Cayle’s Movie Review: “Coco”

Summary

Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is an aspiring 12-year-old musician from Mexico. However, his family wants him to work in their shoemaking business. In a last-ditch effort to enter his local Day of the Dead talent show, he tries to steal his great-grandfather’s guitar. However, he accidentally ends up in the Land of the Dead with his dead ancestors.

Review

While Inside Out proved that Pixar was back, Coco proved that their comeback was not a fluke. It is a return to form in terms of their storytelling. As with any great Pixar film, Coco has a healthy mix of comedic and serious moments. The film has a pro-musician/pro-artist message that might resonate with younger viewers as well as adults.

What’s notable about Coco is that it’s the first musical from Pixar. Out of all the songs that are featured in the film, “Remember Me” is the one that manages to stand out from the rest.

Most of the characters in this film (including the minor ones) are very likable thanks to their development and the performance of their voice actors. Miguel is very determined as a character who is trying to pursue his goal as a musician. In another movie, his shoemaking family could have been the antagonists. However, they do have a reason for discouraging his passion. At first glance, Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) seems like a typical comic relief character. As the film progresses, we get to know more about Hector’s past. While Miguel’s great-grandmother Coco has an important part in the film, I will not go into further detail as it contains spoilers.

I have said time and time again that both Pixar and Disney are the gold standard when it comes to animation. Coco is no exception when it comes to its visuals. The film takes advantage of using warm colors in its design of the Land of the Dead. The film’s character animation is also worth mentioning as it mixes a realistic yet cartoony style with its skeleton characters.

I might be nitpicking here, but my only problem with the film is that the ending dragged on a little bit. While Coco was going for an emotional impact with its ending, I thought it messed with the film’s pacing.

Overall

Coco is a return to form for Pixar. While I preferred Inside Out, Coco works as a stand-alone Pixar film. Let’s hope they can keep it up with The Incredibles 2.

SCORE: 9/10

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Cayle’s Movie Review: Justice League

The DC Extended Universe had a bit of a rough start. Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad all garnered mixed to negative reviews from critics. However, Wonder Woman was a step in the right direction for the DCEU. These movies had led up to this moment. Will the Justice League movie live up to the hype?

The best part about this movie is its cast. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, who are the main standouts of this movie, return as Batman and Wonder Woman respectively. While I thought that Henry Cavill was fine as Clark Kent/Superman, I felt that he had more of a purpose this time around. However, Ezra Miller managed to steal the show as Barry Allen/The Flash despite being the comic relief of the movie. Jason Momoa was surprisingly good as Arthur Curry/Aquaman. While he is the muscle of the group, he manages to crack a few one-liners throughout the movie’s runtime. The film’s supporting cast were also noteworthy thanks to the likes of J.K. Simmons and Jeremy Irons as Commissioner Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth respectively.

The movie’s biggest issue is its unevenness due to a mixture of its unusually short runtime and the various issues concerning its plot (or lack thereof). The pacing felt rather rushed for a movie of this magnitude. I felt that the movie could have devoted more time to character development. The only side character that managed to get any development was Cyborg. While the movie suffered from conflicting tones, it was due to external circumstances. I will go into further detail later in this review. Another troubling aspect about this movie is its villain, Steppenwolf. He felt like a one-dimensional villain that is typical of big-budgeted superhero movies nowadays.

Overall, Justice League felt like a movie by committee. I felt that Warner Bros. and DC Films had rushed this movie out to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As I have mentioned before, there were many external circumstances that affected this movie.  First, director Zack Snyder had to leave the project earlier this year due to a family tragedy. Because of this, Avengers director Joss Whedon had to step in, thus initiating a series of reshoots. This resulted in the tonal conflicts. Second, that the film’s runtime was the result of a mandate that was issued by the CEO of Warner Bros. I felt that these circumstances kept Justice League from being a good movie.

SCORE: 5/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

I will admit that I did not care for the previous Thor movies. The movies felt unbalanced with their conflicting tones. The dramatic scenes were over-the-top while the supposed “comic relief” characters were comedic dead weights. Thor: Ragnarok is a movie that knows what it wants to be thanks to its visual direction. It pays homage to the Thor comics of yesterday. Along with Spider-Man: Homecoming and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Ragnarok is one of the more comedic movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This might be a turn-off for some viewers, but I felt that the comedy was earned this time around.

The best thing about Thor: Ragnarok is its comedic direction. Both Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston have a great comedic chemistry. You can believe that they are brothers by the way they interact with each other. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Mark Ruffalo is the best Bruce Banner/Hulk. The movie also has a stellar supporting cast. It’s great seeing Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins reprise their roles as Heimdall and Odin respectively. I really liked Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. I really enjoyed Karl Urban as the comic relief. Director Taika Waititi manages to make a notable appearance as Korg. While I did enjoy Cate Blanchett as the villain Hela, I felt her character was underdeveloped. I wanted to see more of her character.

Overall, Thor: Ragnarok is easily the best movie in the Thor trilogy. I felt this movie had a sense of direction this time around.

SCORE: 8/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: Geostorm

While I was watching this movie, I kept thinking to myself that this is a poor man’s Roland Emmerich movie. I only found out later that the movie’s director, Dean Devlin, had produced three of Emmerich’s movies back in the 1990s including Independence Day. Then it hit me, this is a 1990s disaster movie without the charm.

This movie has a laundry list of things going against it. First, it’s a dumb disaster movie that takes itself way too seriously. The environmental message in this movie is so obvious, it makes Ferngully look like Princess Mononoke. Geostorm is so pretentious, it probably thinks it can change the world with its “message”. However, it can’t make back one-sixth of its budget as of this writing…

The movie also has a ridiculous premise. If you can control the weather, you’re practically God at that point. Most of the dialogue is just exposition disguising itself as techno-babble. The characters were not that better either. When the main villain of this movie reveals themselves, they manage to give the most generic reasons for their motives. While the audience would expect an effects-laden popcorn flick, they instead get a generic political thriller. Talk about a bait-and-switch…

I’ve been struggling to find something to praise about this movie. Surprisingly, there are few good things about Geostorm. Most of the cast gave decent performances. Ed Harris and Zazie Beetz were arguably the standouts in the ensemble cast. However, I did not buy Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess as brothers. I know I must suspend my disbelief while watching these types of movies, but the 12-year age difference between the actors was quite noticeable.

Overall, I suppose Geostorm could be viewed as a “so bad, it’s good” movie. However, I would also imagine that you would have to be intoxicated to enjoy this movie.

SCORE: 3/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

When Blade Runner was originally released in 1982, it was a commercial disappointment. Over the next three decades, however, not only has the film gained a cult following, it managed to influence other films such as Ghost in the Shell. Its sequel, Blade Runner 2049, has been one of the most anticipated films of 2017. Will it live up to the hype?

Taking place thirty years after the events of the original film, “K” (Ryan Gosling) is a replicant who hunts other replicants as a blade runner. However, he gets recurring memories of himself as a child despite the being the new model of replicant. The film follows his efforts to find the child in question.

Over the past few years, Denis Villeneuve has been building up an impressive resume that all culminated with the Oscar-nominated Arrival. In my opinion, Blade Runner 2049 might be the best film he has done to date. He manages to capture the proto-cyberpunk feel of the original film and give it a modern-day update.

Another great aspect of the film is its cinematography and its production design. The cinematography of this film is both breath-taking and atmospheric thanks to Roger Deakins. If this man does not win the Oscar for Best Cinematography, it would be the crime of the century. The production design manages to pay homage to the iconic visuals of the original while adding its own flair. My only critique of this film is the scenery porn that does not add anything to the movie. They may look great for the trailer, but it adds nothing to the film.

This film has a spectacular cast. Ryan Gosling does a fine job playing “K”. However, a special mention must go to Harrison Ford. His reprisal of the character Deckard is his best role in recent memory. It’s amazing how can be a great actor when he’s not phoning it in. The rest of the supporting cast does a fine job in the film, (including Bautista of all people). Even Jared Leto, who may be the weak link of the cast, managed to do a solid job in this film.

This may or may not be a controversial opinion, but I will say it anyway: Blade Runner 2049 joins various movies such as The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, and Aliens as one of the best sequels of all time. In a time where unoriginal studio executives are cashing in on nostalgic audience members, this film manages to do something where the other remakes/reboots/unnecessary sequels fail to do: it manages to continue the story of the original film. Villeneuve truly understands the intent of the original film. The original Blade Runner presented some existential questions about our humanity. 2049 expands on those questions by exploring them further. However, the film does not give a simple “yes or no” answer to those questions but rather leaves them open-ended as it should.

Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy sequel to the original film.

SCORE: 10/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: American Made

Edge of Tomorrow was one of my personal favorite films of 2014. It was a refreshing take on the time loop narrative. When I heard that director Doug Liman and Tom Cruise were collaborating on another movie, I had to check this movie out.

Tom Cruise was easily the best part about this movie. He easily carries the movie as Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who becomes a drug runner for the Medillin Cartel and later an informant for the CIA. He has enough charisma to convincingly pull off playing a real-life maverick like Seal.  Domhnall Gleeson is also fine as Seal’s main contact in the CIA.

While it is great to have some comedic scenes peppered out throughout the entire duration of the movie to ease the dramatic tension, American Made consists of nothing but comedic scenes. As a result, the movie has some tonal conflicts. We never get to see Seal or his family in any real danger because of this. However, I will not go further into this aspect of the movie because it contains spoilers.

Overall, American Made is a frenetic action-comedy that manages to be quite fun. If you’re looking for a historically accurate movie, American Made isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a fun action movie, this movie is right up your alley. Although it’s not as good as Edge of Tomorrow, it’s fine for what it is.

SCORE: 7/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

Kingsman: The Secret Service was the biggest sleeper hit of 2015. Arriving in February of that year against Fifty Shades of Grey, The Secret Service was a hit with both critics and audiences alike. Its sequel, The Golden Circle, managed to be one of the most anticipated movies of this year. How does it compare to its predecessor?

Taron Egerton, who reprises his role as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin/Galahad in this sequel, is the best part about this movie. Egerton has proven himself to be a capable lead actor with this movie. Mark Strong also returns as the character Merlin. The movie manages to show the growing relationship with Eggsy as a mentor. Another great thing about this movie are its action scenes. Matthew Vaughn has proven himself to be a great action director with films such as Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and the first Kingsman movie of course. This movie is no exception as he manages to up the ante with the action.

While Julianne Moore is a great actor, I felt she was miscast as the drug kingpin antagonist Poppy Adams. She’s not as charismatic as her predecessor Samuel L. Jackson, who stole The Secret Service as the evil media mogul Richmond Valentine. Not only that, her character came off as surprisingly preachy with her motives. This is a sharp contrast to the previous film as it had a more satirical bent to it.

Another problem I had with the movie was the subplot involving Statesman. The movie’s advertising focused on the appearances of Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges as agents of Statesman, the American counterpart to Kingsman. However, they are barely in the movie. The only member of Statesman to get any extended screen time was Agent Whiskey (played by Pedro Pascal), and he barely got any advertising. To put it in perspective, the supposed celebrity cameo was in the movie longer than Tatum and Bridges combined. Although one plot point was spoiled in the official trailer for the movie, I will not go into detail here. However, I will mention that it’s a plot point that doesn’t add anything to the movie besides more plot holes.

Overall, The Golden Circle does not live to its predecessor in terms of tone and writing. As I have mentioned before, The Secret Service felt like a fresh breath of air when it was first released. Unfortunately, The Golden Circle suffers from a case of the “sequelitis”. However, it manages to be entertaining thanks to its cast and its direction.

SCORE: 6/10