Talking Summer Movies with Mark Hobin

Yesterday I had the fun opportunity to talk the highs and lows of the summer movie season with my blogging friend Mark Hobin. Some we agreed on. Others we did not but it was always a fun conversation! Check out Mark’s blog at http://fastfilmreviews.com/

I only need 15 subscribers to get to 1000 on my youtube channel so if you aren’t subscribed please do. I think you will love the daily content I provide on the channel.

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The Wild Life Review

wild life2So I just saw the new animated import from Belgium called The Wild Life and honestly I am still processing it. While I can’t really tell you it is a “good” film it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. And it makes a lot of unusual choices that at the very least make it a bit of a curiosity.

First of all, The Wild Life looks way better than I expected it to be. I did not see it in 3D because the 3D trailer looked awful and I’m glad I didn’t. The animated action sequences are pretty impressive. They are long quickly paced and intense. Going into the film I was expecting a comedy but there are actually not that many comedic moments. Most of it is shipwrecks and fights. The water was really good for this kind of budget.

wild-life3The character design all looked textured and better rendered than I was expecting. I honestly think the animation is as good if not better than anything we’ve seen from the Ice Age films in a long time.

The one exception to that rule is the cats…I pretty much hated everything about the cats. I hated their animation, characters, vocal performance, story arc, everything.

wild-life-5It’s kind of cool they do not use any celebrity voices and everybody except the cats fits very well with their parts. It’s kind of strange that all of these animals on this tiny island all have different accents but if you don’t over-think it, it works.

wild-life-4Robinson Crusoe is actually a pretty likable character and his bonding with the animals is more authentic than I thought it would be. I was thinking Crusoe would be more of the villain invading the island but actually he and the animals bond quickly and there are a lot of charming scenes with them working together. It’s not reinventing the wheel or something but I enjoyed it.

And like I said the action is a lot of fun. It’s very fast paced and imaginative and at times very tense. There is even death to a character that would never die in an American animated film.  There is also a pregnancy that felt so strange. I’ve never seen anything like it in an animated film.

Unfortunately some of the action goes on a bit too long and the story wasn’t compelling enough to carry my interest the entire film. I got bored in several sections. I’m not sure what they could do to make it better but I nodded off a couple of times.

Still, this is the kind of movie that people will love to use hyperbole on and declare it the worst thing ever but it’s not in my opinion.  One review I read said “few have failed as confoundingly as The Wild Life” Now that I can get behind.  It is a strange movie. There’s no doubt about that, and I guess its watchability depends on your tolerance for the odd choices it makes.

But if you can ignore the bad stuff like the cats and focus on the good things like the animation and the action, I think it is worth watching. I personally would rather watch this film than a lazy unambitious effort like Ice Age: Collision Course but that’s just me.

If any of you see The Wild Life let me know. I am anxious to talk about some of the strange story elements with someone else who has seen it.

Overall Grade- C-

Current Film Catch Up

I just thought I would give you a few quick thoughts of some current releases.

Bridget Jones’s Baby-

It ended up being far funnier than I ever could have anticipated. The plot is stupid but I laughed a lot- particularly whenever a news anchor Bridget worked with named Miranda was on screen. She was hilarious. Renee Zellweger looks a little different but it wasn’t as distracting as I feared it would be. It includes nods to the first two films (love first film, hate second) without making them obnoxious or overbearing Mostly it is charming and very funny.

Overall Grade- A-

Sully-

Terrific film from Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks about the Miracle on the Hudson when a plane had to make a water landing in 2009. Tom Hanks is the main reason this movie works so well. There is something about him you trust and you want to see him vindicated. It can be a bit by-the-numbers and repetitive but I found it engaging at the same time. I personally don’t think it is as good as American Sniper but it is less controversial and more easily digestible. Has some interesting things to say about media and our need for heroes.

Overall Grade- A-

Southside with You-

I’m a conservative but I found things to like about this film of Barack and Michele Obama’s first date. The script is well done and it feels authentic to the people we know. There was one moment where I felt the writers couldn’t help but worship their favorite president but for the most part it kept away from that kind of thing. If you are looking for a date movie this would be a good choice. And yes it is possible to like a movie about a democratic president and be a conservative…

Overall Grade- B

Light Between Oceans-

Based on the popular novel, Light Between Oceans is exactly the movie I thought it would be. I went into it expecting a period tearjerker with good acting and that’s what I got. For a movie like this to work you need the couple to have good chemistry and that’s certainly true here with Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender working so well together. The film looks beautiful by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw. I could look at those ocean shots all day! The melodrama is thick and certain plot developments I didn’t think made sense but if you like tearjerkers this is a decent one. Also, if you are a mother I think you will find it a lot more tragic.

Overall Grade- B

Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon-

space-dogsThis Russian import is the kind of film that is very easy to tear apart.  The animation is bad and the dubbing is even worse. I don’t think a single line of dialogue matched up with the mouth movements on the screen. However, I did think there was something to the nutty plot of space dogs that entertained me more than lazy efforts like Ice Age 5. Sure Ice Age 5 is better executed but I’d personally prefer Space Dogs over it.

Overall Grade- D

Nine Lives-

You watch it and just wonder how in the world did this get made? I want to see the documentary about the making of Nine Lives. Barry Sonnenfield, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken all fantastic talents behind a talking cat movie? The strangest part is he’s actually not a bad Dad. He loves his family and is anxious to get his daughter the right present. He buys her a cat even though he hates them. Most kids should be so lucky to have such a Dad! It was a fun ‘so bad it’s good’ watch but really when they can’t get the meowing right in a cat movie that’s a bad thing.

Overall Grade- F acknowledging it has so bad it’s good enjoyment

Other films I’ve caught up on:

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World- Werner Herzog documentary about the internet. Not his best but he’s engaging enough to make it a fun watch. Overall Grade- B+

The Fits- Some will hate this indie because it is kind of half a story but I didn’t mind just getting a piece of what was going on. About a girl who joins a dance troupe and they start getting seizures. Royalty Hightower joins the list of great child actors for 2016.  Overall Grade- B-

Weiner- Fascinating documentary about the mayoral campaign of disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner. More about a marriage than anything else. What a complete narcissist! Overall Grade- A

Dough- Interesting relationship between a Jewish baker and his Muslim employee gets lost in a dopey plot about marijuana and the mob. Overall Grade- C+

The Mermaid– If you can get over some of the horrible special effects it’s a creative story from China about a Mermaid who cuts her fins so she can go on land and convince an executive to stop polluting. It can be quite funny. Overall Grade- B-

The Lobster- I know everyone is drooling over this movie but I found it kind of frustrating. It makes the same points about love, loneliness and companionship over and over again and the performances are all intentionally flat and one-note. I couldn’t bond with the characters and by the last 30 minutes I had enough of the entire experiment. Clever premise but frustrating execution  Overall Grade- C

So there you have it! Have you seen any of these films? What did you think of them?

Hell or High Water Review

 

I realized today that I hadn’t posted a review on the blog for a little bit. Sorry about that. I guess I have been favoring the youtube channel without realizing it. I usually try and keep it pretty even. I am trying to get to 1,000 subs on my youtube channel so if you haven’t checked it out give it a look.

Well, let’s talk about a film I have not reviewed on my channel- the western heist movie Hell or High Water. This is isn’t my favorite kind of movie but I can’t deny that it is basically perfectly executed.

I have not seen any other films by David Mackenzie but he does a tremendous job capturing a sense of place and tone and getting you to root for both the good guys and the bad guys.

high-water

The film is about 2 brothers, Toby and Tanner who are robbing small banks in current day Texas in order to get enough money to pay off a lien on their mother’s property following her death. Oil has been discovered on the land and they have a small amount of time to pay the debt or the bank will take the land.

Toby, played by Chris Pine, wants to make life better for his estranged sons and Tanner, played by Ben Foster, is recently released from prison after killing their abusive father.

hell-or-highwaterJeff Bridges is fantastic as Marcus a nearly-retired sheriff looking into the robberies with his partner Alberto. Marcus is a little bit racist but there is always something about him that you like. He gives Alberto a very hard time about his Native American and Mexican background but you know all along he loves his partner. Gil Birmingham is so good as Alberto.

Toby has planned out the heists masterfully well but Tanner is a bit of a lug so things don’t go completely to plan. This draws the viewer in and helps it not feel predictable. Plus, all 4 of the leads feel like real people who could actually exist and talk and act the way they do.

I don’t want to give much away but it is so well paced without a wasted scene. Ben Foster makes me almost want to forgive him for Warcraft he’s so good as the crazy stupid of the two brothers. Chris Pine feels authentic and real in the role of Toby who at times you want to smack because he knows better. It all works. It seems like the way things might actually go down in small town Texas with everything from the waitresses to the cars feeling right.

I guess if I was going to fault the film some of the things the sheriff doesn’t look into with the lien on the boys property seemed a little puzzling. With them robbing banks and the bank being kind of the true villain of the film it wouldn’t have been hard to figure out the boys motivations, but it’s a small quibble in a very tight script.

This is an R rated film mostly for language with some violence and sensuality. Hell or High Water won’t be for everyone but if you want to watch an extremely well made, acted and written movie it shouldn’t be missed.

Overall Grade- A

Why I Sell Beauty and the Beast Table Read Clip!

This morning I was greeted by throngs of notifications about the great new exciting clip from the Beauty and the Beast live action film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this movie could be amazing. I hope it is but honestly I’m kind of upset about it right now. I hated the images of Lumiere and Cogsworth- especially Lumiere where you can’t see his face and he’s all rugged looking instead of smooth. He’s a candlestick which limits his expression as it is. We don’t need anything obscuring that expression.

Anyway, so what I was presented with today is a clip from the table reading. I guess I was supposed to be excited like the table read for Star Wars: Force Awakens which had Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and others coming back to Star Wars. Unfortunately this table read not only didn’t excite me, it kind of ticked me off.

Force Awakens had a reason to be made. A large majority of people didn’t like the prequels and felt Star Wars hadn’t been good for a long time. And despite some similarities to previous films Force Awakens was a continuation of the story not a remake. With this Beauty and the Beast I’ve long scratched my head at why this needs to exist? Why when it is already been perfectly executed do we need a remake of the film?

Disney just gave me their answer and it kind of makes me mad…

Bill Condon says “When something is so perfect why get near it? The answer is technology has caught up with the ideas that were introduced in that movie”.

Are you kidding me?

This is basically Disney saying that the 2D animation that made them great isn’t a fully realized version of their great ideas. That they were restricted and now technology has expanded they can finally do their ideas justice.  You know what? Those ideas were done justice. I never watched Beauty and the Beast and thought ‘boy if only they had greater technology this could be executed better.”

The Jungle Book gave us a new version of the Kipling story and the technology worked for that version of the story. If Condon had said “we now have the technology to tell a new take on the ideas” that would have been one thing but for him to say that “technology has caught up with the ideas” it makes me really mad. It says to me Disney sees 2D animation as quaint and old fashioned and technology/CG as a better way to execute the ideas of the past! Urgh!!!

I can’t be the only person in the world that was annoyed by this comment? And the fact Disney would use that quote to sell this movie is really discouraging and shows a lack of respect for the great artistry done in the 1991 film. It was certainly a good enough execution of the ideas to get the first animated Best Picture nomination and it was good enough to entrance millions of viewers.

Howard Ashman wrote and worked on Beauty and the Beast literally on his death bed. It is a masterpiece and a labor of love in every way I can think of. It was good enough to make AFI’s Top 10 Romantic Movies of all times list. Good enough to be many people’s favorite animated film including current CG films.

But I’m glad technology has finally caught up with Disney’s ideas of the past….

angery beast

Ranking Animated Films from 2013-2016

Hey guys! Over on my youtube channel I just finished up a series where I ranked 67 animated films I’ve seen from 2013-2016. I stopped this list with Ice Age 5. I would love if you gave these videos a watch but will provide the list below.  In each of the videos I give a little explanation of why each film was placed where it is on the list. Enjoy!

  1. Song of the Sea
  2. Inside Out
  3. Tale of Princess Kaguya
  4. The Lego Movie
  5. Frozen
  6. The Wind Rises
  7. Zootopia
  8. Miniscule: The Valley of the Lost Ants
  9. The Peanuts Movie
  10. April and the Extraordinary World
  11. Big Hero 6
  12. When Marnie was There
  13. Ernest and Celestine
  14. Finding Dory
  15. Shaun the Sheep Movie
  16. Cheatin’
  17. The Good Dinosaur
  18. Kung fu Panda 3
  19. The Jungle Book
  20. The Book of Life
  21. How to Train Your Dragon 2
  22. Monsters University
  23. Wrinkles
  24. Mr Peabody and Sherman
  25. Only Yesterday
  26. The Boxtrolls
  27. The Boy and the World
  28. Anomalisa
  29. The Secret Life of Pets
  30. Rocks in My Pockets
  31. The Croods
  32. Penguins of Madagascar
  33. The Boy and the Beast
  34. The Pirate Fairy
  35. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
  36. Spongebob: Sponge Out of Water
  37. Snowtime
  38. Harmony
  39. Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart
  40. Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast
  41. Epic
  42. Hotel Transylvania 2
  43. Ratchet and Clank
  44. Despicable Me 2
  45. The Little Prince
  46. Turbo
  47. The Congress
  48. Henry and Me
  49. Maya the Bee
  50. Planes: Fire and Rescue
  51. Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos
  52. The Angry Birds Movie
  53. Extraordinary Tales
  54. Minions
  55. Rio 2
  56. Planes
  57. Strange Magic
  58. Home
  59. Ice Age: Collision Course
  60. Bling
  61. Free Birds
  62. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
  63. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
  64. The Nut Job
  65. The Smurfs 2
  66. The Hero of Color City
  67. Norm of the North

*For the record I would add Kubo and the 2 Strings at 9/71, Phantom Boy at 14/71, Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon would be 66/71, and Batman: the Killing Joke would be at 68/71. I saw each of those animated films after I made this list

Rest of 2016 Animation Preview

So far I think 2016 has been another stellar year for animation. There have been some amazing indie animated films like April and the Extraordinary World and Phantom Boy and stellar mainstream fare like Zootopia and Kubo and the Two Strings. Then there are really lovely films like Finding Dory Only Yesterday and Kung fu Panda 3.

There have been some bumps in the year but let’s not focus on them. What I wanted to do for you is give a calendar of the animated films for the rest of the year. It’s easy to be looking for the big name films but the smaller gems can be some of the best of the year so keep an eye out for them. I tried to be as thorough as possible but if I have missed anything let me know!

Sept 9- The Wild Life– it looks poorly rendered and weak but I’m trying to be optimistic. I hope they will do something entertaining with the minimal budget. The 3D on the trailer is terrible so I don’t recommend seeing it in 3D.

wild life2Sept 23- Storks- The trailers for this film have been all over the place. I have no idea what kind of movie it is and am not expecting much. I hope it will be a pleasant surprise. They are advertising as ‘from the creators of the Lego Movie’ but the writer is different and that has me concerned.

storks posterSept 30- Long Way North- Friends overseas have been talking up this Danish animated film. Director Remi Chaye worked on Secret of the Kells and I like idea of Sophie’s adventure in the arctic. The animation looks stunning and refreshing!

long way north2Oct- Miss Hokusai- Based on a manga this film looks stunning. It is about an artist that has to sell her paintings under her father’s name. That dynamic between her and her father and the art looks very compelling

miss hokusaiOct 19- My Life as a Zucchini- Already Switzerland’s submission for best foreign film. Done great on the festival circuit. It looks adorable about a boy in a foster home who has to learn to get along with other children and deal with loss of his mother.

my life as a zucchini posterOct 26- Ethel and Ernest- This is a hand drawn animated film based on a graphic novel about a family in London. I love Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broadbent as the lead vocals and it should be great to see them voice a couple that grows from 1920-1970s. The hand drawn animation looks lovely so I’m looking forward to it.

ethel and ernestNov 4- Trolls- The teaser for this film got it on the wrong track but I actually liked the full trailer. It looks bright and colorful with likable characters. It could totally suck but I’m hopeful. It still seems like a strange project for Dreamworks to attempt. The music makes me the most nervous about it but I hope it is a fun little movie

trolls posterNov 18- The Red Turtle- A European/Studio Ghibli film with no dialogue about a man on an island fighting a giant turtle? Sign me up! I’ve heard nothing but great things!

red turtleNov 23- Moana- My most anticipated film of 2016 and nothing I’ve seen has dampened my enthusiasm. The story, music, Polynesian setting and design of Moana all look great.

moana posterDec 21- Sing- The plot looks really tired but I didn’t hate the trailer. I like how diverse the contestants are- different ages, lifestyles, situations. Particularly Rosie, as a frazzled homemaker intrigues me. I hope they do interesting things with those characters and it isn’t just cliches

sing poster2Unknown Release Date-

Revengeance- Independent animator Bill Plympton gives us his 8th feature film about a female bounty hunter named Lana who is at war with a man named Deathface. It doesn’t look like it has the heart of his Cheatin’ but I might see it. His Hitler’s Folly experiment was a disaster but I’m willing to keep an open mind for an artist like Plympton. This may be only released to his kickstarter backers this year and then 2017 to mass public. Not sure on a release date.

reveanganceGirl Without Hands- I couldn’t find when GKIDS is releasing this but it is based on the Grimm Brothers tale of a man who makes a deal with the devil and it costs his daughter great pain. It debuted at Cannes and reviews said it is “minimalist but artistically complex” and “each shimmering frame is composed of multiple layers of diverse drawing and painting techniques and washes of color combined with 2D computer animation.” That’s enough to get my interest!

girl without handsCan we just take a second and give GKIDS a round of applause. They are responsible for distributing 4 of these releases and have already had 3 tremendous offerings this year. As excited I am for a film like Moana, I am equally excited for these amazing independent animated films. What a great, rich time to be an animation fan!

So I hope you will put these films on your radar and give a few of the smaller offerings a shot. Let your local theater know you want to see them. That’s what I do. I’ve actually developed a relationship with my local independent theater and when I see a trailer for a film that looks interesting I let them know. If they don’t come by you look for them on VOD and DVD. It’s worth it!

Also try and keep an open mind about films like Storks, Trolls and The Wild Life. Sure we can point out their flaws, but I find very few films are truly rant worthy and when they are they have deserved it because I was rooting for them.

What say you? Are you excited for these films? What smaller films intrigue you the most?