Monday, August 19, 2019

Hobbs & Shaw Proves To Be A Fun Spin-Off That Sets Up A Bold Proposition For Fast And Furious Fans


      The Fast And The Furious franchise has had quite a run since the franchise first appeared on the big screen with Rob Cohen's simple based plot revolving around a group of young car racing gangs driving around in sleek and shiny fast cars in the form of street racing with the twist being one of the drivers is an undercover police officer, serving as a nod to Katheryn Bigelow's 1991 crime thriller Point Break. What began as a nod to the 1950's era of cheesy teenage exploitation flicks along with a touch of American Graffiti to it, The Fast And The Furious franchise has seen an unusual yet impressive change in narrative over the course of its nine installment franchise and counting. Whereas the stories began as simple street racing between rival gangs has morphed into a franchise that now centers around the concept of heists, revenge, working with the police to bring down more dangerous criminals, and now has taken the buddy cop route with Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw. Technically serving as the 9th film in the popular series, Hobbs & Shaw doesn't rank among the franchises best works, particularly Fast Five and Furious 7, but it still has enough charm, laughs, strong chemistry between the films main leads, and explosive action with an appealing cast to entertain its audience from start to finish while remaining connected to the Furious series.

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      Hobbs & Shaw's plot focuses on a dangerous yet dedicated federal agent named Luke Hobbs (Played by Dwayne Johnson) teaming up with former British elite military operative street outcast Deckard Shaw (Played by Jason Statham), forming an unlikely yet goofy partnership when a cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist (Played by Idris Elba), theatens humanity's existence with a deadly virus that serves as a biological weapon. Whereas the first threes Fast And The Furious films dealt with street racing essentially, the fourth to seventh installment of films centered around plots involving revenge, running from the law, fighting dangerous criminals while working with the police to bring them down, and performing heists, Hobbs & Shaw carries with it the most ambitious plot yet for the series as it aims higher with the threat of humanity being thrown into the mix with the use of a biological weapon. It also gives the main stars an opportunity to cash in on their franchise rivalry turned friendship with its Lethal Weapon style storyline which also includes Hobbs having the hots for Shaw's badass and attractive sister Hattie Shaw (Played by Vanessa Kirby), who carries the virus inside of her. To put it in blunt terms, Hobbs & Shaw is dumb fun that's masked by a slick look to it which often feels like a James Bond style action movie with its standard car chases and intimidating villain yet goes the Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, and Rush Hour route with its main characters bickering and ego challenge as they're forced to work together to solve their case which in the case here is them saving the world. It never tries to be anything more than just good-old fashioned fun for its audience with its wild and outlandish action while capitalizing off the well-matching of the franchises stars. The film basically takes all the best elements of the franchise thus far and does its own thing with it both succeeding with the end result while showing audiences that the old Furious series can retire and continue off with the new narrative presented here. Whereas the first movie was an over-the-top street racing flick, the new movie feels like a cross between Live Free And Die Hard mixed with the DNA of a superhero flick basically. One can't help but scratch their head wondering what happened to this franchise from where it began, its not a bad change but its highly doubtful anyone expected the franchise to evolve into what its become now which is an event for audiences involving fast cars, kinetic action, and star-power driving it.

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     As far as the acting goes, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham hands down make the film worthwhile with them playing up their bantering and rivalry with a buddy cop feel to it in the middle. These two work very well together and are hilarious, making their characters feel like kids bickering at times masked as two grown men. The film is centered around their characters and they don't disappoint with the charisma they bring to the screen. Vanessa Kirby works well here playing Shaw's estranged sister as well as an MI6 agent accused of killing her team and carrying the virus. Kirby demonstrates strong chemistry with Johnson and Statham with her character making the story a trio effort to save the world with the story carrying with it a Bad Boys ll style subplot involving the partner falling for the others sister, which is the case with Hobbs character being suspicious of Hattie at first while showing definite attraction to her with the same coming from her. Idris Elba does a solid job playing the films main villain even going as far to declare himself as being the "black Superman" with his abilities presented in the story. Elba's villain is intimidating, entertaining, and effective to watch as he matches the stature of the films main leads making everyone feel balanced. Cliff Curtis does a likable job playing Hobbs brother Jonah with Helen Mirren shining in her minimal role as Shaw and Hatties mother Queenie. Ryan Reynolds shines in his surprise role in the film as a former partner of Hobbs, bringing his own brand of charm and humor to the story with the promise being implied that his character will have a bigger role in the films sequel. Eiza Gonzalez shines as Madam M with Eddie Marsan leaving a notable appearance as Professor Andreiko. Eliana Sua works great as Hobbs daughter showing great chemistry with Johnson, making the audience believe they are truly father and daughter. The cast as a whole does a terrific job and help make Hobbs & Shaw a fun and thrilling experience.

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      In terms of directing, Atomic Blonde filmmaker David Leitch who also served as director for Deadpool ll, and produced John Wick, takes the directing reigns here and delivers an action flick that looks appealing visually with its insane action sequences matching its appealing cast. Leitch doesn't just treat this as any spin-off, he presents Hobbs & Shaw as an event for the fans while also building a case that the Vin Diesel side of the franchise should essentially retire and allow Hobbs & Shaw to take it out further. Leitch proves not just here but with his previous work that he stages and makes well-executed action sequences, that serve the films plot while giving the audience their large dose of popcorn entertainment. He knows what kind of film he's making here and sticks to his guns crafting a fun action movie that serves as a vehicle for the films main stars. He doesn't present any fight sequences that matches the awesomeness of the extended fight sequence in Atomic Blonde but more than makes up with the way the action sequences are staged here, tapping into the plots absurdity. He does a great job of showing moments during the action that come across as being humorous bits for the audience with Hobbs & Shaw having competing moments with each other to see who is better. He not only allows the action to run the scene but he also elevates it through the charisma and rivalry between the films main stars. With the way Leitch directs the action in the film, audiences would be hard-pressed to allow for suspension of disbelief and just go along for the ride. Leitch for the most part does a really good job here paying homage to the 80's action movie style with a bit of 90's thrown in there mixed with 2010 plus action set-pieces while carrying one of the franchises strongest casts ever.

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      The films writing by franchise veteran Chris Morgan and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation's Drew Pearce is standard yet strong for the type of genre it is. The writers present nothing groundbreaking to the table and essentially reuse old plot lines from other action movies (Hence the Bad Boys ll reference) with the story no longer being grounded in reality as it takes a more 007/superhero style approach to it with saving the world from a deadly virus angle. The action is presented as being more absurd this time with people falling from skyscrapers with no parachute yet somehow managing to walk it off once they hit the ground. The dialogue has moments where it comes across as being cheesy or immature but it works because of the main stars spot on chemistry. What this movie essentially tries to do and what it ultimately was designed for is to continue to deliver what the audience has come to love and appreciate about this series which includes the action, the thrills, the excitement, the main stars, and shutting off the brain for two hours to allow for the audience to be entertained to the fullest. The films strongest point comes within its third act which includes a climactic helicopter face-off involving a chain attached to racing vehicles that keeps in line with the spirit of the series, particularly the most recent films crazy stunts. Its no Mission Impossible in terms of crazy stunts but its still pretty impressive and exciting nonetheless. While playing it safe and giving audiences what they want is a good thing as the overall film is satisfying, it also becomes a negative aspect for it as the film feels like it never tries to be something deeper nor bigger than the series to really make it rank among the best in the series. It however, lays out the foundation to move past the effective yet growing tiresome theme of "family" that Vin Diesel's side of the series has relied too heavily on and now feels like a desperate attempt to keep its main ensemble cast together.

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      Hobbs & Shaw could've easily ended up being an embarrassing misfire for both the studio as well as the main actor behind it but instead it works. It delivers on the promise of being nothing short of just plain old dumb fun, that looks awesome visually with the right main cast and tons of action. Straying away from the core premise was always a risk that fans advised against the filmmakers from doing with the series but not only does it exceed expectations, it almost suggests that this is the new path to take the franchise as the regular entry films feel stretched out after Furious 7's brilliant ending with a tenth installment on the way to continue from where The Fate Of The Furious left off. Perhaps as the filmmakers suggest with this movie, its not a bad idea that the series finds new blood and takes off from here in a new direction as Vin Diesel's side of the franchise doesn't feel the same without Paul Walker involved. With Hobbs & Shaw, the opportunity is there to breathe new life into the series while expanding on its own plot. The film is a fast-paced buddy cop action flick, that hits all the right notes in terms of being a successful one with the characters such as the the dialogue, action-set pieces all being weaved together nicely thanks to the works of both the cast and crew. So long as one agrees to shut their brain off and just go for the ride, they will find much to enjoy with Hobbs & Shaw as the film shows that there is still life left in this series while providing the antidote to audiences feeling the series isn't the same without Paul Walker. For Die Hard fans of the Fast And Furious series, they will find enjoyment with this film as it presents a fair share of reasonable excitement while making them think about the future of the series as The Rock and Statham make the case that they are the way to go.

Final Verdict: If you're a fan of the series, its a must watch. Definitely better and more satisfying than The Fate Of The Furious.

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Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Doesn't Rank Among Tarentino's Best But Still Remains Superb With The Filmmaker Being One Of The Best In The Business


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      The summer movie season wouldn't be complete without the release of a Quentin Tarentino movie. With that comes the 9th film in his career that goes back to his start with Reservoir Dogs in 1992. While that film was his beginning, it was 1994's Pulp Fiction that put him on the map earning him an Oscar for Best Screenplay. He then followed that up with 1997's Jackie Brown, 2003 and 2004's Kill Bill's Vol 1 and 2, 2007's Death Proof, 2009's Inglorious Bastards, 2012's Django Unchained and 2015's The Hateful Eight. With the release of a Tarentino film, fans know they're not just getting a film, they're getting an experience that's wild, entertaining, over-the-top, and extremely well-acted, directed, and written. With the release of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, fans expect nothing but top notch quality from one of the master filmmakers of Hollywood, whom to this day still hasn't produced a single bad movie. So the question on audiences mind is does Once Upon A Time In Hollywood continue that prestigious and Noble trend? The short answer is yes, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a highly entertaining Tarentino flick, that carries with it all the ingredients that makes his movies huge successes, though one can say it might be a little too laid back for Tarentino as it doesn't match some of his previous classics.


      The plot for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood takes place in 1969 Los Angeles with a fading TV Star (Played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double (Played by Brad Pitt) strive to revive their careers with Hollywood's golden age era reaching it's ignoble end. For DiCaprio and Pitt, this marks their second collaboration with Quentin Tarentino with DiCaprio working with him previously in Django Unchained and Brad Pitt with Inglorious Bastards. Knowing the writer and directors style as well as being familiar with his work ethic, they play their roles with total confidence and look as if they have free reign in terms of bringing their characters to life. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is to the surprise of none of Tarentino's fans an unrestrained yet extremely well-crafted piece of work from him. The filmmaker is a master in terms of setting up strong main characters while crafting solid narratives, that are also filled with top notch dialogue. In terms of the films entertainment value, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood dazzles with its scenic direction and great performances from its main actors with a surprise end twist full of extreme violence and mayhem. The film paints a beautiful picture of what Hollywood Los Angeles appeared in 1969 while weaving the Charles Manson murder subplot into the plot. The film reinforces that feel by working other famous directors and movie stars of the time into the film such as random appearances of Steve McQueen, Roman Polanski, and Bruce Lee in a key scene that's both awesome, funny, and extremely controversial given the way the legend is depicted in the film as being arrogant. Its true that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood doesn't rank among Tarentino's best works such as Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and Reservoir Dogs, but it still feels masterfully written and shot despite some questionable approaches with the story.


      In the acting category, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood excels with its cast all turning in terrific performances particularly Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt in their roles. Out of the two, Dicaprio is the true standout with the meatier role and brings his A Game once again to the role of struggling TV actor Rick Dalton. His character is both likable, sympathetic, and funny as hell at times, particularly the scenes where his character is allowed to act in his different roles as well as the frustration he demonstrates in regards to getting his lines down. Dicaprio brings a lot of depth to his part and really makes the audience appreciate Dalton with his character having one of the best moments in the climax involving a flamethrower. Brad Pitt as usual does well in one of his strongest performances in awhile, playing a cool and laid back Hollywood stunt double whom one would want to hang out and have a beer with. Both actors play off each other so well and deliver outstanding chemistry making the audience aware that they are watching a story revolving around two close friends trying to support one another during a time where Hollywood was on the verge of a transition from the old norm. Margot Robbie does well in her part of playing Sharon Tate despite her character being one of the films most glaring flaws disappointingly. She doesn't have much to do other than appear on the screen, look pretty, and glance at the big screen in the theater in awe at what she see's. For an actress as talented as Robbie, she was severely underused here which makes audiences question what the point of her character being in the film was. The smaller roles in the film also leave notable impressions with the audience with Kurt Russell shining in his minimal part along with Al Pacino as Producer Marvin Schwarz, who informs Dicaprio's character that he's essentially being downgraded in stature in order to pump up the main stars on the projects he works on. Damien Lewis does well as Steve McQueen along with Mike Moh as Bruce Lee despite the controversy surrounding the depiction of his character on film. Dakota Fanning gives an effective yet chilling performance in her brief part as one of Manson's brainwashed girls he has at his ranch with Bruce Dern delivering a nice cameo performance coming off his exceptional work in Tarentino's The Hateful Eight. Luke Perry and Timothy Olyphant have small roles but do well with what they are given as the story remains focused on Dicaprio and Pitts characters. In terms of acting performances, Tarentino manages to get the absolute best performances out of everyone who appears on the screen in a way that's commanding and shows the respect the actors have for his craft and vision. Despite Robbie's character feeling underwritten, she still shines and is impressive to watch when she does appear on the big screen. Its a nice addition to the cast that Tarentino utilizes actors from his past works such as Russell, Dern, and Reservoir Dogs Michael Madsen and Django's James Remar. It almost feels like Tarentino is paying homage to these actors by placing them in another one of his movies showing respect for their worksmanship and craft.


      As both director and writer for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Tarentino once again demonstrates that he is a master at his craft and is in a league of his own in terms of building up plots, establishing strong characters, creating long dialogue-driven scenes that have relevance to them rather than feeling boring, and steadily building up the story and holding back on the mayhem until the end making it the big payoff for both the characters as well as the audience. The emphasis of the story is the theme of friendship and struggling to find work in an environment that's constantly changing. Tarentino doesn't just focus on these men but he takes the audience on a tour through the old Hollywood era in the 1960's at the end of the Golden Age before it went into the 1970's disaster and summer blockbuster era. He takes little snippets regarding the Hollywood trivia at the time and delivers it to the audience while cementing it within the films plot. Another thing that Tarentino is a master at is building up scenes full of tension with Pitts character visiting the home of Charles Manson being a prime example. That scene is executed so we'll with both music and performances that are downright chilling, making the audience question whether Pitts character will make it out of that scene alive. That's not a spoiler but a testament to the masterful filmmaking that went into filming that scene. With both duties, Tarentino does a fantastic job of taking audiences back 50 years to experience the past film industry in the best way the director/writer knows how to present it to his audience. That is doing so with comedy, drama, slick characters, and moments of desire and tension that are all centered around a normal day in Hollywood's classic golden age.


      On a technical note, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood carries with it top notch production qualities that come with a traditional Quentin Tarentino flick beginning with the cinematography. The film is absolutely stunning to look at with the audience feeling like they are truly in Los Angeles during the 1960's Hollywood era. The film is masterfully shot with the art-set decoration and costume design being spot on for the films setting. The soundtrack is effective and fits within the context of the story being over-the-top for Tarentino's style of filmmaking while transporting audiences back to this time period. The films editing remains fairly steady keeping the film moving though its a slow burner compared to some of Tarentino's other films. Here he sets up the characters while interweaving their storylines with true events such as the subplot involving Charles Manson. Audiences going into this expecting the filmmakers trademark violence should know that he doesn't unleash the mayhem until the last part of the story, making it the big payoff in a vein similar to Inglorious Bastards. While the films pacing may become a test for audiences, die hard fans of Tarentino will appreciate the filmmakers attention to detail with the films plot and establishment of characters before classic Tarentino kicks in within the films final 45 minutes. The film clocks in at nearly three hours running at a grand total of 165 minutes but somehow it doesn't feel that long because Tarentino keeps the audience engaged with whats going on with the characters and the plot. For some audiences though, there might not be enough of a strong plot to warrant such a long time frame to sit in the theater as the film isn't as meaty as Tarentino's other films storywise. Given the type of films Tarentino makes, its actually one of his most restrained films in terms of plot showing the filmmaker himself having fun with the concept but not going as deeper with certain elements such as the Manson subplot as audiences hoped he would've. Regardless of how people feel about the films general plot and creative decisions Tarentino took with the story and characters, one thing that audiences can agree on is in the technical department, Tarentino brings his A game like usual showing the man still knows how to shoot a film.


      In the end, this will probably end up being one of his more divisive films as its clearly not a film for everyone much like his other works, but another reason it may not satisfy every Tarentino fan is the fact that he doesn't push the envelope as much here as he did with previous films such as Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Bastards, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight. He still manages to create a genuinely fun and extremely entertaining experience, but it doesn't rank among one of his best when all is said and done. The performances are great though with Dicaprio and Pitt turning in fantastic roles, but the narrative isn't defined nor fleshed out like Tarentino's usual work. One has to question why he even bothered including the Manson subplot in the story at all as there's little use of it here besides the films terrific climax, which will leave audiences cheering in the end. What saves the story is the clever and witty dialogue that Tarentino is a master at creating as well as the performances delivered by his cast. The technical aspects of the film such as the music, the cinematography, art-set decoration, and costume design instantly draw the audience into the films time period and story with Tarentino setting up these interesting characters and laying out the groundwork for the films outrageous climax. The latter is handled in a style similar to the climax of Inglorious Bastards, which will entertain most with its desirable alternate fantasy ending but may put off some with its deliberate rewriting of history. In the filmmakers defense, most audiences would rather have the ending of Inglorious Bastards be the actual end for the Hitler regime compared to reality much like the fantasy ending for Charles Manson's story. Overall, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is another strong and well-crafted effort from one of this generations most uncompromising filmmakers. The film is simply an everyday tale about the rising and failing of movie stars at the end of old Hollywood while showing people going to the movies back then as an escape from reality in an effort to throw themselves into an alternate reality. The pacing and lack of a deep story will leave some fans disappointed but there's enough humor, great character development, awesome performances, and a slick climax that will keep most fans of Tarentino engaged from start to finish. Even at his most laid back, he still turns out one of the best works of any film this year with potential Oscar nominations in the bag for Leonardo Dicaprio, cinematography, music, art-set decoration, and costume design. If you're a Quentin Tarentino fan and you haven't watched Once Upon A Time In Hollywood yet, do yourself a favor and judge it for yourself as there's plenty to love about this film despite its minor issues.

Final Verdict: See It especially if you're a Tarentino fan

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part Doesn't Touch The Original But Still Maintains Much Of Its Heart And Charm


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      The 2019 movie season begun with its first animated film release with The LEGO Movie 2, a direct sequel to the 2014 smash hit with both being computer-animated adventure comedies that poked fun at today's pop culture icons with numerous film references. The first LEGO Movie was appealing for both young and old audiences, because it carried with it stunning animation in addition to an appealing voice cast that added charm and heart to the film. a clever storyline that set up appealing characters whom the audience instantly grew to care for, and gags that were bold, hilarious, and surprisingly mature at times for it being an animated film. The first movie managed to combine all of these elements together making for a crowd-pleasing family experience, that was wrongfully snubbed of a Best Animated Film Oscar nomination. Fast-forward five years after the release of that film with spin off movies in between such as The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjango Movie, an official sequel to The LEGO Movie is released which picks up directly after the events of that film. While the new film isn't as good as the first movie (Its not as fresh nor as creative), it still works as being a pretty solid sequel with some good laughs, particularly the character of Batman who hands down steals the show.

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      The plot for The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part takes place five years after the events of the first film and centers around the citizens of Bricksburg facing danger from Duplo invaders from outer space. who end up wrecking their town. The main characters from the first movie return to defend the original Lego universe by traveling to far off planets and testing their abilities to survive. Much like the first film, the plot is well-structured and thought out to allow for much fun and mayhem to happen with the main characters. The first films writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return to pen the sequels script with new director Mike Mitchell taking over the directing reigns. As a follow-up to the original LEGO Movie, the sequels greatest strength is taking the likable characters established in the first movie and pushing their story forward while giving them time to develop and make the audience laugh. The themes that the sequel tackles that gives it a sense of maturity within the goofiness are ones that pertain to siblings, parenting, trying to change others, war, danger, fear, sacrifice, survival, acceptance, growing up, family, and friendship. Despite these themes, the overall sequel feels somehow less impactful and fresh than the first film, perhaps because there has been several Lego style spin-off movies in between which dampen the impact as well as the significance of another. Or it could be that the films new director isn't able to brilliantly mesh together all the themes and concepts in the same way Phil Lord and Christopher Miller managed to do so with the first film as directors.

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      What made the first LEGO Movies plot so much fun was how it played off a generic concept such as "the chosen one" or "most extraordinary" person and created its own fantasy adventure in a vein similar to that of Star Wars or Guardians Of The Galaxy (Coincidentally both Guardians and LEGO films have Chris Pratt in the main role). While that film played off concepts and story arcs already established with other films, it did so with an ounce of freshness while working in the form of a satire poking fun at pop culture with its references creating its own new adventure for young audiences. While The Second Part maintains a healthy dose of the first films heart as well as being reasonably mature with its themes and hilarious when allowed to be, it somehow doesn't feel as thrilling as the first film despite it still being heartwarming. Without the main characters from the first movie, this would be a forgettable animated sequel as its plot isn't as interesting as the previous. In terms of the voice performances of its actors, Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks once again reprise the role of their characters from the original and do so with the same amount of charm and charisma they previously brought to their parts. Pratt does great here once again playing the goofball hero with Banks playing off his performance by demonstrating their strong chemistry together. Will Arnett steals the show as Batman turning in a performance that's both hilarious and heartfelt. Tiffany Haddish shines playing Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi, especially with her subplot involving Batman which is hilarious. Stephanie Beatriz is strong as the films main antagonist with Will Ferrall reprising his role from the first film. Overall, the voice work by the main cast is brilliant once again with everyone breathing new life into their characters. Whereas the films writing feels weaker than the previous film, the talented ensemble cast of voice actors are there to carry the show.

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      Directed by Mike Mitchell, he does a decent and honorable job of trying to maintain much of the same elements that made the original such a refreshing delight. One of the things missing from the sequel that the first movie has over it hands down, is the surprise factor of what the plot of that film was about. Audiences went into the first LEGO Movie not knowing what to expect and came out having a great time while connecting with brand new characters that were fresh and effective. While the characters are there, the surprise is gone which the film needed to rely on a much stronger script to make the sequel top the first movie which it never does. As hard as Mitchell tries to make the sequel come across as feeling spontaneous like the first, it just doesn't have the same impact nor feel as unpredictable with the films flow. The sequel though certainly not boring feels rather standard with its delivery of pop culture references along with some pretty funny gags and a few catchy songs. The message regarding siblings learning to get along as they work together to solve problems in their own make-believe universe is emphasized here.

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      Regardless of the writing feeling weaker, it still feels as if great care was taken in order to drive home the mature aspects of the plot making it not just a fun experience for young kids but still retains something for adults as well. The characters for the most part feel like they advanced with Pratt's character feeling like he got tougher while still remaining a goofball for the most part and Lucy having more revealed about herself than originally revealed. Rex Dangervest was an awesome addition to the story with Batman and the Queen being a hilarious duo in their scenes together. On a technical note, the films animation is once again top notch making the film come across as being mesmerizing to watch, particularly the young kids as they witness one of their favorite form of toys come to life. In terms of the films visuals, it remains on par with the first movie as every small scratch or fingerprint on the minifigures brings realism to the screen. The background design and look of the characters are a sight to behold visually. The films soundtrack is effective with the films pacing feeling brisk, never feeling too slow nor boring. While it can be argued that the film is lacking some essential things that made the first film more memorable with audiences, the sequel still manages to match up with the first movie in the technical department.

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      As a sequel that never tops the first movie, LEGO Movie 2 does a pretty decent job of following in that movies footsteps and trying to replicate the same kind of success. It doesn't have the spark that made the first one feel fresh and magical upon first seeing it in theaters but it still is entertaining, funny, and heartwarming. The audience still cares about these characters and can take something with them after watching it because of the themes the movie explores. However, given that fans of the first movie waited five years for a sequel to the previous film, the end result is a disappointment in a sense as that bar should've been matched or exceeded. The same level of energy and fun the previous film had isn't fully present but its enough to get this one off the ground and continue the story. One wonders if there wasn't the spin-off films in between and had the original directors took over the directing reigns instead of just sharing a writing credit, would this have came out as being a much stronger sequel than what it ultimately ended up being. Would they have been able to bring the level of freshness that was in the previous film back to this one in full form? Fans will never know but given their work on last years hugely satisfying Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse, one wonders and wishes why the same level of heart and dedication that was placed into that film wasn't applied here. Despite its issues, The LEGO movie 2: The Second Part still has much to offer fans in terms of entertainment and laughs with a good message behind it. Still one of the best animated films of the year thus far.

Final Verdict: Worth a watch if you enjoyed the first movie, just don't expect it to be as good.

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The Upside Is A Suprisingly Strong, Funny, And Heartwarming Remake That Shines Thanks Mainly To Its Main Stars


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      Making a remake to a well-received film is by no means an easy task. Taking a critically acclaimed foreign film and making it into an Americanized story is double the challenge as the new film must not only meet the level of quality set by the original, but also reintroduce the story for a new kind of audience. The Upside is a smash hit remake of the 2011 critically acclaimed French film titled The Intouchables, which centered around an quadriplegic aristocrat hiring a young man from the projects to become his caregiver. Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, the film became an instant smash hit with French audiences becoming one of the biggest films in France as well as sitting in the top 40 spot on IMDB's Top 250 list of best movies. The film was remade twice after its release with the second being the Telugu film Oopiri, and the third film being the release of The Upside. With the success of The Intouchables, it was inevitable that an American remake of the French film would soon be greenlighted. The announcement of the American remake came as early as 2011 with the original actors considered for the main part of the caregiver ranging from Chris Rock to Chris Tucker, Idris Elba, and Jessica Chastain in the role that went to Nicole Kidman. The film also shifted with directors going from Bridesmaids Paul Feig to Simon Curtis and finally ending up with official director Neil Burger. Originally filmed and premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, the film was ultimately shelved and sold off following the sexual abuse allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein. Picked up by STX and Lantern Entertainment, the film was officially released in the United States on January 11th 2019 making it Lantern studios first release. Starring Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston in the main role and Jumanji's Kevin Hart, The Upside is a faithful and uplifting remake of the 2011 French classic, largely thriving off their strong chemistry together even if the overall film doesn't reach the same cinematic quality of its heartwarming original.

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      The plot for The Upside virtually remains the exact same as the original with Kevin Hart playing a recently paroled convict trying to break free of his criminal record by landing a job as a caregiver to a depressed, quadriplegic billionaire played by Bryan Cranston. With both coming from two different worlds with opposite personalities and interests, they form an unusual yet genuine friendship with both learning to accept each others personalities and cultural differences. What made The Intouchables such a powerful and well-executed drama, is its unique story which is based upon the true life of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo. The Intouchables was not only an extremely well-acted, directed, and written film, it possessed both charm and heart that made the audience laugh while marvel in the fact that they were witnessing a life-changing event for both of the main characters in the film. The Intouchables succeeded mainly because of the heart the story possessed but couldn't pull it off without the masterful direction the film received as well as the strong acting talents of the two main actors with Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy delivering amazing performances while showcasing remarkable chemistry together. The story is one that's sensitive, inspiring, and ultimately touching as it stays true to life despite feeling a bit sappy at times. The Upside plays it safe for the most part by remaining close to the same themes of the original with the overall message saying that everyone deserves a second chance and should make the most of it. Like its predecessor, The Upside is full of laughs while being sappy, overly sentimental, preachy in its message about redemption particularly Kevin Hart's character, yet it still manages to hit home with its audience with the films uplifting tale of how two unlikely people meet, become good friends, and ultimately change each others lives. It never touches the cinematic heights of its predecessor as that film was essentially lightning in a bottle, but The Upside does a damn good job of taking the same story and crafting its own version of it while working largely due to the strong chemistry between Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. Its not the tearjerker the original is, but its still an uplifting and heartwarming film on its own merits while adding a few new twists to the story.

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      In terms of acting performances, Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart steal the show and not only deliver strong performances but showcase terrific chemistry together. These two essentially make and carry the story on their shoulders as they honor the work done before them by the previous actors while moving the story forward. They are not only fun together on the big screen, but seem to be really enjoying the source material as they stay true to it while adding their own touch to the characters. As good as their performances are however, they don't leave the same kind of impact that Cluzet and Sy left with the original masterpiece. Nicole Kidman delivers a strong performance as Cranston's character Philips assistant. Her role is more laid back and quieter compared to the main stars but still likable and an important one nonetheless. Her character experiences the most notable change in the remakes story out of everyone in the film. Aja Naomi King does well playing Hart's characters estranged wife in the story despite her character having a small role, same with Jahi Di'Allo Winston, who also impresses as Hart's son shown to be frustrated by the lack of his fathers presence in his life. The key to the remakes success besides the writing and directing was always going to hinge on the performances of its cast and here is no exception with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart delivering terrific performances. Cranston does very well here making audiences convinced that he's a depressed and grouchy disabled billionaire, who discovers through his friendship with Hart's character that life is still worth living. For the part of Dell, it was always going to rely on the charisma and acting talents of its chosen actor to pull it off and make the characters relationship with Cranston's character convincing. Here, Kevin Hart not only manages to rise to the occasion with bringing much-needed humor to the story but also provides warmth, and a sense of understanding to his character. Given that this actor is known strictly for his comedic routines, its nice to see him take on a role that allows him to continue that process while also adding another layer of depth to his work. Its also remarkable that he shows strong chemistry working off Bryan Cranston as the two practically carry the film on their shoulders with Nicole Kidman delivering the understated yet effective performance.

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      As for the films directing and writing, director Neil Burger takes on the films source material and succeeds for the most part blending layers of comedy mixed with drama, melodrama, and mixed with an art style film. Given the directors previous work on films such as The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones Limitless, and Divergent, one can see why Burger was chosen to be the director for this story as his resume shows, he excels in creating highly creative films that remain grounded within their small budgets. The approach that Burger takes with the story here in comparison to the original, is he attempts to flesh out the characters on a deeper level showing more of the depression that Philip has before Hart's character enters the picture and the period where he's not around. Dell's story is more fleshed out and relatable to the audience as he's struggling to make up for his criminal past while trying to remain in his families life with his wife keeping him at arms length and his son being pushed towards the bad elements in his neighborhood. The original film lightweight touched on these issues with Dell but Burger shows a more mature version of his character in the new film while maintaining the goofy aspects of his character from the original such as Dell's refusal to perform certain duties for Philip. The character of Yvonne receives significant change in the remake compared to the original as she plays a more pivotal role to the plot. Rather than Yvonne being treated as an object of desire for Dell in the original in a way that was presented as being hilarious and goofy, Yvonne is shown to instantly go to the disapproval button for Dell at the start feeling he's not qualified to care for Philip. Her concerns for Philip slowly but surely are revealed to be more than just the normal ones that an assistant has for their boss as she genuinely cares for Philips well-being while showing hidden jealously over his writing of letters to a secretive pen pal lover. Writer Jon Hartmere does a very good job of sticking close to the screenplay of the original film, while also adding more to the story and characters making it feel more complete in terms of the films narrative. The film is not just a heartwarming story about people getting second chances regardless of how bad the situation is, its also a celebration of diversity and acceptance that hits home to the audience in a heartwarming way.

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      In a year where remakes to major Hollywood classics are either a hit or miss (Tim Burton's Dumbo and Guy Ritchie's Aladdin being hits, Jon Favreau's The Lion King being a huge missed opportunity), its nice to see one remake remain true to its original while reimagining the story for a new audience. The Upside is an example of a remake that's done right even if the previous film remains the superior version of the two. The Intouchables still remains the better film as it doesn't feel as slow in terms of pacing and the main performances are stronger and more powerful than Cranston and Hart's who are still awesome in their roles. That might seem a bit harsh to compare the two but there's much to celebrate with the remake as the performances and chemistry between the two main actors are where the heart of the film lies. The film begins much in the same way the original does with the first five minutes being nearly identical with the main characters being pulled over by the cops and using their charm and goofy nature to get free from custody. Whereas the story plays out much in the same way, it is the films third act which experiences the most significant change as the main characters have a falling out before reuniting. It is both nice and clever to see the director and writers switch up certain elements in the story to make the finale more heartwarming and powerful such as the twist involving the first love interest for Philip with the revelation of the second one. Dell also has a more complete finish in this story compared to the original as he's shown during his time away from Philip to be inspired by their friendship with his revealed new job profession building electric chairs for quadriplegics being a nice touch. He also has a happier ending with his family compared to the original with the remakes climax signifying that he fully turned his life around due to meeting Philip with Philip finding his happiness in the end thanks to Dell. Whereas The Intouchables overall is a great movie, The Upside is a pretty good American remake that has the stronger ending for the main characters. Its a shame that critics didn't embrace this film the way audiences did (Rotten Tomatoes has the critics scoring it at 40 percent rotten despite the audience score being fresh at 82 percent, with the film also bringing in 108 million domestically at the box office earlier this year), because the film is actually a solid remake to the French classic maintaining much of the fun, the charm, the heart, and uplifting message that made the original a well-renowned drama in the first place. For some, the storyline might come across as being preachy, manipulative, self-righteous, and latching onto every tired old cliche in the book (Those who make those complaints must not like the original because it draws all those elements from its predecessor), but for others this will surprise, entertain, and move people in terms of being both a heartfelt story as well as one of the few worthy remakes of a classic film this year. One should not see this movie unless they watch the original first so they can compare the two and decide for themselves which version did it better, the experience nonetheless will be a rewarding one.

Final Verdict: See It

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Image result for the upside movie pics
Image result for the upside movie pics
Image result for the upside movie pics