Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Review: Street Dancer 3D

Release date: January 24, 2020
Running time: 146 minutes
Starring: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Prabhu Deva

Street Dancer 3D is the third movie in an Indian dancing series.  The first two films were released as ABCD: Any Body Can Dance and ABCD 2.  In the third film, the Street Dancers have now successfully created a dance studio but are still dancing on the streets of London.  However, a new, young Pakistani dance group challenges them, leading to a conflict of not just dance styles, but of nationalities.  These groups enter an underground dance competition with a large grand prize, but do either of them have enough to take on the undisputed British champion Royals?  

If the plot sounds ridiculous, well it is.  This is a dance movie, first and foremost, and the plot is simply there to drive the dancing forward.  It provides a loose structure to have intense dance battles, varied locations and costumes, and plenty of slow motion dance moves--sometimes in the rain.  The dance battles themselves are fun to watch.  Although the earlier battles are not the most involved, the battles during the underground competition are the appropriate level of grandiose, with some larger than life moves and effects to move the beat along.  On top of this, each dance battle has a new set of coordinated costumes, great choreography, and plenty of twists and turns (literally and figuratively) to keep the dancing interesting.

The cast of Street Dancer 3D is also enjoyable.  They are diverse, with plenty of dancers and dance styles to keep the film varied.  Many characters from the previous films return, along with some new faces to keep the story fresh.  And the costume design is bright and colorful when needed.  Where the film misses a beat is in its greater social message.  This movie pivots at the start to a movie about the plight of immigrants in Britain and a lesson in haves vs. have nots.  It is a good message, but the film delivers it in a heavy-handed way.  It really tries to tug at your heart strings and ends up feeling very forced.  Again, I like the overall message but it feels like this could have been delivered more subtly.  On top of this, the movie also inserts a certain amount of nationalistic pride in the rivalry of the Indian crew and the Pakistani crew, which is off-putting at first but resolves itself as the film progresses.  And finally, the plot is ridiculous, as you would expect, but that is par for the course in dance movies.  

Street Dancer 3D takes on the world with intense and grandiose dance battles from some immensely talented performers. 

Rent It

Deal: Rent The Farewell for 99 cents

Check out the amazing movie that was snubbed by the Oscars.  It is 98% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and is a heartwarming and heart wrenching look at a family dealing with very terrible news.  It explores differences in cultures and generations and has some wonderful acting.

Right now you can rent the Farewll on Amazon, Vudu, or iTunes for just 99 cents.  However, it is going free with prime on February 12, so if you have Amazon Prime and can hold out two weeks, you can watch it for free.  Thanks to Slickdeals for the original posting about this deal!

Friday, January 24, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: January 24, 2020

In Theaters: The Gentlemen
The Gentlemen is classic Guy Ritchie: a fantastic cast acting in a complicated crime caper fueled by Ritchie's amazing style and sharp, clever writing.  For more information, check out our review!

In Theaters: Weathering With You
Weathering With You is an absolutely stunning film with amazing animation, incredible weather effects, and moving music that combine to tell a beautiful, heartfelt story.  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Zombieland: Double Tap
The crew is finally back and ready for rental!  Zombieland: Double Tap is a satisfying sequel to the original cult classic, with an all star cast (including fantastic new additions) and laugh out loud comedy.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Starz): Brightburn
The dark, horror inspired Superman origin story is an interesting take that is tense but also fun to watch.  It doesn't quite deliver but it is an original superhero movie that provides a worst case scenario for a super powerful entity.  

Streaming (Amazon): Wonder Park
Wonder Park is an imaginative, enjoyable experience for all ages.  The movie has some memorable characters, an interesting setting, is an enjoyable ride that will not leave you disappointed.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Amazon): Bumblebee
Bumblebee is the origin story that no one asked for but now feels like a perfect part of the world.  It is filled with 80s nostalgia, funny writing, great special effects, and feels more true to the original Transformers source material than any of the other recent movies.  It is a worthy origin story and hopefully a sign of what is to come from this universe.  For more information, check out our review!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review: The Last Full Measure

Release date: January 24, 2020
Running time: 110 minutes
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Irvine 

The Last Full Measure is inspired by the true story of Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, a man who gave his life in Vietnam while helping his fellow soldiers in an ambush.  Pitsenbarger was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor over 30 years after this, and the Last Full Measure tells this tale in a setting where a fictionalized Pentagon Staffer is working to make this award possible.   

I am always wary of movies that are inspired by true events.  When Hollywood gets its hands on a story and twists it to a more pleasing form, it can sometimes help the overall experience but often makes an important story seem manufactured or ridiculous.  The movie does a very accurate job with the battle that Pitsenbarger fought in and the chaos and carnage that ensued.  And the vehicle that the filmmakers chose to tell this story, with a fake staffer and the journey track down evidence for this award, does try to explore some of the effects of battle and the issues that our veterans are going through due to their service.  

However, the framework of the Pentagon staffer tracking down the soldiers that also participated that day takes this inspirational story and pushes it too far into Hollywood.  This is reflected in some of the Hollywood touches that seem to permeate this film.  The dialog is overly dramatic and often hit or miss; sometimes it does not feel natural and does not have a good flow.  The awkward dialog is not helped by some inconsistent performances by the actors, including, surprisingly, Sebastian Stan.  Samuel L. Jackson is solid throughout, but many of the scenes feel like they could have used additional takes.  Additionally, in order to tell the story the staffer travels all throughout the country (and beyond) in the span of a few weeks.  The performances do improve and the overall story gets better as the film progresses, and by the end of the film, the filmmakers succeed in imparting on you an important story about a soldier and the ramifications of war.  However, the Hollywood creation of the fake staffer causes the focus of the movie to largely move away from Pitsenbarger and on this staffer who is learning the story.  And it introduces an odd distrust of bureaucracy from dramatic effect when accounts of the story do not include any sort of malfeasance.  

The Last Full Measure tells an important story of courage and sacrifice, but does so through a Hollywood lens that adds some important lessons within its overly dramatic dialog.

Rent It

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Review: Weathering With You

Release date: January 17, 2020
Running time: 114 minutes
Starring: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri 

From the creators of the critically acclaimed Your Name comes another beautiful, heartfelt animated journey.  Hodaka Morishima (Daigo) has run away from home to Tokyo.  Struggling to survive, he befriends Hina Amano (Mori), a girl with a special power.  Together, the two struggling teenagers survive and thrive in a Tokyo covered by perpetual rain.  

As you would expect from the team that brought you Your Name, Weathering With You is absolutely gorgeous.  The animation is crisp and beautiful, with a clean style that really helps to tell the story.  The film is mostly set in Tokyo, and from what I remember, it looks just like it.  Many of the buildings are recognizable and even some of the minor details like alleyways and housing evoke that special city.  Also what you would expect from a movie called Weathering With You, it has stunning weather.  From beautiful rays of sunshine to some torrential downpours and slow motion rain shots, the weather is as important to this story as the main characters are and is as beautifully animated as well. 

On top of the amazing animation, the music of Weathering With You contributes just as much to the story.  The lyrical songs are wonderful and fit what is going on in that specific scene.  However, there are sections of piano music that are beautiful and understated, yet come in at exactly the right time to set the mood and contribute to the moving story.  And the story itself, although a little quirky and dramatic, is a wonderful story about children maturing and finding their place in this world.  The characters and their struggles tell a beautiful, heartfelt story that will stick with you well after the movie's credits.

Weathering With You is an absolutely stunning film with amazing animation, incredible weather effects, and moving music that combine to tell a beautiful, heartfelt story.

Watch It

Friday, January 17, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: January 17, 2020

In Theaters: Bad Boys For Life
Bad Boys For Life brings the iconic duo back for another ride with enough nostalgia to please fans of the first films and enough humor, action, and new characters to start a new franchise. For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Gemini Man
Gemini Man is a beautiful action movie with some amazing CG, but unfortunately the rest of the film fails to entertain after the explosions have cooled.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Disney+): Aladdin
Aladdin is a fine remake of the animated classic.  It is not as good as the original movie, but Disney did a good job re-imagining the film and Will Smith's genie, though not as good as Robin William's portrayal, still has a lot to love about his character.  Smith makes the role his own, and has a fresh take on the character that is fun to see.     

Streaming (Netflix): Bad Boys
Prepare for Bad Boys for Life by going back to the classics.  Bad Boys was an entertaining film that took two charismatic leads at the top of their game and added a ton of Michael Bay explosions into the mix.  Plus, Bad Boys for Life has a lot of nostalgia so seeing the originals will help prepare you for those references.

Streaming (Netflix): Bad Boys II
The follow up to Bad Boys, Bad Boys II went bigger in pretty much every way.  Keeping the same amazing chemistry, Michael Bay went for bigger explosions in this perfect summer action fest.  Though not critically acclaimed, audiences loved the sequel and again, seeing it will help remind you of the nostalgia references in Bad Boys for Life.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Review: Dolittle

Release date: January 17, 2020
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen 

Dolittle tells the tale of a brilliant, eccentric doctor who has the rare ability to talk to animals.  However, because of past events, he has since become a recluse, preferring the company of his animal companions to the human world.  Dolittle is less of an origin movie and more of a rebirth film.  The movie starts with an animated history of Dr. Dolittle and explains why he has shunned the human world.  Then it opens after the man has already become somewhat of a recluse.  But an unexpected visitor or two lead Dolittle and his animal companions on an epic journey. 

Dolittle is accompanied on his journey by his young apprentice Stubbins (Harry Collett) and an all-star cast of voice talent including John Cena, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, and Tom Holland to name a few.  The sheer number of characters and the chaos that their animal actions cause is much funnier than I expected.  There are some silly moments for kids but also some genuinely funny moments for adults to enjoy.  

Dolittle's journey takes him to a couple of interesting places with their own animals and humans for the group to interact with.  However, the journey does feel drawn out.  The movie is an hour and forty five minutes, probably about the limit for a kids film, and it definitely feels like it.  You do visit some interesting places, but it feels like the movie lingers in those places for far too long.  It drags around the middle part and the end gets slightly ridiculous.  The ending does continue the theme of the film but the climactic encounter feels like its jumping the shark (unfortunately without a talking shark).  

Dolittle takes its all star cast and sends them on a journey with plenty of heart and funny animal and human moments. 

Rent It