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.

Benicio del Toro is Swiper in Dora the Explorer Movie

It seems like the Dora the Explorer film news is just getting stranger. Now, veteran actor Benicio del Toro has signed on to voice Swiper the Fox in the live-action adaptation of the hit cartoon series. The movie, which stars Isabella Moner of Transformers: The Last Knight fame, has wrapped production but Swiper is expected to be all CGI.

Dora the Explorer also has Michael Pena and Eva Longoria in its cast and is directed by James Bobin from a screenplay by Nicholas Stoller. Bobin directed The Muppets and Alice Through the Looking Glass for Disney, while Stoller wrote the screenplay for the former. The film is expected to be released August 2, 2019.

Now, I should preface by saying I’ve never seen a single episode of Dora the Explorer, though I understand the structure and framework of the show, but the more talent joining up with the film is only a good sign. I’m a fan of Bobin and Stoller’s work behind the camera and the great cast in front of it only sounds better with del Toro’s addition.

From what I understand, Swiper is the villain of the film so having a villainous voice could work. What’s concerning me, though, is that this film is sounding more and more Bay-ed as we go on. There was a now-debunked rumor that Michael Bay was heavily involved in production here just like with his Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and both of those franchises are not favoring too well at the moment (though Bumblebee may change that for the Transformers). All I’m saying is that Paramount Pictures is pushing this movie down a strange avenue.

Hopefully, I’m wrong, and the addition of del Toro still sends good vibes to the Dora the Explorer movie. I’m waiting on the first trailer for a better indicator of where we stand with this one, so I’ll keep you posted.

But what do you think? Is Benicio del Toro the right choice to voice Swiper? Where do you stand on the live-action Dora the Explorer movie? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Billy Ray to Polish New Terminator Script

I’ve been asked a few times about the upcoming Terminator film from producer James Cameron and director Tim Miller, and to be honest, the reason we haven’t heard much on the film is that there isn’t much to tell. The writing process has been going well, and that’s that. So it is great news to hear that Billy Ray, known for Captain Phillips and State of Play, has been tasked to polish the script.

Cameron and Miller have already been joined by Justin Rhodes, Josh Friedman, and David S. Goyer in a writer’s room not unlike the Transformers one set up by Paramount a few years back (but hopefully this one will yield better results).

Not much is known about the project yet, other than Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton returning to the franchise. Cameron also previously said that the film will be a direct sequel to the second film, Judgment Day. Now, we don’t know if this is saying that it will retcon the previous three installments or just not reference them, but [SPOILER ALERT] Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor died after the second installment, but the Terminator franchise is very cyclical, so this is one franchise, like Star Trek, that could really work with a reboot.

I enjoyed Billy Ray’s work on Captain Phillips. The film was a gritty and intelligent film that stemmed from an intense screenplay. He is no stranger to franchise work with The Hunger Games under his belt too.

For me, Billy Ray has always been a realistic storyteller with strong dialogue. This is something that would fit right in with the Terminator franchise.

But what do you think? Are you at all excited for Terminator 6? Should it be retconned or just rebooted? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Editorial] Yes, I’ve Seen Footage from Transformers: The Last Knight

Hey everyone, I thought I would share some takeaways from a recent screening I attended in which Transformers: The Last Knight footage was revealed. I should note that we were told early on that some of the footage was incomplete, but overall, I got the sense that most of it was.

The footage started with an introduction from director Michael Bay who walked the audience through the process of creating and filming with IMAX 3D cameras, and he informed us that this film was the first to be entirely shot in IMAX 3D.

We are then presented with what I expect to be the opening, involving King Arthur battling a Cybertronian dragon and a major battle in the past.

We also see the introduction of Izabella and her Autobot friend Sqweeks as well as Canopy, the garbage-Autobot revealed in promotional material. Canopy seems like a tremendously stupid idea, but I liked what I saw from Izabella and Sqweeks.

We are reintroduced to Cade Yeager (played by Mark Wahlberg), who returns from Transformers: Age of Extinction, who has now taken up residence at a junkyard with Bumblebee and Grimlock, the Dinobot recently introduced in the previous installment. Grimlock seems to be taking on the personality of a pet dog, which I thought was kind of funny, but I also imagine that it won’t make the fanbase too happy.

We also got our first look at Anthony Hopkins’ character as he is the one who sets Cade on his quest. He also has some fun rapport with his Autobot caretaker which I though was pretty good.

All in all, there weren’t a whole lot of surprises in the viewing, but at least I didn’t have a whole lot of groans. The movie looks like standard Transformers fare, but at least it has a new writing team after the writer’s room created 14-plus Transformers films over a year ago. Let’s just hope Michael Bay didn’t inject too much bayhem here.

Are you excited for Transformers: The Last Knight? What’s your favorite installment of the franchise? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

[Early Review] Split (2016)

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Betty Buckley

Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language.

 

Good, I needed to wash disappointment of The Bye Bye Man away…

In Split, the newest horror film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Visit), three girls are kidnapped leaving a birthday party and awaken in a strange and unknown room. Their kidnapper is Dennis (James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class, Victor Frankenstein), a creepy and unstable man with an interest in watching girls dance naked. But it gets worse, because Dennis is also Patricia, a woman who strives for perfection and has a dark plan for the girls. Patricia is also Barry, who loves fashion and shows his sketches to his doctor, Karen Fletcher (TV’s Eight is Enough, The Happening). Dennis, Patricia, and Barry are just three of the twenty-three identities within one man, Kevin. As Dennis and Patricia put a plan into action to have the girls killed for a higher purpose, one of them, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch, Barry) uses her wits in an attempt to free herself and the others before a 24th personality, known only as The Beast, is unleashed upon them.

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I didn’t see The Visit. The last film from Shyamalan that I partook in was The Last Airbender, so as I recall, the breakup was pretty rough. Well, I’m glad to say that, with Split, M. Night is back and at his most loony. Split is a fun, taut thriller that plays like something out of the annals of Tales from the Crypt. It begins with an interesting idea, slightly unhinged, with excellent and engrossing characters, and a twist that works so well and only adds to the fun of the film rather than take away like The Village did.

McAvoy is at the top of his game here as he is given the ultimate acting showcase, switching between identities at will without dropping a note. And each identity is given so much character and charisma that it’s easy to see who is in charge of Kevin at any given moment. That’s the real win with his performance. I look at films like Transformers (wait, hear me out) and it often becomes difficult to ascertain which character is which when all the robots are fighting because they all look so similar, but in Split, it is perfectly clear at all times, even when Kevin is having a disagreement with himself.

Supporting players Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley are also notably great. Taylor-Joy is really quickly rising up the fame ladder, appearing in 3 films of merit last year and The Witch the year before. She is impressively smart and skilled as Casey. Buckley has been a mainstay of film and television for some time stemming back to her first role in Brian DePalma’s Carrie. The level of gravitas only seeks to make the film more believable especially when it hits the height of its lunacy.

The film is not without its detractors. My fiancé, for example, who has a background in the medical field, found that the suspension of disbelief was too much for the central plot to work. I disagreed with her, but I do understand how someone more aware of Dissociative Identity Disorder might not buy in. For me personally, with my background and understanding of Shyamalan’s inspirations, it worked very well.

I didn’t enjoy having the 23 identities always tossed around when we really only get to meet 6 or 7 of them. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to at least glimpse the others at some point as it was an expectation I had due the constant reference to so many personalities. But I think 23 personalities sells better than 6 or 7.

I also wasn’t too keen on the ending, and I don’t mean the twist, which I enjoyed, but the ending itself. I felt like Casey’s flashbacks didn’t go far to add much to the plot, and I feel like it was really supposed to mean something, but it didn’t. The reason why the twist worked so well is because if you don’t get it, and trust me, not everyone will, but if you don’t get it, it doesn’t take anything away from the film. For attentive viewers, the payoff is worth it.

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Split was so much fun, and I really enjoyed that all the characters, including but not limited to the ones on McAvoy’s head, were so vivid and real and helped to ground the unreal story and keep the momentum. My frustrations didn’t ruin the experience for me at all, and in fact, I rather enjoyed the film and can’t wait to see it again.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Split? What did you think? Let me know/Comment below!

Furious 7 (2015)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

137 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.

 

And here we are, after six films, we arrive here at Furious 7, the latest installment in the high-octane series of car action films started with The Fast and the Furious some many years back.

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In the newest adventure, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Saving Private Ryan, Guardians of the Galaxy) and his family have returned to the United States after gaining amnesty for their previous offences. As new parent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) adjusts to the simple life with wife Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Home Sweet Hell), he and Dom discover that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, The Transporter, Spy) is seeking vengeance on them for his comatose brother. When Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, WrestleMania) is dispatched, the group realize that they need help. In comes a mysterious government agent (played by Kurt Russell, The Thing, Poseidon) who need them to find a piece of high-tech gadgetry that has been stolen by the villainous Jakande (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator, Seventh Son). The deal is simple: retrieve the tech in exchange for cart blanche to defeat Shaw.

I really enjoyed Furious 7. Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious: Chapter 2), known for his abilities as a horror director, supplies the film with much-needed cheese with an incredibly exhilarating experience. The returning cast has grown so close that the chemistry here is great. Diesel’s journey of reintroduction with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar, Machete Kills) is one of the better stories to come out of this series, and it ties into the franchise well. I had a lot of fun watching the banter between Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers, Black Nativity) and Tej (Chris Bridges, New Year’s Eve, No Strings Attached). Newcomers Kurt Russell and Jason Statham provide a lot of fun to the equation. Russell’s Mr. Nobody is an interesting new character I’m excited to see further fleshed out. Statham’s Shaw comes off a bit on the cheesy side, especially with his introduction, but overall it works.

Now onto what most people are interested in hearing about: dealing with the death of Paul Walker. Did it work? Suprisingly well, actually. I expected Walker’s role to be relegated to a glorified cameo, but I was wrong. With brothers Cody and Caleb, alongside some terrific digital effects, helped to provide some resolution to Brian’s story in an appealing way. The finale of the film definitely pays tribute well with a closing musical number with a montage of Walker’s role in the franchise served to button up his story and send him off to the next place without coming off as a wasted opportunity. Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” works well here, too.

I like that Furious 7 helps tie the franchise back together with references to Toretto’s relationship with Letty before her “death” and the rarely-seen Race Wars from the original film. The best thing about this franchise is that the crew learns from previous mistakes to make the best film possible.

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Furious 7 isn’t the greatest film in the series (that honor lies with Fast Five), but it definitely takes a step in the right direction after a few missteps with Fast & Furious 6. It serves to provide closure to Paul Walker’s character and career well without sacrificing plot and sets the series up for further adventures which will continue with the upcoming Furious 8 (yeah, it’s happening).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

 

You can follow Kyle A. Goethe on Twitter @AlmightyGoatman

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

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Director: John Singleton

Cast: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser

Screenplay: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for street racing, violence, language and some sensuality.

After Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) walked away from his role as a cop, he was forced to betray everything he knew. Now, in Miami, he’s been caught by the feds and charged with catching the villainous Carter Verone (Cole Hauser, Good Will Hunting, Jarhead 2: Field of Fire) in return for his freedom. Brian recruits former friend and law-breaker Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers, Black Nativity) to assist him in his quest.

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Paul Walker is very similar to Hugh Jackman in that he gets slightly better as the series progresses. His acting here isn’t what it will be and not as good as he could be, but still much better than anyone else here. Gibson and Hauser come off as spooflike in their cheese factor, as does Eva Mendes (Hitch, Lost River).

2 Fast 2 Furious comes off as the bastard son of the original film. There is just so much that goes wrong here. First off, the exclusion of Vin Diesel. If nothing else, it proves that Vin Diesel understands how to make a sequel because he gets the factors that work and the factors that don’t. The editing comes off as real choppy. There are freeze frames, dissolves, and all manner of dull piecework. Director John Singleton (Four Brothers, Abduction) can’t control his races. These are bland race sequences, providing nothing cool to the aesthetic of the series. In fact, did I see a green screen 15 minutes in? Seriously? In fact, Singleton doesn’t get much right here at all. He encouraged improv from a bunch of non-improv actors. Seriously.

There are some things that work here. Roman Pearce as a character has potential (though it wouldn’t be fully realized for some time). Tej, played by Chris “Lucacris” Bridges, is another character that works much better than it would have been had not been rewritten for him. It was originally written for Ja Rule to return, but he was “too big” for the role. Seeing as how the character evolved with Bridges, the audience won here and Ja Rule lost, and the music is better with Bridges. Luda!

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2 Fast 2 Furious wasn’t enough to kill this franchise, but it didn’t do much to keep it alive either. There are a plethora of problems with the action racing sequel, but it did some right. Not much, though. Not much at all.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s Shaft, click here.

[Happy 35th Birthday!] Kagemusha (1980)

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Director: Akira Kurosawa

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken’ichi Hagiwara

Screenplay: Masato Ide, Akira Kurosawa

162 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Foreign Language Film

 

In 1980, Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Seven Samurai) released Kagemusha, but it almost didn’t happen. When the film went way over budget, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola stepped in to executive produce the film and keep it from being shut down. Was it worth it?

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Yes.

When warlord Shingen Takeda (Tatsuya Nakadai, Ran, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) dies in the middle of his conquest, his brother Nobukado (Tsutomu Yamazaki, Departures, Space Battleship Yamato) replaces him with a criminal who bears a striking resemblance to the former conqueror. Through all his might, the criminal (also played by Nakadai) attempts to protect the ruse under the agreement that he be set free when no longer needed, though forces seek to unmask the lie and possibly topple the balance of power.

I love Kurosawa. His vision sets him apart from many other directors. He had a specific genre and style that surprised viewers his entire life. Kagemusha is huge. This film is glorious and gorgeous and everything that Kurosawa was known for. It also featured one of the biggest battles recorded on film, with 5000 extras. He also knew how to use the footage he had. The battle I just mentioned takes up roughly ten minutes of screen time. Many directors today failed to use restraint to save story, and we get movies like Transformers which focus so much on the battles that they forget the story too often.

The performances from the veteran actors continue to impress. The film also benefits have some amazingly planned out sequences. My favorite Kurosawa moments exist in his surreal sensibilities. There is an incredible dream sequence in Kagemusha, and it happens to be my favorite scene in the film, especially with both roles filled by the same actor.

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Now the film is translated very well into English thanks in part to Lucas and Coppola. Kagemusha is a great piece of cinema that demands to be viewed and experienced. Get your hands on it immediately and be a part of something historic (it is available as part of the Criterion Collection and also on Netflix). The only people who won’t appreciate are those who haven’t seen it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Bad Boys (1995)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Tea Leoni, Tcheky Karyo, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano

Screenplay: Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, Doug Richardson

118 mins. Rated R for intense violent action and pervasive strong language.

 

I just watched Bad Boys for the second time. The first viewing I had was sometime after the sequel, Bad Boys II, was released. I was upset I hadn’t seen the original film and therefore could not witness the explosive spectacle of a film, so I changed that. I watched it. I somehow remember the film being…how do I put it, less terrible?

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Bad Boys is a buddy cop film about partners Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence, TV’s Partners, Big Momma’s House) and Mike Lowry (Will Smith, Men in Black, Focus). Burnett is a married man with a couple kids who dreams of less complicated days. Lowry is a newly rich single man who likes to get down and dirty with the ladies. When one of Lowry’s special ones is shot down in a hail of gunfire, her friend Julie (Tea Leoni, TV’s Madam Secretary, Deep Impact) goes to Lowry for help. She ends up believing that Burnett is Lowry and seeking out protection from him. As the two cops play some stupid version of Trading Places, there is also a bad guy doing…something. This is Bad Boys.

Bad Boys is the feature film debut of director Michael Bay (Transformers, Pain & Gain), and it also gives some of his less-awful work, though he still valued explosions over character development (what develops a character more than almost dying constantly, right?).

The two leads have enough chemistry to really build a franchise akin to Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop, but the script merely bastardizes the two series by ripping them off too much instead of forging a new path for itself, and the mistaken identity Freaky Friday conceit that envelops the film falls flat almost instantly and is drug along for the entire film’s runtime instead of abandoned early on like it should have been.

The villain Fouchet (Tcheky Karyo, TV’s The Missing, The Patriot) is a cardboard cutout with little memorable features. I just watched it and I can’t even really recall his purpose. He is neither fleshed out enough to feel real of sinister enough to be terrifying.

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Michael Bay’s Bad Boys is a bad film. I feel like Lawrence and Smith could play with their buddy cop relationship well if only the script was serviceable enough to give them room to play. For the most part, their talent is completely wasted and overshadowed by the “Things Blowing Up” route Bay’s directing takes them.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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

For my review of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 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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