Moana Review: Disney Have Made Yet Another Good Movie

 

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If a marketing agency comes up with the line “From the creators of Zootopia and Frozen” to promote Moana, you know you are in for something good. I would not say that Moana was as good as those two movies, but it is great for what it sets out to do.

2016 has been a really good year for Disney. It isn’t as good as Pixar were in their heyday, but they are better than Pixar have been in recent years. Moana is only a shade behind of Pete’s Dragon, The Jungle Book, Zootopia, and Queen of Katwe which were other movies Disney have released in 2016.

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The Disney 2016 catelogue. I would be happy with that list even though it’s not perfect and some of tne movies don’t show Disney’s finest hour he he he. 

Moana is an adventure story about the titular character who is a young Samoan woman who is next in line to be the chief of her people. There is a problem with her community’s food supply as it is wasting away. She decides to sail across oceans to find the solution to the problem in which Mau, a demi-god (Dwayne Johnson) is involved in.

While I don’t think Moana is quite as good as Disney’s recent efforts, the filmmakers still put so much effort into making it fun and succeeding in the process. The songs are fun and people remember them, the animation is gorgeous and there is good character development in Moana the female protagonist. At least she is confident character going into the story. I wish more Disney movies go beyond “The Princess” as a stock character in the future.

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These supporting characters had good moments. The grandmother had a great one.

There are also many scenes that are distinctive and it builds up to the climax really well. As much as that sounds like the standard thing to do, you would be surprised how many films don’t do that. There are scenes that are memorable in their own right. There is a scene involving a dumb chicken and another that had coconut pirates that looked epic, but I could tell it was well restrained. Which is a good thing because I am not a fan of films where their most memorable sequence is in the first third of the story.

One of the things that Moana could have done better was developing Maui the demi-god. While he had good entertaining moments and was funny, he came off as a bit arrogant. Which is fine, as long as the film addresses it.

When the tattoos you are wearing have better character development that the person who is wearing them, you are going to have a bad time. 

There is a what I thought would be a pivotal scene in which Maui would come to realize his vulnerability and his rashness when he leaves Moana behind on her quest. Such a scene does not exist in Moana. Therefore it came off to me as Maui growing a conscience for no reason when he makes his return.

To be honest, that was my biggest criticism and that was only mildly offputting. It only stuck out because a lot of the story was done so well. It was like finding a stain on white clothing instead of a stain on a unhygienic person.

For the overly formulaic path of so many Disney movies about physical journeys being a metaphorical journey of self-discovery, Moana hits a lot of right notes. It is almost as good as you can get under the limitations of such a familiar path the filmmakers took to making the movie ***3/4

Norm of the North: As Bad As It Looks

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Norm of the North is that movie you find at a Go-Lo or The Reject Shop that only the most desperate parent will buy just to distract the kids for two hours. It will actually sedate them. I honestly believe a nine-year-old will be able to tell the movie is terrible. It is so ineptly made and struggles to tell a single joke properly.

The Pitch

Could you possibly imagine any enthusiasm from a board meeting when the ideas man suggested this:

“We are going to have Rob Schneider play Norm: A twerking polar bear”

That idea was worth 18 million dollars.

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How the hell did Norm of the North bypass the Gruen Transfer?

I may even consider Norm of the North some twisted form of ironic meta humor. The reason being that I am currently studying for a marketing degree and this movie dabbles on about marketing jargon. The movie talks about approval ratings, statistics, re-postings, legalities and investors. Didn’t everyone involved in this realize this is a kids film?

If you account for the marketing budget (which is normally about the same as the production budget), It’s possible that the film didn’t break even. Part of the marketing campaign was advertising a trailer on Youtube. The trailer has a worse likes percentage than Ghostbusters.

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Left: Chris Stuckmann’s reaction to Norm of the North. Right: My reaction to watching Norm of the North

Why is this received so negatively you may ask, well a lot what is wrong with Norm of the North is slapped onto the animation. It is lazily done. The character movements are not naturally smooth and the textures are very basic without much detail to them. It’s like watching a kids TV computer animation. It’s very cheap B-grade looking.

There is also an over reliance of showing popular music and animals and people dancing to it. It served as pure filler that didn’t add anything to the story. It was like the movie was saying “Hey kiddies we know the business-speak can be terribly boring so we are going to entertain you now with more nothing!”

Perhaps another problem is the gags. The gags don’t have much humour in them at all. It goes down to pee and fart jokes that weren’t funny. The filmmakers obviously didn’t think so as they repeated the same unfunny jokes over and over again.

The one and only positive thing about Norm of the North is that it’s material is inherently harmless. Kids won’t be scarred for life and soccer moms won’t complain to classifications board about the movies PG rating. But a lot of adults will see just how aimless the execution is.

At one point, Norm of the North makes a dated Titanic reference and I wrote in my notes “A Titanic reference? That’s because Norm of the North is a sinking ship”. I have not seen a film where the animation was so poor and ineptly made. Watch the trailer and tell me if you have ever seen animation so poorly done on a feature length film that was releases in theaters. I really want to know.  -**

Storks Movie Review

 

storks-posterWritten by Nelson Cumming

Storks is one of the films that is scattershot (throwing things at the walls and seeing what sticks) but works. It has enough humor and heart to make it likable. This is a departure from the normal material of adult raunch comedies from director Nicholas Stoller but it never has a “first-time director” feel to it which is a plus. He juggles the material not so smoothly but gets the job done nonetheless

The film is all about storks who are birds who delivered babies to aspiring parents and it is run like a manufacturing business- you know, the kind of thing you believe as a kid where babies come from. Well that used to be the case until there was a stork that was over passionate about the baby and accidently broke the tracking device that contained the address to the baby’s family

18 years later the business model has completely changed and the factory no longer makes and delivers babies but they deliver all sorts of items that is run like a Fed-ex factory. Junior (Andy Samberg) is a carrier ambitious bird, climbing the corporate ladder and is about to take over the factory from his smug and arrogant boss (Kelsey Grammer). The baby is now a teenager called Tulip who is the only human and is a little clumsy. The boss makes a deal with Junior: Fire Tulip and gets promoted to “boossssss”

The problem is that Tulip accidently starts up the baby making part of the factory and a letter comes from a kid called Nate who longs for a baby brother who has “lots of ninja skills” because his parents are too busy with their home business to take care of him. So the story then becomes Junior and Tulip trying to deliver the baby to Max

Storks is funny in odd and weird ways

To describe how the filmmakers try to make Storks funny would take awhile because there isn’t a cohesive direction in the comedy but it strangely works here. There are adult comedy elements but there are no sexual jokes. There are business jokes that any adult could relate to, yet there are gags that were so overly childish that I couldn’t believe I laughed at. There are several gags with wolves and let’s just say “their methods of transportation” that had me laughing.

This is a film where the comedy is both rooted in reality and fantasy and darts in, out and around the two. You have to be willing to go from understanding the logic the movie creates to completely suspending disbelief to capture the movie’s zaniness. If you need a little consistency and logic in the humor then this is probably not for you.

Despite these lack of consistent brand of humor Storks is witty enough with good charact development between Tulip and Junior. This is a decently fun movie where a lot of things work in the unclear direction ***3/4

The Secret Life of Pets Review

Genre: Animated adventure/comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Runtime: 87 minutes
Main Cast: Louis C.K.
Eric Stonestreet
Kevin Hart
Jenny Slate
Production Company: Illumination Entertainment
Written by: Brian Lynch
Cinco Paul
Ken Daurio
Directed by: Chris Renaud
Yarrow Cheney

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Written by Nelson Cumming

If there’s a time the makers of Minions should be appealing to kids, now would be that time. The Secret Lives of Pets is a movie that achieves the sole purpose of keeping the kids occupied for two hours while the adults smile because the kids are happy. I think The Secret live of Pets is fine. Just fine.

The story follows a dog called Max (Louis CK) who loves his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) until she gets a new dog called Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Through a complex series of events, they get lost in New York City. Both Max and Duke try to find their way home and the neighboring animals including Gidgit (Jeny Slate) who’s Max’s love interest.

A tired premise.

Does the premise sound too familiar? A tad formulaic? Well, the movie is just that at its core. However, it is covered with surgery, surgery sweetness that makes the pill easier to swallow.

This movie almost exactly reminds me of watching Angry Birds. They both have vibrant and colorful animation and the story flows in a nice linear fashion. Both movies also have likable characters but both movies lack something animation itself cannot fix: substance and meaning. What both have in common is they both were entertaining enough to watch that made me feel ok by the end.

Comedically speaking, The Secret Lives of Pets has nothing that you can take away from unless you have never owned a dog. There are so many dog gags that it gets too repetitive. From Max instinctually surrendering by rolling on his back to dogs chewing shoes and finally to dogs getting distracted by a ball. This is the level of humor that permeates this movie. While that is not bad, it doesn’t offer anything new to the doggy bowl.

The movie borrows from many animal movies over the decades through its premise of animals going through the low life of the streets while comically bumbling their way through to reach their ultimate goal. Unfortunately, The Secret Lives of Pets does not add anything new in that department either.

The animation and cinematography are top notch.

What is so good about The Secret Lives of Pets is the colorful, vibrant animation and the sweeping cinematography that gives the movie it’s positive energy. There are landscape shots of New York city that are both beautiful and overwhelming. There are also shots where the movie sweeps up, down and around New York like we are looking through the eyes of a swooping bird that was pleasing to the eyes.

The overall sound is good to listen to.

Illumination Entertainment has hired the right people to do the voice overs for their roles. Kevin Hart sounds great playing Snowball the bunny. I thought Jenny Slate had the perfect voice to accompany Gidget the little white dog. Slate also voiced the antagonistic mayor in Zootopia, though she is much more fitting for the role here. The sound of all the voice acting was unusually crystal clear which is good.

The Secret Life of Pets also has a musical selection that fits with the movie’s tone. Bright, happy and adventurous are the words to describe not only the music or the movie but the elements that Illumination constantly strive for in their filmmaking. They succeed at hitting those goals but they can only get you so far.

The Verdict

There is nothing wrong with The Secret Lives of Pets, it’s just now with the standards of quality filmmaking and storytelling that people are used to in animation the movie feels like a “less than” movie. The movie is good for the weekend but Illumination Entertainment is sticking to their comfort zones, which you cannot do for long before the animation world passes by. Maybe Sing will make me change my mind for the company later this year. I hope it does. ***

P.S. Shoutout to Dana Carvey who is the Pops in the movie. He is finally recovering from the movie The Master of Disaster and Jack and Crack. He spent years away from the limelight to focus on his family. It’s about time he made a successful comeback 🙂

Pete’s Dragon Soars in Spring

Genre: Adventure
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Length: 102 minutes
Main Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard
Oakes Fegley
Karl Urban
Robert Redford
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Written by: David Lowery
Toby Halbrooks
Directed by: David Lowery

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Written by Nelson Cumming
Pete’s Dragon is a remake of the 1977 animated original. The remake is a live-action film (unfortunately, the dragon is only animated) and is really good in its storytelling, it’s ability to go places other filmmakers would say is audacious to try and it’s ability to know and play the audience like a symphony. It was an awesome summer flick.

Pete (Oakes Fegley) is a 9-year-old orphan that encounters a friendly dragon in the forest through a series of events and lives in the forest with the dragon for six years. In the town that occupies the forest, no one believes in the dragon’s existence when Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) tells children, through storytelling, his experience of encountering the Dragon many years ago. Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) a park ranger and daughter of Mr. Meachem finds Pete and he tells the dragon’s existence. Grace then explores the forest to see if the dragon is real.

Director David Lowery loves playing the audience

What is great about this film is that it manages to change from uplifting happy moments into sad, poignant moments and it does this from scene to scene. The funny thing is that Pete’s Dragon is a rare film where the constant mood change feels seamless and not erratic. The kids at my screening were into this film. The kids cheered when Lowery wanted them to cheer and there was stunned silence or gasps when there was a poignant or tense scene.

In a fun way, I was thinking “I know what you are trying to make me feel you bastard but goddammit it’s working” David Lowery just knows how to get people to react in a positive way that I cannot quite explain. The best thing I can think of is he gets every element that makes a good film right.

Every actor plays their part

While I don’t believe there was a noteworthy performance in Pete’s Dragon, every actor played a good performance. Oakes Fegley, the child actor who plays Pete gives a good performance. I always respect it when child actors are entertaining throughout a movie. He was supported through Bryce Dallas Howard who helps give the movie some chemistry with everyone she interacts with and Karl Urban was great at being the antagonist. Urban reminded me that I can still dislike a villain despite him being a G-rated kids villain.

Pete’s Dragon: A courageous movie in subtle ways

I am going to be blunt here: I love it when a movie has balls. I love it, even more, when I think a movie won’t have balls then gives them to you when you least expect it. Ten minutes in I have the pre-conceived notion of “This is a kids film, they will only infer bad things, not show us” I was glad to be proven wrong.

There were moments in the movie where they went places I didn’t think they would go, even more, surprising was they depicted inheritally graphic events in a way kids could digest and not shy away from. When loggers find the dragon and perceive it as evil, they try to capture it by throwing a lasso over its head and hanging it from a tree. Another graphic event occurs at the climax. Trust me, it is not as bad as I described, but the filmmakers went there to make us believe that the heroes could lose. Surprisingly, those scenes were greatly executed and unexpected from me.
Pete’s Dragon is a movie that fits into the odd category of being a great movie without any one thing standing out. I think it’s because everything works and everyone who worked on the film just wanted to do a real good job as a unit. The end product is better than the sum of its parts. This is the first time that I have reviewed three movies in a row that have gotten more than or equal to four stars. The past two months have actually been great with only one film getting less than three stars. Shows you there are good movies out there. Don’t believe a person when they say “movies are dead” ****1/4

Sausage Party Review

Genre: Animated Comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: MA
Length: 88 minutes
Main Cast: Seth Rogen
Kristen Wiig
Jonah Hill
Production Company: Annapurna Pictures, Point Grey Pictures
Written by: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Story by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jonah Hill
Directed by: Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan

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Written By Nelson Cumming

Love it or hate it, Sausage Party is a movie that you will remember. It is a type of movie I have never seen this year. It is an r-rated, rude, crude animation comedy. It has the iconic actors that are a part of the new wave of R-rated comedies such as Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. With such talent signing up for this movie I was highly anticipating it for weeks. The multi-million dollar question for movies as innovative and promising as this is: Does it live up to its hype?

Yes, but…

That would be the short conclusion to my review of Sausage Party.

The plot revolves around personified foods at a supermarket who are eager to be bought by people as they believe that “The Great Beyond” (which is outside the supermarket) will lead them to a better life Frank (Seth Rogan), a sausage, finds out the fate of “The Great Beyond” is not as lush as it seems for the perishable foods and they must stop humans from consuming them.

Really Long Highs, Followed by Really long Lows

When Sausage Party is funny, it is damn funny. When it isn’t funny, it is a little flat in the room. When it wasn’t funny it wasn’t a crowd killer like Zoolander 2 was, but I felt the audience wanting to laugh because the first ten minutes was so good. There was a period where no one laughed for 20 minutes, but at the same time, I felt that no one turned against the movie. Despite the fact the movie is only 88 minutes long, they didn’t have enough tight comedic material to warrant 88 minutes.

Nothing is Sacred

With Sausage Party, they dared to go to the worst places for humour and I loved it. They had fun with religion (A personified Lebanese bread hoped there would be 72 extra virgin olive oils at The Great Beyond) they did a lot of gags about pot (If Seth Rogan is in it, what do you expect?) and there are a lot of sex jokes.

The great part about a lot of the gags that hit in Sausage Party is that they are smartly written in a way that works for both observant and unobservant audience members. The depictions of food torture were highly graphic but easily watchable and humorous. A lot of the best humor works on multiple different levels and is innovative.

The Swearing and Swearing Leaves a Lot Less Caring

The second and last major problem with Sausage Party is there are a lot of f-bombs (and three c-bombs) used in a tiresome manner. Initially, it was surprising because they were swearing in enthusiastic ways. Eventually when they kept doing it, it became tiresome.

I predicted it was on the Wikipedia list for the most uses of the f- word in a film. You need to say it 150 or more to qualify. That’s how many I predicted. The only other time that thought crossed my mind in a movie was in Dirty Grandpa and sure enough, it sad the f-word 160 times. It’s also right alongside Dirty Grandpa. Click here if you don’t believe me

My Conclusion

Sausage Party is outrageously funny enough to overcome its demerits. You can say it’s orgies of fun but the climax is fucked up ***1/2

Kubo and the Two Strings Review

Genre: Fantasy, animation
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes
Main Cast: Charlize Theron
Art Parkinson
Matthew McConaughey
Production Company: Laika
Written by: Marc Haimes
Chris Butler
Directed by: Travis Knight

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Kubo and the Two Strings is a movie with ambition which is something I like to see. It fell short of my high expectations but not by a lot. The story is surprisingly dark but does provide tonal variation by the visual splendor of the animation. I think story-wise it could have been better, but I liked it.

The story follows Kubo who is raised solely by her mother as she ran away from her evil family. Kubo entertains his village by producing live origami shows. However, he is strictly told by his mother to not go out of the house at night. One day, Kubo stays up at night only to awaken a vengeful spirit. Kubo must team up with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughy) to find three hidden armaments to battle the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes)

Kubo and the Two Strings works well on the visual spectacle. It is a rare movie that undertakes stop-motion animation but does it a Japanese anime style. It is intriguing not only because that’s a rarity in a film but also because it looks visually stunning. The animation has a great blend of darkness and vibrancy, strong colors and inventive visuals. The origami scenes and the evil twins are great examples of the movies variation.

The other thing that makes Kubo and the Two Strings interesting is Charlize Theron’s character called Monkey. She provides a sweet caring voice that balances the characters overprotected but sweet nature. She makes the movie more interesting than it already was and there was really good interplay with her and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey character)

Kubo and the Two Strings was great until about two-thirds in when it started to lose me a little. The main problem it has is that some of the plot elements are not explained in the universe it’s set in. I kept wondering why memories were forgotten by banished characters even through their eyes were still intact as well as other things. Also one of the subplots was predictable which was the revelation of the Matthew McConaughey character that I thought could have gone in another direction.

I, for some reason, felt that the themes were not well presented as I would have liked. That said, this movie has the guts to explore themes of death, morality vs. immorality, and the high importance of memory shaping a human being. I just don’t think they connected with me on an emotional level. On an intellectual level sure, but didn’t have the spark to connect with me emotionally. That said, they didn’t do anything wrong, I just wasn’t emotionally connected to it when it was clear the movie wanted me to.

I think the people who will like it the most will be people who are into Japanese anime because the characters, the animation, the symbolism and the story were stylised like the works of Studio Ghibli (The studio who made Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle) but I also think a casual audience will like it as well. I think that Kubo and the Two Strings is a different movie as it tries to bridge the gap between those two audiences: The anime enthusiasts and the casuals.

Overall Kubo and the Two Strings is pretty good. Its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. I believe that it’s weaknesses prevent it from being a great movie, but it doesn’t stop it from being a good one. It was well worth my time to see the style of the animation alone, let alone the high bar it aims to achieve. ***1/2

Inside Out Review

Genre: Animation
Year: 2015
Rating: PG
Main Cast: Amy Poehler
Phyllis Smith
Lewis Black
Bill Hader
Mindy Kaling
Production Companies: Pixar Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
Written by: Pete Docter
Ronnie del Carmen
Directed by: Pete Docter

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Inside Out is one of the smartest movies that I know. It is also one of the most honest movies and it came out at the most opportune time for me. It not only serves as a great visual aid for psychology, it looks for universal truths about how life and emotions develop people. It is also one of the rare movies that explore what people think, do and love.

Inside Out served as a great reflective experience as Riley is undergoing change and entering adolescence. When I saw this, I was exiting adolescence so everything that she went through was fresh in my mind as I starting drawing parallels between her life and mine. While I have seen Pixar movies that know how to get me emotionally invested, Inside out got to a point where I felt Pixar knew me. That never entered my mind before in a Pixar film, which is the reason I believe it is the best Pixar film to date.

The story is about a girl called Riley as she copes with adolescence and change as he moves into a new house in San Francisco. This makes her unhappy. Meanwhile, Riley’s personified emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger try and process this change in their own way, leading to conflicting emotions that develop into a downward spiral in Riley’s emotive state. Riley’s emotions need to learn to co-operate with each other to prevent Riley from going off the deep end.

Everything in Inside Out worked to varying degrees of success. The first parallel I noticed between myself and Riley occurred when she has to recall a memory in her life on the first day of her new school. Her happy memory turned into a sad one, which was something I was experiencing when I was a teenager. Inside Out then goes on to show lots of psychological concepts that are easy to understand and relate to, from the train of thought, the loss of old memories, how the small emotive moments contribute to your personality and the loss of innocence. All of this was well written and very creative.

What was also creative was the scriptwriting. The entire movie was smartly written, even the comedy. All of the comedy is funny not because it was funny in of itself, but because it was relatable. The funniest scene was when Riley’s mom was trying to find the source of her daughter’s problems and tries to signal to her husband, who we find out is daydreaming about football. He snaps out of his daydream and thinks he is in the wrong, but doesn’t know why he is wrong and the mother is annoyed that he can’t take the hint. These are just classic familial situations that are done from a unique angle where they don’t point and make fun at it, but embraces it. That I think is crucial to a movie that sets to be wholehearted about what we do and how we behave.

The other thing that I noticed when I saw Inside Out was the animation. I haven’t seen a movie -even by Pixar- that had animation this radiant, especially the scenes inside Riley’s head. This helped reinforce the inner-beauty that the story contained. It was an integral part of the package. It gave the movie an added edge that made it feel more special than it was already.

I used the word “reflection” a lot because that was what the movie did for me. It made me reflect on my past. So much so I even used the experience as my essay on theological reflection (I made the theological aspects up using academic research of course) and got a distinction on it. Boy my mum was ecstatic about that one. This movie was so monumental to me that it made it on the Inglorious Reviews logo on the Facebook page, top-of-center.

All of that, and more, really hit me. It was like my emotional life was reflected on the big screen. The best thing about it was it shows how much the struggle of adolescence struggle reality that should be accepted and not looked down upon. It also makes you feel that you aren’t the only one going through it. I never felt better or happy when someone would say “you’re not alone” or when other people told their stories about their struggles growing up. This film was my reflection of a life stage that I just lived. It made me a better person. Roger Ebert said that if a movie makes you change your mind, it appeals to your emotions, not your reason. That had never been truer than when I saw Inside Out. *****

The BFG Movie Review

Genre: Adventure
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Length: 117 minutes
Main cast: Mark Rylance
Ruby Barnhill
Penelope Wilton
Written by: Roald Dahl
Christopher Abbott
Melissa Mathison
Directed by: Steven Spielberg

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The BFG is a movie suitable for children and for most of those who are familiar with the book. Steven Spielberg puts some of his magic in the movie but he takes his time doing it. When I say Spielberg takes his time, I don’t mean at a leisurely pace where the audience just takes it in. What I mean is that he takes his sweet ass time before he creates momentum and payoffs. At least it’s good when the momentum and payoffs arise.

The BFG is the story of an unlikely friendship between a girl called Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and the BFG or the Big Friendly Giant. The BFG kidnaps Sophie because she saw him when he wasn’t meant to be seen. The BFG take Sophie to his home in Giant Country. Sophie and The BFG develop a friendship throughout the movie. However, all the other giants love to eat “human beans” and Sophie and The BFG have to find a way to defeat the giants.

The BFG is a movie where the animations are beautiful and is something that kids are going to love. Spielberg has the talent of making blockbuster adventure movies for both kids and adults. There are scenes in The BFG that are bright, vibrant and colorful such as a dream catching scene and the scene where The BFG disguises himself with his cloak to prevent being seen by humans. The way the animation team has done his movements seem effortless while delivering you into the world of fantasy. It is just a shame that those animation techniques only go so far.

The problem about The BFG is that they take forever to get anywhere. There is lots of dialogue in the movie and it is a hit and miss. You would think the comedic dialogue would fall flat and the dramatic dialogue would be great. The exact opposite happened in this movie which surprised me. There was too much dramatic dialogue making the movie feel long. I honestly believe the movie makers thought it was poignant but it just fizzled out and kept fizzling out where there would be long periods of boredom from me. The movie is 117 minutes long and I don’t feel that a simple kids film like this needed to be that long

What didn’t fizzle out, but made it lively was when the comedic dialogue took the place of the dramatic dialogue. There is one scene involving The BFG, Sophie and the Queen of England having lunch that was the best scene by leaps and bounds. Everything in that scene was perfect. The slapstick worked, the chain of events that made the scene funnier and funnier worked, the dialogue worked, the timing worked and the acting worked. More specifically, It was a scene involving the queen and a green fizzy drink. This scene stood out. If there was an award for best fart joke of 2016, this movie would win it with no hesitation or reservation.

There were other comedic scenes that also worked well for me as well, but the greatest thing about all of them was that the humor was such childish humor that worked so well. The humor was inherently stupid but worked so well that I after I laughed, I was stunned. In hindsight, I how thinking “How the hell did the writers, Spielberg, and the actors make me laugh like that?” but they did and they did it well.

I guess you can say The BFG has lots of things riding on it (acting, comedy, animation) but I wished the movie wasn’t bogged down in slow narrative pacing and excessive dramatic dialogue. I don’t even think the dialogue was that bad, I just felt they didn’t know when to stop. Unfortunately, for me, it hurt the overall quality of the movie significantly despite the fact there are lots of good things in The BFG **3/4

 

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Genre: Action
Year: 2016
Rating:M
Runtime: 120 minutes
Main Cast: Liam Hemsworth
Jeff Goldblum
Jessie T. Usher
Bill Pullman
Maika Monroe
Main Production Company: Centropolis Entertainment
Written by: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods
James Vanderbilt
Directed by: Roland Emmerich

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Independence Day Resurgence is a sequel twenty years in the making (not really but you get the point) and has a lot of hype. I went into Independence Day Resurgence with an open mind, but after about 10 minutes in, that went out the door. There are a couple of scenes and elements to it that were awesome but the movie was mostly boring.

The story, when you boil it down, is pretty basic. Aliens come back to earth after twenty years and it’s up to Jake Morrison, (Liam Hemsworth) David Levinson, (Jeff Goldblum) Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, (Jessie Usher) et. al. to save the earth once again from space aliens. Oh, and the protagonists get help from an intelligent white spherical robot and various defense systems.

This movie is like the original Independence Day except bigger, louder and no Will Smith. If you need any proof that it’s bigger, you just need to look at the ship. It’s the size of half the earth. It’s clear from the outset that director Ronald Emmerich wanted the movie to be a technical exercise and it mostly succeeds on that level. I thought the CGI looked good especially with how the main villain moved fluently despite his large structure. The millions of ships were ok from a CGI standpoint. Finally, I thought some of the stuntwork was awesome.

Now onto the negatives…

The movie was boring on multiple levels. The dialogue, the pacing, the acting, the humorless gags and the predictable story. Five minutes into watching the movie, I wrote “The dialogue is bad, I’ve heard worse, but it’s bad” some of the dialogue felt unnatural, other times it just didn’t make much sense. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down what any character said but I had the constant feeling that none of the dialogue connected with me, or felt natural with the “end of the world” situation they were in.

Another fault in the movie was the horrifically slow narrative pacing due to too-many-character-syndrome and the repetitive gags. The pristine example comes from Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) who awakens from a coma that lasted, you guessed it, twenty years! He gets the bad comedic gag of his bum showing out of his hospital gown. The gag wasn’t funny the first time (or the other times they tried it). Dr. Brakish Okun doesn’t need to be in the story. I believe he was only there to nostalgia to the hardcore Independence Day fans. He wasn’t the only one that was needlessly there either.

Finally, the story was highly predictable filled with bad melodrama. The “romantic” subplot felt rushed for the popcorn filling special effects show. Normally, I would be against this movie, but the romantic elements between the Liam Hemsworth and Maika Monroe characters were so cookie cutter I was half-relieved they did not get lots of screen time together. You get the usual “I want to live in a house with you” line said by the woman just before the man leaves for his deadly mission cliche. You also get the sidekick who says “you are the only friend I have ever had” said by Travis Tope’s character. Despite the brevity of these lines and scenes, it still felt tedious.

With the combination of thirty-minute character introductions, romantic melodrama, wooden acting with bad dialogue, Independence Day Resurgence is a two-hour cinematic slog that is not worth the climax of a twenty-minute action sequence. The movie is also explicit that there will be another installment at the ending. I pray that doesn’t happen. *1/2