The Last Laugh

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The Last Laugh focuses on Al (Chevy Chase) trying to convince his old client Buddy (Richard Dreyfuss) to get back into doing stand-up comedy. What follows is a basic road-trip set up where the two friends travel around and perform at comedy shows. The premise of a retired comedian struggling to get back into stand-up after a long absence and rediscovering his craft sounds like it has potential to be not just a good source for comedy, but it also sounds like a good amount of emotional weight could be presented within that story as well. 

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Director Greg Pritikin says that the big theme of the film was “embracing the present”, and that’s a message that I can totally get behind and would love to support. What I’m trying to get at is I don’t think this premise (or this premise with these actors for that matter) was doomed from the start at all, and I appreciate what the director’s intentions and goals were. This is why it doesn’t give me pleasure to report that while The Last Laugh has good intentions, it’s unfortunately comes across as a very dry, unfunny and ultimately hollow comedy. 

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I realized about a half-hour into the film that Richard Dreyfuss’s early introductory scene was still the funniest thing that had happened so far, and I really think that he is the film’s strongest element. I’m probably not going to remember his character by the end of 2019, but there is a sense of energy and eagerness found in the actor’s performance here that you just won’t find from any of his other co-stars. I almost wondered if the film was going to become incredibly meta and get genuinely funnier and smarter as Buddy’s stand-up routine gained more and more success, but no such luck. 

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 Chevy Chase, on the other hand, kind of looks like he doesn’t wanna be there. Granted, there isn’t a ton of material that he has to work with in the screenplay, but Richard had to work with the same script and he did an okay job, so I don’t see much of a reason to cut Chevy some slack on this one. The chemistry between the two actors isn’t awful, but it’s not particularly memorable from a dramatic or comedic stand point.

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The soundtrack is the film’s worst offender, at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s the most obnoxiously fluffy and intrusive score I’ve heard in ages, and while I wasn’t expecting the film to have a great or even all that good soundtrack, I was surprised by just how it’s presence brought the already-bland film down into the depths of musical hell. Truthfully, most people who aren’t as into Soundtracks might not even take notice of the music. but I would be remise if I didn’t at least give it a mention here. 

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I apologize for the long absence from this blog, but I’m planning on writing a review for every 2019 film that I see. Some will be long, others will be short, but I’m confident that the quality will pick up with each review. As for The Last Laugh, there’s not much here. While not a hateable film, Both actors have been in far better material, and the road trip concept has been stronger in other comedies as well. I can appreciate the well-meaning message, but the execution just didn’t cut it.

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The Prince Of Egypt: Blu-Ray Review

IMG_8469Dreamworks Animation entered the scene in 1998 with two animated features; Antz and The Prince of Egypt. Both films were finally released on the Blu-ray format Last month courtesy of Universal Studios The two releases might seem to be quite random, but the truth of the matter is that this year marks the 20th anniversary of both films. While I’ve never been very fond of Antz, I consider The Prince of Egypt to be one of the most beautifully crafted animated films ever made. Its powerful story, astonishing soundtrack and gorgeous animation has given the film a longevity that few other Dreamworks films can claim to match. (Some would go so far as to call it the studio’s only truly great film, though fans of Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon would beg to differ)

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Despite this, the film has gotten little to no fanfare since it’s theatrical release in 1998. While this is unfortunate, it’s not unsurprising. Unlike Disney, Dreamworks doesn’t appear to celebrate the older animated films in their catalog in the form of special anniversary releases (unless it’s name is Shrek) and for a long time the better part of Dreamwork’s early lineup of films has been unavailable to purchase on Blu-ray. That has finally changed, but is really worth a buy? Eh…depends.

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Let’s start with this tragic cover art. There has been a trend as of late with major studios and their animated film releases, where instead of using the film’s original poster or creating a unique cover, they simply opt to use a close-up of one or two of the characters’ faces. The Prince of Egypt’s cover art is actually one of the nicer looking ones when it comes to this style of artwork, mostly due to the fact that the film’s art style is always a pleasure to see (regardless of how close it’s shoved in your face) but it’s still a shame that such an inspired film has to be settled with such lazy and unimaginative box art.

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Despite this year being the film’s 20th anniversary, Universal Studios hasn’t gone out of their way to provide a beautiful new transfer. Instead, we’re treated with the same slightly grainy picture quality that you can find on Netflix and previous DVD copies of the film, with only a slight upgrade in quality thanks to the Blu-ray’s HD picture capabilities. This is a let-down, but again, not entirely unexpected. The audio quality, on the other hand, fares much better, improving upon the sound from previous editions and giving the presentation a theatrical feel. The bonus features that are included are the same ones found on the previous DVD versions of the film; An Audio Commentary, Deleted scenes and so on. The content itself is very solid, though it would’ve been nice to see a retrospective documentary or something new that looked back on the film’s legacy somehow.

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If you already own a copy of the film on DVD and don’t care about upgrading your entire movie collection to the Blu-ray format, there’s sadly very little reason to pick up Universal’s latest release. The packaging itself is far blander than even the original VHS edition of the film, and the lack of new content and just passable quality really hurts what could’ve been a special release. If you don’t own the film, this is technically the best official version you can currently get, but it could have been a lot stronger. Here’s hoping for a remaster somewhere down the line.

My Most Anticipated Films of 2017: 5-1

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Welcome back! Yesterday I shared a few of my most anticipated films of 2017, but today we’re looking at the ones that are on the top of my list. These next five films are the ones that I’ll  go out of my way to see on opening night. (Though to be fair, Kong: Skull Island also falls into this category.) Let’s begin!

Number Five: Thor: Ragnarock

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I know that I’m in the minority on this, but the third Thor entry is the upcoming Marvel film that I’m most excited about. It’s being directed by Taika Waititi, the man who gave us the wonderful “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” last year, and I’m really interested to see how he injects his brilliant sense of humour and heart into the Marvel universe. I’ve also made it no secret that Thor: The Dark World was my favourite Superhero film of 2013, so it seems fairly likely that I’ll enjoy this one as well. Plus, any film with Loki in it is going to be worth seeing. It’s been too long since we’ve seen the best Marvel villain back in action.

Number Four: Star Wars: Episode 8

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Rest in Peace, Carrie Fisher

It’s Star Wars. What can I say? It might even be your most anticipated movie of the Year. The Force Awakens was a fun ride, but what really gets me excited about Episode 8 s the new directions that it will go. We’ll learn more about Rey, Finn, Poe and all the other new characters, but we’ll also finally get to find out what Luke’s been up to all these years. (and can we please see more of C-3PO and R2D2 this time?) Seeing Carrie Fisher on screen will be a touching and emotional experience for many viewers and fans. and with a great director attached, I’m confident that this will be one of the best Star Wars films we’ve seen yet, and easily one of the best of the “Disney-era” of Star Wars films.

Number Three: Untitled Godzilla Anime

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Truth be told, we know hardly a thing about this film. All we have is that it’s going to be the first full-length animated Godzilla film, it’s going to be animated by Polygon pictures (the animation company that worked on the excellent Transformers Prime and several episodes of the Clone Wars TV show) and we have that image above. To be honest, that’s all I need. A Godzilla Anime has been a fan’s dream for years, and only now is it finally becoming a reality. I have a feeling some may be upset that I ranked such a under-wraps film so high, but Godzilla rarely lets me down. Can’t wait for this one.

Number Two: My Little Pony: The Movie 

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Ever since 2011 when I first fell in love with Equestria and the world of Friendship Is Magic, I’ve hoped and wished that at some point we would get a feature Film based on the newest incarnation of MLP. Now, in 2017, that wish is finally coming true. Despite the fact that I think the most recent Season of the show (Season 6) was really poor, I still adore the first few Seasons of the show, and think that the loveable characters, the expansive lore, and the grand story would really lend itself well to the big screen. The animation is going to be somewhat resembling a traditionally animated film, and even has legendary animator Michel Gagné  (Who’s worked on classics such as An American Tail and The Land Before Time) working on the film as an animator. Very hyped for this one.

Number One: Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie 

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YES. Finally. At long last, The Jungle Movie is finally coming out. For those who don’t know, Hey Arnold! Was a wonderful Nickelodeon series from the 90s. The series had a good run and lasted for about Five Seasons. The series finale ended on a cliffhanger, showcasing Arnold finding a journal and a map to where is long-lost parents might be located, but we’ve never gotten a proper conclusion to that story…until now. Series creator Craig Bartlett is heavily involved with the film, and many of the classic voice actors are returning as well. Out of al the films being released in 2017, This is easily the biggest deal for me. (And that’s saying a lot when there’s also a Godzilla and FIM movie coming out in the same year!) The Jungle Movie will be released as a Two Part film (Each part an hour long!) in November 2017.

And there you have it! Those are the ten films that I am the most excited to see this year. Which films are you most looking forward to. Any of my picks make your list? let me know in the comments! Have a great 2017, everyone. Make it count.

My Most Anticipated Films of 2017: 10-6

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Welcome to 2017, everyone! 2016 was a pretty bumpy year for movies. We had some Gems like “Arrival” and “10 Cloverfield Lane” but we also had a heap of disappointments (mostly in the blockbuster department, though). Not since 2015 However have I been so excited for a yearly film lineup. For some. this might not be their most anticipated Year, but for me, there are some HUGE releases coming out, and we’re  going to take a look at my Top Ten most anticipated Films of the Year.

Number Ten: Paddington 2

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This may seem like an odd choice to start off my list with, but let me explain. Me and my sister grew up watching the Paddington Cartoon on TVO Kids. It was one of the few Channels we had, and Paddington was one of the most charming and humorous shows on that network. Despite this, I was concerned that 2015’s (or 2014, if you live in the UK) Live-action Paddington film would fall flat on it’s face. The advertisements simply made it look like one of this dreadful Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Thankfully, Paddington turned out to be one of the most joyful and pleasant surprises of that Year, and it even made it into my top ten favourite films of 2015.  Much like the books and show, It was an incredibly endearing and loveable story that had a very Wes Anderson-ey vibe.  The reason I’m so excited for Paddington 2 is because it looks like much of what made the original so great is coming back. Paul King is back in the director’s chair, the whole Cast is making a return and the writers remain the same. I’m not sure if it’ll top the delightful first entry, but with the creative team involved, it’s very likely that it will come close.

Number Nine: Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Spider-Man is by far my favourite Superhero. His Role in Civil War was brief, but a highlight. It’s no surprise that Marvel Studios pushed for a solo Spider-Man so soon after actor Tom Holland’s Civil War debut, and hey, it looks pretty great! The director has stated time and time again that he’s going for a John Hughes vibe with this film, and it shows. The trailer spends a lot of time  establishing the fact that this is going to be a very high-school centric Spider-man story, which is a fresh way to go about it. (The Sam Rami and Marc Webb films also featured Peter Parker in High school, but only for a short period of time.) Michael Keaton looks intimidating as the Vulture (though this is an ironic role for him to take so soon after Birdman!) and the humour looks spot on. Will it top Rami’s Spider-Man 2?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Number Eight: Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2

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As you can probably tell by this point, I really like Marvel. (This isn’t the last Marvel film you’ll see on this list) 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was the surprise hit of the summer, and it’s sequel honestly looks like it could be even better. From the gorgeous cinematography, to the vibrant colours, to the hilarious banter between the team that we grew to love back in 2014, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest highlights of the summer. Despite the comedy that will surely be present, director James Gunn has said that this will be a more emotionally driven film than it’s predecessor, which is kind of scary, because the first film’s ending with Groot was one of the most tearjerking moments in Marvel’s whole cinematic universe. Will the sequel make audiences fall in love with Baby Groot? I think it already has.

Number Seven: Alien: Covenant

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Holy CRAP. That trailer was spooky. I know I’m in the minority on this, but I loved 2012’s Prometheus. I loved the atmosphere, the story, and the different approach Ridley Scott decided to take with it. It wasn’t so much a straight up Horror, as much as it was a pure Science Fiction epic. Alien Covenant however, looks like it’s going back to the series roots…and it looks pretty terrifying. It’s going to be a treat to see the Xenomorph Alien a classic Horror movie icon, back on the big screen, but I’m also incredibly excited for the return of Michael Fassbender as the android and the ways this film will bridge the gap between Prometheus and 1979’s Alien. Between this and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, it’s going to be a Galactic summer. (Sorry that was awful. Please don’t stop reading.)

Number Six: Kong: Skull Island

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You know it’s a packed year when King Kong is only at number six. Make no mistake, despite the fact that it didn’t crack into my Top Five, Kong: Skull Island, looks like an absolute blast. As a huge Godzilla/Kaiju fan, i’ve been waiting for a new King Kong film for a while now. We haven’t seen Kong since Peter jackson’s excellent remake back in 2005, but the great thing about 2017’s Skull Island is that  it’s not following the classic King Kong story. Instead, this is an origin story of sorts, depicting a group of people who get stranded on Skull Island and encounter Kong and other Kaiju-like beasts for the first time. The Cinematography looks atmospheric and beautiful, with some very clear visual nods to “Apocalypse Now”. Did I mention that this film takes place in the same universe as Legendary’s Godzilla film, and that the studio is building up to a Godzilla vs. King Kong film? Kaiju fans, we’re living in a golden age, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

And that’s part 1 of my most anticipated films of the year list! Stay tuned for Part 2, and let me know what films you’re most looking forward to! I’d love to read your thoughts! Happy New Year!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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This is one’s a biggie. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is likely a lot of people’s most anticipated film of the year and it’s undoubtably going to be a lot of Star Wars Fans favourite movie of 2016. As for what Star Wars means to me, my thoughts on the series have remained unchanged since my Force Awakens review from last year. I’ve grown up with and enjoyed with all 6 original Lucas-era films (Attack of the Clones is my ultimate guilty pleasure) and get really hyped whenever a new film is released. While I’m not as hardcore of a fan as some of my friends, I still love Star Wars. A LOT. Rogue One was in fact my third most anticipated movie of the year (Right behind Kung Fu Panda 3 and Shin Godzilla) and I was interested in seeing how Disney would handle a darker Star Wars movie, and how they would handle these Spin-offs in general. While I do have issues with it, I think this is a pretty good first step into a larger world.

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Rogue One’s biggest weakness is the way it handles its characters. Not because the characters are necessarily bad, a few of them are actually really interesting. My personal favourites were the Sarcastic Imperial Droid known as K2SO, and the Force faithful warrior Chirrut Îmwe. Both of these characters I found endlessly fascinating and intriguing (not to mention hilarious at times. Both K2SO and Chirrut get some quotable one-liners.) While those two are great and memorable, the rest of the cast struggles. The acting is good across the board, but there are so many characters fighting for screen time that it can be a little hard to follow. (At least in the beginning) The way the film jumps from Planet to planet and character to character felt a little messy near the beginning. Thankfully, The film does smooth out as it goes along, and by the final climax you do like a lot of these characters. Just don’t expect them to be as memorable as the cast featured in last year’s “Force Awakens.”

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However, There are some returning characters that do steal the show, particularly Darth Vader. Holy crap….While his screen time is minimal, it’s very impactful. This film truly reminds you why he’s considered to be the most iconic movie villain of all time. Vader’s presence in this film is one of the highlights of not just Rogue One, but the entire Saga. One area that this film vastly improves upon Force Awakens in the action sequences. As much as I loved Force Awakens back in 2015, I was a little underwhelmed by the action set pieces. Not the case with Rogue One. Nearly every battle and fight is exhilarating and has real stakes involved.

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Rogue One might just be the most beautiful looking Star Wars movie ever made. The cinematography blows almost every other film this year out of the water, This is a gorgeous looking film right from frame one, and it keeps that constancy through the entire running time. Visually, this movie is near- perfect. Director Gareth Edwards really loves playing around with scale (as seen in 2014’s Godzilla) and it proves to be effective when we get a good look at a Star Destroyer and see just how big it is compared to it’s surroundings as it looms over locations filled with characters.

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Rogue One is a relentlessly exciting, if a little flawed, entry into the Star Wars Saga. It’s going to be really interesting to see where Disney goes from here, now that this darker tone seems to be proving successful. Will we finally get a Darth Vader movie? I’m still hoping for a Droid movie myself, but that’s besides the point. While it doesn’t quite top The Force Awakens for me, This is still la beautifully made film that begs to be seen on the Big Screen at least once. Go out and see it. Despite the flaws, it’s one of the better blockbusters of the year.

Just a Quick Word on Arrival

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I’ve once again hit a nasty wall. Unhappy with the way my written reviews for this amazing film were turning out, I’ve decided to give you all an audio review for the film which should be due out sometime this weekend (hopefully.) All I’ll say right now is that I firmly believe  that this film will go down as one of the greatest Science Fiction films of the Decade. You read that right. Go see it now. It’s the best film currently in theatres. It’ll move you, it’ll challenge you, and you’ll see some cool aliens. What else could you want?

 

Moana

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I’m so happy that Disney’s been on top of the world this decade. It feels like the 90s all over again, when the studio would release success after success. While I  don’t think any of their recent “Revival Era” films have quite reached the heights of classics like “The Lion King”  or “Aladdin”, they’ve still proven to be fantastic and highly entertaining films that are worthy of the Disney name, and Moana is no different.

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Moana treads familiar ground during its first act. As the film is from the same creative team behind “The Little Mermaid”, parallels can be easily made between the two films. A feisty teenager longs to explore the world beyond her home and venture out into the open seas, but her stern father initially says “Nuh.” Eventually Discoveries are made, an adventure begins and memorable characters are introduced. There’s a bit more to it than that, but If you think that sounds straightforward, that’s because it kinda is. Moana doesn’t break new ground in terms of storytelling, but it does get a lot of mileage out of its terrific main characters characters. Where do I begin? First thing’s first; The demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) pleasantly surprised me. The trailers made the character look like little more than the comic relief, but there’s more to him then that. His backstory is interesting, he’s irresistibly charming throughout, and his back-and-fourth Dialogue with Moana results in some of the funniest comedy that Disney’s written.

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Speaking of Moana, she’s a solid lead. Her drive for wanting to explore the world beyond her island doesn’t come across as selfish or rash, but instead feels rather genuine and even heartfelt. (Teehee, those of you who’ve seen the movie will hopefully get it.) Even the Ocean is a character! There are several points in the film where the ocean assists Moana and Maui on their adventure, and while it’s mostly played up for comedy, it does carry a significant weight to the story that pays off nicely towards the end. There’s some fun comic relief to be had in the form of a dopey wall-eyed chicken that tags along for the ride, as well as a monstrous Crab who sings a catchy “flight of the Conchords” style song, but the real standouts are Maui and Moana, particularly when they share screentime. The animation is, of course, crisp and beautiful. Disney’s stepped it up yet again with endless shimmering oceans and  luscious green islands that make you wish you could leap into the screen to take it all in. There’s even some nice little bits of Traditional animation to be found, most notably mini-Maui (Maui’s living tattoo that serves as his conscience throughout the film, and also helps provide some of the biggest laughs.)

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Moana’s really good, but is it great? It doesn’t quite make it there, but almost. The biggest problem I had with with the film was it’s tendency to rush some of the character development. There’s A LOT that happens in the film, and because of this, some of the character development feels a tad light. I won’t spoil them here, but there’s a few turnarounds near the end of the film that feel a bit too quick and easy, causing them to feel less impactful. While the film is a lot of fun to watch, it doesn’t truly come alive until Moana and Maui meet eachother. The first act is fine, but it plays out a little too closely to your typical Disney Princess story, which was especially noticeable after films like Tangled and Frozen have really shaken up the genre. There’s also a reveal of the film’s antagonist a little too early on, leaving it’s grand entrance during the climax feeling a tad underwhelming. On a more positive note, the music in the film is very well done, with songs like “You’re welcome” and “Shiny” still stuck in my head as I write this review. The soundtrack itself is culturally unique and fresh, helping this film stand out amongst other Disney animated musicals.

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Moana may not be as surprising or inventive as Disney’s earlier 2016 film “Zootopia”, but it’s still a fun and enjoyable ride that easily fits in nice and snuggly with the rest of the “Revival Era” films. It’s actually nice to have two vastly Disney films in one year, with Zootopia being the more “out there and unique” one, and Moana being a very comforting classical Disney story. 2016, for the most part, has been a really weak year for film, but Moana will be fondly remembered as one of the good ones.