The House Review

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Comedies like The House make me yearn for R-rated comedies to succeed in being funny. That is because The House has some entertainment value in there yet not enough of the material translates into laughter, at least not for a feature length film. The House has the acting talent, but the talent is not enough to rise the movie above the repetitive gags.

The story is that (Will Ferrell) and (Amy Poehler) and (Jason Matzukis) are running an illegal gaming operation in order to cover each other’s debts and expenses. This means raising half a million dollars in 4 weeks. Ferrell and Poehler want to get their daughter into college, Matzukis was to avoid foreclosure.

Tell me if you have heard of any of these stock characters before:

1. The cop who is so idiotic that he is not believable in any way.
2. The corrupt leader of the local council who hooks up with his co-worker behind closed doors.
3. The optimistic stoner who is both dumb and happy-go-lucky (every Jason Mantzoukas character ever)
4. The parents who will become overly rebellious when the chips are down.

Those are all the main characters in the movie and the gags are an assembly line of water down gags that are associated with those stock characters.

To be fair to Ferrell, Poehler and especially Mantzoukas, they try to make it work. This was the main reason I could watch this movie to the end quite easily. I have seen comedies in which actors were apathetic and lazy knowing their material was not funny.The three actors have chemistry, but they lack a funny script that translates well on the big screen.

Laughs exist in The House, but they are few and far between. The first 20 minutes beginning does not work at all and I was expecting a trainwreck. Fortunately, things do pick up from there with the best bits starting to come in when the trio start to make some money and it became mildly entertaining for awhile. But The House does not achieve the belly laughs it intended to do.

Sadly, The House does not have enough laughs or entertainment value for 90 minutes. Enough for a TV show maybe. The actors stopped it from being a disappointment, but this movie will easily be forgotten ⭐⭐1/2

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Wonder Woman- FINALLY!

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After three movies in their cinematic universe, DC have finally got a firm step in the right direction with Wonder Woman. Prior to Wonder Woman, I felt that DC movie had a vision of what they wanted, they just did a bad job executing it. Now, with Wonder Woman it looks like they have realized that vision. I got what they were going after but now I am starting to like it.

Set in the time of the First World War, Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman- Known as Diana and raised on a secluded island of female Amazons- who sees a pilot (Chris Pine) who crashed his plane next to the island, fleeing from German forces. After the pilot tells his story of escape, Wonder Woman believes that Aries, the God of War, is the instigator of the war and seeks out to defeat him.

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The island Wonder Woman inhabits during the first act. Well shot, looks luscious.

Yes, it took me awhile for me to program the fact that an ancient God instigated a war, but in the mind of Wonder Women, that’s her belief as she was a sheltered child who knows nothing about the outside world. This film is aware of her naiveté but I’m glad the movie never makes her look dumb and stupid. Chris Pine, does a great job of reacting to her flaws, generating both light-hearted humor and drama without being too condescending to her. He does a great job here is an underrated actor.

Wonder Woman has taken all the good of previous DC movies and pushed away a lot of the bad from DC movies. It has the darkness of Batman vs Superman minus the murkiness. Wonder Woman incorporates mild doses of humor to compliment the dark tone of the material whereas Suicide Squad did it so erratically.

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One of the minor problems in the movie is the sword. It a payoff that ultimately does not happen for its purpose.

Adding from that, Wonder Woman has told a story which never feels confusing or lost in the making of the film. In the combination of both the balance in tone and creating a simple story that never feels confusing, DC have made a good film. Six months ago, that thought would have never entered my head.

I don’t see Wonder Woman as the breakout movie for DC that will immediately turn heads, but I see Wonder Woman as the starting block. Even though it was an entertaining film, I still think there is a better film from DC that has not been made yet. It is certainly a firm step in the right direction ⭐⭐⭐3/4

Kong Skull Island: A Deliciously Deep Fried Chicken

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Kong: Skull Island is like a delicious piece of fried chicken: Easy to digest, satisfies you for a couple of hours, but not expected be great for you. That is totally fine. I have eaten fried chicken knowing it wasn’t healthy. I eat it because it is delicious. If having a thrill ride is your mantra, Kong: Skill Island will achieve that goal.

The film opens with a montage of war and postwar history from the Second World War to the Vietnam War. This is interspersed with the actor’s names printed on the screen. The way that was shot combined by who was in it (Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and especially Bree Larson) made me believe that Kong: Skull Island was going to be fantastic. I thought that it would be a perfect blend of action and story.

Is Kong. Is Good.

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Apocalypse Kong

Instead, we get a lot more action than the story here. The action was entertaining to watch and I had fun with it. The story was mildly interesting at best. Ultimately, Kong: Skull Island is a success because it never drops the ball and doesn’t make bad mistakes. Combined with the fact that Kong: Skull Island moves at a brisk pace and never bored me made it a pleasing experience for me as I watched it.

The best thing in Kong: Skull Island was easily the cinematographer and the special effects. What was interesting about the cinematography in Kong: Skull Island was that it took a lot of inspiration (and even copied a scene) from Apocalypse Now. From the bright, musky, orange-red sunsets to the aerial bombing of a jungle while playing on-the-nose music. At least the filmmakers were smart enough to use things from a great film while not using it as a crutch, I just wish it wasn’t done that way so obviously.

The special effects and the action sequences were also done well. It was good but nothing close to spectacular of different. They make a jump scare that was actually frightening and the climatic fight felt visceral and I easily bought it. They had one weird moment where King Kong was eating a giant octopus and the tentacles were hanging from his mouth which was odd. Finally, the best moment in the film for me involved a suspenseful, ingenious scene involving the sounds of flash photography and big bad reptilians.

Kong Be Better Next Time

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Mummy Where’s my Barbie!

The frustrating thing about Kong: Skull Island is that they play so safe that it’s not funny. There is no character development whatsoever despite the fact that the characters were well-established. I got that Hiddleston was playing a hunter and explorer but that was it. Larson plays a pacifist and a photojournalist, but that was it. Knowing how well they established these characters combined with the overall quality of this movie, I know the filmmakers could have easily pulled off a character driven story with great action simultaneously. That would have been awesome. Logan is a movie that did just that while Kong: Skull Island doesn’t. It sticks to the failsafe formula it knows it can achieve: A popcorn action movie.

So overall, Kong: Skull Island is a good movie to watch if you are thinking about watching it. If you weren’t thinking about watching it, you probably won’t enjoy it. If you have time on your hands and want to be entertained for two hours, Kong: Skull Island will do just that ***1/4

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Written by Nelson Cumming

J.K. Rowling has decided to make the transition from an author to a screenwriter, at least for her own book. Is she as good a screenwriter as she is an author?

Well, I think she is a good comedic writer no doubt. I mean that with sincerity. Everything that is meant to be funny is, in fact, funny. The slapstick with the animals (specifically the gem seeking Niffler) provided some comic relief which is backed up by Dan Fogler who plays the only no-maj (a muggle) in the wizarding world who blunders his way through the wizarding world. Fogler was the best performance in the film bar none.

Rowling is also a good writer in expressing the themes and ideas she wishes to explore. A lot of the themes in this movie revolve around political powerplay, divided societies, isolation and repression. She presents that aspect of the story during the first third of the film. I was highly anticipating how it would progress and conclude.

…and then the cliff came.

The one major letdown this film has is that it never comes full circle. All the themes I have mentioned Rowling illustrates. But she doesn’t really progress those ideas further and with all the separate elements of the plot, they never come together.

The subplots: An outline

Without spoiling it. The first thirty minutes is basically plot progression which illustrates the society of witches and no-majs and how divided they are. There no-majs want to eradicate wizards and break their wands. Wizards are forced underground to practice their magic and live with each other.

After that there are comedy skits with the beasts and that element of the story is barely mentioned again. That was disappointing. A subplot involving a boy called Credence and the main antagonist Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) That plot element focused on powerplay, manipulation, isolation, and fear. Yet that subplot doesn’t get a proper emotional payoff by the conclusion.

Rowling also wants the kids to have a good time as well because she wants to show all the beasts that get released and the comedic elements in catching them. The goes for the cuteness factor as well with all the animals. Expect girls and kids to say “awwww”

An Archery Analogy

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Arrows represent the themes and elements to every film. Left is a 5 star movie that hits you to the core. Right was Fantastic Beasts. Yes, they hit, but the elements are never together.

So you can imagine how frustrating it is when all these elements appear in their own scenes but never really come together. This also affected plot progression, traveling from one idea, leaving it behind, and moving on to the next.

All the elements that Rowling decides to dabble into works. That is enough for me to be entertained. But what Fantastic Beasts really suffers from a lack of putting all the plot threads and thematic elements together. That was disappointing for me. It wasn’t about what the story did, it’s what it didn’t do. ***1/4

P.S. The final reveal sucked. It didn’t make sense in both the story and the internal logic in the story.