Category: movie reviews

Movie Review: Christopher Robin

I’m a big Winnie-the-Pooh fan (specifically a big Eeyore fan), so I’m a bit surprised it took me as long as it did to finally watch the live action “sequel” to the films and books: Christopher Robin. But it’s been on my list for a while, and I got around to it last week with the fam. My feelings on the movie are . . . mixed. Parts were fantastic, and parts were bad.

First, the good. It was so much fun to see the characters interacting with each other. Yes, they looked different than they did in the cartoon versions and the book illustrations. More like a hybrid of both. But the voices were great for Tigger and Pooh (because they used the same voice actor as the cartoons, Jim Cummings), and that made a good impact. When the core characters were just allowed to be themselves and do their thing, it was a lot of fun. There were some great callbacks to the stories and films, and as a fan, I appreciated those.

My kids liked the movie as well. It was entertaining throughout (with a few exceptions I’ll get to in a moment.) All told, I gave the film a 6/10. I liked it, but the flaws just kept holding it down in my estimation. What were they?

For one thing, the first half of the movie is flat out depressing. Christopher Robin leaves the Hundred Acre Woods and grows up to have his life consumed by work. It was a big enough down that MC actually began to cry in the middle of the sequence. A film that takes Winnie-the-Pooh as a conceit and then makes something that makes 6 year olds cry is taking its dramatical aspirations a bit too seriously, I’d say.

Beyond that, however, I really disliked how they oversimplified “work” in the movie. The older Christopher Robin has a job where things have taken a downturn. He’s got real commitments to keep, but the film portrays that all as a bad thing. That he’s too obsessed with work to have time for his family. In other words, it falls into the tried and true trope of “overworked dad needs to remember life is fun and that he shouldn’t work so hard.”

Except when times at a job really are tough? And people are in risk of losing their jobs? If I were at a company like that and my boss suddenly starts playing with stuffed animals again, I’d have some real complaints.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for work/life balance. But in this movie, it’s vastly oversimplified, and then the solution to it is also very reductive. It’s made out to be this insurmountable problem, and then it’s surmounted with a bit of brainstorming in the last five minutes. (I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I reveal the film does not have Christopher Robin’s entire family tossed in the poor house at the end.)

The film just felt like it was struggling too hard to be a Serious Family Movie. There were great sprinkles of light-heartedness, but all the depressing stuff kept rearing its head to bring it all sinking back to earth again.

If you’re a fan of the original, it’s worth watching. Just don’t get your expectations up too high, and don’t go into it assuming it’ll be a fun time for the whole family . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Spoileriffic Avengers Endgame Review

In case you didn’t see the title, this review about the Avengers Endgame will contain spoilers. The comments are also open season on spoilers. If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read this review.

Why am I posting spoilers in the review? A couple of reasons. First, I’ve reviewed enough of these Marvel movies that my opinion about them really hasn’t altered much. I like them. They’re the same recipe, for the most part, repeated, and for now that’s fine with me. (See my review of Captain Marvel as the latest example.) So I don’t know of a way to write an interesting response to this current movie without actually getting into the weeds about the movie itself.

Also, it made like over $1.2 billion in the first weekend, leading me to assume that many many of my friends have already seen the movie. So . . . why not really talk about it, instead of dancing around spoilers?

Anyway. I’ve written enough between my warning about SPOILERS and my actual review now that I feel like I can get into the movie. Ready?

I had a blast at the film. Seeing a big movie opening night with a slew of fans is totally the best way to watch a spectacle movie like this. Everyone’s into it. There are cheers. Applause. Gasps. Sobs. It all adds up to a better experience, as I’ve said before. The first movie felt like only half a movie, because it was. It ended on a huge down note. And yes, so did this one, but there was no getting around it, in my book. Characters had to die and stay dead. There needed to be some lasting impact on the Marvelverse.

I was talking to a friend before the movie, and he expressed how little tension he ever felt in a Marvel movie, since none of the characters ever really dies. They might “die,” but then they come back from that certain defeat, stronger than ever. Having Tony die made total sense. Captain America’s “death” . . . I have some qualms about, mainly because it conflicts with the internal consistency of the film’s rules, but as soon as I start to want to talk about that, I remember I just watched a movie that has a talking raccoon and a talking tree in leading roles. So . . . perhaps the film can get away with a bit of fudging the facts.

Really, I just would have suggested Marvel kill off some characters and have them stay dead earlier in the series. I’m not sure that Guardians of the Galaxy was the right vehicle for it, but Groot could have stayed dead in that one. If you don’t leave characters dead, then people keep thinking you’re faking. Even when Tony was actually dying, I kept wondering if he’d just make a sly wink and then get better all of a sudden, and no one wants that to be happening in the middle of an audience’s mind when they’re going for real drama.

It’s a long movie, but it didn’t feel long to me. I loved how they went back to the other Marvel movies to revisit them from new angles. That was a lot of fun. (Though why Tony had to have Antman suggest this to him is a bit beyond me, since Tony was able to solve it after about three hours of deep thought. You’d think he might have tried that a little earlier?)

As with all Marvel movies, it mixed humor and action well, giving us a variety of different types of actions, from guns to karate to magic users and more. (No one-note punchy powers ala DC.) True, they struggled with the power level at times. Captain Marvel shows up and completely blasts through Thanos’s entire ship in about three seconds. Straight through massive metal walls and foes alike. The whole thing blows up. Then she’s entrusted with a metal glove, and Spiderman’s skeptical she’s going to be able to cross a battlefield with it. No worries! Every female Marvel movie has gathered together to help her out. (That felt way to heavy handed . . . until I talked to my daughter after the movie, and she said how it was her favorite part. That’s when I remembered we’re not all hardened movie critics. and Marvel movies aren’t fine cinema. It’s okay to lean a bit heavier on the keyboard when you’re writing some of the scenes, I think.)

In any case, I got more than enough entertainment for my $6. (My condolences, all you people who have to pay ridiculous sums to see movie premiers. I love my town’s local cinema.) I’m very interested to see where Marvel goes next, though I’m skeptical it’ll be anywhere significantly different than where they’ve been before.

I ended up giving the movie a 10/10, despite all the flaws I just listed. I gave it a 10 out of respect to the 22 film arc as a whole. To everything Marvel has done for superheroes, and to the place this movie now holds in the grand scheme of things. I gave a 10 to the amount of enjoyment I’ve derived from all of it over the years. A 10 because it’s a super hero movie, for crying out loud, and it’s one of the best super hero movies I’ve seen, capturing not the gritty rawness of some of the “better” super hero movies (like Dark Knight), but rather the awesomesauce I loved reading and hearing about when I was reading comics growing up.

So . . . that’s what I thought. What did you think?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

We have been spoiled, my friends. Spoiled by an overabundance of great superhero movies. Now, I don’t mean literally great, as in “movies that are great movies.” I reserve that description for actually great movies. (What would I put in there? Things like Chariots of Fire, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Groundhog Day, Star Wars, or The Shawshank Redemption. Movies that are fantastic in and of themselves, or important in the greater scheme of things by their influence.)

Most Marvel movies, by that definition, aren’t “great.” You could make the argument for the first Iron Man, simply by what it launched. You could do the same for the first Avengers movie, for what it pulled off. But when I say we’ve been spoiled by an overabundance of great superhero movies, what I mean by that is that there is this steady stream of spectacle coming forth from Marvel (for the most part). Movies that are eminently entertaining first and foremost.

Marvel has its formula down cold by this point. Lots of spectacle and a fair bit of humor. Characters there are plucky and want to overcome the odds. When I watched Captain Marvel, the most significant difference between it and the other movies that had preceded it in the Marvel canon was the fact that the main character was a woman. And while that’s a significant change (more so because of how many people kept somehow insisting that wouldn’t be commercial, which will hopefully now be put to rest, since it’s topped $1 billion world wide), it doesn’t really change the formula itself all that much.

Which leads me to ask, “Is that a bad thing?”

In a way, it’s the same problem Pixar suffered, where all of its movies were just spectacular, until it got to the point that people were criticizing them for all being the same. That said, I know some people just are tired of the formula by this point. There’s only so much of the same recipe they can stomach, and so they’re ready for new things.

Clearly I don’t suffer from the need for continual newness, since I eat the same breakfast and lunch practically every day. When it comes to film, I appreciate novelty, sure, but I have yet to reach saturation point with the Marvel formula. I enjoy seeing the greater plot unfold over time, looking for connections between all those many different movies. And I like seeing the good guys win.

Captain Marvel was a great movie, from an entertainment standpoint. Was it unique or compelling, setting itself apart from the movies that came before it? No. Not really. But I still gave it a 7.5/10, just for the entertainment alone. In many ways, Marvel movies remind me of gymnastics routines. They have the elements they know they want to include, and they execute those elements with aplomb.

By now, you either know if you like watching gymnastics or not, you know what I mean?

I’m excited for the new Avengers movie coming up. I already have my tickets, and we just rewatched Infinity War on Saturday. Watching Captain Marvel was the other thing I needed to do to be totally prepped. I’m good now.

I tend to think Marvel’s going to have to start branching out eventually, and I wonder if that will happen after the end of Phase 3, which concludes with Spiderman Far from Home, apparently. We’ll see. But for now, count me in with the happy masses, munching my popcorn and enjoying the spectacle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: Free Solo

I’d already heard good things about Free Solo before it won the Oscar for best documentary this year, even though I hadn’t had the chance to see it before the awards. It aired on National Geographic TV the other day and I DVRed it, and we finally had the chance to watch it this weekend.

As far as documentaries go, it’s quite straightforward: it tracks the efforts of Alex Honnold to scale El Capitan, a 3,000 foot rock cliff in Yosemite. It’s been climbed by plenty of people before, but never by someone without a rope. Which, naturally, is what Alex decided to do. By himself.

It’s a riveting watch (made even more riveting by watching it on as big of a screen as you can find). And it’s an excellent reminder that stories don’t need to be flashy to be riveting. Set up a simple problem, raise the stakes high enough, and you’ve got all the drama you could ever want. Of course, in this case it’s done by a very capable film maker, who does a good job of establishing who Alex is and what he stands to lose if he should fall. Better yet, they go into detail about just why this rock cliff in particular is so difficult to climb, and where the trickiest spots will be.

I’m not a rock climber (and after watching this movie, I have no plans to become one). But through the course of the movie, I felt like I knew enough about what was happening to have a full understanding of the challenges as they came up. I won’t tell you how the movie ends, but it was definitely worth the watch. I gave it a 9/10. Suitable for just about anyone, except anyone with a fear of heights. (Seriously. I have no idea how these people do this. My palms were sweating just watching the guy start his climb. I’d have slipped to my death in the first hundred feet, even if I had the skill to actually climb things . . .)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

I’m a self-confessed Coen Bros. fan. Their kind of storytelling almost always entertains me, mainly because it’s just a bit off from the typical movie you’ll get anywhere else. They embrace the absurd, but not to the extent that you give up on it. It’s more like (for me) that I never know what sort of characters and plots I’ll meet in their films. Heroes might not be that heroic, and they might turn out to be cowards. Villains can do things that genuinely surprise you.

Some of my favorite movies are Coen Bros. affairs. O Brother Where Art Thou is fantastic. True Grit, No Country for Old Men, Big Lebowski, and Miller’s Crossing are all home runs, and I personally love Hudsucker Proxy and Intolerable Cruelty.

This is just to say that when I see a new Coen Bros. movie come out, I’m naturally inclined to watch it soon. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, just out on Netflix a week or two ago, is a bit of a departure for them. Instead of one movie, it’s a series of 6 short films, all of them western themed. Think of it more as an adaptation of a short story collection, and it makes more sense. I’m going to run down my response to each of them in the order they appear in the film.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is classic quirky Coens. A deadly gunslinger who happens to look like a carefree, whistling goof, comes into town. He talks to the camera and sings all the time. It’s quite violent, and completely absurd. It left me wondering what would be coming next, but bemused, at least.

Near Algodones is really well done, but ultimately not as memorable for me. It tells the story of a bank robber and the series of misfortunes that befall him. I enjoyed it well enough, but it didn’t stay with me the same as some of the other tales did.

Meal Ticket was totally brutal. It’s the story of a man who drives a one-cart circus around from town to town. He’s employed a single armless, legless man who happens to give great speeches. But times are clearly tough, and it’s debatable if the operation will stay afloat. This is not a story that will leave you very optimistic about the love of mankind.

All Gold Canyon is a beautifully shot film. The story of a gold digger who’s hoping to strike it rich in a place it seems no man has stepped foot in before. But he’s old, and there’s a chance he might just die before he ever finds anything. I liked this one, though it felt a tad . . . gimmicky. Still fantastic to look at.

The Gal Who Got Rattled was one I really loved, and I’m not entirely sure why. The story of a woman riding west with her brother to seek a possible marriage in California. Except (naturally) things don’t quite go according to  plan. I think I liked this one so much because of how much it got me to invest in the main characters, and their fate is one that made me keep thinking about it long after the movie was over.

The Mortal Remains is the tale of a group of people in a stagecoach on their way to an unknown destination. Full of classic Coen dialogue, though perhaps a bit heavy on the symbolism. A sort of film that after you watch it, you wonder what it meant, and you try to parse it out, even if it did feel like it tried a bit too hard, in the end.

Overall, I gave the movie a 9/10. I enjoyed myself the entire time watching it. It was thought provoking and entertaining, which isn’t something you get every day. I also really liked the general form of the movie, with each sequence introduced by a colored illustration from a book, along with a subtitle that made you wonder what was in store. Some of those intros turned out to be key to really understanding what was happening.

It’s a violent, bloody film, which is the one reason it’s rated R. No real language or sex–but expect to see people die and be harmed in sometimes inventive ways.

A sign of how strong the films are individually is how wide a range of opinions there are on which are the best and worst of the lot. I personally would rank them:

  1. Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  2. The Gal Who Got Rattled
  3. All Gold Canyon
  4. Meal Ticket
  5. Near Algodones
  6. Mortal Remains

But just going through those, it was very difficult to make some decisions. They’re each strong in their own way. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.



%d bloggers like this: