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Secret Life of Pets 2, The

It’s been a while since I’ve watched a really good kids’ movie.  I was leery of this movie because (1) a sequel is rarely better than the original and (2) I gave the original 3.5 Icees so if this is worse, we might be getting into the 2-2.5 range.  Fortunately for me (and for you) this movie is much better than the original!  This movie comes in with a solid 4.5 Icees (as a kids’ movie).

This movie is hilarious throughout.  Not only were all the kids in the theater laughing (which hasn’t happened when I’ve watched a kids’ movie in years), but my wife and I were laughing a lot too.  Without giving out spoilers the best I can say is that this has a couple of different storylines going on at the same time, and they both are funny (although one is funnier than the other).  The writing on this sequel was much better than the original.

I can’t really single out a person whose character wast he funniest as they all had great lines (or actions) at one time or another.  Let’s just say that not only will your kids like it, but there’s enough humor in there for adults too.  If you have kids, this is a movie you should see!

There is hilarious stuff going on during the credits and an after credits thing that could easily be left out.

Enjoy…

Dark Phoenix

Sometimes there’s a movie that everybody seems to love, but I hate.  This was true for most, if not all, of the X-Men First Class series of movies/reboot.  I could write an entire column on this idiocy alone with inconsistencies throughout, bad stories, etc…   But many seemed to love this new group.  Sometimes there’s a movie that it seems everyone hates, but I think is pretty good.  This is the case with Dark Phoenix.  RottenTomatoes shows it at 23% for the critics and just 64% for the audiences.  However, I thought this was the best X-Men movie in years and if they can be this good, maybe they should continue for a while longer.  This movie gets 4 Icees out of 5 from me!

The storyline is pretty straight-forward but I won’t say what it is here because I don’t do spoilers.  Yes, the previous set of X-Men movies did a Dark Phoenix movie (The Last Stand), but it was way too corny and well… bad… I think that movie effectively killed the old franchise until it was rebooted with First Class.  This version is better with more action, more emotion and just… well… better.

The lead actress (Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones) does an outstanding job of portraying Jean Grey through the turmoil that this character goes through.  On the flip side, Jessica Chastain is an actress that is either amazing (Molly’s Game, Zero Dark Thirty) or bombs (The Huntsman: Winter’s War). This is one of those cases where I thought she didn’t do well at all, but maybe that’s just me. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender give typical performances as frenemies Charles Xavier and Magneto.  The rest of the cast fills in well, but make no mistake… this movie is about Jean Grey and Charles Xavier.

There is enough action to keep you tuned in, but this movie is more about the drama than the action…

If you have liked the X-men First Class series of movies, I think you will really like this one.  Take it from someone that has hated this reboot… this is a much better movie than most of the recent ones have been!

No scenes during or after the credits.

Enjoy…

Rocketman

Some movies are hard to rate.  This movie falls into this category.  When thinking about everything… the music, the acting, the story, the flow of the movie…  different numbers pop into my head, ranging from a 3.5 to a 4.5 (yeah, it’s that good).  I settled in the middle with a 4 Icee out of 5 rating.  I didn’t see Bohemian Rhapsody so I can’t compare this movie to that, but it is obvious that this movie got made because of the success of the other.

The music in this movie is phenominal.  After all, it’s Elton freakin’ John!  You sometimes forget how many great songs he sung until you hear them.  That was the case for me.  Plus, Taron can actually sing.  Is he Elton?  No, of course not… but he is sounds close enough to Elton to enjoy the singing and the songs in the movie. Heck, even Matthew Illesley as young Elton does a good job. His acting may just be ok, but that kid can sing. Many in the supporting cast sing as well… and sing well.

The flow of the movie can be difficult as it is hard to tell what things happened and what things were movie-made.  What things were more symbolic than actual?  Now, since Elton had a hand in this movie I’m going to guess that most things actually happened, although some of them could be actual (or contrived) drug hallucinations (like the scene in the pool that’s in the trailers).  The movie has songs all mixed up from a time perspective as many happen in the movie years before they did in real life but really… who cares about that?  The important thing about the flow is that you pick up many of the hard times (some self-induced) that Elton went through and in that respect, this movie does it fantastically.

Taron didn’t just sing well, his acting was spot on.  I’ve read others that say he should get Best Actor for his portrayl and I don’t know that I’d go that far… but it was really good.  Actually, I’d like to see him be the next James Bond.  I mean, why do they always get 45-55 year-olds to play that role?  Why not some youth that can actually play it for a while?  Okay, sorry for going down the rabbit hole.  I’m back now.

The movie is pretty blunt about some things (drugs, sex, etc…) so if that bothers you, this may not be the movie for you as it definitely earns its “R” rating for that and some language.  Elton has said that the studio wanted to temper down some things in order to have a PG-13 rating but Elton reportedly said that no because he, “hasn’t lived a rated PG-13 life”.  Makes sense.

The trailer for this movie had a scene and line that violated my cardinal rule in that it wasn’t in the movie.  I’m learning not to let that bother me as much as it did, but I’m not quite there yet as to me it borders on false advertising.  One day I may get over it…  or not.

If you are a fan of Elton John, this is a movie that you will want to see.

Enjoy…

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

I always take a peek at rottentomatoes.com to see how the “professional” critics and the audience like a movie.  It’s always interesting to me when there is such a disparity as there is with this movie (40% by the critics and 89% by the audience).  Are the critics really out of touch?  Did the critics forget about enjoyment when watching a movie?  I mean… nobody goes to a Godzilla movie to watch Oscar-worthy acting.  They go there to watch monsters…. period.  The humans are almost irrelevant.  This movie was extremely fun to watch and that’s what counts, so it gets 4 Icees out of 5.

I guess I should throw in a disclaimer that I have always been a huge Godzilla fan, and so perhaps my point of view is tainted.  However, if that’s the case then 89% of the audience who posted their rating on rottentomatoes are also Godzilla fans because we all seemed to really like it!

One of the big criticisms that the 2014 Godzilla movie received is that there wasn’t enough of the big guy.  Well, that’s not a problem here.  You will get to see a lot of Godzilla and Ghidorah (with a new pronunciation than I don’t remember from the old movies).  I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see as much from some of the others, but oh well, it’s Godzilla’s movie and as long as we get to see more of him, it’s all good.  Also, I think that the humans still have too much airtime, but maybe that’s just me.  There are a ton more scenes with monsters in it than in the previous movie, and that’s a good thing!

I wonder if they would ever consider letting humans be in the first 10 minutes and then nothing but monsters after that?  Probably not, but the human plot is not nearly as bad as the professional critics would have you believe.  Is it VERY corny in spots, yep… but that’s a Godzilla movie’s forte.  But even so, it’s actually not too bad and provides some narrative, backstory and of course a lesson that I won’t spoil for you (the old movies were Japan’s way to warn the world about nuclear weapons just 20 years after WWII).

Speaking of humans, coming back from the last Godzilla movie are Ken Watanabe (Dr. Serizawa) and Sally Hawkins (Dr. Vivienne Graham) but other than that the cast is new.  My favorite performance was given by Kyle Chandler (although it is a little over the top… but hey, it’s a Godzilla movie, remember?).  Also, Bradley Whitford is hilarious with his one-liners.  My least favorite was Vera Farmiga.  I just didn’t find her performance believeable. The young actress that plays Madison Russell (Milly Bobby Brown from Stranger Things) was up and down in her acting.  In some spots she was really good, and in some spots she was not good at all.  Hopefully as she gets older she will improve.

Now, to talk about the real stars.  The CGI team did an awesome job on the monsters.  Their structure, movement and actions were awesome and their fight scenes seemed pretty realistic.  Well, as realistic as an imaginary creature could be I guess.  This is true especially for Ghidorah during the fight scenes.  I do think it is funny (minor credits spoiler) that in the credits they list the monsters being played by “Himself” or “Herself”.

It’s no secret that there will be a Kong V. Godzilla movie out (scheduled for 2020) and I’m looking forward to it.  As long as the monster fights are like this one, keep ’em coming!

There are things during the credits that are difficult to fully read… can’t wait to have the 4k and pause to read them, and a full scene after the credits.

Enjoy…

 

Aladdin

Anyone who has read the Reviews By The Don Facebook page knows that I am not a fan of live action versions of classic cartoons.  These are cartoon classics for a reason and you just can’t equal them using actors and CGI.  This is why the Dumbo remake was a huge flop.  I don’t think this movie will be a flop at all, which sadly means that we will get more of these things.  I tried to keep the original cartoon out of my head as I reviewed this film, and so it earns 3.5 Icees out of 5 for being mostly fun.

The movie is fun and engaging in large parts, but in other parts it is dull and predictable with a plot that’s really not much of a plot.  Some of the musical numbers hit, while others are a big miss.  The action is tedious but the choreography of the musical numbers is great.

The movie lists Will Smith as the top-billed, but as the Genie he doesn’t even show up for a while.  When he does, it’s with a bang that only the Fresh Prince can bring.  It was good to see him be a fun-loving genie.  Is he Robin Williams?  No, but remember… I’m trying to write this without thinking of the cartoon.

Naomi Scott (Power Rangers, The 33) has an amazing voice and did an excellent job, especially with the Speechless song.  She was believable as Jasmine and probably gave the best performance of the bunch. It will be interesting to see what she does next.

Notice how I’ve went this far into the review without mentioning Aladdin himself (Mena Mossoud, Jack Ryan, The 99)?  Well, that’s because he’s pretty much forgettable.  He singing was okay, but his character and lines were just too predictable.  Even if I had never seen the cartoon I could predict just about every thing he was going to do and most of what he would say.

Heck, the show-stealer in the movie goes to the bad-CGI monkey.  The tiger was good CGI… the carpet was pretty good CGI… but Abu?  Nope.  He was fun and funny, but at no point did I even think he might be a real monkey.

So, is this movie fun… Yes, in spots.  Is this movie great, no.  However, as a kid’s Disney movie it is enjoyable enough to get 3.5 out of 5 (that’s like 7 out of 10).

There is a scene just as the credits start, but nothing after that.

Enjoy…

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

First, I will say that people get killed in this movie.  Shocker, I know… especially for a John Wick movie because they are normally so tame and docile.  I know I shouldn’t be giving out spoilers and I really try not to, but in this case I thought I’d make that small exception.  Okay, maybe that’s not a real spoiler but the fact that this movie is excellent and gets 4.5 Icees as an action movie.  And boy is there action!  I won’t say it’s “non-stop”, but it’s pretty darn close!

This movie picks up right where JW2 left off, and just ramps it up from there.  When last we left ol’ Johnny-boy he had been told that in 1hr a $14M price would be put on his head.  He replied that he would, “kill them all”.  I tell ya, he sure tries to live up to that.

Anyone that has watched the first two movies knows JW’s signature move is to shot someone twice, with the second shot going to the head (if he doesn’t do that with the first shot).  Well, in the movie there are many ways he kills people, include a way that will make a friend of mine (Mark R) proud.

Joining Keanu Reeves (who I really don’t think “acts” well, but he fits this role perfectly) are some of the same that were in the previous movies as well as the addition of Halle Berry, still looking good at 52.  She rocks her role in the movie!  Well, her and her sidekicks.

In addition to all the action, there are some humorous lines thrown in for good measure.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a comedy but some of the lines are really funny.

If you enjoyed the first two movies, you’ll love this one.  I know I did!

No scenes during or after the credits.

Enjoy…

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

This lighthearted Pokemon-based movie gets 4 Icees.  Now, before you start on me let me say that I try to judge a movie based on what its genre, so I’m not comparing this movie to an action movie, drama or comedy. This is a kids’ movie, so I am judging it from the perspective, and from that perspective… this was a really fun movie and isn’t that why you go to the movies?  To have fun?  This one may be geared for kids, but even kids at heart will enjoy themselves.

First, you have Ryan Reynolds at his snarky best.  Throw in some delightful (and some scary) Pokemon and you have a formula for fun.  Full disclosure: I play Pokemon Go and I enjoy it, so I have “some” familiarity with Pokemon.  That may have helped my experience but I truly believe that even if you didn’t know what Pokemon were you’d still enjoy this movie because they explain things “just enough” to bring you up to speed without totally nerding out and do so in a way that doesn’t seem like you’re watching a documentary.

In addition to Ryan being Ryan, the movie also stars Justice Smith (Paper Towns, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies, Supernatural).  These two young people really give good performances, especially Justice.  Kathryn’s performance is good, but sometimes just a little much.

This movie is lighthearted and fun but does have some “peril” and action scenes so the PG is the appropriate rating for this.  Not PG-13… just PG.  The kids that were in the theater really seemed to enjoy it and as we were walking out I heard at least one parent say, “this movie is much better than I thought it would be”.  Now if that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is!

If you are looking for a good movie to take your kids to that isn’t a Disney snooze-fest, this one works really well.

No scenes during or after the credits.

Enjoy…

Long Shot

I should probably start off with a disclaimer, and that disclaimer is that I have never “appreciated” the vulgar humor of Seth Rogen.  However, this movie also has Charlize Theron in it and I thought it would be great to see her in a funny comedy.  Sadly, I am still waiting to see her in a funny comedy, because this one does not qualify.  She’s great… and is the only reason why this movie earned the 2-Icees that it gets (out of 5).  She has great comedic timing and her deliveries are spot on.  Sadly, she just had an idotic co-star and a horrible script to work with.

During the opening scene, I thought that this movie would be different and that Seth Rogen was going to be playing someone that is at least somewhat believeable.  The rest of the movie proved me wrong as he plays an absolute idiot and someone that would not even be able to function in society, much less get the Secretary of State to be interested in him.  It’s not even that this movie goes into vulgar areas it doesn’t need to go to (and believe me, it does).  It’s just that… it’s… not… funny…   At all!

Why the critics love this movie so much 83% on Rottentomatoes is beyond me.  This is why this site exists!

I mentioned earlier that Charlize is the only reason this movie got the 2 Icees.  Well, that’s not totally correct.  Another actress in this movie was pretty good as well in a supporting role, and that is June Diane Raphael.  She’s been in other things, but nothing I’d seen.  She’s got skills.

Overall, this movie is ultra-vulgar, stupid and worst of all… just not funny.   I would advise that even if Seth Rogen movies are your thing, wait until this comes out at Redbox.

No scenes after the credits (thank goodness!).

Enjoy…

Avengers: Endgame

Wow…  There are rare occasions when I find it difficult to write a review without doing any spoilers, but that is what this will be because it’s what I do… so if this post seems a little disjointed it is because I am endeavoring to tell you how awesome this movie is without giving away anything.   However, first things first.  Let me tell you how many Icees (out of five) that this movie gets…  FIVE!!!

It has everything that an Avengers movie should have.  It has action (mostly during the last hour), humor, the obligatory Chris Hemsworth shirtless scene, and the familiar theme of heroes versus villains.  However, to try to summarize this movie as just those things would not be fair.  This movie is an end to a 22-movie run, and when you watch it, you cannot help but remember many things from the movies that came before it.

What I like is that this movie truly feels like an “end” to the story.  Not the end of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), but the end of this story.  I like that.  I like that a story that started 11 years ago is concluded and it feels like a conclusion.

This movie has plenty of emotion throughout.  As you know half of all life had been dusted in Infinity War and this movie forces us to feel how the world has dealt with that and you can’t do that without emotion.  People have suffered loss.  The Avengers suffered loss by watching their friends/loved ones get dusted right before their eyes and the wrought feeling of that loss is protrayed very well.

I would recommend watching Captain Marvel, to include the post-credits scene, before watching this movie or else something will seem a little off (like, where did she come from?).

There is no “scene” during or after the credits, but there is “something” at the very end.  I wouldn’t say that it’s worth sticking around for and honestly I couldn’t tell you what it was if I tried.

Enjoy…

Hellboy

Sometimes when a movie’s rating talks about having gore or bloody violence, you think, “ok, no worries”.  Sometimes they really mean it, and this is one of those times.  This is Rated-R for strong bloody violence and gore throughout, and language.  Note how the “and language” is just kind of thrown in at the end.  Well, there’s a reason for that.  Don’t get me wrong, this movie has plenty of f-bombs flying around but they pale in comparison to the overly-done gore throughout the movie.  It’s sad really, because this movie didn’t need that gore and would have actually been better without it.

I give this 3 Icees because there is a good story here and the storytelling (some via flashbacks) is pretty good as well.  Unfortunately I can’t go any higher than that because of all the… well, you know.  That and the fact that some scenes delve into the obvious just stop this movie from getting any higher of a rating.

David Harbour would not have been my first choice to play the title roll, or my second, third or fourth, but he really did pull it off quite well.  Mila Jovovich (of Resident Evil fame) does decent as the antagonist but could have been much better if given enough screen time to do so.

So a promising remake that I’m sure hopes to re-launch a franchise starts off with a decent story but overkills with gore.  Quentin Tarantino would be proud.  Some fans will like that, but it brought the movie down for me. Definitely do not take little kids to see this movie!!

There is a scene during the credits and another after them.

Enjoy…

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