Film Nut Reviews

Reviews from one film nut to another

Category: November 2018 Reviews

Ralph Breaks the Internet is Comedic Gold

Disney has always destroyed the competition when it comes to animated films, and they can boast once again that they can make a sequel that is every bit as good, if not better, than the original. Six years after its release, the team that created Wreck-It Ralph doesn’t miss a beat with Ralph Breaks the Internet. The new film is doused in everyday comedy that will keep you laughing from beginning to end. There’s a lot happening in every moment of Ralph Breaks the Internet, which helped the filmmakers nail the theme. It’s going to be hard for anyone to hate this family film.

When the Sugar Rush video game breaks, former “villain” Ralph (John C. Reilly) and best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) turn to their arcade home’s newly installed internet for help in finding a replacement part to keep the latter’s game from getting shut down forever. The antics run higher in the sequel, which switches its focus from nostalgia to mining laughs from the latest and greatest aspects on the internet that people can’t get enough of. Watching Ralph and Vanellope attempt to navigate the vast amount of websites and services available online is a whole lot of fun. Remember how we all used to, and still might, stumble around the internet trying to find that perfect deal or search result? Ralph Breaks the Internet takes advantage of the shared cultural response of the worldwide web to keep viewers engaged with the story.

The script of this film is incredibly clever. From the way that certain websites are depicted to how the characters trip over pronunciations like eBay, Ralph Breaks the Internet has plenty of wit and charm. There are endless metaphors and life lessons swirling throughout this film, and unlike most Disney movies, they tend to be more subtle and less likely to be noticed on first thought while consuming the film. I loved that the film covers all parts of the endless internet to give audiences as realistic of a look at the setting as possible. It also helps that plenty of the biggest companies are showcased.

Speaking of clever, Disney is pretty serious when it comes to all of their properties and what can and can’t be said about them, so it was wonderful to finally see one of their movies be allowed to riff the whole company with no holds barred. Vanellope’s visit to the wildly popular real website Oh My Disney is easily the best part of the entire film. The little nuances in the scene are amazingly dead on with how people see all things Disney. Naturally, the first time all of the Disney princesses make an appearance together in a single film is the highlight of Ralph Breaks the Internet. There are two fantastically executed scenes with the famed princesses that do not disappoint and will leave you dying of laughter. While heavily teased in the trailers, these scenes are so much more perfect when seen in full. Plus, if you know the famous themes and keep your ears pealed, you will hear a wonderful mashup of some of the best Disney music in a scene towards the end of the film.

Being able to make several jokes about their most popular characters shows just how much growth Disney as a company has done. The way that the comedy around what the princesses do and represent is presented is absolutely perfect. The fact that Vanellope even gets her own hilarious proper princess song, with the music created by the one and only Alan Menken, makes the film that much more self-aware, as do the two post-credits scenes. All in all, the comedy really never stops and helps drive the plot. Ralph Breaks the Internet is visually engaging and perfect for any age, young or old.  Some of the story elements, like how Ralph manages to actually break the internet, are a little dull, but the film is an overall homerun. Disney’s streak of releasing a truly great film in November/for Thanksgiving weekend continues on, as Ralph Breaks the Internet has the means to become a bona fide hit.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Magic Galore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Harry Potter fans, rejoice! The second installment of the Fantastic Beasts series is finally here, and while the story doesn’t necessarily expand much from the first film, it is still a fun Wizarding World experience. Most of the film’s run time is dedicated to introducing a slew of new characters and their backgrounds rather than focusing on moving the story forward. The last half hour should have been the first half of the film to drive the plot, as that’s really when the story development beings. However, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is visually beautiful to watch, brings in a lot of Harry Potter lore, and ends with a great twist.

This film seems to be a fifty-fifty toss up for audiences and critics: you will either love it or hate it. There are merits to both perspectives, as Fantastic Beasts is a fun ride that allows you to reenter the beloved Wizarding World. At this point in the series, it appears that the franchise is leaning more towards these films being Harry Potter prequels that are simply filling in gaps from the original movies/books rather than creating a new, standalone plot. I’m hoping that Fantastic Beasts will become its own entity again in the upcoming sequels. It’s nice to finally meet characters that we have all heard of and to see new wizarding communities, but there needs to be a distinct separation between Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter if the former is to survive the test of time.

The best way that Fantastic Beasts can come out of its predecessor’s shadow is to utilize central villain Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) as much as possible. First, no matter how you feel about him personally, Depp is the perfect choice to play Grindelwald. His performance in this film is great and adds a new level of what it means to be a revolutionary in the Wizarding World. Second, Grindelwald is a very interesting character and isn’t just the typical villain. The reason for his current conquest is rooted much deeper than the typical power struggle. He is a very different villain than Harry Potter’s Voldemort and will be a wonderful foil for the younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). While there’s a lot of history with Grindelwald still to be played out, this film doesn’t warrant the subtitle The Crimes of Grindelwald. He actually doesn’t commit many crimes this time around, and it would have been more fitting for the film to be called something like The Return of Grindelwald or The Rise of Grindelwald.

Another reason why Grindelwald needs to be heavily featured in the Fantastic Beasts films is that it is unrealistic to rely on main character Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to carry the story of all five films. Newt is an unwilling hero who doesn’t want to be involved in anything that is going on. He accidently got caught up in the action of the first film and is practically forced to make a move in this one, even though he really doesn’t do much. Newt’s strengths are much different than Harry Potter’s, and the two characters need to be treated differently. Switching the focus to the Grindelwald-Dumbledore relationship would be much more interesting, especially when the two actors are excellent. I was a little unsure of Jude Law being cast as a younger Dumbledore, but he knocks his brief appearances out of the park. He perfectly embodies Dumbledore and is one of the highlights of the film. Considering how much Dumbledore means to the characters and the viewers, he needs to be featured a lot more in the upcoming films.

The biggest issue with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the plot holes in the script. Characters come and go as they please with no rhyme or reason, with some up and disappearing randomly. There isn’t much of a story to follow, and most of the script focuses on trying to convince both the viewers and the characters that Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is a member of the infamous Lastrange family. Credence’s development throughout the series should prove to be extremely interesting and significant in the way that it will impact the future of the Wizarding World. There are also too many background characters introduced, which turns the franchise from a group of four battling against two villains to a large ensemble film. We lose the wonderful scenes with Newt, Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob (Dan Fogler) all together, but any combination of them on screen together shows their great chemistry. The four of them are a great group, just like Harry Potter had the perfect central trio, and need to be more of a focus. However, the additions of Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), Newt’s older brother, are also great. These two were cast well and definitely help the story grow.

The visuals are the best part of the film and are as breathtaking as ever. All of the Wizarding World films have done a great job of making magic look real, but this film seems like it hit the next level. Everything is so bright, colorful, and vibrant. The CGI is pretty flawless and brings magic to life. The set design in every scene is also fantastic and so full of detail. The one thing missing from the film was more creatures. The series is called Fantastic Beasts, but there were way fewer creatures in this one compared to the first film. However, Niffler and Pickett manage to continue to steal scenes and prove that they are excellent creations, and the addition of several adorable baby Nifflers needs to get more attention going forward.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will surely excite most Wizarding World fans. It is enjoyable to watch if you can sit back, turn off your brain, and enjoy the show. If you start to think too much about what is happening, then you will probably end up not having a good time. Hopefully the next Fantastic Beasts film will be more plot-driven and separate itself as its own entity again. Personally, any trip to the Wizarding World is an adventure to me, and I’m not giving up on loving Fantastic Beasts.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch is Perfect Family Fun

Some stories get old over time or simply lose people’s interest after several remakes. The one story that seems to stand up to the test of time is Dr. Seuss’ wildly popular book-turned-TV special-turned-film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Eighteen years after the release of Jim Carrey’s live-action adaptation, Illumination has put their own spin on the Christmas classic and reverted it back to its original animated form. Even though the basic story is the same, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch manages to add an emotional element to the new content, making this version just as sweet as the others.

The best aspect about The Grinch is the eye-popping, colorful landscape that the film takes place in. The computer-generated animation is very appealing to the eye and creates a fun environment right from the start. Whoville has never looked this good on any screen. The story keeps its cartoony vibe, which is perfect for children and nostalgic for the adults. The new looks for the characters are fine and don’t make much of a difference.

The little plot changes are what keeps The Grinch entertaining for young and old viewers. The addition of a backstory for Cindy-Lou Who’s mother, aptly named Mrs. Who, adds a nice touch of development to the storyline. New characters like Fred the reindeer and Cindy-Lou’s friend Groopert add bits of comedy and help keep a light tone throughout. My favorite change is the updated reason for the Grinch’s bad vibes with the citizens of Whoville: the Grinch continually asks his neighbors to leave him alone, but they still continue to bug and stalk him at their convenience. At least it finally makes sense as to why he wants to destroy their happiness.

There’s also a different tone to this Grinch, partly due to the eclectic voice cast. Benedict Cumberbatch puts his own spin on the titular green grouch that makes him sound more whiny than evil. It was a good idea to keep the narrator role, voiced by Pharrell Williams, and use some of the original text on top of the dialogue. The always-plucky tones of Rashida Jones (Mrs. Who), Kenan Thompson (Mr. Bricklebaum), and Angela Lansbury (Mayor McGerkle) also help keep a more whimsical vibe.

At its core, The Grinch is still a heart-warming tale that will brighten anyone’s day. The comedy in this version definitely helps it stand out from the others. Max, the Grinch’s dog, steals the spotlight as always too. Illumination has proven over the past ten years that they can make fun animated tales for families, and the company continues that streak with The Grinch. At the very least, The Grinch is 86 minutes of silly, mindless entertainment that kicks off the holiday season in style.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Girl in the Spider’s Web Bests Original

Gone are the flashy Hollywood cast, overly long runtime, and slow-burn drama that embodied director David Fincher’s 2011 version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Seven years passed, and two books were skipped, before the next film adaption of best-selling Millennium series hit theaters. The Girl in the Spider’s Web, which is the fourth book in the series, serves as a solid sequel to Dragon Tattoo and reboots the Sony-MGM franchise. Spider’s Web is an action-crime thriller that substitutes the nudity in the original for adventure sequences that put titular character Lisbeth Salander front and center.

The nice thing about Spider’s Web is that it reintroduces viewers into the world of Millennium and attracts new audiences by not needing to know the events of Dragon Tattoo beforehand. Computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, now played by Claire Foy and Swedish native Sverrir Gudnason respectively, are forced into action when a mystery terrorist group steals an already-stolen computer program that controls missile launches across the globe from Lisbeth. Unlike Dragon TattooSpider’s Web puts Mikael in the background to allow Foy to shine as Lisbeth. The missing backstory on the main character that didn’t appear in Dragon Tattoo helps give Lisbeth more depth in Spider’s Web.

Foy does a nice job of taking over the reins from Rooney Mara and doesn’t miss a beat in copying the surly hacker’s vibe. In a little over a year, Foy has proven that she can act in any genre from period drama films and TV (First Man and The Crown) to horror (Unsane) and now action. I did like the casting of Gudnason to replace Daniel Craig because Gudnason brings more authenticity to the Swedish adaptation. Sylvia Hoeks joins the cast as Lisbeth’s sister, Camilla, which would have had a better impact if this wasn’t the first film to feature her. The main cast is rounded out by Lakeith Stanfield as an NSA agent with some very helpful skills.

Spider’s Web is an entertaining thriller and could set the stage for an interesting film franchise. However, unless the film starts to catch fire internationally, this reboot will be short lived due to its low first weekend box office haul. While I’ll admit that I don’t know a ton about the Millennium series, I did enjoy Spider’s Web a lot more than Dragon Tattoo and could understand what the actors were saying this time around thanks to less fake accents. One thing is for sure: whether Lisbeth Salander’s story continues to play out on the big screen or not, Foy has a bright future in the industry.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Rami Malek Will Rock You in Bohemian Rhapsody

There’s nothing like going to see a music biopic that actually lets the music shine. Even with the huge amounts of positive and negative buzz surrounding it for over a year, Bohemian Rhapsody has managed to make a big splash with audiences. The film is a love letter to the beloved rock band Queen, who remains ever-relevant to this day. And while the story behind the formation of the band and their meteoric rise to fame is front and center, Bohemian Rhapsody puts the spotlight on Queen front man Freddie Mercury’s trials and tribulations. Actor Rami Malek’s interpretation of Freddie is the reason to see this film and is a career performance.

There would be no Queen without Freddie Mercury, and Bohemian Rhapsody makes that point extremely clear. The film spans the fifteen years from the band’s inception in 1970 to their show-stopping performance at Live Aid in 1985, which is a fantastic finish. All of the band’s classic anthems are heard at least once throughout the film, which uses the music as a concert-like accompaniment to Freddie’s story. As the film progresses, it is clear that the song that stuck out the most is actually about Freddie’s life, which makes it the perfect title for the film. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the most different songs in history and should be considered Freddie’s best work. One of the best scenes of the film is the recording sessions of the song, but it is a little disappointing that the titular track does not get played in full at any point in the film.

Just like there would be no Queen without Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody would not be a success without Rami Malek. The way that Malek embodies Freddie’s spirit is exceptional. Malek is a total rock star and proves his immense talent while strutting around and owning the stage at every moment. The musical performances are the best scenes in the film because Malek lets loose and acts exactly like Freddie. It’s an uncanny impression that will leave you thoroughly entertained. Malek’s performance is so amazing that I really feel that this is his career performance. It’s going to be very hard for him to top his flawless performance as Freddie Mercury, for which he deserves an Academy Award nomination. While most critics are mixed on the storytelling of the film, it is clear that everyone agrees that Malek is a genius. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that he is remembered in the upcoming months during the awards season.

The whole cast is actually pretty good and acts as more of an ensemble by letting Malek take the lead in every scene. The chemistry of Ben Hardy (playing Roger Taylor), Gwilym Lee (playing Brian May), Joseph Mazzello (playing John Deacon), and Malek is very comparable to the real band’s comradery. The background characters of John Reid (Aiden Gillen), Jim Beach (Tom Hollander), Paul Prenter (Allen Leach), and Ray Foster (Mike Myers) all add to Queen’s history.

While Queen has been one of the few rock bands to always stay relevant thanks to the number of anthems they created, Bohemian Rhapsody looks to keep their legacy, along with Freddie’s, alive forever. The film is the Rami Malek show and makes sure you won’t forget his perfect performance. Malek delivers one of the best acting performances of the year. Even if you don’t like Queen, you should see Bohemian Rhapsody for Malek’s spot-on acting. Plus, having the original Queen tracks blasting through theater speakers for over two hours is a really fun experience.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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