Movie Reviews 

The Handmaiden

by Alan Rapp on November 25, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Handmaiden
  • IMDb: link

The HandmaidenPresented in three acts, director Chan-wook Park‘s erotic thriller inserts a new handmaiden (Tae-ri Kim) into the home of a Japanese heiress (Min-hee Kim) in Victorian-era Korea as part of a larger plot to steal the woman’s vast fortune. Part crime drama, part thriller, and part love story, The Handmaiden offers a tale of complicated motivations (where almost no one is exactly who they initially appear to be), betrayal, greed, sex, and love.

The first act of the film is presented from the role of the handmaiden, who is actually a plant to help steer the heiress into marrying her partner (Jung-woo Ha) to steal her money away from the lonely woman and her perverted uncle (Jin-woong Jo) who has his own plans for that wealth. However, when the handmaiden and her mistress begin falling for each other it throws a wrench into everyone’s plans.

The film’s second act offers a slightly different take on events from the perspective of the heiress, offering new motivations and insights, and setting up the film’s final act in where each member of the small cast will face the consequences of their actions.

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Moana

by Alan Rapp on November 23, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Moana
  • IMDb: link

MoanaMoana is your typical Disney Princess animated feature set around the coming of age story of its heroine. Our title character is Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of a Polynesian chieftain (Temuera Morrison) who is drawn to the ocean despite her father’s strict rules about never journeying farther than the reef. However, circumstances force Moana to defy her father’s wishes and go in search of the legendary demi-god Maui (Dwayne “It’s Okay to Call Me The Rock Again” Johnson) whose help she will need to save her home from a decay that began centuries ago because of the god’s rash actions.

Aside from working in some local culture and flavor, as it did with The Princess and the Frog, Mulan, and Pocahontas, Disney doesn’t stray too far from its comfort zone here. We get a couple cute animal sidekicks, some big musical numbers, and a hero’s journey. (Although the film lacks a true Disney villain.) However, with the number of these the studio has churned out over the years it knows how to hit the right notes. It’s also worth noting this is the first time since Aladdin where Disney has embraced a larger-than-life sidekick voiced by such a strong personality.

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Allied

by Alan Rapp on November 23, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Allied
  • IMDb: link

AlliedThere’s so much wrong with Allied it’s hard to know where to start. At times director Robert Zemeckis‘ film is laughably, occasionally excruciatingly, bad. In its best moments Allied is ill-conceived, and it doesn’t have many of those.

Who thought it was good idea to set a WWII movie in Casablanca? The script by Steven Knight (Burnt, Seventh Son, Eastern Promises) plays like a bad romance novel mashed-up with a hollow spy thriller. The result might make for an okay trashy vacation read on the beach but fails spectacularly on film.

Reminding you immediately of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Casablanca, spies Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) meet in Casablanca. Assigned by their respective countries to work together to kill a high-ranking Nazi officer, the pair play husband and wife while falling into causal sex which I guess is supposed to look like love on film. (It doesn’t.) In a move that seems completely out of the blue, after completing their mission, Max invites Marianne to return to England with him and be his wife. And life is good, for awhile, until Max discovers that his wife may be a German spy.

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Trolls

by Alan Rapp on November 22, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Trolls
  • IMDb: link

TrollsThe animated musical adventures center on the perpetually happy Trolls who are hunted by the miserable Bergens who believe the only happiness they can achieve is from eating the colorful creatures infatuated with hugs, dancing, singing, scrapbooking, cupcakes, and rainbows. When her loud party gets several of her friends captured, it falls on Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and the morose Branch (Justin Timberlake) to bring them home.

Trolls borrows several key elements of its plot from The Smurfs (such as an evil giant obsessed with eating the delicious creatures). Big and bright without being all that memorable, Trolls is more kiddie movie than true family fare.

The movie’s eclectic pop soundtrack features new songs by Timberlake and several recognizable tunes from the likes of Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Kool & the Gang, and others. The big numbers and bright characters help make the predictable story a little easier to swallow. The movie is at best a modest success with a nice message for younger viewers about finding happiness within.

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Subpar Prequel and Where to Find It

by Alan Rapp on November 18, 2016

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • IMDb: link

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemHarry Potter Lite? Based on the spin-off novella by J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first Harry Potter movie without Harry Potter. Taking place decades before Harry’s birth, the story is set in New York with wizard Newt Scamander’s (Eddie Redmayne) arrival in the city with a suitcase full of magical creatures. When some of Scamander’s creatures escape he attempts to hunt them down with the help of some new friends.

The beasts themselves, in all shapes, colors and sizes, are certainly one of the film’s strengths. So to are Redmayne and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski (the non-magical would-be baker who literally stumbles into a world of magic he never knew existed). However, the prequel isn’t without its problems.

First, the film is too long given its simplistic setup. Feeling every bit its 133-minute running time, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them drags in several spots with more than 45 minutes which could be trimmed from its bloated carcass. Even with all this extra filler the film doesn’t feel fully formed as half the work here is, of course, to set-up in inevitable sequels.

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