3022

3022 (2019) - IMDb

This movie has been on my Netflix queue for a few weeks and I finally got around to watching it.  3022 is a science fiction/thriller set in the future.

A group of astronauts on a space station try to desperately survive after an extinction level event happened on earth, a event that caused a massive power surge.

John Laine (Omar Epps) is the captain of the shuttle and his crew included Richard (Angus Macfadyen), Jackie (Kate Walsh) and Lisa (Miranda Cosgrove).

Much of what is here is fairly typical sci-fi fare in a futuristic space station film.  There is really nothing here that is new.  That does not mean it is bad.  It just means that it is normal.

The acting is solid.  Though it is a typical story, the performances within were great, especially Kate Walsh, who brought a lot of emotion to the role when placed into the desperate situation provided.

This movie is short and runs quickly.  There is a good feel of anguish and darkness in the film and that worked well.

3.2 stars

Emma

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I have missed some movies recently in theaters because of schedules, sickness and time.  Then, because of the worldwide pandemic currently underway, movie theaters across the nation closed, basically putting an end to the hopes of seeing some of these movies any time soon.

However, some movie studios have made these movies available early on streaming services to expand the views.  This gave me an opportunity to see some of the films I missed.

Vudu started this off today with The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma.  Two of those I have seen, so that made a choice easy.

Directed by Autumn de Wilde, Emma is the latest adaptation of the classic novel from Jane Austen of the same name.  It is a period piece, set in England in the 1800s telling the story of a young woman named Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy), a well-meaning but selfish lady, who has assumed the position of meddlesome matchmaker for her friends.

I will admit that I had a difficult time getting engaged int he film at first.  Distractions around me at home made it more challenging to focus than it may have been in a theater.  Unfortunately, that is the situation I was in.  Still, as the film progressed, I found myself drawn into the comedy and the relationships developing before me.

By the last hour or so, I was fully enthralled in the film and I enjoyed the rest completely.

Anya Taylor-Joy was beautiful and shone on the screen like few others.  She is clearly a star in the making and you can see she has a bright future ahead of her.  Bill Nighy played Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse and he was a clear standout.  His character was both eccentric and easy to relate to, which is a difficult combination to accomplish.

I also found myself enjoying the work of Johnny Flynn as George Knightley, Emma’s friend and eventual love.  He was an intriguing looking star and I quite enjoyed his originality in the role.

I have not seen other Emma adaptations so I have nothing to compare.  Despite a lacking beginning, I did enjoy Emma and I was happy it was available for rental at this time.

3.75 stars

Superman: Red Son

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DC Animation has always given us some really great movies.  In particular, those movies that are directly adapted from the comic books.  They have done it once again with the debut of Red Son.

I have been waiting for this to drop on Vudu for a couple of weeks now as I spotted it in their movie section.  It was available to rent on March 17th and so I waited.  I had not read the Mark Millar graphic novel Red Son from DC Comics, although I was aware of it.

Basically, it was the story of what would happen if the rocket carrying baby Kal-El crashed in the Soviet Union instead of Smallville, Kansas.  The animated movie did not spend a lot of time with young Superman, choosing to highlight one basic scene of little boy Supes being saved from the Soviet bullies.

Once it was revealed that he had amazing abilities far beyond those of mortal men, Superman went to the state and became a weapon for Josef Stalin.  Stalin made it seem as if he were kind and helping the Soviet people, but, when Superman discovered the truth, things turned.

We saw versions of Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern during this film, as well as Brainiac and Lex Luthor.  There were some real differences with these characters, and, the fact that Lois and Superman aren’t forced together was a neat factor.

The animation was average. much like the other DC Animated movies.  If they would put some money into these films, they could be major hits.

It was a fairly straight forward story with little surprise.  In the end, it was a fun watch, but I have seen better animated movies this year.

3.5 stars

Lost Girls

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Continuing on the streaming services for new movies, I watched the new release Lost Girls on Netflix this morning and it was very compelling.

Based on a true story, Lost Girls tells about the disappearance of 24-year old Shannon Gilbert, and her mother’s desperate struggle to find her, to get any help from the local police and to deal with feelings of guilt.

Mari (Amy Ryan) was not a perfect mother, by any stretch of imagination, but when her daughter disappeared, she became an unapologetic tenacious warrior, butting heads with everyone involved in the situation.  Many of the police involved did not take the situation as seriously as they may have since Shannon was working as a sex worker at the time.

Gabriel Byrne played the police detective Richard Dormer, who was in charge of the case.  While searching for the missing girl, police accidentally uncovered the remains of several other girls.  These girls ultimately were shown as victims of the Long Island serial killer.

The film is painfully compelling and paints a picture of Mari, warts and all.  She is the most fascinating of characters here and her anger carried through the entire film.  Much of the anger she displayed came from a place of self-guilt.  She had plenty of struggles with Shannon over the years and she could not help but know that she had contributed to this moment in time for her daughter.  Amy Ryan does a wonderful job of bringing this woman to life.

Though the film does not have a satisfactory conclusion, the filmmakers did an admirable job of providing the viewers with as much closure as they could.  I understand that they were working with an unsolved case, as the film states at the very beginning, and a certain amount of disappointment was going to come with that.

There does feel as if there are several ways this could have been taken that would have made this movie even more compelling, yet the film has some solid performances and is worth the watch.  Just be aware that there will not be a happy ending with the story wrapped into a tight little bow.  Plus, there is text to read at the end that really could have sent this movie into a different direction.

4 stars

Stargirl

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The latest family friendly film arriving on Disney + is based on the YA novel of the same name by Jerry Spinelli, called Stargirl and it was sweet.

Teenager Leo Borlock (Graham Verchere) was an average student at Mica High School until he meets a charismatic, free-willed new student named Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal), and his life was never the same.  Her ukulele playing at the football game made her into a good luck charm as the school embraced her quirkiness.  Popularity can be fleeting in high school so when things went wrong, Stargirl found herself shunned and Leo found himself confused and desperate to figure things out.

This is the type of film you would expect to find as an original on Disney +.  It featured a healthy dose of magic and goodness, just the type of fare that Disney has thrived on over the years.

Grace VanderWaal is an absolute star.  She had an amazing aura about her that made her someone who you had to keep your eyes on every second she was on the screen.  She had an undeniably special feel about her.

But she was not on screen alone and her co-star, Graham Verchere was solid as well.  He was a perfect foil to Stargirl’s magic.  Verchere’s Leo came alive when he was with Stargirl and Verchere played this beautifully.  His vulnerability filled his performance opposite Stargirl’s confidence.  There was a magic between them.

The story was fairly simple and did not go into a great deal of specifics, but there are some solid moments.  I especially liked how Stargirl did not make the right decisions every time and, unwittingly, does something that hurts a fellow student.  Stargirl was not perfect.  She was flawed as anyone.

The music of the movie was weaved into the story in a wonderful manner.  The music at the football game and then, eventually, at the dance really helped capture the imagination of the audience and created a dream-like state.

Stargirl is a coming of age movie with a lot of Disney magic involved and some great musical numbers.  Some characters are shorted in their development, but the pairing of Stargirl and Leo is what the film is about.

3.75 stars

 

 

The Hunt

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“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm

The Hunt was originally intended to come out in September 2019, but wound up being delayed until this weekend.  The controversy surrounding this movie was clear and the battle lines were drawn.  Lots of controversy and complaining from people who had never seen the movie.

After seeing The Hunt, I can understand why there are people who are polarized about it because it is very clearly a movie that is divisive.  However, I do not understand the anger directed at it since it is obviously a satire and both sides of the political world is lambasted equally.

A group of people from the “deplorables” are kidnapped by some “lefty elitists” and taken to a mysterious location.  They are drugged, gagged and scattered around.  Once they come to, they start being picked off, one by one.  Scattering, the group attempts to avoid the people hunting them.

The first act of this movie was extremely unexpected because as you meet a character that feels as if this was the main protagonist that you are meant to follow, something would happen that makes it clear that this was not the person we were meant to follow.  It’s shocking and it is funny.

Betty Gilpin from GLOW eventually is revealed as the main protagonist of the film and she is just amazing.  This is a star-making performance for her and she is unbelievably likable here.  This is even more impressive since there really is very little effort made to develop characters.  Most of the characters do not get past their surface structure. Betty Gilpin is no exception.  Her development is minimal, but that does not prevent her from being an awesome, kick-ass character.  The end shows that there may have been a reason for the lack of character here, and it may even be worth it.

The violence is vicious and gory.  Some of the kills are well designed and entertaining while others felt as if they were simply there for shock purposes.  I have seen more violent movies so this is not a disqualifying feature for me.

The movie does have a message, in particular, about social media and the nature of it, but the message is not pounded into your heads, although it is not necessarily subtle either.

This was a funny satire with some cool action involved.  Betty Gilpin is an early season leader for Kick Ass Female of the Year in what should be a competitive year in that category.  You may be offended by The Hunt, but, if, like me, you are not, then you will probably laugh and have some good time with an over-the-top movie.

4 stars

All the Bright Places

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This one is better than the last one.

All the Bright Places is a coming-of-age/teen drama movie featuring Elle Fanning and Justice Smith and it is based on an international bestselling novel by Jennifer Niven.

Theodore Finch (Justice Smith) is out running one day when he comes across Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) on the edge of a bridge.  Stopping, he brings her back from the edge and they eventually begin a relationship.  However, there are problems because Finch has his own baggage from a childhood of trauma.  There are some serious mental health issues on both sides of this relationship and yet they seem to find the best in each other.

The story itself is only average.  The two of these characters are quite inconsistent through much of the film and, while that could be a trait of the age, it does not help us connect with them.

However, both Elle Fanning and Justice Smith are charismatic and charming.  They share a great chemistry and fill the screen with the power of their personalities.  You connect with them considerably more because of the actors playing them than the story they are playing out.

There was a bit too much melodrama in the movie for my tastes.  They bounced back and forth between the two of them for much of the run time.  Maybe that is the point, but it feels as if they left too much out from the story of these people.

I have not read the book, but I wonder if it provided more of a opportunity to understand who these characters were and why they acted the way they did.

Still, this was a fine film, if for nothing more than the performances of the two lead actors.

3.4 stars

Twin Murders: The Silence of the White City

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I have begun my “Not Going to Theater While Coughing” streaming service watch today on Netflix with a film called Twin Murders: The Silence of the White City.  The summary on Netflix made me believe that this would be an interesting film.

Nope.

A criminal profiler (Javier Ray) returns to Vitoria-Gasteiz  at the same time that a serial killer, thought to be in jail and being prepared to be released, has begun leaving corpses killed using bees.

I lost interest in this fairly quickly.  The story was not intriguing as I had hoped it would be and was predictable and uninteresting.

The biggest problem with the movie is that it is actually a Spanish language film, but this version is dubbed in English.  Because of that, the actors on screen do not match with the words they are saying and the voice over acting is hardly as emotional or human as it should be.  The voices lack the impact of the real voices.  I would rather had heard the real voices in Spanish and read the subtitles than hearing this half-hearted English translation.  It is nearly impossible to grasp the real performances these actors give because of it.

I hope the next one is a better film.

2.1 stars

 

The Way Back (2020)

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One has to admire the bravery of the performance in this movie from Ben Affleck.  He has recently suffered from alcoholism and had checked himself into a treatment center and this could not have been easy to play this role.  Yet he did it and he was tremendous in it.

The Way Back is a sports movie with more.  Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) was a former star high school player at the Catholic High School.  The basketball world was at his feet, but he chose to leave it behind.  A troubled life followed which included a separation with his wife (Janina Gavankar) and an alcohol problem.

When his old high school’s coach had a heart attack, Jack is offered the position of head coach, working alongside assistant coach Dan (Al Madrigal) of a team with a group of problematic players who have not been successful.

The basic basketball scenes in this movie are nothing new.  In fact, it would be fair to say that most of the basketball scenes here are extremely formulaic.  Not to say they were not well done, but there was absolutely nothing new about any of them.  Everything that happened was something that we had seen before.

However, the scenes with Jack and his troubles were very well done and brought an uncertainty to the story.  The final act of the film was just strong and really took the film into an area where you were not sure what was going to happen.  That was a refreshing switch from what had been a predictable tale.

Ben Affleck was magnificent here.  He brought a depth and an anguish to Jack Cunningham that was relatable and understandable.  You wanted to see this guy overcome his demons, but the film does not take that easy route.  Just because his basketball team was having success, it did not mean that the problems that had haunted him and had driven him to hide in a bottle were gone.  In fact, it may have made those issues all the worse.

I do think the film felt a little long, but I am not sure where you would have cut.  The film was more about Affleck than it was the game of basketball.  Because of that, some of the characters on the basketball team were shorted in development.  The movie was Affleck’s story and it gave him the minutes to show it.

Directed by Gavin O’Connor, who also directed feel good sports movies Miracle and Warrior, found a way to subvert the expectations of the genre with this movie.  It seemed that this was going to be just another formulaic sports movie, until it wasn’t.

Powerful and difficult to watch at times, The Way Back is a good movie with a strong lead performance.

3.8 stars

Spenser Confidential

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Back in the 1980s, there was a TV program on ABC called Spenser for Hire and starred Robert Urich and Avery Brooks.  I never loved this series, but I watched it a few times.  So you can forgive me that I did not figure out that the new film on Netflix, Spenser Confidential is a return to that character, this time starring Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke.

Based on the novel “Wonderland” by Robert B Parker and directed by Peter Berg, Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) was a cop convicted of assaulting his police chief.  After serving his time, Spenser returned to his life with the intent of leaving his home in Boston and heading out west to drive truck.  However, a group of crooked cops and drug runners throw problems in his path.  Spenser has to team up with Hawk (Winston Duke), a MMA fighter who was living with Spenser’s mentor, Henry (Alan Arkin), to try to solve the murders of a couple of Spenser’s previous colleagues.

I had some problems with this movie.  First and foremost, it felt as if the film did not know what kind of film it wanted to be.  At first it felt flashy and dumb, like a Michael Bay movie.  Then it seemed like it wanted to be a buddy cop movie.  Then, it tried to be a slapstick comedy.  Then there was serious drama with the crime story.  All of these different styles did not fit together in this case and really clashed.  By trying to be it all, this movie was never able to be itself.  It failed in all of the different tones.

Wahlberg and Duke were fine.  Duke will always be M’Baku from Marvel’s Black Panther, and, unfortunately, this version of Hawk was nothing like the Avery Brooks version.  I understand the attempt to take the character in a different direction, but this was a real tangent.  Arkin was the same basic character that Arkin is in every movie these days.  There is a character named Cissy (Iliza Shlesinger), Spenser’s former girlfriend, but the less mentioned about her the better.  This character is easily the most annoying and least engaging character on the screen.

And Marc Maron is here too, but he is wasted.  His character is so disposable that I am not even sure what his role here was.

The story is totally messy.  It was convoluted and confusing.  It wanted to be a mystery as well, but that played like every low-level buddy cop film you’ve ever seen.  The bad guys are woefully underdeveloped and are basically one-dimensional crooks from your typical crime movie.  Nothing special about any of them.  They kept referring to Boylan (Michael Gaston), the police chief Spenser assaulted, but we knew so little about him that their use of him felt like lazy writing.

The comedy in the movie was just such a flop. There is one scene with Spenser and a dog that is as dumb as it can be.  I am not sure I can recall any of the humor actually hitting.

This was just a bad movie and a failed attempt to bring the character of Spenser back to relevance.  Wahlberg and Duke worked okay together and would be the best part of this movie.  They are absolutely not enough to save this silly reboot.   I do not think fans of the Spenser for Hire series or the Robert B. Parker novels featuring the character of Spenser will enjoy this movie much.

2.3 stars 

Onward

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I was able to see an early showing of Pixar’s latest animated movie, Onward, and I was extremely pleased that I had the chance.

This is another fantastic film from Pixar Studios.

Ian (Tom Holland) is an elf living in a fantasy world that has lost its magic and become very much like today’s real world.  His brother Barley (Chris Pratt) is a gamer who treats his Dungeon and Dragons-like game as history of the world.  They live with their mother Laurel (Julia Louis Dreyfus), who had been widowed for years.

In fact, Ian had never met his father and that loss had always challenged the character.  So, on his 16th birthday, Ian’s mother gave him a gift from his father.  It was a magic staff and a spell that could resurrect the father for one day only.

The big problem was that the magic caused some trouble and, when they attempted to bring the father back, they were only able to resurrect half of the man, from the waist down.

Having a day left to try and find another magic gem that could finish the job, Ian and Barley headed out on an adventure of self-discovery and brotherly bonding.

Honestly, the first part of Onward was a bit slow and it was fine.  However, when you are watching a Pixar film, fine does not cut it.  As the film progressed though, the emotional bond between Ian and Barley started to carry the movie and it was not too long until Onward was firing on all cylinders.  Honestly, the third act of this movie was just tremendous and took Onward to a different level.

Pixar certainly knows how to create emotions among the viewers.  They tugged on the feelings throughout the movie and I am not ashamed to admit that the final act saw me with tears running down my face.  It reminded me, in good ways, of both Coco and Inside Out.  It also absolutely had a ton of homages to Indiana Jones movies in fairly obvious ways.

The voice cast was outstanding.  I have already mentioned Holland, Pratt and Louis Dreyfus, but I have not yet mentioned Octavia Spencer, who voices the Manticore, an amalgam of several animals (like a griffin) that had a legendary history in the fantasy world.  Spencer was great and had some of the funniest lines in the film.

Of course, the animation in the movie was continually great.  Pixar films are always above the line for CGI and character creation.  It is a beautiful film to look at through the entire run.

In the end, the movie truly dives into the brotherly connection between Ian and Barley, providing a relationship that is undeniably relatable and powerful.  The sentiments of loss that are interspersed in the script is done deftly and in a way that expertly draws out the emotions in the viewers, both young and old.  The third act of this movie is as good as it gets and really takes what was being set up as a decent Pixar movie and makes it an excellent Pixar movie.

When this opens nationwide next weekend, make sure you take your family to see it.  Or go on your own.  It is worth your time.

4.5 stars

The Invisible Man (2020)

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This is how the Dark Universe should have gone.

The brand new version of the classic Universal Monsters movie, The Invisible Man, came out this weekend with Blumhouse’s Jason Blum as a producer and he showed, once again, that you can make a movie with a small budget and make it compelling and intriguing.

Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) was in an abusive relationship with tech magnet Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and she tried to escape.  With the help of her sister (Harriet Dyer) and friend James (Aldis Hodge), Cecilia was able to escape from Adrian’s controlling clutch.

When news of Adrian’s suicide reached Cecilia, she was not as relieved as she should have been because she began to suspect that Adrian was still alive and stalking her by somehow turning himself invisible.  She found herself becoming more paranoid with each passing moment and the people in her life believed that she was falling into madness.

I really enjoyed a lot of The Invisible Man and my first watch of it was very enjoyable.  I must say, upon reflection, there are more moments in the film that I found pressed the level of plausibility and might make this one of those films that I like less over time.  As of right now though, I thought it was fun.

Elizabeth Moss was great in the lead, really showing the tension and the potential descent into madness for her character.  I wish the film had not revealed so quickly that this was what was happening because, although they hinted at the fact that this might just be Cecilia’s paranoia and mental state, this was never in question.  Part of that went with the promotional material for the film as the trailer certainly gave much of the film away.  It would have given the film another level that would have helped the story.

The performances were all great and the use of the invisibility was very well done.  There were moments in the film that were very tense because you were never quite sure if Adrian was actually there.  I know I always assumed he was there.

Some of the things that I would quibble with are spoilers so I won’t be specific, but there were several moments when it felt as if the characters responded in ways only because the film needed them to do so.  There were a bunch of horror tropes here too that took away from the overall quality of the film.  These are minor points though as they did not bother me too much during the movie.  I found myself several times wondering why she did or did not make certain choices.

Directed by Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man creates a world of suspense and terror that comes from the unknown.  We have all walked into a room in our house with that creepy feeling that someone is watching us, even though we know for certain that is not the case.  Whannell successfully mines that naturally unnerving feeling and takes it to its nth degree.

Sure there were some ticky-tack things that could have been tighter or could have been scripted better, but that is nitpicking.  In the end, The Invisible Man is a solid horror/thriller film in a year where horror/thriller needed a good one.  Elizabeth Moss is a star and her performance steals the show.

4.2 stars

Color Out of Space

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I love the Movie Trivia Schmoedown, an online trivia show with some WWE and UFC tendencies.  It is remarkably enjoyable and has only grown and improved every year.  The reason why I watched this movie was because of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown.

One of the top competitors in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown is named “The Kid” Brendan Meyer.  He is a young and popular competitor that has an encyclopedia knowledge of movie trivia.  I also knew that Meyer was an actor and that he had been in the OA.  When I heard his Schmoedown team partner, critic William Bibbiani talking about Meyer’s new movie, Color Out of Space, and how he would not be reviewing it to avoid any cries of potential bias, I wanted to see it.

So I found the film on Vudu and waited until it became available for rental (which was today).  Who knew that this was a film that was starring Nicolas Cage?

Color Out of Space was a science fiction/horror mash-up where a meteorite crashed on the farm of the Gardners in rural New England.  After the meteorite crashed, the whole family found themselves acting differently than they had before while some kind of mutant organism infected them.

Brendan Meyer was the oldest son to Nicolas Cage.  Joely Richardson played the wife of Cage and mother to Meyer.  There was a sister, played by Madeleine Arthur and a younger son played by Julian Hilliard.  Elliot Knight appeared as Ward, an investigator there to try and help the family.  Finally, playing stoned hippie Ezra was the one and only Tommy Chong.

Nicolas Cage was at his very best, over-the-top craziness in this movie.  It is an area within that he has absolute carved out a place for himself.  Brendan Meyer was quite impressive in the role of Benny as well.  Watching the kid work here, one believes that he has quite an impressive future ahead of him.

I felt the first part of the film was a little slow, but it built nicely as the tension continued to grow.  By the third act, the film had grabbed hold of me and created a wild and crazy conclusion.

This is based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft and it is directed by Richard Stanley.  This is a weird and bizarre film that is energetic and entertaining.  I am glad that I watched it.  Thanks The Kid.

3.7 stars

The Last Thing He Wanted

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I discovered this on Netflix this weekend and saw a cast of very impressive actors. I mean… Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Rosie Perez, and Toby Jones are all some of the greatest actors working today.  It makes one wonder how this film, which should have been truly successful as a political thriller,  went so off track with such a top flight cast.

But The Last Thing He Wanted, based on the novel of the same name by Joan Didion, was convoluted and confusing.  The story kept having events happen that make little sense and made the narrative difficult to follow.

Journalist Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway) walked off the presidential coverage she had been assigned to follow in order to help complete her sick father’s (Willem Dafoe) business deal, which was dealing arms to Central American countries.  She suddenly found herself over her head, involved in the very story that she had been trying to reveal prior.

Set during the heart of the Iran-Contra Affair, Elena’s motives were not always clear.  Was she doing this for her father?  Her daughter?  The story?  Her country?  None of it is clear.

Anne Hathaway is solid in the role.  Ben Affleck, who played Treat Morrison, a government official who becomes involved with Elena.  Willem Dafoe is probably the most interesting character in the film, but the end results of his character arc is disappointing and occurs off-screen.

The end of the film is messy and sloppy.  It hardly is worth the time that you have to put into the story to understand what is going down.

I find it difficult to believe that Elena is any sort of international journalist.  She seemed fairly lacking in skills.  I would think a journalist of this caliber would have a few more tricks up her sleeve.

This was a pretty disappointing film.   I certainly expected more when I saw who was involved.

2 stars

The Call of the Wild

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I really am more of a cat person.

I do love Harrison Ford, and he is great in this movie.  Unfortunately, I had checked out way before Ford ever showed up in this adaptation of the classic Jack London novel.

The Call of the Wild is the story of a dog named Buck who gets abducted from his domestic bliss and winds up in the Yukon as a sled dog under the control of a variety of masters.

I was out of this movie immediately because of the fact that Buck (and all of the other dogs as well) were CGI in this movie and it was CGI that was simply not very well done.  Buck felt more like a cartoon character you might see in a Scooby Doo movie than a real dog involved in an iconic story.  I just could not get past the manner in which Buck was portrayed in this movie and, despite the fact that I enjoyed the Harrison Ford component of the story and that the look of the scenery was lovely, this animated dog just was so poorly done I could not forgive it.

Sure, the film is heart-warming and a pretty solid film for the family.  If you can get past the way that Buck looks and the fact that the dog is more human than many of the other characters in the film, then you probably will love this movie.

However, I could not get past it.  Besides Buck, there was a villain involved here named Hal (which I had no idea and had to look up on IMDb to get his character name).  Hal (Dan Stevens) is the total mustache-twirling villain with zero motivation outside of “gold” and… “evil.”  Hal has to be an early year leading candidate for Worst Villain.

There needed to be considerably more Harrison Ford here than what we got.  He does not come into serious use until late in the movie.  The first forty-five minutes to an hour had only a few slight uses of Ford.  His character had an interesting background and a real reason to be the way he was, and I could have used more of that.

Yes, I know that the movie was following Jack London’s book more and there is a chunk of time spent with Buck as a sled dog with French mail delivery man Perrault (Omar Sy), but I needed more of Ford and there was no reason they could not have set this up as two characters who were destined to meet and then we spend time with both.

Dog lovers may love this movie.  I found the CGI terribly distracting and unnecessary.  There were some laugh out loud moments of unintentional comedy that distracted from the deadly serious survival tale of the original novel.  The film could be worse, but it could also be much better too.

2.5 stars