Whoever said CGI ruins movies?
The Jungle Book is a 2016 live action version of the book collection by author Rudyard Kipling. It is also inspired by the 1967 Disney animated film of the same name. It features voice work from Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, and Scarlett Johansson.
The film tells the story of a young boy named Mowgli, a human boy who was separated from his parents as a baby. He is raised by a wolf pack and is taught various lessons by a black panther named Bagheera. Mowgli eventually decides to leave the jungle, but finds himself in danger when is pursued by the Bengal tiger Shere Khan, who despises humans.
CGI is under much scrutiny nowadays, since many moviegoers and critics typically find it to be an overused, and sometimes poorly executed, technique in action, fantasy, and science fiction based films. The Jungle Book's biggest accomplishment should, perhaps, be its ability to take CGI and elevate it to a level of visual splendor that could be seen as a new standard. The jungle backgrounds are something out of a Bob Ross painting, and the live-action animated animals evoke enough realism to make you believe you can reach out and touch them as if they were actually there.
As you engross yourself in the spectacular visuals, there is also a quality story and exciting action sequences to further enhance the experience. To put the cherry on top, the animal characters, primarily Baloo the bear, Bagheera, and Shere Khan, are all highly synchronized with their respective voice actors.
- Idris Elba as Shere Khan. As a brief sidenote, I feel the need to first comment that Bill Murray was the perfect choice for Baloo, a bear who perfectly matches Murray's humor, charm, and maturity. Ben Kingsley also is highly suitable as the wise teacher Bagheera. But Idris Elba as Shere Khan is the surefire standout, in what should be considered one of the most menacing and intimidating voice roles in recent memory. Elba masterfully uses his steely vocals to turn Shere Khan into the ruthless predator he is known to be.
- The faithfulness to the Disney film and Kipling's original novel. If you saw the Disney film before hand and/or read Kipling's book, it's easy to see the film is stingy from deviating from its source material. All of the major characters and plot sequences you may have seen or read about before are present, and this time in beautiful CGI.
- The attempts at recreating songs from the Disney film. The two primary songs we hear sung by the characters are "Bare Necessities" and, "I Wan'na Be Like You." Though the film is not in and of itself a musical, it does seem to go about these songs as if they were thrown in at the last minute. It's a nice gesture to try and pay homage to the Disney film, but the energy and focus is lacking in these songs.
- Kaa the python. Scarlett Johansson does a fine job as the voice of Kaa, but the hypnotizing snake feels as if he (she?) is too blended into the jungle background to have any kind of significant impact on the story. Just when Kaa makes his (her?) grand entrance, he/she is gone and forgotten in a matter of moments.
Bolstered by its breathtaking CGI and powerful voice cast, The Jungle Book is a well-crafted and adventurous film that exceeds expectations. I, admittedly, did not get high hopes when I first saw the trailers, but after seeing it, I can confidently say it will be a film that will hold up for years to come, as well as be a worthy contender at next year's Academy Awards.
Dory might not remember this adventure, but WE certainly will.
Finding Dory is Disney Pixar's 2016 sequel to the highly successful Finding Nemo. It features Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks reprising their respective voice roles as Dory and Marlin. It also features Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, and Diane Keaton as new voices.
Finding Dory takes place one year after the events of Finding Nemo. Dory has remained good friends with Marlin and his son Nemo, even though she continues to suffer from her short-term memory loss. One day, after having a flashback, Dory remembers that she has a family. With Marlin and Nemo by her side, Dory sets out to find her parents, but ends up getting captured and being put into a public aquarium.
Okay, so that premise sounds a lot like Finding Nemo, where Nemo gets caught and put into an aquarium (not public though), and Marlin and Dory go out and look for him. Did Pixar want to make the exact same movie again, but have Nemo and Dory switch places? Well, whether you want to think of it that way or not, any glaring similarities to Finding Nemo should be seen as water under the bridge. Finding Dory is a well made sequel that should be the most recent indication that Pixar has still got it, and that they'll be on top of the animation world for quite some time.
Everything you hoped to get from this movie is present: humor, drama, excitement, and enjoyable characters. We also get a fresh whiff of nostalgia seeing Dory, Marlin, and Nemo all back together.
- The new characters. Notable newcomers are Destiny, a near-sighted whale shark, Bailey, a beluga whale, and Hank, a red octopus. These three new faces plus several other new, albeit minor, characters bring fresh energy to the film. They all get humorous and dramatic moments, and help us get more behind Dory and what she goes through in the film.
- The nostalgia. Dory, Marlin, and Nemo are all back for another adventure, but we also get a second appearance from the likes of Mr. Ray, the stingray schoolteacher, and Crush, the sea turtle. Their appearances are rather brief, but give us a fresh reminder of why we loved Finding Nemo and quoted it so much.
- Dory's short-term memory loss is too heavily exploited in the early parts of the film. Sometimes it comes off as humorous, and it is used for more sentimental purposes later on, but nearly every joke or comedic moment that comes early somehow pokes fun at Dory's temporary amnesia. It gets driven into the ground rather quickly.
Finding Dory, overall, is a well-rounded sequel to Finding Nemo, delivering the laughs and emotions we've come to expect from Pixar for many years now. People of all ages will find something to enjoy, especially those who got a big kick out of Finding Nemo.
Money Monster is a 2016 thriller film directed by Jodie Foster and stars George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell.
George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a TV personality who runs a show called Money Monster which gives financial advice on commerce and Wall Street to potential investors. During the middle of a show, a man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) sneaks onto the set, pulls out a gun, and takes Gates hostage. Kyle reveals that he invested his entire life's savings into a company called IBIS that Gates recommended on a previous show . Investors in the company lost all of their money, and now Kyle demands answers for what happened. With the help of the show's director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), Gates tries to stay alive and help Kyle get the answers he seeks.
Aside from the strong performances from George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Money Monster works because of its pacing. The film wastes absolutely no time in getting itself going. Once the key is in ignition, the movie drives fast and furious. Clooney and O'Connell go back and forth throughout the lion's share of the movie's runtime, and the situation they are in is like a ticking time bomb. You don't know when that bomb will go off, but you know it could at any second, and you're afraid of when it could happen. If and when that bomb finally does go off, it's going to be messy.
- The fast pacing. Budwell breaks onto the set just about 10-15 minutes into the film, and it never slows down from there. Every bit of dialogue and every character interaction is able to propel the plot forward in some way. There's never a moment wasted for pointless conversation or irrelevant humor. Something new always springs up to keep our attention and keep the train on the right track.
- The suspense/tension. Kyle is constantly making threats at Gates, who keeps trying various tactics to stall for time and prevent Kyle from reaching his breaking point. Kyle also forces the show to stay live on the air, and hundreds of spectators watch from TV screens, which serves as a microcosm for us, the invisible spectators. We as the audience feel almost the same way as these spectators within the film. Neither they nor we want to look away, because if we do, even for just one split second, we could miss Gates getting his head blown off or miss him attempting to escape. It's a heart-pounding, anxiety-filled thrill rush for us, but for those watching within the imaginary walls of the film, it's horrifying, can't-miss TV. This is no Hitchcock suspense, but at times, it feels pretty close.
- Money Monster unfortunately wastes a grand amount of potential to truly explore and dissect its meritorious themes. Without giving away specific plot points, the film bluntly communicates to us cliched messages that merely sum up to, "People are greedy" or "The rich only want to get richer." Using film to tackle the inner workings of the money and finance world can be tricky business, and sadly, Money Monster steps into the pitfall where all it really tells us is that money can drive people to do crazy things, which is a life lesson we all learn sooner or later.
- The limitations of Julia Roberts's character. Roberts works well with what the script asks her to do, but when stripped down to its basic elements, her character merely talks and spectates. There's little to no "action" she is required to do. By action, I'm not talking about gun fights or car chases, but that Roberts doesn't perform any kind of hands-on task. She simply talks to George Clooney through a hidden mic, and keeps telling him, "Say this to Kyle." or "Go here and do this." She remains stationary for the majority of the film, which feels incompatible with the fast pace.
In conclusion, Money Monster is fast-paced, exciting, and will surely give you the thrill rush you hope to get. There's definitely a lot of potential left on the table, but the film still has strong enough qualities to get a thumbs up.
Ghostbusters is a 2016 reboot of the 1984 comedy classic, featuring a new all-female Ghostbusters team made up of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Chris Hemsworth also stars as the dim-witted receptionist that the team hires. The film also features cameo appearances from members of the original cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts.
Melissa McCarthy plays Abby Yates, who was high-school friends with Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig). The two write a book discussing the possibility of paranormal activity, but when the book turns out to be unsuccessful, Gilbert decides to get away from anything related to ghosts and becomes a physics professor at Columbia University. Yates republishes the book, leading to Erin losing her job, and, in exchange for Yates getting the book out of publication, she decides to help Yates and her quirky assistant Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) in an investigation on a ghost-sighting at a mansion. Shortly afterwards, an MTA worker, Patty Tolan, (Leslie Jones) witnesses a ghost in the middle of a subway tunnel, and she soon joins the Ghostbusters team.
When the trailer for the film was first released online, it became one of the most disliked videos on Youtube. People commented saying the film was a slap in the face to the original. There were also misogynistic and anti-feminist comments being directed at an all-female Ghostbusters team. Given all of this hatred directed at the film, there was a dark cloud of pessimism hovering above it in the months and weeks before its theatrical release.
After viewing the film, I can confidently say it is NOWHERE near the disaster everyone was making it out to be. It pales in comparison to the original, but as a stand-alone version, it's actually pretty good. There are plenty of funny moments, and the members of the new Ghostbusters team have great chemistry together.
- Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Wiig. These two were the funniest out of every major character in the film. Hemsworth makes several well-timed comedic remarks throughout, and while his character, Kevin, is not meant to be taken seriously, it's for good reason. Wiig provides a nice blend of humorous comments and maturity. She never pushes a joke too far, and is always able to come up with something new to keep the laughs fresh.
- The chemistry of the team. All four work very well off one another, with everyone having a chance to make funny remarks. The relationship among the four feels natural and unforced.
- Basically every male character in the film is either clueless, mean-spirited, or not very helpful. I understand if the film was going for a theme of female empowerment, but if that involves making every male character seem stupid, it makes the movie look like it's promoting misandry. It seems like it's the film's cruel way of responding to all the misogynistic responses it got when it was first promoted.
- The plot shares too many similarities to the original. Let me list most of them below:
Not EVERYTHING is the same as the original, but these similarities should not go unnoticed.
While Ghostbusters 2016 can't hold a candle to the original, it still works by itself, thanks largely in part to the chemistry of its main cast. There are plenty of funny moments, especially from Chris Hemsworth, and the humor is never pushed too far. The final 20 minutes is a little over-the-top, but never drags or diminish the movie as a whole. Big fans of the original should definitely give this new Ghostbusters a try.
Recommend? Yes, even if you didn't have high hopes initially
Independence Day: Resurgence is the sequel to the 1996 sci-fi disaster flick Independence Day, with Roland Emmerich returning as director, and seeing Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Brent Spiner, and Judd Hirsch reprising their respective roles. Liam Hemsowrth stars as a newcomer.
Resurgence takes place 20 years after the events of the first film. The United Nations has created the Earth Space Defense (ESD) to serve as a global defense program to warn against any oncoming extraterrestrial threats with the help of technology recovered from the alien spaceships destroyed 20 years before. The aliens come back and attack again, but this time, with a bigger and more deadly force.
Roland Emmerich has developed a reputation for directing disaster-based films that feature big, sweeping special effects (that usually destroy a lot of buildings and landmarks), but shallow characters that we just don't care about. Resurgence, unfortunately, is just another example to go alongside with the likes of Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012. The first Independence Day suffered largely from the same problems, but it had that summer-popcorn entertainment quality to it that made it at least enjoyable. The special effects were certainly impressive back then, but nowadays, the average sci-fi movie goer is so used to seeing big spaceships and watching stuff go boom, there's no longer anything to be truly wowed by. The hype behind Resurgence seems to be something like: "You liked the big spaceships and big explosions the first time? Well now we're gonna have BIGGER spaceships and BIGGER explosions! Bigger is better!" Indeed, Resurgence is bigger; bigger visuals, but also a bigger level of incoherence. In this case, bigger is not better.
- The visuals. To its credit, the films does deliver when it comes to the action and visual spectacle. The visuals don't wow us like the first Independence Day did, but they still provide for a somewhat pleasing experience. I'd be surprised if you find yourself bored once the action gets going.
- The very last line of the film. I won't spoil it, but the very last line before the end credits start may just be worth the price of admission.
- The excessive amount of characters. Not only is there little to no character development to speak of, but there are too many characters to try and focus on. From Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth and the other fighter pilots, Judd Hirsch and a group of kids he comes across, Brent Spiner, Bill Pullman, Hemsworth's character's fiancee, the list goes on and on. Just when you think you came take some time to focus on one group of characters, the movie jumps to the next group, and then jumps to another one, and then another one. After the aliens attack, the movie goes in circles, following a process that goes something like:
- What's Jeff Goldblum up to?
- How are the fighter pilots doing?
- Alien action!
- What's going on with Mr. Hirsch and those kids?
- What's Brent Spiner gonna do now?
- More alien action!
-Hey, don't forget about these characters!
One thing is for sure: Will Smith was surely missed.
- The lack of "fun". Unlike the first Independence Day, Resurgence just doesn't provide a sense of "fun" you should get from a summer-popcorn film like this one. The incoherence and boring characters really take away from the entertainment value that the alien-fighting scenes provide.
Overall, Resurgence provides the action and visuals you'd expect, but suffers from basically the exact same problems that Roland Emmerich always seems to gloss over. Aside from its incoherent plot and excessive number of characters, there's basically nothing in the film to be in awe of or find impressive. Resurgence may just become another of those sci-fi action flicks that you won't remember unless you happen to come across a DVD or Blu-Ray copy at the library or video store.
Just a month and a half after Batman and Superman clashed, Captain America and Iron Man decide to go at one another, in the thirteenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Captain America Civil War. The film stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Don Cheadle, and Paul Rudd.
After the events of Age of Ultron, the United Nations looks to put the Avengers team under government control. Tony Stark supports this movement, but Steve Rogers thinks otherwise. As Stark and Rogers grow divided, another threat involving Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier and the terrorist organization, Hydra, begins to take shape.
The marketing and hype for Civil War was just about,if not more, noticeable than Batman v Superman. Almost everywhere you went, you were bound to see something with "Captain America Civil War in theaters May 6" labeled on it. We've seen the Avengers team up alongside one another for several years. The only time we've ever seen them fight one another before were a few brief moments in the two Avengers movies, such as when Iron Man and Thor exchanged blows for about ten minutes and Mega Iron Man fighting the Hulk in Age of Ultron. Now we've got a whole movie dedicated to these Marvel superheroes fighting one another? Fasten your seatbelts, everyone, it's going to be a wild ride!
- The film making itself clear it's a Captain America movie. The movie is called Captain America: Civil War, not Captain America v Iron Man. Tony Stark/Iron Man undoubtedly plays an important role, but Captain America is still the focal point of the film, which directors Anthony and Joe Russo do a nice job of. Outside of the big fight with Iron Man, there are plenty of other action scenes where we see Captain America engage in combat with other characters. The film never feels as if it's turning into Avengers 2.5 or Iron Man 4. Robert Downey Jr. is never one to stray away from the spotlight when he gets the chance to shine, but in Civil War, he never appears bothered by the fact that he must take a backseat to Chris Evans since Captain America is the star of the show.
- The fight involving Iron Man against Captain America and Bucky Barnes. This may be the most serious and gripping fight scene Marvel has done through its first thirteen MCU films. For reasons I won't spoil here, the characters fight with a special kind of emotion we haven't seen from any of them in their previous installments. This fight should be seen as a step forward for Marvel pushing the boundaries of what to show in their Cinematic Universe. Watching the Marvel heroes fight bad guys and save the world can get old and cliched after a while, but when they fight each other for the reasons they do so in this fight, Marvel has proven it's no longer afraid of taking risks.
- Spider-Man. Tom Holland plays Peter Parker/ Spider-Man, and was the worst character in the film. Throughout the entire fight at the airport, just about EVERY line of dialogue he had was a one-liner or a humorous remark (by 15-16 year old boy standards). When Bucky Barnes tries to punch him, he grabs Bucky's bionic arm and says, "You got a robotic arm? That's so cool!" One or two of these kind of remarks is perfectly fine, but Holland gets carried away with it, to the point where I began to find him annoying. Iron Man tries to excuse his immaturity by saying, "this is his first time doing something like this", but I found Spider-Man to be just an attempt by the Russo brothers' to sneak in as much humor as they could.
- The big fight at the airport. This kind of goes off my low point about Spider-Man. From what we saw in the trailers, this arguably was supposed to be the climax of the film. For me, this is where the film began to go on a downhill slide. My biggest complaint with many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films is that they get carried away with the humor almost to the point where you question if the film is taking itself seriously. I had really hoped Civil War would not suffer from this problem, but alas, it does, and the fight at the airport is where the humor gets out of hand. I think I counted at least 10 times where a character would say something right in the middle of the action that was surely meant to come off as humorous. Again, one or two such remarks is completely fine (heck, I'd even encourage it), but when just about everyone that was fighting was trying to make a one-liner, it heavily diminishes the action.
Overall, Captain America: Civil War is one of the strongest results to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. The action and visuals are just as dazzling as ever, but the humor gets out of hand at times and somewhat weighs down the fighting and character interactions. If you didn't enjoy Batman v Superman, then Civil War will no doubt give you the thrills and excitement you might have still been looking for.
Recommend? Yes, but watch Age of Ultron and The Winter Soldier first
It's the superhero clash we've all been waiting for! Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a 2016 superhero film directed by Zack Snyder and starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg, and Gal Gadot.
Batman v Superman serves as a sequel to Man of Steel (also directed by Snyder). Bruce Wayne witnesses the destruction of Metropolis that takes place at the end of Man of Steel, and views Superman as a threat to humanity. Superman soon learns of Batman's activities and sees him as a potential threat. Friction develops between the two, while evil businessman Lex Luthor hatches a plan to defeat Superman.
Batman and Superman have been around for decades, and given the abundance of superhero films that have been coming out over the past 10-15 years, it should be no surprise that the Caped Crusader and Man of Steel would eventually duke it out. The big question is, does it live up to the hype?
One of the best words to describe this film is polarizing. You might watch the film and think:
- One of the best superhero movies ever!!
- Amazing! Epic on so many levels!
Or you might think:
- This is the one of the worst films I've seen in a long time
- How dare Zack Snyder abuse our favorite superheroes!
There really is no middle ground with Batman v Superman. Either you will cherish it for years to come or you will want to throw it into a dumpster if ever a DVD or Blu-Ray copy comes into your line of sight. There can be no, "it's okay."
- The action and visuals. Batman v Superman excels when the action and fighting gets going. It provides a special thrill rush we haven't experienced from superheroes since Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.
- Ben Affleck as Batman. People laughed and joked when it was first announced that Affleck was cast as the next Batman, but it turned out that he had arguably the best performance in the film. Affleck does a magnificent job of capturing Batman's dark edginess and daunting style of crime-fighting. When he comes face-to-face with Superman for the first time, he stares him down and asks, "Do you bleed?", knowing full well Superman could send him flying off into the distance with relative ease. If that's not a courageous and intimidating superhero, then I don't know what is.
- Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL's soundtrack. The music further intensifies the excitement of what's going on, and when we've got Batman and Superman going at one another, exciting music is a must.
- Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. When I first saw trailers for Batman v Superman and saw Jesse Eisenberg, I was confused on why he seemed to be an important character in the film. I looked up the cast shortly afterwards, and saw he was portraying Lex Luthor. I was almost dumbfounded. Eisenberg has garnered many credible appearances over his career (The Social Network, Now You See Me, Zombieland), but this is a role I just could not envision him playing, mainly because he seems a little too young for the part and Eisenberg has not been known for playing villanous roles, especially one previously portrayed by greats like Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey.
I did not have high hopes for Mr. Eisenberg going in, and those hopes were further hammered down as the film progressed. Eisenberg's Luthor is way over-the-top and annoyingly cartoonish, almost to the point where you might stop taking him seriously. Lex Luthor is known for being a diabolical mastermind, but not a psychotic, long-lost Looney Tune as we see him in this film.
- The film acting more like a Superman movie than a Batman AND Superman movie. Batman v Superman is a sequel to Man of Steel, and features Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Martha Kent, and Perry White, all characters seen alongside Superman. On the other side we have....Alfred, and that's about it for additional Batman characters. Since we see so many more Superman-exclusive characters as opposed to Batman-exclusive characters, the film feels more like another Superman film, with Batman just happening to be in it too. If there was a cameo or small appearance from other good-guy Batman characters such as Commissioner Gordon and Lucius Fox, this problem could've been resolved.
Overall, Batman v Superman delivers the action and entertainment you'd expect when Batman and Superman finally clash. It's fair to call the film bloated and overlong considering how many different characters come together, but the first-time experience of seeing Batman and Superman fight makes for quite a spectacle and is more than enough to make up for flaws in direction and writing, as well as a god-awful performance by Jesse Eisenberg.
Recommend? Yes, especially if you're a fan of Batman and/or Superman
The Secret Life of Pets is a 2016 computer-animated comedy film produced by Illumination Entertainment, the creators of the Despicable Me films and Minions. Secret Life features voice work from Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, and Dana Carvey.
The story behind Secret Life revolves around a Jack Russell terrier dog named Max, who lives a jubilant lifestyle with his owner, Katie. One day, Katie brings home a new dog; a big, brown Newfoundland named Duke. Max and Duke are unable to get along, and eventually, the two find themselves lost in the streets of New York. The two begin to search for a way home, running into a white rabbit named Snowball, who leads a cult of abandoned animals. At the same time, Gidget, a white pomeranian who has a crush on Max, learns that he is missing and heads out to recruit help and find him.
Pet lovers who saw the trailer(s) certainly have high hopes when going to see this film. Secret Life is able to meet those hopes for the most part.
- The humor based on the quirky nature of pets. Any dog, cat, bird, and even gerbil owner will undoubtedly find something to point out and laugh at in the film. Max and Duke giving puppy dog eyes in hopes of getting food, dogs going in a circle sniffing each other's rear ends, or a cat making headlines as a hot new Youtube video are all bound to draw laughs from pet lovers, and might even draw some chuckles from viewers who know little to nothing about the joy of pet-caring.
- Jenny Slate as Gidget. Slate did notable voice work just a few months earlier as Assistant Mayor Bellweather in Disney's highly successful Zootopia. Slate's voice acting perfectly matches the personality of Gidget; cute and cuddly, but never whiny and overbearing. She also brings a strong sense of aggression to the role, knowing how to act tough and fearless when Gidget fights and knocks down other animals.
- Kevin Hart as Snowball, the rabbit. It is my personal opinion to say that, if comedy was a game of baseball, Kevin Hart almost never gets a big hit or home run. I cannot recall one instance where I saw Snowball on screen and legitimately laughed at something he did. Kevin Hart as Snowball suffers from arguably the biggest issue when it comes to voice acting; the inability to distinguish the actor from the character. When I saw Snowball the rabbit, I didn't see an animated, psychotic little bunny, I saw Kevin Hart, and I saw him doing the same routine he has been doing for too long now; acting as boisterous as possible, instead to only come off as annoying and painfully unfunny.
- The somewhat bias towards dogs. If we throw out all non-cat and non-dog animals in the film, as well as very minor dog or cat characters, the ratio of dog to cat is 5 to 1. For dog lovers like myself, this wasn't a big deal, but clearly, the balance of pets in Secret Life heavily favors dogs, which leaves not a lot of room for humor dedicated to cats or other non-dog animals. Dog-haters, beware.
Secret Life of Pets mirrors the nature of a typical pet: Funny and enjoyable, but at times, bothersome and non-sensical.
There is definitely room for improvement in some areas in Secret Life, but there's more than enough humor, charm, and wit to make up for its flaws and establish it as a fun, summer movie that the whole family can enjoy.
Pixels is a 2015 science fiction comedy film starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, and Michelle Monaghan.
The story of Pixels goes something like this: Footage of various classic video arcade games is sent into outer space, where unknown extraterrestrials interpret the footage as a declaration of war. The aliens then unleash creatures onto Earth, which take the form of classic, pixelated video game characters such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, the dog and ducks from Duck Hunt, Q*bert, and so on.
Whether you have any sort of knowledge of these old, retro video games or not, it's hard not to at least chuckle at the premise of this film. You might look at Pixels as being one of those awesomely dumb (or is it dumbly awesome?) films that you watch strictly for pure entertainment purposes.
But then someone will tell you it stars Adam Sandler (*cue the groaning audience*) and nearly all of his comedic friends (Rob Schneider and David Spade, where are you?), and given Sandler's recent track record, you won't get your hopes up.
- The pixel effects. They look cool and it's hard not to feel slightly entertained when you see these pixel creatures (particularly Pac-Man) trampling buildings and cars. If you're a big retro gamer who grew up with these video games, you're bound to find something to point out and (maybe) laugh at too.
- The comedy. Is this a surprise? To be fair, the movie does boast a few moments that will certainly draw at least a few laughs, but these few moments are overshadowed by the many other lazy attempts at generating laughs, such as Peter Dinklage acting like a macho biker punk (very awkwardly at that), Kevin James being a total baffoon as the President of the United States (how he became President we'll never know), and Adam Sandler being...Adam Sandler. Would you believe me if I told you that Q*bert is the funniest character in the movie?
- The relationship between Adam Sandler and Michelle Monaghan's characters. There's no real chemistry between them. They first meet when Sandler goes over to Monaghan's house to help her son install a home cinema system. They "bond" when Sandler finds Monaghan crying in a closet, learning she is divorced, and from there, the two bicker and argue like a typical married couple would. It's one of those relationships that feels forced without taking the time to see what these two characters might have in common.
Overall, Pixels has a much different premise than what we've seen from past Sandler bombs, but sadly turns out to be just another flat-footed attempt at comedy that we've seen too often nowadays. Don't think cult status is in this film's future anytime soon.
Recommend? Nah, unless you're a big Adam Sandler fan and/or a die-hard fan of these retro arcade games.
Donnie Darko is a 2001 science fiction psychological drama film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Jenna Malone, Katharine Ross, and Patrick Swayze.
The story revolves around the title character, Donnie Darko, (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled teenager who is distant from his family and friends. Donnie is visited by a strange rabbit named Frank, who tells Donnie of the impending Doomsday, which is to come on Halloween. Frank then begins to manipulate Donnie into committing various crimes, after Donnie survives a fatal accident.
Donnie Darko falls into that special category of films that trigger what I like to call, "positive confusion." Viewers will, understandably, feel confused about what happened once the end credits start rolling, but at the same time, they feel intrigued and mystified. The truly curious will feel the need to view the film at least a second time, and also look up what others thought of the film as well.
- The dark and eerie atmosphere of the film. The grim and dark tone is apparent from the opening scene, and always feels present throughout the rest of the film. Even scenes such as kids walking through a school building, or a group of young girls performing a dance routine, give off a vibe of uneasiness and tension. You would think this film was directed by someone who knows how to create dark and eerie atmospheres like Stanley Kubrick or Tim Burton.
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko. Gyllenhaal nails the portrayal of Darko's character; unpredictable and looking as if he's lost in his own little world. It's as if Gyllenhaal did extensive studies on teenage psychology and took it to a certain extreme. The characters around him help push his character further in a direction that makes him all the more complex and hard to read. Darko is like a teenager who gets caught up in drugs, pornography, or anything else that would be detrimental to his well-being. We know what he's doing is bad, but we don't wish to see him dead or severely hurt. We want to see if life will get better for him and try to understand what's going on in his head (like his psychotherapist tries to do).
- The presence of Frank, the rabbit. Obviously, the character of Donnie Darko is the main focus of the film, but Frank's appearances to Donnie can sometimes feel spotty and inconsistent. Even when he does show up, he doesn't stick around for very long. Frank is the one who stimulates many of the events that occur throughout the plot involving Donnie, indicating that he's an integral part of the film. Sadly, he doesn't feel as important as he should be.
Overall, Donnie Darko is a smart and thought-provoking film featuring a strong performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and an intriguing plot. It's difficult to pinpoint the film to a specific genre. Is it purely science fiction? A Psychological thriller? A mystery fantasy?
Unless you know you absolutely hated the film, Donnie Darko will sit with you and make you think for some time. It's a film that requires at least a second viewing to fully analyze and understand, as well as clear up some of that, "positive confusion."
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: