

The film is uneven as it suffered from moments of dullness, despite other moments of freedom and drama.  There was not much dealing with the humans that was worth the time in the film, and that connection for Mowgli is lost.  Perhaps that was the idea.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is not a bad time and is most likely a decent watch on Netflix.  Most of the film looks good and the story is different enough to keep you invested.

3 stars

The Christmas Chronicles

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I have to say… I may not be a big fan of most Christmas movies… the new Netflix film, The Christmas Chronicles starring Kurt Russell, is charming, clever and a load of fun.

Kurt Russell makes a fantastic Santa Claus, updated for the new generation.  There are many smart and fun adaptations of the classic Santa tropes in the film that you have to really pay attention to the dialogue or the surroundings to catch them all.

Kurt Russell performs the song “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and it is one of may favorite music moments in movies this year.  It was a real jailhouse rock, literally.  It was also the moment of the film that won me over.

In The Christmas Chronicles, Santa gets distracted by two arguing children, the boy heading down the wrong track Teddy (Judah Lewis) and his sister, the ever-joyous Katie (Darby Camp).  With these two causing a dangerous sleigh accident, Santa is stranded in Chicago with Christmas spirit rapidly dwindling and nighttime hours slipping away.  The three of them have to work together to save the holiday.

The film is sugary sweet for sure, and can be completely predictable, but it is a Christmas film.  You fond yourself engaged with the struggles of these two young people and the coolness of Kurt Russell as St. Nick is undeniable.

It is not a forever classic, but the film is a fun watch and a great family movie to watch with your kids.  Kurt Russell is awesome in the role of Santa Claus. He totally immerses himself into the role, making it feel special.  A combination of The Santa Clause and Home Alone, The Christmas Chronicles is a good time.

And the Mrs. Claus cameo is exactly what I had wanted.

3.2 stars 

The Possession of Hannah Grace

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You know that the movie is in trouble when 15 minutes into the movie (in the empty theater that I was watching it) I think to myself, “I should really give this more of a chance than I am and not be ripping it so much already.”

Unfortunately, even with that unambiguous personal comment, there was just so much to rip.  I felt as if this needed the RiffTrax or MST3K guys to make the ambiance complete.

The Possession of Hannah Grace was just a ridiculous film with laughable moments that wanted to be scary, but failed miserably.

The film started with the typical religious exorcism that we have seen plenty of other times before, but one that takes a sudden and weird turn, one that really did not make any sense at all.

Then, three months later, the body winds up at the morgue and former police officer, recovering addict and new morgue late shift worker Megan (Shay Mitchell) starts seeing some strange things happen.

There are some things dangled in the story that are never dealt with.  Plot holes I guess you could call them, but there really is not that much of a plot…can there be plot holes when there really isn’t a plot?

Hannah Grace looked silly as she spider-crawled around the morgue and made it through doors and locks without any problems… and crackled and popped as she did it.  It was just humorous, and of course, unintentional.

In the opening credits, I spotted the name of Stana Katic, who played Beckett on ABC’s Castle for years.  I loved her and I started looking for her, but her role was severely disappointing for me.

I don’t know what else to say about this stinker.  I did laugh several times, though I wasn’t suppose to.  It was not scary.  It lacked a story.  The characters were weak or non-existent.  It was just bad.

1 star

 

Boy Erased

Boy Erased Movie Poster

Joel Edgerton has shown himself to be a strong director.  His film The Gift was a fantastic story and now he has added to it with the powerful film Boy Erased.

Based on a true story and the book by Garrard Conley about his own experiences.  Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) was a teen, confused by his sexual orientation and, after some events happened to him at college, he approached his conservative, religious parent with the fear that he has “thoughts” about men.  Jared’s father, Marshal Eamons (Russell Crowe), a Baptist preacher, found a conversion therapy program, run by a man named Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton), that said that they could “cure” Jared of his homosexual tendencies.

Once there, Jared slowly begins to realize his mistake and looked for help from his mother Nancy (Nicole Kidmon).

The acting in this film, across the board, is phenomenal.  All of your main stars give stand out performances in Boy Erased, anchored by another strong, and surprisingly subtle, performance from Lucas Hedges.  Hedges has truly cemented himself as one of our finest young actors working today.  Joel Edgerton continues to thrive in everything he does.  The character of Victor Sykes is one of the most complex and layered characters in this movie, his internal struggle playing off everything that he is trying to do.

Russell Crowe is amazing as the Baptist preacher whose faith is challenged by the lifestyle of his son and his love for his son fighting against his personal beliefs.  Crowe is shown as a good man who just can not get out of his own way.

Nicole Kidmon delivered a fantastic performance as Jared’s mother, who is able to show both her conflicted faith and her fierce protective nature for her son.

Just the fact that places like this conversion center ever existed is a stain on our life and culture, but what is worse is that these places continue to exist.  The info at the end of the film indicated that 36 states still allow these places to be legal.  In the world of 2018, that ignorance is simply unacceptable and backwater.  We need to move past this kind of bigotry and start dealing with people as people.  Boy Erased does just that in some very powerful moments.

Admittedly, the film starts a little slow, but the performances certainly outweigh any negatives.  This is a potent film that has a message that we all need to hear.

3.8 stars

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

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The Coen Brothers are back with an exciting and enjoyable anthology film that features six short Western stories that perfectly encompasses their brand of humor, irony and storytelling.

As in most of the Coen Brothers’ work, there is a tremendous cast of actors appearing in the film.  James Franco, Clancy Brown, Stephen Root, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Tim Blake Nelson, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly and a group of other recognizable Western character actors.

Each of the six stories in this anthology have different styles of a Western, starting with the Gene Autry-style parody of the good guy cowboy and ending with a stagecoach ride that sums up the entire film featuring some serious performances from Tyne Daly, Jonjo O’Neill, Brendan Gleeson and Unforgiven’s Saul Rubinek.

I really enjoyed almost all of these Western shorts.  I will say that Zoe Kazan’s “The Gal Who Got Rattled” was my least favorite and was the one where my attention was diverted the most.  Not that it was a bad short, but I just was more engaged in the other stories.

I loved the “Ballad of Buster Scruggs” story that kicked off the film.  Tim Blake Nelson came singing into the town in his white, pristine cowboy outfit only to reveal himself as one of the worst killers you would find.  The contrast was fascinating and I was also surprised when it ended when it did.  Buster had been talking to the screen and breaking the fourth wall as he went along and he felt like someone who might continue through the movie.  Nope.

Irony plays a big part in these stories, as does death.  If there is a topic that carries through the entire film, it is death.  The old west was certainly shown to be a place of death and of danger for all by the Coens.  However, there is a distinct feeling of fancy in each of the stories, albeit at different levels.

Stephen Root’s bank teller character in “Near Algodones” is a real hoot.  You can see the reaction from James Franco at the ridiculousness of Root’s responses.  One of my favorite moments was when Root came running out from behind the bank.  It was just a laugh riot.

Tom Waits’ Old Prospector character in “All Gold Canyon” was another great story, this time nearly a one man’s journey, his obsessive battle against the land and his intense desire to find gold in whatever manner he could.  The Prospector’s dialogue is very funny as he talks to himself, grumbling about the success or lack thereof.

“Meal Ticket” features Liam Neeson who owns and runs a traveling show that featured a man who has had his arms and legs amputated.  This man would vocalize famous writings and speeches for the entertainment of the crowds.  At first, he was quite the novelty, but his originality began to waver and he would soon be surpassed by the next big thing.  I think if you really want to look for hidden meaning, this one is ripe with possibilities.

If you are a fan of Westerns, this is a must see.  If you love the Coen Brothers and their past films, this is a must see.  I am not especially a fan of either of those but I found this film to be funny, dramatic and full of wonderful irony and fun.

4.6 stars

Green Book

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This one is really great.

Green Book is the true story of an African-American pianist, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his trio of musicians trip through the Deep South of the United States in the 1960s.  In order to make the trip, Shirley needed a driver/bodyguard, someone who knew how to get things done and not afraid to do what was needed.

Enter Italian bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) who was recommended to Shirley.  Tony was a tough guy and he was a world class bulls**tter.

Tony brought Shirley ( or Doc, as he called him) through each stop of the tour, seeing first hand the cruelty of racism, the unfair treatment Doc had to endure and the remarkable talent that the pianist displayed.

There are so many moments in this movie that, much like the recent The Hate U Give, are hard to watch or that we can believe could happen in America.  As a white man, I can just look at some of the ways these people treated Doc with shock and disappointment.

The relationship between Tony and Shirley is easily the key to the movie.  Seeing these two men develop and learn about each other and develop feelings of friendship toward one another as this tour continued is easily the highlight of the movie.  Both Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen are Oscar worthy in their work here and the way each man learns information about the other is a wonderful example to how we can cross race and differences with respect and honesty.

The film is not just a dramatic film though.  It actually is very funny as well.  The movie is brilliantly written and the humor comes organically with the dialogue and the situations these characters are placed in.  The moment where Tony is able to get Dr. Shirley to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken is one of the best scenes in the film.  Such a human moment that is just one example of great moments peppered throughout Green Book.

Linda Cardellini is Tony’s wife, Dolores, and, while she was not as important to the story as she could have been, her presence was absolutely felt and was a key reason the two men were able to be brought together as Shirley began helping Tony write the letters home to her.  Cardellini’s role was more than “just-the-wife” here and she does a great job.

I am sure that the movie could have been uglier as the time in the country was horrible for race relations and racism was just too prevalent, but the movie did its share to shine a light on how the tour was for these two men.  It also ended with such a strong and positive message that it shows that it is possible for racism to be overcome and to bring us together as a people.  If only there was more of that in the world, we would be so much better off.

Green Book was an outstanding time at the theater and I would recommend it to anyone.

4.75 stars

The Front Runner

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What would the world be like had Gary Hart not ruined his chance at being President in 1988?

How many dominoes would have fallen after that?  He was being perceived as the eventual winner of the election, so how would that have affected George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W Bush, or Donald Trump.  How many of those would not have been President? Would the world have course corrected? How about major world events such as 9-11 or the wars in the Middle East?

That is an interesting story that I would love to speculate on and I’d love to see a movie that took that on as a topic, but The Front Runner is not that film.  It entails the true story about Gary Hart, Senator from Colorado, who was the Democratic front runner in 1988, but lost that spot when some of his extra-marital affairs came to light through the press.

Looking back at this story, it is amazing how different the political scene is in today’s world where we have a President who admitted to affairs and was even on tape claiming to grab women by the private parts.  That did not derail Trump’s campaign, but 1988 was a different time.

This story is told not only through the eyes of the Democratic Presidential candidate, but also through the eyes of the journalists in the press who struggled with the idea that they were breaking this information.  Again, in stark contrast to today’s news that exists on this type of sensationalism, these reporters debated about the use of this information and whether using it made them more on par with the National Enquirer, the world of tabloid journalism.

Hugh Jackman is good as Gary Hart, especially when the film shows Hart as if he were a deer in the headlights.  You can tell he never once considered the possibility that his behavior outside of his marriage and the political world would affect his race and he raged against the use of the material.  One wonders if he had raged against the reporters in the proper moments if he would have overcome the scandal. It is said in the film that the American public was behind him at the start.

Of course, now Gary Hart is a lesson for all politicians to learn from.  I’m sure that is not the legacy Hart would have preferred.

Vera Farmiga is one of the best and most under-appreciated actresses we have working today as she never seems to fail to bring her best.  I would have liked to see more of her here as Lee Hart, the put on wife of the adulterous Senator, but every scene that she appeared in was compelling.

I really believe this was a vital moment in the world of politics that changed the way things happened and that had this gone a different way, who knows what our lives would be like now.  We’ll never know for sure, but The Front Runner does an admirable job of providing the core of what politics would become.

3.2 stars

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet

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Disney has had quite the year.  With massive hits like Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Incredibles 2, Christopher Robin and the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns, the company has had a ton of success in 2018.  You can toss the sequel to the hugely popular Wreck It Ralph animated film on the pile of money as well.

Not only is this film going to make a ton of money, it is a really quality movie as well.

We find Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) going through their days in their video games and spending time with each other.  However, Vanellope was beginning to become bored with her repetitive existence.  When her video game get broken and the replacement part unavailable, she faces the possibility of it being unplugged forever.

Not so fast.  There is a part available on the internet site Ebay, so Ralph recruits Vanellope to come with him into the internet to attempt to purchase the replacement part before it is too late.

The friendship between Ralph and Vanellope is front and center in this movie, actually focused on the side of Vanellope more than Ralph.  One could make the argument that this is Vanellope’s movie.  She and Ralph head into the Internet and find their way into a Grand Theft Auto type game where they meet Shank (Gal Gadot) and engage in an epic animated car chase with her.  Gal Gadot is not in the film that much, but she is great as Shank when she is.

There are a lot of very clever bits throughout the movie, using the internet and its sites as fodder for jokes and character development.  Of course, the idea was done by the Emoji Movie first, but this is WAY better in their use of the Internet than that movie was.  Yes, there is product placement, but I did not hate it near as much as I did when the Emoji Movie used it.  I think the fact that everything was used for character development made this a far superior flick.

Taraji P. Henson appears as a new character named Yesss, a head algorithm and the heart and soul of the trend-making site “BuzzzTube.”  Alan Tudyk is here voicing KnowsMore, an internet search engine who appreciates the politeness of people.

As with the original, the animation is great, full of life and bright colors.  The third act was quite scary in its own right and the movie deals with some real deep themes.  It is considerably more deep than animated films such as The Grinch.  There is plenty for both adults and kids in Ralph Breaks the Internet.

There is also a powerful scene dealing with online comments that I won’t spoil but is very well done.

The guest appearance of the Disney Princesses is a highlight of the film and really cries out to be developed into more than just a cameo.  And speaking of cameos… our dearly departed master of the cameo makes a fun appearance here too.

Ralph Breaks the Internet waited six years before releasing a sequel, and it was worth the wait.  With films like this joining that growing list of great Disney successes, the studio can absolutely ignore the less than successful films (Solo, A Wrinkle in Time).

4.2 stars

 

Creed II

Michael B. Jordon returns to the ring as Adonis Creed, the son of legendary boxer Apollo Creed, in a film that sees him become involved with the son of the man who killed Apollo, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu).

The sequel to the surprise hit Creed arrives in theaters this Thanksgiving with a solid, if not quite as spectacular, film in the Rocky franchise.

Sylvester Stallone returns to his iconic role of Rocky Balboa for this sequel that deals with the once powerful Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his son finding the perfect moment to launch an attack on the newly crowned world champion, Adonis Creed.

There are a lot of scenes that deal with the tragic events from Rocky IV back in the 1980s where Ivan Drago killed Apollo in a boxing match, a match where Rocky wanted to throw in the towel, but did not.  There are many good emotional beats coming from this event, in particular from Stallone, who had to deal with his choices for years.

We also find out that the years were not kind to Ivan Drago either as the Russian people treated him as an outcast, throwing him and his son, to the side after the crushing defeat at the hands of Balboa.

Creed II truly is what you get when you combine Rocky IV with Rocky III.  Not that combining those two films is a bad thing, but you clearly can see several of the beats of those Rocky movies in Creed II.  Some claim that the original Creed was really a remake of the first Rocky, but there were enough differences and originality that made it its own.  This one could have used a little more originality to help separate it from these past Rocky movies.

However, the film is very good anyway.  The boxing scenes at the end are excellent (though not near as great as the one shot match from Creed).  The scenes between Jordan and Stallone are some of the film’s best too.

The film goes heavily into the relationship between Creed and his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and they have a great chemistry.  Their relationship is a major selling point for this movie as it is unlike most relationships in this type of movie.

I even really enjoyed the little bit of characterization that the film gave to the Dragos.  They provided just enough detail to make you see these two men as real people and not the mindless Russian monster, like Ivan Drago was portrayed as in Rocky IV.  I liked the stuff from their background.

I did find it very contrived with how the final match wound up occurring where it occurred.  I had a hard time believing that is what would actually happen and it pulled me out of the movie.  I found, as well, the final training montage to be uninspired and a basic throwback to the past Rocky movies.

However, the boxing match is outstanding, the relationships and the characters themselves are really great and every story gets wrapped up beautifully.  While this may not be quite an equal to the original Creed picture, the sequel is a fine movie in its own accord.

4.25 stars

Robin Hood (2018)

This Thanksgiving break started today and I went to a Tuesday night opening.  With the available choices of Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed 2, you may ask, “How did you wind up at Robin Hood?”  I was asking myself that question as well.

The real answer is scheduling.  I planned out the five or so movies I need to see this break and it worked best to see the new version of Robin Hood on the Tuesday night.

And I did go into the film with as much of an open mind as I could.  In fact, about ten minutes into the film, I am making cracks in my head, but I stopped and told myself… keep an open mind, Doc.

Unfortunately, that open mind did not make this a good movie.  I really tried.

Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) caught the thief Marion (Eve Hewson) stealing his horses and they began a whirlwind love affair.  Until Loxley was drafted into the Crusades and had to go to war.  While at war, he tried to prevent crazy military leader Gisborne (Paul Anderson) from beheading the son of Jamie Foxx.  He failed, and wound up being shot with an arrow.  As we find out, Robin, or Rob as everyone called him for some inane reason, seemed to be immune to being shot with an arrow.  Just pull it out.

Anyway, he was sent home and Jamie Foxx followed him somehow.  He apparently knew everything about Loxley and knew of his relationship with Marion, who had believed that Rob was dead.  She moved on with Will Scarlett (Jamie Dornan) making Rob sad.

By the way, there was a scene where Marion and Rob came face to face for the first time and I swear it was a scene right out of The Princess Bride.  Rob asked her why she did not wait for him and Marion responded that he was dead.  I immediately said to myself, “Death cannot stop true love.  All it can do is delay it for awhile.”  Classic.

Back to the “story,” Jamie Foxx wants to train Rob and make him into Batman and send him against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) to revenge his son’s death, despite the fact that the man who actually ordered his son’s beheading was also still out there.

So Rob got himself an Arrow from the CW costume and continued his training to become a comic book archer.

This thing was hilarious throughout the film, although it had not intended to be.  Some of the dialogue was just horrendous.  The acting was fine for what they were given, but the story was thin and ridiculous and the dialogue was worse yet.

And then there was Ben Mendelsohn.  Poor Ben was just as bad as I have seen.  He was so over-the-top with EVERY line that I wondered if he was being satirical (Hint-he wasn’t).  His performance was laughable and I found him to be a total waste of a character and an actor who has skills.  Just not sure what he was going for here.

The action was okay at times, but it really did not mean anything.  Rob Hood was shot a second time (or was it third?) in the third act and it barely slowed him down.  As soon as the arrow was pulled form his shoulder, he kept going as if nothing had happened at all.

Then, again in the third act, Egerton’s role as Batman Hood is confirmed as one of the characters suddenly becomes Two-Face.  Literally, it was a near exact way that Harvey Dent became Two-Face in The Dark Knight.

Did I mention that Jamie Foxx’s character’s real name translates into “John?”

Jamie Dornan’s character waffled drastically between positions and was never truly a well crafted and realistic person.  He was just written so poorly that Dornan had no chance even with a strong performance.  He was totally inconsistent with his ideas and what happens to him makes ZERO sense.

But sense was not the main component of this movie.  Instead it took the DNA of several more successful movies, including the Nolan Batman trilogy, Princess Bride, Tolkien stuff, and mixed them together hoping to find something that would make this iteration of Robin Hood a viable franchise.  They had a solid cast, but that cast could not escape the wholesale garbage given them to act.  Ben Mendelsohn chewed the scenery every moment he was on screen, only being topped by F. Murray Abraham, whose Cardinal character was so one-note that you could not believe that the writers couldn’t give him SOMETHING to work with.

Oh, and there were a couple of times where it sounded as Mendelsohn’s Sheriff was Donald Trump.  The film took maybe one or two moments where it felt like they were gearing up to set him up as a symbol for the current US President.  Then, the film completely abandoned the point.  They also tried to get Loxley to infiltrate the inner circle of the Sheriff and the Cardinal, which worked like a charm.  Problem was the film also immediately tossed this plot point aside as well.  There was no pay off for any of that in the story.

The only good thing I can say about Robin Hood is that it is now out of the way and I can, hopefully, prepare to see the considerably better movies during the remainder of break.

0.85 stars

 

Juliet, Naked

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I had seen trailers for this movie earlier this year, but it never found ts way to any theaters in my vicinity.  However, when I saw this on iTunes, I was excited about getting a chance to see it at home.

And it was a good film.

Annie Platt (Rose Byrne) was becoming tired of her boyfriend (Chris O’Dowd) and his obsession with long absent rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). So when an album of Tucker’s music is unearthed and released, Annie takes the chance to write a scathing review of it.

Her boyfriend Duncan was mad at her, but she received a unexpected response.  Tucker Crowe himself read the review and agreed with her.  They then began a correspondence via e-mail and on the phone.

When she discovered that Duncan had cheated on her, their relationship ended.  However, Tucker’s minor heart attack made things even more odd.

This film is a sweet romantic comedy with a group of solid performances and a well written script.  The story itself feels a bit slight, but I did like the relationship between Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke.  Then, Chris O’Dowd is pretty funny as the obsessed fan who finds his hero in an unexpected place.

The story of Tucker and his gaggle of children that he did not know he had was interesting, but it seemed to be over too quickly.

This is deeper than most rom-coms but, even so, there is not a huge amount of plot.  Most of the film is resolved after the hour and a half.

Rose Byrne is great.  She brings a lot of charm to the movie and the little boy who plays Tucker’s son Jackson (Azhy Robertson) was a nice addition.

Juliet, Naked is a nice film to watch on an evening when you do not have anything else to do.  It might be a bit too slight, but that does not keep it from being a suitable watch.

3.3 stars

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Melissa McCarthy has been in a rut for awhile now.  Most of her movie roles over the last several years were similar.  She was playing a “Melissa McCarthy” type.  In the drama St. Vincent with Bill Murray, she showed she had more acting chops than we thought, but we hadn’t seen her take this type of a role since.

Can You Ever Forgive Me is the most unlikely role Melissa McCarthy has ever taken on and she just knocks it out of the park.

Lee Israel (McCarthy) is a down on her luck author, desperately trying to complete her latest book to get some money.  She is behind on her rent.  Her cat is sick.  She is a heavy drinker.  Her agent (Jane Curtin) won’t return her phone calls.     What can she do?

When she finds a letter written by Fanny Bryce, she discovers that there is a market for old personal memorabilia of old time stars.  Lee decides that she would take advantage of this situation and forge these letters by using her own talents as a writer to make the letters very personalized.

I found this movie completely engaging and entertaining.  I thought Melissa McCarthy was astounding as Lee Israel.  The great Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock was amazing casting. The relationship between Lee and Jack was one of depth and realism.  Their friendship was uncertain but different than most you see on the screen.  Two pretty wicked people finding a fellow scammer in each other.

Despite Lee Israel being a unlikable person, you can relate to her and connect with her.  She has problems that all of us have and she is only doing what she can to try and solve them.  She makes bad choices in the long run, but you can understand why.  At first, she was just trying to get the vet to help her cat (By the way, I hated that veterinarian who is turning away this poor sick cat over 80 some dollars.  Screw you, vet).

You can tell that Lee is enjoying her success and the money that is coming with it as the whole act strokes on her ego.  McCarthy does the whole thing brilliantly.

I believe Melissa McCarthy is absolutely an Oscar worthy nominee this year as Best Actress for this role. She should be awarded for taking something different and doing it so well.  It very well could be a career resurgence.

4.85 stars

 

 

 

Instant Family

I saw a review of this movie on Collider Movie Review Talk by William Bibbiani that summed up this movie with one perfect word:  “Lovely.”

That word from Bibs was the ideal word to describe Instant Family, which has a ton of heart, some wonderful moments of emotion and some great family drama.  And it had a bunch of humor that fit right in with the tone of the film.  It was not a “Daddy’s Home” type film that is was marketed as.  It was heartfelt and the humor was real.

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a married couple that find that they are missing something and they decided to become a foster family with the idea of adopting.  After meeting a fiery teen Lizzy (Isabela Moner), Pete and Ellie are intrigued.  However, Lizzy comes along with a brother Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and sister Lita (Julianna Gamiz) and the trio is a handful.

I truly expected this to be an entirely different type of movie, but this turned out to be an exceptional film. The acting was spot on.  Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne had an easy chemistry and made a real, loving couple.  Young Isabela Moner is a future star.  She was tremendous as the troubled teen.  She shone every minute she was on screen.

Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro were great together as the social workers assigned to the case of Pete and Ellie and the kids.  They were both entertaining and funny while delivering an important message.

Of course, the message of how important it is to have foster parents is very  vital, but, at times, heavy handed in the movie.  I mean, the film ends with a web address to help provide info for those wishing to adopt children in the system.  It felt too much like an infomercial during the film.  It is not a major issue, but it was noticeable.

In the end, this was a highly entertaining and funny movie with a message worth giving.  There are strong performances and the film thankfully goes in a different path than you expect.

As Bibs said, “It was lovely.”

4.6 stars

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts Crimes of Grindelwald 27x40 Original Theater D/S Poster Final

I was not a fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film so I was not looking forward to the sequel.  Still, the creative forces behind Harry Potter usually meant that their films were reasonably entertaining so I hoped that I would find the sequel an improvement.

Nope.

I found much of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald to be boring and confusing.  Honestly, there were many moments where I had no idea what was going on and I even took an extended break to go to the concession stand during the middle of the film.  I did not find it engaging at all.

I will say that the opening scene had some cool visuals and grabbed my attention.  Unfortunately, it failed to maintain such an interest.

After his misadventures in New York in the first film, Newt (Eddie Redmayne) found himself grounded, unable to travel internationally.  Still, when Dumbledore (Jude Law) needs Newt to go to France, he finds a nearby bucket and off they go.

Fortunately, Jacob Kalowski (Dan Fogler) arrived with Newt just in time to go with him.  His love Queenie (Alison Sudol) left him when he expressed a reasonable concern over them getting married.  And then Newt had googly eyes over Tina (Katherine Waterston) without ever really looking at her, and trying to avoid his brother Theseus (Callum Turner).

The plot of this movie is all over the place and is desperately confusing.  Despite there being way too many plot threads, I honestly cannot think of anything.  They clearly did not stand out.

Johnny Depp appears as Grindelwald and he is one of the worst parts of this movie.  Grindelwald is very lacking in any real intrigue or interest.  Outside of Depp’s typical weird hair/eyes, there is little to make this guy sinister or scary or intimidating.

Jud Law makes a good Dumbledore in the few scenes that we see him in.  Law is criminally underused.  There are also a criminal misuse of fantastic beasts, which is ironic in a film named Fantastic Beasts.

There are some decent moments, but the bad truly outweighs the good here.  The finale is downright dumb and lacks any true tension.

It was a long movie with the plot making it f3el even longer.  The best part of the original Fantastic Beasts film was the interactions with the four stars, but this film breaks them apart and keeps them away from one another for much of the film.  Redmayne was fine as Newt.  Jude Law was good as Dumbledore and I would like to see an extended role in future installments.  Depp’s character was lacking any pizazz.

I did not feel connected to any character here and so it did not bother me when things happened to them.  This series could really use some characters like Harry, Ron and Hermione.

2 stars