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+
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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: “SUICIDE SQUAD” (2016) Warner Bros.

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Writer/Director David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” starts off strong. With a booming, kick-ass soundtrack taking us through the introductions of characters and giving us a bit of the backstory on each so we know at least who they are. Unless you’re a major DC Comics fan, you probably don’t recognize every single character of the Squad. The new action movie teams up a bunch of bad guys as a last resort to take down an even more evil force. For those of us that don’t read the comic books, I found this not only helpful, but gave us some fun sides of the characters to boot.
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We’ve got Deadshot (Will Smith) the assassin who never misses, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) the aslyum doctor who fell in love with her patient who then gave her shock treatment to make her crazy, Boomerang (Jai Courtney) the Aussie who’s boomerangs are like drones and really doesn’t give a rats ass about anyone but himself, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) in essence a firestarter, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is self-explanatory and lives in the underground sewers, Slipnot (Adam Beach) an escape artist of the highest caliber and whilst not really a ‘Squad’ member, we have Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Archaeologist/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and of course our Joker (Jared Leto). You’ve also got the ‘soldier’ side to it all with Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), Lt. GQ Edwards (Scott Eastwood) and our head honcho who proposes and is responsible for putting the ‘Squad’ together, Amanda Walker (Viola Davis). And yes, along with our bit part from The Batman himself, Ben Affleck, we understand why they are, who they are and where they are.
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Sadly, no one here can save the convuluted mess of a storyline and bad dialague. The characters are so off-balance and poorly acted, most especially I’m looking at you Will Smith & Cara Delevingne. Robbie’s character would have fit much better in a re-make of the 1970’s classic The Warriors (one of my fav. movies btw) and she probably could have made something with it. Here she limps along trying to be funny but falls completely flat. Only the Joker and Boomerang really pull out the stops and make it work for their characters and you know it’s really bad when even Viola Davis strains to pull off her dialogue as even somewhat believable.
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The first 1/3 of this film is definitely worth the watch. Anything after that I can’t guarantee, except of course the ending because it leads us into Suicide Squad Part Deux. I would try to describe the plot, but don’t want to give away how just plain ridiculous it is and really, everyone should just see and judge for themselves anyways as it’s all just CGI.

And just in case you’re really itching to get out of the theatre, you only have to wait until the first set of basic credits is done to get your ending Bat-fix in..not the whole long credit roll. Somewhere in this series is a good movie, so stay, and let’s just hope Part Deux has more to it than this one did.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, August 2, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Nationwide Release: Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: “ENTOURAGE” (2015) Warner Bros.

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“The Boys are back in town” — Spread the word around — The Boys are back– The Boys are back…

From the first opening scenes I’m guessing most will know immediately whether or not they will enjoy this film as before the opening credits even roll out we are caught up in the middle of a huge celebrity filled party scene as “Vincent Chase” (Adrian Grenier) is on a multi-millionaire’s yacht celebrating the end of his 9 day marriage with his friends zooming over on a speedboat to join him with nary a girl who’s not supermodel beautiful in sight. Life’s clearly a bitch for these guys..
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Entourage – based on the very popular HBO series that ran for eight seasons, is a fun, fast-paced, energetic look at both sides of the Hollywood machine. Side 1: The glamorous side of fast cars, nice homes & copious amounts of sex; Side 2: takes a really good peek at what goes on in behind-the-scenes deals that go down just to get films made. At 104 minutes long, there is not a moment wasted in packing in a ton of stuff into this glittering ride of a movie. The party scenes are fun, the dialogue is sharp and biting and the actors inhabit their respective characters well.

So remember ‘Medellin’? The film fiasco that was portrayed on the series that almost put a halt to the career of Vinnie Chase. This film picks up from the that as we once again takes a look at the lives of movie star Vincent Chase, his agent (now studio executive) “Ari Gold” (Jeremy Piven) and his group of cronies “Eric aka ‘E'” (Kevin Connolly), “Johnny Drama” (Kevin Dillon) and “Turtle” (Jerry Ferrera) who surround him. This time, the boys are making Ari’s first blockbuster picture ‘HYDE’ with Vince being not only the lead actor but in the directors chair as well. Everything threatens to go off the rails when the movie goes over budget. To get more money for the production, Ari has to go and deal with difficult Texan financier “Larsen McCredle” (Billy Bob Thornton) and his son “Travis” (Haley Joel Osment). Meanwhile, E is dealing with multiple pregnancies, Turtle is trying to court UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, Vince is dealing with his relationship with Emily Ratajkowski and directing his first major film for Ari, and Drama is coping with his stagnant career and a leaked sex tape. It’s all light fun, accompanied by fast cars, LA icon sightings and an absurd amount of celebrity cameos that if you blink you just might miss one of them.
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With various plotlines moving throughout the film, the party scene that occupies much of the middle section of the film is fantastic and the script really starts to move at a faster, funnier pace. But it’s always Ari who brings the film together. He is by far the most compelling character in the film, always ranting and raving, shouting an incessant amount of profanity at his co-workers while dealing with crazy financiers. Piven is a true scene-stealer, spouting off as much as he can and having a lot of fun with the role. As for the other four principle stars, they’re great together, and while it might take you a moment to recognize child-star Haley Joel Osmont, he does really well in this unexpected character turn with perhaps the meatiest co-star role out of all the actors, getting the chance to portray an immature Texan kid overwhelmed by the celebrity lifestyle.
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While this film is far from a masterpiece by any means, it did keep me smiling throughout with some very funny moments, great dialogue and simply put – it just all works. It’s a good summer diversion that delivers everything you want from a movie like this.. a good time.

B-
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Screening Monday, June 1st, 2015 at Pacific Grove Theatres courtesy of Warner Bros.
Nationwide release: Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

“SELMA” (2014) Q & A w/Ava DuVernay,Common, Carmen Ejojo

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Yes, I should have done this review ages ago as it’s been a month since I attended an Oscar screening of this film along with an after-screening Q & A with Director: Ava DuVernay; Cast members Common, Carmen Ejojo, and Henry G. Sanders. Not even sure why I waited so long, but I will say I’ve thought some about it since then. Maybe it’s because the movie, while I’m not even going to pretend it isn’t a strong, powerful film, just missed a few things for me. And historical inaccuracies aside, as let’s be real, many prestigious movies take dramatic license with historical events and pretty much all bio-pics have them, I think I’ve just been trying to put my finger on what it was. Could be the slower pace of it or the fact that, some needlessly added small odd scenes, at times I thought I was watching a MLK biopic instead of a Selma one, or for me the too strong religious aspect of it. Yes I am fully aware and know MLK was REVEREND Martin Luther King..I am aware of the fact he was a religious man, but since they are taking liberties with some things, including re-writing the “I Have a Dream” speech, this would have been what I would have chosen to tone down some as some of it comes off unnecessary in parts. But whatever it was, I think a lot of it has to do with everything going on from Ferguson to New York to Paris, maybe I’ve been trying to come to terms with man’s atrocities against each other in every way and this film started that for me as it couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. Selma 1

As the opening of the film opens with a heart-wrenching explosion we move along quickly to the man “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (David Oyelowo), pulling off a performance that seems true to the man without being a caricature or overly reverent. The film acknowledges that King was a man, with faults like any other, but in a way that makes him affecting. Oyelowo doesn’t look especially like King, but he does capture a good rendition of the heart & soul of the man. However, he’s only a piece of the puzzle, with this being a true ensemble film with at least a dozen good roles, from Carmen Ejogo as King’s wife Coretta, to pros like Wendell Pierce as “Rev. Hosea Williams”, musician/actor Common “James Bevel” and Martin Sheen “Frank Minis Johnson” as some of the allies King encountered along the way.
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The film does a great job portraying just how much the people in the march, from all walks of life, were risking their lives by participating, against a southern resistance ranging from ignorant yokels to devious politicians, to definitely more than a few sadists, who were so keen to inflict harm to the peaceful marchers that at times it’s painful to watch. There are scenes of people riding horses and brandishing whips, covering wood clubs with spoke-like wire to inflict as much damage as possible on the marchers. While some might think it’s puzzling as to where this hate comes from, but even more so in that the film tries to keep an even hand in showing both sides. Tim Roth as “Gov. George Wallace” could have easily played him as demonic, but he tries and somewhat succeeds to humanize him as much as he can, which is not easy when you’re playing one of history’s truly great evil bastards. Tom Wilkinson is very effective as “Lyndon Johnson“, who’s not above playing the good ol’boy card with Wallace, but also sympathizes with King, even if he’s reluctant to stir up trouble and makes a few horrible decisions along the way.
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In a cast of ‘names’ many of which I have been a fan of for a long long time, yes I’m looking at you Lorraine Toussaint “Amelia Boynton”, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi “Lee White”, Wendall Pierce, Tim Roth and yes, even Oprah Winfry as I wasn’t an ‘talkshow’ Oprah fan, but I am an ‘actress’ Oprah fan. My three standouts of this film that made me sit up and take notice are Stephen James as “John Lewis”, Trai Byers as “James Forman”, and lastly Alessandro Nivola as “John Doar”.

Hopefully the best thing about “Selma” that we can take away from it is that it’s not a movie about blame or hate. Rather, it’s hopeful in that it shows how people can come together and change things for the better in a non-violent manner ~ a message that should always be kept in mind when things get out of hand as they often do. Even with it’s faults,“Selma” is a strong film that sends a clear message to a new generation about what standing up against intimidation in any form is all about. It is a passionate work about a towering figure who left an enduring legacy, but one that, as recent events might indicate, is still short of completion. selma common 1

Additional note: I love Q & A’s after films with directors/producers/cast etc. They really give you insight sometimes into things about how the film got made or a fun antidote or two.. This Oscar screening was on Thursday, December 18th,2014 at The Landmark Theater with Dir. Ava DuVernay giving insight into that this project was really made because of David Oyelowo who took it and ran with it (which explains the large Brit casting also! 🙂 ) getting Oprah & her team including Brad Pitt & others involved, including picking her as the director, even though she didn’t have much experience and convincing everyone to get onboard. Also, reasoning behind not using the actual “I Have a Dream” speech..the rights to it are held by someone else who has never used them and they could not get them for this film so she ended up re-writing it herself. As for something I completely did not know, at the end of the film we see a shot of a bridge ~ it’s the “Edmund Pettus Bridge” ~ as DuVernay noted was named after the leader of the Klan back then..it’s name remains today.
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Grade: B-