Marshall (2017)

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown, James Cromwell

Screenplay: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Koskoff

118 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War, Gods of Egypt) has played a lot of biopics, this one being the fourth time. Is it his best?

Marshall is the story of Thurgood Marshall (Boseman) and his teaming up with Insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast) to defend Joseph Spell (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, TV’s This is Us), a colored man accused of raping a woman he works for in one of Marshall’s early cases.

There are no noticeably poor actors in the film, but the standouts come in Boseman and Brown.  Brown himself turns in an incredible performance as Spell, a man who is so terrified of his situation that he doesn’t know to trust, who to talk to, and how to act. His is a stoic thoughtful performance. Boseman, too, disappears into his role as Thurgood Marshall. Boseman is no stranger to playing real life men, having already become James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Floyd Little in his career, and his performance as the future Supreme Court Justice is exemplary.

Credit should be given to Josh Gad, Dan Stevens (Kill Switch, TV’s Downton Abbey) as the prosecutor Loren Willis, and James Cromwell (The Green Mile, The Promise) as Judge Foster, a noticeably bigoted man who attempts to stop Marshall and Friedman at every attempt to prove innocence.

Director Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Serving Sara) hasn’t had a lot of experience in directing these types of films, but he holds his own quite nicely. There isn’t a lot of visual flair, but his attention to detail aids the intensity. I remember a moment when the inclusion of car lights outside made me uncomfortable for the characters knowing the situation these two men were in. The car lights were unneeded, but having them raised the intensity level just a bit more. The cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel again has moments of greatness littered throughout mixed with the restraint that you often see in courtroom dramas. The same can be said of the music. Sometimes it really works, but it doesn’t jump out at you.

Marshall is a great character piece, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find Boseman and Brown on the Oscar ballot come January, and the rest of the cast performs rather admirably. There isn’t a lot of technical flair on display here, though that isn’t really a bad thing. Marshall is a strong outing, a biopic focused on one incident and how it changed those involved. This is a film that you won’t want to miss.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Marshall yet? What did you think? And what’s the best Chadwick Boseman-led biopic? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra MacDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

129 mins. Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.

 

It’s a tale as old as time but now Disney has turned it into a twice-told tale, but is it any good the second time around?

Belle (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Circle) is a bookworm and inventor living with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda, Dean) in the small village of Villeneuve. Belle deals daily with the advances of the slimy and arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, The Fate of the Furious) and his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, Frozen, A Dog’s Purpose) as well as the looks from the townspeople who find the young woman rather odd. When Maurice is lost in the woods, he comes across a castle inhabited by a terrible Beast (Dan Stevens, TV’s Downton Abbey, Colossal) who trades Maurice for Belle. Then, Belle and the Beast find themselves falling for one another in the best adaptation of an animated Buffalo-Human Romance film ever to grace the silver screen.

But how about the actual film?

Well, in the world of adaptations, I found that this 2017 iteration from director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) has some improvements on the original and some elements that didn’t work. Mostly, though, it’s the same film. And in a lot of ways, that lessens it. There are very few liberties taken here, and overall it gives the film a very tame feeling which never really drew me in.

Let’s start with what works. The amount of respect given to the French location of the film is strong. Most of the accents work and even little touches like French subtitles in the end credits give flair. There’s also a sense of theatricality to the film due to Condon’s decision to treat this like a tale you’ve seen before. I highly suggest watching the film with the overture as it harkens back to the classic tale from decades back. I thought the treatment of Disney’s first gay character LeFou was respectful. I thought the tightening up of plot points in the prince’s age and in his ability to read (a major change to the character from the 1991 film) work well here. I also really liked a lot of the personalities and performances from the various living pieces of furniture, most notably Lumiere (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, American Pastoral), Cogsworth (Ian McKellan, TV’s Vicious, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Baby). I am very thankful, however, that the director decided to cut the character known as Monsieur Toilette, played by Stephen Merchant, who would have been, you guessed it, a toilet.

And of course, the film looks gorgeous. There are a number of images I’d love to have on my wall from this film. Everything here looks astounding with a tremendous attention to detail.

Now, the issues with the film are glaring. I thought “Be Our Guest” was grossly over-animated and looked terrible. I felt like the film’s forcefulness to sticking to the source material made the film feel like it was dragging on forever. The musical numbers felt very autotuned and unrealistic and none of them really enhanced the original pieces. The issues amount to very simply not improving the original. This film is essentially a shot-for-shot remake in a lot of ways, and we’ve seen how that works out a number of times, most notably with Psycho and The Omen. It never seems to work, and it only reminds you how superior the original is.

Overall, I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast much more than I thought I would. Disney continues to create enjoyable experience rehashing old tales. The biggest problem with Beauty and the Beast is that I don’t see why anyone would choose to watch it again if they have the original film to go to. It just feels forgettable for all of its 129 minutes. There’s just a better version already out.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Short Film Sunday] Frozen Fever (2015)

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Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad

Screenplay: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Marc Smith

8 mins. Rated G.

 

Frozen Fever is perhaps the best title for this week’s short film. It happens to embody the main plot of the piece and also the ongoing love for this small but mighty franchise. Everyone is apeshit for Frozen (and I mean that in the best possible way, I also really enjoyed the film).

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In this short film continuation of the original movie, released as an opener for last year’s Cinderella, we see that some major changes have to come to Arendelle since the finale of Frozen. Today is the 19th birthday for Anna (Kristen Bell, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Zootopia), and her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel, Enchanted, Rent) wants to throw a massive party to make up for the last several years of isolated birthdays. The problem: Elsa has a fever, and she can’t stop sneezing little snowmen into existence. As Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, TV’s Looking, The Normal Heart) and Olaf (Josh Gad, Love & Other Drugs, Pixels) struggles to maintain the little critters, Anna desperately tries to convince her sister to cancel the whole thing.

Frozen Fever is a cute little one-off slice of life. I liked the addition of the Snowgies, as they are termed, as they provide a little chorus for fan-favorite Olaf. I also really enjoyed the closer examination of Elsa’s powers, as it doesn’t detract from the magic of the original film. Sadly, the short doesn’t carry much weight and is, apart from the above wins, largely forgettable. “Making Today a Perfect Day,” the new song, isn’t all that entertaining or catchy upon first glance, and the short feels like more of an afterthought of unused ideas for a Frozen sequel.

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All in all, I like my franchise shorts to feel like something special for the fans, an addition to the larger mythos of the regular series that adds and progresses the story in some way. To that note, Frozen Fever both meets and misses the mark. I enjoyed it mildly and can see why any other fan would too (mostly the younglings), but it isn’t the near-perfect display that its predecessor is.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Wedding Ringer (2015)

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Director: Jeremy Garelick

Cast: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting

Screenplay: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender

101 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity.

 

When a comedy is released in January, it isn’t a great sign. When that comedy is a Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Get Hard) film, it isn’t even a good sign (I do happen to like Mr. Hart, but he picks some real shit to step it). When the film starts with “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, it is a downright bad sign. Well, here we have it: The Wedding Ringer. Full of bad signs, but is it bad?

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As Doug Harris (Josh Gad, TV’s 1600 Penn, Frozen) gets closer and closer to his upcoming wedding, he comes closer and closer to the painful truth: Doug has no friends. He has no Groomsmen. He has no Best Man. That is, until he hears about Jimmy Callahan (Hart) and his job as a freelance Best Man. Now, Doug has not only hired Jimmy, but wants a full group of Groomsmen. When Jimmy becomes Bic Mitchum, he must pull off the ultimate wedding with the ultimate heist, and convince bride-to-be Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, TV’s The Big Bang Theory, Hop) that it is all for real.

I enjoyed much more of The Wedding Ringer than I thought. I’ve seen a lot of Kevin Hart films and I haven’t seen a lot of good ones. I think he is an absolutely hilarious comedian, but I think he’s a disappointing actor. He just can’t carry an entire film. In The Wedding Ringer, we see him carry a film almost well enough to work. It doesn’t all work. It really doesn’t, but the fact that it is the closest I have seen to a good Kevin Hart film.

The chemistry between Hart and Gad is great here and mostly makes the film, much more so than Cuoco-Sweeting’s completely horrendous performance, especially in her scenes with Gad.

The most fun in this film comes from the cadre of fake Groomsmen. I especially like Jorge Garcia and his subtle (albeit late-to-the-game) Lost reference. I also really loved the idea of the wedding being played like a heist. It isn’t mined very well, but it has enough likability to get you through the film.

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Now, the film itself isn’t very good. It isn’t. It’s just a lot better than this film should’ve been. This time in 2016, the film won’t be a thought in the back of my mind whatsoever, but it was worth a view. Just one.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of The Wedding Ringer? Have you seen it? Did you hear wedding bells or are you a runaway bride? Let me know!

 

Big Hero 6 (2014)

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Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph

Screenplay: Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird

102 mins. Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

After tragedy strikes and takes everything Hiro (Ryan Potter) thought he’d never lose, he befriends Baymax (Scott Adsit, TV’s 30 Rock, St. Vincent), a robotic caregiver built by his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Last Stand), and the two set out to find an invention of Hiro’s that has been stolen to be used for evil. Along the way, Hiro gets help from a ragtag group of nerdy geniuses that would soon come to be known as Big Hero 6 in the newest Disney animated feature from directors Don Hall and Chris Williams.

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Baymax is 2014’s answer to Frozen’s Olaf. He is a lovable and sweet companion who is challenged in his quest to heal others by Hiro’s wanting of vengeance against those who wronged him. Young Ryan Potter does great work as Hiro, and he gets great help from veteran voice workers like T.J. Miller (How to Train Your Dragon, Transformers: Age of Extinction) and Alan Tudyk (TV’s Suburgatory, I,Robot). I do wish the supporting characters weren’t just relegated to minimal development based around the tech they are currently working on, and I hope that if this becomes the first Marvel-Disney franchise that these superheroes are further developed. The world of San Fransokyo is pretty cool though, taking cues from anime masterpieces like Akira.

Big Hero 6 isn’t Frozen even at its best, though I am happy to see a Disney film willing to deal with death. Although I don’t think they should’ve danced around the subject so much, always referring to the deceased as “gone” when they should take the high route and understand that kids can handle it.

The visual style is neat and it presents a pretty great number of action set pieces for our heroes to defend their beloved city, and it just looks good.

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Big Hero 6 is one of the more enjoyable films of 2014, but it has a lull to it around the second act. Even though it is a Marvel property, it tends to borrow a bit too much from previous Marvel fare like Iron Man instead of drudging a new route. There is a fun post-credits scene, so wait around for that. Big Hero 6 should satisfy parental units as well as kids thought, which is a tough feat to make.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Oscar Madness] Gravity (2013)

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Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Screenplay: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron

91 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Cinematography
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Directing
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Sandra Bullock)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design

 

Gravity’s trailer won me over because it did something that too many trailers to wrong. It teased plot, but didn’t give it all away. There has been a recent trend in trailers which have been very good at not spoilering the whole freaking movie. Frozen and Monster University have actually been like short films teasing the tone of the movie while not ruining the experience, while Star Wars-Episode VII: The Force Awakens gives us just moments to titillate us, and it worked. Gravity’s trailer just touches on the first ten minutes. That’s it. A tease.

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock, The Proposal, The Heat) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, Ocean’s Eleven, The Monuments Men) are astronauts on a mission to fix and update some parts on the Hubble Telescope. While on a spacewalk, their shuttle is hit by debris from a chain reaction satellite explosion, causing them to be stranded out in space. Now, they must find a way to get back to Earth with no shuttle in the new film from Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

GRAVITY

I may not like Sandra Bullock, but this is easily her best performance in years. She just knocks in out of the park.

George Clooney provides some terrific work in a supporting role as Matt. He has the confidence of a man on his last mission.

Cuaron had to develop new filmmaking techniques to handle the cinematography of weightless space and increase the capabilities of an all-CGI film. It took at least four years to get there, but it was worth it, and we all knew it was taking those technical awards at the Oscars. Here’s a tip: if your film has to invent new processes and equipment, you will win Oscars. It just happens.

The film is edited to together to keep movie and it features some really long sequences to keep the audience involved in the movie. It certainly works, because it literally left me shaking. I wish I could’ve paused it so I could leave for a few minutes to calm back down.

Innovative lighting techniques also create an involved experience.

The sound, or lack thereof, and the minimal use of music really assist in making the film real, and few space films utilize the silence of space so well.

Awesome CG! Just sayin’!

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Gravity is everything I wanted it to be. This uplifting space adventure kept me on the edge of my seat that I was fearful I would fall out of it. If this film doesn’t leave you breathless, you don’t have lungs.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

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Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language.

 

After X2: X-Men United, the superhero series was invigorated and raring to go again. Bryan Singer left to direct Superman Returns, so Brett Ratner took over the chair and creative control of the franchise. This has often been seen as a bad idea. Brett Ratner, not to be blunt, is terrible.

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It’s the story of the mutants dealing with the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, GoldenEye, Taken 3) in the previous film. Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Prisoners) appears on the surface to have gotten over her death and has taken on a more important role within the school alongside Ororo Munroe (Halle Berry, TV’s Extant, Cloud Atlas). Meanwhile, Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellan, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Golden Compass) has been recruiting new mutants to join The Brotherhood in the fight against the government, which has created a new treatment or “cure” for mutants. Rogue (Anna Paquin, TV’s True Blood, The Piano) is interested in the cure, but her boyfriend Bobby (Shawn Ashmore, TV’s The Following, Frozen).

There a lot of moving plot points in this movie, but the script is far too weak to fully explore them all. There are multiple times when dialogue is unreal, too much exposition is given (or sometimes, not enough), and characters are doing things that betray their character traits.

The actors are trying to perform to a weak script, and most of them do as well as they can, but Brett Ratner focuses too much on trying to be a spectacle, often sacrificing character moments under piles of action. Now, the action is good, and leads to a solid climax which is handled nicely, but we have a conflict of style. On one hand, we have the previous film, which establishes a seriousness and a stake in what happens. On the other hand, we have a goofy style which pushes against and a more-comic-booky look to the film, something that was handled much better in the prequel X-Men: First Class.

While the climax is handled nicely, Ratner chooses to play down the denouement, which, considering this was supposed to be a closing of the trilogy, is what really kills this movie. We have so many plot threads untreated and ultimately unthreaded that it set the series up for several films of trying to fix the damage, before finally X-Men: Days of Future Past was able to do.

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This isn’t the worst X-Men movie of all time. That honor is currently held by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t an epic letdown from X2, and served to topple the franchise for a couple years.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

November 2014 Preview

We’ve been to this part before. I have not seen any of the films we are going to discuss today. I merely feel as though you should be aware of what will be coming to theaters this month. I am pretty good at assessing possible wins and likely failures in the film business. So here we go. Hold onto something.

 

 

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Interstellar

I love Christopher Nolan. Apart from Insomnia, I have found each of his works to be utterly powerful pieces of film. His genres usually stick to the darkness and the fantastic, and perhaps just as much in his new film Interstellar. It is about a team of explorers who go through a wormhole looking for a suitable planet to replace Earth. Now, the basic idea here sees simplistic, but it offers up a lot of avenues to move the plot along. The sci-fi community has been freaking out about this movie and I have to agree with them. I’m already hearing some early Oscar buzz for this one.

 

 

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Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 might not sound like a big property (to be honest, I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it on Disney’s upcoming slate and decided to look into it. It is actually based on a Marvel property recently acquired by Disney’s banner in their major merger. It will not be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but instead will be an animated adventure from the creators of Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. I know the plot involves a future city known as San Fransokyo and a young robotic wiz named Hiro and his robot friend Baymax (this year’s Olaf) fighting crime with a group of inexperienced heroes. It sounds like a lot of fun, a more family friendly version of The Avengers with undertones of Disney animation tropes that made Frozen so much fun last year.

 

 

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Jessabelle

Jessie is a woman who just lost her husband in a car accident and now she has gone home to Lousiana, where a spirit waits who wants her dead. I like Kevin Greutert, the film’s director. I liked what he did with Saw VI and as an editor on previous horror films. That being said, he hasn’t had a whole lot of wing-spreading and I fear that he hasn’t proven himself. This film looks good in trailers and poster work, but I’m feeling a vibe akin to The Grudge a little too much here and that doesn’t bode well.

 

 

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Beyond the Lights

Movies like Beyond the Lights, about a woman who has become a singing sensation falling for a cop who wants a spot in political office and can help her get her voice back, all sound the same, and oftentimes, they are. I will say little more on this except that your girlfriend may drag you to this, and if she does, go. Don’t expect this movie to be good, though. Dream of better films in the next theater and maybe sneak away to one of them when you “go for more popcorn.”

 

 

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Dumb and Dumber To

Man, I really want to like this movie. I loved the original Dumb and Dumber as I’m sure you do. I happen to think that 1994 was the greatest year in motion picture history, and I think Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have tremendous chemistry together. The first trailer didn’t give me much hope except that I’m hoping the best parts are not in it. That would be refreshing. Here’s my advice: See the movie because it is going to be a big release. Do not expect it to be better than Dumb and Dumber. Do not expect it to be as good as Dumb and Dumber even. Just be happy it won’t be the shit-storm Dumb and Dumberer was. See, there is a silver lining.

 

 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

So, we are at the third Hunger Games movie. I really liked the first installment and I absolutely adored the second film. Returning director Francis Lawrence doesn’t always pick the right properties (Jonah Hex) but when he does, he can do some magical work. He did it with Catching Fire and I think that trend will continue in Mockingjay, where Katniss Everdeen brings her war with President Snow to the forefront after destroying his Games forever. I liked the third book (a lot of fans did not) so I expect that is where the dividing line will be drawn here.

 

 

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Horrible Bosses 2

Comedy sequels are not easy. Far too often we get a Hangover Part II when we deserve an Anchorman II. What I like about Horrible Bosses 2 is that, from the information I have gleaned, it appears that this film will respect the storyline of the first but depart in a whole different way with new interesting characters played by great new actors. I won’t be seeing this film in theaters because I don’t trust comedies there, but I think it will be some solid fun.

 

 

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Penguins of Madagascar

Nope. Nope. No. Not gonna happen. The Madagascar movies were getting stale right around the time the first one came out. Now we get a spin-off already ruined by truly disappointing cartoon series that has tread this territory before and not lightly. Skip it. Worth a rent, sometimes these spin-off can work magic, but not often.

 

 

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Paddington

It is interesting when a film like Paddington gets behind-the-scenes  troubles, like original voice Colin Firth dropping out unexpectedly just months before the film’s release. A bear from Peru gets taken in by the Brown family from London and discovers that life isn’t what he thought it would be. Simple enough, it looks cute and I suspect a winner, but I’m not guaranteeing anything.

 

So there it is. Here’s a tally:

 

Best Bets: Interstellar, Big Hero 6, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Likely Misses: Beyond the Lights, Penguins of Madagascar

On the Bubble: Jessabelle, Dumb and Dumber To, Horrible Bosses 2, Paddington

 

As before, these are but tools. Use them at your own will. Let me know your thoughts as well, and what November 2014 film are you most looking forward to?

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