Sunday, December 29, 2019

Playing with Fire (2019)

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to review this movie.  There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to admit that I sat through the whole thing.  Then again, I did learn that smokejumpers are a real thing.  So, there’s that.

The movie focuses on a team of smokejumpers (Jake Carson, Mark Rogers, Rodrigo Torres and Axe) who have to take care of three children (Brynn, Will and Zoe) that they rescue.  Due to a safe-haven law, the smokejumpers have to take care of the children until the parents can arrive.

You’d think this would be simple.  Four grown men with should be able to manage three children for a few days.  If that’s the case, there would be no movie.  The children tend to be difficult.  The adults are inexperienced with children.  Oh, and Carson is up for a promotion, so the division commander might be dropping by.  Add to this that Zoe’s birthday is coming up and.  You get the perfect storm of a movie that most adults won’t find funny.

I suppose it would have helped if I was much younger.  Maybe the movie would have appealed to me.  I honestly don’t know what I was expecting.  The one saving grace was that I saw the movie while school was in session, meaning that was a lack of small children in the theater with me.

This is exactly the kind of movie that parents will just have to sit through.  There are no redeeming qualities.  There’s not even a lewd joke that might go over a kid’s head.  (The closest thing is some scatological humor.)

If your kids aren’t begging you to see it, don’t suggest it to them until it comes out on DVD.  It’s exactly as childish and moronic as the coming attractions would suggest.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

It’s not often that I get really excited about a movie from the coming attractions.  It’s maybe once every few years, on average.  When I heard that there was going to be a new Terminator movie that had the involvement of both Linda Hamilton and James Cameron, I got excited.  I mean, I knew kind of what to expect.  It was going to be an action movie and maybe have some sort of paradox to think about.

I didn’t get exactly what I expected.

The trailers presented an action movie, and there was a good deal of action.  They hinted at the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but not as much as I would have expected.  It seems like the movie is trying to do something new, but is instead putting a new face on the same idea.

We now have a new savior of humanity in the form of Dani Ramos.  Skynet is gone, but there’s a new, similar threat that humanity needs saving from.  Grace is sent back from the future to protect Dani from the REV-9, a new two-in-one Terminator.  It has a solid-metal endoskeleton with a liquid-metal terminator covering it, making for an extra target when the script calls for it.  Sarah Connor finds them all because she’s getting texts from an anonymous benefactor.  (I’ll give you three guesses who that benefactor is.)  So, the race is on to save Dani and figure out exactly what her role is in the future.

The movie was entertaining.  It had the action I would expect from a Terminator movie.  There’s an advanced robot from the future trying to change that future with lots of guns and explosions, plus at least one protector that’s above average in terms of comb at skills.  Still, I found the movie lacking.  It’s almost like the movie was written to what we would expect of it.

Part of the problem is that there are only so many directions you can go with a new Terminator.  They had the basic robot.  They had the liquid robot.  It’s hard to think of how you could one up that.  There is also a sense of fatigue.  While this movie continues from Terminator 2, there are a few other movies and a TV series.  It’s hard to think of the movie without bringing at least some of that into it.

I wouldn’t say that I was disappointed.  It’s more that the movie didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting.  It’s not a bad movie.  It’s more that there was a mismatch.  It is an enjoyable movie.  I’m just curious as to where the franchise will go from here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

I’d like to think I’ve been pretty lucky with sequels in recent years.  Many have been good.  It really hasn’t been since Home Alone that a sequel basically repeated itself so blatantly.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting with Jumanji:  The Next Level.  When Welcome to the Jungle was made, it made the leap from board game to video game and even had new characters.  The Next Level has Fridge, Bethany, Martha and Spencer back that same video game.  The only new additions are Grandpa Eddie and his former business partner, Milo.

Even if you haven’t seen Welcome to the Jungle, you can see many of the jokes coming, at least from the coming attractions.  Eddie and Milo get to play to the elderly stereotypes.  They don’t really understand how a video game works.  They are happy that they can move without stiffness.  Other than that, they mostly serve to rehash the rules for new viewers.

Here’s my issue, though.  Even with Zathura, it was a new board game and a new setting with new characters.  From Jumanji to Welcome to the Jungle was the same thing.  Newness all around.  This seems like what Home Alone 2 was to Home Alone, in that it’s a thinly veiled rehash of the previous movie.  The Next Level didn’t really do much to contribute to the franchise.

Granted, I’m not sure where you can go with it.  Virtual Reality might seem too literal.  Even the Internet might not be different enough.  At best, one might hope for some hints as to where the games came from, but it’s hard to do so without giving away too much.

I think people that have seen the previous installment will be disappointed with this one.  I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a Jumanji: Welcome to the Next Sequel.  I’m just suggesting that, if there is, the writers might want to take a hard look at what the script is doing with the material.  It’s an interesting premise, but it’s getting difficult to really work with it from here on out.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

21 Bridges (2019)

I would have liked 21 Bridges to have been more of a mystery.  I went in knowing that it was about a robbery gone bad and that it was a matter of figuring out the details.  There might be some bad police officers and the criminals were likely set up.  The questions were who and how.

Andre Davis is a good police officer.  He’s been investigated for several shootings, but was cleared on all of them.  He became an officer (and eventually, detective) after his father, also a police officer, was killed.

He’s called to investigate the aforementioned robbery.  Seven officers were killed, so it’s important that the people who killed them are caught.  (Not as important is whether or not they live.)  And so, Davis has all 21 bridges leading of Manhattan closed.

Having seen similar movies before, it was fairly obvious to me who was going to be dirty.  It was mostly a question of the details surrounding the actual robbery.  Exactly why were they sent to steal all those drugs?  Were the criminals supposed to kill the officers?  Were the officers supposed to kill the criminals?

Sadly, I’m still not sure.  I couldn’t quite sort out exactly what happened.  I’m guessing that it was the criminals who were supposed to die, as I don’t imagine a manhunt would have been part of the plan.  I’m not entirely clear, though.  It’s one of those things that if it had gone according to plan, we wouldn’t have a movie.

On that note, shutting down the island doesn’t seem to be for anything other than effect.  It’s a way of saying that the movie has begun.  The two criminals don’t really try to escape.  There doesn’t seem, to be much backlash from stranded motorists.  Granted, it’s late at night.  However, it would seem that it was unnecessary.

The movie was good, but it could have been better.  I’m not sure if it’s that I’ve seen too many movies like this one or if it just wasn’t that well-written.  It’s not a good sign when the best I can say about a movie is that it held my attention for 100 minutes.  It seems like the kind of thing that would have been better suited for a shorter movie.


Friday, December 13, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Celebrities aren’t always what they seem.  An actor could portray nasty people to be a nice person in real life.  They could present a family-friendly image only to be caught saying vile things.  This is why Lloyd Vogel is taken aback by an assignment to profile Fred Rogers.  It’s just a few hundred words, but is anyone really that nice?  I mean, yes, he was a Presbyterian minister.  No, he wasn’t really a sniper.  But his persona is so nice.  So pleasant and easygoing.  Lloyd has to wonder if Mr. Rogers is for real.

His wife, Andrea, doesn’t want the image of her childhood hero ruined, which is understandable.  Lloyd takes the assignment anyway and gets to know Mr. Rogers a little better.  He’s persistent and digs deep.  Lloyd gets into a fight with his father before taking the assignment.  He even starts to push buttons with Mr. Rogers a little.

By the end of it, Lloyd has a great story.  He comes to respect Mr. Rogers a little more and comes to understand himself a little better, too.  In a lot of ways, it’s exactly what you might expect from a movie about Fred Rogers.  In some ways, it wasn’t at all what I expected.

I was going into this having seen the 2018 biopic, thinking the two movies would be similar.  They weren’t.  This movie was set up like an episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, with overviews done in the style of the show’s signature miniatures.  Plus, the story of the article was balanced with Lloyd’s home life, trying to raise a new child and dealing with his own father.

The movie isn’t quite fact, but it’s not exactly fiction, either.  There was an article for Esquire about Mr. Rogers, but the character of Lloyd Vogel is based on Tom Junod.  I would imagine that the portrayal of Fred Rogers is fairly accurate, but again, it’s not always possible to differentiate the public image from the private person.  This is something I imagine a lot of people wonder about.  (No, he wasn’t a sniper in real life.)

I was surprised to learn years ago that Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, which is fascinating to me.  He was able to do God’s work without ever bringing God into it.  I’m happy to see that at least one other movie about Mr. Rogers have made their way to theaters everywhere.  Heroes don’t always wear capes.