INSTA-REVIEW: “US” (2019) Universal

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Sadly, this most over-hyped movie of 2019 so far, is also going down as the most underwhelming of 2019 so far.US” and JordanPeele were clearly trying way to hard on this one and it’s not even close to repeating “GetOut” in comedy, drama or horror.

Graphic violence isn’t scary in the slightest. Forced comedy isn’t funny. And basic acting is not a performance. Being disappointed in this film doesn’t quite sum up how I felt. And while you get what is trying to be said, there are also things that I just don’t think can be explained. I mean rabbits anyone??? Anyone got that part figured out yet?! To say the metaphors were all to blatant or that it’s just to heavy-handed is an understatement. You spend the whole film trying to unpack and decipher the story so much, that it sucks any enjoyment you might have found right out.

None of the acting by Lupita Nyong’o Elisabeth Moss Winston Duke  Tim Heidecker or anyone else in the film is noteworthy. I guess my disappointment is highlighted so much by the fact I wanted it to be so good. Again, high expectations and low delivery = unhappy movie watching .
Grade: D
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal

 

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INSTA-REVIEW: “THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT” (2019) The Orchid Pictures

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#TheHummingbirdProject let’s us all remember that bringing a film about technology i.e., programming & data analysis..is a difficult topic to make entertaining. And while they don’t dumb it down here and you are able to understand the whats and the whys, you also have to deal with loads of time spent on the parables of how taking one millisecond aka the flap of a Hummingbird’s wings, of processing time of stocks, can make or break the difference of millions of dollars in the stock market.

In between you have to deal with another one of  JesseEisenberg ‘s lackluster, one note performances about how he is contractually trying to get this whole thing done. His polar opposite brains behind the operation is AlexanderSkarsgard who goes against the grain playing a paunchy, balding computer nerd who saves the film from being downright terrible with a dance..yes a dance! Also helpful in adding some much needed humor though is MichaelMando and SalmaHayak though Hayak is given little screen time, she makes the most of it.
So not the most exciting subject matter movie out there, but at least it never makes you feel silly and explains itself well. Just not exciting enough to watch a pipeline being built to make it a great watch.
Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Courtesy of 42West PR.

INSTA-REVIEW: “THE KID” (2019) LIONSGATE

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Catching up on my reviews for March by doing a few Insta-Reviews. This first one is #TheKid which you would think would be another story about #BillytheKid ..and it sort of is.

It’s a story about another kid #Rio played by JakeSchur who is sorta rescued by Billy the Kid DaneDeHaan who is then captured by Pat Garrett  EthanHawke and they try to find Rio’s sister Sara LeilaGeorge who was abducted by their uncle Grant, played by a completely unrecognizable ChrisPratt . If you feel confused, you might be spot on as it’s quite a dragging storyline directed by VincentDOnofrio – the acting is terrible by everyone but DeHaan who brings a bit of life to this version of Billy. On the whole, there is a reason this one has slipped in and out of theaters before you could see it.
Grade: D+
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Media Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate 

REVIEW: “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” (2019) MGM

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A movie, whether based on a true story or fictional one, may be a blend of both facts and fictionalized scenes and events. “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” seems to be case in point depending on whom you speak to.  But instead of pointing out fact v. fiction, just sit back watch and enjoy this one folks.  Let go of the being overly critical all the time as ‘Fighting with my Family’ might have its flaws and not be completely true down to the line, it definitely does have its charms.

Probably the first thing you will do is a double take on the director and writer and make sure if it is THE Stephen Merchant doing triple duty here writing/directing/starring in this film. Turns out it is, which immediately ups the ‘interesting’ level a notch or two.  Even more crazy is to think that Merchant did not know a thing about wrestling before taking on the project.

Inspired by the story of the Knight family, the film tells the story of Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) and her desire to become a female wrestler.  With the odds against her, along with a family of completely wrestling crazed parents in dad Ricky (Nick Frost), mom Julia (Lena Heady) and brother Zak (Jack Lowden), all of whom put on wrestling shows and train others in Norwich, a small suburb in the UK.  Paige and her brother get called up for a WWE tryout, but with only Paige making the cut, Zak is completely devastated and Paige must deal with not only this, but the drastic change her life is taking and the hard road to living out her dream of being a WWE Superstar.

The next hour is filled with what it’s like to attend the WWE school of hard knocks led by Hutch (Vince Vaughn), and how to alienate and then make best friends with your competition.  This part can sometimes just be all to consuming as we’ve seen this type of story many times before.  Overcoming adversity to win the challenge at the end and it’s here that the film can’t help feeling clichéd. The saving grace here is the flashbacks to Zak being left behind in Norwich and where his life is heading, or seemingly not heading to and it’s got some truly lovely, heartwarming story line.  But training montage footage galore, sibling rivalry leading to a profound confrontation that resolves the issue, and the underdog overcoming the odds gives no surprises to the ending.   Now of course, it’s going to pump in the Hollywood magic to try to help the movie. The Rock is throughout the movie, and while he wasn’t truly vital to Paige’s career, his scenes are fun. The actors do an amazing job with their roles, and have very good comedic chemistry. This movie is witty and charming but at times, it’s all over the place.

The initial presentation of the Knight family rang true, authentic and affable. Putting it in their actual home was a good idea. Frost and Headey were great in the roles as Paige’s parents and Puge did a very good job as Paige. Lowden as her brother made a good mentor, but it also tried to take the high road and make Paige an angelic character.  However, from what I understand, if you are a fan of Paige or the Knight family at all, you will quickly start to see fictionalized moments, exaggerations and inaccuracies. These are something that as a viewer who has no knowledge of the wrestling world, will not impact in the slightest.  No matter this situation, everyone will recognize names such as Hulk Hogan and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – and of course The Rock with his signature “If you smell what The Rock is cooking” done a few times for good measure – makes you realize how far this guy has come.

Overall, the film maintains a good balance of comedy and drama and you don’t need to know anything about WWE or sports entertainment to enjoy the film. Merchant does a good job for his first run here.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening Monday, February 11, 2019 ~  courtesy of LAFTV meetup

INSTA-REVIEW: “ARCTIC” (2019) ARMORY FILMS

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Saw #Arctic today with MadsMikkleson as Overgård – a man who is stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash. We never see his plane crash, only that he is there and has been for some time based on his daily routine. Finally, as he is on the verge of rescue, that helicopter crashes with one survivor, a young woman pilot.

From that point on we watch as Overgård has to make the decision to leave the safety of his camp and plane to embark on a deadly trek through the unknowns of the Artic world, with only the remotest of hope of making it out alive. If any of you remember RobertRedfords’ amazing turn as a person who’s did the solo survivor role in All is Lost – this one is comparable except think snow/ice/freezing cold. I enjoyed it as I never got bored even though there is probably less than 30 spoken words in the whole film. Mads seems to love doing movies in the cold snow and they do him well back as this film is entirely on him and he holds his own.

Grade: B
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“ARCTIC” IS IN LIMITED RELEASE IN THE US – LOOK FOR WORLDWIDE RELEASE IN THE COMING MONTHS

INSTA-REVIEW: “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD” (2019) Universal

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Four and a half years since we last saw our dragons, they are back in #HowToTrainYourDragon : The Hidden World.  In this one we have little older and wiser Hiccup (JayBaruchel)and he is still leading the effort to save dragons with Astrid AmericaFerrera. Yet not everything is golden as new villain Grimmel the Grisley FMurrayAbraham is out to get them. In between we have a little love affair brewing between #Toothless and new white-scaled dragon #LightFury .

While all of it is fun and it’s a beautifully done film and the Dragons franchise are some of the best animated films ever – it does come up a bit short at achieving the highs of its predecessors.

There is a little lack of the emotional punch in comparison to the first two. And while it might not shine as bright as the two previous works, the few shortcomings the story line has, they don’t overshadow the charm the characters and story bring you.

Grade: B-

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

 

REVIEW: “ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” (2019) 20th Century Fox

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From the dark depths of the cold Los Angeles winter evening, I dared dragged myself to go see this film. With my having already skipped one media screening, I decided to take my own dare and see “ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” as it is the last one under the 20th Century Fox’s banner before the Disney takeover.

Needless to say, I should have picked truth – as while it took 10 yrs to get made, it only takes 10 minutes to wish you had stayed at home as it’s a film completely and totally taken from a barrage of other films.

Now I’ve not read the source material but I do know that Alita was originally a Manga comic series which is a Japanese graphic art novel. It seems James Cameron, along with Robert Rodriguez, are bringing the first of four of these books to the cinema with this film. From the little research I did into this, eastern stories have a lot of tradition – one being that any hero is the last practitioner of a secret and are martial arts experts. In Alita’s case this is something that I read to be Panzer Kunst which means Tank Art according to the online translator. She also, predictably, has no memory of her past which means we can go on this voyage of growth and discovery together riiight?!! well….

The story is set in the South American, Iron City in the shadow of a gigantic floating station from another lifetime, three hundred years after a great war. So: post apocalyptic dystopia. There is a blend of architectures, super cyberpunk characters, ruins and fragments of forgotten technologies. It looks great and the CGI is fantastic. It all starts with ex-engineer Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoff Waltz) finding the head and shoulders of a female cyborg in a junk pile. Somehow, magically the brain is still alive. So like in the story of Humpty Dumpty, he puts her back together again and proceeds to treat her as his daughter who was, you guessed it, named Alita played here by Rosa Salazar. Alita has no memory of who she once was but she immediately finds love with the handsome motorcycle riding human Hugo (Keenan Johnson) and also finds out within hours that she can fight like a badass. When Hugo introduces Alita to the brutal spectator sport of Motorball where the carnage is more important than the score and the winner gets a ticket to the space station. All bets are on you know who is going to want to be a Mortorball star and where this film is heading.

‘If’ this film, which had it maybe been made 10 years ago before we had say Pacific Rim, or ‘if’ it had maybe one original idea of its own, I might have really enjoyed it. As is, ‘Motorball’ the game it portrays, is a COMPLETE and total ripoff of the original 70’s Rollerball with James Caan (catorgically a much better film by the way). ‘If’ maybe the baddies like Zapan (Ed Skrein) weren’t simply already done so many times before, or ‘if’ Jennifer Connelly & Mahershala Ali had just not phoned in their performances and ‘if’ they had given them some grit. All those ‘ifs’ just make this too hard of a film to roll with all the way through.

While the character development is quite decent, it’s the characters themselves that gave me question. Some might not be bothered by the huge Manga eyes on Alita, but for me they were just plain creepy. Add into that, the whole doll-like 12yr old look that reminded me of the ‘Big Eyes’ paintings – another ‘not working’ item for me. I even got a bit creeped out of sorts by Christoph Waltzs’ Dr. Ido at the beginning when he leans over her broken machine body as he first finds her and says ‘You will be my little angel’. Granted, he turns out to be a ‘good guy’.

This was by far not the worst Sci-Fi I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the most lackluster. My take is if you love the comic story it’s based on, you will probably understand the film and like it a lot more as I didn’t hate it and as a time killer it was decent enough. While Alita: Battle Angel didn’t leave me wanting more and the next chapters don’t entice much, the cold hard fact is this film would probably have been best had it been done 10 yrs ago as we might not have seen the same-type cyborg movies that have already been done so many times previous to it and this would have seemed fresh & new. As it was, I’ve seen it and it just was all used material from so many other films.

Lastly, do you need to watch it in IMAX/3D? The flying jumps and weapon projectiles do look good – but it’s a lot of extra money for something that isn’t essential.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening Tuesday, February 7, 2019 ~ courtesy of 20th Century Fox
“ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” IS OUT WORLDWIDE AS OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019