Film Review: “SMALLFOOT” (2018) – This WBA movie is good family fun – great soundtrack – but will it stand out in a crowd

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With this new addition from WBA (Warner Bros. Animation) to the animation game, this clever little spin on the BigFoot/Smallfoot switch-a-roo works fairly well in getting it’s message across. With an all-star voice over cast, that adds a wonderfully sequenced soundtrack with everyone from Channing Tatum, James Cordon, and Common & Zendaya adding their own spin of musical genres. “Smallfoot” cleverly inverts the point-of-view tale of how human and Yetis is to be told, but behind every animation movie, there is a message, and for me this one got a bit dark toned for a moment before it luckily lighted up into a nice, easily understood ending for the kids.

‘SMALLFOOT’ follows the tales of a clan of bigfoots living high up in the Himalayan mountains whose peaceful and orderly lives are disrupted when one of their own Migo (Channing Tatum), stumbles upon a a plane crash in the path of the young Yeti when he was flung off-course during gong target practice. See in Yeti mythology banging the gong raises the sun every day, to follow in his father Dorgle (Danny DeVito), footsteps. It means every morning he catapults himself headfirst towards a giant gong in order to wake the sun up. While investigating the airplane wreckage, Migo discovers a ‘smallfoot’ – a human – who is just as startled to come across the ‘mythical’ being as is the bigfoot itself. It isn’t just that these smallfoots (pssst smallfoots are humans 🙂 ) have thus far been the stuff of myth in fact, it’s that their very existence goes against the community’s long-held beliefs, which are literally set in stone and worn around the neck of the high and mighty Stonekeeper (Common). So as you can probably expect, that very individual is told to either rescind his account or face banishment from the community, but by bravely choosing the latter, opens up a whole new path of knowledge, understanding and enlightenment for his fellow 18-foot hairy denizens.

Lest you think that the movie ends up being too heavy-handed, I can reassure you that it never goes to dark for kids, or for that matter turn preachy. On the contrary, there are plenty of amusing details along the way – like how the fun-loving Migo is at first perfectly content to follow what is told, or the finding out about the S.E.S. (Smallfoot Evidentiary Society) a rebel band of Yetis led by the Stonekeeper’s own daughter Meechee (Zendaya), who assists Migo on his quest to find the Smallfoot and prove once and for all, they aren’t lying or delusional. or how Migo first runs into Percy, an animal TV show host whom is not only desperate to save his show and become famous, but he will become unlikely best buddies with Migo – who in his desperation for clicks tries to convince a fellow reporter to dress up in a Yeti costume so he can pretend to have captured one on camera.

So even though ‘Smallfoot’ never hits the gold standard of feature animations, there is plenty of fun and laughs to be had in this fable on lies and ‘myth-understandings’, as well as on mis-communication and the lack thereof. Like I said, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that its makers haven’t opted for just another superficially glossy piece of kids’ entertainment, and have instead decided to evolve the narrative in more complex and satisfying ways. I brought a 5 year old who loved it and completely understood all of it and that’s a big plus in kids movies today as not all have the younger kids in mind when made. It isn’t small or unambitious by any measure, and is in fact big on both entertainment and emotion, so you’ll find that there’s something for every member of the family – big or small – in this delightful celebration of wonder, discovery and truth.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Saturday, September 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
“SMALLFOOT IS OUT NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING IN OCTOBER 2018

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Review: “A Simple Favor” – or is it simply an unfavorable one (2018) Lionsgate

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First things first, “A Simple Favor” is not really a mystery film, though it tries very hard, it seemed almost a spoof of a mystery. As much as the marketing would have you believe, and for those looking for the next Gone Girl or Girl on The Train, you might want to continue your search. The story here is far-fetched, overcooked and unravels in such a hasty-type way that it’s hard to treat much of it seriously. Director Paul Feig (best known for his comedy), is seemingly aware of the story’s inherent ridiculousness and keeps the film light and easily digestible, but the result is a weird hybrid of a comedy-mystery that doesn’t hit home with either genre completely and comes off spoof-like as there are whole bricks of time that you aren’t sure if a certain part was meant to be funny or dramatic, so the laughs are small.

The film, based on the novel by Darcey Bell, gives us neurotic Mommy Vlogger Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick,) a widowed mother to a young son. Her goody two-shoes personality makes her pariah amongst the other parents by being so overly perky that the sneers and snark given behind her back are viciou,s but quite true. But she’s also so desperate for human connection that she’s willing to befriend Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), the martini-guzzling fashion industry executive who is not exactly a hands-on mother to her son. We soon learn that martinis and playdates shouldn’t be mixed. Before long they become best friends, at least in Stephanie’s mind they are and when Emily disappears, Stephanie steps out of her shell to solve the mystery via her vlog. I kid you not.

Kendrick’s role is attuned to her goofy charms, though she always comes off as being more of a teenager than an adult. While on the other hand, Lively convincingly embodies the enigmatic nature of her character in a crucial supporting role. And then we have Henry Golding, who hot off his Crazy Rich Asians role, gets the rough end of the deal playing Emily’s husband Sean, a character who, while not entirely likeable, is cruelly used and manipulated by the two females throughout the film. Though I will say, his roles were so similarly played to me as in, not a huge range in the difference of the two characters.

To be honest, the only consistency between all the characters is that none of them are particularly likeable. They each make questionable decisions, are gratingly self-centered and become increasingly obnoxious as the film progresses with its dubious twists. By the end, you’ll be hard pressed to care about any of them. This is no more evident than in the film’s tacked on “where are they now?’ postscript that feels completely unnecessary and ill informed in assuming audiences care enough about the characters to know where they end up.

On the upside, Feig, who is more proficient in making fun films rather than serious ones, keeps the film feeling light and easy-going. The audience is teased with a stylish soundtrack filled with classy French music (seriously one of the best parts of this entire film is the soundtrack), and there are some funny scenes that incite light giggles rather than any laugh out loud bursts of humour. These meager positives don’t improve the narrative but at least they make it a little less painful to digest. Ultimately, ‘A Simple Favor’ spends two hours flipping between being a trash novel & a parody of one. As the end credits roll, I still didn’t know. And the whole blend of trying to switch between the ‘mystery’ and the ‘comedy’ got tiresome after a while. But hey, everyone tries to give the audience a good time.

Ultimately, It wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen and all the actors play roles they are typically type cast for. It was surprisingly unfunny, oddly kind of enjoyable, even as super far fetched as it was. It’s a strange blend of mystery and comedy that doesn’t gel into a cohesive whole. As a piece of entertainment, it’s entirely disposable, but I give it kudos for not being the same old recycled material we’ve all been seeing lately.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, September 11, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate
‘A SIMPLE FAVOR IS NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE // Worldwide release to follow

A little slow down – but will be back..

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As some might have noticed, I’ve slowed down some on reviews as of late. Between dealing with a big medical issue and just trying to keep it all together etc.. it’s been hard to keep up with my usual schedule of movie-watching and writing.

So this is just a quick note to let everyone know that I’m still around, just not as much for a bit, but still reading everyone’s reviews as you know I enjoy that so much.. and I most definitely will be back for Oscar-season screenings and reviews. I just need a minute!

Cheers!
Peggy

REVIEW: “THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS” (2018) STX ENTERTAINMENT

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I truly wasn’t sure what to expect from “The Happytime Murders”Brian Henson’s (son of Muppet creator Jim Henson)foray into the adult puppet genre’ aka #MuppetsGoneBad, but it wasn’t a VERY adult comedy about puppets to be sure. But fear not, this isn’t Ernie and The Cookie Monster doing puppet porn, however it could be described as a bit of #Muppetsoncrack..or should I say sugar, as snorting sugar is their ‘crack’.

In The Happytime Murders, a private detective named Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) picks up a new case, which leads him directly into a series of brutal puppet homicides. Someone is targeting the cast of The Happytime Gang, a once popular sitcom whose cast has hit hard times, and Phil has to team up with his old partner Det. Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to solve the case. In addition to McCarthy, whose slapstick performance comes off as rather effortless, you’ll also encounter Maya Rudolph, portraying Bubbles, the noir P.I. secretary to Philips, Elizabeth Banks as ex-human girlfriend Jenny, and (a sadly under-utilized) Joel McHale as smarmy FBI Agent Campbell.

The murder mystery in and of itself, isn’t anything you haven’t seen before – neither is the twist at the end. These cute puppets though are revealed as porn addicts, drug addicts, plastic surgery addicts, sex addicts and worse, in other words, just like us. But that’s really what the joke of the whole film is – as they make due on jokes of puppet racism, puppet stuffing, what happens to puppets in jail, and to be honest, some of it was quite funny. It’s a somewhat weird, crazy and ingenious idea to be honest. It’s like Henson knew he had this one opportunity to tell an adult-oriented puppet story that entertains comedically, has an actual storyline and isn’t a cartoon type film. But when I say it’s for adults, it’s because it truly not a family-friendly movie in the slightest. It’s over-the-top heavy on sexual humor, along with violence, although how ‘violent’ is it really to shoot a puppet and stuffing blows up – or have a dog-attack on a puppet when 5 yr. old’s tear their dolls apart like this everyday. Well, it could be used in the context of point, because subtlety won’t make the point that puppets can be used to tell stories, but also have something meaningful to say in that story. But it’s mostly effective due to Bill Baretta and Melissa McCarthy being talented comedians who know how to make their sillier jokes feel like extensions of their characters and the relatively absurd reality in which they live.

The humor in The Happytime Murders can be raunchy and sophomoric, and its story will no doubt be too simplistic for some, but those who don’t suspend disbelief and go with the flow of imagination here, are missing out on what was intended to be an hour and a half of some good laughs.

I expect The Happytime Murders to be a hit among McCarthy and adult Muppets fans alike, as well as those seeking a don’t-take-it-so-seriously fun comedy in the closing days of summer.

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, August 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of STX Entertainment

REVIEW: “THE DARKEST MINDS” (2018) 20th Century Fox

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Starting us off somewhere in the future, “THE DARKEST MINDS” throws us in into a world where 98% of American kids were wiped out by a mysterious disease called IAAN aka Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration. 10-year old Ruby Daly (Heaven Hightower) is one of the survivors and is taken along with other survivors of the plague by the government and put them in a camp – yes, it is eerily reminiscent of not only what has happened in the past, but what is happening right now in the US.

Here, the kids are classified by color, based on the special ability that they possess: Greens are geniuses. Blues are telepathics. Golds have electrical powers. Reds and Oranges are rare, but are also considered dangerous and terminated on site. Ruby is diagnosed an Orange, but thanks to Cate (Mandy Moore), a doctor from the resistance Children’s League who helps Ruby escape the camp. From that point on, she has to discover how to use her power in order to survive.

Ruby (Amandla Sternberg) now a teenager, finally escapes her camp – she meets and makes friends with a group of fellow runaways, namely Zu (Miya Cech), Charlie ‘Chubbs’ to his friends (Skylan Brooks) and Liam (Harris Dickinson). They seek out and find refuge in EDO, a camp for survivor kids. And of course, as in every YA film, a romance blooms between Ruby and Liam, while Chubbs provides the comic relief third wheel and Zu gives us a ‘silent’ performance that isn’t terrible.

I went into this film not knowing that it was based on the first book of a young adult book series written by Alexandra Bracken. Her “The Darkest Minds” series started in 2012, and shockingly is now already into its fifth installment. Maybe had it been done then vs. now it might seem as something new. As it was, this whole film felt like a ‘Maze Runner/Divergent’ retread. And that my friends, is wherein the problem lies with “The Darkest Minds,” it comes out too long after this trend has run out of steam.

Up and coming young actress Amandla Sternberg has lovely quality and screen presence about her and I don’t think it’s far-fetched to predict that she’s got a great career in front of her, though hopefully something with a bit more ummph to it.
Harris Dickinson, who impressed me so much with both ‘Beach Rats’ & his portrayal of J.Paul Getty Jr.,in ‘Getty’, sadly disappoints here playing rebel leader and Ruby’s love interest. Patrick Gibson is the villan of sorts, Clancy Gray, the son of the US President and a fellow Orange who took a special interest in Ruby, steps it up some and helps make the last 35 minutes of this film interesting. Mandy Moore just gave me a “This is Us” mom-vibe for her role and Bradley Whitford as US President Grey, a nasty character that could probably give Trump a run for his money. Which brings us down to our least used star whom I love, Gwendoline Christie. She only has a few scenes as Lady Jane, a bounty hunter chasing runaway kids, but made them work.

Watching “The Darkest Minds” gave me a “been there, done that” feeling. I could not help but see it as just another rehash of all the previous YA adventure series. But what started off quite terribly, picked up the last 35 minutes to make it not a completely wasted watch as it did have its own twists, particularly regarding a certain power that only Ruby can perform. But it will take sequels to explore how this story will proceed from the familiar set-up it has begun with here. But again, it’s 2018 – and the time for this YA genre is long past it’s due date. I predict this one will be in and out of theaters before your mind can go dark.

Grade: C–
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, August 1, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
‘THE DARKEST MIND’ IS NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE // WORLDWIDE RELEASE STARTING FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2018

REVIEW: “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT” (2018) Paramount Pictures

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Its almost impossible to make a good summer blockbuster right now – However, Chris McQuarrie accepted that mission and has fully succeeded. “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-FALLOUT” is a visual spectacle that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves a good, smart action film with beautifully done wide shots and a great storyline. But don’t blink as you watch, because the story comes at you fast, with flash modes and ulterior motives at every turn.

‘Fallout’ picks up two years after ‘Rogue Nation’ and we get a better insight into Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as a character and his motivations. We learn that although Ethan stopped the Syndicate, the Syndicate agents left alive now call themselves “The Apostles”. Due to a tough decision Ethan makes early on, the Apostles now have three balls of grade A plutonium, enough to make three nuclear bombs with strategic destinations plotted for each of them. And so begins our heroes globe trotting heroics to stop these nuclear disasters as it’s up to Hunt and his gang of IMF agents to find them before it’s too late. Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), all return and they’re joined by Henry Cavill’s no-nonsense CIA operative August Walker, Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) as his handler, and Rebecca Ferguson’s MI6 spy, Ilsa Faust is also back along for the ride.

And what a ride it is. A rather elaborate plot full of double / triple / quadruple crosses, treachery and assumed identities, take the team around the world in a whistle-stop tour of some famous cities. A frenetic car chase through the streets of Paris, a rooftop run through London and a helicopter ride from hell in Kashmir – all impress as do the cast, of particular fun is Vanessa Kirby’s mysterious White Widow.

And Tom …oh Tom, Tom, Tommy, damn, you have this action star thing down pat and do the genre huge justice here. Cruise is as reliable as ever and at 56 – yes I said 56 – he shows no signs of slowing down even if it might take him a little longer to recover from a battering these days. Sorry to call it out, but Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson needs to take page or two from Cruise’s handbook on how to be an actual action film star and make a good action movie. As for Cruise, whether it’s leaping from buildings, jumping from airplanes during a lightning storm or riding a motorbike the wrong way around the Champs-Élysées – he’s coolness personified and is the catalyst for another adrenaline fueled thriller that takes cinematic stunts to a new level. And for the most part, they are actually done by him – without a lot of CGI blah-ness thrown in. This is the real deal people. I applaud him and the crew for raising the bar. The man is a legend and honestly shows that CG is a long way off being as good or as exciting as live action scenes.

The bond of the team (Cruise, Ferguson, Cavill, Pegg and Rhames) is what makes this work and the chemistry of the cast is amazing. I loved Michelle Monaghan back as Julia in this film for the few scenes she has. The chemistry with Cruise is emotional and I love their story together and where it has gone. Henry Cavill too, is a welcome addition to the series and honestly steals some the film best moments. The bathroom fight scene is easily one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen. It was great to see him get his teeth into a different type of role. He doesn’t disappoint here.

I also loved that that for the first time they referenced the other sequels which was brilliant but for anyone who hasn’t seen the previous movies it will not go over their heads or is there the need to have seen them.

This film easily takes the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise to another level and proves that with a great cast, crew, director and writers, that sequels and series can progress the story and get even better. Hands down, “Mission: Impossible-Fallout” is easily the must see action film of the summer, possibly the whole of 2018.

Grade: A-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, July 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWS IN AUG 2018

REVIEW: “MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN” (2018) Universal Pictures

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Oh my my my my “MAMMA MIA!! HERE WE GO AGAIN” had me from the moment one with my devotion and love for true icons ABBA & C-H-E-R all in one movie. What I didn’t expect, was an actual good movie.

Starting off, this sequel to ‘Mamma Mia’, which also presents itself as a prequel, in my world, this is a two-for-one deal of epic-ness that I loved from the get go. “Here We Go Again” has a much better story line than the original, and while all your faves return, you also make some great new ones. Writer/director Ol Parker – gets some good deeper cuts in, too with this being a new, complex and more mature story involving the characters we’ve known, and sang and danced along with for the past decade. The film quickly establishes the parallel stories with it’s fantastic opening number of “I Kissed A Teacher” and boom! we are introduced to the world of a young Donna (played terrifically by Lily James). Moving along back into the world of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is re-opening the hotel her mom Donna (Meryl Streep) ran. Donna died the previous year (this isn’t really isn’t a spoiler). In her mom’s honor, Sophie has renovated the place and is ready for a big celebration, with nearly every important person in her life invited, including Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Donna’s Dynamo sisters – Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters).

“Here We Go Again” explores within it’s flashbacks, a vibrant and spontaneous Donna of the 1970’s, as she seeks an adventurous life – and we see how she meets the three younger versions of the men whom will play major roles in her life – Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). It would take more space than I have to touch on every performance, so I’ll just sum it up and highlight a few. With this turn as Donna, Lily James is now officially a STAR as she will charm the socks off of you. In one simple, minute-long scene, Brosnan redeems himself for his lack of singing ability from the original. And in spectacular fashion with white silk wig and pantsuit to match, the one..the only..Cher makes a grand entrance in the final act as Sophie’s grandma… and instantly captivates the screen. And though how she gets to the point of singing is a big spoiler that I just can’t reveal, I will happily admit to yelling out “YES! YES! YES” when it did happen, media screening or not. (no one usually does something like this during them – but I wasn’t alone in my squealing joy of this.. so 🙂 )

Every single person here, from our older versions of Harry (Colin Firth) & Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) doing a bit of ‘Titanic’ for us all, to Fernando (Andy Garcia) & Sky (Dominic Cooper), looks like they’re having an absolute blast, and that happiness is resonates throughout the film and spreads to the audience. ‘Here We Go Again’ provides a carefree, yet meaningful, fun energy that’s so hard to find these days, even in musicals. I got chills during performances of “Mamma Mia!” and “Dancing Queen”, though those are saved till a little later in the film, as the first half has some of Abba’s lesser known hits dominating – though a true ABBA fan will know them!

Sure Mamma Mia 2! might not be perfect – and I might be a sap for anything musical related to ABBA & Cher – but I can guarantee a good time will be had by all who see it. And the beautiful, sweet final scene has a spirit all its own, touching on loss and new life in ways that will hit very close to home. I can only say — I do, I do, I do, I DO want you to see this film.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, July 16, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN” WILL BE OUT NATIONWIDE/WORLDWIDE ON FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2018