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

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.


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!


2015 Reviews

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

The Good Dinosaur may not be the best Pixar movie of the year, but it’s still one of the better animations of the year.  What makes The Good Dinosaur so interesting is how conventional and unconventional it is.  The way its story is structured is much like other animations, but what makes it different is how dark the film gets at times.  There are moments the movie feels a little too adult for kids, but that is one of the elements of the film that I like so much.  For example, you actually see Arlo form wounds that actually look unpleasant.  There are too many animations that are way too kid-friendly.  Another trait of the film I really enjoyed is how quiet and peaceful the film is at times.  The gorgeous animation style and the sound design combine to form a calming film.

The Good Dinosaur is worth watching!


2015 Reviews

Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out is one of Pixar’s greatest films so far.  It is perhaps Pixar’s most creative and clever.  With that in mind, I have to say it is their least kid-friendly film.  Not due to dark themes or adult content, but because Inside Out makes much more of an impact if you understand the jokes and concepts.  Children can understand the adventure aspect of the film, but there is so much more to Inside Out.  The film is incredibly touching.  It’ll make you laugh and also cry.  Phyllis Smith stands out contributing her voice to Sadness.

If you like Pixar, Disney, or movies in general, you need to see this movie!


2015 Reviews

Tomorrowland (2015)

Unleash your imagination.  If you leave Tomorrowland with one thing, it’ll probably be that message. Tomorrowland feels very much like a Disney movie from long ago and reminds you what Disney used to be all about: inspiring people (especially children) to use their imagination for greatness.  The movie follows Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), an optimistic teenager with dreams of making the world a better place.  When she is given a mysterious pin that shows her a beautiful place, her life changes in a big way.

Instead of watching Tomorrowland, I feel like I experienced it.  I felt like I was on an adventure.  This is an accomplishment for a movie that is not even presented in 3D.  The acting is very strong and young actress Raffey Cassidy stands tall next to George Clooney and Britt Robertson as Athena.

Tomorrowland tells a wonderful story, perfect for the whole family.  This movie is for everyone.  It was refreshing to see a movie where characters were trying to stop a poor future, rather than just trying to deal with it.  I cannot tell you enough how much I enjoyed this movie.

Go see this movie now!