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.


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.


2010-19 Reviews 2019 Reviews

Cats is NOT the Worst Movie You’ll Ever See, But it’s Not Great

Well… Cats surely is something.

It’s very easy to pick on Cats and everyone has stormed the Internet in masses to do so ever since the first trailer aired many months prior to its release. At the time, I had held out hope that Cats was going to be a good movie. Tom Hooper directed Les Miserables (2012) and that was very good, so maybe this would be too. Cats seemed to have potential. The trailer, although not perfect, showed some promise and was enhanced by Jennifer Hudson’s powerful voice.

The hate coming from the first trailer could be attributed to its somewhat new technological approach (cats, but with human faces!) which made it easily meme-able for Internet trolls and other people farming for impressions. And people wonder why Hollywood never tries anything new. However, leading up to its release, like Dolittle (2020), the more dialogue you started to see from the movie, the worse it looked. Therefore, when the movie was finally released and critically panned, it didn’t come as much as a surprise to me. What I wonder though is, if it was actually good, average, or even intended for a very, very small audience to be enjoyed, would the hate had still been there because it’s so easy to make fun of and hating things is the Internet’s favorite pastime? I guess we’ll never know…

Cats has many, many problems and it deserved the criticism it deserved. I’m not denying that, but there are some good moments in it. Cats isn’t the total dumpster file you were led to believe. Sure, the first thirty minutes might be the worst thirty minutes of a movie I’ve seen in a long time, but the film is not all bad.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many things done so bad and so well in one movie. They had high quality actors and some of them give poor performances. Cats signifies a career low for James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellan, and Ray Winstone. The only actors who come out fully unscathed (in my opinion) are Francesca Hayward and Jennifer Hudson. Most of the musical numbers and songs are lame, but there are two that are compelling and one that is a blast. Francesca Haywood singing “Beautiful Ghosts (Victoria’s Song” (a song that deserved an Oscar nomination more than other songs nominated this year) and Jennifer Hudson singing “Memory” are the emotional high points of the movie. Steven McRae singing and tap-dancing “Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat” is just pure fun. Third, for the most part, the visual effects are very impressive, but there are other times they look awful.

Just to keep it simple, some of the actors are good, but most of them give performances below their talent. The visual effects are great the majority of the time and bad all the other times. I guess you could say consistency is the main problem for Cats. I think Tom Hooper may have bitten off more than he could chew in regards to how much time he had to make the film and the amount of money he was allotted. It’s possible that the technology to make Cats is not yet at the level it needed to be to fulfill Hooper’s vision. Nevertheless, I respect him for taking a risk.

I find it hard to understand how Cats is even a compelling musical because although Cats feels like a film and not a recording of stage performance, the film still feels very theatrical. This is partially due to the difficulty – I’m sure – of the visual effects for the settings as well as the actors themselves, but even as a film it feels very much like watching a play, which doesn’t work for it. Cats does have its moments and breaks from its minimal locations, but the story, performances, and conversations that take place are not compelling enough to sustain its low number of settings.

Yeah, Cats is bad, but it’s not the worst movie you’ll ever see. At the end of the day, at least we got to see Hayward and Hudson sing, as well as Steven McRae dancing and singing along railway tracks.


2015 Reviews

Pan (2015)

Pan fails to be a necessary revisit of Peter Pan.  The movie never knows what it wants to be.  One of its greatest weaknesses is not knowing if it wants to be a darker Peter Pan movie or a movie geared towards children.  The film’s overall look may be mature, but its story and dialogue say otherwise.  There are too many goofy, cringe-worthy lines and the narrative is juvenile.  The filmmakers never found a balance between kid-friendly and adult.  As a result, the movie seems like it is not really for anyone.

Something that is frustrating about Pan is how much is brought to the table and how little is explored.  A possible romance between Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) is an example of something the filmmakers added that is so underdeveloped and unmotivated that the audience does not care.  It is hard for the audience to care about anything in Pan because the filmmakers keep introducing new things and possibilities, only to throw them away almost immediately.

I advise you skip Pan.


2015 Reviews

Minions (2015)

Illumination Entertainment struck gold when they first created the Minions.  The adorable, charismatic creatures are hilarious.  Minions is not a monumental victory nor does it feel new.  However, the Minions carry the movie in the best way possible.  Kevin, Stuart, and Bob drive a fun, humorous journey.  It will definitely put a smile on your face.

You should see Minions if you liked Despicable Me.


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!


2015 Reviews

Cinderella (2015)

It’s hard to tackle a story everyone already knows.  That is exactly what director Kenneth Branagh did when he took on the job to direct the live-action version of the classic tale of Cinderella.  The story is updated slightly and expands more on Cinderella’s story.  What I personally enjoyed about Branagh’s version is that the movie does not drag at key points of Cinderella’s story, which would have been tiresome for those of us who already know the story.  The movie travels at a fine pace.

The enchanting colors and production design in Cinderella nicely complement its wondrous cinematography.  The filmmakers create a world that many people would want to explore.  Lily James is delightful as Cinderella and Cate Blanchett delivers as her wicked stepmother.  Although the movie is kid-friendly, it is not childish.  Cinderella is a movie for the whole family and one you should consider watching!


2015 Reviews

Paddington (2015)

Paddington is a touching film that is fun for the whole family.  The film may be aimed towards kids, but it contains several clever jokes that adults can enjoy.  Its emphasis on family also contributes to its universal appeal.  I found the film greatly creative and enjoyed some of the ways Paddington used visual effects.  Using the dollhouse to tell the audience about the family was particularly enchanting.  Hugh Bonneville shows his humorous side and delivers a delightful performance as Mr. Brown.  Ben Whishaw does a wonderful job bringing life to the bear that is Paddington.  I highly recommend Paddington to all families.