Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Directed by Rob Letterman

Starring: Justice Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Kathryn Newton

Rating: PG

Genre: Action, Comedy

Rotten Tomatoes: 65%

The story begins when ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City – a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world – they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe. (Rotten Tomatoes)

So, after my review for Avengers: Endgame, I’ve decided to work smarter not harder (or in my case be lazy) and start inserting the film’s trailer and Rotten Tomatoes description in lieu of writing my own description.  If you would prefer me to go back to writing the description myself, feel free to leave a comment and I will take it into consideration. But for now, this is what you’re going to get.

Now, I am a Pokemon baby. I grew up during the height of Pokemon popularity, and therefore I have an unwavering appreciation and affection for the fictional creatures. And because I am definitely not the only one, I can’t realistically review this as a “children’s movie.” Because most of the children in the theatre were probably dragged there by their parents, who are my age. This is an adult movie, made for those who were around when Ash first started training to be a Pokemon trainer. You can not argue with me, because we all know I’m right.

Subjectively, I utterly enjoyed this movie. With every live-action Pokemon came the overwhelming jealousy of living in a Pokemon-less world where my dog is the closest thing I’ll ever get to a Eevee. The still alive child in me was excited at the sight of classics, such as the titular Pikachu, Charizard, Bulbasaur, and the all-powerful Mewtwo. Little nods to the OG fans, like the Jigglypuff in the diner made me smile ear-to-ear; and the all-too-familiar “pika-pika” melted my fragile heart. If you are like me, born of the Pokemon generation, stop reading this review and just go see the damn movie. You won’t regret it.

Like most people, I was taken aback by Pikachu talking with the overly-familiar vernacular of Deadpool, but once I was actually in the theatre I understood the pure genius behind it. After all, this isn’t a kid’s movie, its an adult movie (I will fight you if you still disagree). And for those who are likely going to force their children into the theatre with them, no worries. Pikachu just sounds like Deadpool with none of the colourful language. Additionally, the film does a good job of world-building without boring us Poke-gen kids out of our minds with stuff we already know.

The more objective film-reviewer in me still can’t really criticize this film because, in general, films marketed toward children are hard to criticise heavily. Most of the negative aspects of the film can be brought down to the fact that it’s meant for “children” and therefore the same level of writing is not needed when it comes to plot and characters. Because, to be entirely honest, I can’t remember the name of the protagonist without looking it up. And this may be because I was too preoccupied looking at all the Pokemon, but still. The plot is nothing to write home about, with a pretty cliche storyline and a twist that can be seen from a mile away; and none of the actors is going to win an Oscar for this film. The main redeemable quality is the CGI, which is well done throughout the film. Though the designers took some creative liberties to make the Pokemon come to life in this live-action world, they are still recognizable as exactly what they are. Textures, such as fur and skin, are rendered beautifully, and the film’s lighting allows the CGI to really shine. It’s a respectable adaption of a beloved franchise, that makes up for what it lacks in writing with its sheer entertainment value.

I whole-heartedly recommend this film for everyone, not just the Poke-gen kids like myself. If you are interested in seeing this film, as of publication of this review it is in theatres.

Avengers: Endgame (2019) Spoiler-Free

The following review is spoiler-free due to the wishes of and respect for the Russo brothers, cast and crew, and the future audience of this film. A version of this review that includes details regarding plot will be available upon release of the film for home viewing..

Directed By Anthony & Joe Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Sci-fi, & Adventure

Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (as of 04/26/2019)

11 years this film has been in the making. Goddamn. To preface this even more than I already have, let me tell you this review will likely be followed by a personal essay. This was a very emotional event for me, so much so I had to take a walk after watching the film. I ate at a nearby café in the hopes it would console, me. As I write this I imagine I’ll need to take a nap as soon as I finish this.

I’m not entirely sure how to summarize this film in words, let alone summarize it without effectively spoiling it. As a result, I am sort of copping out, and attaching the trailer:

If you are not aware of this long-coming cinematic event I’m not sure where you have been. Even if you are not necessarily a fan of the MCU, you are aware of Endgame. Literally, all you have to do is go on twitter to find this film trending practically every day since its trailer’s release.

Regardless of the fact that I am a life-long fan of comic books and subsequently a big fan of the MCU in its majority, I am still very much capable of seeing faults in this epic. Nevertheless, in this review, I have little negative input to provide because I would be spoiling the storyline as a result. I am therefore essentially left with only positives, which… isn’t a bad thing, I guess. Of course, my final rating does include my current as-objective-as-possible views of the film in its entirety.

The use of CGI in this film is abundant and it is some the best utilization of the technique in an action film I’ve seen in a really long time. Very little about it is revolutionary, and the techniques used in visual storytelling in this film (and many a Marvel films for that matter) are not particularly mind-blowing, but this film is less about the art of cinematic storytelling and more about the power of pop culture. This power is not to be underestimated, as I feel some sadly do because it is diverse and multi-faceted. Not many series can successfully become so integrated into so many facets of life, whether it be books, toys, attire, and so on. Not many series can do so so effectively.

Gosh, this whole review is a struggle. Can I just say watch the dang movie, invest, if you can, and see it in theatres? I really don’t think I can hold in the spoilers and talk about the film at the same time. Am I copping out? Yes. Should you see the movie, also yes. My rating 94%.

I’m going to take a nap now.

Await Further Instruction (2018)

Director: Johnny Kerorkian

Starring: Sam Gittens, Grant Masters, Neerja Niak

Rating: NR

Genre: Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

While I watched this movie on a Friday, I wasn’t quite confident enough to write a review for it until the following Monday. Not because I found this film so intellectual or amazing in some other way that I needed time to understand it; but because I needed time to figure out what exactly the film was trying to. It is evident from the beginning the intentions of the film, but it simply falls short of actually doing achieving what it wants to.

When the ominous message “stay indoors and await further instructions” appears in the television of an already torn family, tensions rise as no one can agree on what to do next. As the promised instructions start to appear, the (already horrible) family dynamic is thrown out the window as what little bit of familial trust that may have existed is quickly dissolved. As characters trust each other less and less it becomes evident to the protagonist that an there is something potentially otherworldly going on.

Now, first of all, it was so refreshing to see practical effects! Though at times this seems to be occasionally augmented with some minor bits of CGI, the fact that the film uses this now archaic technique is quite a breath of fresh air. For many horror film purists, practical effects might as well be the modern day holy grail with the power to save otherwise dull movies. Which, when it comes to horror films, this film did, in fact, feel quite dull. Aiming for more nuanced psychological horror the film definitely fell short, succumbing to its overdone themes and failing to present a truly unique story.

With themes of corruption and cult-like devotion, the feel doesn’t do a very good job at presenting these in what should have a character-driven plot. From the very beginning, the characters were unpleasant and in their own ways corrupt. Noone truly changed, for better or for worse, everyone was just insufferable (with the exclusion of maybe the protagonist’s girlfriend).

For this film to have worked it would have likely needed to present a family dynamic much more healthy than the one in the film. Allowing for otherwise good characters to surrender to their inner demons and not-so-perfect beliefs. Even though the antagonist in the film is an omnipotent alien, it may have been in the interest of the filmmakers to research the dynamics of real-life cults, where the corruption of vulnerable individuals is common.

Honestly, I can’t think of very many people I would recommend this film to. Though on paper the concept seems interesting it simply isn’t well executed. I had to take a break while watching the film simply because I was bored out of my mind. In the end, I have to give the film a final rating of 25%.

If, for whatever reason, you’d like to check out this film feel free to do so through Amazon, or, more conveniently, Netflix, where it is currently available.

Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

I try my best to be as objective as possible when reviewing books and films, but sometimes my subjective opinions make it hard for me to do so. This is one of those time where I found myself struggling. Technically this is a very good film, and I definitely see why it has performed so well, but personally, I’m not the biggest fan.

My grievances come from the fact that I can’t relate to the main character, Nadine (Steinfeld). I find her to be an annoying and self-centred teen with often times toxic behaviour. For most of the movie, she was her own worst enemy— which I realize is an aspect of the plot but still. Her mother definitely doesn’t help, and honestly, I think she’s just the worst. When it comes to the supporting characters, I don’t have much to complain about though. The highlight characters of the film (for me) being Mr. Burner (Harrelson) and Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto).

When it comes to plot this is your classic coming of age story and shows not only the main character but those closest to her, growing in some way. This was definitely a good part of the film. I admit, in the end, I found Nadine had really learned a lesson and therefore liked her much more. The only shortcoming would be the way the mother changes, which seems more abrupt than anything.

Would I recommend this movie to people I know? Sure. When it comes down to it I feel like I’d give the film 82%.

Would you like to see the movie? Well, you can rent and buy it through Amazon, or watch it on Netflix.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Staring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%

It’s not every day that a film introduces its titular character in what may very well be their lowest of lows. When we are introduced to the cyborg Alita she is, for all intents and purposes, long discarded trash. Regardless of this her brain, as well as her core power source, are still in prime condition. It takes the work of one Dr. Ido to restore her into working order. With a new body and new life, Alita, who remembers nothing, is forced to adjust to her new surroundings while trying to remember her obscure past. Dr. Ido, who becomes a father figure to Alita, and a young man named Hugo, her love interest, help her along the way.

I didn’t know what to expect from a movie based off of a manga, let alone a film based on such an extensive and well-written manga. When the trailer first came out, I must admit I was concerned; especially since it follows the disappointing 2017 Ghost in Shell adaption. Like most viewers, I was taken aback by Miss Salazar’s exaggerated eyes. When first exposed to the imagery, I admit that the effects of the uncanny valley were strong. This detail can be somewhat ignored after you take into consideration that the manga makes a point to give Alita exaggerated features, though, if I recall it was originally her “large” lips. This detail would prove to be the only character design decision I found myself continuously questioning.

My main qualm with the film is that there were often times the CGI was poorly executed. As a result, there were scenes in which I found myself being pulled out of the film, solely due to the poor integration of computer-generated backgrounds with the live-action actors. Additionally, the digital augmentation of Alita’s face often came off as awkward, most notably in the scene in which she tries chocolate for the first time. Otherwise, the film was beautiful and fully embraced the cyberpunk aesthetic.

For the most part, I have minimal complaints with the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the character development as well as the overall execution. I wouldn’t call the film your run-of-the-mill origin story. For what it’s trying to achieve in regards to its source material, I would call it successful. Many may say there isn’t really a plot, but as a introductory film to a potential franchise, the film gets the job done. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was not what I expected.

With all considered, I find myself giving the film a very good rating of: 4.1/5