Tag: 2 out of 4

Bad Boys For Life

Bad Boys bad boys, Michael gonna Bay, Michael gonna Bay and explode on you.

As of last week, I had not seen either of the Bad Boys movies. I did make sure to check out the first two before this third one quite a few years later. I figured the plot would be relevant [Editor’s Note: It wasn’t] to previous movies and didn’t want to be lost. And honestly, neither were my jam at all. I can’t remember much about the first film, and only a few scenes from the sequel stand out. It was definitely a chore I had to put up with.

And let’s talk about this title? Bad Boys For Life. I guess they don’t have high expectations for future films, letting go of that obvious for for the fourth film there.

And yes, I know Michael Bay didn’t direct this one. Let me have my fun.

ooohyeah
Lawrence is mostly just excited to have work at this point. 

Set all the real life years after the other movies, we have our heroes Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) getting older and getting into slightly less trouble. Mike still feels he is king of the world and untouchable. Marcus is slowing down, ready to retire, and over a lot of this stuff. Hell, he is a grandfather now. He wants to make sure he can see his grandson grow up and now get shot at some point in the future.

At the same time, some Hispanic lady (Kate del Castillo) broke out of prison in Mexico, thanks to her son (Jacob Scipio), and they seem to have plans about getting their family back on top. Finding some lost money, getting the literal gang back together. All of that. And she wants revenge, for everyone who hurt the family, including a Mike Lowrey many years ago.

Oh yeah, they have history. But you don’t know about it, since it took place before even the first movie, because why not.

Anyways, not sure what else to talk about. Scary threat and scary bad people, and maybe some people will die.

Also starring Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Nuñez, Charles Melton, and DJ Khaled.

panning shot
Oh yeah, everyone is getting too old for this shit. 

Bad Boys for Life could have been a better film. The ideas were there. Some of the characters were there. But it did not ever reach the potential and by the end, we were left with the same damn shit.

First I want to talk about Martin Lawrence, featuring a fatter head because he has been a lot more out of the spotlight. Honestly, it fits his character. And I loved his character in the first half of the movie. A grandson changed his life. He had new priorities. He prayed and stick to his prayers. It was actually a delight to see. And uhh, eventually, it was all just thrown away and hey, action movie, shoot gun, bang bang bang killing people. Okay.

Second note. In the middle of the movie we get a big speech from a character and it is meant to be this big moment. A change of heart speech. And then a really bad thing happens at that moment. Mike realizes at that point that everyone else was right, and that he was wrong. He was doing the bad stuff, he shouldn’t be involved, he needs to let others handle the current issue at hand. Hell, Marcus was right and Mike was wrong. They establish it, we all agree with it.

AND THEN RIGHT AFTER THEY GO BACK TO DOING THE BAD THING THEY ALL JUST AGREED SHOULDN’T BE DONE.

What in the hell? I feel like I was taking crazy pills.

This is a film that has some good laughs and scenes, and has good ideas, that get tossed aside on a whim to give us just another buddy cop action film. It didn’t stick the landing in terms of character growth at all, especially with the actual ending, which became a standard big kill fest with expendable bad guys, fire, and some underwhelming CGI.

Oh yeah, and there is no need to watch either previous movie. Despite having a villain from the past, it certainly isn’t one in the first two movies. Despite having a character that was in a relationship with Mike in the past, it is another thing that happened off screen. Completely lazy writing at points for these minor details, and, you know, the main plot of the dang film.

I am just so upset that it had potential and started off way better than expected.

2 out of 4.

Underwater

To start this review, let’s talk about Underwater as a concept.

What does it mean to be underwater? Usually, someone who says that they are underwater means they have water above them. And they are rarely actually under water while speaking, because that is hard to do when surrounded by water.

But if you have water over you, there is a good chance you still have more water under you too. Right? To be under something you really just need to be under a little bit of it apparently. You can be completely surrounded by water, so why would you be so weirdly specific in order to just say you are under it?

Seems ridiculous. Speaking of being ridiculous and not super specific, let’s get on to the review.

swimsuit
Not much water surrounding these folks!

As you will try to read very quickly at the start of the film, as newspaper headlines/taglines/regular lines flash across the screen with the occasional strobe, there are big underwater research/drilling sites. Super big, bottom of the ocean, with drills going far down. Why? Energy or something. And I guess some earthquakes are happening and weird things. But we don’t have time for that.

We only have time for Norah (Kristen Stewart), who is contemplating what it means to exist and sleep and work, when the explosions immediately start rocking the ship. Panic, running, and immediately she helps save the day by blocking the water from blowing up the whole place. Norah, along with some stranglers she meets (Mamoudou Athie, T.J. Miller) make it up to the escape pods, and darn it, they are already gone.

She does meet the captain (Vincent Cassel) and some more crew members (Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr.) and realize they don’t have much time to get out. The top is collapsing. The bottom is flooded. They make a quick plan to descend to the sea floor, get int these sweet underwater suits, and walk a long distance to an older station that should still have some escape pods. It is their only chance.

But what caused the explosions down there? What made the horrible sounds in the last drill recording, what is banging on their walls, and what is out for their blood?

new swim suits
Not great for speed swimming, but good for not blowing up purposes.

I expected Underwater to be much worse than it actually ended up being.

I saw a giant standee for it a few months ago and sent it to my wife that it would be bad. It had T.J. Miller on the standee, third name! What? The Bomb threat guy? The one who beat his girlfriend? The drunk and wants to fight man? Why is he in a movie right now?

Oh, turns out this was made in 2017, before a lot of that, and took forever to come out.

Now surprinsgly, it wasn’t completely terrible. Miller was terrible yes. And the film early on had an issue where it refused to let the audience fully react to scenes or let us see how characters got out of a jam. Quick jumps in time, that gets us through potentially boring struggles I guess? One quite annoying one had them crashing to the sea floor on a ride, hurrying to get the door open to jump, and then the next instant they were all on the sea floor running. What the hell? Where’s my jump?

A lot of the film uses the dark depths and hard to distinguish up/down to its advantage to confuse the viewer. But honestly, the monsters were really a cool design. I love what they did with them. Reminded me of underwater ghost vampires in a way, and sure, Cthulhu in another.

This film gets straight to the point at the beginning, and isn’t a long run time. It is relatively predictable, but it has some sweet visuals that can produce some scares and some relatively fun moments.

2 out of 4.

The Aeronauts

The Aeronauts is a an end of year movie that should have had all of the pomp and circumstance of a summer release and…did not. Because Amazon Studios bought it, I guess they felt it only deserved some amount of release, and one of those online a month or so later.

It was really swell of them to do that for me, as I got to see it before the end of 2019!

Although, I was curious about how the device would affect my enjoyment of the movie. So I split it into thirds by time, not my plot (as I hadn’t seen it yet). I started with my regular desktop computer, then the next third was my phone, and my final third was my living room television.

And the results will not surprise you at all!

smile
The results are as shocking as this balloon ride.
The Aeronauts is a fictionalized telling of James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne), famed weather scientist, and him going on a balloon to do some science. His goal was to go super high up, higher than anyone else, with all the science equipment in order to help predict weather patterns and just figure out shit about the atmosphere.

His partner in crime? Fictional, Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones), hot air balloon pilot, loosely based on Sophie Blanchard. She was good a piloting, even though on one of her recent missions, her husband (Vincent Perez) died in the balloon, so that sucks a lot. She is all about the flair and the spectacle in order to get financing behind these trips. Science be damned, she just wants to fly and redeem herself.

And yeah. This is a movie about the hot air balloon trip that almost killed them both, where they went higher than any human before, and science’d a whole lot. Sort of based off of a real trip done, but way less crazy.

Also starring Himesh Patel, Phoebe Fox, Rebecca Front, and Robert Glenister.

ice
She’s as cold as ice, but not willing to sacrifice their love. 

First, the screen results. I was much more excited abotu the movie and interested in its plot the bigger the screen. Shocking ahh! If you got to watch this on IMAX, I am jealous, because it is a beautiful movie with a lot of CGI that works really well together to take us on a trip above the clouds.

The biggest selling point for the film is the visuals.

Redmayne and Jones have really good chemistry together, and despite the story being told in a disjointed order, it doesn’t take away from their short and important flight.

Unfortunately, it is also really hard to get super psyched about this movie, knowing it is far closer to a fake tale than anything else. If it was sold just a fiction story? It’d be a fun adventure. But it is being sold as the sort of true story, and now the whole thing is muddled. This is not something you would get actual useful knowledge out of. It should not be seen as educational.

Unfortunately, the whole film is set up in a way to highlight this one big important moment and flight that really didn’t exist. A cool story, destroyed by its details.

2 out of 4.

Jumanji: The Next Level

Jumanji: The Next Level is the sequel to the sequel/reboot that was actually the second sequel to a movie that is based on a book from the 1980’s.

But this one has characters from the last one, and is also in a video game, so people like that.

Honestly, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was better than I expected, even with dumb video game inconsistencies that movies just refuse to ever get right when we have real people sucked into video games.

And knowing that this movie had Dwayne Johnson pretending to be Danny DeVito? That was really enough for me to make sure I could see it!

awk
Seems like some glitches have affected the Avatars!
Alright! Time for more video games!

This takes place I guess about two years after the events of our first film. All of our heroes went off to do things. Spencer (Alex Wolff), our main kid I guess, went off to NYC for college, while the girl Martha (Morgan Turner) whom he started to date, went to a different school. She seemed toooo cool for him now and he broke up because of his anxieties and low self worth.

But the four of them still agree to meet up over the holidays, Spencer, Martha, Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), a strange Breakfast club that didn’t end.

This time though, Spencer doesn’t show up, despite coming back home. So they check for him at home and only see some old dudes, Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Milo (Danny Glover). It’s his grandparent and old business partner!

Turns out Spencer went back into the game Also turns out that Spencer even has the game again, despite being all broken. So they agree to go back in, but uh oh, old people get sucked in instead of Bethany! Now they have to explain it all to people who are bad at video games. Not only that, but the game seems to be a sequel, and a new quest!

Ack. Okay. Find Spencer. Finish the game. Don’t die. Also starring the same avatars of Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson, Jack BlackNick Jonas, and Kevin Hart. Also Awkwafina, Rhys Darby, Rory McCann, and Colin Hanks.

upsidedown car
In this new level, it takes place in Australia! Clearly.

I came for the Rock as Devito, but it turns out the real star was Hart as Glover. It is already hard to see Kevin Hart as anyone besides Kevin Hart. Even in the last film, it was still basically Kevin Hart. But when he was imitating Glover, his voice was deeper, his voice was more thoughtful and slow. And sure, the slower speech was important enough to the plot so that everyone would notice it, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it.

The Rock as DeVito? Honestly, a bit more disappointing. At first I thought it must be my own hype ruining it, and maybe DeVito wasn’t as obvious as I thought. But later in the movie, ANOTHER character had to act like DeVito for long periods of time and they nailed it. It was exactly what I was hoping the Rock would do, and he didn’t deliver. And for spoiler reasons I will keep it vague, great job other acting person. You and the previous mentioned Hart description knocked it out of the park.

Now on the other fronts, the plot of this one is really weak. Not just the video game plot, which is part of the point. The real world plot. The old guy anger isn’t worth our time. The plot to get Spencer and friends into the game was terrible this time around. Why does it happen? Because they want a sequel to exist, I guess.

This film still has some fun, and some tricks up its sleeve. And still, like the first, it ends up being just okay.

2 out of 4.

Dark Waters

Do you remember A Civil Action? Or maybe Erin Brockovich? Well, I will say I remember the first one a lot more. Because the latter came out when I was a bustling teenager and the only thing I remember in that film is cleavage being nominated for Best Supporting Actress, or something like that.

Either way, legal thrillers can be really fun, especially when they are fighting against people hurting the environment. Hurting the environment is something most of us can agree is wrong, and it is an easy bad guy. The corporations! And usually people are getting sick, or dying, or the land is getting ruined, and no one wants that either.

The sad news is that these cases are still happening and still real, so they can keep making movies about them. They don’t have to make fake boogeyman stories, they are really out there!

Dark Waters is the next attempt to bring a real story to public eye, so we know there is a bad guy out there, and who is trying to fix it.

baby
And do they also know where this baby is?!
Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) just got partner in the late 1990’s at a sweet Law firm in Ohio. They are probably the number one corporate chemical law firm. They protect companies in chemical law suits, from regular folks or other companies. But the number one chemical company, DuPont, has been out of their grasp as a client.

Well, Bilott comes from a small town in West Virginia, and an old neighbor of his grandma shows up at the firm one day with tape after tape of “evidence” that the landfill put up by his farm is dumping/hiding chemicals even though they said they wouldn’t. His cows are dying, their parts are mutating, they are angry, and his own family is being affected. DuPont, the largest employer in their area, is also the one in charge of this landfill.

Fun.

Bilott is not used to representing plantiffs, but he feels like he has to check it out, for his own sense of morality. And sure, after a few levels of checking, it feels like DuPont is still on the up and up. But when he continually digs, he finds out they have been hiding secrets for decades from the community and America about their products, and this quick lawsuit is going to be a several decade long affair.

Also starring Anne Hathaway, Bill Camp, Bill Pullman, Louisa Krause, Mare Winningham, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, and William Jackson Harper.

frogface
Ruffalo does his best impression of a frog pretending to be human in this movie.
Todd Haynes directed Dark Waters, and honestly, this is not the topic or type of movie I would have expected from the person who last brought us Carol a few years ago.

To me, this movie had a sort of TV movie special feel about it. The way it was shot, some awkward scenes early on for exposition purposes, it really just didn’t help me get fully into it.

Now, Dark Waters is certainly a story worth being told. It is an important case and I assume most people don’t know about it despite it affecting most households (myself included). It could become must watch material for that reason (or at least, must read for the article this movie is based off of). Maybe even just the Wikipedia synopsis at some point.

Or here: DuPont sucks. Teflon is cancer causing and bad for us. The chemical company lied for decades, helped cause diseases that killed its workers, and tried to hide it and never self regulated what the EPA demanded of it at the time. For profit. And they are still making lots of profit.

But in terms of this film, a lot of great actors are involved and feel wasted. Hathaway is way too great an actress for the angry at home housewife role. I couldn’t tell if Pullman was acting, and Robbins has maybe one good scene. I hate seeing Garber as the villain, but his scenes were pretty by the numbers. Ruffalo is definitely acting weird the whole film, and putting a lot of face work into it. I did love Camp in his role, once I could understand his heavy accent.

The film as a whole is just average. It doesn’t go hard enough and it just feels lazily put together.

2 out of 4.

Frozen II

Seven years ago, Frozen hit the world one Thanksgiving week, and we weren’t ready for it. I don’t recall a lot about the trailers, but I do recall the teaser trailer, and it was very basic.

And you know what? I loved it. Most of the soundtrack was really good. They didn’t use Menzel enough, and Groff was ignored stupidly, but they could have done better. It was still a really good sign of Disney amping up their animation department, and led to the also quite perfect Moana!

And let me say, that for Frozen II, I wasn’t dreading it at all. I loved their first teaser trailer. It made this movie look darker, more plot focused, more adventure full. I was ready to be blown away.

horse
A water horse in water? That makes sense. Land horses are on land.
Three years after the events of the first film, everything in Arendelle is going so darn swell. The gates have been open, people are happy and prosperous, and oh golly gee gumdrops, everything will stay the same.

Except… Elsa (Idina Menzel) is starting to hear a strange calling in the distance, and only she is hearing it. And Anna (Kristen Bell) is helping run things, she loves having all these freedoms. Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) is about to propose to Anna, but she is so preoccupied with her sister things keep coming up. And Olaf (Josh Gad) is dealing with his strange existence, getting older and more mature.

All of this only slightly matters. What matters the most is that voice, and all of the exposition the beginning of the film talked about. There used to be an enchanted nearby that the old King saw when he was a boy, and the two groups tried to be friends. But, betrayal! Sadness! And a lot of magic left the world.

I guess Elsa just has that magical adventure itch, because she gets the gang together after a disaster in their city to try and enter that blocked off enchanted forest to see if they can figure out what is going on, or maybe just that voice.

Also starring various voices by Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, and Jeremy Sisto.

deer
Reindeers rush better than people, Sven wouldn’t you say that’s true? 

Really early on in Frozen II is when I realized things weren’t going to be as good as I had hoped. It started with a scene from their childhood, pre trolls interfering with memory. And it had the long story their dad said about the forest, and a bonus mom song. And the entirety of the movie relies on the scene.

The entirety of a sequel relying on a scene that didn’t happen in the first film? Ugh. There were a lot of plot points they could have naturally done based on the first film. Hell, they could have done most of this film without that scene. But really this just feels like changing the canon. Sure, that kid conversation could have happened in their life and not changed the first film at all. But it now just feels tacked on.

Another downgrade for me is the music overall. Now of course, I love that they gave Groff his own song and parts of other songs, keeping true to his character. They also used Menzel more. But most of the songs don’t capture the spirit to me like they did in the first film. I already listened to the soundtrack a second time and I am not left with whimsy, I’m not wanting to hear and sing a long over and over.

Again, overall, the plot is okay. It has some good parts, some lame parts, some rushed parts, and some tacked on parts. Some of the Elsa and Anna scenes are really strong, but the film overall feels a lot weaker. And that is a shame. It will still probably win an Oscar for animated awards because the Academy is usually really lame though.

2 out of 4.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Did you see Won’t You Be My Neighbor? It was a documentary about Mr. Rogers, came out last year, it is amazing and the best documentary of 2018. It wasn’t nominated for an Oscar though, because everything is stupid and life is meaningless.

Wait wait wait wait. I shouldn’t say that. Mr. Rogers would certainly disagree with that statement.

And in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood we have to look at Fred Rogers and get judged all the while, because it is hard to live up to perfection.

shoe
How can he interact with kids all day, and keep his house clean at the same time?
It’s a beautiful day in the late 90’s, and Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a journalist. He writes for Esquire, and has a history of really going hard after people. He is an investigative reporter, he brings up dirt, he exposes people, and a lot of people don’t want to work with him now. He also recently had a baby with his wife (Susan Kelechi Watson), who has stopped work to stay with their baby boy.

And sure, things are tough. He actually recently got in a fist fight at his sister’s third wedding, dealing with his estranged father (Chris Cooper) who wanted to recently reconnect after a really rough childhood.

And now? And now Lloyd has to go to Pittsburgh to interview Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) for a fluff piece for his magazine. They are going to do a story on heroes. He only needs 400 words, barely anything. And well, Lloyd things that he can crack him. That there is someone different underneath the Mr. Rogers facade.

But while trying to get to the real Fred Rogers, it turns out that Lloyd is being cracked open as well.

Also starring Maryann Plunkett, Wendy Makkena, Enrico Colantoni, and Christine Lahti.

neet
How dare a journalist learn something about themselves in an interview. How shocking!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is going to suffer due to poor advertising on the reality of the film.

First of all, a movie about a journalist interviewing a celebrity and it changing their lives is not a new subject. Just recently we had The End of the Tour and My Dinner with Henre, it is certainly turning into some sort of trope. And with advertising it is not really super clear that this is the case for this film, unlike the previous two mentioned.

No, this looks like a movie about Mr. Rogers! Doing Mr. Rogers stuff! Being humble and awesome! And sure, that happens in this movie, but so, so, so much of the focus is on the journalist dealing with his issues, and Mr. Rogers being the magical other person fixing his life with positivity.

But the issue is, and no offense to the real journalist, no one cares about him. Those parts drag down the film. I went in wanting Rogers, and sure, he was in it. His style his way of talking, his voice, his show. They were all featured and a major aspect. And yet, who cares, no big deal, I wan’t more.

Watch the documentary if you want a better Rogers experience. And yes, Hanks does good at the acting.

2 out of 4.

Lady and the Tramp

I was wrong! Recently I released reviews for all of the Disney remakes this year (2019 for you future folk), all together instead of spaced out throughout the week. It was Dumbo, The Lion King, and Aladdin.

Silly me, it looked like only three remakes would occur from Disney in this year. But as Yoda says, there is another.

Lady and the Tramp was probably meant to go to theaters at some point, but they realized it didn´t have as big of a draw as other remakes, and instead decided to just put it out on Disney+ as an opening day movie.

Heck, I saw it up there and for some days just assumed that it was a TV series. Well its out, and here is a damn rushed review.

walk
Aww, look at the little puppy. Someone pet her right now!

Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) and Darling (Kiersey Clemons) are an American rich couple living in a nice house/city in the early 1900´s. If I had to guess, I´d say 1920´s or 30´s based on the cars at the time, and no talk of war. No one finds this weird, so let us move on! They also recently got a puppy that they named Lady (Tessa Thompson).

Well Lady has lived a privileged life, hanging with her neighbor dogs (Sam Elliott, Ashley Jensen), getting collars, and nice food. But her owners are pregnant and a baby is on the way. A scrappy dog named Tramp (Justin Theroux) warns her that babies mean bad news for doggies.

Sure enough, it does, because the owners are overwhelmed. Thanks to a trip and some cats and some confusion, Lady finds herself collar-less, and in the big city, having to rely on Tramp to save her from the dogcatcher (Adrian Martinez). This is also where she will learn that even the scrappiest of dogs have good hearts. Just not cats, they suck.

Also starring Yvette Nicole Brown, and the voices of Janelle Monae and Benedict Wong.

meatball
Let´s face it, this is the only reason you are here. 

In the original Lady and the Tramp, not a lot happens. It is a product of its time, no one is really too evil. We have a dog catcher, some cats, and a rat. And that is very much true here as well.

There are not many changes from the source material. Jock is now voiced by a woman, whatever. The couple is interracial and the town very diverse, really weird for the time, but again, whatever. They changed the Siamese cats, which makes sense, to two regular cats and they have a very different song. If they had to change one thing, that is the big one. Oh, and there is no Beaver.

So what we have is basically just a regular remake. Nothing fundamentally different, nothing new to offer, just showing it in a new way. And honestly, it looks really great. The CGI pets are all really well done, and the voice acting is not as jarring as it was for The Lion King.

The spaghetti scene was cute and the songs were fine.

I am giving this movie an average review, basically because of how nice it looks. It is not going to blow you away, it does not change the game, and it is not going to get an serious consideration for watching in my own household. But if they had to remake something and not completely make it worse, this is a good way to go about it.

2 out of 4.

Aladdin

Out of all of the Disney remakes this year, I think Aladdin got the worst rap before it came out. Specifically, no rap at all. Didn’t Will Smith used to make a song before starring in movies? I want the 90’s back. (The 90’s that gave us the Aladdin original).

The people did not like Smith as the Genie. But he had the impossible task of doing what Robin Williams did, in live action with graphics, and not just voice acting. And Williams was crazy good at what he needed to do.

I think a lot of hate came from people who knew nothing of the Broadway version of Aladdin that already existed, where the Genie was typically played by a black man and done in a way like Smith is likely to do.

And hate by people who don’t know about Broadway is hate we can ignore.

genie
This is Smith, ignoring the haters.

Prince Ali, mighty as he, and technically not real. Because that’s not how this story starts.

Instead, we have a street rat named Aladdin (Mena Massoud) with his monkey, Abu. They steal, they give to the poor, and they live lavishly in the city in secret. Well, not rich, but the sites are sweet.

One day, he meets a princess in disguise, Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and they hit it off. He doesn’t know she is a princess though, and it is a surprise to him when he finds that out in the palace! Well, this also gets him arrested, led by the royal vizier, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who really just wants to use him to steal a magical lamp from a fucking tiger head sand cave. Whoa.

Anyways, lot of crazy stuff started happening. A genie in a lamp (Will Smith), wishes, and trying to pretend to be a prince to get with a pretty and smart lady. Oh yeah, magic, and lies, and singing.

Also starring Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar, and Navid Negahban.

jasmine
This whole knew world has a lot of beards!

With remakes, we are allowed to compare to the originals. This has all of the songs from the original, plus about 2 more given specifically to Jasmine. This film does a great job of expanding Jasmine. In the cartoon, Jasmine feels trapped and then uses her body to help defeat Jafar as a distraction. In this film, she is seen as smarter, wanting to get out, but also doing a lot more shit on her own. She tries to take the lamp, causes more distractions, and just makes sure everyone knows she is here to kick ass. Jasmine is much improved in this version.

Another plus is the Genie. He isn’t improved, but he is different and still fun. The references are nice, the jokes and callbacks work, and he is a fresh face in this film.

Unfortunately, the rest of our leads aren’t as great. Massoud never seems to capture the thrills of the cartoon or whimsy, although I did laugh at his jam jokes. Jafar is so much worse than the cartoon. He barely feels conniving and never that threatening. Iago is completely pointless in this one. The Sultan is really just a body.

The city and palace are full of color, but also seem to feel like cheap imitations. They feel and act like a movie study, and don’t reach any level of realism I’d expect with those Disney budgets. It looks like something they could have made for a TV movie.

Overall, it could have been a lot better. It didn’t have to feel rushed or so fake. It could have made the male leads like, better or at least as good as the cartoon. But the improvements to Jasmine and extra songs are worth admission alone and the best Disney remake of the year.

2 out of 4.

Harriet

Harriet coming out in 2019 is one of those surprising things that you didn’t expect. How could one of the most famous black women ever not already have a real, state of the art, biography film? The woman who saved so many slaves in the underground railroad? The woman who won an informal contest about replacing Andrew Jackson from a $20 bill.

The most surprising thing about that internet contest is that it sort of worked! The secretary of treasury at the time said sure and was going to do some things. And then Trump happened, and well, there are “more important things to worry about” according to the new secretary of treasury, and she got the shaft again.

This movie might have been made just to help expedite the whole process. I’ve heard about movies being made for worse reasons!


Like, “My best friend was mysterious and hid behind trees, here is there movie!”

Araminta “Minty” Ross (Cynthia Erivo) was born a slave, to slave parents, and only knew working for the man. Her sisters were sold off at a young age, and she was left lonely with out him. She was a similar age to the slaveholders son, Gideon (Joe Alwyn), and knew him her whole life.

After a plea for freedom, based on the wishes of the former owner, Minty knew that she just had to get out of there. So she ran. And with help from people along the way, but on a journey by herself, she made it to Philadelphia, land of the free. There she met slavery abolitionist William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.), who gave her new papers and let her pick her new identity, Harriet Tubman. And for a year she lived a free woman, learning how to be free and live well for once.

But it wasn’t enough. She had family down south. She had a husband. And if the movement up here wouldn’t go and save them, she would just go and do it herself. Again. And again. And again. And again.

And shit, one day, maybe lead a goddamn army regiment during the civil war.

Also starring Jennifer Nettles, Janelle Monáe, Tim Guinee, and Vondie Curtis-Hall.


And introducing for the first time, this GUN.

Sigh. Okay. This is a standard biopic, somewhat boring at times, with good acting from the lead. That is what I am now going to say in more words right after this sentence.

Erivo has been a great acting addition since she hit the scene seemingly last year, and ended up great in our titular role. She would be the reason to see this movie in theaters, as she carries the film.

The cast of supporting characters doesn’t work as well. Seeing Odom Jr., was great, as someone historical other than Aaron Burr, but he felt too goofy in his role and it took away from some of the seriousness of his scenes. Monáe stood out way too much also to feel believable in the role.

The slaveholders are once again turned into cartoon characters instead of villains that both intimidate and induce real scorn. Alwyn never feels natural in his role, and the final confrontation between his character and Tubman is just so fake feeling that the story seems to be wasted on that.

When doing a biography film, it is important to steep it in as much truth as possible if they want to make it something schools will buy and show for education reasons.

Other important notes: I am glad they included her civil war victory. I am glad they showed the various members of the railroad who helped her along the way. And this movie has Fredrick Douglas in it, but they never say his name. It’s great he has such an iconic look that we can tell without doing the awkward name dropping thing lampooned in Walk Hard.

Harriet features great acting from the lead, but the rest could have had improvements to make this a truly great film.

2 out of 4.