1 Star Movies

Pinocchio (2022)

There is no way I can discuss the live action remake of Pinocchio without talking in depth about the 1940 animated masterpiece

Maybe I just can’t see past the end of my nose, but it is what it is.

1 Star Movies

Cinderella (2021)

If your movie is based on the world’s most popular fairy tale, then it can be understandable why you would want to put a twist or two on the story. Whether it was told by Disney (animated or live-action) or the lead was either Hilary Duff or the 90s pop star Brandy, Cinderella was always about a story enchanting girls and  young women with the dream that they would one day  be swept off their feet by that special someone. The newest version of Cinderella likes to add on that Ella can be her own woman and does not need a man to have her dreams come true. This of course is not a problem, but it was never what the source material was about.

They may as well have called this CRINGErella.

1 Star Movies

Tom and Jerry (2021)

Since the 1940s, Tom and Jerry have been “frenemies” before the term was even invented.

Although I was not a huge fan of them growing up (I was more a “Wile E Coyote/Road Runner” fan), they are still the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “cat and mouse”. Although I am not a parent (and have not been in contact with kids such as my nephews for sometime due to the pandemic), I am hesitant to say that kids today are still fans of the original T&J shorts as their parents or grandparents were. This brings us to the live action Tom and Jerry film, which left me (and I assume many others) with more than a few questions: the biggest being, “Who is this film made for?!?!” (An honorable second place goes to “Why was this made?”)

1 Star Movies

Dolittle (2020)

As I get older and see more movies, I realize that nostalgia cannot always work for movies I liked as a kid. Sure, some movies are classics and speak to the child in all of us (The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, E.T., and a number of Disney films), but some are sadly ones we look back on and wonder, “What was I thinking?!?!”. I recently revisited the original first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies from the early 90s, and while the first one is still passable, the second one (the one with Vanilla Ice) is now just laughable. I predict kids who see Dolittle will say the same thing if they choose to revisit it as an adult, since any adults these days who are forced to see it will do what they can to forget it (even more so for the adults who were part of the film).

Back in 1967, the titular role of Doctor Dolittle (unseen by me) was played by theater great Rex Harrison. In the late 1990s, it was Eddie Murphy (the first was enjoyable to me as a kid, but I stopped caring after the second sequel). Now the role is in the hands of Robert Downey Jr. (in his first role after leaving the MCU). Set in the 19th century, we learn in an animated prelude (which was very well animated, and one of the few things of the film I actually was fine with) that his wife Lily (Kasia Smmutniak) is an adventurer who has died at sea. Understandably depressed, Dolittle has secluded himself in his mansion (that was once paid for by the Queen) in isolation. One day, a boy named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) is out hunting with his family, though very unwillingly so. When he purposely misses shooting ducks, he hits a squirrel. Rather than put it out of its misery, he stumbles upon the Dolittle mansion.

At this point, we encounter one of the films many problems. We first see Dolittle talking to the animals as any human would: using animal sounds. We get a close up of him, and it changes to him speaking normally to the animals who now speak clear English to him as well. There is no consistancy in the communication between the doctor and the animals.

At the same time that Stubbins drops in, we meet Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado), who has been sent to deliver disturbing news: Queen Victoria (Jesse Buckley) has fallen ill. When the Doctor arrives, we discover the only known cure is from a mystical island that Dolittle’s late wife was looking for as she perished.

There is also a side plot involving Dolittle’s father in law, who blames the Doctor for Lily’s death. The father in law (named Rassouli, a name I don’t remember being uttered but it was on wiki so I guess it works) is played by the just recently Oscar nominated Antonio Banderas.

Wait, there is another side plot I forgot involving Dr. Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen). A former classmate of Dolittle’s, Mudfly is summoned by Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent, another wonderful actor who I had to find his character name on wiki) to make sure Dolittle & Company fail and that the Queen dies (not sure why they wanted the Queen to die, but whatever). There are no points given in finding out right away that Mudfly is the bad guy. In fact, points should be taken away if you did not know that.

If you thought the cast I have mentioned so far is a waste of talent, wait till you hear who the animals are voiced by. Emma Thompson is a wise parrot (as well as the films narrator). Rami Malek is a kind but not so confident Gorilla. Tom Holland is a loyal dog with glasses (for some reason). Octavia Spencer is a duck. Ralph Fiennes is a tiger. Selena Gomez is a giraffe. Marion Cotillard is a fox (with only a few lines). Finally, Kumail Nanjiani is the ostrich who becomes friends with Yoshi the Polar Bear, played by John Cena.

While none of these actors are untalented, they fail because of the script they are given (which is also mind boggling, when you remember that the film’s director and co-writer Stephen Gaghan wrote movies like Traffic and Syrianna, admittedly two vastly different films).

As stated, the film is set in the 19th Century, but the animals are all talking like they are from the 21st. I understand that it is to appeal more to children, but the theater I was in (which did not have many, thought it was a 5pm show on a thursday) had virtually zero laughs from the adults. As for the kids (maybe two or so in the audience), I think I heard three laughs tops.

There is actual detrimental material here for kids, because we have all encountered wild animals at one point or another in our lives. Whether it be a close pet we chat with or a squirrel we honk our horn at to move out of the way. We like to think we are talking with them.

When I get home from work, there is always a nice welcome for me from my dog, Molly (the newer dog, Charlie, is another matter). There is a weird sense of appreciation we get from pets that makes us want to talk to them. Animals (especially pets) help take us out of our daily lives and remember the natural elements of the world.

Parents, if all you are worried about is violence/sexuality/swearing, you are fine. There is none of that here (even the wounded squirrel, who took a shotgun blast to the chest, was not bleeding). The one exception is the post credit scene, where a character is surrounded by bats. While it is played for laughs, I think it would generally scare children.

Though I am not a parent, I would still argue that this movie is not engaging or smart enough for any child over the ages of 5-6. It is as if the filmmakers forgot that kids in a movie theater are actually smarter than they realize.

Dolittle also is unclear on its message. At first, I thought it would be on how to be kind to animals (after all, God did tell Noah to have two of every kind on the ark). The film just became about an adventure that no one asked for.

Somehow, Dolittle did give me a feeling I never expected.

A feeling of nostalgia.

…for the movie CATS.


Rating: 1 out of 5.

1 Star Movies

The Goldfinch (2019)

It was film critic Gene Siskel who normally would ask “Is this movie as interesting as the same actors having lunch together?” Had he lived to see The Goldfinch, the answer would be a short and direct no. With actors like Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Oakes Fegley, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, and Luke Wilson, it can be safetly assumed that the making of this film would almost be riveting (not to mention some of those behind the camera). Oh how I wish these people were in a different movie.

Alas, that is not the case, and we are stuck with The Goldfinch, based off the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Donna Tart (unread by me). The film starts in the aftermath of a (fictional) terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, leaving few survivors. One of which is 13 year old Theo (young talented Oakes Fegley), whose mother was killed in the attack. He is taken in briefly by an upper class family, the Barbour, and finds a somewhat newer mother figure in Mrs. Barbour (Nicole Kidman).We learn that one of the other victims in the attack was an acquaintance of a antiques dealer named Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), who takes young Theo under his wing as the young soul is more than intrigued by “old things” (not to mention Hobie’s adopted daughter Pippa, who also survived the attack and was catching Theo’s eye before the explosion). It is soon discovered by the audience that Theo has stolen a priceless artwork from the rubble, known as The Goldfinch.

He is soon taken away from his deadbeat dad (Luke Wilson) and his girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) to live with in the outskirts of Las Vegas. Though both seem loving, it does not take much to see that these two only want Theo for the money that his mother left him. The only light in Theo’s young life is his new friend Boris (Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things and the IT films), a Russian immigrant (though he mentions he is from many places).

There is a lot (to say the least) jumping around in this movie, as we fast forward to an adult Theo (Ansel Elgort), who now deals in antiques, and finds pieces of his past childhood experiences, which were mostly nothing short of bad, as certain people of the past have died (and in tragic ways). It is melodrama cranked to the max. I forgot to mention how, when he first moved in with the Harbour family, Mrs. Harbour introduced him to a prescription drug that helped with the affects of the aftermath of the attack (PTSD I guess). This starts Theo into a drug habit that escalates even more when he meets Boris (whose own home life is chaotic with his father). The end of the film shows a crime caper of sorts, which legit makes no sense.

I am sure this film had all the best of intentions (and I am sure the book is great), but the translation from page to screen is not merely lost: it vanishes. There was a lot of source material to work from (I found out the book is in the 700-800 page range), but the film still drags on for too long. Sure, the run time is long (two and a half hours), but even films at that length don’t always seem to drag as much (the first film to come to mind that had about that same length of runtime is The Dark Knight, which never dragged on). The Goldfinch had me checking my watch constantly, and that started about 20 or 30 minutes into the film.

Parents, the film is rated R mainly for language and drug use. There is no sexuality (though it is inferred that some characters have slept with each other). High School and above.

The film is directed by John Crowley, who was at the helm of 2015’s criminally under seen gem Brooklyn. He is clearly a talented filmmaker, but even the best of them have flops. The one bit of light for The Goldfinch is (somewhat poetically) that the man behind the lighting (i.e., the cinematographer) is the legendary Roger Deakins, meaning the film is indeed wonderful to look at.

Toward the end of the film, one character mentions how some good can come from bad. It will be sometime before I discover what good has come from seeing this film.


Rating: 1 out of 5.

1 Star Movies

Aladdin (2019)

Unless you own a copy of a special edition on Blu-ray or DVD (or VHS for that matter), your best chance of finding a copy of the original Aladdin from 1992 would be to go to Family Video (or better yet, the library) and try your luck there. The new Disney streaming service, Disney +, won’t be available til November 12th, which is supposed to have all the original classics for viewers to witness. I mention these for one simple reason: you are far better doing all you can to see the original than the newest live action Aladdin remake, which is more than a let down.

Directed by Guy Ritchie (a somewhat peculiar choice, despite his talent), the film is mostly faithful to the original story, with some adjustments. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is still a “street rat”, able to get by with his faithful monkey Abu by stealing (though he does still have a good heart, as he shows again by giving food to those worse off than him). He makes a quick connection with a local girl, who we know is Jasmine in hiding (played by Naomi Scott). Unlike the original, this film does not show her trying to escape her palace life. That life, of course, is not the most glamourous, as she is told by her Sultan father (Navid Negahban) that the best way for her to live life is to get married to a prince and keep her mouth shut when it comes to (for lack of a better word) political matters. Behind the scenes of the Sultan is Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) and his mischievous parrot Iago. He manages to get Aladdin to (you know) go into the cave of wonders and fetch a lamp, containing the genie (Will Smith, for those who did not know).

At this point in the review, it is time to know whether Will Smith works as the genie. The answer is (for the most part) a sad, “No.” Let us first state the obvious: what Robin Williams did in the original animated film was a landmark performance for film animation (and film in general), resulting in what is arguably the best performance in animation history, never to be topped. Smith himself has said that he was nervous in trying to play the role. To his credit, he does not (for the most part) try to duplicate all of the Williams performance, but try to make it his own. When he is not in his blue form, it is just under par. In his blue form, it is cringeworthy. Will Smith is undoubtably talented and one of the most charming actors alive, but when it came to universality (which is what the Genie should really be all about), Robin Williams will always be number one.

It should be noted that the Genie is not always in his blue form. This is so he can be somewhat of an advisor to Aladdin when he is pretending to be Prince Ali in order to impress the princess. This leads to something that I never expected for the Genie (spoiler): He finds a love interest. This interest is the Princess’s handmaiden (more like best friend) Dahlia (former SNL alum Nasim Pedrad). Am I the only kid from the 90s who thinks the Genie having a love interest is just … off?

This is not to say that the film doesn’t have positive attributes. Most of those come from the lead roles (who, I am happy to say, do some form of justice to “A Whole New World”). Massound’s Aladdin is like a kid friendly version of the characters from the Assassin’s Creed video games (he does do a lot of building hopping). The stand out, however, is Scott’s Jasmine. There is one new song (supplied by the legendary Alan Menken who worked on the original) called “Speechless”. This is sung (twice) by Jasmine in order to show female empowerment. I guess I should not be too surprised at this, but I am still not sure if it was needed for the story. One thing is for sure: Naomi Scott can sing rather well (I admit I got some moments that almost reminded me of Idina Menzel from Frozen). It is a breakthrough performance, and then some.

There are one or two added scares to the film (though there is no giant snake, there is a giant bird), but I would think the film would be okay for kids eight and up (as always, I urge parents to have their kids see the original first).

Aladdin also has some value in teaching us how to be ourselves as God intended (something we all struggle with). It also reminds us (with the idea of wishing) that what we wish for is not always what we wanted. The Genie (regardless of who plays the role) can also be seen as somewhat of a Christ like figure. Someone who inspires confidence, giving us opportunities we could not adhere ourselves, realizing our inner strength, pushing us to do the right thing. After all, we never will have a friend like Christ, right? (Not that it has to be stated, but of course I don’t think God is like a genie who grants wishes.)

I am not denying any of these lessons, or saying they are unimportant. What I am saying is simple: They were in the original, so why not just watch that?

I close by saying that the only reason Aladdin was not the most painful part of my day was because it was followed by a scheduled root canal. Then again, that did have Novacaine.


Rating: 1 out of 5.