Dumbo (2019)

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

112 mins. Rated PG for peril/action, some thematic elements and brief mild language.

 

Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Beetlejuice) seemed like an odd choice for Dumbo, right?

When Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell, The Lobster, Widows) returns from the war, his job at the circus is gone, and circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito, Matilda, Twins) assigns him to the elephants, where he meets baby Dumbo, an adolescent elephant ridiculed by many for his unusually-sized ears. When Holt’s children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), discover that Dumbo is able to fly with the aid of his ears, they set forth to save the failing circus, attracting the attention of the sinister salesman V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton, Birdman, American Assassin).

I want to start by saying I love it when Disney actually takes a property and updates it for a live-action release. As much as I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast, I would rather have a different take on the film, like what Cinderella and Aladdin did. This is done again here, but it doesn’t work as well. Dumbo 2019 is a different film than its predecessor, and I respect that, but the results are hit-or-miss. It all boils down to the screenplay by Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Ghost in the Shell), which doesn’t really revive as much magic from the source material as one would like. It feels very straight-forward and, in that process, loses some of the magic and soul that a film like Dumbo should have. Events just kind of happen, and with a more muted Burton directing the film, it feels hollow at times.

Now there is magic, particularly to the central relationship between Farrell, Parker, and Hobbins, who are trying to reconnect after war and tragedy have decimated their family. I also really enjoyed DeVito’s Max Medici. At this point in his career, DeVito knows how to play to the circus performance character, and he really collaborates with Burton quite well.

Michael Keaton’s zany performance as Vandevere starts out strong but really never goes anywhere. He is quirky because he’s in a Tim Burton movie and not for any particularly villainous reason. He’s unlikable, and maybe because he’s a villain, that’s a good thing, but it didn’t really work entirely for me.

Now, the scenes involving Dumbo are crafted very nicely by Burton. His visual take on the CG elephant works really well, and it makes for some truly captivating moments. It’s here where the film shines, and in that way, it is quite similar to films like Godzilla and Transformers in that the CG stuff works better than most of the human characters, but not to that extent, I suppose.

Dumbo is a mish-mash of elements, some that work really well and some that don’t. It’s uneven in this way, with a screenplay that doesn’t reach the heights a flying elephant should be able to rocket it, a director who feels somewhat asleep at the wheel or possibly incorrectly hired, but a group of performers and a cute-as-a-button flying elephant make for an enjoyable experience. It’s a scathing critique of Disney culture made by Disney that doesn’t always know who it should be appealing to; kids will like the Dumbo stuff but the rest of the plot mostly services adults. Still, I enjoyed myself and find the film to be a rather fair addition to Disney’s live-action shelf.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Batman, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 25 – The Ring (2002)

Director: Gore Verbinski

Cast: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

115 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, language and some drug references.

 

I don’t know if you remember (I sure didn’t), but fifteen years back, The Ring was one of the first big films to explore viral marketing. In fact, the first “trailer” for The Ring was just the cursed tape from the movie with no credits or title card. Viewers had to look online for insight or wait with anticipation for a month to find out what the hell was going on.

Seattle journalist Rachel (Naomi Watts, King Kong, TV’s Gypsy) is tasked with uncovering the truth involving her niece’s death. When her investigation brings her to an old shack and a strange videotape with disturbing images, she receives a phone call telling her she is going to die in seven days. Now, in a race against the clock, Rachel and ex-boyfriend Noah (Martin Henderson, Everest, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy) must find the origin of the tape and learn how to keep themselves alive as time slowly runs out.

The Ring is the first in a long string of Western remakes of Asian horror films, and it is arguably the best one. This writer has found that it isn’t really a classic of the genre, but director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, A Cure for Wellness) weaving an expertly crafted experience and Ehren Kruger (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ghost in the Shell) turning in a well-written albeit severely bloated screenplay, The Ring holds well.

I think, in addition to the gorgeously-striking visuals on the screen, Verbinski is blessed with a force of nature in lead actress Naomi Watts, who elevates this genre film with a nuanced, layered performance as Rachel. Rachel is flawed, instinctive, smart, and cunning.

My biggest frustration with the film is the ending. I think The Ring ends on a confusing and unexplained note. It doesn’t really tell you what’s going on, and if forces a lot of inference. There was a bookend of scenes with actor Chris Cooper that sounds like it would have helped here, but test audiences didn’t respond well to it, but I think that was a mistake.

The Ring is fine genre horror and very creepy when taking its PG-13 rating into consideration. It’s an entertaining but somewhat crowded narrative and its characters are interesting and engaging. Overall, it’s a staple for many even if I found its ending to be heavily flawed.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of F. Javier Gutierrez’s Rings, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] Rings (2017)

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Director: F. Javier Gutierrez

Cast: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan

Screenplay: David Loucka, Jacob Estes, Akiva Goldsman

102 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, thematic elements, some sexuality and brief drug material.

 

It’s been 12 years since American audiences were given another installment in The Ring franchise. Maybe we should’ve waited longer.

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In Rings, we are treated to several teases before a convoluted plot actually begins. Julia (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Summertime, L’Universale) and Holt (Alex Rose, The 5th Wave, Sniper: Legacy) are high school sweethearts, but when Holt goes away to college and subsequently goes missing, Julia tracks him down to a group who passes around a video tape that promises to its viewers that they will die in seven days upon the initial viewing. The cursed must then make a copy of the tape, or in this case, video file and show it to someone else. When Julia is cursed, she does whatever is possible to end the curse without passing it along to someone new. But can she learn the secret of Samara (Bonnie Morgan, Minority Report, The Last Witch Hunter) before it’s too late?

Rings is the third installment of the American version of this franchise, and the best thing I can say about it is this: it isn’t the worst. At least, I think it’s not the worst. I do not remember much of The Ring Two except being bored the entire time. Rings is less terrible but still pretty bad. It’s leads are absolutely dreadful (think The Bye Bye Man dreadful). Even though they aided by the somewhat-capable Johnny Galecki (TV’s The Big Bang Theory, In Time) and the strangely popular franchise Viagra in Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The Magnificent Seven), the film flounders in its attempt to reinvigorate an unwanted franchise. Most fans of even the original American classic from Gore Verbinski pine for its Japanese predecessor, and Rings does little to sway any new fans to its cause.

First of all, the film is poorly edited. There is an opening scene. Then, there is another opening scene. Finally, we meet our actual leads in a third opening scene. The film could have these moments appear less monotonous if it only juggled some of this exposition to later in the film.

Then there’s the issue of the mystery, which seems interesting as it starts to unravel before ultimately turning the story into a mixture of clichés from more recent better films and before too long, Rings becomes a standard slasher flick with no substance.

Finally, there’s the pacing. At around 100 minutes, this movie felt like it would never end. I sat there, wishing I could check the time before realizing I would be asked to leave (pre-screenings do not allow phone usage). Then, I almost thought to do it just to get out of the theater, but I stuck it out for you, readers.

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I won’t even get into all the new images in the actual video tape that look like CG from an early 1990s video game version of The Ring because it just hurts. Rings was supposed to jumpstart a dead franchise. Sadly, it just convinced the world to keep it dead. And it didn’t even take seven days (but it sure felt like it).

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

 

So have you seen Rings? What did you think? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

First Trailer for Rings Won’t Kill You in Seven Days…I Think

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The American Ring franchise kind of sputtered into nothing some time ago. After director Gore Verbinski gave us the cold, unflinching remake of J-Horror film Ringu back in 2002, the first sequel seemed set to success, but then it sucked. I remember watching it and being horribly underwhelmed.

#crazydeer

But now, over a decade later, Rings, the upcoming third film in the series, has surfaced. A lot has changed in the world of technology in the past decade, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out in the film.

The first trailer, which you can see below, offers an interesting glimpse at the film. I just caught it, and I’m pretty impressed. It plays on the reboot functionality of the film by not connecting specifically to the original (a smart choice) but also focusing on the iconography of the series. It’s been a bit, and I know audiences outside of the norm aren’t chomping at the bit too much for a new Ring movie, so this is an uphill battle. That being said, I think this first trailer is an indicator that Rings might have the muster to stick the landing.

Rings follows a young woman who views the videotape when her boyfriend discovers it. She now has seven days to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

Rings emerges from theater screens on October 28 and is directed by F. Javier Gutierrez.

Are you excited for Rings? What’s your favorite J-Horror remake? Let me know.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Ken Jeong, John Malkovitch, Frances McDormand

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

154 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

C’mon, people. Robots are fighting. Things are blowing up. Of course it is a Michael Bay (Armageddon, Pain & Gain) movie!

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Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, Lawless, Fury) is now finished with college and trying to make a life for himself. His only claim to fame is saving the world twice, which he isn’t allowed to mention (even though I’m pretty sure that he is called out in the previous film by name over the television airwaves, so I imagine he wouldn’t have to hide it). He has a new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Mad Max: Fury Road) and a new home, but no job until he meets Bruce Brazos (John Malkovitch, TV’s Crossbones, Dangerous Liaisons) who grants him one. Meanwhile, the Autobots and NEST are coming under heavy fire from Charlotte Mearing (Frances McDormand, Fargo, Promised Land) who believes that NEST should be restructured or disassembled. The Autobots have been busy trying to uncover the mystery of an Autobot ship that crashed on the moon and caused the space race.

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Blood & Chocolate) seems to have learned from the mistakes made in the previous installment. The basic plot structure of this film has reeled it back to where it becomes very simplistic. In fact, the finale of the film is the entire last half. Now, I will admit that there are definite pacing issues. So much of the minutia of the first hour feels unimportant until the major event about halfway through, involving an invasion of Chicago. Once that happens, there are a lot of Chicago set pieces. A lot. I mean it. The film could’ve chopped a few scenes off. Two and a half hours long is reaching for a Transformers movie until they learn about how plot and character development  work.

The actors and actresses seem better in this film when compared to the previous installment. Patrick Dempsey (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Valentine’s Day) is one notable exception as Dylan, Carly’s boss who helps Sam get his job but has some secrets of his own. He is absolutely awful, and I like him normally. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley actually succeeds at performing worse than Megan Fox did. I don’t know how, but she did.

We get a lot of awesome battles, specifically a few involving Shockwave, a massive beast of a Decepticon who can take down skyscrapers with ease. The visual effects continue to impress in this series.

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon doesn’t get nearly as much right as the original film, but is more of an achievement than Revenge of the Fallen was. It gets a lot more on track, but it still comes down to likable trash. Worth a see, but still mostly for major fans.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Turturro

Screenplay: Ehren Krueger, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman

150 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

 

I was extremely surprised that I enjoyed Michael Bay’s Transformers. I had convinced myself all the way up to the premiere night that I was in for a long slow burn of disappointment. I was wrong. I had fun. That was a similar case with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the 2009 sequel featuring Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, Lawless, Fury) heading to college and trying to balance his life and relationships with Mikaela (Megan Fox, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, This is 40) with that of Bumblebee and the Transformers. I found the film to be an occasionally enjoyable romp with much lower quality of technical achievement. I didn’t think the movie was boring, but I felt like they had stretched the premise of the first film without offering anything new of merit. It felt like a big budget movie with absolutely no forward momentum for its characters. It looked nice, but really nothing special.

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Sam Witwicky is college bound. Unfortunately, his Autobot friends are challenged by threats old and new including the reanimation of Megatron and the reemergence of an exiled Transformer known only as The Fallen. The remaining Autobots have joined with new allies as well as a human tactical team called NEST, featuring old friends Major Lennox (Josh Duhamel, TV’s Las Vegas, Scenic Route) and USAF Master Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Black Nativity). Before leaving for college, Sam uncovers a piece of the Allspark which gives him visions of Autobot language and clues leading him around the world in search of a mystical tool that can save his friends and defeat The Fallen.

After multiple viewings, I began to notice how none of the plot actually made a whole lot of sense. The convoluted quest Sam finds himself on is strange as it is leading him to something he doesn’t even need yet. It isn’t until partway through the quest that he actually has a use for what he is looking for.

Shia LaBeouf’s performance is downright underwhelming. If there was an award for yelling “Bumblebee!” as many times as you can, he might win, but performances don’t really matter when the script is so shotty. We have to blame the writer’s strike, which caused the death of several terrific television series and a screenplay that wasn’t ready entering production. Disappointing, too, because if waited on, I’m sure the film would have been more successful, but this team just didn’t have the time to actually create an organic story. This is more jerry-rigged.

Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Blood and Chocolate) added some underwhelming touches to the original material drafted by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and I feel like he was too attached to the material as he was quoted as being a major Transformers fan. Of course he can’t do justice to the film. Too much pressure.

I didn’t really hate all the annoying characters (I tend to believe that Jar Jar Binks is needed in Episode I to prove that some aliens are going to be annoying as shit), but there was a lot of them, ranging from Autobots to humans.

The big win of the film is Devastator, a Decepticon comprised of several moving parts and automobiles. That was some great creature design.

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If given the option, find a copy of this film in its IMAX edition because the only major element of this film that works is the Visual Effects (even if Bay does continue to show us the robots transforming just because). This movie will delight fans of the Transformers brand, but likely no one else.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Michael Bay’s Transformers, click here.

For my review of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, click here.

For my review of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, click here.

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