The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

I saw a trailer for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, I was astounded by the screen in front of me.

I honestly didn’t know this was a movie coming out, and my first impression was, “…is this another goddamn Alice in Wonderland movie sneaking its way out?”

I have an easily hate relationship with those two movies. Alice in Wonderland was telling a story so awkward, because it decided to be a secret sequel, and Through the Looking Glass is just legit one of the worst films I have ever seen.

This film just seemed to be equally CGI heavy, with a British slant, and some sort of fantasy uncomfortable world.

But why a CGI fantasy movie about the nutcracker? Was there clammoring for a nutcracker based movie? I mean, it seems to only be loosely based on the play/ballet as well. It certainly is not going to be a ballet showcase. So, a serious non dancing version of a famous dance? Like…Why.

That would be like taking a Tony award winning musical and turning it into a not really musical movie. A very poor decision.

Group
Speaking of poor decisions…the agents of these famous people!

This yarn is about a girl named Clara (Mackenzie Foy) who is really smart and charming in her own way. The kind of girl that boys will chase later in life when she is successful, not when boys are stupid and in school. Her mom died in the last year, and that made things really sad. She has an older sister (Ellie Bamber), a younger brother (Tom Sweet), and a dad (Matthew Macfadyen) who is trying to keep things normal by avoiding the issue almost completely.

So they are taken to a big Christmas Eve ball party for their British aristocratic friends and neighbors. Clara had received an early present before the ball of an egg with a lock, but no key. Her mom had left it for her before she died. Clara is more focused on the key than silly dances.

And sure enough, thanks to the plot, at some point Clara wanders into a different wintry world. No, this is not a world with lions and witches and wardrobes. This one has nutcrackers, mice that seem extremely intelligent, toy soldiers, and sugar plum fairies (Keira Knightley). A world of four lands that have come together to be swell together, or something. A land that her mom used to be the queen of and now it is her time to lead! Once she gets the key and fixes a few issues of course.

Also starring Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and also Jayden Fowora-Knight as a major role, his second role after Boy Playing Tennis in Ready Player One.

Rats
“Go my rat minions! Go and steal the cheese!”

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms…first, the title is terrible. Honestly, why did they not just call it The Nutcracker? That is good, iconic enough, and can get those ballet people in. This title is too hard. THE nutcracker and THE four realms. The first THE could be cut out and it works better. But they wanted the play title too badly. And the second half? The four realms? That does nothing for anyone.

Alright, this is a movie about the nutcracker and four kingdoms. Will we have very location specific places? Different worlds? One of candy, one flowers, one of ice? Yeah, probably. But guess what. Most of the film that takes place in our magical land, takes place just at a castle and one of the realms that is now forsaken.

I have no clue if the “castle” is actually one of the realms or not. Because we don’t do a damn thing with the other 2-3 realms. Why the fuck is the title and advertising focusing on four realms, when we don’t even get to play in four realms? What are they setting up? What is the point?

And the point is nothing. There seems to be very little point in this movie. I guess it is about a young girl who has to use her daring and smarts to save the day. Save the day of a fantasy kingdom that has relatively low stakes. And that effects her regular life about zero. Where no one is close to dying, and everything just feels…flighty.

Speaking of flighty, the only strong connection to the Nutcracker ballet (besides aspects of the story) is the soundtrack, which features music from the nutracker. Some of it is obvious, a lot you may not notice, but they did not fit the story that great. If the music takes out of the story, then it might not be doing its job.

Near the end, a scene with a giant robot fighting toy soldiers (sigh, yes) spliced with other action shenanigans ends up feeling dead. It felt like an unfinished movie. There was no sense of dread or suspense, and it just didn’t feel like it matched what was supposed to be an intense scene.

And you know what? To top it all off? There was a small dance scene to music, where the characters involved were dancing a waltz. But the music was not a waltz song. Come on guys. You’re not even trying.

This film is forgettable, regrettable, and probably something that Disney is really going to bury in the future. I expect no sequels, no great toy tie ins, and just a lot of disappointment from everyone involved.

0 out of 4.

Geostorm

I am a goddamn geophysicist, and it took me until almost half of a year later to watch goddamn Geostorm.

IT IS ABOUT EXTREME WEATHER. AND THE EARTH. AND I AM A GEOPHYSICIST.

It would have been unacceptable for me to watch San Andreas way late, like I did with Geostorm.

And hell, I have been relatively kind to natural disaster films on this site. I liked Into The Storm, and you already forgot it existed! Bring on the disaster, especially if it is fun.

Ice
Are those ice zombies? What are those soldiers going to do to those poor popsicles?

The Climate is fucked. After the storms started getting worse and worse, these extreme weather events began to get out of hand. Heatwaves killing thousands in an afternoon. Parts of NYC getting flooded. It just needed to stop. So the world finally came together. They couldn’t stop the climate change. But they could try to curb it.

With all nations actually working together, they developed technology, and put satellites into the orbit. Using science or whatever, these satellites around the globe can disrupt big weather events and counter act them through…I dunno, science/technology stuff. Just trust us, it works.

Hurricanes be gone, droughts be gone, whatever. The world is now a happy and prosperous place. The main creator Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) was taken from his design though, because he was hard to work with. The US Government wasn’t a fan, especially because he wanted it to be perfect enough for the technology to be controlled by the UN, not the USA. Once he is kicked out, and his brother (Jim Sturgess) is put in charge, he feels like it is still fine, but nope. Time for exile.

He is just going to be needed years later, when the satellites begin to malfunction. Now these big storm events are starting to occur, people are dying, and bad things are happening. If these storms continue, they will start to cause other storms, until they get big enough that the whole world will be under weather advisory. A Geostorm.

Also starring a lot of other people: Like Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Amr Waked, Adepero Oduye, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris, Richard Schiff, Robert Sheehan, Zazie Beetz, and Mare Winningham.

Space
Surprise! Half of this film takes place not even on the geo!

Goddamn it. I wanted to watch a terrible nature disaster movie. But Geostorm isn’t really a terrible disaster movie. It is really just a terrible political thriller, that has climate disaster consequences.

Fuck that.

I mean, if it was a good political thriller and about climate change, it would be one thing. But it is terrible at explaining the disasters, and a terrible thriller, with terrible action. Everything about it is terrible!

Well then why isn’t it a zero? You know, if I hated it, and the acting was bad, and the plot was bad, and the disasters were bad?

Well, they called the satellite program the Dutch boy. You know, referencing the fable about him sticking his finger in a dyke. That makes me chuckle. That is a solid nickname. That is worth a slight price of admission.

And unfortunately, Butler is a scientist in this movie, and mostly in space. So we don’t get to see him fighting a tornado or anything cool. Very disappointing.

1 out of 4.

Miracles From Heaven

Miracles From Heaven is the latest close to Easter Christian film release to happen this year, the first being Risen, and the next one after this being God’s Not Dead 2. I figured I should tell you that these all exist, because it is easy to get lost in it all.

Miracles is by the people who brought us Heaven Is For Real from a few years ago, also based on a book based on a true story. And of course, Heaven is in both titles. They want you to know right off the bat what you are getting in to.

Sure, I almost never rate Christian films highly, because they are all pretty similar. Overacting, cheesiness, non realistic situations, straw men, whatever. But what annoyed me in particular about this one ahead of time was the marketing. I barely saw anything for it, but I did see a viral post on the Facebook. At the risk of giving this random person more views, here it is if you haven’t seen it.

Now, first of all, yes it is just the trailer. And the trailer is cut off on the left and right due to the actual size of the post. But this trend of having text on the top and bottom of gifs or videos is incredibly annoying. First of all, it takes away from the original creators of the gif/video, and puts someone else’s mark on it. It usually changes the distortion of the video and makes it smaller. But lastly, what an annoying thing to even write on just a trailer to get people to share. It feels underhanded and deceptive almost. I hope I don’t start seeing more of these, because people will fall for this way of advertising apparently and not realize how crap it is.

And of course, you also have to see the trailer for this film, which tells 100% the whole damn story of the movie.

Doctor
Oh hey. That guy. I like that guy. Never mind, I need to see this movie!

Let’s journey back in time to a few years ago to Texas. Near Ft. Worth, not near Dallas. We will meet the Beam family, which is a strange last name to hear a lot as you will assume bean half the time. The patriarch is Kevin (Martin Henderson), a veterinarian, who recently convinced his wife, Christy (Jennifer Garner) to let him open up a bigger clinic. They have a lot of animals on their large farm, but also three daughters: Amy (Brighton Sharbino), Anna (Kylie Rogers), and Adelyn (Courtney Fansler).

Anna is our main girl though, the middle child, because she has stomach pains and no one knows how to help her. Eventually they figure out that her intestines are not working, they are basically bloated and paralyzed, so she cannot eat any solid foods. She has to switch to liquids. It is a disease with still no known cure, so it is mostly about making her comfortable through all the pain and living with her for the few months or years she may have. But Christy will not accept it. So no matter the cost, no matter the strain on her family, she will help her daughter. They even get her into the best doctor who works with kids with these sorts of problems. Dr. Nurko (Eugenio Derbez)! Except he is in Boston with a long waiting list.

Well, they will get through this. No matter who loses faith. No matter who gives up on life. No matter what strange accidents that might occur eventually and cure the disease surprisingly despite no known cure.

Also featuring some smaller roles from Kevin Sizemore, Queen Latifah, Bruce Altman, and John Carroll Lynch as the preacher.

Family
Damn this family just looks perfect.

Okay here we go. Miracles From Heaven was not as bad as most other Christian cinema. It wasn’t overly cheesy, nor was it overly preachy. The acting was average to good, only poor acting coming from some random extras. It also did a lot better at connecting to the viewer on an emotional level. It doesn’t make it a great movie, it just makes it better.

Now of course, I am still a relatively new father. So movies that are about the potential (or actual) loss of a child, especially a girl, really get right up into my brain and make me feel the sad feels. So yes, Miracles From Heaven made me cry. Not just once, or twice, but several times. Just getting caught up in all of the emotions, the sad and the happy. After all, once you start flowing, it is hard to really stop. So obviously the film did a wonderful job there of jerking the tears.

In all honesty, a lot of me just seemed to feel bad for Kevin, who had to try and hold everything together, working long hours, still taking care of the kids and missing out on events, while trying to be an emotional rock for his family.

But enough about that. This movie did feel too long. And if you saw the trailer, there is not a whole lot of reason to see the movie outside of an emotional experience, because you see how she even gets healed. There were a lot of unnecessary scenes without any real payoff, like Queen Latifah’s character. You could cut her out of the movie easily and you wouldn’t miss out at all. It felt like there were several potential ending points, which kept me feeling tied down. And of course story wise, there isn’t a whole lot of plot.

Only one “prayer” scene felt really awkward or out of place, and that was when Christy was losing her faith and yelling at the sky. There was also a heaven scene that got really strange, but I guess it was required to happen.

Oh well. A decent recounting of the true story of a girl who had issues who then lost them after getting into an accident. What it doesn’t try to do is prove that Jesus is real through the story. It is only a small part. Unlike Heaven Is For Real, which is all about trying to prove it with terrible evidence, this is a story about a family going through a tough time and becoming stronger on the other side. Miracles is now the new film that I will compare all future Christian films to.

2 out of 4.

Instructions Not Included

Oh man, diversity.

I do believe, with Instructions Not Included, this is the third mostly Spanish movie in the same number of weeks on my website!

Too bad I totally won’t keep that going. I literally don’t know of any other that are about to come to the US, and we have a shit ton of new releases to look forward to. So, uhhh, don’t get used to it, que?

Family
Shit, did I not do that Spanish part correctly?

Valentín Bravo (Eugenio Derbez) is a coward. He is afraid of small problems, medium problems, big problems, and the biggest problem of all, committment. A different woman every week, living life with no job, no responsibility, no worried. Until Julie (Jessica Lindsey) visits him with a 8 month year old baby. Looks like cheap condoms aren’t full proof, but she also leaves it in his living room after a ruse, and runs away back to LA. Well shit. Babies.

Despite his best attempts, he can not keep up with her, and by the time he sneaks into LA, she has moved to NY. He is super stuck with this child, which means he has to do things like get a job, care for another human being, and try to stop being such a coward. Due to those intense parental instincts, he somehow gets a job as a stunt man and befriends a a director (Daniel Raymont), and next thing you know, seven years have flew by, and he is the coolest dad ever. Stunt work pays well, and it all goes towards making her life awesome. He even has fake letters sent from the mom to keep his daughter, Maggie (Loreto Peralta) happy.

Unfortunately, life is about to get more difficult when Julie (Record Scratch) returns home. And she is a lesbian (with Alessandra Rosaldo). And a lawyer. And she wants the kid back. And there is a disease that there is no cure for, which will also potentially ruin this happy arrangement. Well fuck.

Baby
Maybe, he should have done something different with the baby early on. Then no heartache now, right?

So this guy, Eugenio Derbez, I have seen him before. He was in Girl In Progress, and it was terrible, but he had the best part in it, even though his role was small. But not only did he star in this film, he also directed it, and helped write it, so this is definitely his baby. The girl above is most likely not his actual baby.

Well, his facial expressions were pretty great in this film, just like Girl In Progress, but it seems like everyone else was made to over act and just made this movie feel like a soap opera. A less dramatic, entirely frustrating soap opera. The beginning felt super rushed, pretty chaotic, but interesting. His life in LA just felt ridiculous, and the events that happened to him, both in his career, with his kid, and with Julie kind of started to just piss me off. Not in the “Oh, this incredible acting is pissing me off and making me feel emotion!” way, but the “This stuff is shitty, what the hell is going on, I am mad at this movie for sucking!”

But it also had heart. And at the end, thanks to a few sudden scenes, I was crying. Stupid movie. Making me rage. Interesting story. Emotional ending.

Gah.

2 out of 4.

Girl In Progress

If you went to the movie theaters this summer, you might have heard about Girl In Progress, because really that is the only time I heard anyone ever talk about it. I think I saw the preview for the movie maybe seven times in a single month. SEVEN TIMES. So as you can see, watching this movie as soon as possible was a priority, because damn it, I wanted to know what the trailer kept teasing at me.

Girrrl
Huh, I wonder if this picture is a metaphor.

Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) is just a girl, who kind of hates her position in life. She at least gets to go to a private school, but her mom Grace (Eva Mendes) is having problems paying for it. Grace works a few jobs, including house cleaning for a Dr. Harford (Matthew Modine) and waitressing at a local crab shop. Their relationship is pretty strained, because Ansiedad feels her mom spends all her time working or sleeping with married men (Yep, the doctor) and not enough time just being a good mom.

But (and we are about to get super meta here), when she starts to learn about a genre of novels that tell of coming of age stories, she makes it her desire to have her own “coming of age” story, so she can become and adult and fix her situation in a flash. With her only real friend (Raini Rodriguez) they develop a list of tasks that most occur in order to have the appropriate experience. Everything is on that list, from first awkward kiss to virginity loss, to changing her lifestyle from nerd to badass (including intentionally losing her old friends), to hopefully moving out of her home and escaping to NYC!

While at the same time, Grace’s life is getting more stressful, as she is put in charge of the restaurant while her boss is at a festival. On top of that, Dr. Harford is willing to elope and take their family far away from the area. Sounds sweet, but can easily backfire. But all of these stresses make it harder to see the changes her daughter is going through, until her teacher (Patricia Arquette) is able to point them out.

Additionally, a middle aged hispanic individual nicknamed Mission Impossible (Eugenio Derbez) is a part of both of their lives, and might be willing to fix there situation at any cost.

British double
The real star of the movie. Anyone else think he looks like a Hispanic Matt Berry?

So what happens when you get a coming of age movie, about a girl attempting to create her own coming of age story? Well, it could either go amazingly well, or amazingly bad as far as I can tell, and I think this film falls on the latter. I wouldn’t describe any of the main cast performances as bad, but it actually just felt like they didn’t care.

That Eugenio? He was excellent. A lot of it might have just been in his facial expressions, but he is really the only person who made me enjoy the film. Although the film itself is about character growth, it felt fake or forced the growth that occurred. Arguably, a forced growth in a movie about forced growth could also be intentional, but I doubt the creativity of the director in this case.

For a hilarious read, I suggest the outline on wikipedia of the plot. If anything, it makes my writing look awesome, so clearly checking it out only leads to positives!

1 out of 4.