Saturday, July 6, 2019

‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ A Fun Follow-Up to ‘Endgame’

With a film that is such a huge moment for Marvel as Endgame, you would think Marvel would take a long break from releasing films just to ease their audience. With Spider-Man Far From Home out a mere two months after Endgame, that’s certainly not the case, as we get to see the Web Slinger again in another Solo outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Far From Home has a lot to live up to being shortly after Comic Book movie game changers like Spider-Verse and Endgame¸ however for the most part, it does succeed in that department. Far From Home may start out a bit standard but as the film progresses, it ends up becoming a great film and an excellent addition to Spider Man’s ever growing rooster of solid movies.
Solid Start but Soars after a Certain Point

Far From Home focuses on Peter Parker, who after being a part of an intense war, wants to kick back and relax on an upcoming Vacation with his classmates. Things take a turn when Nick Fury is summoning him to figure out a new threat coming to Earth, so Parker has to struggle with managing being Spider-Man all while trying to have the perfect vacation. The plot has a decent set up, and in the first half of the film, it is enjoyable. It doesn’t do anything truly outstanding within the first half hour because it’s mostly trying to be entertaining, especially after such a dramatic Marvel film like Endgame. The downside is, some moments of comedy and character moments don’t mesh up as well in the first half, with the writing not so much falling flat, but not landing as hard as it could have been when it comes to a story and character standpoint. That is, during the first half of the film, once the second half of the film occurs, not only does it pick up big time, it becomes down right great! At a certain point, when a major reveal happens, the film gets more intriguing and also a bit deeper when it comes to characters as we get a better sense of the threat that occurs in Far From Home. Plus, we see more growth with how these characters are handling their situations along with maintaining their relationships, in a ton of very clever ways. It becomes more so a film about living up to one’s potential and showing that in this film with Spider Man and the events that happened in Endgame made it flow very well and was incredibly fitting to the character. Also much like the previous Homecoming, this new Spider-Man movie doesn’t try to be like the original films but instead its own thing and does it in a solid execution. It’s hard to reveal much of the good elements of the plot without spoiling too much, but rest assure that Far From Home takes a while to get great but when it does it becomes one of the best Spider Man movies out there.
Parker and Friends Make for Fun Characters

Far From Home does elevate in plot in the second half, but it is due to a good cast of characters we see grow in this sequel. Tom Holland as Spider-Man is a good representation of the character being both different yet also true to the original character. We see Parker in this film trying to live up to the potential that so many of the other Avengers had to offer, and it’s a struggle that is portrayed in a more realistic fashion. We see his confidence grow even through all the various moments that we might be lead to believe that he has given up, with some solid writing and acting; the character was made more believable. The rest of the cast serves their purpose pretty well, as a lot of them are mostly comedic relief that tend to have some jokes that hit or miss. The highlights of the side characters are Nick Fury who is fun like always and Zendaya is also very entertaining as MJ being a decent new take on Spider Man’s love interest. By far the best character in this movie is Mysterio played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Of course as expected Gyllenhaal gives a phenomenal performance as this character being believable in every scene he’s in. His character is also very well written, even though it might be obvious on what this character will end up being if you know anything about the character, the motivations and techniques behind his methods more than make up for it. His sequences end up being one of the highlights of the film with great action set pieces and even add to Spider Man character in terms of development.  Mysterio is fantastic addition of the Spider-Man cast of characters for his impact on the actual story and characters of the film. Much like the best Spider-Man movies, its characters really make this iconic Comic Book characters come to life.
Mysterio Brings Visual Flare

A Marvel Production, especially one centered on Spider-Man is bound to have some great visuals from a technical standpoint. During the first half, the look of the film is pretty standard with CGI that is pretty serviceable. Nothing true out of the ordinary for Marvel, but yet once the second half comes in, we somehow get more of an explanation for Far From Home’s seemingly standard effects. Without giving away too much, if you feel like the effects aren’t as good in this movie compared to other Marvel movie, Mysterio himself gives an explanation for the effects and done in a clever way. What elevates this movie from a technical level more so are the action sequences which this film delivers plenty of and all in creative ways. Most particular an outstanding action sequence involving Mysterio which not only looks unique and creative but dives into the psychology of the characters in a way that makes this action scene all the more interesting. It all concludes to a great action packed finale that while not as great as the Mysterio Mind Sequence, is still a solid way to end the movie. It’s no Endgame when it comes to scale, but in terms of the first Marvel film after Endgame, this was a good follow up towards that film on a technical standpoint.

Enjoyable and Strives to be Mostly That
Spider-Man Far From Home is a fun entertaining movie. Certainly isn’t one of the best films from Marvel, but it is elevated through a lot of great moments and a very strong second half. Coming off of Spider-Verse and Endgame, this might feel like a weaker film, however it’s not trying to be those movies. It’s another feature film that adapts Spider-Man in a unique creative way; it does have some faults and filler, but improves much more as it goes along to one of the most entertaining Spider-Man movies in recent memory. For a character as over used as the Web Slinger Hero is, Far From Home is a refreshing adventure for comic book and Spider-Man fans alike.

Monday, June 24, 2019

‘Toy Story 4’ A Great Sequel, But Only A Really Good ‘Toy Story’ Movie

     Toy Story is one of the most iconic and well acclaimed movie series of all time, especially in the animation world. After a 3rd movie that supposedly ended the franchise, most said that there’s no way there could be another film. Shockingly, Pixar has now made an attempt to continue what many thought had a perfect ending with Toy Story 4. With all the doubts and how good the end of the trilogy was, would this possibly unneeded 4th installment live up to the stands of what the other films were? The answer is both yes and no. Toy Story 4 does stand its own as a great sequel, properly expanding upon its characters and world, however in comparison to the other film, it doesn’t quite reach the highs emotionally that the other three films met.
A Better Epilogue than a Continuation of Three
     The Fourth Toy Story has the toys dealing with Bonnie starting Kindergarten, where they end up meeting a new friend she created known as Forky. When a road trip with her family gets a bit chaotic with Forky becoming missing, it’s up to Woody to find him and along the way; he ends up encountering both familiar and new faces on his new journey. In many ways, Toy Story 4 continues the franchise in a lot of clever ways in terms of what the world of Toy Story is like, giving some very unique ideas and morals the franchise. This is mostly dealing with the characters as we see a lot of growth for most of the major ones and some of the new ones introduced bring in a lot of charm, emotion and depth that every single Toy Story movie had to offer. It still continues that trend of being very charming movies that hit the emotional punch at the right places, but there is a downside. The biggest obstacle Toy Story 4 has to face is following up an ending that was so wrapped tight and perfectly told with the Third movie. Unfortunately the way it wraps up in this movie, while is a great idea and does have a lot of emotional weight to it, doesn’t quite hold a candle to how the third movie concluded its story. Without revealing too much, it does contains emotional weight, but also feels a bit rushed in a sense when it concluded as maybe there could have been more of a built up to this ending. As it stands, it’s a great way to conclude the series, but the way getting there and how quickly it felt when we got to this ending, it doesn’t feel as earned as it probably should. Not to say the ending or the movie itself is poorly written, because there’s still a lot done excellently here, and as sequels go, it doesn’t loses its steam as much as one would initially expect. As it stands, while 3 is a more satisfying and proper conclusion to Toy Story, 4 serves as a very good epilogue for the series, as it ties up more loose ends and character conclusion that was refreshing to see in this film. This makes for a great movie that isn’t as good as its predecessors, but still well written and a good expansion on the franchise.
Great Additions to the Cast both Old and New Faces
     With every Toy Story feature, there is a lot ways to witness both old faces back on the big screen while meeting new ones with each installment. The Forth film definitely adds in terms of characters both old and new, but some missed opportunities have occurred in this department. Easily the best character in the film that is a fundamental to Toy Story is the legendary cowboy himself, Woody. Woody definitely has the most growth as a character in this film, having more maturity in his personality compared to all of the other films. Not only that but the character ends up learning more so in this film than he has in even the other installment, which adds a lot of mature theming to this film as a whole giving it so much more depth making its lead real last hurrah in the franchise. As for the other returning characters, they are still fun and add a lot of humor to this film, however they’re not given a whole lot to do in this movie story wise compared to other films. Side characters like Jessie, Ham, Trixie, and Rex do have some fun moments and lines but they never amount to too much in regards to plot. The only character that gets a little more time is of course everyone’s favorite Space Ranger, Buzz Lightyear. He joins the adventure a lot, and has a new gag in the film which, while pretty funny as a whole, seems a bit odd considering that it makes Buzz a lot less intelligent than one would initially think. The other older toys mostly do not have much to do since this film introduces a ton of new characters and luckily they actually are very well done in this feature. Forky being the main new addition to the team is a pretty funny character being one that adds a whole new concept for the series with toys being made and becoming sentient and this particular toy questioning his existence. A very clever concept, however the downside is, the film doesn’t really expand upon this idea of how toy become sentient beings and Forky himself becomes more of a plot device at points being the one that helps get Woody into this conflict to begin with. He still makes for a funny character, but he would have been stronger if he became more than just that plot device. The other new additions include a Stuntman type action figure named Duke Kaboom played by everyone’s favorite badass Keanu Reeves and a plush duo played by Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key, who are easily some of the funniest characters added into the toy story movies. They are ones that really give the film a personality and filled with a ton of fun moments that are downright hilarious, especially with Key and Peele’s characters in particular. The main antagonist in this movie is also done cleverly, without revealing too much, this character starts out as an expected villain but as the film goes on, you see the true nature behind this character, By the end, they become sympathetic and fascinating character to watch that you want to succeed which is very refreshing given Disney’s track record of twist villain reveals in recent films. By far the best new addition to Toy Story 4 isn’t so much a new character as much as it is an old favorite returning for the first time in decades. Bo Peep returns in Toy Story 4 and this time not only is she a better character being more than just a straight up love interest, but she ends up being the one to help Woody through his newfound journey. She adds to the whole theme of moving on, making for a very good dynamic and is also just an all-around enjoyable character to watch and great to see her return after her absence from Toy Story 3. While it is mixed at points, Toy Story 4’s characters definitely help flow the film along as one excellent character piece, especially for Woody himself.

Perfects The Craft this Series Revolutionized
    There is no denying Toy Story influence in the animation industry. The first film is very dated visually by today’s standards in terms of CG, despite looking incredibly impressive for the time. Now that Toy Story 3 came out being a vast improvement over the original visually and looking more on the quality of modern Pixar films, you would think that is when the medium of CGI was perfected for this franchise. Well, it seems like Pixar has done the impossible as Toy Story 4 is jaw dropping beautiful and might be the well-constructed Pixar movie at the moment. Right from the beginning, there’s a shot of a toy car struggling to get out of the mud in the rain and that particular shot looks so impressive from every aspect, you’d almost forget you’re watching an animated movie. Toy Story 4 amazes with its visuals with so many of the textures, shadows and lighting looking almost identical to real life, being incredibly impressive. However, unlike certain films that forget to put the charm and expressiveness with all of their impressive visuals, Toy Story 4 does not forget that it is an animated movie. The characters despite looking more real than ever, still have many expressive faces and movements in terms of how they are animated. Something as simple as a Spork with Googly eyes tends to have so much passion to how they emote and Toy Story 4 captures these animated characters beautifully. Toy Story 4 might be one of the most impressive animated films Pixar has ever made, and it has to be seen to be believed in terms of how masterful the artist’s work on this is.

Not A Perfect Finale, But A Good New Installment
     The question remains, does Toy Story 4 need to exist? After the witnessing this film, not necessarily, the third Toy Story concluded perfectly and in a way doesn’t need to have more movies. But now that a Forth is here, it is at least reassuring that despite not needing to exist, it is a very commendable effort to continue the Toy Story franchise. It’s a flawed piece of work from Pixar not taking full advantage of the opportunities it has, but it still is an incredibly charming movie with so much heart and character to. At the end of the day, that’s what Toy Story is all about, being a franchise that has a lot of heart with some of your favorite characters on a little adventure and the forth movie stands as a good Toy Story movie. It may not be the best in the series, but it still is a quality installment Pixar’s most famous franchise ever.

Monday, June 3, 2019

‘Godzilla King of the Monsters’ Fundamentally Flawed but Still Fun

    Over years of waiting and waiting, fans of the iconic Kaiju monster Godzilla have been dreaming of a film that showcases all of his Giant Monster Glory as a Proper Big Budget Style Blockbuster. The 2014 Godzilla reboot was a step in the right in direction in terms of treating the character with respect, but fell short on truly showcasing all of the Kaiju’s glory with a lack of the title character. Now with the sequel finally here, Godzilla is back and this time he’s not alone, with King of the Monsters reintroducing other iconic Godzilla allies and adversaries. Is this the Ultimate Godzilla film fans have been waiting for? In many ways yes, as Godzilla King of the Monsters does bring a lot of Mayhem and Destruction one would want from a Godzilla movie, even if there are some downsides and elements that aren’t as well structured.
Standard Plot But Knows What It Is

After the events of the 2014 Godzilla film, citizens have realized that Godzilla is not the only monster around. In fact decades hundreds of gigantic titan exists to help protect or destroy the world and now some of them are being summoned after catastrophic events occurring in the world. The threats get even bigger when a legendary monster known as King Ghidorah is set loose and between him and various other monsters set to face off against Godzilla, a gigantic monster mash ensues. The plot of the film is basically standard like that which doesn’t seem like much to hold on to as the story doesn’t go any further and whatever elements it does add are kind of convoluted. Not only does it get convoluted but some of the details aren’t as interesting behind the monster madness and it feels like it has maybe too much exposition when it comes to the plot. It feels very much like a set up movie in some regards with a lot of allusion to future events in later films and nods to both Kong Skull Island and Godzilla (2014). That is when the plot is going on, however when the film does get to what most tend to see a Kaiju film for, which is the destruction and monster battles, it fares much better in that regard. Luckily it doesn’t feel too overbearing with the standard story as there is a good amount of monster battles in this film, Where some may complaint that there was a lack of Godzilla in the 2014 film, this film definitely gives him and his monster allies and adversaries much more time to shine and it is downright epic to see these monsters in a film like this. For all the faults with the story, it at least knows what it is and gives the fans what they want, an over the top action movie with giant monsters and it’s satisfying in that regard.
Epic Monsters Outweigh Weak Humans
     With any Godzilla or Monster movie, the main appeal is of course the monsters but a lot of these films feel the need to have a human element for some audiences to latch on to. Unfortunately, this is where King of the Monsters suffers from the most is that the human characters are some of the most basic and uninteresting characters seen in a film in quite some time. They’re not so much cringe worthy but there isn’t much to their characters outside of what role they play in the film such as the Villain, the Main Scientists, or the Comedic Relief. Granted Godzilla movies and other films of this caliber tend to have weak human characters as well but there have been some examples of human characters being done well in these kinds of films. Godzilla (2014) at least had Bryan Cranston who was genuinely interesting and had a great backstory and Kong Skull Island had a few entertaining characters with Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly. This didn’t really have that, even if none of the actors do a downright terrible job, especially Ken Watanabe and Millie Bobbie Brown who might have the most effort when it came to how their characters were written. Fortunately, while the human characters are nothing special, the creatures are something extraordinary. Some of the major classic Godzilla Creatures finally make their big budget debut and they’re everything you’d want them to be in an updated Godzilla movie. Mothra and Rodan are given a much needed updated with more creature like textures and design making them look more badass than ever before. Ghidorah also looks phenomenal looking exactly how he should while also retaining more textures and having a more monstrous appearance for a modern day blockbuster. But the star of the show himself, Godzilla returns, being the best element of his last film now gets even more screen time than how he did before. Every single scene he has a presence and one that will give fans of the title character goosebumps just for witnessing all of his glory fighting various foes in a bombastic blockbuster experience. There are even a few other neat creatures seen throughout the film that add to King of the Monsters’ focus on monsters, giving this film an added bonus for monster movie lovers. King of the Monsters lives up to the name of being a monster mash of awesome even if it gets slow and dull during the human moments.

Spectacular Monsters Spectacle

One would hope for a big budget Godzilla movie to also look visually impressive and for the most part, King of the Monsters is a visual treat on a production level. However, it does somewhat fall short on a production level in comparison to Godzilla 2014 and Kong Skull Island. King of the Monsters does lack in scale and how grand the situation of Godzilla is that for all of its faults, the 2014 movie mastered beautifully with its low angle shorts and tension showcasing how massive Godzilla really is. Kong Skull Island while not quite as serious as Godzilla 2014 had a great sense of style with great use of the 1970s time period and Apocalypse Now style of filmmaking alongside it being a monster flick. King of the Monsters doesn’t quite have either of those things and if it does, it’s not as prominent or as noticeably as the previous two films of the Kaiju Cinematic Universe. What it does have is just a lot of action mayhem and moments that are for lack of a better term, “Anime as Hell”. There still is a sense of wonder and awe when seeing the monsters fight or cause any other sort of destruction to the world. Add in the previously mentioned well designed nature of Godzilla and his other monster companions, then you still get a movie that looks impressive. Not to mention, the sound design in this movie is also great with not only some great monstrous sounds of Godzilla and Ghidorah but fans will be delighted to hear that the original Godzilla theme finally makes an appearance in a big budget film. Every time the song is played, it just feels as right as a theme as epic and fitting like Godzilla’s original theme deserves to be remastered for a big budget film like this. The sights and sounds of Godzilla are incredible in this and even without as much style and flare to it, the monster mayhem and spectacle makes up for that shortcoming big time.
   Godzilla King of the Monsters may be fundamentally flawed from a story and character perspective but that is okay given the goal this movie had. This film was attempting to be nothing more than a fun summer blockbuster showcasing Godzilla and many other monsters with a ton of spectacle. If you’re looking for something more than that, you might be disappointed with how this film fares, but if you go in looking it as an entertaining time, you’ll be satisfied. Godzilla is back and while he might not be better than ever, he and his fellow adversaries gave a great show of impressive monster battles. It’s only a matter of time when fans will soon get to witness Godzilla fight King Kong again, and if it’s anything like how this film panned out, then we’ll have even more enjoyable monster madness in the future.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

‘Aladdin (2019)’ A Blast From the Past with Lies Too Good to Last

     Disney Animation has many classic films under their belt that help shape Animation to be the expressive and meaningful media it is today. One of their most popular films ever is hands down their adaptation of the Arabian story, Aladdin. Aladdin is a movie filled with so much energy and fun along with having a tight story, exuberant animation, a lovely soundtrack and one of the finest vocal performances ever heard in the form of Robin Williams as the Genie. With such an iconic film under their belt, it would seem somewhat disrespectful for the talent that worked on the film if the studio decides to remake this particular version of Aladdin into a live action remake claiming it’s better than the original. The bad news is, they have, as now we finally lay our eyes on another Disney live action remake, the worse news, it is pretty terrible even considering how bad the live action adaptations of Disney Animated films have been. Aladdin 2019 is nothing more than a boring soulless cash grab with very little of the heart that made the original such a delight to watch and certainly is not a diamond in the rough when compared to the other Mediocre at Best Disney remakes.
Retelling with No Punch or Pizzazz

     The 2019 version of Aladdin on the surface doesn’t have too much different to it from a story perspective, being about a thief named Aladdin who falls in love with the Princess of the Arabian city of Agrabah, Jasmine. When trying to win his affection for Jasmine by doing deeds for an Evil Sorcerer Jafar, he comes across a magic lamp with a Genie that could help him on his path to have a happy life with Princess Jasmine. The story plays out very similar to the original animated version, however much like the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast; it almost feels too much like a carbon copy of the original animated film. Some may say that is not a bad thing from the surface considering they’re going through the same story beats as the original in a very similar manner in a “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind of way.  The issue is we have already seen this movie played out before in the original animated version and considering the animated version was so lively and expressive in very subtle ways, seeing a group of filmmakers try to recreate that in a more limited way like live action does not work. Most of the scenes are bland and not filled with style or flare of any sort, making the film a rather dull watch. Not to mention, with this movie trying to be so much like the original to a bit of a fault, it is so much more notable when it makes a change that made the original flowed so well. Certain sequences are combined into one moment instead of being their own scene. This is bad because you don’t get a good sense of time as when certain moment in this movie end, there is no impact in terms of emotion and we just go to the next sequence. What makes it even worse however that is because this is the more “mature” version of the original movie, it has to be longer and since it couldn’t simply leave the great original moments intact, there is some very obvious filler thrown in here. When it appears it is painful as the scenes don’t add any value to the original story, they don’t improve on any flaws the original may have and most of it is just comedic moments and painfully unfunny ones. The comedy goes on for too long with some jokes lingering on and on with no point and very little charm. There’s nothing clever or quick about it and when this is a remake of a movie that had a comedic legend behind it with Robin Williams, it makes this movie all the more pitiful. You would think with a longer runtime they would make something more worthwhile with its story but unfortunately no, it’s just a poor retelling of a great movie that couldn’t retell it in a way that makes it feel like it has phenomenal cosmic powers.
Characters Super Ordinary Incredibly Boring

     Outside of its tightly told story, Aladdin is incredibly well known for its cast of amazing characters and this remake has a cast that for the most part doesn’t come close to the charm of Disney’s original film. Starting with the leads, Aladdin and Jasmine aren’t too terribly interesting in this film compared to how they were in the original. To the actors credit however, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott aren’t terribly cast in the roles and nor do they themselves give a bad performance as the characters. They do well with what they’re given as they try their best to retain the likability that the original animated characters had to offer with some charisma and some decent singing voices. What is holding them back however is the writing as the characters are directed in a weird way with Guy Richie’s direction not letting them go out and also a poor script that tries to attempt to add some depth to their characters but just come across as needless padding to make the film longer instead. Will Smith on the other hand, plays Will Smith and not the Genie. Not to discredit Smith as an actor as he has proven to be likable in the past but the film is mostly trying to have him do his typical shtick of being Funny Will Smith. This does not work due to the terrible writing when it comes to giving jokes to these characters that again linger on for too long and the fact that Smith has the task of following comedic legend Robin Williams in this iconic role he helped make. He does try to do his own thing at parts but it just pales in comparison to all the hilarious energy Williams gave in every single frame of Aladdin and the film still tries to desperately recreate something in the vein of that performance. Genie is a character that Williams mentioned in the film himself, “Is often imitated but never duplicated” and the filmmakers here did not realize that fact when recreating the Genie in this film. That is however nothing compared to the worst element of this movie character wise which is the main antagonist of Jafar. Jafar in this movie is horrible as once a menacing and memorable antagonist is given a boring look and performance with barely little emotion coming out of him. Kenzari could prove himself to be a good actor in other films but he is not only horribly miscast as a weirdly younger version of the character but the direction he was given just makes him out to be bored throughout a good majority of the film. Whenever there is a moment where he has to be over the top, it comes across as laughable as this version of Jafar just is a lame mess of character  Outside of the main cast, the rest of the characters don’t hold up as Abu is just a generic CGI monkey, The Sultan who was once charming and lovable turns into a boring generic king, and Jasmine has an unnecessary sidekick that just helps continues being a part of the terrible jokes in this movie. The only diamond in the rough that appears in this movie from a character perspective is the magic carpet. He is actually still the same old Magic Carpet, still being expressive despite the lack of facial features and dialogue that still stays true to the original film. Though considering Carpet is the only character that is 100% how he should be, then it’s kind of unbelievable that this new cast of big name actors are literally losing to a rug.

Visuals and Music Neither Shinning or Shimmering

     An animated movie is nothing without some visually stunning animation and considering what this movie is, it accomplished exactly that, nothing. Aladdin 2019 is not only a downgrade in visual quality when looking at all the expressive and beautifully crafted 2D Animated artwork on screen, but even on its own, it just looks lackluster. The movie doesn’t look grand or theatrical like the animated version and instead looks like a cheap Disney Channel movie. Namely because Guy Richie’s direction doesn’t have any sort of flare or style to it as previously mentioned, there are very few shots that look impressive as it just looks flat and uninspired looking obviously like a set with some very poor CGI. The effects for some of the major set pieces like the Cave of Wonders and other moments are lackluster enough already, but nothing could compared to the appalling effects that are Will Smith’s interpretation of the Genie. The original animated was very cartoony and over the top and it looked perfect with the way the character was designed and moved thanks to talented animator Eric Goldberg. When trying to recreate that over the top cartoon style of animation with a more realistic style of CGI does not work at all, in fact it looks downright grotesque at points. There are other gross looking CGI effects, that are seen throughout the movie but the Genie is the main one to be noticed in this film. More often than not however, the movie just looks bland, this is especially evident in the song sequences. Friend Like Me suffers from the grotesque visuals while the other songs like Prince Ali, One Jump Ahead, and A Whole New World more so suffer from being shot in a standard way with no much excitement. Guy Richie clearly shows that he does know how to direct a musical sequence as each moment is edited poorly with very little style and even lacking in color visually. The plus side is that unlike the Beauty and the Beast remake where there is a ton of auto tuned and poor singing, some of the songs are at least sung well. Namely A Whole New World is a nice version of the song to listen to and would be the highlight of the film is what was on screen looked bright and colorful like the original. There is one new song added into the film called Speechless that is only being mentioned now because it one of the biggest examples of filler added into this film. The song is completely forgettable and while it tries to add character to Jasmine, it just ends up being needlessly added just to pad out time. Naomi Scott’s talented singing voice could not make up for how incredibly pointless and generic this new song is, and just shows that they could have made it a good opportunity for them to add a deleted song that was good like Proud Of Your Boy. While the songs and visuals in the original movie are fantastic, the remake does not do these amazing visuals and music justice and turns it into a film that barely illuminates those possibilities of color and expression we see in film.
     The Aladdin remake is every bit as atrocious as a Disney remake can be. It may have some bright stuff here and there but the film doesn’t understand the original movie so much to the point where it just comes across as lifeless. There’s nothing of value here that is in this movie that you can just easily find in the original film. Some films should again never attempt to be duplicated and Disney’s Aladdin is a prime example of it. If there is anything that is good about the remake it is just another great reminder on how great the original Disney film is and hopefully this will end the trend of Disney taking older animated films and making them into generic live action tripe. A dream for many would be for them to be free from these remakes but fortunately, the originals are still here to stay and you’re better off watching that instead.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

‘Detective Pikachu’: A Film Full of Fan Service and Fun for Poké-Fanatics

     Ever since the mid-90s, Pokémon has become a worldwide phenomenon that people either adore and love or just don’t get it. Adults may scratch their heads on the appeal of this series, but thanks to many Video Games and TV Shows, so many kids of all ages are able to get attached to this magical world of so many weird and cute creatures. It was only a matter of time that a Film Adaptation of Pokémon was going to appear, however no one quite expected the first Live-Action Pokémon movie to be a film based off of a small spin-off game known as Detective Pikachu. Despite how surreal it is, this pans out incredibly well as Detective Pikachu is an incredibly fun film that will get even the most casual of Pokémon fans joy that a world they’ve known so much has been properly translated into a Live Action film.
A Modern Day 90s Live Action Ninja Turtles

     Detective Pikachu’s story centers around a former Pokémon Trainor named Tim who has been grieving over the loss of his Father who has been deemed as missing. Things take a bizarre turn when a Pikachu that only he can talk to comes in and explains how he can find his Father, to which both characters are in for an adventure in this vast crazy world of Pokémon. The premise for this film is very simple and what works about it is that the film never truly wastes it’s time with excessive filler when it comes to exploring the world of Pokémon. The film gives the audience a bit of backstory on how this world of Pokémon exist but never dwells on it as the film’s main point is to entice fans of the series into this world. Though the real question is, does this movie adapt the source material well? The answer to that is yes, as this movie can be compared easily to the 1990 Live Action Adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Much like that film, it is a more gritty take on the source material, however also like Ninja Turtles, Detective Pikachu is very much aware of its strange and silly roots as both films manage to stay true the tone of the material with having a lot of heart and personality attached to it. Fans won’t feel like this movie did not get Pokémon wrong, however this is mostly saying for fans. For people who are newcomers to the franchise, this is not a film that will win you over if you haven’t been a fan of the series. It is a ridiculous movie and by the third act, the plot get a little absurd, considering the source itself is bizarre, it has to be something you would have to accept. This is also like Ninja Turtles in a sense that if you thought Pokémon was dumb and didn’t make sense before, this film won’t change your mind, but if you have liked the series a bit, then the more outlandish stuff in this film is par for the course. As it stands, Detective Pikachu is a good spiritual successor to Ninja Turtles for being there for the fans even if it is at risk of potentially alienating newcomers.

Light on Characters, Big On World

     Where Detective Pikachu may fall short in the overall plot, it ends up succeeding more so in the character department. The human cast of characters which include Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton are serviceable leads; there is not a whole lot of depth to these characters outside of being the typical lead and love interest. However, one element that makes this movie better than a lot of other live action adaptation is that the humans don’t overshadow the main appeal of the film. Whether its Michael Bay’s Transformers or the Live Action Smurfs, studios feel the need to make their live action adaptation focus on human characters that aren’t interesting and have the focus be on them rather than the fantastical element that all the fans see these movies for. Detective Pikachu rarely wastes the film on the human characters, the humans are there as the ones to latch onto but not the main appeal, as it makes good use of showcasing as many Pokémon as they can. This also goes for the real lead in the film being Pikachu himself as Ryan Reynolds gives this character a lot of personality with the voice work. It is arguably his usual Ryan Reynolds shtick with one liners and pop culture’s references you’d expect out of Deadpool, but considering this is a movie that doesn’t take itself too ridiculously seriously, it’s welcomed. The only other downside with the film from a character perspective is that the main antagonist is a bit over the top especially given how absurd his plan in the film is, but again, isn’t completely unwelcomed due to the bizarre feeling the movie strives to be. As a whole, Detective Pikachu does its characters well because it focuses on the exact characters that need to be focused on in a film like this, something that is often missing from so many adaptations.

Realistic Pokémon, Odd but Neat

Ever since the first trailer came out, there has been nothing more surreal to see in this modern age of filmmaking as Pokémon depicted in a more realistic setting. The thought of a live action Pokémon has been a possibility fans have thought of but never did they expect it to actually happen and with them looking as realistic as they are. Even despite how odd it is, the Pokémon for what they are, look fantastic in this world created for the film. Mainly due to the fact that for one thing, the film is pretty well shot in terms of making this world not completely like our own. It is a hyper realized fantasy setting and the way the Pokémon interact comes across as a cool idea to see fully realized with them in a more realistic looking setting. Yet the world itself still retains a fantastical futuristic setting in the vein of Blade Runner, so you do feel like you’re watching another world instead of our own which makes seeing the Pokémon interact all the more enjoyable. The other big element that makes the film look so appealing is even with the more realistic textures on them; Pikachu and the other Pokémon are still incredibly expressive. A lot of live action adaptations of animated properties, such as the Disney remakes fail due to the fact whenever they bring a character to life with a realistic CG look, they take out all the personality and expression just from their face alone. You may watch Christopher Robin and you may see Winnie the Pooh in that film sound like he should with Jim Cummings voice, you don’t get a welcoming sense of this character due to how soulless his eyes look and expressionless he face can get, making it look more creepy. Pikachu in this film on the other hand still has that welcoming smile and face to him with the facial animation and when you hear him say “Pika Pika”,  you just want to hold and pet that little Electric Mouse due to how welcoming he looks. That goes for most of the other Pokémon hear as they all retain their expressions and personality due to the great animation put on them. Whether they are the tougher type Pokémon like Charizard or another adorable one like Bulbasaur, the animators did their best to make these Pokémon look as real as they can be without sacrificing any sort of expression that made these creatures so appealing to look at.
     Detective Pikachu is an incredibly fun film while not a perfect masterpiece and won’t be appealing for everyone; it does exactly what it sets out to do and satisfies its fans perfectly. As far as adaptations go, it’s not going to be one to sell you on the property if you weren’t a fan prior, but that’s not the movie’s goal. It is a movie meant to cater to longtime Pokémon fans both causal and hardcore in creating a believable take on bringing Pokémon to life. With that in mind, it does that job very well with a decent script, fun characters and some incredibly world building and CG. Who would have thought the first live action Pokémon movie would be something like Detective Pikachu and be as good as it is, but it’s something that is welcomed in ever growing world of film adaptations.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

‘Avengers Endgame’: An Imperfect But Satisfying Epic for Marvel (Spoiler-Free)

Within the past ten years, The Marvel Cinematic Universe has becoming one of the most iconic brands in the film industry with so many different movies over the past few years. All that might come to an end as their film that was years in the making are finally coming out with Avengers: Endgame being the Marvel movie to end all movies. A film that has this much hype will have some contrarians and doubt that a movie of this scale will not live up the hype. Avengers Endgame is far from a perfect film that some may expect, but in terms of the type of movie that people want from Marvel it is one of the most satisfying experiences in practically every way.

Goes Overboard in the Best and Worst Ways
Endgame takes place only a few days after the events of Infinity War where half of the universe has been wiped out and it’s up to The Avengers to potentially save the day. At the risk of spoiling anything, it’ll be left at that due to how the Russos want to have their fans be surprised at the many things and events that happen in this film. As a follow up to Infinity War it is very well done but it is not without its fault both from it being a final movie that has a lot to do and it being a typical Marvel movie. The main issue that can be brought up is there are numerous moments in the story that do not add up as well as they probably should have. The film brings a Science Fiction that has been used in other movies, and while it does create for some incredibly entertaining moments, it brings a lot of questions in terms of the logic of how it works. Outside of that though, another element that could be an issue with Endgame is how the film handles its sense of tone, which compared to Infinity War feels a bit off. The film is meant to be a more serious Marvel movie yet too early it gets a bit too silly when it comes to handling its tone which feels a bit off putting given the situation the Avengers are in during the film. Not to say that there aren’t moments of humor that are deserved and fun but even taking its misplaced tone at points out of it, there have been numerous comic book movies that have been funnier than Endgame. From the sounds of this, it may sound like Endgame is a complete mess from beginning to end, and fortunately, it is actually not the case. Not only is the film still entertaining from beginning to end, even with some parts that drag, but it also is elevated by a few other things, namely some excellent tension you feel throughout the entire film. Most Marvel movies don’t really have much tension as we all tend to know how it is all going to pan out but in Endgame even if you may know what happens, you’re still on the edge of your seat eager to see how it happens. It all boils down to a finale that is by every definition of the word epic, as fans will witness not only an emotionally satisfying conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but will also have a third act that is exciting during every single second it is one screen. Even with some moments that go overboard in some ways that don’t work, it is totally made up for when the film goes overboard in the best way with such a phenomenal ending like this.

Characters Give You A Sense of Closure
Endgame of course being a part of the MCU has a huge cast of characters that we all know and love for years. Being that this is the film to end some of their stories or have them been a part of a bigger set piece, it is expected that each character has a moment to shine. While there are characters that do feel a bit underutilized, for the most part, each character has at least one moment to shine. There are some that were hyped a lot that didn’t do much and feel weak compared to what many expected they would be in the film, but by the end they at least have one awesome moment. The real talk is how the longtime characters of the MCU are such as Thor, Captain America and Iron Man are in the film and as far as their development goes, they bring this movie to a whole new emotional level. There are elements you will certainly not expect with these characters and some that might not work as some moments can come across rushed or a bit over the top. Though not to spoil too much, but where the film ultimately ends with these characters is exactly the best way you would expect to see these characters end their story. Whether it was something you kind of expected, didn’t expected or didn’t even know you wanted, Endgame’s characters leave a lasting emotional end to their story of the MCU. For a film with so many characters, it really makes every single character of this big Universe worthwhile.

A Technical Marvel of An Ending
Visually Marvel movies are pretty consistent when it comes to showcasing some incredible special effects. Endgame is no exception with very few moments of filmmaking techniques that looked off. There’s a lot of great cinematography, editing and over-all visual style to it that makes Endgame look and feel like an overall epic. Obviously the film is visually at its best during the finale with so much going on, but many other moments look impressive too. This includes some great aging effects and even some good techniques of implementing past Marvel movies that look seamless to the film itself.  It is a feast to the eyes and even ears with the sound being excellent with a great score and sound incredible sound design that helps you feel immersed in this gigantic world Endgame brings. Technically speaking the film is all around one of the best looking blockbusters in recent memory with not looking too fake or overly CGI even with so much going on. It creates for a Technical Marvel of a Movie to say the least.
   Avengers Endgame is every bit as satisfying as one could ever hope for. Even with some minor gripes you can make about the film, it wraps things up so perfectly giving a proper end to the biggest event in Marvel History. If Infinity War is the Empire Strikes Back for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then Endgame is the Return of the Jedi for the series. It’s not quite as good as the prior film which maybe a given consider how much of an achievement it is, but in regards to it as a movie, it is still a blast to watch and incredibly engaging, ending the series on a high note. Endgame is a must see and for a film series with its ups and downs in terms of quality, Marvel did more than just good here, they did great!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

‘The Missing Link’ A Charming Albeit Rushed Project from Laika

     Laika Animation Studios has easily been one of the most ambitious and creative studios in the animation industry in recent times. They create films that aren’t only impressive to look at but help elevate the medium of animation as more than just simple kids fare. Their newest animation effort, The Missing Link does continue on its track of impressive animation but does fall a little short on the story department. It is a film that is rushed when it comes to its narrative but has an undeniable charm that makes it still so likable.
So Short but Yet Should Have Taken Its Time

     Missing Link centers around Lionel Frost, an adventurous expert on creatures who wants to impress higher ups on the various mythical beings he has finds. His adventure goes even further when he comes across a Big Foot creature, which goes by the name of Susan, and he not only wants to showcase him as one of his great discoveries but also wants to help Susan find his original home of where he belongs. The set up does stand as pretty standard about finding one’s family and impressing a group of individuals who might not be the ideal people to impress. Unfortunately though unlike other Laika films where they seem to go a little more in depth with their themes similar to how Kubo and ParaNorman discuss themes of loss and regretful past, Missing Link is a very simple movie from beginning to end. While it does work to its advantage for a couple of reasons, it also feels a little lacking mainly due to how Laika handles themes in its films prior and also with this film’s pacing. The Missing Link is a very short movie however in execution it feels much shorter as the film doesn’t have a lot of moments where the characters take them to let certain moments sink in. The film constantly jumps from one set piece to another with very few moments were the characters reflect on events that happen within the film, even when they do, it still is very short and immediately go to another set piece for the film. It ends up making the film pretty rushed in some elements of the story; however there is an element that makes up for it. The film does have charm that comes from a lot of various humorous moments, neat animation set pieces and a likable cast of characters that make the film a joy to watch. It also ends up having some themes and although not as in depth as what other Laika films have done and are some themes seen prior before, it does have a good message about family and where you belong. It basically comes down to just because you have been told you are a part of this family, doesn’t mean they are necessarily right for you. It is message that has been told in the past but is still done rather decently here, and Missing Link does have some charm with its message, it just needed to take a little more time to getting to its end goal.

A Charming Cast of Characters.

     Missing Link really is elevated by a cast of very likable characters in their own right. The title character himself, Mr. Link a.k.a Susan, is a very humble leading character. Zach Galifianakis plays the character very subtly with not being too loud and playing him as he’s a gentle giant who wants to understand more about himself. The character is very smart and more sophisticated than the average animal animated character for sure. Sir Lionel Frost also manages to be a likable character in his own right, but in very different ways. Lionel Frost is a clever researcher that also manages to accomplish a lot of cool tricks in regards to big action set pieces in this film and Hugh Jackman portrays this character very well in the voice acting. Both characters also have a good arch with trying to realize the type of people they want to impress may not being worth it and it does add for some good character development. The rest of the cast do their job very well in providing moments that are humorous and engaging to watch, however they wouldn’t be considered the strongest side characters in an animated film. Not to say that they bad as a whole, but they are overshadowed in development and character compared to the two leads. With the two leads being so delightful to watch and the side characters being decent as well, Missing Link’s cast is certainly quite charming.

Laika Still Excelling in Stop Motion Animation

    One thing that anyone can say about Laika’s work is that they always manage to create some incredible visuals to their films. What stands Laika out from other animation studios is not just because they create stop motion animated films in an age of mostly CG Films, but also the fact that their films are animated so smoothly and beautifully in terms of character and backgrounds. You see all the hard work of some of these animators in every frame of a film from Laika and Missing Link is certainly no exception. The film is so bright and colorful when it comes to the backgrounds and characters, with every single design popping out big time in a great way. Characters like Suzanne and Frost have such a distinct design and every other minor character give for a lot of variety when it comes to how they look. The action set pieces are also excellent with so much fluidity in the animation and while it’s a simple film, some moments feel grander due to how much work was put into hand crafting these action set pieces. It is a gorgeous looking movie that reminds you why Stop Motion is important. If there was any downside to the film on a visual level, it could have benefitted from more creature design as early on, we are introduced to some amazing creature designs in the film that are so unique compared to other movies. The downside is you don’t get to see nearly as much as you would like, which is a shame because the film could have benefitted from even more awesome creature designs. It is not a big determent to the movie as the film is so impressive on visual standpoint, though it is an element that makes you wish for more.
    Missing Link is an all-around charming movie despite some short comings. It may be rushed in some areas and could have been a bit deeper, but it still has a great message, some likable characters and gorgeous animation. It won’t be a big game changer for Laika as animation studio, but it is definitely worth seeing to support very talented animators who have a skill for their craft. It is proof that Laika can still impress in the animation world even with one of their weaker films.