Saturday, January 18, 2020

The King vs. Henry V


Henry V is a 1989 movie by Kenneth Branagh adapted from Shakespeare's play.  The King is a 2019 Netflix film covering the same historical events. 

Henry V had a falling out with his father, so his father Henry IV appointed Henry's younger brother to be the successor to the monarchy, but Henry's younger brother was killed in battle shortly before Henry IV's death and Henry V became king at the age of 26.  He succeeded in conquering France in an ongoing 100-year series of wars between France and England.  But he died at the age of 35 and most of his military victories would later be reversed.

Henry V was a young king.  Kenneth Branagh played him at the age of 39 in the movie adaption of Shakespeare's play

One of Henry V's major was victories was at the Battle of Agincourt.  It was a battle that he should have lost because he was badly outnumbered, but a combination of strategy and weather worked in his favor.   At this battle, it was said that Henry V gave a powerful speech to motivate his men, but history does not record this speech.  Shakespeare wrote a fantastic speech for the play ("We happy few. We band of brothers."), but the movie The King substitutes something less grandiose.   Shakespeare handles the battle by having the actors march offstage and the battle is not shown, and the movie version only shows a bit of the battle.  Instead, the King gives us what feels likes a historical re-creation of the battle.

Whereas the Netflix movie The King seems more historically accurate, the movie Henry V is more fun because it is hard to top Shakespeare.

Rating:  The King:  B.

Rating:  Henry V:  A-.

P.S.  I watched The King the same day I watched 1917.  I failed to notice that Dean-Charles Chapman was in both movies.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Uncut Gems


Adam Sandler plays a jeweler who is also a gambling addict in trouble with the mob, and who can't seem to stop his gambling.  He is a bit of a conman because he has to be to keep at bay all the people who are after him.  He is also unfaithful to his wife with a couple of affairs, so his wife is planning to divorce him.

This is actually a good performance by Adam Sandler, but my problem with the movie is that it is about unpleasant people doing bad things.  In addition, the film is dropping f-bombs literally every five seconds.  I didn't hate the movie from start to finish, because the ending is pretty good, but overall I found the movie to be an unpleasant experience.  I feel the same way about Uncut Gems as I did about American Beauty; there is no way I want to spend two hours with such horrible people.  There is an unpleasant tension as Adam Sandler's character goes from bad to worse. The Guardian said, "Uncut Gems is so stressful it should come with a panic attack warning.  Adam Sandler thriller is brilliant, but watching it is a horrible experience."  I feel the same way.

All the tension in the film does make it somewhat watchable.  I actually considered walking out of the movie, but I wanted to see how the movie ended, so I stayed.  I am glad that I saw the ending because it is the only redeeming part of the movie.

Uncut Gems has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I'm sure that there are some people who think that this movie is brilliant, but it is telling that the audience score is only 51%.

Maybe the movie serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction.

Rating:  C.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

1917


The movie 1917 is likely to be one of the best movies I will see this year.  It follows a pair of World War I soldiers on a time-critical mission to get a message to another unit so as to avoid an attack that will end in disaster.  This is based on a real story told to writer and director Sam Mendes by his grandfather.

The movie is filmed in such a way that it appears to be one continuous shot, except for a couple of obvious breaks.  There are continuous shots that last at least 40 minutes.  The camera follows the soldiers through long trenches, across fields, into farmhouses, rivers, underground bunkers, and troop transports.  This is like another character because I spent the whole movie wondering how on earth did they film this?  It is technically very difficult to have everything properly lit while the camera follows the actors through miles of territory. 

The movie creates a suspense that is perfect.  There is not much direct combat, but the horrible aftermath of combat is everywhere in this movie.  On the journey, the soldiers are constantly passing dead bodies and destruction.  The way the movie is filmed gives it an extra sense of realism.

The movie is rated R for war violence and a few swear words.

Rating: A.



Sunday, January 5, 2020

Knives Out


Knives Out is a mystery whodunit in the spirit of Agatha Cristie, but with quite a few twists, which is a given since it is from director Rian Johnson.  As entertainment, it works really well, although I didn't find it totally believable and I predicted the twist ending.  The movie also tries a little too hard to be a social commentary.

However, Rian Johnson shows that he can make a pretty entertaining movie.

Rating: A-.  My initial thought was to give it a B+, but I did find the movie thoroughly entertaining.   Knives Out has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


Friday, December 27, 2019

kenobi Fan Film

For a fan film, this is surprisingly good.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker


Star Wars fans are hard to please.  If you make a new Star Wars movie that is too much like any of the previous films, i.e. The Force Awakens, the fans complain that the movie just recycles old plots.  However, if a Star Wars film takes the franchise in new directions, i.e. The Last Jedi, fans complain that it messes with Star Wars canon and doesn't feel right.  When George Lucas made Star Wars movies, each film would visit new exotic locations, introduce new creatures, while presenting new ideas that quite frankly pissed off some of the fans.  I think that the Lucas-made Star Wars prequels were brilliant, but there was such a backlash to them that Lucas decided to get out of the Star Wars business altogether and sell the Lucasfilm company to Disney.  This is the problem with Star Wars movies: they are either repetitive, or they are original in ways that some of the hardcore fans can't accept.  To his credit, George Lucas was always original.  Not everyone liked his vision, but he always took each movie in a new direction.

When I saw the first Disney made Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, I felt uneasy afterward.  The movie is plenty entertaining, but I wrote that it felt like an imperfect imitation of a Star Wars film, like they almost got it right but not quite.  Had Lucas made the movie, it wouldn't have felt so familiar, but instead would have been different, and this would have displeased many people.  This is why The Last Jedi feels to me more like a real Star Wars film.  The movie was solely Rian Johnson's vision, and he made many questionable choices, but he did what Lucas would do, which is to take us to new exotic locations and introduce new ideas that we had not seen before.  However, about half the audience rejected the movie outright.  There was such a backlash to The Last Jedi that when the movie Solo came out six months later, hardly anybody went to see it.  Disney lost money on Solo, and reportedly there were serious discussions at Disney about how to fix this problem going forward.

One of the problems with The Rise of Skywalker is that it tries too hard to not piss anyone off.  It is loaded with crowd-pleasing moments, which makes it entertaining, but it is not very original.  Instead of introducing new ideas, new locations, and new creatures, everything is comfortably familiar.  The movie tries so hard to be crowd-pleasing that parts of it, especially toward the end, seem a little hokey.  The ending has a Return of The Jedi hokiness to it.

I'm not sure that the movie makes sense. They chose to bring back a character in a way that makes no sense at all, but this was probably the most entertaining choice they could have made.  There are many twists that are problematic, and the movie proceeds at such a frenetic pace and so much happens and so many characters come and go that it is hard to grasp it all.   Had this been a George Lucas film it would have taken time to develop a less complicated story.

The plot is not unlike a video game, where the heroes need to get to a location, but to get there they have find an item, and before they can find the item they have to complete a task, and then they have to complete a sub-task before they can complete the main task.  It is enough to make your head spin, and this doesn't quite feel like what a Star Wars movie should be.

On the plus side, the movie is beautifully made.

Because of all this, it is hard for me to take this film as seriously as I would other Star Wars movies.  It is not quite the payoff I had hoped for, although there is some payoff.  However, I don't think it matters.  It is a fast-paced well-made entertaining movie, so the audience just wants to ride with it.  It doesn't have to make sense; it just has to entertain and make money.

Rating: B+.

As of today, The Rise of Skywalker has a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It deserves much better than this.


STAR WARS RISE OF SKYWALKER FIRST REACTION (Sad Jarbo Edition)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Mandalorian - Critical Response

Cats (2019) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Rise of Skywalker



I'm expecting good things from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. However, I also see a bunch of ways this could go wrong. It could be too campy, or it could be too serious, or it could just be ridiculous in the way it is implemented. Or it could just be a bad movie.

Part of the problem with Star Wars is that it is limited by its original source material. The sequel trilogy tried to take the franchise in new directions by introducing new ideas and killing off old characters, but this made people unhappy.

Kathleen Kennedy, head of LucasFilm, recently said that Star Wars is not like Marvel where it can get stories from decades of comic books. Huh? There is a huge Star Wars Expanded Universe with books and comics going back decades that has many rich stories. After the Disney takeover, they chose to disregard the Expanded Universe, but they are missing out on great source material.



Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Last Jedi

I'm not someone who was bent out of shape over The Last Jedi because Luke Skywalker and the film didn't match my preconceived notion of what they should be. I think that there is a pretty entertaining story there, and I am very much invested in the new characters. I think that much of the negativity is NOT deserved. However, I do blame Rian Johnson for what appears to be sloppiness in the writing and the direction. It makes the film feel like it has plotholes.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Midway

Seriously, why is 'Midway' only 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. I just saw it and thought it was fantastic. The style is kind of a mix of old fashioned war movie and modern war film.

I'm not the only one. The audience score is 92%.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/midway_2019


Best wishes,

John Coffey

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Frozen II


The snow queen Elsa hears a voice calling her from the northern enchanted forest.  Elsa, along with her sister Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven travel north to uncover this mystery and a dark secret from their past.

I was pleasantly surprised that Frozen II is a musical, but I should have known this because the original Frozen surprised me in the same way.  At first, I was very impressed, but a couple of the later songs fall flat.  Overall the music is competent and does a good job of conveying the emotions of the characters, but none of the songs are particularly memorable, and none rise to the level of "Let It Go" or "Summer" from the first film.  I get the impression that the movie is trying very hard to reach the musical level of its predecessor, but falls short.

Visually this an amazing movie to look at.  The story is reasonably good, but it has the problem that it keeps promising a big payoff in the end because the characters are supposed to be journeying toward something wonderful, but the payoff is only just okay, which is what I suspected would happen.  The movie also throws in an environmental political message that seems a little out of place in a Disney film.  The story is also a bit convoluted because there are many storylines and characters to keep track of, so it wasn't clear to me if it all made sense.

Olaf, the snowman, is used for comic relief, and this works, but I found him more charming in the first movie.  Kristoff and Sven are also used as comic relief, but they feel underutilized because they had more important roles in the first film

Overall, Frozen 2 feels like a pretty good movie that is also visually very impressive, but it also feels like it didn't reach its full potential.

I think the problem with sequels is that it is hard to recapture the same magic.  Movies have release dates and production schedules that they have to meet, so the movies are only as good as they can make them in the time frame that they have.

Rating:  B+.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Why Animators HATE The Lion King

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4Pl-y4-bjA

I like the movie.  The original is better, but it is entertaining and beautiful to look at.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Disney+

It has taken me a while to parse through all that is available on the Disney streaming service, but after parsing out the 80 to 90% that is junk, what is left is a big disappointment. It is true that the service offers everything related to Star Wars, Marvel and Disney, but almost everything worth seeing is something that I have seen already. I am left with a literal handful of good movies that I have not yet seen, plus a handful of good movies that I have seen but might want to see again, and a handful of borderline films that I might give a chance just because there is nothing else.

Having signed up for the promotion where I paid in advance for three years at just $4 per month, it is questionable as to if I am going to get my money's worth. Maybe new content will come along, for example, I know that there are going to be some new Star Wars series, but I expected this to be more like the Netflix streaming service, and not just a massive collection of every bad movie and bad TV show Disney has ever made.

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Best wishes,
John Coffey

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Disney+ streaming service



So let's talk for a minute about the Disney+ streaming service. They claimed that they would have a ton of content, like 500 movies available at launch, for $7 per month. This seems like a price deliberately designed to bury Netflix, which is the world's most popular streaming service.

I took the promotion they offered a couple of months ago, where if you pay for three years, it is only $4 per month. I'm glad I did, because I counted 580 movies, and 90% of them are junk. Disney has everything they have ever done on here, like "The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes" from the 1960s, and "20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" from the 1950s. (I'm told that this movie might actually be good, but I remember seeing it when I was 10 years old.)

However, through the sheer mass of titles, there is still plenty of stuff worth watching. The remaining 10% contains some of the best stuff from Disney, Marvel, and Fox, although I have already seen many of these titles. It is diamonds in the rough. Just like on Netflix, I'll be spending much time figuring out what to watch.



The Mandalorian on the Disney streaming service is good. I found myself thinking that it is just a routine western, but it is really a great mix of western and sci-fi. It is not a perfect sci-fi show, but it feels like a perfect western with plenty of sci-fi thrown in. 

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