Benz Eye View: Daddy’s Home 2

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Daddy’s Home 2

Pros: 

1.) Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, and many of the other actors do have some chemistry.  It helps buy the family dynamic that this movie is showing off, and it seems like the actors were having some fun during the filming process.

2.) Some (or rather few) of my favorite jokes in the movie involve some of the characters making a child-friendly version of dirty jokes that the other characters have said.  Though I wish they could have delivered it better, those jokes have some cleverness to them about how some people have their preferred tastes in jokes (i.e. Animaniacs vs. South Park).

3.) I like the concept as much as I like the previous movie’s concept.  Brad and Dusty’s dads come for Christmas, and they both have their own ways of treating their family: Brad’s dad is sweet and nice to a very annoying point, and Dusty’s dad is hard-boiled and tough with little emotion to anyone.  That is a plot that definitely calls for comedy and conflict…

 

Cons: 

1.) …Unfortunately, the execution is just…awful.  For one thing, this plot goes on for way too long.  It would not be bad if the characters were not so annoying (I will get to that in a moment).  This is an hour and forty-minute movie, and I swear it feels like it is longer with so many pointless things that they try to do in order to pad it out.

2.) Even though I said earlier that I did enjoy few of the jokes in the movie, the rest range from decent to not funny to not making any sense at all.  You have the usual jokes that only children will love, jokes that does not really have any punch to it, and jokes that they build up throughout the movie with the payoff making no sense.  One example of a joke with lack of payoff is that Brad’s stepson, Dylan has a crush on what the movie apparently shows to be an Asian girl, but he does not have the courage to go out with her.  By the end of the movie, how that joke ends up does not make any sense.  At least the joke with Dylan in the last movie had some sense as oppose to this one.  They really need to hire better comedy writers in this movie…

3.) …Or rather they need to hire better writers in general, because there are so many subplots with so many characters that I could not care any less.  Not only are some of those character really annoying, the ones I did care for became irritating over time.  After watching this movie, it brought back memories on why I hated these characters in the previous movie.

 

Overall: 

A sequel to Daddy’s Home?  Really?  Did anyone really want a sequel to that movie?  I know it did well in the box office, but another sequel?  Other than the two leads, I do not see any reason to watch another one of these movies, but fine.  I will see it, and judge for myself if it is at least better than the first one.

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Well…it is slightly better than the first one (as far as I can remember), but it is still not good.  Will Ferrell and Mark Walhberg work well together, but that does not mean that they are part of a comedic masterpiece.  For the people who loved the first one (for some reason), they may like this one as well, but if you are looking for a good Christmas comedy, the first two Home Alone films are my recommendations.  Otherwise, spend your Christmas with your family and friends, and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year…in a few weeks.

3/10

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Benz Eye View: Coco

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Coco

Pros: 

1.) This is Pixar.  What do you think the animation is going to be like?  Of course it is fantastic.  I would give you a detailed explanation, but by the trailers alone, you can see how great the animation is.  Colorful, bright, and beautiful are the words that easily describe Pixar animation, and this film is no different.

2.) The world inside the film is very compelling (especially since it is based off of Mexican culture, particularly Día de los Muertos).  A spiritual realm called the Land of the Dead that the dead arrive from to visit the living realm as long as the living remembers them; that by itself as already an interesting idea.  The Land of the Dead itself has so many things that is not only great to look at, but also some worldbuilding aspects are interesting as well.  There are many things to look at as well as learn, and the creators did a fine job constructing the world of this film.

3.) The writing and storytelling is impressive.  While there are a few things I found slightly predictable (I will get to that in the cons), some of the twists make the story more intriguing and compelling.  Not to mention how the main plot (which I initially did not like) was resolved I really found to be heartwarming.  Also, many of these characters have their own plot, and I do like they are resolved by the end of the film.  All of the plot and sub-plots work coherently in the film and fit together with its themes: family and dreams.

 

Cons: 

1.) As compelling as this film’s world, there are some questions that did pop up in my head as I was watching.  A few examples: if the Land of the Dead is a spiritual realm for the dead, why is there technology in it?  If the dead can only stay “alive” if the people in the living realm remembers them, what would happen if something terrible happened to the living (say an earthquake)?  Does that mean the dead will eventually be screwed over?  If this how the connection between the living and the dead work in Mexican culture, how does it work in other cultures like say Chinese culture?  I know some of these are not really significant and necessary, but I cannot help think of these when it comes to the world-building elements of films like these.

2.) Admittedly, this film has a slightly formulaic plot especially at the initial parts of the film.  There is a young boy who has a dream of being something other than what their family wants him to be, but he decides to pursue it anyway.  When the family finds out, he runs away, and encounters another world that can help him succeed at his dream.  It does sound formulaic, but I will give the films some credit that they did some things that are different so it does not end up being completely predictable.

 

Overall: 

Pixar is at it again with an installment in the film line-up.  Nothing seems to be breaking their long-running films that deserves the high praise.

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…Never mind.  

Despite that mess-up (and a few recent decent movies), Pixar still goes strong with many of their films.  Does their new installment join with other great classics like Toy Story and Inside Out?  Of course it does, señor/señorita.  This film not only looks great, but is also written well for the whole family.  Even though some of their recent movies do not go in the same level of greatness as some of their other films, Coco makes it all up for everyone to enjoy.  If you love Pixar or enjoy a family-friendly animated film, this film is not only something you will enjoy, but also something that will make you appreciate tu familia.

9/10

As for the short: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, it just reminds me how much I love the original film, and this short is just as great.  However, it is admittedly too long, and people coming in slightly late might make the mistake of going into the wrong film.

Benz Eye View: Justice League

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Justice League

Pros: 

1.) There is some good amount of tributes to the DC Universe and its past films.  However, the one great subtle moment that worth mentioning is the music.  If you listen closely, there are moments where the music plays bits and pieces of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme from 1989 (by the way, he also composes for this movie) and John Williams’ Superman theme from 1978.  That is a great way (or maybe a worst way if you look at it differently) to give some life for this movie…

2.) …Speaking of life, there is some actual dimensions for these characters.  While not perfect, each character has different characteristics and reactions to events that make them more alive than the characters from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Stupid…I mean Justice.  They can be serious, but they can also be funny if they need it.  More dimension to the characters (even if it is admittedly not by much) makes it better for the audience to care for them.

3.) Unlike the previous DCEU movies (except for Wonder Woman), there is some lighthearted tones in the movie, and they even fixed the color filters in the visuals as well.  There are some comedic moments that are actually funny, and the visuals do not look like they belong in a grey lifeless world, but instead have some color to them.  They actually made these characters and world fun, making it seem like it is no longer bland and colorless…

 

Cons: 

1.) …Well…Somewhat, because even though it is nice to have some life into this movie compared to the old DCEU movies, it suffers from being tonally inconsistent.  The majority of the movie is serious and slightly dark, and there are little moments where it becomes lighthearted and comedic, but it feels out of place (which did not help that Zack Snyder directed the movie during production, and Joss Whedon directed it during post-production and re-shoots).  It is nice to have Barry Allen a.k.a. the Flash give some quips since he is the most comedic character out of all the Justice League members, but when the majority of the movie has little to no comedic feeling to it, that character stands out in a bad way.  Balance the serious and comedic tone, and the movie will do much better.

2.) They could not have picked a more generic villain than Steppenwolf.  Say what you want about the other villains/antagonists from the past DCEU movie, at least there are some good qualities about them.  Steppenwolf will sit alongside Malekith from Thor: The Dark World as one of the most forgettable comic book villains, because there is nothing interesting about the guy at all.  He wants to take over the world, because…he is evil?  In all seriousness, I believe it is because he is awaiting Darkseid (a much better villain) to come to Earth.  Seriously, why did they pick him?  As ridiculous as this villain looks, Starro might have been a better pick.

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Yeah, he looks slightly ridiculous, but he is actually a good threat instead of a henchman of a more popular villain.  Plus, he was the first villain for the Justice League.

What sounds better to you: a starfish alien that can control people by attaching to them, or a servant of Darkseid who has a big ax and wants to impress his master?

3.) While it is well done, the CG and green screen effects could not be more obvious to the eyes.  To be fair, it is not as bad as Thor: Ragnarok on its CG and green screen effects, but it is worth noting that the visuals do stand out.  At least they look cool when they show it off in certain shots.

 

Overall: 

Well…the DCEU has come far, hasn’t it?  Man of Steel was garbage, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was even worse, Suicide Squad had no business being there, and Wonder Woman was the only bright spot for this movie franchise.  That brings us to the movie that everyone had been waiting for: Justice League.  Everyone was worried about this movie, because out of six of the major heroes in the movie, only three of them had movies about them.  Despite that disadvantage, does this movie serve its audience and fans well despite the franchise’s horrible start?  The answer: it does…somewhat.  Despite all my bashing with the DCEU and being more of a Marvel fan, I do want this franchise to succeed, but with poor planning, writing, and other issues, Justice League does not really have much life to it compared to The Avengers.  By the way, I have been trying to avoid making comparisons with Justice League and The Avengers, but in this overall section, I will make it brief.  One of the reasons I believe that The Avengers was successful was not only because of the planning of several well-made films, but also how it delivers the characters in the Marvel universe well.  They manage to give those characters some life and compelling moments in their films.  Justice League (and the DCEU in general) barely gives any of that (with the exception of Wonder Woman), and by the time they realized their mistakes, it is too little too late, and they have to work on what they got.  This movie could have been more than what we had, but on its own, it is the best we got, and there are very few things redeeming about it.  For any DC fan, they will not doubt like it unless they are that hardcore.  For anyone else, they might as well stick to the MCU despite Warner Bros. and DC’s pleas to keep coming back for more.  For their sake, I hope their next DCEU movie: Aquaman will be good, because they have a long way to go before they can match with the MCU.  For now, this movie gave the DCEU a little more life support.

5/10

Benz Eye View: Murder on the Orient Express (2017 film)

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Murder on the Orient Express (2017 film)

Pros: 

1.) There is a great amount of acting from all the actors in the movie.  From Johnny Depp to Daisy Ridley, all of these actors did an impressive job in their performances, but the best out of all of them is Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot.  A suave, intelligent, and determined detective with a damaged past who will solve the case no matter how difficult it may be, Kenneth performed well to stand out from all the other actors (that and being the main character also helps).

2.) The visuals look great.  Even though there at times that they are obviously in front of a green screen, it is at least a huge improvement over Thor: Ragnarok.  It also thanks to the cinematography with its long shots that shows off many of the settings and the actors’ talents.  It kind of makes me feel like watching an old-school film that has so much charm to it, because those films actually lets the actors show their true potential abilities as actors.  Great visuals combined with great cinematography makes this movie feel like an old-school film.

3.) I mentioned this before in other certain movies, so I will make this quick: I am a fan of the set and costume designs of the early 1900s (in this case, 1934), and they look great here.  They look like they belong in that timeline, and one of the many things that stand out.

 

Cons: 

1.) There are so many major characters that there are too many of them to follow.  I would not mind if the movie spent some time with them, but it does not since many of them are being dodgy and avoidable throughout most of the movie time.  As a result, many of these major characters end up being background characters which is bad since this is a murder mystery, and all suspects need some attention.  You know what is a bad sign in mysteries?  You do not remember the suspects’ names when they are brought up since the movie fails to spend time with them in order to make them interesting or compelling…

2.) …Speaking of mystery, it did get exciting on its initial start, but it started to get boring as it progressed.  There are so much information and characters that the movie talks about that I kept forgetting some important information that is essential for the mystery.  I love mysteries, but they need to be interesting and contained enough to help me get invested in them, and it unfortunately does not do that.

3.) The tone can be inconsistent.  From the beginning up until the murder, the tone is light and comedic, but it gets dark when the murder occurs.  The change of tone can be annoying to some people, but it is a noticeable abrupt change that is worth mentioning.

 

Overall:

Based on the 1934 book of the same name by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express is one the most popular murder mystery books of all time (something I should really read since I have not read it nor have I seen the 1974 film version).  Now, we have a remake based on the book, and something tells me that the book and 1974 film did it better.  This movie was not bad, but I hardly call it a great murder mystery.  With major characters/suspects we barely know and information that overwhelms the entire movie, the mystery loses its flavor, and it becomes a bit of a slog to go through this movie.  If you want a great mystery film that has been around recently, Prisoners is a great film for you.  If you wanted a great murder mystery by the great Agatha Christie, maybe the 1974 film is better (or even the book), because it is certainly not this one despite some good talent here.

6/10

Benz Eye View: Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!

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Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!

Pros: 

1.) The animation is great; a step-up from the original TV series twenty years ago (Has it been that long?  Man, I am old.).  While certain animation moments are a little off (the 3D animation does not really fit with the 2D animation at times), it shows how far the animation has gone ever since the TV series with lifelike characters, Pokémon, and environments…

2.) …One extra thing that the animation did well is the battle scenes.  They are filled with impact, meaning the Pokémon fights are in real time instead of what is shown in the TV series or the video games.  Each blow looked painful, each attack looked powerful, and each fight was shattering (especially in the last few fights).  Great job for the animation team in creating some awesome battle scenes.

3.) The main focus in the movie (and the anime series in general) is the relationship between Ash and Pikachu.  The movie starts from their shaky relationship to how they truly became best friends, and how that relationship was, and still is the core of the Pokémon anime series.  This movie reinforces how these two are inseparable and that they truly need each other.  Even if when other friends like Misty, Brock, May, Max, and many others leave the series, Ash and Pikachu will still be with each other until they somehow finally end the series (which is unlikely since they are still creating the video games which leads to more seasons of the anime).

 

Cons: 

1.) The problem with the English dub (and even Japanese dub) is that characters state the obvious.  I get there are times where characters have to restate some plot elements after some time has passed (especially for some of the dumb members of the audience), but they sometimes repeat those lines just a few minutes after they stated them.  We are not that dumb, so repeating those plot elements many times is unnecessary.

2.) Some of the subplots are pointless.  Certain subplots involving new characters like Sorrel and Verity have little to no impact, like Sorrel’s anti-social attitude that eventually gets glossed over and resolved easily, and Verity’s issue with her mom that does not really get brought up again after one time.  A few of them were taken from the original anime series, and it is not as well implemented in the movie (i.e. the first episode of the anime is the first act of the movie that is completely rushed, and they even did a “Bye Bye Butterfree” subplot that is so brief that it can be removed with no consequence).  Also, why is Team Rocket in the movie?  They are seen following Ash and company, but they never meet directly, and Ash has not even heard of them.  Lose some of these, and the movie will be just fine (or it is possible that they implemented them just to add the run time, otherwise it might as well be a two-part episode).

3.) There are plenty of deus ex machina moments, especially near the end.  If you have seen Pokémon: The First Movie, then you know what I am talking about, because they did a similar thing in this one.  While the moments leading to those scenes are nice, I wished that they resolved it in a different way, or just change the scenario.  Deus ex machina moments are a cheap way to resolve a conflict, and I wish that this movie did not do that.

 

Overall: 

In 1995, Nintendo released a video game called Pokémon.  Two years later, the anime was released to Japanese audience, and it was later translated to North America (and around the world) a year after.  The anime and the games are a huge phenomenon that still continues to this day.  For me, I grew up more with the anime than the video games, and I continued to watch the anime series until Battle Frontier (I stopped when they suddenly changed voice actors).  On its twenty-year anniversary, they recently released a movie that is a loose retelling of Ash Ketchum (or Satoshi in Japan) in the Indigo League saga.  I…appreciate this movie.  It has been such a long time since I saw the anime, and this movie reminds me why I loved it when I was young.  Is it a spectacular movie?  Not really.  Is it spectacular to the fans of the series?  Heck, yes!  If anyone followed, or still currently follow Pokémon since its inception, you will enjoy this movie despite its flaws.  Any newcomers will not be sucked in like the reviewers of Pokémon: The First Movie.  This movie is a great tribute to any fan of the series (especially when the end credits play, or the previews if you watched it at Fathom Events), and it shows why Pokémon is one of the greatest anime and video game series that has ever been conceived.

6/10

As a little tribute, here is the English Pokémon theme by the original singer, Jason Paige:

Benz Eye View: Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok

Pros: 

1.) One thing that the Thor movies did well is the relationship between Thor and Loki that has progressed through each installment.  While it is also strong in this film, Thor has interesting relationships and character development with two other characters: Valkyrie and Hulk/Bruce Banner.  If you have not been keeping up with the Thor movies (or the MCU films in general), Thor’s relationship with Loki is quite complicated, and it shows in more depth in this film.  With Valkyrie, there is an admiration and trust between these two that has better chemistry between Thor and Jane Foster (in fact, I prefer Thor to be in a relationship with Valkyrie than Jane Foster).  Finally, Thor and Hulk/Bruce Banner has a bit of a friendly rivalry, and it is nice to see a couple of fellow Avengers on-screen.  I love these character interactions since they are the best parts, and it is shown throughout the entire film.

2.) The costumes and set designs are creative and colorful.  They will appeal to anyone (especially the children) who are fans of cool-looking armor and landscapes.  The film has costumes and sets that may be inspired from Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings; two great trilogies that anyone should look up to if they are trying to think of any ideas for fantasy-like movies.

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These costumes look like a fantasy version of the Stormtroopers.

3.) This film is clearly inspired by the 80s, particularly it takes place in Sakaar.  The tone, the music, the colorful costumes and sets, and the inhabitants of Sakaar look like they just escaped a cheesy 80s movie.  Even the trailers themselves look like they belong in a late 70s/early 80s era.

It is debatable if Thor: Ragnarok does a better job having an 80s tone than any of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, but it will give some people nostalgia after they watch this film.

 

Cons: 

1.) There are so many obvious green screen effects in the background.  It is not the same as the CG characters and effects (which are pretty good), but when there are shots of actors in front of a “set,” anyone can tell that they are in front of a green screen.  It is just as bad as the green screen effects as the Star Wars prequels except slightly worse.

2.) Before I get to this con, I want to say that I love the main antagonist, Hela played by Cate Blanchett.  She is intimidating, scary, powerful, and calm; she reminds me so much of Maleficent.  How Cate Blanchett played the character is just amazing to me.  I just wish we get to see her more often, because right after Thor ends up in Sakaar, she barely gets enough screen time until the third act.  The other antagonist, the Grandmaster is good, but I prefer Hela over Grandmaster any day.  She would have stolen this film if she had more screen time.

3.) There are plenty of jokes in this film.  While they are funny, I feel like a few of them interfere with the film too much.  Meaning, I felt those jokes unnecessarily halted the film a bit.  These jokes need to flow with the progression of the plot, otherwise the film spends more time with the jokes and less time with its story and characters.  Fortunately, it does not spend too much time with those jokes, but it could have been as bad as Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

 

Overall: 

When it comes to the Thor movies, they are arguably the weakest compared to the Captain America and Iron Man films in the MCU.  The first Thor had potential, but had several flaws when it comes to pacing and character progression, and it also seemed that they were slightly obligated to make the movie.  Thor: The Dark World was better, but it is mostly thanks to the chemistry between Thor and Loki.  Does the next installment improve over its predecessor?  Yes, but only its predecessor, not the MCU in general.  This film has improved so much from its writing to its characters.  To be honest, it is still not as good as the films with the Invincible Iron Man or the Great Captain America, but it does well to be a great film with the Mighty Thor.  Another good addition to the MCU.  Just one more to go, then we will have Avengers: Infinity War.

8/10

Until then, we have another comic book crossover film that is coming in a couple of weeks.  Let’s just hope it is as good if not better than its previous installment.

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I am hoping for the best for you, DCEU.  

Benz Eye View: Suburbicon

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Suburbicon

Pros: 

1.) I am already a sucker when it comes to the setting and costume designs of the movie’s timeline (1940s-1960s), and it is no exception here.  I think it is obvious from the trailers alone that the filmmakers did a good job recreating the look and feel of 1940s suburban America from its clean streets to colorful houses.

2.) At first, the main characters do not seem to be that compelling.  However, over time, the movie makes you realize that they are more deranged than you realize.  Even more deranged than the antagonists.  Talking about it will spoil it since not even the trailers really hinted that, but it is a nice change of tone if not slightly abrupt.

3.) The best actor in this movie is Oscar Isaac as Bud Cooper.  Even though his role is small, he makes the most of it in his acting, because he already screams charm, comedy, and intuitiveness in his character.  He brings plenty of life in this movie…

 

Cons: 

1.) …Which is really sad compared to the main actors like Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, because their performances are so underwhelming, it is both insulting and sleep-inducing at times.  I expected better from these actors, and none of them did not really give out any stand-out performances.

2.) Another insulting thing in the movie is how long it takes for the plot to start.  Just after Nicky’s mother died, the movie takes I believe thirty minutes to show how Nicky and his family are reacting after her death.  It goes on for too long, and I was getting sick of so many scenes of friends and family approaching Nicky, his dad, and his aunt to say how sorry they are for their loss.  We get it.  Please, move on from those scenes, and continue the plot.  Even when they finally did move, and when Nicky realizes that something fishy is happening, he barely takes any action, and it is not enough to fill in a dry plot.

3.) There is a sub-plot involving a black family moving in Suburbicon, and many white people do not like that.  The problem with that racism sub-plot is that it barely takes any time within the movie, and the main characters barely interact with the black family.  There are only a couple times that this sub-plot slightly interacts with the main one, but I can easily write away the racism sub-plot, and replace it with some other event.  This is completely unnecessary, and it is pointlessly cluttered with the main plot.

 

Overall: 

This is just disappointing, especially since this movie was written by the Coen brothers, though George Clooney (who also directed this) and Grant Heslov have written alongside the brothers, so maybe this is more their fault.  The movie seemed promising in the opening moments, but it went slightly downhill after that with a few rises and falls.  Clearly not one of their best work, especially if you are a Coen brothers fan.  I do not want to assume too much on what their thought process was since I do not know what happened behind the scenes, but the movie we have now is not really what they sold in the trailers.  Not really worth watching in Halloween, so skip something else that is scary in a horrific way, not in a terrible way.

5/10