Saturday, October 5, 2019

‘JOKER’: AN UNSETTLING BUT PERFECT CHARACTER PIECE


     Of all the major villains to appear in media throughout history, one of the most prominent and iconic figures if hands down the maniacal clown that fights Batman. The Joker is one of the fascinating and greatest antagonists in comic book history due to the character being in such perfect contrast to the hero and for having many actors take a shot at portraying the character. However, the newest film to feature this iconic film isn’t a Batman story as it just an origin tale about how the man who laughs came to be. With a concept like this, many would expect this film to be a pandering blockbuster that is made to make money to capitalize on the popularity of the Joker. In this case though, Joker is anything but that, as it is a film that is a dark and unconventional take on a comic book character. It results in  a film that is every bit ambitious and thought provoking as some of the truly fantastic films based around comic books, making Joker a phenomenal experience from beginning to end.


     Joker focuses on Arthur Fleck, a struggling comedian who has a rare condition that makes him laugh uncontrollably. After trying to strive and survive in this dark cruel world he lives in, he finds new life in becoming this mysterious clown figure and thus leads into his descent into madness. One of the elements that made fans skeptical about this Joker film is the fact that the Joker himself often tends to be appreciated more when there’s a mystery to him and not knowing his origins adds to how terrifying of a villain he can be. Some may also predict it would go a safe and typical route of how the Joker became who he really is. On the contrary, this film doesn’t really have a few of the typical origin story clichés besides from maybe one or two things and have enough of a creative twist on the Batman lore to be its own thing. Not to mention, rather than going a typical comics origin route, the film takes a different route by being a Scorsese styled drama that dives into the reasoning behind why individuals can be so terrible. Many fear this film would potentially be a glorification of violence and idolize truly evil figures, however the film is more of critique on that mentality and violence. The violent sequences are not only used sparingly but aren’t seen as cool action set pieces and instead are disturbing acts that makes you uncomfortable. However, that’s why this movie works so well as hard to watch the film may be for some at times. While, it’s not over the top and a gore fest by any means, you’re disturbed by how a man can become so vile he can be, even if the film gives you an good idea on where’s he is coming from. Its message is about the way society can treat an individual and the outcome it could have for the worse, leading into a film that more so questions people understanding others even at their most unforgivable moments. It is not without its faults with a few moments that could be seen as pretentious and some small plot conveniences, but the deep dive sociological and psychological trauma one could have makes those nitpicks more or less insignificant. It is an intriguing work that asks the tough questions and goes through with in this beautiful character study.


     The biggest thing many fans are hopeful for when it comes to Joker is the actor portraying the clown prince this time around. Many actors have done the character justice with their performance from Mark Hamill to Heath Ledger, and you might as well add Joaquin Phoenix to the list. Phoenix portrayal of the Joker works not just because he’s a talent actor but also because of the film’s style and message about mental awareness. Every moment on screen we see his already awkward demeanor turn into an immoral human being gradually and Phoenix performs this character subtly with so many nuances that give this character so much depth. As mentioned earlier, many feared Joker would turn into an empathetic glorification of psychopath, but Phoenix even during his sympathetic moments is just as disturbing and unsettling as one would imagine a real person like this. He moves, talks and over-all acts very disconcerting, to which all of this is heighten even for by one of the most unforgettable laughs to ever come out of the character.  There aren’t a whole lot of other characters featured in the film and most of them are also downright despicable in a sense, however, this was the film’s intention. Joker doesn’t waste its time on superfluous side plots and sticks the focus on the clown himself. The minor characters that also are terrible people are meant to shown that even despite their role in society, they could be just as equally to blame for Fleck’s mental wellbeing. Phoenix absolutely carries this movie perfectly and will go down as an amazing fresh new take on arguably one of the greatest villains of all time.

    Compared to so many other comic books films, Joker has none reliance on big budget special effects to create for an engaging film. The film is on a much smaller scale film but it ends up giving the filmmakers more creative freedom to be an artistic take on the character. The cinematography is dark and depressing but it is on purpose and still beautiful to look at how every shot is articulated. To elevate it even further is some excellent use of music. Some of the most memorable moments of the film are the ones that have ironic use of cheerful and upbeat songs that adds to the Joker’s worldview of horrible acts being rather comedic. When it doesn’t have that, it has a haunting score by Hildur Ingveldardóttir Guðnadóttir who’s use of the slow cello makes adds to Fleck’s dark descend being incredibly unsettling to watch. The film has no real action scenes and as mentioned earlier used its kills sparingly, but rather than feeling like a fake CGI world, it feels like a grim dark reality that still is an incredibly engaging. Director  Todd Phillips really branch out and made a film that’s unlike anything he has ever done but it shows how much he has learned over the years about filmmaking. For his first  true drama, he knocked it out of the park when it came to its over-all presentation.


     Joker is a fine example on how to properly recreate the comic book movie formula. It is a full-fledged drama that pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the clown prince of darkness, even if it is the kind of film that’s not meant for the average movie goer. Despite a few small story points that don’t work Joker still ends up being a gripping film thanks to so many elements that go above and beyond. Thanks to some deep themes, excellent production values and a phenomenal score to add to Joaquin Phoenix’s profound performance, Joker will stand the test the time as a near perfect version of one of DC’s best characters.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

'Steven Universe The Movie' A Great Return to Form



     In terms of modern television shows, one that has made huge connections with audiences all over the world is Cartoon Network’s hit animated series, Steven Universe. Steven Universe is a phenomenal show not just for being a fun kids show, but more so due to the fact that it is one of the most unique and original projects to get mainstream notoriety. It is a show that really dives deeps into emotion and character depth in a way for kids to understand and connect with. Lately however, between hiatuses and weaker episodes of the series, it feels like the show hasn’t been at its prime for the past couple of years. Cartoon Network has recently released a film related to the property as a way to revitalize interest in the show and thankfully, Steven Universe: The Movie reminds everyone what makes the show so great. The film, while not flawless or the best of what the series has to offer is a great amalgamation of everything that made it so fantastic to begin with.

What Should be the Proper Series Finale

     The movie takes place years after the last season as Steven, now older, is contempt living his new peaceful life in Beach City with all of his friends now that peace are with humans and crystal gems. Things take a turn for the worst when a mysterious new foe comes in to destroy Beach City and it’s up to Steven and the other Gems to stop this horrible threat. What made the show so good when it came to its over-all story is how it manages to refreshingly original with some creative world building of the Gem world and also some true moments of heart and compassion we see from these characters as time goes on. The show is all about compassion and empathy even during harsh times based around rough pasts, and this movie clearly realizes that. The main conflict of the movie makes it there isn’t one true villain, and even who is the main antagonist in this film has their own sympathetic backstory that is honestly pretty heart breaking. Not only that but it makes you reflect on the whole series and second guess things you initially thought of as good, is that Steven himself deals with in the film. It makes for an incredibly fascinating conflict that is perfect for a show like Steven Universe. It makes for an engaging watch from beginning to end, and while it is made more for fans of the show, its story is engaging enough for newcomers of the show to be very intrigued by. If this is set to be the series finale, it should stay that way because it is unsure if a future season could top what this movie did for the series.

Returning Favorites with Unique Changes

     While the story is a crucial to the show, it is nothing without its cast. Steven Universe has one of the most memorable casts in a Cartoon Network show. From the gems and the beach city citizens, there is a huge line-up of characters that have a plethora of episodes dedicated to them. The film only really focuses on a few characters and certain fan favorites like Peridot and Lapis have smaller roles compared to how big their roles have been in the past, which could be a bit disappointing for some. The beach city and the gems that appear in the latter half of the show are mostly limited to just cameo appearances in the film, however, considering the film’s main focus that was definitely for the best. As for the main cast, we do get a bit of every main crystal gem, Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet and all still play great supporting roles in this film. Each character has a little development dealing with the major conflict that adds some depth to each character. The downside is, Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet don’t have too many sequences and development compared to Steven and the main antagonist, but given various episodes about these characters struggle, it is not a huge loss. Mainly due to how well defined Steven is in this film as not only the time skip gave Steven a more mature look but the character himself feels more mature. Despite his longing to just rest and have peace, he still tries his best to make sure everyone gets a satisfying conclusion, especially with the film’s main antagonist Spinel. Spinel is an incredibly fun villain, not only being sympathetic as previously mentioned earlier, but is a fun villain to watch with a ton of personality given to her with how she looks and moves. Steven Universe’s world of character is very vast and unique, and this film does not forget that at all when it comes to showcasing one of the best elements of the show.

As Bright and Harmonious as Ever

     The colorful characters from Steven Universe are nothing without the animation to make these characters literally as colorful as they are. The animators really gave it their all when it came to making this movie look fantastic with so many beautiful colors all throughout. Even movement wise, despite being a TV show, there is still a lot of fluidity in the way the characters move. Especially Spinel who is animated very similarly to classic cartoon style characters and every little bit of her being animated is a blast to watch. Not only is the animation a joy to watch, but the music is something that Steven Universe is incredibly well known for. The soundtrack to the original show is fantastic, with songs dealing with some of the more emotional moments to occur within the series. This movie is definitely no exception as there are tons of songs that are either entertaining, expressive, and even heart wrenching. This film definitely has one of  those soundtracks that have songs that will stick in your head long after the movie ends. The animation and music really help bring this movie to life and adds to one of the many reasons Steven Universe sticks with so many fans.

Every Bit as Strong as a Movie in the Real Way
     Steven Universe The Movie is everything someone who loves the show could ask for. It has as much heart, character and depth as many are used to by now from the original series. Even if you have fallen out of watching the show on a regular basis, the movie is still worth a watch. It reminds fans why a show like Steven Universe connected with so many others with its fantastic animation, beautiful soundtrack, likable character and clever story. Steven Universe The Movie will make you learn how to love the series again.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’: Tarantino’s Indulgent and Bumpy yet Entertaining Ride

     If there is one major filmmaker who has influenced a whole new age of Cinema, it’s Quentin Tarantino. Since the early 90s, Tarantino has created many films that are ambitious, violent and not afraid to go outside the realm of traditional filmmaking techniques. Many filmmakers strive to be like Tarantino and due to his icon status as a director; he still manages to create memorable films. His newest film, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, is another addition to his ever growing line-up of Stylized and Out there films. It feels a bit clunky and not as ambitious as his other works but was a film clearly made with a lot of fun and passion behind it.

Unconventional yet Not As Ambitious

     Once Upon A Time in Hollywood centers around a Popular Television Actor named Rick Dalton and his stuntman Cliff Booth. Dalton wants to further his career by being in more movies so we see a showcase of his life as a Film actor alongside Booth continuing with his own life. The film is not so much a straight forward story with major conflicts that persists throughout the film as it is more of a series of streamlined events. It’s a witness of events unravel between these characters which is something that isn’t uncommon for a filmmaker like Tarantino to do. Tarantino has made many films that betray the traditional storytelling conventions of film by telling stories out of order or making it more character focuses. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is similar here as we see the characters encounter situations but they are not really correlated with one another. It is a film that goes by through sequences of events which other movies have done, however, Tarantino has this film not flow as well as his others. Mainly because the film likes to meander a lot, focusing on situations, characters and jokes that don’t necessarily go anyway. This is a very self-indulgent film focusing on a lot of what Tarantino loves to have in movies more so for the sake of it. That is not to say however that it wasn’t Tarantino’s intention or that he still manages to showcase his talent as a filmmaker here. The film he made here wasn’t quite as much to tell a fully cohesive story nor was it to say something deep and profound but more so to celebrate Hollywood in the late 60s. Evidently it succeeds in that as it a very entertaining romp through 60s culture, with a lot of great in-jokes and references to that era. All of this is done through Tarantino’s captivating writing style as conversations are very engaging to listen to and the performances succeed with that. Now that still does not make up for the shortcomings in terms of flowing narratively, as it still feels a bit empty in some parts Even though the film is already long enough, there definitely were elements that felt like it could have been fleshed out more than it was. That being said, it is far from a bad movie as many of these elements mentioned earlier and even later on prove that Tarantino does have a love for his craft in filmmaking even if the skill isn’t 100% there.
Killer Cast of Fantastic Actors

     One of the main things that can easily elevate a Tarantino movie is how well he can direct and work with so many talented actors. Whether it’s Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds or basically Samuel L. Jackson in any of his films, Tarantino films are known for having powerhouse performances and this film is no exception. Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are very engaging characters in their own right, but to have them be played by iconic actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, make them all the more engaging. The performances given by these actors make these characters as memorable as they go all in on nearly every single type of moment in this film, whether dramatic, violent or funny. Even smaller moments where they’re hanging out and just watching an old TV Show is engaging due to the chemistry between Pitt and DiCaprio in this film. As for the rest of the cast, while there are plenty of well-known actors in this film, they don’t quite have as much impact as DiCaprio and Pitt. This isn’t due to them as all of them give it their all, but more so in the fact that the film doesn’t focus a whole lot of time on anyone else. It is very common for a Tarantino film to focus on other characters besides the main cast for just one scene but they can still hold their own as memorable scenes. It is no exception here either with small memorable moments with Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry and even a very hilarious moment with Mike Moh playing as martial arts icon Bruce Lee. The one major downside with the cast is having Margot Robbie playing as actress Sharon Tate. Robbie looks the part and definitely gives it her all in the film, but unfortunately the film doesn’t give her much to do and yet there are numerous moments where she is the main focus. Her moments in the film feel like filler which is a shame given that her character does play a role in one of the main true situations this film is based upon. It could be a contrast to what actually happens to Sharon Tate in real life as the film has her fate much better in this fictional account than what actually happen. Yet, it still feels like her character had more to be desired given the role itself and Margot Robbie being absolutely perfect for the role. Regardless though, Tarantino still has a knack for working with talented stars with this film as part of his great craftsmanship when making films.
An Aesthetically Authentic Journey through Time

     For as much Tarantino is great with actors, there’s also no denying how the man wants to keep classic filmmaking alive. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is a gorgeously crafted film having a very filmic aesthetic looking very much something out of the 1960s. The cinematography sets and costume design really makes you feel like you’re in a different time period experience the situations these characters have to go through. Not to say that it is always well crafted as sometimes the editing isn’t as tight as we’re used to from the director. Some scenes may go on too long, abruptly cut short or even just have some odd cuts in between, which seem a bit out of character for Quentin. Granted, the film has been stated to have a longer cut in the past, so an extended version of the film could be somewhat beneficial to fixing those weird edits. Not only that but there is a lot of Tarantino clichés appearing throughout the film, including tons of license songs, some heavy violence and some very gratuitous shots of women’s feet. This adds to Tarantino making this film a lot more self-indulgent than usually, which is saying something given his previous works. Not to say that Tarantino can’t have these elements in his film, especially when its one he’s having a lot more fun with, but it could come across as more mature if he toned some of those elements down. It is a shame that it can be bogged down by some more gratuitous moments because the film is masterful on a technical level, especially for the kind of film Tarantino makes. However, it still doesn’t completely kill the movie, so if you’re able to handle some of the more indulgent parts of Tarantino’s works more than others, then it can still be seen as a fun ride through old Hollywood.
An Indulgent yet Enjoyable Ride with Tarantino
     Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is far from Tarantino’s Best work. It isn’t even close to being on the level of quality as his previous films from the past decade were. Yet it is also clear that Tarantino wasn’t attempting for this movie to be the grand epic film of his career. Tarantino made a film that is at the end of the day, incredibly entertaining. For all of the moments he truly makes this film self-indulgent for his career, it is also very amusing to see this ride happen with Tarantino. This certainly isn’t the movie to be shown as an introduction to Tarantino’s work due to its faults. However if you’re looking for a film that’s entertaining but also has a lot of craftsmanship to its work or even just a Tarantino fan, this is still a must see movie. It is not ambitious as other films from a director like Tarantino but certainly has more craft than the average standard film that comes out every year. 

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.