MOVIES WITH DANCE
I guess this August was destined to be a movie dumping ground for studios. This past weekend there were five new wide releases dropped into theaters, and the week before that there were four of them.
But there’s no time for bellyaching. After all, these reviews won’t write themselves.
This week we have the animated follow-up to a movie based on a world famous mobile game, a toothy survival horror teeming with great whites, an adaptation of a best-selling novel starring Cate Blanchett, a raunchy comedy featuring a trio of 12-year-olds, and the story of a Pakistani teenager who becomes obsessed with the works of Bruce Springsteen.
Let’s get to the reviews.
First up is “Angry Birds Movie 2.”
In this new animated adventure, the constantly warring birds and pigs are forced to put aside their differences and unite when a new threat emerges that puts both their islands in danger.
Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny Mc-Bride), and Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) recruit Chuck’s sister Silver (Rachel Bloom) and team up with pigs Leonard (Bill Hader), his assistant Courtney (Awkwafina), and techpig Garry (Sterling K. Brown) to forge an unsteady truce and form an unlikely super-team to save their homes.
I’m just going to say this right up front. I’m not a big fan of these Angry Birds movies.
Right off the bat I found the first one completely off putting. The humor was ridiculously lowbrow and even vulgar at times, just for the sake of being shocking.
That’s not to say I hate all comedies which rely on the obscene for comedy, in fact I saw another movie this week which I thought used off-color humor quite effectively.
But so many of the gags in the first Angry Birds felt so low effort, so unnecessarily crude for a kids film, that I just couldn’t wait for the movie to be over.
Fortunately, this sequel ended up being a bit less grating. It still wasn’t remotely my cup of tea, but for what it’s worth I felt noticeably less annoyed while watching it.
I think part of what helped is the writers here had a bit more creative freedom this time around.
In the original they were kind of pigeonholed into hitting a number of very specific scenarios from the mobile games, like the pigs stealing the bird’s eggs or flinging themselves at buildings with a slingshot, all while making characters out of birds which are basically glorified canon fodder in the app this movie is based on.
In this one they could take those same characters and have a bit more fun with them.
Red, the hero from the first movie, has to learn to put aside his ego and work with others. Like a bitter rival, or even worse, a girl.
Of course that girl also happens to be Red’s love interest in the movie, and of course they hate each other at first. But I guess I’ll take that story over the first one’s with its hackneyed plot revolving around anger management.
The comedy here is still lowbrow, wildly frantic, and often completely out of left field, but it was a little less vulgar and had slightly less nonsense thrown in just to fill time.
I’m sure young kids will like this movie just fine, maybe even some adults. I definitely wouldn’t say I enjoyed it myself, but I have to admit I hated it a little less than the last one.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but maybe a little more than you’d expect from a movie sequel based on a mobile game.
“The Angry Birds Movie 2” is rated PG.
Next is “47 Meters Down: Uncaged.”
This film follows the diving adventure of four teenage girls (Corinne Foxx, Sistine Stallone, Sophie Nélisse, and Brianne Tju) exploring a submerged Mayan City.
Once inside, their rush of excitement turns into a jolt of terror as they discover the sunken ruins are a hunting ground for deadly great white sharks. With their air supply steadily dwindling, the friends must navigate the underwater labyrinth of claustrophobic caves and eerie tunnels in search of a way out of their watery hell.
Ah, “47 Meters Down,” the movie that put Entertainment Studios on the map.
Before their venture into shark based horror movies, Entertainment Studios was more known for distributing low budget courtroom shows and maybe the occasional sitcom no one’s ever heard of.
These days they’re making a name for themselves by putting out films from all kinds of genres.
From terrible teenage horror movies like “Friend Request,” to annoyingly awful action like “The Hurricane Heist,” and even senseless sci-fi thrillers like “Replicas.”
Heck, later this year Entertainment Studios is even dipping their toes into the lucrative children’s movie market with the ludicrously low budget looking film called “Arctic Dogs.”
As you might be able to guess, I haven’t really been a big fan of the movies this studio has chosen to distribute. Even their best films like “Hostiles,” a western drama starring Christian Bale, or “Chappaquiddick,” a political drama revolving around Ted Kennedy, haven’t exactly thrilled me.
It’s gotten to the point where every time I see their logo before a movie, I immediately lower my expectations. I don’t think there’s any other studio out there that disappoints me more than they do right now.
They’ve just put out so many bad films, I can’t help but dread whatever terrible thing they put out next.
Which of course brings me to this movie.
After all that, I have to admit, I didn’t hate the first “47 Meters Down.” Sure the characters were dumb, but it still had a lot of tense moments plus a fair amount of okay scares.
This time around though, they really amp up the stupidity of our main characters.
First of all, you have to be an exceptionally moronic person to go cave diving with little to no diving experience.
From the very beginning, it’s very clear these girls have little regard for their own lives, regardless of the local shark population. It makes sympathizing with these characters very difficult from the get go.
But fine, I guess movie sharks would die of starvation if there wasn’t a constant line of imbeciles waiting to throw themselves in harm’s way.
What about the storytelling then? Well, it’s definitely not good. Most of the dialogue here that isn’t high pitched screaming ended up being blatant foreshadowing.
Stuff like “Don’t kick up dust when you’re underwater! You won’t be able to see and you’ll get lost!” or “See those air pockets in the caves? If you happen to run out of air, those would be your last chance for a breath!” Honestly, I don’t think they could have been more overt if they tried.
But again, this is a shark horror movie. If you’re interested in this flick, deep characters and complex storytelling probably aren’t high on your list of expectations.
So what about the sharks themselves? Well, for the majority of the film, they seemed pretty lethargic to me.
Being cave sharks, apparently they’ve adapted to their dark surroundings by becoming completely blind and instead relying on their other senses to hunt.
This makes for an interesting concept in theory. Think 2016’s “Don’t Breathe” just with sharks instead of an old war veteran. Sure, the idea wasn’t terribly well executed, but I guess credit to the filmmakers for changing up the typical shark horror movie formula a little.
As far as I could tell, the sharks in the film were largely created using practical effects, as opposed to being completely computer generated, which was a nice plus. Sure, the sharks ended up looking pretty fake whenever a shot lingered a little too long on our blind toothy friends, but that’s mostly a nitpick.
The scares in this movie, while not too inspired, did make me jump a few times, and even had me laughing out loud at one particularly absurd moment.
Like the last 47 Meters film, the best part by far ended up being the end. Just when I thought things were wrapping up, the sharks just kept on coming back for more.
Not only was it tense, but the ending did a decent job tying the entire film together.
So, bottomline, is this movie a good follow up to the previous “47 Meters Down?” Well it doesn’t quite have the same knack for creating tension that the first one had, but it had its moments, especially during the final few scenes.
It’s far from a great horror film, and it certainly doesn’t raise my opinion of Entertainment Studios any, but for those looking for simple shark scares, this movie will probably satisfy just fine.
“47 Meters Down: Uncaged” is rated PG-13.
Third this week is “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.”
Former architect Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) seems to have it all. A beautiful home in Seattle, a successful and loving husband Elgie (Billy Crudup), and a brilliant teenage daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) who’s about to attend boarding school.
But when Bernadette suddenly disappears without a trace, her concerned family sets off on an exciting adventure to solve the mystery of where she might have gone.
I had a bad feeling about this movie ever since I saw the trailer for it earlier this year.
The whole thing looked so unfocused. Like the film didn’t know the story it wanted to tell or how to tell it. Well it turned out that’s exactly how the actual movie ended up being too.
I guess the star of the movie is Bernadette Fox, but the way the narrative plays out here feels so disconnected from her character.
Most of what we learn about Bernadette is from either third party narration, performed by her daughter Bee, Bernadette using text-to-speech on her phone to send emails, and a faux documentary about Bernadette which tells the audience how wonderful she used to be before she became a total shut-in.
I’m sure this contrived storytelling method is due to influence from the book this movie was based on, but it simply did not translate well to film.
Instead of being clever, it just ended up feeling cold. Leading to Bernadette, and indeed every character in this film, coming across as very unsympathetic.
It also didn’t help that everyone in this movie is clearly obscenely wealthy.
Poor Bernadette. Despite living an incredibly privileged life, she can’t be bothered to treat anyone outside her family with the least bit of respect.
It can’t be Bernadette’s fault she’s been sitting around doing nothing for 20 years. You see, someone bought a house she designed and decided to demolish it. That’s perfect reasonable justification to sit around and do nothing for two decades, right?
The movie’s trying so hard to portray Bernadette as some kind of poor mistreated genius, but all I see is someone completely self-absorbed.
Performance wise, Cate Blanchett does do a fantastic job portraying this loathsome person. I did not care for the character in the least, but I have to give credit to Blanchett for bringing her to life as she was written.
Sadly Emma Nelson, who plays Bernadette’s daughter Bee, was less than inspiring. Her lines constantly lacked conviction, especially during the more emotional moments. A shame considering Bee’s main purpose in the movie is to be our window into Bernadette’s world.
In fact, most of the scenes in this film meant to be poignant, ended up just being dull and uninteresting.
One such moment, in fact the catalyst that sends Bernadette on her grand adventure, should have been one of the most heart wrenching scenes in the film. Instead, I couldn’t for the life of me keep my eyes open I was so uninterested.
Besides a good performance from Blanchett, the only other thing I appreciated about this movie was the scenery.
They have some shots of the arctic in this movie. Apparently those sections were filmed in Greenland instead of Antarctica, but regardless, those scenes looked beautiful.
Pretty landscapes alone don’t make this a film worth watching though. If you want to see cool shots of Antarctica, go watch “Disneynature Penguins.” As far as I’m concerned this mess of a movie is a complete waste of time.
“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is rated PG-13.
Coming in at number four this week is “Good Boys.”
Invited to his first kissing party, 12-year-old Max (Jacob Tremblay) asks his best friends Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) for some much-needed pointers on how to pucker up.
When they hit a dead end, Max decides to use his father’s drone to spy on the teenage girls next door. When the boys lose the drone, they skip school and hatch a plan to retrieve it before Max’s dad can figure out what happened.
I gotta say, this past weekend was looking pretty bleak before this movie came along.
From a mediocre animated film, to a passable horror movie, and a mind numbingly dull family drama, I was just about ready to call this week a wash.
Luckily this film, along with “Blinded By The Light,” completely turned my weekend around.
It took a little while for me to warm up to this movie, but by the midway point I was laughing almost constantly all the way until the very end.
Much of the humor comes from these 12-year-old boys dealing with, and completely misunderstanding, more mature subject matter including alcohol, sex, drugs, pornography, and the most terrifying thing of all to a young boy, kissing a girl.
But even though these kids are constantly immersed in raunchy affairs, the film knew where to set its boundaries and never crossed the line to become disturbing. Something that could have been an easy thing considering how young the stars are here.
Luckily the filmmakers managed to keep the tone very lighthearted, despite all the obscene material here, and part of what helped keep everything on the funnier side of things was the kids themselves.
The director here managed to get really good comedic performances out of the young actors here. Not only from our three main boys, but the entire cast.
Of course Jacob Tremblay isn’t a stranger to the acting world, as he’s starred alongside Brie Larson’s Oscar nominated performance in “Room,” and more recently the lead role in critically acclaimed family film, “Wonder.”
It’s no surprise Tremblay does a bang up job in this film as well, but the other two boys are quite good here too. Especially considering this was their first acting gig in a feature film.
The boys here are incredibly relatable. After all, everyone’s been a 12-year-old at some point. At that age most of us kind of had an idea about sex or drugs, but didn’t quite grasp the full picture. That’s where a large chunk of the comedy in this movie comes from.
The rest of the humor mostly involves these kids trying to act grownup in front of their peers, while looking like complete dorks in the process.
Sure, the story isn’t particularly innovative, nor does it reach the same emotional heights as some of its comedic forebears like this year’s “Booksmart” or even “Superbad.”
But similar to those films, this is a movie about growing up. Sometimes that means growing up and staying close to the people you’ve known your whole life, and sometimes that means growing apart as your interests and circumstances change over the years.
Bottomline though, this is a fun movie. The humor is on point, the comedic timing is excellent, and the three boys are incredibly easy to identify with for anyone who’s ever been a sheltered preteen.
An easy film to recommend to anyone who loves the rauncher side of coming of age comedies.
“Good Boys” is rated R.