JASON BOURNE review

Ohhhhh bitch yes, yes, yes, yes!!! *SQUEEEE*

Okay okay, putting my balls back between my legs. The Bourne franchise is probably one of my favorite spy movies of all time. Hell, I might even like them more than the Bond films. At least Bourne is consistently awesome and good despite only having three movies under its belt and one illegitimate one. Weird thing is, I’ve coined the phrase “The Bourne Effect” when it comes to these films: the act of seeing a movie, loving it, but then forgetting everything that happened in the movie a week later. I don’t know why this happens with these particular movies, but I still revisit them, so they’re obviously doing something right.

Quick reviews. IDENTITY. Loved it, turned me on to Matt Damon as an actor, as well as German actress Franka Potente (wish I’d seen more of her stuff). Bad-ass, mysterious, interesting, maybe not as flawless as I remember as a younger man, but watching it still gets me hungry for more… or, maybe I’m just saying that because I really am hungry as I’m writing this. Seriously, I haven’t eaten breakfast yet. And yes, this is important information that needs to be passed on to you readers regarding my opinion of this flick. My state of hunger is vital to my film-analysis.

SUPREMACY: Probably the least good of the Damon-Bourne films (we’ll get to LEGACY in a bit), but it still had a lot of memorable elements and officially brought on the mainstay director of the franchise, Paul Greengrass. SPOILERS if you haven’t seen it, but I’m officially writing these with the assumption that all of you won’t be seeing this latest installment without having seen the first three. Marie, Bourne’s romance interest in IDENTITY was killed off and Bourne seeks revenge against his enemies and Julia Stiles looked like she was really freaking out about having a gun pointed at her head… and I’m pretty sure this was her shortest role in the franchise. I guess she and Potente have that in common. Also: Karl Urban is a delicious hunk of antagonistic Russian bad-assery.

ULTIMATUM: Again, not quite as memorable as IDENTITY, but it has arguably some of the best action scenes in spy-film history. Plus, this really brought forth Joan Allen as a powerhouse actor and probably one of my favorite actresses in Hollywood.

LEGACY: The black sheep of the franchise. The moment the franchise decided to continue on without either Greengrass or Damon, and even nearly abandon its own genre as a spy movie and became sci-fi. I remember the movie tried to make Jeremy Renner’s character take pills to make him as good a fighter as Jason Bourne, but it just didn’t make for an interesting movie or an interesting character. I love me a good Renner performance, he’s a terrific and charismatic actor, but this is completely under the radar. Thank God for the Avengers and the latest Mission: Impossible films.

Both Damon and Greengrass return, which is a huge bonus for fans everywhere. To make matters even more interesting, it looks like Greengrass also co-wrote the script alongside Christopher Rouse, who’d written SUPREMACY and ULTIMATUM (what a testament to how failed LEGACY was that they couldn’t even get its writer back). The return of Stiles is also very welcomed and the inception of probably my favorite actress of last year, Alicia Vikander and her role in the story is only getting me more excited. Needless to say, this is the biggest movie for me of the week. Quite honestly, it’s the only movie I feel like is worth seeing. Been a huge fan of the franchise, so I have incredibly high expectations. Oh, and as of 7/27/2016, IMDb gave this movie a 9.0/10. The next day, it drastically dropped down to an 8.1/10. While I wasn’t expecting the movie to be that good, I’m still keeping my hopes way up high. Is this a welcomed return to the franchise, or was LEGACY the first red flag that this franchise should have ended? This is my honest opinion of JASON BOURNE.

(SUMMARY)

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), formerly known as David Webb, gets called back into action. Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks top secret files and manages to uncover files that Jason’s father, Richard Webb (Gregg Henry), might have had a direct hand in Jason’s initiation into Treadstone, the now debunked training program that made Jason the top assassin he now refuses to be. But the CIA knows that the files were taken and Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) with the help of the ambitious and talented Cyber Ops Head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), try and track down Nicky before she can expose her findings to the public.

(REVIEW)

Bourne is back, baby! Oh, how I missed this character and all his glory.

So let’s get to it, it’s been nearly a decade since Damon was Bourne (there’s a funny joke here, I just can’t think of it), but he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s still kicking ass left and right and beating his enemies down like a boss. It’s still too much fun to watch. The action may not be as amazing as ULTIMATUM, but it’s definitely still a Bourne action-fest. Jones as Dewey, yes and yes. There may be an argument that Dewey himself is just another enemy of Jason’s. “We got a new thing goin’ for us. Oh no, Jason’s here, we have to kill him!” But, like the Star Trek film franchise, despite the recycled bad guys, the actors portraying them are always memorable for their own reasons, even if it’s simply because they were in the movie. Vikander? She’s probably the most interesting new character. She’s basically the nega-Nicky of the movie. Smart, tech-savvy, and ruthless. In fact, she manages to thwart both Nicky and Jason on separate occasions, so this lady is bad-ass. Love her addition and hope she comes back in a future installment if Greengrass and Damon decide to return.

Now, let’s talk about Stiles. Like Damon, she don’t miss a beat. Nicky’s still smart, no-nonsense, and… wait just a gosh-darn cotton-pickin’ minute there, movie! Nicky’s also an asskicker?! You’re meaning to tell me that this woman picked up firearm training and learned to beat a bitch down? Hey, if Damon’s tired of Bourne, can we have a Nicky Parsons spin-off instead? Because I’d be so down for that.

***SPOILERS***

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Of course, if they did do a spin-off, it’d obviously have to be a prequel to this film because MOTHER FUCKING, FUCKIN’ SHIT, PIECE OF ROTTING DICK CHEESE, SONS OF WHORES HAD TO MOTHER FUCKING KILL OFF NICKY!!!

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Greengrass… Rouse… why would you do this my poor Peruvian heart? I loved Nicky. She was the awesomest. But before anyone thinks that I hated this inclusion in the story… I did, but in the positive sort of way. Nicky’s death is a legit tragedy that certainly as fuck got me invested in Jason kicking the CIA’s collective asses. I wanted him to kill a bunch of mother fuckers and see justice done for Nicky. She’s been a mainstay in the franchise since the beginning and has always been a sympathetic or likable character. To see her become almost like a lady-Bourne was such an awesome concept, it really was heartbreaking to see her gunned down so mercilessly and cold-heartedly. After that, I really wanted to see Bourne fuck someone up and leave ’em screaming for their collective mommies. So it shares that similarity with SUPREMACY. It may not have been better than IDENTITY, but it made up for it by anteing up the emotional investment.

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***END SPOILERS***

Remorsefully, this may be the weakest of the franchise as the ultimate CIA plan is almost akin to the TERMINATOR: GENYSIS plan that Skynet had: make an app, take over the world. Well, sort of, this feels like a more likely version of that plan. This dude’s dream is creating a server that would make it impossible for the government to spy on everyone using it. Thing is, the government funded his project and that’s exactly what the government will do, despite knowing that himself and still selling it off like it’s the top private server on the market. A scumbag move, to be sure, but lets face it, it’s already a reality and most of us are aware of it. Not exactly a shock or a twist.

Also, I do feel like there was a lot of emphasis on Bourne’s dad that didn’t go amount to much. We aren’t really given a good connection between the two characters. In fact, that’s another kind of weird thing; the many conflicts of the story didn’t really connect. Jason’s out looking for answers about his father, CIA wants Jason dead as well as to spy on everyone through social media, Jason’s not invested in the whole social media thing, so it’s pointless to have that in there.

Unfortunately, I have to dock a point for a pointless plotline, and maybe there’s a couple too many drawn out chase scenes, but it’s easy to see that if the franchise is to continue with Damon and Greengrass in the lead, then this is a welcomed first step back into the fold after such a long hiatus, and definitely makes up for the failure that was LEGACY. If a sequel gets made, I’ll be first in line for sure. I’d love to see Vikander return, I’d love a revisit with Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) from SUPREMACY and ULTIMATUM, and it never hurts to just see Damon kick some major ass. Not flawless

My honest rating: 4/5

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Upcoming review:

  • TALLULAH (dramedy)
    • A homeless girl kidnaps a baby from a neglectful mother and seeks shelter with her boyfriend’s mother, passing the baby off as her own.
    • Stars: Ellen Page (FREEHELD, JUNO, and INCEPTION) and Allison Janney (MINIONS, JUNO, and TV show MOM)
    • Directed and Written by: Sian Heder (feature-length debut)
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WSz2s-Gemc

Possible upcoming reviews:

  • BAD MOMS
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKCw-kqo3cs
  •  EQUITY
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xg2TSp5tJy4
  •  INDIGNATION
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELKsrUssyQE
  •  NERVE
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX1BTiHzq-I
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THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE review

Oh man, like everyone else, when this movie was announced, I rolled my eyes. I mean, jeez, the animated shorts on Netflix are pretty enjoyable in their own right, but that’s why they work: they’re shorts. Ten minutes long each. That’s nothing. But a whole ninety minute film? Er…good luck, guys. But I won’t lie, that first teaser had me going. Red kicking the little blue bird into the ocean, that was hilarious. It seemed promising enough I guess. But then the trailer came around and now the skepticism came right on back. The gross out humor that I dread in any movie I see. My greatest hope was that this movie wouldn’t hinge on it too much. But here we go, kids. This is my honest opinion of THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE.

(SUMMARY)

Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) is a bird with anger issues. This lands him into an anger management class headed by Matilda (voiced by Maya Rudolph), alongside fellow trouble birds, the speed crazy Chuck (voiced by Josh Gad), the literally explosive Bomb (voiced by Danny McBride), and the incredibly intimidating Terence (voiced by Sean Penn). But before long, the birds are paid a visit by some mysterious visitors. Green pigs, led by Leonard (Bill Hader), that Red thinks are suspicious. But the rest of the birds are just so excited to have visitors with gifts, they are completely enamored by them. But the longer the pigs stay, the more Red realizes that the pigs are after the birds’ unhatched eggs. In an attempt to get some help, Red, Chuck, and Bomb march their way to the Mighty Eagle (voiced by Peter Dinklage), a legendary hero of the birds and aide them in stopping the pigs.

(REVIEW)

About the biggest offender for me the movie commits is, you guessed it, gross-out and immature humor. Yeah, the Mighty Eagle’s “fountain of wisdom” scene is still as… ew, as the trailer made it out to be. There’s a lot of gratuitous pig-fanny shots, and of course, the really bad puns. “Pluck my life.” Wow. Talk about desperate. I’m honestly not going to talk about this too much. Most everyone knows about my hatred for gross-out and immature humor in movies, it anchors it down, moving on.

I do want to talk about the good elements, however.

First of all, Dinklage as the Mighty Eagle is a pretty fun character. Idolized for being the only bird that can fly on their little island of paradise, but it’s revealed that he’s just a washed-up, self-centered loser and his prime is well behind him. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like Dinklage was having a lot of fun with this role, especially considering his last voice acting gig in the video game DESTINY was somewhat criticized for being too uninterested. Never played the game myself, but I saw a few clips online to see where everyone’s coming from. Personally, I think it was simply a bad character or poor direction given to him considering how fun he is in this movie. In any case, thumbs up to the Dinklage.

But my absolute favorite character is Terence, who’s a thousand kinds of amazing. I love his “You are beneath me, tiny worm” look that he gives to Red every few scenes, as well as that growling of his. Pitch perfect as far as comedy is concerned. I do have to ask the obvious question though… Penn was called in to literally just grunt? I mean, you could probably hire any professional voice actor and get the same result… or any member of the crew working on the movie and net the same result. But whatever, Terence is awesome.

And now there’s Red. I remember reading another review some time ago that the review stated that the character wasn’t likable because his reasons for being angry aren’t explored in the movie. I’m actually going to defend Red and say that there is. Early on in the movie Red is shown to have grown up an orphan as well as being teased for having thick eyebrows. I can see that making someone grow up having a cynical attitude toward the world and others. And it’s not like the people he gets frustrated with don’t deserve it. I don’t think his actions are beyond the realm of believability. And he’s not a bad guy either, he’s just a guy who wants to be accepted.

***SPOILERS***

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I think the best the movie offers is the climax and the ending. Yeah, even though it takes that long to get there, the fast-paced action and war-like feel to it gives it some incredible fun.

But more than that, there’s some pretty legit moments as well.

While we do get the cliche fake-out of the main hero maybe dying after going to back to save the one egg the birds left behind, it’s actually a pretty sweet moment to see him picking up the egg from the rubble to reveal three little baby birds and returns them to the parents. The expressions, the score, the voice acting all accumulated to a tender moment.

And it’s taken to another level in the very next scene. In the beginning, it’s shown that Red lives in a house he built that’s isolated from the rest of the bird community. When the pigs arrived, they destroyed his home with their ship like the jerks they are. Because Red was the one who uncovered the pigs’ diabolical plot, but was dismissed by everyone, the rest of the birds show their appreciation for his help by rebuilding his house… within their community. This was even made more powerful when all the eggs that the birds rescued hatched and all the little birds got together to sing their gratitude for him. I’m sitting in my seat going, “Awww!” after that.

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***END SPOILERS***

Yeah, the movie isn’t anything amazing, and the many bad jokes and immature humor does severely hurt the flick, but the epic climax and the heartwarming ending makes the movie pretty worth it. I saw it once, I’m happy that I saw it, but I think that’s about it for me. I think kids will enjoy it. It’s got really good animation and bright colors, so it’s visually pleasing, so I say it’s worth checking out if you’re interested, but it’s not the kids movie for the ages.

My honest rating: 3/5

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MOTHER’S DAY review

Oh, hello, holiday movie. I guess the highly “popular” VALENTINES DAY and NEW YEARS EVE movies were such cinematic gold that Hollywood shit out, we needed to squeeze out another. *sigh* As you can probably guess, I wasn’t looking forward to this movie. Probably the one I wanted to see the least. It stars a mix of celebrities that are box office titans, like Jason Sudeikis, and box office pariahs, like Kate Hudson. But that’s always been the case with these movies. The story looked like there were going to be forced elements and the trailer gave away a pretty big reveal, that is, if I’m reading the context of these characters correctly. I don’t know, this didn’t have anything going for it, so…yeah, that’s all I have to say. Low expectations. This is my honest opinion of MOTHER’S DAY.

(SUMMARY)

The story follows multiple people who are gearing for the day of appreciating their mothers as well as their various reasons why the day is turning into a disaster.

(REVIEW)

In case you didn’t pick up on it, my summary is insanely short. This is because I’m not going to talk about the individual stories. It’d take too long.

In any case, it’s a bad movie. Granted, due to the strong films that I’ve seen this week, much of this film has been forced into my repressed memory concentration camp for gassing, but I do still remember a few of the more god-awful moments in the story.

Before I get into those bad storylines, as I will be raging like a gamer playing a cheatless game of CONTRA, I will start with the very few good things about the movie. There are a couple storylines that are interesting enough to have a focus on. Such as Kristin, played by Brit Robertson. Her character is a young mom, still dating the father of her child, who is a rising stand-up comedian, and is a good guy who wants to marry her. Problem is, she can’t bring herself to say yes to him because… “she doesn’t know who she is.” Pushing aside how much of a cop-out this excuse is, her reasoning is because she was put up for adoption and never met her biological mother and has the same unanswered questions most adopted kids do. To emotionally assault your nads even further, her adopted parents died some years ago. Her mother is famed infomercial saleswoman Miranda, played by Julia Roberts, who just happens to be in town. Call me a sucker for adoption stories, or maybe I’m still standing by my TOMORROWLAND review when I said Robertson was a good actress, or both, but there’s something about Kristin that made me legitimately feel for her and want her to find the closure that she’s always wanted. Even her boyfriend Zack, played by Jack Whitehall, is an interesting character and probably belts the only funny stuff in the movie. Again, you want Kristin to be in good place in life so they’ll get together. Not that there’s any doubt that they wouldn’t, but it’s still well-handled for the most part.

I needed to ramble about the only good thing about this movie. Alright, Jennifer Aniston had some funny reactions to situations, but yeah, that’s about it.

Now it’s time to talk about the cardinal sin of the movie: the humor. Now I have to admit that half (or more than half) of my hatred for this movie mostly comes from the audience I was seeing this movie with was laughing at all the wrong kinds of humor. There’s a scene involving Jesse, played by Kate Hudson, and her parents visiting. We’re told that they’re basically racist, and Jesse, married a middle eastern man. Upon meeting Russell, played by Aasif Mandvi, they immediately call him a “towel head” which is incredibly offensive. The moment that line was belted out, the audience roared with laughter. Why? “Towel head” is a derogatory term and in the context of the scene, used in an offensive way. What’s the punchline? Is it because that “towel head” is a funny phrase? Would it be acceptable if someone called a woman a “cunt” if they thought the word was funny? Would it be acceptable if someone called a Hispanic a “wet back” if they thought the phrase was funny? No! No it would not! So why does this movie get a pass? Why does the audience think this is funny? Look, I know racist humor isn’t new. But comedy can go too far. The best comedy is one that addresses a problem and makes fun of it. Comedian Morgan Murphy on her “Irish Goodbye” stand-up (you can find it on Netflix. Very funny woman, highly recommended) talks about a commercial she saw for credit card fraud. It’s a montage of victims talking about their experiences. One of them is a middle-aged black guy, “perfectly pleasant” and all that. His experience was that two surf boards were purchased in Laguna Beach. Murphy goes on to say that this man’s credit card company is basically saying, and I’m quoting Murphy here, “hey, we know black people don’t buy surf boards,” and how insane this idea is. See what I mean? How does mean-spirited racism equal comedy? Jesse’s parents are just cruel for no reason.

To make matters worse, they have a child together and somehow someway the child inspires the mother to have a change of heart and love her family the way it is. How did that happen? The miracle of children changing perspective? I’m pretty fucking sure that if a black person, a Jew, and a homosexual walked into a den full of Ku Klux Klan, and those three people flashed their baby pictures at the Klan or brought their young children with them, those parents and children are going to get fucking slaughtered. Racists at an advanced age like that will not change their minds about how they feel about a minority. Racists see everyone as beneath them, no matter what age. I refuse to believe that a child, grandchild or otherwise, would change that woman’s mind for no reason. Cuteness is not a factor in that.

To make matters even worse, the father changes his mind too! There’s a bullshit amount of explanation for the mom changing her mind, but when the fuck did the dad? Literally, he changes his mind because the script demands a happy ending to a storyline like this.

To make matters EVEN WORSE, ever since Jesse got married to Russell, she never told her parents. Instead, she lied and made up a story that she married a white guy… that her parents never met, yet accept that she’s married to. Never told them about their grandchild either. Okay, so you might think, “Well that’s not so bad. Her parents are racist after all. It’s for the good of her family.” Fine, sure, but she also lied to Russell about having racist parents. She told him that they were crazy and locked in a nuthouse, or some bullshit like that. Why?? If you’re a child of a racist family, but you yourself aren’t, what possible motivation do you have to lie about your family? There’s no reason for it in this movie. Jesse is just a pathological liar, and Russell, rather intellectually, calls her a fucking twat and basically storms off pissed at her. But somehow, after both the parents have a change in heart, they manage to get Russell into Jesse’s parents’ RV and drive fast out of the neighborhood… so he’ll forgive her. Five minutes of “funny” high jinks, somehow this fucking works. Jesus Christ, dude, your wife only lied to you throughout your marriage and even after having your kid! When is it ever enough? What does she have to do get the fucking message? Again, copping out for a happy ending because that’s the easiest way out.

Maybe that’s the biggest offense of this movie: it’s not challenging. It would have been so much better if Jesse would just cut off her mother from her life, whom wouldn’t accept a family like this. Sure, it’s a buckshot to the emotions, but it’s for the betterment of your family and yourself. A hard reality, but that would have made this storyline so much better and realistic. But holiday movies need happy endings, right? “So fuck off with conflict and ambiguity, let’s make with the whimsical smiles and cheery music.” Fuck that shit.

While this movie is definitely bad, there are one or two serviceable elements the prevent it from being a complete and total disaster. If you’re a fan of these lame movie tropes, or if you’re my aunts, I wager you’ll like this movie fine. But as for the rest of us who don’t want to be subject to such middle-aged suburban brain-dead pandering, then I wouldn’t bother. Only saw it once, but I’m fine with that. Never again.

My honest rating: 2/5

That’s all the reviews for this week guys. Keep an eye out for next week’s batch, including:

  • CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
    • and more

ZOOTOPIA review

Well, hello again, Disney. Yes, please come in to the home I call my life. I need a quality story to entertain me. Alright, I’ll get off my knees before I consummate my love for anything Disney, as it’s not quite the case with me with this movie. When that first teaser came out, I was a tad underwhelmed. But the argument for teasers is that they’re not supposed to be mind-blowing and get you hyped for the movie. It’s a means of putting the movie on your radar, so when the trailer gets released, you can be all like, “oh hey, I remember that.” While I wouldn’t say I thought it’d be a flop, the trailers barely did anything for me either. That sloth trailer is funny the first time, maybe the second time, but if you’d have seen the trailer as many times as I had, it got old pretty fast. That third trailer though was a welcomed change of pace. So yeah, this was the movie this week that I was looking forward to the most. So lets not waste any more time, this is my honest review of ZOOTOPIA.

(SUMMARY)

The story follows Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), whom as a child has dreamed of being the first bunny police officer of Zootopia, an enormous metropolitan city where animals, prey and predator, live together in peace. Having grown up and moving away from her comfortable farm-life upbringing, she does indeed become the first bunny police officer. But she isn’t met with the most open of arms and is instead given the easy jobs, instead of partaking in the investigation of missing animals. Judy tries to make the best of her situation, and even meets a con-artist fox named Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), whom she tries to arrest but constantly gives slippery reasons why he can’t be. However, Judy’s job starts to wear her thin and starts to think that being a cop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. However, a golden opportunity comes when a thief is brought to justice, but because she isn’t a real cop in the eyes of her superior officer Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba), he tries to have her fired. But a desperate otter looking for her husband, one of the missing animals, Judy is reluctantly tasked with finding the otter in a given amount of time, or she will be forced to resign.

(REVIEW)

Chalk up another hit for Disney because this knocked it out of the park.

A tad disclaimer though, it’s really not so much a comedy. I mean, obviously there’s humor in it, but it leans a little more to the dramatic side than the trailer may lead on. As in, it can get brutally dark in this movie. In the beginning, it deals with bullying. As a child, Judy announces that she wants to be a cop and a mean fox kid pushes her down to the ground, holds her there, belittles and threatens her, and then slashes her face with his claws, leaving a pretty decent gash. Granted, there’s no blood, but that doesn’t make it any less awful.

That was just the kid stuff. Right before she’s about to take the case to find the missing husband, Chief Bogo is also brutally mean to her. I couldn’t necessarily quote anything, unfortunately, or even paraphrase at all, but I just remember the offenses, the seething and relentless cruelty and unfairness. I mean, jeez, it’s pretty heavy handed. That’s in no way a draw from the film, as that is clearly how the world is established. There will always be a little bit of tension between prey and predator, but this world makes it work for better or worse.

And this is especially dramatic when Judy and Nick have to interact off of each other. The tension between the two characters is always building, and with careful writing, neither character is overly cruel, but they’re not squeaky clean either. Nick will constantly call her a dumb bunny or other offensive nicknames, and Judy will manipulate Nick into making himself more of a criminal than he really is just so she can have probable cause to search an area she’d be otherwise not allowed in.

***SPOILERS***

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This all comes to a head in the middle where the missing animals are found and Judy is given the credit on TV. However, after some heart-to-heart talks and learning about each other, bonding, Judy unwittingly says things that offends Nick as a predator, making him seem like it’s in his nature to eventually go savage and hurt someone. This is obviously not Judy’s intention, but given the world that we were introduced to, you understand his anger toward her. What a harsh reality check for kids to learn. Of course the two characters become friends again, but I’m starting to think that maybe in order for the lesson to sink in a little bit more effectively that maybe Judy and Nick could still work together, but Nick would still have hurt feelings and they wouldn’t be friends in the end. But it’s not like Judy isn’t hard on herself, giving one of movie’s most stand-out moments where she cries, calls herself a dumb bunny, and after being forgiven, hugs Nick by resting her head on his chest. I won’t lie, I wanted to cry there.

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***END SPOILERS***

This is one of the greatest elements of the movie, it makes an argument for both sides. Even the good guys can be a little mean-spirited and criminals have a story that anyone could identify with. So while there’s a conflict of method and ideology, there is common ground for the capacity for good and bad, but we never stop hoping that Judy and Nick will be friends and that they will triumph at the end. Everyone has something to learn and adapt to.

The voice casting is perfect. I mean, Nick voiced by Bateman? Who else could have done that? Um, the correct answer is NO ONE. He so perfectly embodies the snarky jerk with a history and, as usual, can easily dive into drama when the scene calls for it. Once again, offering one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the movie. Goodwin does a wonderful job as Judy and is clearly giving her all to the role. Every scene she’s in puts a smile on my face. I suppose the easiest joke I can make is, for those of you that are fans of the TV show ONCE UPON A TIME, and are aware that the show brings together all of the classic Disney characters and has recently featured characters from recent Disney and Pixar films like BRAVE’s Merida and FROZEN’s Ana and Elsa, would they go so far as to bring in Judy and Nick? And would Judy still be voiced by Goodwin? Would the show make that humorous connection?

While I might not say this is a negative toward the movie, I do think it’s a bit of a bummer that we don’t get to see enough of Zootopia itself. I mean, we get plenty of the big city shots, but what about the separate districts? Yeah, the rainforest is pretty much the only one we really get to see much of. We don’t get to see Tundra or… whatever the other ones were. See how much of a bummer it is?  I would remember their names better if the characters ventured into them. But I guess that’s what sequels are for. Totally down for that, by the way.

***SPOILERS***

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However, if I had to nitpick anything at all, it would be that the ending where Nick becomes a cop too. Somehow, I think it would be such a more realistic ending if Nick became just a kind of ear out for Judy if she needed information regarding criminal activity, seeing as he has his connections to what amounts to the mob in this world. Him becoming a cop just feels a tad too hokey. But whatever, I guess if someone needed a change in occupation from “reformed thief” a police officer wouldn’t be the worst path to choose. It just feels like a little too happy-ending to me.

Also, the GODFATHER references just feel so… obvious. Every comedy that has an element of gang related events for some reason has to reference this dang movie without missing a beat and I’m getting so annoyed with it. If you have to reference GODFATHER, make the references a little more subtle. But these really are just nitpicks and it’s hard to REALLY dock points for it, but… kind of irksome.

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Whatever review I read that said this was the best animated family film about racism wasn’t kidding. It doesn’t shy away from hitting you hard with difficult lessons, but it always gives you hope that there is a way to find compromise and mutual respect and that’s a powerful thing to teach kids. I’ve seen this movie twice now, and I would love to see it again. Yeah, it’s THAT good.

My honest rating: 5/5

RACE review

Would it come as a surprise to anyone if I said I didn’t know anything about Jesse Owen? Yeah, I’m not a history buff, but that’s why biopics are made: to raise awareness of a person or group of people with a unique story to tell that may not be known by the general masses. About all I knew about Jesse Owens was that he was an Olympic runner of some kind and our government at the time never acknowledged his accomplishments… for some reason, until his death many years later. That’s as far as my knowledge goes and even THAT was from reading it off a friend’s Facebook status. In any case, I didn’t want to spend a weekend at work with limited movie viewing time with guests asking me how I liked the movie and give the lame answer, “I haven’t seen it.” I hate that. So without further adieu, this my honest opinion of RACE.

(SUMMARY)

This is a biopic about the famed track and field runner, Jesse Owens. Set in the backdrop of 1936, Jesse (Stephan James) is a determined athlete, specializing in running, to enter the Olympics in Berlin, Germany. His first stop is attending Ohio State University, where he meets his disgruntled and overly strict white coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). He soon proves that he has the skills and talent to get into the Olympics, and so begins a dramatic journey of romantic affairs, racial shaming, and one young man’s determination to be the best Olympic athlete the world has every seen.

(REVIEW)

I got a buddy who might cock his eyebrow at this considering I told him I liked it, which… may not be… as accurate now that I’ve had time to let the movie sink in. While I won’t say it’s a bad movie, it’s not, but there are some pretty noticeable problems.

Now, having been born nearly ten years after Jesse Owens’ death, I can’t claim to have known the man, and I haven’t found any sources that pertain to his personality, but the character that was portrayed on screen is… well, a bit of a cliche. Often in these racially charged stories, we get one of two types of black leads. One is a hot head with attitude who gets into trouble, but has a kind heart and wants to do good. The other is the quiet, the incredibly polite, accepting of social norms kind of guy whom the movie places on a high horse of morality. This is how Jesse is portrayed, his head is down all the time in the presence of white people, very quiet, soft spoken, and… well, this just makes him a character I’ve seen a hundred times over. Hey, maybe that’s how Jesse really was and this was an accurate portrayal, and that’s fine. Ain’t saying that he’s a bad guy or anything, but it’s not… an interesting aspect to tell.

Jesse’s coach, Larry, isn’t any better. He’s introduced as the overly strict and “winning is the only thing that matters” mentality, starting off almost cruel to Jesse at first. Seriously, it’s like watching THE MIGHTY DUCKS! Convince me the formula doesn’t match! Right down to the arch where we see that this coach isn’t all bad and the two eventually become really close friends. I sighed a couple times.

There are also a couple story elements that seemed out of place.

In the beginning of the movie, we’re shown that Jesse has a serious girlfriend, Ruth, played by Shanice Banton, and a cute-as-a-bunny daughter. He’s very loving and affectionate and gives that song and dance that he’s doing all of this for them. Soon as he starts gaining momentum and does a bit of traveling to make waves and get into the Olympics, he’s in a club with friends and a pretty girl walks in. She recognizes Jesse and basically starts an affair. Um… why is he starting an affair? At no point in this story were we shown that Jesse has a weakness for women, or that he in any way doesn’t have his shit together. His girlfriend is sweet and kind, so… what led to this affair other than a pretty face? To make matters worse, the affair has almost no consequences. Oh sure, the scandal hits the newspapers and Ruth catches wind of it. She’s devastated right in front of family, co-workers, friends, and possibly total strangers. Of course, Jesse FINALLY sees his mistake and wants to make it up to Ruth, who will wisely have none of it. One would think that now Jesse has to jump through some serious hoops to get back into Ruth’s good graces. What is this epic feat that he follows through with to get the love of his life back? He… sits outside for a few hours watching her. Yeah… that’s all he does. And to make matters worse, that works. Yup, that affair had no consequences, so it didn’t need to be shown in the movie.

***SPOILERS***

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It’s not the only one either. Jesse and his family are paid a visit by a black priest who cautions Jesse to not go to the Olympics, as it may actually cause more problems in America for the black community. Admittedly, I don’t remember the reasoning as to why or how, I might have missed that, but we see that this is a big deal to Jesse. He has a conflict of interest and, through some very good acting by James, we see that he’s really torn up about the decision. He will later say that he will not go to the Olympics, but then through… a cheaply short conversation with Ruth, he decides to go against his decision and go to the Olympics anyway. Alright, this is interesting. We were told that if he goes, it will cause problems for folks back home. What are we shown? Not a damn thing. Yup, not a bloody thing. In fact, everyone seems rather content with life crowding around their radios listening to the broadcasts of the events. Well, shit. Why raise the stakes if it isn’t going to play a part in the overall story? Wouldn’t it have been better to show the problems Jesse caused back home and see how it affects him? We can go on Wikipedia any day of the week and know WHAT he did. But we can’t go online and look up how his decisions affected others or even himself really. That would have made for stronger development and maybe even a deeper insight on what happened during that time. Or if there wasn’t anything worth mentioning, then why mention it at all?

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There are a few other problems here and there, but I don’t want to sound like this is a bad movie, as there are some things going for it that make this a solid flick that ultimately works well enough.

I’d say the sports stuff is good, but in a biopic about an athlete, the sports stuff BETTER be good, otherwise… yeah, what the hell would it be? So is that really a plus for the movie, or is it just meeting the standard? But yeah, everything involving Jesse doing his thing is pretty exciting to watch. Especially when the Olympic stuff rolls around, the final act of the movie is definitely the best in terms of the sporting events.

The acting is what really drives this film home. Yeah, yeah, I know I was bitching about how the characters were cliches, but you know what? They are. But that doesn’t mean that the actors were bad. In fact, on the contrary, James plays the role of Jesse very convincingly. He holds the movie up well enough and I have no problems LIKING him. Same with Jeremy Irons as Avery Brundage, Carice van Houten as Leni Riefenstahl, they’re all serviceable in their roles.

But the real standout in performance that might as well make the movie is Sudeikis. What a terrific performance that almost distracted me from the cliche character! Joining the ranks of most comedians, he delivers a special kind of intensity that I honestly don’t know who else could have played this role. He steals the show in every scene that he’s in. Even when a scene calls for comedy, his delivery for that is great too. In fact, especially in the middle of the movie, the chemistry between Sudeikis and James probably makes for the best and honest moments in the movie. He’s a grouch, but there is a real sort of empathy you feel for him and what he goes through. Too bad we don’t see too much of that, but then the focus wouldn’t be on Jesse Owens, and well… priorities, you know? But yeah, his performance and the way he and James work off of each other makes up for a lot in the movie.

There’s also some really great sportsmanship stuff that happens. Like Jesse shaking another athlete’s hand after a race, another athlete accepting his defeat and asking him to beat his own record, even becoming friends later on, that’s pretty unique stuff that we don’t see very often in sports movies. Not that it’s never been done, of course, but it happens so rarely.

Overall, the movie’s performances are the heart of it. The actors own their incredibly cardboard cutout characters and, as I said, Sudeikis is worth the price of admission alone. They may not succeed in completely distracting from certain senseless detours the story makes that ultimately bring it down, but it’s a solid flick.

My honest rating: 3/5