Hellboy (2019) review: A Perfect Metaphor for Driving Pass a Trainwreck

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Might as well get this out of the way before properly talking about this film. Yes, I am in the same camp of people that feels Guillermo del Toro’s two Hellboy movies were and still are highly underappreciated superhero film  and that the fact we never got a third one (and thus never got any sense of closure of the story he wanted to tell) is a great loss for popular culture and modern film. But with that out of the way, the fact that we never got a third Hellboy film wasn’t caused (at least not directly or with malice) by the people involved in in this reboot (whether it is the actors or filmmakers), so it’s unfair to hold the absence of Hellboy 3 in our geekdom towards the likes David Harbour, director Neil Marshall etc., or to judge the reboot more harshly for simply existing in its place. This new Hellboy isn’t a bad film because it’s not a continuation of the previous Hellboy, it is a pretty bad film purely on its own terms and I will explain why in this non-spoiler:

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I might as well get some of the positive stuff about this film out of the way. While I don’t think the script really does him any favours since it doesn’t really give him much to work with, but I do like David Harbour as Hellboy despite the make up for the role at times restricting his performance. It will seem pretty unfair to really compare Harbour in the role to that of Ron Perlman. Ever since I’ve started reading Hellboy comics after watching “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”, I’ve always had this thought in my head that Ron Perlman’s voice makes him the only pick for Hellboy as his voice perfectly fits the characters sardonic grumpy old man persona (even his version wasn’t straight off the page Hellboy), so I will have to try my best to separate the two. But David Harbour does what most of the 007 actors after Connery does and does his best to separate himself from his predecessor. Harbour is certainly played up a bit more of the “comedic angst” without dialing up to 11. The other positive thing that I kind of liked in this film is the character of Gruagach (voiced by Stephen Graham and performed by Douglas Tait) who for the most part in the same hog-like character that he is from the comics in which he was a pretty pathetic and sad character who wants one simple thing and no matter one he is always down on his luck with the consequences of his poor decisions that I will admit got some decent laughs at me  and his arc is one that I at least had some investment in (even if I am not too crazy about how it concluded), although I do find some of lip-sinking for certain moments for this characters to be a little off in places like an English dubbing for an old anime.

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Apart of me feels like I might be a lot easier on this film if I wasn’t such a huge of the course material (which I need to start reading again a couple of months ago) since I have in the past have enjoyed such schlocky fantasy action films in the past such as “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”, “Kong: Skull Island” or “300: Rise of an Empire” as guilty pleasure films. But even those sort of films kind of have some sort of standards because a “good” schlocky action film should have something resembling an identity and be aware of their intent and goals with a certain level of consistency. Sadly “Hellboy” is not one of those films that is successful at such a thing since it is one of those films that suffers from a severe identity crisis as it goes from crazy over the top schlocky action that we are not supposed to take seriously and then goes to one of those quieter or moments that are supposed to be pathological and yet I am feeling severely emotionally attached towards this films attempts at characteristics for many reasons. The main reasons the films attempts at pathos doesn’t really work for me is the fact that the film is pretty much tackling the same character arc and themes of the 2004 “Hellboy” film, which tackled the metaphor of boyhood into manhood (that is also used as a way to critique on the then fantasy trope of destiny) so much better than this because the crazy set pieces and series of actions/consequences that lead to such development in a more organic way and at least allows its emotions to have some breathing room rather than giving you this sense that you have to catch your breath every minute or so in order to catch up with the next random set piece of plotline that doesn’t allows its character stuff to resonate. The films going for the whole “boyhood to manhood” theme is also a problem for a film that claims to be “more faithful” to the comic books since I am not convinced such claims are actually true. The reason why I say this is because I know this since the theme of “boyhood to manhood” was a new concept that brought to the table and not something that was present in the comics since the main appeal of Hellboy is that he is the grumpy anti-social old man type who fights demons and goes home to drink a beer as a way to cope with his isolated nature. While Guillermo del Toro wasn’t 100% faithful to that of the comics, it is similar to that of first Raimi Spider-Man film in which it is both faithful and unique to that of the comic it is based on as the director wanted to offer weightier narratives and ideas than people might have expected, yet were brave enough to pursue their own styles of filmmaking with integrity and showed a healthy disregard to any kind of franchise maintenance or fan service.

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While I the film wasn’t one of those bad films that made me want to either go on a killing spree or make me question why do I watch or review films in the first place, I would almost say this film is similar to that “Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice” as this is one of those films that perfectly fits the “driving pass a trainwreck” metaphor because I am almost fascinated on why this film ultimately didn’t work as a narrative rather than being at all frustrated at the piece like I am with a lot of bad films. There are plenty of moments in this film that I think I would have liked a lot more if the context of the whole picture justified such a scene. For example, there was a scene in which Hellboy travels to England for a Wild Hunt and fight giants which at first was pretty cool with how it displays how powerful and resourceful Hellboy is in the field beyond using his guns and fists,. Yet both the bad CGI and the fact that most of the scene almost came off as filler for the entire picture since outside of one rather thinly veiled plot thread, almost none of it really goes anywhere and it puts the pacing of the film to an awkward standstill for 20 minutes. In fact, the film almost feels like a series of unrelated short films made for Netflix based on one shot stories from the Hellboy comics made, only for the filmmakers to realise that they went over-budget and had to think of an overall framework to tie all the sequences together just in hopes to make a profit at the box office. Apparently this is one of those films similar to that of “Fant4stic” in which the production suffered from a lot of drama in which David Harbour, the director Neil Marshall and the eight producers that worked on the film simply could not get along since no one could agree on what exactly they wanted this film to be and it REALLY shows in the end product with its rather contradictory nature.

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In terms of visuals, outside of some pretty decent make up jobs for Harbour’s Hellboy, despite how I think it restricts his performance at times, the film is quite the disaster in terms of visual effects. In concept, I should like what the film was going for with it trying to go for a rather “heavy metal” aesthetic in terms of its visuals similar to that of “Thor: Ragnarok”, but I think the films rather low budget really limits what you can do with such an ambition goal as some of the visuals border on the quality that I would expect from the Syfy Channel. Speaking of aesthetics, I don’t think the films R-Rating really works overall or works to its full potential since I agree with a lot of other critics out there and think that the gore and excessive swearing really does not work in the films favour with it really comes off as rather juvenile and gratuitous since it doesn’t really add any mature context to the film or enforce any proper adult ideas to the picture.

 

VERDICT:

Sorry if this review doesn’t come off as rich or informative as some of my other reviews, but “Hellboy” really is one of those films that is just a confusing and fascinating film for all the wrong reasons with what it wants to be, with what it doesn’t want to be and even what it ended up being despite its intends. As I’ve said before, the film is pretty the kind of film that you can want to watch just to wonder how it came to be with its rather contradictory and messy feel.

 

My score for “Hellboy” will be a score of 2 3D Nazi Goggles out of 5.

Rating

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Hellboy (2019) review: A Perfect Metaphor for Driving Pass a Trainwreck

Shazam! review: Is DC On A Roll?

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Before I properly start reviewing this film, I will say the following thing: I will not be making any comparisons or comments that will involve making jabs towards “Captain Marvel” earlier this year (unlike a lot of other reviews for the film) since I have not seen “Captain Marvel” yet. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I think it is safe of me to say that the DCEU is perhaps one of the oddest franchises to have ever reach the big screen for reasons that most people have already said and yet even some of the biggest detractors of the DCEU that I know seemed to be somewhat optimistic for “Shazam!” mainly for how it seems to be so far removed from Zack Snyder’s vision and the trailers for the film make it out to be something truly unique as a superhero film in this day and age. Does the film live up to the hype? Read this review and find out:

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When it comes to the world of comics, I do consider myself to be more of a DC guy than I do consider myself to be a Marvel guy, yet I have never really been able to get into DC’s Captain Marvel or Shazam as they like to call him now outside of the character of Black Adam and the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank comic from a few years ago. That being said, despite my rather limited knowledge when it comes to Shazam and honestly throughout this film had the feeling that the tone and type of story that the film was going for just felt right for a film based on the Shazam mythos. The main reason why I constantly had the sort of Goldilocks thought of “just right” throughout the film is the fact that the sheer premise of DC’s Captain Marvel being that he is a superhero who was an ordinary young boy who can transform into the form of a grown up sized Superman like demi-god by speaking a magic word is not only an idea that works as “wish-fulfillment” for young children and teenagers, but it is just a premise that naturally allows itself to have a more light-hearted and humourous tone and the film fully embraces and does as much as it can to capitalise on its premise. But what makes this film all the more unique as far as far as modern films that are focused on kids as their main protagonist is that the kids actually feel like a genuine articles as they actually talk and act like kids would do if they were given the powers of a god in this day and age because the film really does remind me a lot of my inner thought of what I would do if I ever had superpowers and a lot of what Billy Batson did reminded me of the stuff that I’d imagined I would do at the age of 15.

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Now onto the story and this is certainly one of those film in which you pretty much know where a lot of the character and plot threads are going to go at some point after they’ve been set up, but since we live in an era in which pretty much all kinds of stories have been told already, the best philosophy for any film reviewer should take for a film like this is to have the mindset of “it’s not the destination that truly matters, it’s the journey”. The best way that I can describe “Shazam!” as a story is that it is pretty much the DCEU’s answer to “Guardians of the Galaxy” in both a thematic and good way as oppose to the superficial and bad way that “Suicide Squad” was. “Suicide Squad” was a film that honestly felt like a film that was reactionary to the unexpected success of a film based on a rather unknown property for the time and simply looks at all the external stuff of “Guardians of the Galaxy” such as the near universally beloved soundtrack as well concept of rag tag outsiders forming a team without any of the heart and soul that made “Guardians of the Galaxy” a film that resonated with so many people. “Shazam!” on the other hand is a film that feels like “Guardians of the Galaxy” in an internal sense of the saying because both films share similar themes and both equally have as much heart and soul put into them that makes them rather refreshing within a genre that many would argue has become rather oversaturated.

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Like “Guardians of the Galaxy” on thematic terms, this film is more broadly a film about family and now I am resisting to making a “Fast and Furious” joke right about now. But while it is a theme that has been so many times before, the execution is truly what makes truly refreshing and not simply make me want to watch the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films again. While the trailers for this film make the film look like it is going to be simply a goofy YouTube skit with slapstick thrown everywhere, while the film is still goofy (for all the right reasons), it certainly doesn’t glosses over the heart of the story that is being told here. At its core, “Shazam” is a story that is primary about family and soul searching through a fairly straight forward and easy to follow plot, but the simplicity is more than made up for by the motivations that drive the primary characters are a lot more human and complex through the way the film builds up its themes of abandonment and isolation through not only Shazam/Billy Batson, but as well as of the other foster kids that gives this film a lot of personality that makes it more than just “Big Meets Superman”. There is a consistent theme build from the foundations of the primary theme of family and soul searching with the themes of having something to prove or not feeling good enough throughout and never makes the film feel completely hopeless and through a metatexual lens, this is all the more meaningful with it being a film that is part of the DCEU.

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It explores these ideas primary through making you feel that sense of passion through and love behind the characters and what makes them feel so dynamic and unique in the first place. With the main character, the film both tells and shows you why Billy Batson has been running from orphan home to orphan home and shows you why he is the why he is from the start that nicely reflect on how he copes with all of his internal struggles and how he copes with all the negativity in his life. And I am not going lie here and without spoiling the film, when we finally got to the resolution of Billy’s character arc and his goal primary goals from the start, I honestly applaud the film for not giving us a resolution that was not sugarcoated and give us a nice scene of emotional realism that was a sad and yet human moment that felt earned. The themes and character of Billy certainly work once you contrast him with the film primary antagonist, Dr. Sivana. While I have certain issues with the character of Dr. Sivana mainly the fact that I think the character would have more of an impact if he had at least one or two scenes that got us more inside his head a bit more. But thematically Dr. Sivana can be best described as Harry Potter who has gone old and bitter (I mean the opening flashback of the film shows Sivana as a sensitive kid with glasses who is treated badly by his guardians), then for a few short minutes is shown a world of magical wonder and is told that he could be the chosen one. But unlike Harry, the world of magical possibility is immediately taken away from him and dumping him back into a life that is about to become harder for him, so it makes perfect sense to me that a kid that was mistreated would grow up to spend his fortune to hunt for this fantasy world. His bitterness almost comes off as justified once we get to see him and Billy as Shazam together since Bully at first doesn’t seem any more special than Sivana was and only really got the powers of Sivana due to timing and not much more. The film almost comes as somewhat of a commentary of the idea of destiny, as it plays around with a lot of familiar chosen one tropes, but still builds it villains around the idea of how cruel and arbitrary the idea of a chosen one can be.

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Now onto the performances of the film and honestly what can I say about Zachary Levi as Shazam that hasn’t already been said? The guy just completely nails acting like a young boy in the body of a fully grown man that is the most authentic approach to such a role since Tom Hanks in the classic known as “Big” (which the film does make a nice little reference towards in the middle of the film). However as great as Levi was in the role as the superhero, it really is the kid actors who really carry the emotional weight of this film mainly Asher Angel as Billy Batson and Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman who I swear could have easily fooled me into thinking they were actually brothers (biological or the foster types) with how the two go back and forth with each other to the point in which they really do remind me of a lot of the conversations that I used to have with my own brother growing up despite living in a far more cynical country than the United States. The acting of the foster children are also for the most part pretty genuine too despite none of them not having that much screentime to be the most well realised of characters beyond their initial gimmicks from their introduction scene, minus Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfeld who did have a really nice scene with Levi as Captain Sparklefingers (sorry, couldn’t resist that joke) that gives us enough insight for her to stick out among the other foster children without resorting to some rather contrived expository dialogue about her backstory. I mean I am hardly the most sentimental person in the world (since I do live in the United Kingdom), but even I have to admit that Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley has to be one of the most adorable child performances that I have seen in a film in quite some time, since she almost reminds me of my younger sister before she became a teenager. Perhaps the closest thing that I think the film has to a “bad” performance is perhaps Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana and there is a reason why I used air quotes for when I said “bad” since the performance did serve its purpose at being the sort of menacing presence that we come to expect from Mark Strong, it just feels like one of those performances similar to Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master in “Aquaman” in which I honestly didn’t get the strongest sense of the actor bringing the right among of pathos to the role to which it almost felt like a role in which anyone could have played and the amount of pathological intent behind the script would have been the same.

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The film has a nice sense of balance between humour and consequence. One of my biggest issue with a lot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films is that they often at times feel like a lot of the moments of humour felt like they were just there just fill in some sort of checklist and often at time undercut some of consequences that the characters go through and emotional moments presented with said film. “Shazam” does not have this issue as throughout the film, the humour just felt organically integrated and come from a place of natural characteristics since they’re essentially kids who discover that one of them have gotten superpowers, so naturally mess around and sometimes take things a bit too far. The humour doesn’t feel like an afterthought nor does it really comes off as a film that feels like it is a bit too afraid of its own drama (like certain MCU like “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Dr. Strange”) and in fact actually comes off as pretty necessary to the whole film as it adds a layer of authenticity to the characters since it makes the kids truly feel like kids, especially through the chemistry between Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman with the latter being more than just the hype man that the trailers make him out to be, but Shazam’s anchor to the real world that gives him an extra layer of humanity.

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Most of my issues that I have with the film are mostly nitpicks and might as well bring up some other nitpicks that I have with this film just to make this review a bit more balanced. Since this film is part of the highly controversy and inconsistent DC Extended Universe franchise, the moments in which the film pretty much draws attention to being part of the DCEU with its world-building does make me stretch my head mainly with the superhero marketing within the universe. I can perhaps buy the idea of heroes like Aquaman and to a lesser extent Superman being able to be sold t-shirts and toys after the events of “Justice League” even if we don’t really see that much of this version of Superman being the aspirational and inspirational hero that the Snyder films usually tell us he is rather than show us these characteristics, but I do somewhat draw the line when it comes to this version of Batman getting toylines since his actions in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” did make him come off as DC’s answer to The Punisher. I am also not too crazy about the action in the film, like a lot of the action in the DCEU and even some MCU films, I do feel like the final fight goes on a bit too long in some areas even if I do like the emotional and thematic core that was driving the sequence. While I do this film had a pretty modest budget as far as modern superhero films go, the action is pretty standard superhero fare in which nothing really sticks out to me as anything memorable as far as superhero action scenes go. Nothing as awful as most of the action scenes in “Black Panther” or “Captain American: The Winter Soldier”, but none of them really stick out to be as anything special like the No Man’s Land scene in “Wonder Woman”.

 

VERDICT:

“Shazam!” is not exactly the sort of film that exactly screams the sort of film that meets my required taste even for the superhero genre, the more I think about what it sets out to achieve and how earnest the film feels like the sort of film that is certainly functional and the sort of joyride that isn’t trying to be the “high art” superhero films like “The Dark Knight” or “Logan”, yet is still has a rather refreshing feel that prevents it from having a very “been there, done that” like feel that a lot of the Pharse 3 films within the MCU has sort of been having for me as of late.

 

My score for “Shazam!” will be a score of 3 and half Billy Batsons out of 5.

Rating 1

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Wait that’s way too low of a score for this film, let me change it to a better and stronger score by uttering the iconic magic words: SHAZAM!!!!

 

There you go, now it has a great score of 4 and half Shazam’s out of 5.

Rating 2

Shazam! review: Is DC On A Roll?

Dumbo review: Not Even Eva Could Save This One For Me

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I am not going to start this review with yours truly talking about my past “relationships” when it comes to Tim Burton as a filmmaker or my love-hate feelings towards these recent trends of Disney remakes since I have already made my case for both of them in my past reviews, also I promise I will keep the Eva Green gussing to a minimum since my review for “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” already did plenty of that any way. But it is worth mentioning that Disney’s recent trend of remaking or “reimagining” of a lot of their classic films can all be traced back to Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” film back in 2010 which became a box office smash hit. Now as much as I don’t like Tim Burton as a filmmaker, I thought the guy doing the story of “Alice in Wonderland” was going to be a match made in heavy as a lot of my issues that I have with him as a director could have easily worked for the films advantage, yet Burton somehow found a way to mess this up as his “Alice in Wonderland” film ended up being one of those adaptations that simply misses the point of the original story and in face came off as a direct contradiction of it entirely which makes it the worse type of adaptation. So does Tim fare much better with his reimagining of “Dumbo”? Well then, read this review and find out:

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If there is one thing that I will give this film over the likes of 2017’s rather uninspired “Beauty and the Beast”, this film at least tries to do something different with “Dumbo” rather than just making the same film beat for beat with only additional material being stuff that is simply there is answer questions that only those who think CinemaSins is still relevant or makes legit point (despite the fact that the guy nitpicking is part of the joke of the channel). Similar to Burton’s “Alice in Wonder Wonderland” film, the film at least feels like a different experience with some use of iconography from the original film here and there (and I am someone who actually likes the 2015’s “Cinderella” despite some claiming it is too similar to the original and I disagree with that opinion, but that’s another post for another day) in a way does fit into a lot of the thematic motifs that Burton is known for, mainly the idea of the outsider trying to prove himself and probes for Burton for not making this a film that is just weird for the same of it. But just because something has a different feel to that of the original (a film that I haven’t seen in a very long time), doesn’t mean what we’ve ended up getting is anything worthwhile, even if this film is not a complete trainwreck like Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” film.

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If there is one criticism that I do agree with a lot of friends and fellow reviews when it comes to this films approach to reimagining the story of “Dumbo” that makes it a somewhat uninspired film and that is the similarities the approach has with the “Transformer” films by Michael Bay in which I think the film gives the human characters a bit too much screentime. Now I wouldn’t say that is inherently an issue itself because this isn’t like Burton’s Batman films in which I felt like the title character is getting shafted in the overall picture because I didn’t get that vibe when it comes to Dumbo, the issue is that I simply did not find many of the human characters to be remotely interesting as characters on their own that about as lifeless as the child acting in this film. Sure it is nice seeing Eva Green in everything she is in (as well as hearing her use her French accent), but the main issue with the scripts characterisations for the films overall narrative is very similar to a lot of the films callback moments to the original films (especially the films rather contrived way of including the infamous pink elephant scene from the original), they honestly felt rather derivative since they really did nothing to recontexulise an already family nor were the idea really developed into their own unique ideas that could add some layers to the story (like say the daughter wanting to be a scientist) other than being cheap plot threads that are being set up for a rather unremarkable climax. Some might say I am “looking too deep into this” for what is essentially a family film, but that is not the case since it clear that this film is also trying to incorporate some “anti-corporate” message into this fable with how dehumanised and out of touch the villain played by Michael Keaton was portrayed as well as the ultimate resolution for all the films character along with a very on the nose image near the end that I won’t spoil, it is pretty clear that an anti-corporate message is behind this film. Now it is not exactly a message that I am exactly against, but I think the film is a bit too shallow with what it is saying about the topic, but almost hypocritical once you think about it. Let me put it like this: An anti-corporate fable produced by a massive conglomerate that’s monopolizing the film industry while pawning chintzy reproductions of the precious jewels from its own vault, as well as the fact that is one of many films being made to cash in on the nostalgia train. I wouldn’t say that is something that really hurts the film per say, I just think it is a pretty fun way of putting it.

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While the film is essentially a fable story, I am not expecting the deepest of characters, just ones that are well realized. The character of Dumbo is every bit as adorable as expected and as everyone is making him out to be, but I honestly feel like this overall lacked what it needed most: genuine heart. I have a theory on why this might be the case as I really feel like Tim Burton almost sees himself in the character of Dumbo as many would argue Burton is expressing himself through the character of Dumbo as both can be seen as outsider weirdos who had to prove their worth through a particular system and series of events to make himself into a name that many would recognize as some sort of icon through the fields of work that they are a part of. The rest of the character and cast really do range in quality with Danny DeVito perhaps being the closest thing to a stand out in this film. Danny DeVito unsurprisingly steals the show as the head of the failing circus, although it is hard to distinguish DeVito from Frank Reynolds at this point as I have recently became a huge fan of the show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, but he’s so insanely watchable and charismatic to the point it which I was making a bunch of “It’s Always Sunny” jokes in my head whenever he is on screen. Colin Farrell is choosing some interesting projects right now, so it was a shame to see him be an absolutely fine lead with an obvious arc and doesn’t get much in the way of showing off his acting skills. Michael Keaton on the other hand is clearly trying his best in his hammy performance that brought a lot of life to the screen during his screen-time even if the script kind of feels like it is restraining his full potential. Now let’s talk about the simply stunning woman known as Eva Green, put aside the fact that her alluring eyes almost gives me the impression that she might be too good looking to be in family films as it seems like she wants to rip your dick off by looking at you. But that being said, I say she is perfectly fine with the little material she is given, I say she does a fairly adequate job at giving some personality to her character and that she is more than just eye candy.

4

Now onto the visuals of the film and this something that many people find to be rather appealing about films by Tim Burton, although I personally think he is rather hit and miss in this department. I cannot deny that the man has a rather unique style and I can understand the huge appeal behind such a style, my issue with Burton’s approach is how he hardly innovative or willing to come out of his comfort zone and truly be creative as an “auteur”. I know every filmmaker has a particular style that they like to work into their films in order to make people know that it is them, but I feel like other filmmakers such as David Fincher when comparing the likes of “Se7en” to “Fight Club” do a much better job at making each film at least feel different and I just don’t get that with Tim Burton most of the time. That being said, this film in a way kind of perfectly sums up the rather hit and miss, in which there are moments in which it looks like a visual marvel and then there are moments in which it looks like a visual afterthought. Like the visual marvel of this film is Dumbo himself is a fantastic creation and just so adorable who is easy to love and clearly where most of the films budget went. The photo-realistic animation is pretty astonishing and he feels like a real living creature, making it very easy to root for him and care when he’s clearly in distress.  But then you get to all the settings of the film and I usually hate using such an obvious comment when it comes to visual looks of a film due to how overused it has become, but some of the visual settings of this film really do look like a PS4 cutscene and comes off like the budget for those scenes were leftovers after the filmmakers realized they’ve spent a bit too much on Dumbo.

 

VERDICT:

Much like the Batman villain Two-Face is with a lot of things, I am very of two minds about this film. It’s not a film by Tim Burton in which in surprised me on how good it ended up being like “Ed Wood” or “Frankenweenie”, nor is it one that pissed me off on how much I disliked it such as “Edward Scissorhands” or his Batman films. It is a very middle of the road film in which I appreciate it for trying to be something different and tell a familiar story from a different angle, but even that ended up giving us a film that plays itself a bit too safe when it comes to the presentation of its ideas and still came off a tad bit dull for my liking.

 

My score for “Dumbo” is a score of 2.5 lovely Eva Green images out of 5.

Rating

Dumbo review: Not Even Eva Could Save This One For Me

Us review: Peele Has a Bright Future

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I have a little confession since I am talking about a film by Jordan Peele since it does play into my expectations for this film. Back in 2017 when Peele’s “Get Out” came out, I honestly avoided the film like the plague because both the trailers and reviews gave me the impression that “Get Out” was the sort of film that I should avoid like the plague. Yet for months many friends of mine insisted that my friends and co-workers that the film is NOT the kind of film that I thought it was going to be, I finally gave the film a shot once it came out on DVD and boy I still regret not watching “Get Out” in the cinemas to this day. It is due to this experience that I vowed to never doubt Jordan Peele again and always give his film a shot, which is why I was very interested in “Us” as a horror film as it looks like something that could be just as refreshing as “Get Out”. Does “Us” live up to those expectations? Read this review and find out:

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Let’s start with the story as that is usually the most appealing thing as far as films go regardless of their genre. Similar to that of “Get Out” being an allegory for a specific form of racism that I would rather not talk about since I don’t want to divide my followers with my reviews, “Us” is a horror film that uses the tropes and conventions of the horror genre as an allegory to explore an aspect of the human condition. This time around “Us” is both familiar as well as more universal in its themes than “Get Out” with the films themes as I see this film as an allegory that accompanies the account of the tormenting of doppelgängers upon a floating, middle-class family struggling to bypass their trauma, inner-demons and flaws that they must overcome that will I will have no doubt confuse the modern American audience or just Western audience in general since I live in the UK and for a more than coincidental and ironic reason since this is one of those films that does raise some question, but I do think this is a deliberate creative choice on Peele’s part that overall works in the films favour. This is certainly one of richest film experience that I have had for a film in quite some time because while the concept of a film being a metaphor is a pretty familiar concept even for horror films, the films approach to a familiar concept is what makes it such a great experience as it still feels like what we come to expect from Jordan Peele with his recent success in “Get Out” and his past success during the 90’s with it being a nice mix of thrills and humour that for the most felt rather organic to overall feel of the film since as this is a film that is about overcoming your personal demons in a rather unsubtle and yet unrelenting way through its doppelgangers, it really makes sense that the overall emotion of this film honestly felt as real as it has been for a horror film in quite some time. When it comes to overcoming their personal demons, some people use human as a way of coping with tense and uneasy situations which was consistent with the characters who do usually bring out the film’s most humourous moments. This almost makes me question the writing of a lot of dialogue writing for a lot of horror films as a lot of the time when it comes these sort of situations, the nature of dialogue tends to switch gears from organic dialogue that felt like the characters talking like real people to rather melodramatic dialogue that borders of the stuff that I expect from films like “Sin City” without any sense of self-awareness of being melodramatic like that film.

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That being said, as great as I think this film is, it is certainly not one of those films that I call a near perfect film. There are also some dumb decisions made by the characters a few times and a short conversation, that was meant to provoke humor, but ultimately had no place being in this type of film and viewing this film as a mood experience in a similar way riding one of those horror themes rides that you usually find in an amusement park, I will stay that the scene is one of those scenes that took me out of the film for a little bit. In a way, the best way I can describe this film as a modern horror film is what “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is to modern superhero films as both films are certainly more ambitious and rich than your average flick within their respective genres, I don’t consider them to be films that Alfred Hitchcock would describe as “perfect” in which there are 3 or more great scenes with no bad ones. Let’s just say that the conversation scene that I am referring reminds me a lot of the Apple store scene in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in terms of taking me out of the film experience, albeit for different reasons. I also question aspects of the ending to a certain degree, I get what the film was going for in terms of its meaning and what it represents for the main character as far as exploring persona demons and human insecurities go, but I think the reveal felt a bit to too telegraphed for my liking and kind of felt a case in which the films unsubtle is more like something that works as a “for the moment” vibe rather than anything that is use to build up to something. Similar to a joke in a comedy, some thrills or reveals in a film or a story in general work a lot better if they were not too telegraphed for the products own sake.

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Now it’s time to talk about the acting in the film. I know I am going to get some hate for what I am about to say here, but I never really understood the massive appeal that Lupita Nyong’o has been getting as an actress over the past few years, while I won’t say she is a bad actress as she does the best with what she is given, but with a lot of her previous roles I get the sense of that her talents are often wasted in roles that she does little to really elevate beyond being a serviceable screen presence. It’s a good thing that with this film, I have FINALLY gotten to see a role with Lupita Nyong’o in which I truly felt like her potential as an actress is finally realized as she is given so much to work with as far as her character goes as she really drives the film with how she handles acting in a dual role like it was nothing and yet the effort is ever so present.  Winston Duke does a great job with a largely thankless part, as he is certainly the character who got the most genuine laughs out of me as Duke’s comedic timing is just about right and with enough humanity behind that it he really feels like someone who I know from work.  The two child actors also do a solid job at balancing the idea of veing believably heroic and slightly off as well as their creepy duplicates) that their juxtaposition comes off as more of a “two sides, same coin” scenario rather than being so distance towards the spectrum that their differences come off as rather cartoonish. It is also worth pointing out that it was kind of refreshing for me to see a story with a black family where their blackness was not at all critical to the plot. I want more of this from film– diversity that feels like it’s a choice from the filmmakers for no reason other than to tell a story with different kinds of people.

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Now on to the technical stuff of the film, while I do have some issues with the editing of the film with some of the films editing tricks makes the ending a bit too telegraphed that doesn’t entirely work for the films sake. The cinematography and musical score are about as perfect for a horror film as you can get that almost reminds me of the cinematography and musical score from “It Follows” except the high quality of the cinematography and musical score isn’t wasted on such a garbage script as I believe I once describes that film as the following: “Watching It Follows is like dating a really hot pop star. Sure it might look good at first, but once you start thinking more critically, you will realise that there is just not much beneath the surface or any real talent behind it all. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . So in other words, like dating Victoria Beckham during the 90s.…”. The cinematography was just the perfect device that truly utilised the potential of film as a visual medium as the camerawork knew how to linger and position itself at just the right pace and angle for the film to truly give me the sense of dread that a lot of the characters were feeling. But it is the musical score is what truly sells the films sense of dread with its rather eerie and disrobing violin music that just does the perfect job at making my skin crawl and really compliments some of the disturbing imagery that follows.

 

VERDICT:

“Us” is doesn’t quite have tightness of “Get Out” and is far from a perfect film with aspects of the screenplay could have done with some polishing when it comes to how it builds itself through its runtime. But it as a film experience one of the most engrossing films that I have seen in a while as nearly every scene felt like it hit the right emotional beats that it wants me to feel.

 

My score for “Us” will be a score of 4 and a half kid masks out of 5.

Rating

Us review: Peele Has a Bright Future

The Kid Who Would Be King review: Doesn’t Deserve To Flop

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A very awkward film for me to talk about since this is one of those films in which I feel like it really does achieve nearly everything it sets out to be as a fantasy coming of age story that just screams the sort of film that is right up the alley of my good friend Oscar. But as most people who know me should be aware by now that the fantasy genre is simply a genre that doesn’t really meet my own personal taste as far as what my own standards of what makes a great film. So this is another case in which I feel like the film that I’ve just watched is one of those films that I feel like is effective at a specific target audience, but I am simply not the target audience it is aiming towards. Therefore it is a film that I certainly don’t regret watching and would recommend for parents who like using films as a lazy way to babysit their children for a couple of hours, I just don’t see myself watching this one again anytime soon. I will explain why in this non-spoiler review:

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Despite my somewhat unfair bias when it comes to the more family friendly fantasy films out there, there is definitely aspects of this film that I truly admire and reminds me of something that I feel like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” tried to do from a thematic point of view and that is how the film handles the concept of legacy. While I am one of those people who thinks that “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a film that simply gets worse the more I think about it and the main reason for that is how it puts way too eggs in one basket as far as its themes go to the point in which they are severely undercooked or come off as very contradictory with previously established rules and set ups. Luckily “The Kid Who Would Be King” does not suffer from this issue as it pretty much uses its simplistic nature to its advantage. It knew that subversion of familiar tropes that we are used to when it comes to either fantasy tales or the heroes journey is a storytelling device that only really works in small does as using such devices wisely usually means there is some thought and care put behind the films subversion rather than feeling like a cheap afterthought that was simply there to give you the pretense that the film is a lot more creative than it actually is. Like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, this films presents the idea of legacy and how it defines you, but the difference is that the thematic idea actually has impact on the main characters growth as a character and is able to allow both the characters as well as us as the audience to move forward rather than giving us answers that simply raises more question as it does with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” since that aspect of the films attempts at subversion simply does not match with the internal logic that a lot of the questions that were raised in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and almost make certain detractors of the Rey character have a point. This is essentially reminds me of the James Bond film “Skyfall” in a way in which it is essentially a modern Arthurian tale set within modern Britain with the obvious difference being that “The Kid Who Would Be King” is a film that is also a fantasy like the tales of King Arthur and is a film that quite literally wears its King Arthur on its sleeve and uses the rather universal ideas Arthurian legends as means to deliver a message on togetherness in the face of a rather divisive cynical British world and that is saying something since the UK is known for being rather cynical in its worldview and the evolution of legends throughout time, whereas “Skyfall” is a film that is a lot more metatexual in its Arthurian comparisons and uses it as way to explore modern British heroism and its relevance in the 21st century.

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While I will say that the execution of the ideas that I’ve already mention are overall fine for what the film set out to accomplish, there are aspects in which the execution either falters or does do a lot for me, mainly though characteristics. While it was nice to see Rebecca Ferguson playing an over the top villain type that doesn’t fit into the femme fatale or overly motherly types that I am used to seeing her, the issue with her character in this film is just how one note she is and almost makes her a bit of a missed opportunity for me and really should have been one of those tropes that the film should have subverted in some way. For a film that is about the idea of how legends change as time moves on, I think updating the characteristics of Morgan le Fay or giving her some additional characters really would have help given the theme of the evolution of legends some added layers to it. I will admit that the following is strictly a taste issue, but I am honestly not the biggest fan of the films sense of humour. While the film is far from a complete cringefest in the same way the average Adam Sandler film tends to be, but the films humourous tone does give off a rather awkward feeling throughout my viewing experience because I will admit that the film does have moments that I did find to be pretty witty and charming at the same time, but there are just as many gags in the film that do it for me because of how they felt like they were just there just for the sake of coming off as quirky with no real punchline to the gags that were presented. In a way, it kind of felt like the film version of the Batman villain Two-Face in which it seems to be of two minds with what is kind of wants to be in terms of the quality of its jokes with its rather split personality like vibe that seems to shift from scene like a flick of a light switch or if you want me to continue with the Two-Face metaphors like a flip of a coin with no real sense of balance.  While it may get off to a rocky start (exposition overlord and slightly jarring means of setting up the five major players), once it gets going it never lets go, ramping up stakes at a reasonable pace and fleshes out its characters to feel as worthy of knighthood as its lead.

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On a technical side of things, it is certainly not what you would call high standard of what many would call “a well-made film”, but I would have to be a complete moron if I go into a film called “The Kid Who Would Be King” and expect the same levels of craftsmanship of David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick, Christopher Nolan or even other fantasy directors like Guillermo del Toro or Peter Jackson. But I will say as far as direction and overall visual style is certainly appropriate for the kind of film is trying to be, which is being a lighthearted fantasy adventure with a dose of slice of life that the British backdrop provides. So this leads to a nice use of contrast in its aesthetics by using its fantastical action set pieces with a British setting that actually looks like Britain with its realistic but not too dull look as a way for the connective tissues of the fantasy and the realism to have a more organic flow to them rather than just coming off as strange contradictions in the same way the films humour kind of is.

 

VERDICT:

“The Kid Who Would Be King” is certainly what I would call a solid film, just not a film that is exactly for me per say. As my god friend Oscar once said: “this is more of a lazy Sunday afternoon film with more appeal to children than a mature masterpiece of fantasy”. It has enough charm and heart behind it that I would recommend it for those who simply want a good time, but enough meat within the bones of a familiar point in order to get some forms of engagement.

 

My score for “The Kid Who Would Be King” would be a score of 3 and half Led Zeppelin t-shirts out of 5.

Rating

The Kid Who Would Be King review: Doesn’t Deserve To Flop

The Mule review: Solid Eastwood Outing, Not His Finest

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This was a film I was always going to give a shot at some point since most people know that I am a huge fan of Clint Eastwood as a filmmaker because there are just so many things about the ideas that his films presents that just resonate with me despite the age gap between yours truly and Eastwood, as well as the fact that unlike a lot of people over at Hollywood nowadays who have now become a bunch of out of touch mouth pieces for the establishment, the films by Clint Eastwood really start to stick out for me as films that almost feel more in touch with the real world. But the obvious thing that sticks out to me as a Clint Eastwood directed film in recent years after “Gran Torino” is Eastwood returning to acting that has made this an even bigger draw for me. How does this all play out? Read this non-spoiler review for “The Mule” and find out:

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This films continues a filmmaking trend that I’ve always admired about Eastwood as a filmmaker is that what truly defines his films as something unique when compared to how other directors approach a film in order to stick out and that is the fact that the guy really doesn’t try to be all flashy or resort of gimmicky tropes that makes a film by him so definitively Eastwood, but what makes a film so definitively Eastwood is the reoccurring theme the guy likes to tackle: the best and struggles of man as well as the individual vs. the establishment. While not all of his films explore this idea as well as others, but what I admire about how Eastwood approaches exploring this idea is how he is consistently able to make it feel fresh by being aware that such topics are not exactly simple ones as he likes to explore the already mentioned ideas either a different lens or explore a different aspects of said ideas that have a lot of layers and point of view to them. Compare this to how Tim Burton tries to be unique because like Eastwood, he likes to have a reoccurring theme/motif sprinkled throughout his films (with his case it is the theme of the outsider) and yet most of his film do very little for me as far as emotional resonates and always feel stale despite Burton trying so hard to make his rather distinctive through his gothic aesthetics because all it does is just make most of his films come off as remakes of “Edward Scissorhands” (a film I still hate to this day) in terms of how they make me feel and even in story context because he almost never goes beyond the basic superficial aspects of the idea of the individual outsider. If you want a filmmaker who is basically Tim Burton who actually has talent and is willing to innovate his craft in storytelling, then just watch the films of Guillermo del Toro.

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Since this is Eastwood’s first lead acting performance since 2008’s “Gran Torino” and I think it would be interesting to try and compare/contrast both Eastwood’s performance and his characters characteristics of this film with his performance and characteristics that he gave us in “Gran Torino” because this is a case of the two films being similar but different. Both this and “Gran Torino” deal with themes of the individual vs. the establishment and the best/struggles of man with both films revolving a man from a bye gone era overcoming a significant flaw that is well established from the start of the film with “Gran Torino” it is the main characters prejudice and with “The Mule” it is the characters detachment from the world in general. Yet both film really do not have a similar feel to each other in terms of feeling and how it executes its already familiar themes and that is mainly due the main characteristics of the characters doing their best to be as distinctive from each other as possible. In “Gran Torino” on basic terms Eastwood does play the sort of “Hey you kids, get off the lawn” sort of old man albeit the sort with actual layers and backstory to him, whereas in this film Eastwood plays a much more sincere, good natured and desperate man in Earl Stone who I can see people having an easier time feel a lot of sympathy towards over Walt from “Gran Torino” in a more traditional term because desperation is a more universal feel that a lot of us as human beings have felt in the past at some point in our lives when it comes to unfortunate circumstances, even if I doubt anyone who will read this review has ever become a drug mule. But Clint Eastwood really does make the performance in this film as endearing as it is and I know some people in my personal life have said that the guy is not a particularly good actor because seems to playing the same character over and over again, which I find to be a pretty unfair argument because acting is more about selling an emotion than it really is selling a character (although in some cases selling character is equally as important). Eastwood is one of those character who really knows how convince me on a lot of emotional beats without overacting such emotional with a lot of his best roles, which almost makes me believe that Eastwood deeply has a personal connection with the characters that he plays in this film which is why it is the first lead acting role since “Gran Torino”.

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While I really do like this film overall, it is far from perfect and I do find some of the criticisms that it is getting from some critics. I do understand why some people would call this film rather routine in its approach. While I am not going to pretend that other Eastwood directed that I love that I give a 5 out of 5 score for like “Gran Torino” or “Sully” are exactly films that are innovative or even routine in some places as you are able to predict certain scenes from certain points. However with films like “Gran Torino” or “Sully”, I would say they’re predictability work not only in their favour, but truly enriched the experience because at no point does the predictable aspects of the films ever make you lose sense of the dramatic heft or nuance of the film for me. People tend to forget that “clichés” exist for a reason and when utilised effectively in a film, you barely noticed them or are not bothered by them since they don’t come off as cheap writing crutches that a writer uses to get a reaction from its audiences simply because they know that is what said crutches are specifically designed to do. While I wouldn’t say “The Mule” completely collapses onto itself, there are parts of it where I do kind of feel like said routine aspects don’t completely function with me such as the subplot wit Bradley Cooper as DEA officer Colin Bates. I get what the film was going for with his character with him representing the idea of Earl’s past self, but the film doesn’t really go out of its way to get inside the head of Bates enough for me to really be invested in his story due to how the pacing of a lot of scenes don’t really take their time for his character to truly come alive outside of one scene between Earl and Colin as nice little parallel between the differences of generations. I also kind of wished that Iris (the estranged daughter of Earl Stone) would have gotten a bit more screentime just so the film can add a bit more layers to Earl’s character overcoming his disconnect with the real world which includes his family even if the stuff with his ex-wife is nicely done.

 

VERDICT:

“The Mule” is not Clint Eastwood at his finest, but considering that Eastwood is the man who gave us “Unforgiven” that is a pretty impossible bar to reach at this point. However I still had a very good time with this film despite some of its narrative shortcomings like the subplot that didn’t really do an awful lot for me, but the draw of both Eastwood’s character and his performance that really sells the film for me as one that I recommend for anyone who is a fan of the man.

 

My score for “The Mule” would be a score of 3 and a half symbolic flowers out of 5.

Rating

The Mule review: Solid Eastwood Outing, Not His Finest

Happy Death Day 2U review: Who Wanted This?

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While I am not going to pretend that the first “Happy Death Day” was a masterpiece by any means, but I still maintain my initial opinion of the film being a fairly enjoyable flick that is generally aware that it is not original in concept. But I do think that both fans and haters of the first film alike can agree that a sequel to “Happy Death Day” is not exactly something anyone really wanted. But I was willing to give this film a shot, even if my expectations were pretty low. Yet even with those expectations, I simply couldn’t bring myself to care for this film and I will explain in this non-spoiler review:

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I am aware that calling a sequel “unnecessary” whenever you didn’t care for it is a bit of a cliché as I have witness with a lot of critics and reviewers, but this film really is that kind of a sequel for a few reasons and even can be used as an answer for those few people who wanted a sequel to “Groundhog Day”. While I do appreciate that as a sequel, it did try to do more with its premise rather than just “explain the nature of the time loop” (which is a problem with the film, but I will get to that soon) with its attempts at developing the character of Tree beyond your typical “growing as a person” arc that a lot of films that adopt the “Groundhog Day” formula as this film goes for the more endurance test type of character arc. What do I mean by “endurance test type of character arc”? Basically what I mean by that is that it is the type of character in which the development of the character is more akin of testing with the obstacles of the plot that they were thrown into and we learn aspects about their character through the actions on whether they take the opportunity to change or not, this is the sort of character that is a lot more common when it comes to characters that fit into the “Byronic Hero” archetype such as Batman, James Bond or Sherlock Holmes.

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That being said, this is where I feel like the film kind of leaves a bit too be desired for me in terms of how Tree handles such an arc, especially once you take the films established rule from the first film of Tree regressively getting weaker everytime she dies. I get why she goes through different methods of killing herself during the middle of the film because that is there for us as audience to entertained by the over the top nature of the gory gags. But it really doesn’t make any sense for her to go for such elaborate and painful ways of killing herself rather than simply going for more simple and less painful ways of going about it because it would make it easy for her achieve her goals by the grand scheme of things. It is an example of a film making a gags for the sake of it rather than doing what the best forms of humour in a story do and make it that it makes sense for the character to make the joke in the first place. That being said, Jessica Rothe is once again, very good in this role as her comedic timing, energy, and commitment to the premise is all prevalent.

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It also has a rather odd way of story structure even for a sequel to a film with the “Groundhog Day” formula. Piggybacking the repetitive nature of living the same day all over again, “Happy Death Day 2U” toys with a familiar foundation yet computes more science, paradoxes, and dimensions to add in its already befuddled premise with some new ideas, But this is honestly the case in which some things are best left unanswered and exactly what I’ve implied earlier about this review when I’ve said the following: “even can be used as an answer for those few people who wanted a sequel to Groundhog Day” because once you realise the exact cause of the time loops from the first film, I immediately started to lose interest for me and makes wish that we never got a sequel because the fact that we never got a reason for why the time loops are happening in the first film makes me appreciate the films more focused narrative as if it was the filmmakers telling us that the reason behind the time loop was never important.

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As soon as we started to learn about the reasoning behind the time loop, the screenplay started to struggle balancing its plot with its story since a large chunk of the film started becoming nothing but technobabble that thinks it is more interesting than it actually is as well as other large in which it just a bunch of gags that don’t really inform the characters that makes them come off as natural people. So when the film finally starts gets to those scenes in which the characters finally started like they’ve experienced a revelation, I just don’t buy it because the scenes that were sandwiched in-between said scenes of drama never came off as scenes of the characters overcoming their obstacles. I know not every scene in a film in a film has to always be about the stakes of the situation or people discussing their issues as moments to breathe are key for a film as a way to make films characters come alive, but I didn’t get that vibe as a lot of it just came off as filler to me and this makes the drama come off like melodrama to me. So what I was left with was a film that really doesn’t have that much going for it and instead ended up getting a film ends up becoming its own plot’s greatest fear. That fear being that we’ve all seen it before and that we’re all getting sick and tired of seeing it happen over, and over, and over again. This film continuously depends upon its quirky, satirical, ironical shimmer that to a certain extent, no longer becomes that but, becomes that annoying chick from work who thinks you are closer friends with her than you actually are.

 

VERDICT:

I wouldn’t exactly call “Happy Death Day 2U” a disappointing film despite yours truly enjoying the first film since I have had low expectations for this film from the start. But this really was a film that I really need in my life due to how messy the overall product that does not have a good amount of balance its characters, themes and plot that ultimately with sense that made me wish that I should have just watched “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” again.

 

My score for “Happy Death Day 2U” would be a score of 2 baby faces out of 5.

Rating

Happy Death Day 2U review: Who Wanted This?