Opinions Subject to Change

 

Everyone has opinions; here are some of mine.

For my movie reviews I try to keep it spoiler free (my notes pages may have spoilers) and written from my perspective as a christian, husband, father, and clean comedian. I consider the story, acting, audio, cinematography, sets, humour, violence, course language, drug use, and sexual content.

Warning: even though the reviews themselves are spoiler free, the notes sheets could have spoilers! 

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The Great Gatsby

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Review

 
 
 

“Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody told you it was a happy little tale, if somebody told you I was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in the world... somebody lied. But let me assure you, this, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl. That girl.” Daisy Buchanan. Sorry wrong Tobey Maguire intro, but that’s how the intro feels to me and it applies pretty well to “The Great Gatsby” as well as “Spider-Man”. Set in 1920’s New York, we see the glamour and splendour in the lifestyles of the rich and famous occasionally contrasted with the not so rich or famous in the “valley of ashes” that lies along the road between two idyllic communities of West Egg and East Egg where our main characters live.


The story is told from the perspective of Maguire’s character, Nick Carraway, a relative of Daisy who lives in a mansion in East Egg. Nick rents a small house next to Gatsby’s mansion in West Egg and can see Daisy’s home across the bay. Nick get’s swept up into the riotous living of his family and neighbour. He is an outsider and the story told through his eyes keeps us on the outside as well. I quite like this choice, but there is a significant amount of narration that sometimes breaks the flow of the story. I think they use the narration to condense the story into the limited time allowed by movies.


Ultimately the story of “The Great Gatsby” is a relationship drama told in an often stunning, beautiful, high contrast world backed by a bombastic soundtrack. The costumes, sets and cinematography are excellent with only a few moments where there is a strange separation between the foreground and background. The acting is superb throughout, but Leonardo Dicaprio was not nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Gatsby likely because he was nominated for his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” the same year. The structure of the storytelling is excellent with powerful use of imagery, colour, and foreshadowing. There are some subtle character building moments that connect and separate the various players beautifully.


Now for the smut. There is moderate course language, significant alcohol use, smoking, and the taking of unknown drugs. The party atmosphere of the movie often has scantily clad dancers and others, but it’s rarely the focus of any scene. There is a lot of implied sex including infidelity. There is not a lot of violence in the movie, but when it happens it is usually shocking and includes domestic violence. Explicit racism is used to character build and is always portrayed as negative.


“The Great Gatsby” is a bright, beautiful, loud, and serious well told story. I give it a 7/10. It’s worth watching without the kids.

 

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posted by Logan Smith at 8:00 am - 0 comments

Gone in Sixty Seconds

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Review

 
 
 

Kip Raines gets in over his head trying to steal fifty cars and word get’s to his big brother Memphis. Memphis reluctantly comes to help his brother out. They round up their crew and make the plan. Each misfit has their unique skills and personality. I would say the elevator pitch may have been George Clooney’s “Ocean’s Eleven” with cars, except “Gone in Sixty Seconds” came out the year before. So I guess the pitch was the Rat Pack’s “Ocean’s 11” with cars. There are themes dealing with loyalty to friends and family and has a take on self improvement that is handled nicely, but is somewhat undermined by the criminal nature of stealing a bunch of cars.


The movie has lots of pretty sweet cars, and a few that were probably included as part of a product placement deal, with some cool driving sequences.  The story is okay with several exciting moments, but has a couple issues in character consistency that actually cause a pretty significant plot hole. The acting often comes off as in-genuine or lacking emotion. I know I’m griping here, but these are mostly minor issues in an enjoyable popcorn flick.


That said, there is an excessively long make out scene including nudity with a failed attempt at humour mixed in. There is a significant amount of innuendo and sexual humour throughout this surprisingly violent movie with no shortage of course language.


I give “Gone in Sixty Seconds” a 6/10. It’s okay, but “Ocean’s Eleven” is a better heist movie and “The Fast and the Furious” is a better car crime drama. If you need to get a mix of the two “Gone in Sixty Seconds” will get the job done, but not much more.


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posted by Logan Smith at 8:00 am - 0 comments

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Monday, April 5, 2021

Review

 
 
 

Everett, Pete, and Delmar, three chained inmates, escape from a work detail in 1930’s southern United States. They’re off to recover a cash horde hidden by Everett before his arrest. Pursued by lawmen, they need to hurry before the valley the treasure is hidden before it is flooded. On their lighthearted adventure, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, our three leads face a wide variety characters and obstacles along the way. This adventure is more like “Big Fish” than “National Treasure”. If “Big Fish” was just the stories as told by the dad, I think the feel and tone of the two movies would be very similar.


Watching the comedic journey progress you may wonder how all these seemingly random events are connected, but the film comes to a satisfying and reasonable conclusion. As a parent that often doesn’t get two hour blocks of free time, especially without the kids around, I often watch movies spread over multiple days. I recommend watching “O Brother” in one sitting. Too much time between seeing the beginning and end could reduce the impact of the film.


I won’t let my mini-reviewers watch it yet. There’s a lot a casual course language and some racial slurs I wouldn’t want repeated in the grocery store aisle. There’s a sexual scene with wet clothed women and several scenes of moderate violence. This one lands squarely in its PG-13 rating.


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posted by Logan Smith at 7:46 am - 0 comments

Warm Bodies

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Review

 
 
 

Things have gone very bad in the world when we meet R. He’s dead. So is everyone else he knows. Shuffling shambling dead bodies. He thinks a lot, but can’t say much and he’s hungry for brains. There are others that are even more dead than him. Boneys skeletal aggressive creatures that the other dead avoid. There are also living humans, that’s what the dead want to eat. Whatever terrible thing happened to make this world the way it is has long past. This pretty standard zombie world is firmly established in the great intro. The use of the zombie tropes fast tracks us to the comedy and story of “Warm Bodies”.

 

Strong use of sets and costumes makes the clear distinction between the parties feel right and you are never confused about where you are in any scenes. There is a consistent light tone throughout and there is always a chuckle waiting around each corner. The romance plot is cheesy at times, but for me supports the feel of the film rather than detracts from it. There is quite a bit of narration that is used well to build separation between individuals. It gives an “alone in a crowd” vibe.

 

“Warm Bodies” Draws inspiration from famous literature, but is significantly different in pretty much every meaningful way. There are clear references and nods to the inspiration, but it’s not a retelling in a zombie world.

 

Full of nightmare fuel, the light and comedic tone belies significant violence and gore. This is no “Scooby Doo Zombie Island”, blood and guts are on full display. Not “The Walking Dead” levels, but near that.  There is sporadic, but occasionally fairly aggressive course language. And one superfluous taking off wet clothes moment.

 

“Warm Bodies” could be a gateway movie into the zombie genre or a pleasant refresh for the genre. I give it an 8/10. If you’re looking for something scary, but not really scary for older teens or adults, this is a great fit.

 

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posted by Logan Smith at 8:00 am - 0 comments

Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Review

 
 
 

Godzilla (2014)

The opening credits of “Godzilla” are a montage of archival footage and documents from Monarch of Godzilla’s previous appearance in the 50’s. It’s kind of an artsy opening and a nod to the original movie made at that time. In contrast to “Kong: Skull Island” you won’t get a good look at Godzilla for a long time. To paraphrase Guillermo Del Toro “Godzilla” is a shrine to its monster. There is a lot of build up and pageantry surrounding the reveal. Considering how good Godzilla looks, it’s a bit of a shame we see so little of him. 


After the credits there is a fairly long sad introduction. The human story is set up well and the main conflict of the film is established. Unfortunately the human story fizzles out into a fairly nonsensical uninteresting drag.


The cinematography is artful at times and usually from a human perspective. It generally keeps the film grounded, but keeps our view of the action obscured.

There are some scary scenes, but the violence is relatively reserved. There is very little gore particularly in relation to humans. Course language is mild and mostly surprised or scared exclamations. I haven’t let my mini-reviewers see this one, but it’s on the low end of the PG-13 rating for sure.


I found “Godzilla” reminiscent of the classic movies, with a different identity. You wouldn’t confuse this American movie for one of the Japanese entries in the franchise. I think this modern movie would be more palatable for more viewers than the Japanese movies, at least the ones I’ve seen.


I give Godzilla a 6/10. If you are curious about Godzilla I think you should watch this one, but know there are better ones out there. 

 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Taking place a few years after the 2014 movie we meet a family broken by tragedy from the events of the first film. Madison lives with her Mother, Emma, who works for Monarch to try and find a way to influence monsters. Madison’s Father has rejected Monarch. Godzilla hasn’t been seen by the public since the first movie. As you might imagine, things don’t go smoothly for our little family. What follows is a far more compelling human story and more exciting monster action. We catch glimpses of several monsters in this one and they all look great. The battles are excellent and more diverse than the first movie. I mean no disrespect to the foundations of the Godzilla franchise, but this is how Godzilla was meant to look. Other than a few soft moments, this movie looks excellent, but is often pretty dark which may hinder your experience if you watch in a bright room.


The film deals with themes of our stewardship of the earth and the importance of protecting the environment. I actually quite liked how they dealt with this and it didn’t leave a bitter taste like some more preachy movies can. There is more violence and a greater quantity of more aggressive course language than the 2014 Godzilla. I think the filmmakers wanted to make King of Monsters more serious and added the course language to do that. Which I, of course, think was mistake. Watching the two movies close together makes the language in King of the Monsters feel quite excessive.


Over time you get used to your tv and your sound system and it can be easy to forget what you spent your money for or think you need better. I often watch or listen to reviews of home theatre equipment and I know I have what people in the audio industry would call a budget set up. It can make me want more. But then something might happen that makes you grateful for what you have. “Godzilla: King of Monsters” did that with my audio equipment. It has a phenomenal audio mix that turned my living room into a movie theatre. I have a 5.1 system and can only imagine how Atmos sounds. King of the Monsters put me at the feet of giants to feel and hear their battle surround me. It’s movies like this that remind me how fortunate I am and what a great audio mix can do.


“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is my favourite Godzilla movie, but only gets a 7/10 due to shortfalls in humour and some story weaknesses. I would absolutely recommend King of the Monsters to any adult interested in the genre and would recommend it to many others.


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posted by Logan Smith at 7:10 am - 0 comments

Kong: Skull Island

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Review

 
 
 

As the Vietnam war ends an island is discovered by satellite and a geographic survey team is being sent. The Monarch organization hitches a ride and arranges for a military escort to what they refer to as Skull Island. Soldiers, that were about to go home, are pressed into service as the escort. Monarch also contracts a tracker to help guide the exploratory expedition. There is also an anti-war photographer that comes along.


“Kong: Skull Island” is not a mysterious “try and find the monster” suspenseful film. It’s a rock ‘em sock ‘em monster fight movie where you see Kong in the opening minutes. There are at least six fight scenes which are pretty good. Kong is big, strong, and eager to battle anyone that pounds on his door. The human stories here are mixed. I think the protagonists are meant to be the tracker and the photographer, but the tracker is rather uninteresting with his best scene being his introduction and the photographer seems to be actively trying be unlikeable. The best character is Hank a pilot played by John C. Reilly. He brings the comedy relief and a large portion of human interest to the story. The story, other than a few “why would you do that moments?”, is better than I expected. There are themes reminiscent of Moby Dick, I haven’t read Moby Dick, but I think there are similarities.


The sets are beautiful, the monsters look great, the soundtrack and audio mix are excellent. As with most monster movies having good equipment is going to help your enjoyment of Kong. I wouldn’t watch this one on a plane. Kong is not a small screen experience. 


Keep the kids away from “Kong: Skull Island”. With loads of gory violence and significant, occasionally aggressive, course language it is not for gentle people.


If you don’t want to see a giant apes, monsters and humans in brutal combat “Kong: Skull Island” is not for you. The story doesn’t carry the film and you would probably describe the film as “they go to the island and then they fight, then they go over there and they fight, go over the hill and fight…”. I like it, but it is certainly on the upper limit of my tolerance for gore.


I give “Kong: Skull Island” a 7/10. If you like a big, loud, action filled monster movies watch it. Otherwise you can probably pass. 


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posted by Logan Smith at 8:00 am - 0 comments

Scoob!

Friday, March 5, 2021

Review

 
 
 

Scooby, Shaggy and the gang must save the world from Dick Dastardly and his army of robots, but first they have to all meet and form their mystery unravelling gang. The characters are all similar to their cartoon roots though I don’t recall Fred being such a prat.


The Mystery Gang is looking to step up their operation and this presents new challenges to their friendships. The adventure that follows is filled with wild and slapstick humour and a quite heavy handed message about the importance of friendship. “Scoob!” doesn’t break any new ground in the Scooby Doo franchise. It’s a new adventure that’s pretty much the same as the rest and that’s okay.


Visually “Scoob!” is the nicest to look at of the franchise. The sound is okay and if you don’t have a sound system, you won’t miss much in the front filled audio mix.


There’s a fair amount of slapstick violence and some fairly scary moments including chainsaw scorpions. There’s a small amount of course language and some name calling. Nothing I was too concerned about with my mini reviewers that really enjoyed this movie.


“Scoob!” Is a light funny movie that’s good for kids. A little scary at times and would probably become annoying if it became a “watch it every day movie”, but there aren’t too many movies that wouldn’t. I give it a 6/10, worth watching with your kids. 


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posted by Logan Smith at 5:00 pm - 0 comments

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Friday, February 26, 2021

Review

 
 
 

Four stereotypical teenagers, jock, cheerleader, girl nerd and boy nerd, are thrust together into the basement of their high school where they find Jumanji now on Atari… lookalike console. Each teen takes on the role of a typical video game character, of course significantly different than themselves. In many ways it feels like a reboot to the 1995 film “Jumanji”, it is actually a direct sequel with several nice nods to the original. You won’t need to see the original to make sense of this one.


As the players fight their way through the hostile world of Jumanji, they learn about themselves and each other things they never would have suspected. That’s a really cheesy way to describe this rousing adventure comedy. Once you’re past the slow almost awkward introduction, Jumanji opens up into a beautiful jungle filled with video game tropes. There’s enough explanation for those that don’t play video games to understand what is going on without too much to become annoying to those that do.


With over twenty years since the first movie in the series it almost seems weird to compare them, but here I go. There’s actually not a whole lot in common between the two as far themes and plot go. The types of relationships explored are much different and so are the characters. Both are fun, exciting, and funny, but Welcome to the Jungle kicks it up a notch in every category especially comedy. The comedic chemistry of the four leads is outstanding and Dwayne Johnson is the funniest I have seen him. Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black all bring their A-game too.


Now you’ve probably heard of those violent video games. If this were actually a video game it would be on the list. There are quite a few fights and brutal deaths. Theres a fair amount of mild sexual conversation that’s probably fine for teens, but could bring on some questions from younger audiences. There’s also a little more course language than the original, around the same level as Men in Black.


“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is also a good workout for your home theatre with great visuals and good use of surrounds. If you got a good subwoofer, you’ll definitely feel the drums of Jumanji calling you. You won’t need anything special though to have a good time watching the great story and acting here. I give Jumanji an 8/10. Watch it, but probably not with your kids, especially if they are prone to nightmares.

 

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posted by Logan Smith at 5:00 pm - 0 comments

Mortal Engines

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Review

 
 
 

On Earth sometime in the future there was a sixty second war. Further in the future steam punk cities roam Europe.The amazing technological advancements required for these cities on tank treads are offset by numerous loses in communications and weapons technology.


I fear mentioning any more plot details or character motivations as I may be accused of spoilers. Very few specifics are learned in the opening moments of the movie. Although there seems to be a protagonist, Hester Shaw, her motivations are questionable at best. Determining who was supposed to be good seemed more about how they were introduced rather than how they actually behaved. On my second viewing I decided “Mortal Engines” would be a very bad place to try and learn morals. In the large cast of characters, there are only two, perhaps just one, that seem to have altruistic actions. I kept thinking “I can see why this guy is bad, but is this other guy good?”.


The structural problems of the film stem from some significant world building problems. The world is very complicated, and we learn enough to know it’s complicated, but not enough to know why anyone does what they do. Not just the main characters, but the societies as well. That might be realistic and true to life, but it makes a hard film to get emotionally connected to. There are moments clearly meant to be emotionally impactful that, for me, just aren’t.


The plot chugs along in a mostly pleasing way in a visually very impressive world. If you have a 4K tv you want to see what it can really do “Mortal Engines” is a great film to test it out with. Right from the start the movie has highly detailed very realistic looking sets. Even when you see something and know it must be computer generated it looks real. On my 5.1 system the surround is pretty good. The soundtrack is fitting, but not memorable.


There’s not much course language or sexual content, but there’s plenty of violence. Most of the violence is around the same level as Harry Potter except one brutal scene.


“Mortal Engines” is a lot like “Avatar” beautiful, but shallow. It’s exciting at times, but burdened with an overly complex world that either needed to be explained less, or a lot more.


My review sounds pretty bad doesn’t it? I think there are pretty good odds I’ll watch this again someday and I give it a 6/10. You could watch it while folding laundry without your kids.

 

 

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posted by Logan Smith at 12:12 pm - 0 comments

Love Guaranteed

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review

 
 
 

Susan Whitaker is a saintly lawyer working pro bono for the poor and underprivileged. So much so that her firm can’t afford water. So when, the apparently wealthy, Nick Evans arrives with a big cheque to sue the dating website “Love Guaranteed” Susan reluctantly takes the case.


“Love Guaranteed” is more of a romantic movie that happens to have a few jokes in it than a romantic comedy. As a collector and supporter of physical media, I found one joke about DVD players particularly irksome. Overall the movie is pleasant with no surprises. The purity of the lead leaves no real room for character development and the romantic chemistry is lacking. That said, I did enjoy the movie. I don’t have anything to point to say “this is why I liked it”, but I don’t regret watching it.


The biggest upside of “Love Guaranteed” is its near complete absence of objectionable content. It may be the cleanest romance movie I have ever seen. I’m not willing to call it Family Friendly because I’m confident my mini-reviewers would find no interest in it at all, but you could watch it with anybody and not have to worry about any cover your eyes moments. 


I try to watch all movies twice before reviewing them. I was not looking forward to watching “Love Guaranteed” a second time. I did enjoy the movie the first time, it just doesn’t have anything special to bring you back.


I give “Love Guaranteed” a 6/10. I did enjoy it, but I’ll probably never watch it again. If you are looking for a romance movie to watch with your teens this is probably a good choice.


Thanks.

 


posted by Logan Smith at 12:03 pm - 0 comments