Current Mini Reviews

So it is time again for one of my current mini reviews wrap up! As per usual this won’t include any films I did a full review for but I only  have so much time so mini reviews will have to do for some films!

Make sure you check out my podcast where me and my friends dive into all kinds of content including television like Doctor Who, monthly Talking Disney and Obscure Animation, animated news and movie previews and wrap-ups.

So let’s talk about the movies I’ve seen!

superhero girls atlantis

DC Super Hero Girls: Legend of Atlantis-

I’ve  really enjoyed the previous 2 DCSHG films and while this wasn’t as strong it was still an enjoyable outing for our girls. This film is about a Book of Legends being stolen from Super Hero High so the girls go under water to Atlantis where they meet Mira and Siren and fight the thief. The animation is very bright and colorful. The voice work is great. It’s empowering and has a nice message. If you have kids, they will love it.

Smile Worthy

71 out of 119

goosebumps2

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween-

I actually enjoyed the first Goosebumps film more than most (but I have no attachment to the original books) and while this was not as bad as the trailers made it look it wasn’t particularly strong. It particularly suffered from the comparison to the recent House with a Clock in Its Walls, which I greatly enjoyed. If you find it on cable it’s harmless but a little of the ventriloquist dummy Snappy goes a long way. I’d say there is about 45 minutes of the movie where Snappy is the only villain. Jack Black is hardly in the movie. It just wasn’t very creative or fun scary.

Frown Worthy

80 out of 119

liz and the blue bird

Liz and the Blue Bird-

One of my favorite films of 2017 is Naoka Yamada’s A Silent Voice. It was a beautiful, emotional movie about the relationship between an ex-bully and the deaf girl he seeks forgiveness from. Naturally, I was very excited for Yamada’s next effort Liz and the Blue Bird and it’s a good movie but it didn’t wow me like I hoped it would. It’s about 2 girls who are part of a band (part of an anime series called Sound Emporium). It was a little unclear what their relationship is but there were touching moments and the fairytale (told alongside the main story) of Liz and a mystical blue bird is lovely. As I said in my longer review for rotoscopers.com “while it is not in the same league as A Silent Voice, it is as sweet and pleasant film that’s worth a watch”

Smile Worthy

55 out of 119

mfkz

MFKZ-

Now I admit I didn’t really do my homework on this movie. I knew it was an R rated film but I didn’t know what MFKZ met and I think the advertising was a little deceptive (it means something NSFW). If I had done the research I usually do I wouldn’t have seen it; however, I did, and I hated it! It’s not that the movie has adult themes. I’m fine with that. The problem is the story is complete chaos. Nothing makes sense. Everything is flying at you and assaulting your eyes (and ears). It was exhausting. I know some people think chaos is creative but it usually is just chaos to me. This year I really enjoyed a movie called The Night is Short Walk on Girl which is bonkers crazy but there is still enough consistency with the characters, character design and tone that it worked for me. This was just miserable.

Frown Worthy

111 out of 119

tito-and-the-birds

Tito and the Birds

I actually got the chance to interview the director and producer of this beautiful animated film over on rotoscopers. It is a dystopian story about a world where fear is a disease. This fear spreads quickly through the town and the children are left to try and find the antidote.  The animation style has an oil painting aesthetic that is unique and beautiful. The message can get a little heavy handed at times, but I still enjoyed it. Wouldn’t be surprised if it comes up as an indie animated film nod for this year’s Oscars.

Smile Worthy

27 out of 119

nightschool

Night School-

I’m one of the few people who thought the trailer for Night School looked funny. I enjoy Kevin Hart on occasion and it seemed like a cute premise. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the film. Tiffany Haddish continues to not impress me (I realize I haven’t seen Girls Trip). Her character is shrill and overbearing (and worst of all not funy). It was rough!

Frown Worthy

107 out of 119

nutcracker and the 4 realms

The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms-

I was really pulling for this movie for a couple of reasons. First, if it was good it might encourage Disney to make more creative films over their remakes. Second, there has never been a good Nutcracker movie and as a huge Christmas movie fan that’s a problem. Honestly the best Nutcracker movie is Barbie as Nutcracker (for real). This movie had almost no conflict and the visuals were not unique or fun enough to save it on their own. There are long segments where Clara is just watching things happening (literally on stage). Then she is told what to do in long scenes of exposition. It just couldn’t escape from the weight of its own boredom.

Frown Worthy

98 out of 119

Freddie Mercury

Bohemian Rhapsody-

I know the production history of this film was rocky but my love for Queen and their music still had me hopeful a serviceable biopic would come out of all that mess. Unfortunately the songs and a good lead performance are the only things to recommend this pedestrian effort. The script was terrible especially the dialogue. It reminded me of one of those music biopic movies they used to have on VH1. Some might argue they had to keep it predictable because they were dealing with true events but they didn’t even stick to the true events so that’s no excuse. I refuse to believe that an icon like Freddie Mercury was this bland and by the numbers rockstar we’ve seen a million times. I was very frustrated while watching this film. Save your money or watch A Star is Born again. It may be fictional but it reads way more real and nuanced than this film

Frown Worthy

101 out of 119

holiday calendar

The Holiday Calendar-

You guys know I love Christmas movies and The Holiday Calendar is one of Netflix’s holiday offerings this year. It’s about a woman who gets a magical advent calendar that predicts good things happening in her life. This is very predictable, but I thought it was sweet. I particularly liked the lead guy Quincy Brown. They keep the lead girl, Kat Graham, a little too unlikable for too long, but I still overall enjoyed it.

Smile Worthy

67 out of 119

jane and emma2

Jane and Emma-

This is a faith-based film about the relationship between Emma Smith (Prophet Joseph Smith’s wife) and a black convert named Jane Manning. It zips around all over their relationship while remaining grounded on the night before Joseph’s funeral as they were caring and protecting the body. I think non-Latter-day Saints might found some elements strange but it is written by Melissa Leilani, who I have interviewed, and she did a good job developing the characters. The acting is also solid and affecting. It’s well made and something I think all of my faith should see. Emma deserves her moment of vindication this film gives her. Many of my church have long vilified her for not going West and that’s not fair. Plus, Jane’s story is fascinating as she faces  some persecution for being black from Saints who were at the same time being persecuted.

Smile Worthy

38 out of 119

So there you have it! The latest slate of mini reviews. Let me know what you think of them and my rankings. How would you rank them? Is there anything I haven’t seen which you would recommend (I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with Hallmark stuff as of late). I would love to have your recommendations!

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Consider the Audience

As I’ve been watching all these Disney movies a thought has struck me which I want to present to all of you.  When is a movie just not made for me? What responsibility does a movie have to please a general audience verses a niche group?

On first glance it seems like there are movies that entertain every demographic.  Pixar films are often brought up.  However, even their movies have typically pleased some audiences more than others.  For instance, Toy Story 3 was universally praised by critics and most audiences, but my nieces found the ending with the incinerator to be too upsetting. They didn’t like it at all.

Toy_Story_3_incinerator_scene_screenshotSo should they have taken the incinerator scene out because it upset my nieces?  Well, that depends who they are  making a movie for? As my nieces were a secondary audience, not the primary the scene stays and is actually a very profound, tense and exciting moment for most viewers.

This invites lots of interesting questions.  In fact, my thoughts are very scattered on the topic and I’m struggling to focus them in a coherent way.

Here’s some points to consider:

Small audiences need and deserve stories for them.

barbie movies

Let’s face it.  We live in a world where movies are the predominant storytelling device of our age.  More so than books and I still think more so than TV, especially for children.  So imagine how difficult is to be say 3 or 4 and hear about all the exciting movies your brothers and sisters get to see.  Things like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings that are not appropriate for your age group.   Even most Disney movies are not made for the smallest kids.

Tinker-Bell-Movie-Three-Pack

That’s what makes it nice when movies are made for these toddler to preschool age audience.  For example, the Barbie movies, Tinker Bell movies are made for girls 3-7 and for that demographic they are made very well.  I haven’t seen all of them but the one’s I have were engaging and very well done.  Now a 50 year old movie critic could tear them apart but they aren’t made for him, so who cares?  (I’d give boy examples but I only have nieces so don’t know any). I think it is great girls have their own franchises and films to get excited about and learn from.  That’s great!

An even more narrow audience for movies is the toddler age.  Part of this is because 1-3 aged children can’t sit for the length of a movie.  This is one reason I loved the 2011 Winnie the Pooh movie.  I don’t want to give away my review but it is a rare Hollywood movie made for very small children.  First of all, it is extremely short.  It has simple ideas and plot but lovingly told.  Even the other Winnie the Pooh movies I have seen are too scary and usually too long for toddlers. It uses repetition and is friendly and happy, which toddlers love.  The music is hummable and sweet.

I can’t even think of other movies for toddlers, which are even made, and even fewer that are made well (Curious George movie was a good one that gets a lot of flack from those outside its intended audience).  Most entertainment for toddlers is television (and I don’t think toddlers should spend much time in front of the TV if any but most parents need a moment or two for a break.  Let’s be honest!).   Should these shows worry about being entertaining to teenage boys or 2o year old college students?  No.  That’s not their audience!

toddlersAnother example of a narrow audience is religious films . With the affordability of digital film-making, movies can be made for a smaller audience and still be profitable.  This gives us movies like the evangelical films of Kirk Cameron or the Mormon films made for my faith.

mormonShould someone making a Mormon film worry about pleasing an Evangelical or an Atheist?  No, that isn’t their audience.  Any movie who tried to make all religious groups happy would have a tall order.  It could be done with good writing but there is something nice about having a movie made, telling a story just from my religious perspective.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Now is an audience an excuse to making a bad film? No. If anything you should put more effort into telling a story for your smaller audience.  It should be even better than the average Hollywood schlock because you have a more narrow window of people to appeal too.  That’s why I hate when people say ‘it’s for kids’ as if that somehow means it is stupid.  The best kids movies inspire their creativity and imagination.  The best Mormon films make me want to be a better person (and I’ll be honest I’m not the biggest fan of most of them).

It angers me when I can tell filmmakers of any genre are being lazy.  Your audience, no matter how narrow, deserve a good effort.  (For the record, I feel the same way about Michael Bay movies.  His audiences deserve more of an effort to make a good film).   I should be able to walk away from a movie and say ‘well, that didn’t work for me but I can see who they were trying to reach and how some could enjoy it’.

Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame_gargoyles

Another problem we can have is when a movie doesn’t understand its audience.

Hunchback of Notre Dame is a perfect example.  Even its defenders usually admit it is a mature film not for small children.  But the studio still wanted it to be for small children and their families so they threw in kidlike violence and humor which ruined the movie.  It’s way too dark for these kids and the immature moments are off-putting for adults.  It makes it a tonal mess and a frustrating experience.  If they had just said ‘you know what . This movie is for adults’ like Pans Labyrinth or even the later Harry Potter films it would have been a favorite of mine.  As it is I just can’t endorse it.   Trying to appeal to the wrong audience, or too many audiences, ruined the film.

We can also have films who have a main and secondary audience.  This is what Pixar does well.  Children are the primary audience with parents being the secondary.  This makes sense since both are usually at the theater watching (a lot of the age specific films I listed above are direct to DVD which is probably the best way to appeal to some audiences). What I personally hate is when the secondary audience sullies the primary, or takes over the tone and feel of the film.  This was my issue with the Shrek movies . Instead of a few jokes, the innuendo is so strong the films feel vulgar to me.  I honestly hate them.

So, the priority is making a good movie but in order for that to happen filmmakers must ask themselves ‘who is my audience?’  and we as filmgoers need to be willing to say ‘this just isn’t made for me’.  It’s not bad for a film to be made for toddlers or any other demographic.  That is very good because they can participate with us in this great storytelling device of the movies.

All audiences deserve quality and to have movies made for them to enjoy.