2020 Reviews 2020s

Despite Its Many Flaws, Artemis Fowl is Still Watchable

The film that got Judy Dench to dress in all green and say “top of the morning” with a straight face.

There is no denying that Artemis Fowl is a bad movie, but it is – dare I say – still watchable. I find the ultimate bad or “trash” movie the kind that is completely unwatchable, has me repeatedly checking how much time is left in its duration, and has no redeeming qualities. With that being said, Artemis Fowl has plenty of cringe moments focused around poor dialogue, questionable acting choices, and lousy storytelling.

Kenneth Branagh’s latest was already off to a bad start when it opened with Josh Gad, who forces a deep, raspy voice that is inconsistent for most of the movie. Tonally, the opening scene is all over the place. The intrigue Branagh wants to create with Gad’s character, Mulch Diggums, is shattered by lame jokes, Gad’s unnatural deep voice, and the over-the-top interrogation cinematography. Branagh wants to have a Mission: Impossible-esque introduction, trying to be cooler than it is to appeal to a wide audience, when it should have embraced the fantastical elements. There are fairies, dwarves, and trolls in Artemis Fowl, this isn’t Catch Me If You Can, so own it. The sheer fact the character’s name is Mulch Diggums should have resulted in the Mission: Impossible approach being left on the drawing room floor.

This approach to be cool and edgy is also spread to the lead character of Artemis Fowl Jr., a supposed genius, who is a spoiled and mostly arrogant pre-teen that fancies himself some sort of James Bond. When he’s talking to his principal I was immediately reminded of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, who shares the quality with Artemis that they immediately think they’re the smartest person in the room and not afraid to let others know. The difference here though, is this is one of our first scenes with Artemis. Instead of playing for this trait for laughs like in The Big Bang Theory, we’re supposed to be impressed, which I was not. I thought Artemis was an entitled brat who thinks he’s better than everyone else, which I suppose he is and does, but Branagh shouldn’t have me feel this way about him right away. It could work if Artemis was going to have a redeeming moment where he realizes how he acts and that he’s wrong to be that way. However, that moment never comes.

I think the only winners for the film are the visual effects team, camera department, editor Matthew Tucker, and Lara McDonnell’s charming performance as Holly Short. Some of the actors leave a lot to be desired, some more than others, but they’re mostly fine within the movie. In their defense, for almost all of the actors, the screenplay does not give them much to work with. 

I think it’s possible Artemis Fowl would have had the same effect if you watched it on mute. The story is all over the place and it doesn’t always make sense, but at least it has attractive visuals. Call me crazy, but I found myself thinking about the feel of the film that the visuals created the next day. Obviously, I’m still thinking of them now as I write this. As an editor, Matthew Tucker made the film flow well for the most part, even though it probably didn’t have any right to. 

Branagh and his team did manage to create an atmosphere that I found myself enjoying and wouldn’t mind entering again. I just wish Branagh and the writers managed to tell a more cohesive story.


2020 Reviews 2020s

Scoob! is a Total Misfire

I am not sure if me not writing on Scoob! until now is due to my busy schedule or my apprehension towards diving back into the giant misfire. I watched Scoob! the night it had its “Home Premiere” and haven’t written anything about it until now. Of course, I could have just rated the movie and tried to forget about it, but I felt I needed to air out – or maybe rather rant about – some of my frustrations with it.

I admit, I didn’t have high hopes. Scoob! can be filed under “Movies That Looked Worse and Worse From Trailers.” When I was growing up, I loved Scooby-Doo Where Are You! and would rewatch episodes all the time. If I were to rank my favorite animated shows from my childhood it would probably be in my Top 5. 

Nostalgia is a powerful thing and many major companies are trying to prey on it, especially Disney. I like to refrain from being cynical and believe that when these reboots come out and don’t live up to what we knew growing up, we are still able to fondly remember what came before. Although, in Scoob!‘s case you can’t exactly call it a reboot because new episodes still air on Cartoon Network with Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?. Unfortunately, whenever I remember Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! I can almost guarantee I will remember how disappointing Scoob! was.

Scoob! comes across as a giant cash grab, but any animated movie that tries to appeal beyond kids to Gen-X, millenials AND older zoomers through nostalgia definitely is. I imagine the board meeting at Warner Bros. going something along the lines of them trying to come up with a new animated movie, tossing away “risky” original screenplays, and going with an already established property with no real heart or love behind it. The fact that Scooby-Doo is currently making new episodes on Cartoon Network makes it even more obvious they wanted to appeal beyond children to capitalize on profits.

I have no idea what the thought process was behind Scoob!‘s screenplay. I remember Scooby-Doo as a group of teenagers or young adults solving mysteries. What I don’t remember is Scooby-Doo being an adventure show that featured Greek mythology. I have no idea why Scoob! functions like a Despicable Me movie with the characters from Scooby-Doo and whatever other Hanna-Barbera characters Warner Animation Group could cram into it. I would say Scoob! is about as bad as it gets when it comes to “nostalgia-baiting.” 

Oh, did you like Scooby-Doo, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, AND Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels growing up? Well don’t worry, we’ll find a way to shove them all into one movie to appease you and try to set up spin-offs.

What makes me most mad about Scoob! is it’s not a Scooby-Doo movie, it’s an animated movie that features characters from Scooby-Doo. Where was the mystery? I think the reason there isn’t a mystery is because the writers at Warner Bros. didn’t want to have to come up with one. But they certainly found a way to feature lame jokes that reference Netflix and IKEA. 

For a movie that tries to appeal to not just children, it feels very much like something that will only appeal to children. It’s generic and uninspired. Almost all of the jokes are for kids. The only part I truly enjoyed was the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! opening homage. The rest of the movie I’m just trying to forget.


2020 Reviews 2020s

The Willoughbys (2020)

The Willoughbys is a soulless animation hiding behind bright colors and a cotton candy aesthetic. While watching, I was reminded of watching Storks, but The Willoughbys lacks any strong comedic moments. It tries hard to evoke the warmness found in a Pixar film, but by forcing it the film becomes an empty shell.

Tonally, The Willoughbys is all over the place. I don’t think it ever fully works. The plot is dark and the film never showcases its self-awareness. The Willoughby children try to get their parents killed, but the mere act of it is presented in such an oddly playful way. The film might have felt less jarring if it embraced its dark themes and gave us something like Coraline.

Trying to do a lot, but never successfully compiling all of its intentions together, The Willoughbys is a disappointing animation from Netflix. The film may have pretty visuals, but it lacks a heart.


1960s Oldies

Tom Jones (1963)

Of the Best Picture winners I have seen so far, Tom Jones has got to be one of my least favorite. I can understand why it probably won. It was bold at the time, a little experimental, and different approach to the typical British period piece. When you watch it now, in 2020, it doesn’t work the way it must have back then. Since 1963, we’ve gotten many comedic and bold period pieces that stay faithful to the genre as much as they draw attention to it and make fun of it.

Tony Richardson and screenwriter John Osborne were definitely having fun. They use several wipe transitions, there’s plenty of iris shots, and they break the fourth wall quite a few times. By the time the credits roll, it feels like Richardson has done just about anything and everything. He even starts the film out like it’s a silent film. As much as I admire the ‘let’s just have fun’ approach, it doesn’t always make for an intelligible film.

Tom Jones felt chaotic and nonsensical to me. The cinematography is certainly interesting, but it sometimes feels like the shots were all put in a blender and that’s how they got the edit. The cinematography and editing at times felt like absolute chaos. I realize that was part of the point, but it didn’t work for me. I don’t think their approach complemented the setting, acting, or story for that matter.

I found myself constantly checking my watch. I struggled during the first half, mildly enjoyed the third quarter, and limped during the last quarter to the finish line. Tom Jones is a little over two hours, but it felt like it was over three hours long. I’ve never been a fan of quick, short scenes. I’ve noticed that they can often result in a movie feeling longer if not executed well. There are some points in Tom Joneswhere Richardson and Osborne bounce from scene to scene quickly like it’s a tennis match. The pacing is so inconsistent that watching Tom Jones was exhausting.

When I look back on Tom Jones I still don’t really understand what it wanted to be. I know it wants to be a comedy, but why? There are other times it seems like it doesn’t want to be one. Oftentimes Tom Jones doesn’t transition well from scene to scene tonally. There are hints of biting satire and social commentary in there, but it commits way more to being a late-night comedy, overshadowing its other possible intentions.

When I look at Tom Jones through that lens, I simply didn’t find it that funny. I didn’t find the situations that funny, the techniques felt forced sometimes to overcompensate from what was on the screen, and you can only see a man-child sleep with women so many times for comedic purposes. Much of Tom Jones feels very sexist.

It’s hard to try to watch Tom Jones for anything other than for its potential comedic value because the characters are pretty unlikable. They’re all pretty terrible people and you probably won’t root for them. They also receive no consequences for their actions. Tom Jones is practically rewarded for his misogyny and narcissism. I’m growing so tired of watching movies of entitled rich people being entitled and rich without any consequence.

Even though I didn’t enjoy Tom Jones at least that’s one less Best Picture winner I have left to watch now.

2020 Reviews

Onward is Exactly What Pixar Needed

There’s been questions regarding Pixar over the last few years related to its direction. Why are they only doing sequels now? Do they not have enough creativity anymore to produce more original ideas? OK, maybe this has just been troubling me, but I’m very passionate about Pixar. The studio that I adored growing up, that I’m sure was incredibly influential to me growing up, caught the sequel bug. Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, Toy Story (2,3,4) and lastly, Cars (2&3) are the sequels we’ve gotten. There was even a – gasp – prequel with Monsters University. Many of those sequels are very good, but they weren’t the new characters and stories we were inclined to expect from them.

Even though we got the beloved Coco and Inside Out, Pixar has started to feel like a factory pumping out sequels. So, when we get something like Onward, it is a breath of fresh air.

Onward is exactly what I thought we were going to get from Brave: a quest/adventure story. The quest isn’t the best you’ll ever see – it’s still rooted in the storyworld’s reality, so don’t expect off-the-wall moments – but the physical journey isn’t what the movie is really about. Getting to hang out with Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) on their Weekend at Bernie’s road trip is where the real fun is to be had. There are many funny moments – my favorite being the car chase with the pixies – but the dynamic you get to see between Ian and Barley and half of their dad is where the film’s true strength lies.

Over the years, Pixar has shown us that they can expertly give us movies that appeal to kids and adults. There are almost always adult themes that will go over the heads of children, but Onward might be one of the few where there is a bridge over the gap between the adult and child themes.

Pixar gives us the first animation I can think of that is about brotherhood and the relationship a younger brother can have with their older brother. They show the type of relationship two brothers can have and avoids the typical mean older brother vs. younger brother dynamic we normally see. I believe that when young children see this movie they may be able to pick up on the type of positive relationship two brothers can have.

The most heartbreaking and touching moment comes from a great act of selflessness that Ian does. I won’t spoil the movie, but I will never forget the image of Ian looking on (this will make sense after you’ve seen the movie). I can see this moment being one of my favorites of the year and it’s only March. Ian’s act of selflessness is another great message for children and complements its brotherhood theme in an excellent way.

Onward is a fantastic and emotional ride. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt are perfectly cast and never feel like they’re only voicing their characters solely because of being A-list stars and members of the Avengers.

Go see this while it’s still in theaters.


2020 Reviews

Fantasy Island Isn’t Actually That Bad

During its opening weekend I caught Fantasy Island, or rather, Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island, just in case you somehow get it confused with the 1970s-80s television show. After seeing it I was honestly a little surprised by the incredibly low score on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Is it shallow? Yeah. Was it supposed to be? Possibly. Does it sometimes appear to lack focus? Yes. Does that sometimes make it more interesting? Also yes.

I’ve noticed a trend over the years that when a movie is hated or highly disliked, critics will take it and run with it (think Cats). There’s also a good chance they’ll pretend to hate it more than they probably do. Hate generates clicks. Passionate love, casual admiration, or even indifference does not. It’s probably why “cancel culture” has become a thing. You gotta love film journalism these days.

Is Fantasy Island one of the worst movies ever? No. I don’t understand critics’ fascination with movies being the worst movie they’ve ever seen beyond the fact it gets more clicks. I’ve seen far worse movies than Fantasy Island. One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in the theater is Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) and it certainly isn’t close to being that bad.

There are a few issues with Fantasy Island that I’ve seen consistently pop up with reviews. Its tone is one of them. Like I addressed at the start of the review, it does seem to lack focus. It’s hard to figure out what kind of movie it wants to be and it seems to want to be everything. For example, it wants to be a comedy, a romance, and a horror. The tone does shift often, but I never found it too jarring.

The movie shifts tones when it switches between each character’s fantasy, which makes sense. Maggie Q’s character Gwen wants a second chance with a former boyfriend so her fantasy is romantic. Randall, played by Austin Stowell, wants to play soldier so his fantasy is Predator-esque. When you have each character have a different fantasy it’s not an outlandish approach to have them dictate the tone of the scene and have that tone change from scene to scene based off of the fantasy. I think that from a viewing standpoint the movie is more interesting because of that because it’s an approach that we don’t see often. With that being said, I don’t think it works well in terms of the movie flowing effortlessly.

Yeah, there are some lame jokes in there (i.e. holograms), but they aren’t any dumber than other PG-13 jokes from horror movies. I fail to see anything here that Fantasy Island does worse than other movies from its genre that warrants it being hated as much as it was. One thing they actually do better is I think the backstories for the characters’ fantasies are slightly more complex than I expected from a PG-13 horror. Besides that, most of the other aspects of the film vary from mediocre to slightly below mediocre. I thought the ending was lame, therefore bad, but that’s the only thing that comes to mind right now with anything being outright bad. Fantasy Island‘s foremost problem is that it’s shallow and forgettable like many PG-13 horrors these days.

I started writing this review two weeks ago for my initial thoughts of the film. At that time critics were talking about how this was one of the worst movies they had ever seen and everyone was hating on it for fun. Now, a week later, no one cares anymore. I don’t know if this says more about people’s love to hate on things they don’t truly hate for impressions or if it shows how fast the news cycle is. Or maybe it’s a result of how forgettable Fantasy Island actually is.

If everyone has already stopped talking about it more than a week after its release, was it really that bad?


2016 Reviews

Hardcore Henry (2016)

Innovative and action-packed, Hardcore Henry does not disappoint. The film is shot entirely from first person point of view and because of that, has some very cool and engaging cinematography. The best way to describe Hardcore Henry is that it feels like you’re watching someone else play a video game. Everything about Hardcore Henry screams video game, especially its story structure, which happens to be the film’s major flaw. The story is overly simplistic. It begins with Henry having a single mission and then evolves into him trying to work with Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) to take down Akan (Danila Kozlovsky). Having a simple story isn’t always a problem, but it is when the dialogue is poor and seems like an afterthought at times. Hardcore Henry is certainly a lot of fun for lovers of action movies, but don’t go see it if you’re looking for a strong story.



2016 Reviews

Allegiant (2016)

Allegiant is another misfire for the Divergent Series. The story is fairly uninteresting and appears to take way too much from other dystopian movies. Allegiant feels very much like The Giver meets Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. There’s nothing new or exciting in Allegiant. Not to mention, it lacks any real surprises.


2016 Reviews

Zootopia (2016)

Zootopia is a very important film. Disney’s latest animation Zootopia teaches kids about racism by telling a story of a rabbit who dreams of being a cop. Not only does it have a great message, but it also has an intriguing story and is packed with plenty of humor and charm. Even if its target audience is kids, you should definitely consider seeing it if you’re an adult. Zootopia is a lot of fun!


2016 Reviews

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool is a nice change of pace when compared to other superhero movies.  For once we got a R-rated superhero movie that had a character with a foul mouth.  Like the opening credits say, the writers are the real heroes of this movie.  They wrote a film full of funny jokes, plenty of destructions of the fourth wall, and action sequences that worked on a modest budget.  The writers were very restricted, but they made it work.  However, I think Ryan Reynolds does not get enough credit.  Ryan Reynolds is arguably better than he has ever been as Deadpool.