REVIEW: “DOWNSIZING” (2017) Paramount Pictures

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Welp. we’ve got a strike three for Matt Damon on his 2017 films with “DOWNSIZING”. This movie takes an interesting premise, “What if we could make ourselves smaller to use up fewer resources and save the planet?” and really just does nothing with it. Having heard little about the film aside from its concept, I went into the screening fairly cold. Sadly, the film doesn’t have a whole lot more to offer than its brilliant concept and exceptional first act. I must admit that I left feeling disappointed, thinking they could’ve made this a better movie in many ways. When a film has so much promise and doesn’t exactly deliver on much of it, I feel as though many people would be let down by that.

In this dramedy, which also in part a social satire of its own genre, Downsizing follows a couple Paul (Matt Damon) & Audrey (Kristen Wiig) Safranek, who believe their lives would be better if they were to shrink themselves and be transferred to a new world called Leisureland. This place exists to conserve the Earth and save the environment, as let’s face it, smaller people need much fewer resources. With multiple meanings to the title, this is a concept that sounds incredible on paper but doesn’t exactly translate into that great of a movie. Throughout the first act, I found myself immersed in this world and couldn’t wait to be taken on its journey, but I soon found myself losing interest when political and religious elements began to take over and it started to go very sloooowww. And it’s sad as this is a movie that could’ve done so much more with its premise.

Without giving anything away, there are many characters such as Niecy Nash playing a Leisureworld salesperson, or that of Dusan Mirkovic (Christof Waltz), The Lonowski’s, Jeff (Neil Patrick Harris) & Laura (Laura Dern) or Paul’s good friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis), that come in and out of this film in a heartbeat, pretty much leaving them in the dust, when in reality they were actually interesting and added a layer to the overall story. It felt as though Director Alexander Payne wanted to focus so much on the idea of the Downsizing concept, that he sidelined quite a few characters along the way. His films have always been about characters, and while Paul and Ngoc (Hong Chau) share some great chemistry throughout this film, it’s hard not to wish that all of the characters throughout the first act were present throughout the entire film. This was a very curious issue I had while watching and definitely upon reflection.

As soon as you’re brought into this other world that has been built for those who shrunk themselves over the years, you will find yourself kind of transfixed at how interesting the visuals are and how lackluster the comedy is, but what you don’t expect is for the film to take a dramatic turn and really have you thinking hard about the world we live in and whether or not certain lines of dialogue are true about society in general. This is an eye-opening film in that regard and the third act is incredibly ambitious, but I just don’t think it really sticks the landing that it strives to achieve.

In the end, this is one of the most original ideas I can recall in recent memory, but an idea doesn’t make a film great. It’s the film itself that needs to win you over as a whole, and Downsizing just didn’t do that for me. On many accounts, this is a very impressive movie from a technical standpoint and it takes risks that I didn’t expect it to, but the risks it takes will only work for a few audiences members that can relate to it.

This is a movie that promises a lot and tries to deliver on all of those promises, while also shoving in side plots that make this film too emotionally complex to really be invested in the satirical aspects by the end. I wish this film went through a few more rewrites, because there is a satirical masterpiece of a movie in here somewhere, but it’s just not the product that you’ll be seeing in theatres soon. Downsizing might be worth your time in terms of originality, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up on it being a favorite.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, December 5, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
DOWNSIZING is now playing in theaters nationwide. To be released Worldwide in January 2018

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REVIEW: “DESPICABLE ME 3” (2017) Universal Studios

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“Face it, Gru. Villainy is in your blood!” Dru (Steve Carell)

This fun, third-time around romp back into the world of the minions and crew, tells the story of the ex-villain Gru, who teams up with his twin brother Dru (also played by Carell), whom he has never met, in order to fight against former famous Hollywood child star Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Balthazar, who has become a 80’s obsessed super villain who uses powerful bubble-gum to fight and steal the worlds biggest gemstone.

After being fired from the AVL (Anti-Villian League), Dru tries to convince Gru to come back to being a villian. With the Minions off being busy speaking and singing gibberish – almost becoming reality show singing stars in one of a few hilariously fun skits done with them. Along with being taken jail, we get a fantastic little spoof on JailHouse Rock and whose dance in prison stripes to the Pirates of Penzance’s “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” brings down the house. Agnes (Nev Sharrel) and her adorable obsession with unicorns, and Gru being a basically worthless but lovable villain/anti-villain. At the same time, the movie introduces some positive new dynamics in Lucy (Kristen Wiig) as she isn’t as annoying as she was in her first movie and the fun twin camaraderie between Gru and Dru is completely infectious.

The plot has enough twists and turns to stop it from being formulaic, and the movie has some excellent and funny references to the previous two films. Finally, Bratt is a perfect villain for this type of film and is too tongue-in-cheek to resist. The only little downside of this brotherly union is the minions have less of a role – maybe a little mistake when you consider they are a certifiable home run at any time.

All in all – this one is a fun 1.5 hour romp for all ages.

Grade: B+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, June 26th, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Picture
NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE

Review: “THE MARTIAN” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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I’ve always had mixed feelings about Director Ridley Scott and his films. Some are fantastic and some..are not. Here he is back once again to exploring a familiar territory – space.

“THE MARTIAN” truly strikes cinematic gold here with what could be looked as a quasi-instruction manual on how to survive surefire death on Mars. Though this adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel (which I haven’t yet read) is the best thing Scott has given us in quite some time, he still goes where others have gone before – only this time, with a perky, life-affirming attitude.

The concept is catchy and simple: While on a mission on Mars, a major storm hits the crew of the Ares III facility causing them to abort and head for their escape rocket. As Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), cyber-whiz Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), flight surgeon Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), pilot Rick Martinez (Michael Pena) and chemist Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) head out into the vicious winds of Mars where botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and disappears. The others think he’s dead and leave without him. But guess what?! He’s alive! the_martian_2
And in order to survive he must “science the shit” out of the remaining supplies in a lab that was created to last only 31 days. His wit, scientific know-how and vlogs are what sustain him until the people at NASA – including NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), mission director Dr. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and flight director Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) – can figure out how to save him. Add in the back ground techies Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) & Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) who literally come up with the live-saving idea that make it possible to go back and get their man!! All the while they make this trip to Mars almost scenic as you can almost feel the atmosphere while watching.
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There are shifts here between humor, heart and suspense which are all handled quite well. Plus the soundtrack..ohhh the soundtrack… with it’s precise way that it works in the disco from the made-fun-of playlist of Lewis’ – with just a sampling is “Waterloo”
(ABBA) “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (Thelma Houston) and Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around” – is not only truly ingenious but yes, fabulous as well. It hits all the notes at just the right moment in Watney’s journey, giving us a look into his in-the-moment feelings in a perfectly stated way.

While this film is almost all Matt Damon, his very adequate supporting cast really gives the film a huge boost..along with the fact that it engages us intellectually, but not over the top as they make it all relatable and with a dose of humour I just loved. So it makes it hard to even list the one small unfortunate thing about THE MARTIAN as it’s good..really good.. it does stop just one step short of being electrifying. And in this case..that’s still not a bad thing.

Grade: B

Screening: Monday, September 21, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, October 2, 2015

+++#peggyatthemovies.com ~ REVIEW OF “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2″+++

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There are times when I love going to see a good animated movie, and sometimes not.  I didn’t have that ‘not’ problem here with “How to Train Your Dragon 2” because I had taken my nephew 5 years ago to see the first one and had enjoyed it.  As with a lot of animated movies..they say they are for kids, and this one definitely is, but they always have a bit of an adult element to them also. And most of the time also a message.. again. also done here. 

This second chapter of the trilogy of the “HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON” franchise, take us back to the mystical world of “Hiccup” (v/o Jay Baruchel) and his now faithful dragon “Toothless”.  It’s a much different place now as their is peace, love and harmony between the dragons and the villagers.  This time around all that is at stake with threats from a new, and very powerful enemy, “Drago” (v/o Dijiman Hounsou).  During a flight of fancy, dragon-racing game Hiccup and his friends, “Snotlout” (v/o Jonah Hill), “Fishlegs” (v/o Christopher Mintz-Plasse), “Tuffnutt” (v/o T.J. Miller) twin sister “Ruffnut” (v/o Kristen Wiig), who as always, give us some of the best laughs of the movie, when she goes after the handsome “Eret” (v/o Kit Harrington) and with Hiccup’s now also grown up, girlfriend, “Astrid” (v/o America Ferrera), they discover a fortress made of ice in which they find a ‘mysterious’ woman, “Valka” (v/o Cate Blanchett) whom has spent the past 20 yrs ~ which turns out to be how old “Hiccup” is ~ freeing captured dragons and caring for the injured ones. 

Turns out that “Stoic” (v/o Gerard Butler) and “Valka” know each other..quite well as a matter of fact as she is “Hiccups” long lost, presumed dead, mother.  Cue the violins (and adult part of the movie) here as it’s the emotional scene coming up where they all get back together as a family immediately, of course and fall back in love on sight.  “Drago” in the meantime feels that all dragons should be captured and enslaved and “Stoic” and his ever-present sidekick, “Gobber” (v/o Craig Ferguson) immediately want to go to battle, whereas the naive “Hiccup” feels that if he can only meet to speak with “Drago”, he will see his reason and change his mind. But as expected. difficult consequences occur ~ note to parents, younger children will probably not understand this part well, and it leads into what could be an emotionally upsetting outcome, but you will soon see the outcome of this and it ultimately leads to the age-old ramification (and message within the movie) good overcome bad and the weak can defeat the strong with all the right attitude. 

This is certainly a fun movie, for both adults and kids alike as it’s pretty visually dazzling and I was able to see it in 3D so the action sequences were definitely made fun with that!!  

Grade: C+

GRADING SCALE: A = OSCARWORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE~MUST SEE; C= AVERAGE~SHOULD SEE; D = SEE AT YOUR OWN RISK; F = YEAH..DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY.. ( + OR – ) GIVES IT A BIT UP OR DOWN