Thursday, April 30, 2020

Borg vs McEnroe

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  I'd make a Star Trek reference but my knowledge of the property is very limited and stops at knowing there is a threat called the Borg in it.




Borg vs McEnroe – 4 out of 5

I said in my last review (Battle of the Sexes, which you can read here) that I made a movie day of tennis films.  Why?  No real reason beyond I watched Battle of the Sexes and decided to check out the other 2017 tennis film; Borg vs McEnroe.  While watching two sports dramas back-to-back still hasn’t made me a sports guy, I definitely dug this film.

My favorite yoga position after I do anything physical for an entire minute.

This Sunday at Wimbledon!
In 1980, Björn Borg (Sverrir Gundnason) is the greatest tennis player in the world as he has won the Wimbledon championship four times in a row.  He could potentially win a fifth time but a new and colorful player emerges on the scene; John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf).  McEnroe makes a name for himself due to his temper tantrums on the court where he yells and swears at the audience and officials and has even destroyed a racquet or two.  Now the two are meeting at Wimbledon for the championship and a rivalry that would ultimately create a friendship.

You can actually hear the "grunts" when you look at this picture.

He got the rebellious nature out of Borg and the stress
gave him a sweet comb-over!
The thing that immediately struck me about Borg vs McEnroe is the “We’re not so different, you and I” aspect of the storytelling.  The story explores the background of both players as it leads up to their big match and we see that they each have similar evolutions as characters but in reverse.  Borg is seen as a flashy, kinda reckless player in his youth and is trained to be a cold, extremely disciplined athlete by his trainer Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgård).  Meanwhile, McEnroe is portrayed as the opposite as his youth was filled with a strict, calculated upbringing with no room for emotional attachments.  The film weaves these backstories in through the use of flashbacks they fit perfectly with the buildup to the match and provides a rich and engaging format that slowly develops how they came to be, where these two players came from, and why they are the crafted beings they become in the world of tennis.  It was a truly fantastic way to tell the story and makes a great sports drama as it highlights character and emotional arcs, as well as delivering a truly exciting spectacle in their big match.

10 years ago I wanted nothing to do with LaBeouf, now I want to watch everything he does!

The performances in this film as crazy strong as both Sverrir Gundnason and Shia LaBeouf capture the complexities of these characters.  For example, it would be easy to just play McEnroe as a wild card, tantrum throwing one-note cardboard cutout or to play Borg as near robotic as a player but both Gundnason and LaBeouf showcased the depth of both men and it was utterly fascinating to watch.  You could feel the background and complexities within each character and it help sell a very grounded and realistic portrayal from both actors.

That hair alone is enough for a championship!

Very much like the last tennis-based sports drama I watched, Borg vs McEnroe isn’t so much about the tennis as it is about the characters.  That isn’t to say the film is pushing the sport to the background but rather the film explores how these two players grew up with the sport and how it ultimately molded them to the champions they were.  I loved the symmetry of how their paths were essentially completely the opposite but that ultimately made them the same and when you have two very memorable performances for these two tennis pros, it made for a film that was very engaging and consuming.  The cherry on top was the very exciting exploration of the championship itself in the final act!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Battle of the Sexes

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  The sexes battle it out in a cage match this Sunday!




Battle of the Sexes – 4 out of 5

If you grew up in the 70s (and I didn’t) you are more than likely familiar with the infamous tennis match between Jean King and Bobby Riggs.  It started as Riggs declared he was better than any female player and he started working his way through the Women’s Tennis Association.  A part of it felt very much like professional wrestling invading the world of tennis as Riggs would be so over-the-top misogynistic towards the matches that he was essentially a bit but it was a hit with the viewing audiences.  It also was great fodder for a sports biopic and so I sat down with Battle of the Sexes (and another tennis film right afterwards for a tennis-based movie day—you’ll see the review for that one after this one) and really enjoyed it!

It's like Pong in real life!

Jack Kramer's right hand man is none other than
SpongeBob himself; Tom Kenny!
In the early 70s, tennis players Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) decide it is time to start their own tour after they participate in a tournament where the top prize is one-eighth what the men get as their prize—even after the turnouts to the games are exactly the same.  Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), who organized the tournament, finds the idea laughable and believes women’s tennis is inferior to men’s.  While the tour struggles and King wrestles with her sexual identity, aging tennis star Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) decides he is going to get back in the spotlight and boasts that even at his age he can beat any woman in tennis.  After beating Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee), King sets her sights on the arrogant Riggs and decides to take on the challenge of beating the man in the battle of the sexes!

King is so good she beat a wall at tennis.

I say it every time I watch a sports drama but I’m not a sports guy.  Even tennis isn’t interesting to me (although, Wii Tennis is crazy fun) but sports dramas aren’t entirely about sports.  There’s also the drama to consider and that’s where Battle of the Sexes thrives.  Yes, the film has that great lead up to the awesome underdog victory and opponent comeuppance that you love in sports films but the exploration of the characters is what makes this movie so engaging and consuming.  There’s the insight to the struggles of the first female tour, there’s Riggs’ problems at home and his desire to get in the spotlight again, and there is the very interesting exploration of King struggling with her sexual identity during a time where being out was very, very bad—and this is made all the more intriguing because she was married to a man at the time.  The story does an amazing job of balancing all these journeys for the characters and makes this a tale driven by interesting people blended perfectly with sports.

He's gonna whack some balls.

 The film also does a great job at blending just enough humor into the mix to keep it from getting too heavy.  The movie isn’t afraid to lean into the absurdity that was Riggs’ approach to the games as it highlights his smack talking moments and his unorthodox approach to training—meaning his lack of training and relying on vitamins, relaxing, and questionable supplements.  While these moments are meant to be funny, they also reflect Riggs’ actual attitude of the time so it doesn’t feel too over-the-top and too silly for the other scenes that are a tad on the more emotional and dramatic side.  So these moments feel like a little breather and times for the film to have a little fun.

A time when Sugar Daddy was a candy.

The performances in the film are just utterly fantastic.  Steve Carell has that excellent blend of arrogant and sad as Riggs, Emma Stone has the complexity of King down like it is nothing, and together they are very enjoyable to watch.  This film also boasts an incredible supporting cast thanks to the presence of Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Fred Armisen and so many more.  One final mention has to be made to Andrea Riseborough who plays Marilyn Barnett; King’s hairdresser who has an affair with the tennis player.  Not only does Riseborough have great chemistry with Stone but she has her own emotional arc her character goes through and her own ordeals with being in this secret relationship with King and her performance made it so easy to invest in her character.

I'm including this screenshot because I love Alan Cumming.

Battle of the Sexes is a great and engaging presentation of the infamous tennis game of Riggs and King during the 70s.  The performances are amazing and the tale did a tremendous job of exploring the characters.  And the icing on top is the exciting victory by King at the end of the film!  Also, that’s not a spoiler because it is a historical fact she won the match.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Guns Akimbo

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  The title does sound like a band or possible dance move.




Guns Akimbo – 3 out of 5

I really admire how Daniel Radcliffe takes chances with his post-Harry Potter career.  Maybe he’s doing this so he can distance himself from being typecast as a wizard or maybe he just wants to be the next Nic Cage but, whatever the reason, I dig the risks he takes.  Guns Akimbo is the latest in his unique choices of films to star in and my expectations for it were high.  Sadly, those expectations were not met.

Some gun nuts are emotionally bolted to their guns...and some of them wished
they were physically bolted to them as well.

I would say it could be worse but they are watching
people murder other people!
Miles (Radcliffe) spends his days as a computer programmer for a video game company and his nights attacking trolls on the internet.  He regularly logs into a forum for an organization called Skizm and mocks the fans of this organization.  Skizm is run by a criminal named Riktor (Ned Dennehy) and involves streaming death matches between people.  Riktor grows tired of Miles’ attacks and decides he’s going to teach him a lesson as he invades his home, bolts two guns to his hands, and forces him to take on the current Skizm champion; Nix (Samara Weaving).  Now Miles is stuck in a game of life or death and millions are along for the ride to watch.

She's good at killing because she killed her potential in-laws once.

Guns Akimbo has a decent central premise and a killer gimmick to sell it on.  It came roaring out of the gate in a very frantic but strangely controlled chaos way and is loud, obnoxious, and insane but in all the right ways.  The sad part is, it quickly loses steam in the second act and got a little tedious as is gimmick isn’t strong enough to carry itself through an entire film and the reality that the film is no different than other films about dangerous and deadly internet streaming shows quickly starts to show.  In fact, by the time the film hits the third act all originality that the feature had is now gone and you’re just seeing a lot of the same tropes you see in other films of this ilk.  Even worse, the “in your face” attitude of the feature and the frenzied pace of the first act ends up hitting the brakes really hard and makes this otherwise easily digestible running length feel very long.  The film is literally only a touch over an hour and a half but with its uneven pacing, the product ends up feeling twice as long.

If you ever wondered what Mark Strong would look like if his life took a VASTLY
different direction, the character of Riktor shows you.  (Seriously, I thought Dennehy was
Strong for a brief second)

Seeing Rhys Darby show up is definitely a highlight for me.
I love him!
The product isn’t a terrible movie because it does have some very fun elements.  Daniel Radcliffe is fantastic and once again shows he is an extremely versatile actor.  Additionally, Samara Weaving is decent in her role but she is bogged down by some truly awful writing when it concerns the dialogue.  That aspect is probably the most cringe-y part of the film as the dialogue and the attempts at pithy one-liners are almost embarrassing to hear.  For example, a thug literally says “Stop!  Hammer Time” after hitting Nix with a hammer.  While this could read as being ironic, the endless stream of really awful one-liners goes passed the point of campy fun and just becomes grating and makes the film look like the final act was phoned in and the writer went for the lazy and hacky lines.  Bless their hearts because the performers are really trying to make them work but it was just really atrocious to hear.  Not to mention, it made the tone of the film feel very different and extremely dated when you compare it to the first and second act—both of which lack these 80s style action lines.

When he said, "Hammer Time," my brain unconsciously forced my hand to turn off
the film.  I barely regained control in order to finish the movie.

Guns Akimbo starts out fun and feels like it is going to be a unique trip despite the fact, at its core, it’s circling around tropes and ideas that have been seen a lot in the world of thrillers and action films.  It even boasts some great talent and terrific performances but the film definitely lost steam with me as it approached the second act and then unraveled badly in a mess of clichés and hacky writing in the third act.  It’s not overly bad but the inconsistent tone and pacing ending up making it a serviceable feature. Overall, it's not one that is good enough to ever warrant more than a single viewing.

The Hunt

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  The real hunt is finding a decent film somewhere in this product.




The Hunt – 1 out of 5

Sometimes when I see properties sold on their controversy it feels super Edge Lord-y to me (or Edge Lordian, if you will).  There’s a feeling of desperation to this method of marketing and it often feels like it is overcompensating to me.  That was the feeling I got when The Hunt was being taken off the shelves after Trump and his cult whined about the film’s existence and the thing initially ended up being locked away.  Then when I heard more details about it as it was on its way to the theaters before the pandemic hit, my expectations got even lower.  Since self-distancing is the name of the game right now and since theater releases are getting the On Demand treatment in order to help us during this scary time, I decided to give this film a shot…it was awful.

Don't worry, Betty.  We'll still have GLOW.

The libs sent them a crate of guns.  Now they OWE the libs!
Ha ha...I'll show myself out.
Eleven people wake up to find themselves gagged and in a forest.  Confused, they stumble upon a crate of weapons but soon find themselves under attack from unseen forces.  A few are able to escape and meet up with another captive named Crystal Creasey (Betty Gilpin).  She soon figures out that she is a part of a long-thought conspiracy theory called “Manorgate;” a plot that involves wealthy liberals kidnapping conservatives and hunting them for sport.  Now, faced with life or death, Crystal is out to find the wealthy woman who started it all (Hilary Swank) and kill her before she herself meets a grisly end in the hunt.

Don't worry, they were killed by the thing conservatives love the most:  A fetus.

I’ll just go ahead and be blunt:  The Hunt is garbage.  I normally hate describing things as "garbage" because I feel it is a overused descriptive and it's too simple but this movie definitely qualified as "garbage" to me.  It feels like it was made by and for Edgelords who think “making fun of both sides” is somehow an honest standpoint—because that’s what the film sells itself as.  Writer Damon Lindelof claims the film is not an attack on the Right like Trump and his MAGA cult claims but rather something that is a satirical attack on both sides.  I identify as a progressive and fully believe that both sides are deserving of criticism but The Hunt isn’t actually saying anything (and when it is, other products have said it much better) nor is it providing any humorous insight to both camps.  Instead, it is barely woven stereotypes drowning in the most inane and obsessive use of political buzzwords.  The story shoehorns in things like Russians being involved, terms like “Fake News” and “crisis actors,” and even the conspiracy called “Manorgate” is a lazy reference to “Pizzagate.”  The film wants you to believe it is sharp and edgy but the reality is the feature is just incredibly lazy and saying absolutely nothing.

Like how is this for lazy?  This scene of a woman running over a man with a car is
meant to symbolize a woman running over a man with a car.  A bit on the nose
don't you think?

The film offers up some decent gore and action sequences but it wasn’t enough to hide the fact that the writing felt very hacky to me.  Additionally, the film sports a very talented cast but it still wasn’t enough to cover up just how lazy the overall product is.  Not to mention, it doesn’t help that a lot of the choices from the actors are…um…interesting to say the least.  A lot of Gilpin’s reactions did more to confuse me than entertain me.  In fact, a lot of the performances were a little too over-the-top for me.  

Normal human reaction to current situation.

While this elevated tone certainly could have ultimately worked for the product, it ended up feeling overtly stupid due to the way the characters are written (it always comes back to the writing).  Lidelof’s script feels like it only has a basic understanding of the Left and Right and the one-dimensional characters don’t feel like that understanding is that focused.  Often the stereotypes feel just slightly off and aren’t tuned in enough that they can constitute parody or satire.  They aren’t even tweaked enough that they can be leaning more towards a realistic exploration of the often stereotyped ideals of the Left and Right.  Sadly, the characters ended up feeling like they were made by another stereotype:  The out-of-touch Hollywood elite who has little understanding of those in the fly-over states.

All libs love the D.E.N.N.I.S. System.

It's pretty obvious I didn’t care for this film but there is one thing that kept me from giving this a much deserved score of zero.  The third act introduces a very interesting concept to its central point of conflict that, if explored deeper, could have made the film a very compelling and engaging thriller.  I won’t go into detail because it would be a major Spoiler but had the film explored this in a more dynamic way or teased and feathered it out more during the story instead of just farting it out at the end could have saved the film or, at the very least, made it a serviceable 3 out of 5.  Instead, the film was more worried about getting those topical buzzwords in and taking very lazy and uncreative shots at conservatives and liberals.  I can’t speak for Lidelof’s intent but it felt like to me that getting those lazy cheap shots in was the priority and it was more important than even crafting a story that had any real flow or decent pacing to it.  And yes, pacing and flow is another huge issue with this movie as it feels like you are just jumping from scene to scene with nothing really connecting them…and, of course, the scenes only felt like they existed only to get those bottom of the barrel shots in and deliver only the most lazy of political commentary and buzzwords.

Swank feels like she's better than this lazy stuff.  Was she paid an insane amount or
was she given a different, better script?

The Hunt was a hard, hard movie for me to sit through.  Despite having a very easy running length, the film felt incredibly long due to crummy pacing.  Also, if it wasn’t obvious, I wasn’t a fan of the writing and found it incredibly hacky, lazy, and felt like it was only out there to appeal to the ignorant Edgelords who will say things like “I make fun of both sides equally” but quickly show they lack a basic understanding of either side.  Sure, the movie has a great lineup for its cast but there is only so much they can do with the poorly created characters.  Finally, it was so heartbreaking that this film actually had something incredibly compelling with its central conflict but did nothing with it.  I shouldn’t be surprised though since the film sold itself on its undeserved controversy and usually when things or properties try to tell you on how they are shocking they rarely are actually doing anything shocking or provocative and the end result just feels shallow and hollow.  And that’s what this film was to me; shallow and hollow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Bombshell

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  Blonde Bombshells Drop the Bomb! and there's my shitty newspaper headline bit.




Bombshell – 4 out of 5

I don’t like Fox News.  Without a doubt, they are the most irresponsible “news” organization that has ever existed.  So, it really wasn’t surprising when it was revealed that their CEO Roger Ailes was a monster of a person.  Recently, I sat down and watched the biopic Bombshell that explored this headline event and it was quite the incredible piece of work.

Charlize Theron basically became Megyn Kelly and I couldn't tell the two apart.

Malcolm McDowell definitely seemed like the perfect
choice for Rupert Murdoch.
During the height of the 2016 election, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) finds herself moved from a popular show to one that few even notice.  After a barrage of sexist comments aimed at her, she decides to not only sue Fox News but sue the CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) for sexual harassment.  While this could ultimately mean career suicide, unless other women at the news company were to come forward with their own stories of being sexually harassed.  A new employee, Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), is hesitant to join in because she just got the job and doesn’t want to risk losing it and longtime employee Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) is also questioning if she’ll get involved despite her own past with sexual harassment with Ailes.  It isn’t long before the whole ordeal becomes nationwide news and these two women are forced to either step up or remain silent.

Fox News, Number 1 with the worst people in the world!

It's hard seeing John Lithgow play a villain but he does
a great job of being one as Roger Ailes.
Bombshell is quite the griping drama.  It is a unique insight into the #MeToo movement and made all the more compelling due to the subject of the story and the reality that Fox News is pretty much anti everything decent and progressive in the world.  Like every biopic ever made, there are some liberties with the storytelling in order to up the drama.  For example, the character of Kayla Pospisil is a composite character of other women involved in the event.  Since this is supposed to be a film that is meant to entertain and engage an audience with its drama, I don’t ever fault a biopic for making alterations—they are not attempting to be historical documents or informational pieces.  Sure, there are the examples of alterations and adjustments that ended up feeling a bit tacky but, in the case of Bombshell, these changes did nothing to destroy the overall integrity of the story’s central source of conflict.  In fact, the minor changes only seemed to make the conflict that much stronger.

Margot Robbie's talent is intimidating because I've never seen her not just dominate a role.

The cast in this film is filled with talent.  Rob Delaney, Mark
Duplass, Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon and so many
more.
The story is very griping and engaging but the element that amazed me the most with this one is the cast.  Not only are the performances from the players unbelievably great but I was astounded by how well they were able to impersonate the real-life Fox employees they were playing--like frighteningly accurate.  Charlize Theron was basically as close to being Megyn Kelly in everywhere possible without actually becoming Kelly herself and it made it so easy to lose myself in her role and accept that she was the Fox anchor.  Hell, for a brief second, I though they really got Geraldo Rivera to be in the movie but, as it turns out, actor Tony Plana was just made up to look almost exactly like him.  The one hard element that was hard to accept in the cast was John Lithgow playing Roger Ailes.  His performance as the sleaze-pot is exceptional and he plays the bad guy very well but it is always hard for me to see Lithgow as a bad guy because he seems like the loveable uncle that everyone deserves.  My feelings that I wish Lithgow was my family aside, the performances in this film are astounding on every level.

Seriously, for a brief second, I thought Geraldo was literally in the cast.

Bombshell is a pretty straightforward look at the Fox News sexual harassment scandal but one that is captivating and very engaging to watch.  The story flows so well with its pacing and the performances are out-of-this-world.  The film isn’t trying to be too flashy but rather relies on the drama to make the feature and it makes it amazingly well.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Cats

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  I saw this film described as a triumph as it was both an acid trip and incredibly boring at the same time.  Few films have ever been able to achieve this.




Cats – 0 out of 5

At this point, I kinda feel like I’m jumping on a bandwagon by both watching and reviewing Cats but, to be honest, I almost just didn’t bother with this one.  I am not a theater guy (and by that I mean "theatre").  My performance background has always been in comedy and not in stage productions or musicals.  In fact, I’m not really into musicals that much.  Also, I don’t know Jack about Cats.  I pretty much know that it was on Broadway for a very long time, I think I knew one of the characters names but wasn’t 100% sure, and I surmised it was about cats in some way.  That was my basic knowledge of it.  So, when the trailer came out, I didn’t bother watching it.  Eventually, after hearing all the hype about how awful the trailer looked, I finally checked it out right before the movie hit theaters and…well…it didn’t really hit me one way or the other.  Sure, it looked a little strange but not in a way that caused a visceral response from me.  I didn’t think it looked like nightmare fuel, it just looked like a bad cartoon come to life to me.  Then the film came out and it seemed like it was the target for all of the internet’s cathartic releases as the hate sorta felt too over-the-top for me.  To me, it seemed like people were just reveling in hating it.  I thought there is no way this movie could be this bad.  I predicted that the movie probably did genuinely suck but the hate being thrown at it was just being cranked up to 11 because it was the fun, cool and viral thing to do at the time.  Turns out, I was very wrong.  This movie is really, really, really bad and all the reviews did not prepare me for how truly awful and terrible looking this feature was.

Scale is a huge issue in this film.  At times the cats feel like they are too big for their surroundings
and, at other times, if seems like the human beings that you aren't seeing are potentially 20 foot tall giants.

This is the film's protagonist...I think.
Cats is about…it is about…look, I’ll be honest: I have no fucking clue what the film is about.  There are some cats who all get their own introductory song and talk about the mischief they get into.  I gleamed that there is some sort of cat heaven or something they want to go to (I think) and there’s a demon cat or something that can turn cats to dust and teleport them to another location…maybe?  Look, I couldn’t tell what the story for Cats was but while I was fretting about not knowing what the hell was happening, I was reassured by my theater (again, theatre) friends that Cats doesn’t actually have a story to it and it has never made sense.  So, that made me feel less manic.

I think Idris is supposed to be the story's antagonist and I think he's the devil...maybe?

I already said that Cats is terrible but what made it so terrible to me?  Well, it would be easy to crap on the special effects because A) they are the most noticeable thing about the film and B) they really are that bad.  I mean, I get it.  The effects studio responsible for them had awful deadlines and overworked employees so I don’t begrudge them at all for the work that came out (but I will begrudge the shittiness of James Corden and Rebel Wilson mocking them at the Oscars—especially with the reality that neither of them were really that great in the film and the truth being that bad special effects were only the tip of this shit-iceberg).  The big problem with the special effects is a direct result of how rushed the product was.  Nothing rendered in this film looks natural to the set.  

Do a lot of cats wear rings, Dame Dench?

The characters’ faces shift otherworldly with their motion capture bodies.  Anytime these cats wore clothing they look like they hover unnaturally over the body and all these elements seem to be at odds with one another as nothing moves in concert in order to create the illusion of reality for these odd looking felines.  If the cat’s body is moving one way, the face looks like it is trying to move another way and the clothes look like they are about to clip through the cat’s body like a glitch-y video game and go running for the hills.  In a world where computer effects can create whole worlds or even tweak details so minuscule you had no clue they were even there to begin with, the effects in Cats feel like a huge de-evolution back to a time when computer effects were in their infancy.  In fact, they often look like the pre-visualization stage of post-production and they just never bothered to get it to the next department for further refinement.

I'm not kidding, the vest kept moving in the wrong direction when compared to a body
and face that were also moving at conflicting ways.

Visually, these special effects are not a treat for the eyes but, in reality, nothing about this film is.  The color palette for the film just looks disgusting.  Aside from some use of dark blues and purples when the film is in the streets, interior sequences seem to rely on what I can only describe as “shades of mustard.”  To further make the film look very unappealing, backgrounds will often use migraine-inducing patterns and prints that never blend well for the sake of creating depth within shots or just look good or complement each other in the most basic of ways. It results in a film that is very hard to look.

At some point, director Tom Hooper looked at this and said, "Yes, this doesn't look
like vomit and is totally visually appealing in every way."

When it concerns the performances, I won’t say anyone is actually bad but a lot of the performances are too over-the-top.  Too over-the-top even for a movie of this kind.  Matters are only made worse by the reality that the motion-capture aspect and the special effects do not showcase the performances the best.  It’s hard to get a read on any player’s face (due to the fact their faces are always kinda free floating around their heads) and the bodies don’t capture any physical choices (once again due to rushed computer effects).  Occasionally, when the frantic pace and needlessly aggressive and quick cut editing slows down long enough to close in on a face, you can see some emotional output pouring out but, for the most part, the film is just a blur of singing and dancing with no palpable emotion or character behind it all.

"We are the future, Charles.  Not dogs."

The only real compliment I can bestow upon this one is the choreography is very good.  Sure, the film is really hard to watch because of just how unsightly it is but the choreography works decently.  I won’t argue that I walked away wowed by the dancing but I did find myself pretty impressed with it.  Ultimately though, it was not enough to save the film even in the slightest…as you can see from my score.

Honestly, though, it was hard to even make out the choreography due to the insane editing.

I knew Cats was going to be bad going into it but, judging by my friends and their reactions to it, I was hoping it would be a fun bad movie that is easy to riff on.  The movie is that to a certain crowd but it is a crowd that I don’t belong to.  Instead, I just found the film ugly and grating.  The bad elements just were bad on a level that it is really hard to not be mean-spirited when riffing on it rather than riffing it in a fun way.  Not to mention it was pretty much a chore to get through because this movie is boring AF. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Jumanji: The Next Level

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  At this point, I will watch anything The Rock is in.




Jumanji:  The Next Level – 4 out of 5

90s Kids love Jumanji!  Personally, I think it is okay.  It’s decently entertaining and has a lot of stuff working in its favor but I’m not really one for nostalgia so this is one of those movies that was better during my formative years than it is in my current years.  It’s not particularly bad but it doesn’t come off as a particularly strong or super entertaining film when I watch it now.  That being said, I absolutely LOVED its sequel; Welcome to the Jungle.  I liked how it built off the first one and raised the stakes terrifically.  Add in an awesome cast and the movie proved to be gold.  I was glad when they announced they were doing another one but, sadly, never got a chance to see it in the theater.  When it arrived on DVD and Blu-ray, I blind bought it because I enjoyed the last one so much.  I gotta say, Jumanji:  The Next Level delivered and was just as entertaining as the previous feature.

I wanna hang out with these two.

The general malaise of life would also push me back to
a life-threatening video game.
It's been three years since Spencer (Alex Wolfe), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) had their adventure in the Jumanji game and they are now all trying to live their own separate lives.  They planned on meeting for brunch over the holidays back in their old hometown but depression causes Spencer to do something rash.  When his friends come to visit, they meet Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie's former business partner Milo (Danny Glover) but none of them know where Spencer is.  The group of friends quickly learn that Spencer has returned to the game and they all quickly dive on in to help him.  They soon awaken in the dangerous video game world of Jumanji with Fridge now playing as Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black) and Martha as her old avatar Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).  A malfunction from the game leaves Bethany in the real world and Fridge and Martha are shocked to find that Grandpa Eddie is Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) and Milo is Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart).  Now the group must navigate the treacherous world, find Spencer in his new avatar body, and stop the game’s villain; Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann), while Bethany seeks help in the real world from Alex Vreeke (Colin Hanks); an old ally from the first time they play and one who was once trapped in the game himself.

I've now officially reach the point where I will watch anything that Awkwafina is in.

Only in the world of video games can one be blessed
with an awesome last name like "Roundhouse."
Jumanji:  The Next Level continues the formula that made the previous one so fun.  It has some incredibly fun and outrageous action set pieces, the performances are fantastic, and it is very funny with the added seasoning of some heart to the whole thing.  The product also develops the characters and situation enough that it doesn’t feel like you are just seeing the same thing all over again.  I really enjoyed the idea that two unsuspecting individuals got roped into the adventure.  Not only is having Eddie and Milo show up for the ride allow for Johnson and Hart to do some very fun impersonations of the two actors, it made for a new dynamic of having two out-of-touch older folks engage in not only a video game but a next level video that literally puts you in on the action.  Sure, this results in some very predictable jokes about older folks not understanding the younger generation but they are sold extremely well by Johnson and Hart and are made to work very effectively.

Once again, Jack Black steals the show with his portrayal of the person playing his avatar.

Rhys Darby is back to play the NPC and I just love him
so much.  Sure, he put a restraining order out
on me so I can't express that to him anymore but
I'm still 500 feet away when I'm yelling to him
how much I love him.
All the returning cast members are doing a tremendous job and, once again, the avatar members of the cast are just nailing their comical impersonations of the people “playing them.”  The new members to the cast, however, aren’t being pushed into the background and they are doing a fantastic job of standing out.  Danny DeVito and Danny Glover are very entertaining as two best friends/business partners who, unfortunately, aren’t getting along so well when they find themselves trapped in a game, Awkwafina joins the team as a new avatar in the game (and she is always entertaining), and Rory McCann (one of my favs from Game of Thrones) feels like the perfect sort to be the big baddie in this one.  Hell, for you nostalgic obsessed 90s Kids, Bebe Neuwirth reprises her role as Nora Shepherd from the first film and makes a cameo in the feature.  From a cast standpoint, everyone really knew the exact approach for the characters to be charming, amusing, and entertaining.

Once again, I am asking you to picture this Danny DeVito role as if Frank Reynolds
was the character.

Moving rope bridges and angry mandrills.  This movie has
everything!
The only real drawback I found in the film was how superfluous Jurgen the Brutal felt.  The major conflict of the story involves interpersonal relationships—in the form of Eddie and Milo’s rocky friendship or Spencer’s feeling of isolation from his friends—and in the form of inner turmoil when it concerns Spencer and his feelings of depression and inadequacies outside of the game.  This conflict works great in the film and is explored fantastically.  In the game you need a bad guy to have for the impending boss battle and that was the role of Jurgen but, sadly, he sorta felt tacked on.  He is set up terrifically and has some very cool moments that utilize Rory McCann’s natural intimidating vibe but he never really felt like a major threat that the crew needed to team up against.  Too often he felt more like a convenient plot device.  While his position in the story works to a serviceable level, I was kinda hoping we’d see more from him and get to experience a bigger threat level from him.

Still, the Hound is in this film so that is pretty cool all by itself.

Jumanji:  The Next Level isn’t taking things to “the next level” (sorry for that hacky line) but instead is building on what came before.  It sticks with a working formula and adds to it with a new adventure, new characters, and new dimensions to the characters that we’ve seen before.  I was bummed that the game’s antagonist didn’t live up to the potential he had but it didn’t kill the overall product.  In the end, this is just a very entertaining movie that delivers the good times.