Coco

Walt Disney Animation Studios have been on a kick lately, where they want simplistic, yet bold film titles, often in one word. Tangled. Frozen. Moana. Zootopia. Gigantic, which apparently isn’t going to happen anymore.

Disney isn’t officially doing Coco, Pixar is (Which is owned by Disney), who, outside of the franchise that should not be named, has mostly shied away from these sort of titles. Is Coco a sign of things to come for Pixar in the title department? It is hard to say, given the fact that its previous two movies, and next two movies are all sequels. Ugh.

I will note I experienced almost no hype for Coco. And that is because of its immediately similarity to The Book of Life. They aren’t even doppelganger films, because the other one came out years earlier, so it is just a bit odd to see such similar topics in animated films so close to each other. But the good news is, The Book of Life was only okay, I forgot basically all of it by now so it really didn’t mess with my opinion.

Strum
Guitars, afterlife, Mexico, love, sadness, revenge. Very similar films indeed.

Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) has a sad story, but a strong one. She had a daughter, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), with her husband, who had more loves in the world than just his family. He left them, to become a singer and a star, and never returned. Poor Imelda had to raise Coco on her own, while also bringing home the bacon. She learned to make shoes and started her own shoe empire, going down her line of children.

Now, many years later, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12 year old boy, and he loves music. He wants to play the guitar and sing, but there is a ban on music in his family, given the past incident. His Abuela (Renee Victor) is the main matriarch now, since his great-grandmother, Coco, is in a chair and doesn’t speak much.

Miguel idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who is basically the Mexican Elvis in this film, extremely famous and well loved. But he has to keep his obsession secret. Well, due to some shenanigans involving a dead man’s guitar, Miguel finds him in the underworld! And on this, Dia de los Muertos, when the dead are trying to get back to the real world, not the other way around.

Miguel is going on an adventure, on the run from disapproving and dead realities, while he searches for his great great grandfathers approval, so that he can return to the real world AND play music officially. And he has bumbling Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) to help him, who just wants someone to post his photo in the real world so he can cross over to the real world just one time before no one remembers him.

Also featuring the voices of many others, including Edward James Olmos, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Herbert Siguenza, Lombardo Boyar, and Sofía Espinosa.

Familia
Well, Miguel doesn’t LOOK like his ancestors.

It is interesting that this film came out in Thanksgiving weekend and not like, the week before Dia de los Muertos like the film takes place on. Usually films go into effort to come out near specific holidays, but Pixar needed that Thanksgiving break money. It was released in Mexico before the day at least, so it has been out for almost a month somewhere else in the world.

On an emotional level, Coco hits on most of the cylinders. It should be a relatively easy feat, given the subject of DEATH and loss being its main focus. Relatives dying? Wives, kids, parents, whatever the level, it will get people choked up. It had a diverse soundtrack of authentic sounds, and despite Remember Me getting the most screen time (and one cry), my favorite song was Proud Corazón by the end, which tied up everything with a nice bow, as these films tend to do.

Miguel’s relationship with his various family members feels real on the level that a 12 year old boy might feel, including the parts where no one lets him talk. But adults refusing to listen to children in films end up usually being a pet peeve, as they just create lazy plot situations where communication does not occur and leads to all of the conflict.

Coco is a beautiful film, physically and emotionally, but it just seems to falter on the smaller elements. Ideas I couldn’t get out of my mind. Timing these events on Dia de los Muertos seemed to have hurt it instead of helping it. On this day, the dead want to go to the real world to party, hang out, get trinkets. And yet the city of the dead is so fucking full of people. We see a very small shanty area of folks who can’t cross because they don’t have pictures. But all of the biggest underworld celebrities are just still there? All the citizens are having their own parties in the place they are stuck so many days of the year?

It seems like a minor nitpick, and maybe it is, but it really distracted me most of the film. There were issues with the spirit animals, in that apparently one is so much more powerful than the others that it can just murder in the underworld and be basically okay. We have the fear of falling to death ruined by a last minute save, that would have still killed the person falling based on how they did it.

And we had SO MANY times when slow decisions were being made just toe extend the film. At least three times we had moments where the viewer would assume that everyone is fine now, time to fix things, and then wham, nope. Whether it be from last second pointless arguments, lack of communication, or just forgetting how to move.

The plot felt very lazy, so much that the film became more tearjerky than anything.

I love the culture of the film, I love the authentic voice actors, and how some of the songs were actually all in Spanish. Having this much of a multicultural element in a Pixar film is a welcome change (since most of their culture is inanimate/dead things with feelings). It just relied to heavily on that component and not enough on a decent plot.

And to bring us back to the beginning, Coco is not a good title for this film.

2 out of 4.

Wonder

As a middle school teacher, Wonder is a book I have seen before existing that I have blatantly ignored. It had an interesting cover, sure, but a guy can’t just go and read everything that is hip and cool with the kiddos.

I was still excited for this one, as I knew a lot of librarians and English teachers and students who talked highly about the book. So sure, I would watch it and hope for the best, and not worry about comparing it to the book.

Oooh, I wonder wonder what’s in a wonder film.

Family
Maybe that helmet is full of wonder balls.

August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is a boy who had a lot of problems right out of the womb. He has been in the ICU, and has had many surgeries. There were many problems, and basically, he now has a really different looking face when compared to other kids. Because of his issues, he has been homeschooled his entire life by his mother (Julia Roberts), who put a degree on hold. His dad (Owen Wilson) works and tries to keep the humor in the house, and his older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), just has to deal with most of her problems on her own.

His family thinks it is time for him to finally join the real world. It will be hard for him to go to a real school, but it will be harder the more they put it off. So he is signed up for an academy for middle school that starts in the fifth grade and does a lot of advanced science work. Auggie loves science, dreams of being an astronaut, and has been using a space helmet to hide his face when going out in public.

Middle school is going to be a hard adjustment for Auggie. But he doesn’t realize is that many kids are finding it to be a hard adjustment. And that school itself is a hard adjustment, across its various levels. Auggie will realize the value of friendship, betrayal, and more, and that he also is not the center of his own universe.

Also starring Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin, Bryce Gheisar, Elle McKinnon, Daveed Diggs, Ty Consiglio, Kyle Breitkopf, Millie Davis, Ali Liebert, Danielle Rose Russell, Nadji Jeter, and Ben Ratner.

Woods
When they recreate frame by frame that scene from Deliverance? A bold choice from the director.

My first initial thought about Wonder: The movie only made me cry three times, what a shitshow. A good film needs five cries minimum.

But then I got over my not super salty cheeks and thought about the film and story as a whole. The film isn’t just about a dude with a messed up face learning to cope. It is about his whole family moving on with his condition. It is about his sister finding herself, i is about his friends realizing their own fuck ups. Shit, it is even about his sister’s friend realizing she is a fuck up.

It is a really easy conclusion to come to as well, because the film is formatted in a way to (quite obviously) show several different point of views. I have been told the book does it more frequently and better, but I did really appreciate it when it happened in the film. I got giddy with each iteration. If anything, one of the reasons the rating isn’t hire is because the film didn’t go deep enough in this method. Don’t introduce point of views and do it half-assed. Basically every time it did so, it did it only once, and then didn’t do it for enough characters. Let me see all of the other side characters who acted weird, go all in damn it.

I was able to connect with a lot of the characters, including Auggie, despite only having a minor facial deformity myself. Except the deformity I have made me really really attractive, so I guess people stared at me for other reasons.

Acting is swell, and honestly, a shout out to Wilson. He was more than a generic joking dad. He had some really sweet and tender moments as well, less than the mom character, but he did a lot with his lesser screen time.

3 out of 4.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Dreamworks films never reach their full potential. Or they do, and Dreamworks films just suck, outside of the two Dreamworks franchises that I don’t even have to mention at this point.

They do not aim for universal appeal, they just want to get their cheap kid jokes and run.

I expected to outright hate Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. I have never read or looked into a book with any level of effort, but I see the sort of humor that exists. You know, poop and underwear humor. Like the whole series, all based on one sort of joke. It is a bold move, but it was a hit with kids, and honestly I am surprised it took this long for a movie.

But as I left the film, it had some level of charm, despite all the shit.

Hero
His whole body is just so round.

Before we get to the superhero, we need to talk about George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch). They have been best friends since Kindergarten, thanks to their similar humor styles. They pull pranks on school to get them by, and they love making comics together. George tells the story, Harold is the illustrator. Their favorite comic that they have made is Captain Underpants!

But at school, not everything is okay. The mean Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) is the principal, and he outlaws fun for the sake of discipline, so George and Harold are a thorn in his side. But he never has proof! When he does get proof, he will be able to separate the two boys into different classes, thus killing their friendship, or something like that.

And thanks to a few other pranks their nightmare is about to come true! As a last ditch effort, they attempt to hypnotize him, and it works! There they decide to make him pretend to be Captain Underpants and wham! A superhero is born!

But can their school be run by a make believe super hero? Can they control him and protect their friendship? What about the evil Professor P (Nick Kroll) who has a weird plan to hurt children too, with the unknowing help of Melvin (Jordan Peele), a humorless nerd. Also featuring Kristen Schaal as the voice of the cafeteria worker.

Kids
Although pretty round, they have a few more edges so this isn’t just some freaky round planet. Whew.

Guess what?! Captain Underpants wasn’t extremely poopy, just somewhere poopy. For the most part, I didn’t find it really that funny. It relied on the same sort of joke over and over again. Of which the film did talk about how “toilet humor” is the lowest form, so they understood what they were doing. The exaggeration of their friendship being killed by being in different classes was a bit annoying, since they straight up hang out with each other as direct neighbors after school all the time as well.

But it was telling the story in their kid point of view, so it made sense on a level. On a different level, they are supposed to be very smart and savvy compared to the rest of the students, so when their characterizations are sometimes very childish versus mature, it is a bit confusing on what they are supposed to represent.

There are however aspects that I really enjoyed. This is a film where all the main characters are voiced by famous people. It is a stupid trend, it still doesn’t lead to more ticket sales like Robin Williams did in the early 1990s. They are paying more money for lesser voices. BUT, the characters in this film didn’t just sound like the normal actors for once. The closest two were Hart and Scahal, but everyone else I would not have been able to tell you the voice at all, so that is wonderful.

The second aspect I enjoyed was their decisions to tell the story in different ways. It is a CGI film, but we weren’t just given a completely CGI movie. It starts off with a paper comic book feel, we are given a flip book scene, various forms of day dream, but best of all, a sock puppet scene. Sock puppets! The changing formats of the film helped keep my interest and make the film a bit more sophisticated?

No, not sophisticated. Let’s just keep it as interesting.

It still caters to a lower form of humor. It still doesn’t have a lot of substance. But hey, it did try a few things I enjoyed and wasn’t a complete shit show.

2 out of 4.

A Dog’s Purpose

Dog films are all the rage now. Just look at the last two reviews on my website. But in reality, despite this mini awkward dog theme, actual dog movies are NOT popular like they were in the 1990’s and 2000’s. They pop up every once in awhile and usually try to kill a dog by the end of it in order to get all pet owners to cry and feel nostalgic about past pets and current pets.

It is easy money. A Dog’s Purpose is based on a book that a lot of people liked and read, so it should have made money. Then it had a silly controversy a whole week before it came out, people decided not to see it, and here I am today, hoping it is terrible because it came out in January.

But really, I want to note that the idea behind the movie is brilliant. If dying pets makes people love the movie, buy it on DVD and give the movie money, then why not have the main dog more than once? Why not a whole handful of times?

There is tear jerking, and there is tear sucking out of you with an industrial vacuum.

Boyhood
I think an alternative title for this movie might have been Doghood.

The movie has dogs, people, and a lot of both. If you are the type of person who gets sad over the death of pets, you are goign to get really fucking sad in this movie.

Because our main dog (Josh Gad) who goes by many names, so I will just call him Dog, is going to die over and over again. This Dog is wondering what his purpose in life is. He likes to play and have fun he guesses, and there are humans that tell him to do things, but what is he here for?

So he hangs out with a kid who grows up into an adult. He hangs out with a lady in school. He is in an abusive home. He is a dog for a cop! He does so much more, but really, he just wants that stomach scratched.

Featuring a hot mess of people though, so here we go: Britt Robertson, Bryce Gheisar, Dennis Quaid, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, K.J. Apa, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Logan Miller, Luke Kirby, and Peggy Lipton.

Doggie
I wonder how many humans die in this movie? More than dogs?

A Dog’s Purpose is a waste of time. For dog lovers, cat lovers, and human lovers alike. Now, I have never made a movie before, but I have to imagine that making the audience care about a pet has got to be pretty easy. I imagine it is one of the easiest tasks ever to make someone cry in a theater by having the pet go bye bye, second only to a relative.

And yet, after watching A Dog’s Purpose, which had at least five dogs, I think, I found myself unable to make a connection with most of them. In fact, some of them, the deaths came sort of out of nowhere. And not in a “Oh no, tragedy, death!” shocking sort of way. Just a “Oh, this is the end of this plot line I guess, let’s move on” sort of way. They just did a poor job of making me care.

Maybe a big element to get someone to care about the pet is time with the pet, but a common narrator sound just isn’t good enough. I wasn’t feeling the stories, I wasn’t feeling the other humans, I just didn’t care.

And a dog movie, where the dog dies so many ties, that fails to make me cry? Just feels a bit shallow and rushed. No emotional connection, means not a good drama film.

0 out of 4.

Rock Dog

2017 is the year of the animated disappointments so far, and yes, I still have not seen The LEGO Batman Movie, get over it. It might be funny, I just don’t care too much, as Batman was what I disliked the most about The LEGO Movie.

And I figured I would be skipping Rock Dog, it was an animated film released almost a whole year prior in China. You know, because they made it. And I know America isn’t number one at everything anymore, but I know we are still number one at animated CGI films. Yes, some anime notwithstanding, we do CGI cutting edge and well, so foreign films just seem behind.

And also the title, Rock Dog. Sigh. Come on animated films, be better.

Legend
I wonder which one is the rock and which one is the dog.

Way way far away, in a land called Snow Mountain (which is, guess what… a snow mountain!), there lives a young Tibetan Mastiff named Bodi (Luke Wilson). Bet you thought his name would be Rock Dog. Nah, not yet.

A long time ago, a bunch of wolves led by Linnux (Lewis Black) were driven out of their town by Bodi’s father, Khampa (J.K. Simmons). Khampa is pretty sure the wolves will eventually come back, so he is training up the local sheep and his son to protect it again once they come back. There is also some magic stuff about finding his inner fire to help defeat things, but uhh, that is weird.

Turns out Bodi just wants to rock, once he discovers what music and rock music actually is. It is all he thinks about, it is his new dream and passion, and he is a bit of savant. But his dad disapproves, so he one day just goes out on his own to prove him wrong.

After getting to the city, he heads to a place called Rock and Roll Park in order to find a band and make a big name for himself, like the legendary rocker Scattergood (Eddie Izzard). But the wolves are out, the people are mean, and Bodi might just have to make it on the music biz on his own.

Also featurign the voice work of Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon, and Sam Elliott.

Home
The snow or rain or whatever is happening is indistinguishable from that yak’s beard in the background.

Rock Dog is another animated film that ushers out a line of celebrities to do their voice work instead of real voice work, because names sell. Names like Eddie Izzard. Thankfully, two of those names are J.K. Simmons and Sam Elliott, who have unique voices and add something to the film. Too bad their characters are in Snow Mountain, so only at the beginning and the end of the film, really.

The premise of Rock Dog is mostly shit. Anthropomorphized badly explained worlds are all over the place, and this does nothing to rise above a Pre-K TV program on Disney. It doesn’t feel fully fleshed out and it is a super simple story. A lot of it about a dog who just wants to play music in a world that doesn’t rewward newcomers.

But despite its lack of originality, great CGI, or anything new to offer the genres, it is still an average movie.

I mean, I am not going to go out of my way to make sure my kids see it, but if they do see it, I won’t be annoyed at their mind being poisoned by drivel. It is just a bit dull for those of us who have been there, done it, when it comes to these types of movies.

2 out of 4.

Max 2: White House Hero

The movie Max had a sequel. Max was a middle of the year release a few years ago, a movie about a boy and a trained dog, and it sucked. They just messed it all up, and it was a stinker.

I am surprised I actually gave it a 1 star, to be honest. Thought I hated it more.

And with this review you are finding out that yes, that film somehow got a sequel. Max 2: White House Hero, because hey, movies at the White House are fun. This movie was released straight to DVD thought, with a new cast and a new story. Apparently the “Max” brand name was strong enough that it warranted using it for the sequel, and not just a stand alone story.

Also, I realize some of you may have forgotten that Max even existed, so I apologize for bringing it back up.

Presidential
Now that Trump is president, why not have Lochlyn Munro give it a shot?

TJ Bennett (Zane Austin) is the son of the president, and he hates it. He has a security detail at all times, the kids at his school hate him for it, and he is just lonely really. One of the only people who seems to get to know him is Chef Coop (Bradley Stryker), who makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich.

But his dad (Lochlyn Munro) and mom (Carrie Genzel) say he has to help entertain a new guest, the Russian President Bragov (Andrew Kavadas) and his child Alex. They are coming for an important visit for both countries. He reluctantly agrees of course, because he really has no choice. But wait, Alex is a girl (Francesca Capaldi)!

Well things are weird now, and when they get to Camp David, they will have to find ways to keep themselves busy, the stake of the world is on it!

Ohhhhhhhh. And yeah, Max, the same one from the first movie, is in this one. He is loan to the Secret Service to help with the mission, because their normal dog had puppies. And Max befriends TJ and listens to him, so TJ finally has a friend closer to his age.

Also starring Reese Alexander, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, and Bruce Blain.

WILL MAX SAVE THE DAY?

Spoilers
Oh, spoilers.

Max 2 features everything you’d want in a movie. Assuming that movie premiered for the first time on the Disney Channel, because that is how it feels. The only thing missing from my experience was 40 minutes of commercial breaks as well.

It wasn’t entirely shit, but I was indeed bored throughout it. It featured jokes and excitement that only a child could enjoy, unable to make it a family movie that everyone could want to see it. Strangely enough the only character who felt good in their roll was little Francesca Capaldi, playing a Russian president’s very young daughter. She got that accent down and gave that harsh level of authority we are now used to from Russia.

Dog stunts, kids running around, adults not listening to kids, just normal things in a film of this nature. It doesn’t offer really anything new or exciting, nor does it really have its moments. It is just a time filler.

1 out of 4.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Soft reboots are hard. And usually they involve comic book heroes.

But for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, we have replaced every single character with new characters! Sure the last one of these was five years ago and people get older, but why not keep the parents?

I have reviews of the original films, the first, the second, and the third. And the last one was the worst one, so maybe they decided the cast was washed up and they needed fresh talent.

Whatever the reason is, this one is a movie I have to judge off the previous films. Or, what I barely remember off the previous films. I mostly remember really enjoying the older brother. And the main kid was probably annoying.

Awkface
The initials of the main book series is DOAWK, or DO AWK. And this boy is sure doing awk.

The wimpy kid has a name, and that name is Greg (Jason Drucker). You may also know him as Diaper Hands, thanks to an unfortunate event at a family buffet where a few actions of his went viral on the internet. Oh great, this poor kid of undisclosed age is now going to get it from everyone.

But he can’t do anything to fix it, because his family is going on a road trip. They have to go visit their MeeMaw’s 90th birthday and it is about 48 hours of driving. Despite having a mother (Alicia Silverstone) and a father (Tom Everett Scott), two highly functioning people, they are going to take four days just to get there because they need to both sleep in a hotel at night, I guess. He also has his older brother Rodrick (Charlie Wright) and a like, 2-3 year old brother. It is a kid who is definitely too old for a pacifier.

Oh, and the mom has instituted a ban of technology on the road trip. No cell phones for anyone, including the dad who apparently has to secretly do his job while also road tripping.

No phone means Greg cannot restore his internet identity. However, he has a plan. Near where his MeeMaw lives will be a gaming convention, and his idol, Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover, basically PewDiePie like person) will be there. If he can meet him and be on one of his videos, he will be famous in a new way and kill his diaper hands code name. He just has to get there and survive the road.

Oh, and there is also Chris Coppola playing a bearded family nemesis and Owen Asztalos as Rowley for a little bit of screen time.

Family
In this frame, our mom almost looks younger than the older brother.

I struggled just finding what rating I would end up giving this film and my mind went back and forth, just back and forth between a 1 and 2. In no way is this film objectively good, outside of some camera work maybe. I haven’t seen a DOAWK film in five years or so, but I think most of the characters are a downgrade. I really can’t remember much about Greg, but the older brother isn’t as believable in this one, that dad is more boring, and the best friend is barely in it to compare. The baby kid was clearly way too old, having the ability to have full conversations, but also barely counting? And pacifiers?

Out of improvements, this one is probably better with Silverstone, who seemed to master this heartful nagging tone throughout the movie. What the fuck? And just 20 years she was so clueless at everything.

This film tried to stand on its own feet by amplifying everything. All the bad things that occurred on the trip just seemed to go straight to 11. The family should have died so many times on the road based on what happened while driving (and not pulling over to just deal with it). The entire Berdo family plot line was terrible, with each escalation never really making much sense. I felt bad for Beardo more than anything, really.

Greg’s plan was shit, but I can’t fault the movie for that. Because kids make shit ideas. What I can fault this movie for is having so much destruction and spending that it just never becomes relatable. This family, despite one working parent (who might get fired on this trip?) is apparently rich as fuck, based on how much they have to spend during it to fix their issues. And yes, money fixes most of their issues. I ain’t got time for these rich people problems.

But the “baby kid” plot lines were still cute despite everything. And there ended up being a pig eventually, I loved that pig plot. The pig plot was cute, along with a few other cute moments that didn’t make the movie completely suck, just mostly suck.

2 out of 4.

Gifted

To be gifted in academia, it can mean a lot of things. It does NOT, however, have to mean you are immediately great at math or science. You can be gifted at drawing, music, analytical thinking, synesthesia, you name it. It is a common misconception that gifted students have to be good at common school subjects.

When I was in NC, it was called AG then AIG, Academically Intellectually Gifted, but apparently in Texas it is just GT, for Gifted and Talented. The same key word is there, and it is supposed to give you a harder program to really test your limits and get more out of your education. For the most part, it is really just slightly harder material and doesn’t do a lot of training.

Being a gifted student and now teaching gifted students, I was very interested with what the hell the movie Gifted would be about. Would it be accurate? Would it show the appropriate struggles? Would the main character wear glasses?

Girl
Oh thank goodness, no glasses.

Our story is about Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace). She is 7 years old and about to enter the first grade. She doesn’t want to go, though, because she has been living with her Uncle Frank (Chris Evans) most of her life and she has been home schooled. Not fancy tutors, just good old fashioned books and practice. Sure they live in a small trailer, in a poor area, with Frank working as a boat repairman, but they are happy.

But she doesn’t want to go into a regular school. It will be too slow for her! And when she does advanced multiplication in her head to her new teacher, Ms. Stevenson (Jenny Slate), they know something is up.

Turns out she is the daughter of Pat Golding (Julie Ann Emery), a very famous young mathematician, who was close to solving the Navier–Stokes equations. It is part of the Millennium Prize Problems (Not Yu-Gi-Oh related), a series of problems that will help revolutionize math if anyone ever can prove them. And Pat killed herself when Mary was 6 months old, leaving her in Frank’s house.

But it turns out that Franks family is kind of crazy. Notably, his mom (Lindsay Duncan), who attempts to gain custody of Mary once she finds out how gifted she is. Frank doesn’t want to put her in a fancy academy school for high level training, he wants her to grow up normal, with friends her age. And thus, a nice legal battle is actually the main focus of the film. Woo, lawyers!

And Octavia Spencer is in here too, of course, as wise next door neighbor and friend.

Teacher
Now picture the lady who starred in Obvious Child as an elementary school teacher. Yeah, I can’t either.

Gifted is okay, in almost every front. The acting, the story, the feels. I only cried once, which is surprising, given it being about a dad like figure with a young daughter. There was an incredibly cute scene where the girl was having a crisis, thinking that she was never wanted by anyone in her family and her mom, so Frank took her to a hospital to see baby announcements post births. To show happy families and to relate how it made them feel as well. It was touching and powerful.

But this film isn’t great at the same time.

We have handfuls of math problem montages, close ups of symbols and numbers that I guess most people won’t understand, close up of the girl’s face, and back and forth, with some nice chipper music. The worst was when she was doing an advanced math packet in her first grade class. Because that montage included Jenny Slate looking longingly at her while she sat at her desk.

And it still had some nice jokes though. Jokes about math teachers and beards. Jokes about how less civilized people will use the word irregardless. Those cracked me up, which made the movie a bit more bearable.

Gifted is a relatively simple film about an extraordinary, fictional character. Watching a first graded do differential equations isn’t exciting, because this is a movie and the actress could be doing anything. In real life, if this was a real story, it would be amazing. Oh well!

2 out of 4.

Max Steel

Max Steel is a movie I figured I saw before, or heard about, but everything I knew was wrong.

I was thinking it must have been some modern kids show, but I was wrong. Maybe a kids cartoon that I saw once a long time ago? Oh yeah kind of! I never saw the show at all, but existed a decade and a half ago, for about two years. And then apparently a lot of direct to DVD movies and toys.

So this is a franchise that some people, somewhere, care about? It just seems like a weird very niche thing to resurrect, literally hoping children who watched the show at the time will go and see the movie. The movie that had no advertising that came and went and is sneaking out to DVD like it probably should have done first.

Jump
Regardless of how it goes, this screen grab is unintentionally hilarious.

Don’t worry, the main character’s name isn’t Max Steel, it is Max McGrath (Ben Winchell)! And he is a high school student, living with his mother (Maria Bello), and for whatever reason they move around a lot. This is the 8th or 9th time they have moved, because of issues. They might have said more details, but my mind has blanked out big portions of the film.

He goes to school, flirts with Sofia Martinez (Ana Villafañe), they do some things, and then a mysterious man shows up at their door. This man is Dr. Miles Edwards (Andy Garcia), who knows the mom and has been sending presents occasionally. He knew Max’s dad, but his mom doesn’t talk about the dad a lot, nor how he dies.

Max’s Dad worked for some place called N-Tek, that does tech stuff and wants to protect to the world, and that is where Miles works as well. And this place is close to where they live now, oh man!

This is a lot of dumb set up. Max gets these weird powers to control electronics kind of. An alien named Steel (Josh Brener) shows up, talks a lot like an ADHD kid, and wants Max to help them stop bad things. They can even merge together to make a fighting suit thing. Ah, superhero time!

Suit
You know, like people cheating on their taxes. Take em down Max Steel!

About five minutes into the film, my brain checked out. Something about the movie just immediately turns me off. They are using nice cameras, and that somehow seems to add to the woes. Everything is so crisp like a commercial, but then we have moody cloud backgrounds. It is trying to show angst early on through visuals and it just looks gross.

The characters are not people to root for or care about. Winchell is not charismatic nor is he strong to carry the lead in a film like that.

Everything just feels drab and it becomes a surprise when they finally introduce Steel, who is way too upbeat and talkative given the tone for the rest of the film.

The plot may be confusing, it might not, I am not sure because it was just so hard to care about. The final fight with the bad guy, Garcia’s character, completely forgettable.

It is just Max Steel has absolutely nothing going for it. What is worse about it is that it had so little going for it, I don’t remember enough about it to even complain.

0 out of 4.

Nine Lives

Hey, everyone love’s cats. Just go onto the internet. But the love for cats comes from being cute, or seeing them do derpy things. They don’t love all cats.

Which is why the concept for Nine Lives is so bizarre. The plot comes straight out of a film from the 1990’s (Or a Rob Schneider film from any decade). Guy goes into a cat. The only way it could be really worse is if the cat itself could talk in English and spoke to the cast, but alas, it just has to meow at them.

People don’t like those sorts of films anymore. Those are the films that get mocked and burned at a stake. And here it is, 2016, with Nine Lives coming out. Sure, yeah, I did think Keanu would be a movie about a talking cat, but ended up just being a regular cat and pretty decent.

I don’t think the same sort of change can occur here while watching.

Stare
He is going to stare a whole through that cats head.

Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) is what his name suggests, a walking brand. He is all about his image and his companies success. As CEO, he wants to do fascinating things and leave a permanent mark on society. And he decided that permanent mark would be the tallest building in America. Now that it is almost completed, it turns out another building in Chicago being built will easily beat theirs in height, ruining his dreams.

One of his workers, Ian Cox (Mark Consuelos) was supposed to know about this sort of thing, but he didn’t care. He wanted to take over the company and sell it for money.

All of Brand’s success means his family had to suffer a little. His new wife (Jennifer Garner) and daughter (Malina Weissman) don’t see him a lot and he forgets things, like birthdays. And his daughter wants a cat, but he doesn’t want a cat in his house. But eventually he just gets the cat.

Buys it from a weird guy (Christopher Walken), and sure enough, an accident happens putting Cox in a coma and his spirit or mind or whatever in the cats body. Knowing that the last thing he did before the accident was to actually get a gift for the daughter was a good thing, they take the cat in while he recovers. This allows Brand to try and bond with the daughter and convince them that he is a man in a cat’s body.

Also starring Robbie Amell as the son who is trying to help Brand’s company while he is in a coma, Cheryl Hines as his ex-wife, and Talitha Bateman as his ex-wife’s new daughter.

Keys
Oh ho ho, the human is on all fours. What a role reversal!

Jennifer Garner almost had the worst year ever. She had three movies come out, and I have seen two of them. Nine Lives is beyond terrible and Mother’s Day (which I haven’t seen) was blasted by critics as well. She is down right lucky that Miracles From Heaven ended up being a relatively decent Christian film, and not a standard tacky/corny over the top Christian film. It would have been real close to being just a complete fail of a year.

There isn’t a whole lot to be said about Nine Lives that isn’t already out there on the internet. What the hell was everyone involved thinking?

There are very little surprises in this film. Spacey, Garner, everyone just phones it in. When things start feeling the bleakest, it was because they made the son character a passive, dumbass. He seemingly refused to fight and it didn’t make sense. So why did it happen? Oh, so the son could do a bigger distraction near the end of the film, in order to end on a bigger note. So yeah, temporarily changing how a character works, because the writers don’t know what the hell they are doing to get to the finale they want.

The cat looked terrible when it had to switch to CGI, which was whenever the cat had to do anything special. So a giant chunk of the movie.

Walken was in this movie, and he has been in mostly shit for years.

There is just nothing really positive to note. It has a weak script, weak plot, weak acting, and at under 90 minutes it still feels too long.

0 out of 4.

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