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Christopher Robin Reminds Us Its Okay To Be Sweet [Review]

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Christopher Robin Reminds Us Its Okay To Be Sweet [Review]

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...when fantasy meets reality,

real magic isn’t too far from our grasp

It will be hard to find another film like Christopher Robin these days. Its story avoids the frenzied energy of modern kid’s films and replaces it with a paw-full of honey, substituting common day spectacle with the simple soul-warming softness of retro-family-films from our past.

In an age dominated by Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar, Christopher Robin is a delightful throwback film that calls on movies like HOOK (1991), Jumanji (1995), and Big Fish (2003) (So close to hitting the Robin Williams trifecta) for inspiration. Its whimsy is refreshing and much like the movies above, when fantasy unapologetically intermingles with reality, real magic isn’t too far from our grasp and we, for a moment, can imagine our lives mirroring that which is on screen. It’s an adventure that parents owe to their children to experience and explore the possibilities of their own imagination; a quest parents should embark on together with them as well.

And, one of the things this film does to aid us in believing in this magic comes from the impressive wizardry rendered by the incredible special effects team that worked on the Hundred Acre Wood inhabitants. These beloved characters all look fantastic. They are as if these storybook stuffed animals have truly jumped off the page and come to life. Their fur, stitching, clothes and expressions, to the way they walk and talk and interact with the world around them are just phenomenal.

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...these characters look so real

you can almost reach out and touch them, and in true storybook fashion, this film gives our imagination the ability to make that happen.

For all intents and purposes, this is like a dream come true, for every person who dreamed of having Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and the other Hundred Acre Wood creatures, all seemingly existing in our world, these characters look so real, you can almost reach out and touch them, and in true storybook fashion, it allows our imagination to make that happen.

Disney continues to outdo itself in this department. This is the best special effects work I have seen in any of the Disney live action films that have been released to date, with Jon Favreau’s Jungle Book coming in at a distant second. 

But, this movie is called Christopher Robin and not Winnie the Pooh for a reason, and credit must be given to the legendary Ewan McGregor who is basically putting on a one man show acting alongside these CGI characters. When he looks, speaks, or interacts with one of these characters, it’s like they’re really there. It’s a skill that not every actor has, but McGregor pulls it off with such sincerity that his performance perpetuates the spell this film’s loving charm has placed us under.

McGregor also serves as this film’s antagonist, of sorts. Though it lacks a traditional villain, McGregor’s portrayal of the all grown up Christopher Robin as the rigid totalitarian is the closest thing to a “bad-guy” that we get in the entire film. The disenchanted Robin is such a self-involved workaholic in the real world, that his Hundred Acre Wood friends confuse him for an evil Heffalump, a scary elephant like creature that preys on their joy. This creates some of the darker moments of this largely lighthearted film, but they’re neither too dark nor too scary that parents should worry about it scaring your little ones. In fact, those scenes are the most engaging of the film, and it helped my daughter understand a crucial change in Christopher Robin, using terms and visual cues she could understand. This surreal moment also colors the rest of the film in a new more vibrant hue, and infuses the action with a clearer sense of urgency for our characters.

Though McGregor and the Hundred Acre Wood characters basically own the show, Hayley Atwell as Christopher Robin’s wife, Bronte Carmichael as his daughter, and Mark Gatiss as his superior are all welcome additions to the cast and put in fine work alongside McGregor. Atwell especially, as Robin’s disheartened wife who shines whenever she is on camera, powerfully echoing everyone’s concerns regarding vocation and the constraints it can place one’s home life.

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Its a distinctly immersive experience

that is mature in its execution but beautiful enough that a child can still enjoy the endless possibilities its trees, streams, and caves have to offer. 

This film is also very beautifully shot, paying careful attention to its surroundings and it sets up some truly breathtaking moments in the sprawling fields of the Hundred Acre Wood. It also masterfully utilizes atmosphere, allowing scenes to breathe as elegantly as the wind rushing through rustling leaves and tall grass. Its a distinctly immersive experience that is mature in its execution but beautiful enough that a child can still enjoy the endless possibilities its trees, streams, and caves have to offer. 

In the end, Christopher Robin addresses the seemingly bleak consequences of an over-worked parent and its effects on family care while wonderfully pouring the syrupy sweetness of A.A. Milne’s brilliant insight on friendship, fantasy and love on our hearts. If you're a fan of the retro, family friendly, lighthearted adventures like HOOK or Paddington of more recent date, then you will enjoy this film. To put it plainly, this adventure is as enjoyably gentle as the lovable bear that inspired it, and its charm is meant to be enjoyed by both children and parents alike.

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Ocean's 8 Drowns in its Boring Nonchalance (REVIEW)

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Ocean's 8 Drowns in its Boring Nonchalance (REVIEW)

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If empowerment was the goal,

it severely missed the mark.

In the age of female empowerment, Ocean's 8 could have led the charge for a new era of smart, resourceful, and capable thieves for a new generation of moviegoers. They could have showed us that adversity is only an opportunity to break through the barriers that stand in our way. Or, more specifically, the women of Ocean's 8 could have exhibited their resilience, strength, and wit as they devised ways to outdo the challenges of the heist, but also the ones unfortunately inherent to them as women in our culture. Instead, the conflict free triumph of this female band of thieves rings less of girl power, and more of the musclebound-macho-movie-tropes that originally alienated our female protagonists.

Simply put, nothing is earned in this film, everything just feels given, too easy, and unmemorable. Our cobbled together group of grifters face little to no opposition in the pursuit of their shimmering goal. And, in a glorious exhibition of Hollywood blasé, we’re essentially given the non-violent equivalent of an 80’s Action Star never running out of bullets in their gun to defeat their enemies. All without even so much as a scratch to show for it. This is the unfortunate case of Ocean's 8. Everything is so one-sided and stacked in our heroes' favor, that in the end, we're left to genuinely ask "who cares?", which ultimately does more harm than good for our culture and for women in the film industry. 

Instead of propelling this to the forefront of the new post #METOO and #TimesUp era of entertainment, this female led foray into the Ocean's world simply falls flat.

If empowerment was the goal, then they severely missed the mark. And, if entertainment was also on the list, that too left a lot to be desired. 

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I really wanted this to work.

I really wanted to love this movie.

If this sounds harsh, its because I really wanted this to work. I really wanted to love this movie. 

If you guys have listened to any of our episodes and/or you’ve read my last blog, you know that the Ocean's movies are like our zeitgeist. These films are like the underlying basis for our vernacular and how we communicate with one another on and off the show. So, to watch this movie lack all of the things that made those movies great without offering anything new or improving on the old...”it just, hurts."

Perhaps, they didn't want to rely too much, or at all--as is apparent in this film--to the things that made the other films great. Perhaps, they wished to pave their own way into our hearts in the same way that Danny, Rusty and Linus did before them. Unfortunately, the lack of a villain, conflict—or any opposition for that matter— and the shortage of smart, organic, and entertaining dialogue, allowed this film to drown in an ocean of boredom and indifferent nonchalance.

Of all the criminal activity at work, the most offensive is how poor this movie is written. We all know that good storytelling requires some type of conflict. In Clooney's Ocean’s movies, there was never a moment where things seemed easy. There was always some sort of threat looming. Whether that was from the film’s villains, that is, Tony Benedict, Toulour, and Willy Bank played by Andy Garcia, Vincent Cassel, and Al Pacino respectively. Or, from the team themselves. There was always room for error, whether from one certain individual or even as a group. There was never any certainty that any part of the heist would go as planned. The crux of the action came from our heroes battling back when their backs were against the wall. That’s what made these films entertaining; the fact that our heroes could lose.

The film itself, through its dialogue and playful banter between its characters made this point for us, because: "you lose focus in this game for one second, and someone gets hurt." But, in no point in Ocean's 8 did this statement seem true. At no point in this movie did these women appear hyper focused on their task nor did the possibility of someone getting hurt--whether physically, mentally or emotionally--ever become present. They all are just way too calm, collected and anticlimactically unfazed with the gravity of their heist. 

We also never get the same magic and charm that made every bit of dialogue quotable in Ocean's 11, 12 and 13. It also never plays to their character's eccentricities and quirks. They terribly misuse the amazing cast assembled and do nothing to build their characters into more than their specific area of expertise i.e. Rihanna's Nine Ball is just the urban computer wiz, Mindy Kaling is (inexcusably) just the unmarried diamond cutter, and Sarah Paulson's Tammy is the stay at home mom with a compulsion to horde stolen goods only to sell them for herself. The story never builds on the foundations that these talented women lay, and in return all we get are placeholder characters who are way too good at what they do.

As expected, Sandra Bullock's Debbie Ocean and Cate Blanchett's Lou fare a little better, as they get the most camera time. However, they're both primed and left idle and never truly tap into the playful interconnectedness that Clooney and Pitt displayed as Danny and Rusty, hinting at a similar deep history between the two, but never quite reaching the heights of their male counterparts. Leaving much to be desired from two amazing talents. As one critic put it, "Ocean's 8 [is]...simply not up to the talents of its cast."

They also completely ignored the cryptic nuances of the "in the know" criminal lexicon and code words explored in the other films. That was one of the things I loved about the previous Ocean's movies. It was like taking a peek into this criminal underworld that we knew nothing about. But, the intrigue and mystery behind every con, possible hustle and scam helped to keep us engaged and wanting more. 

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James Corden

is no Terry Benedict!

James Corden is the villain in this film. Let that sit there for a second...

Yeah, I don’t think I need to go any further on that. James Corden is no Terry Benedict.

This alone should keep you away from this movie.

In the end, the power of its stars far overshadows the movie’s script and we’re left with a disappointing maiden voyage into the female Ocean’s universe. 

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Lost In Space: A Beta Review

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Lost In Space: A Beta Review

For those that know me know that I’m a Sci-Fi geek. I love everything Star Wars (yes, even The Last Jedi, Uno), Star Trek in all its iterations (TV and movies), and I’m part of the crowd that is hoping Fox brings back Firefly. If you don’t know what Firefly is, just know it stars Nathan Fillion and he is awesome in everything! I also love shows that have a special family dynamic. When a show combines that and sci-fi, I’m sold. A perfect example is one of my favorite shows of all time: Fringe. I’ve talked about it on the podcast and I can go on and on about how great those characters are and their special bond as a makeshift family but that’s a blog for another day. Today it’s about the Netflix reboot and modernization of Lost in Space.

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An Open Letter to Vero, the App...Not Your Cousin!

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An Open Letter to Vero, the App...Not Your Cousin!

An Infestation of Ads

Aren’t we all tired of watching a video on Facebook or YouTube only to be interrupted by an advertisement? Do you member the good old days when social media was more about the social and less about the media.  Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat all appear to have bitten the poisonous apple which is advertisements and punishing us along the way by having us sit through endless stories on our feed selling us something or a picture that has nothing to do with my friends and family.

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Netflix's New Horror Classic: Verónica (REVIEW)

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Netflix's New Horror Classic: Verónica (REVIEW)

There is something rather intoxicating about one’s native tongue and the beauty that flows from its timbre. Almost like a sacred incantation that ensnares your ears, the spellbinding appeal of its words caress the deepest recess of my soul and makes me feel ancient. These words like roads, roots, veins connect me to the richness of a history that spans hundreds and thousands of years before me. Again, it is quite bewitching. With that said, watching this horror movie in Spanish, for me, was doubly enchanting and by far, more haunting than anything I’ve ever seen before.

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REVIEW: The Vault (2017)

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REVIEW: The Vault (2017)

We all had that one place either in our house or in our neighborhood that we all knew was haunted. Living in California my whole life, I never experienced the horror of a haunted basement or the demon possessed furnace like in Home Alone. But, we did have an old shed that was attached to our neighbor's garage and our laundry room that we all knew was the doorway to hell, or the home of some flesh eating monster that was just waiting for one of us to walk in and say its name: El Chamuco, La Chankla, La Llorona!

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The Un-Beta Opinion: KONG-SKULL ISLAND

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The Un-Beta Opinion: KONG-SKULL ISLAND

Okay, I know disclaimers are almost never needed but I will give one anyway. DISCLAIMER: This is my first blog EVER. Now that that is out of the way I would like to start out by saying I really have no beef with remakes. I actually have enjoyed watching a bunch of remakes and sequels in the theaters. Now for the most part these movies wouldn’t be made unless they were guaranteed to make boat loads of money. Usually by giving us the same movie over and over again. Sounds like a no brainer on the business side of things and that is why we are seeing a surplus of remakes, sequels and all the above.

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