Live Action Movies

Searching for Bobby Fischer


At first with this title I figured that the movie was actually going to be about finding Bobby. It soon became apparent that it was more in a meta sense though as the main character uses chess in a similar fashion so in a way the world is re-obtaining Bobby’s skills through him. It’s probably a little too soon to say for sure since Josh is so young, but he is definitely a prodigy so he is getting there.

The movie starts with Josh walking through the park with his Mom and notices some guys playing speed chess in the park. There’s a lot of trash talking going on and he quickly gets interested in the game. At home he makes a chess board of sorts with his action figures and teaches himself how to play. After that he goes to the park and fights one of the champs. Even though Josh lost he used a lot of crazy techniques that most 6 year olds wouldn’t have been able to do. Eventually he starts to play the game seriously and the parents hire a coach named Bruce. Thing is, Bruce has very radical views on chess and is trying to teach Josh to be a meaner person and to hold people in contempt. Can Josh prove that he can win without changing himself for the worse?

This is definitely a pretty enjoyable film. I have to admit that Josh being a bit older would have been nice though. It would have taken away from the prodigy part though. He’s not a bad main kid even if he makes some questionable moves at the film goes on. There is a fight or two where it feels like he threw the match on purpose but the film actually plays it off like he may have lost legitimately by the end. If he wasn’t in the right state of mind then it is reasonable that his play would suffer as a result although to that extent is a little odd. I guess we do have to take into account the fact that all of the kids in these tournaments are pretty well versed in the game so making one or two big mistakes could be fatal.

Josh receives a lot of pressure from all sides on being better at chess which does come close to breaking him. I am glad that he ultimately did not become a mean kid though and with thew support of his Mom was able to escape the tutor before things escalated too far. Bonnie gets less of a role than some of the other characters, but all of her scenes are solid. She doesn’t give an inch when Bruce makes various demands and clearly doesn’t care for the guy fairly early on. Chess is important, but she doesn’t want Josh to lose any other part of himself in the meantime. At some point Chess had become more than just a game which was dangerous.

Meanwhile Josh’s Dad got a pretty big role. Fred got pretty excited when Josh began to get really good at Chess. He is proud of him, but then at the same time the victories started becoming a big part of Fred’s life as well. He did enjoy being in the spotlight and got fairly possessive of Fred. After a while he wouldn’t even console Josh that a loss would be okay as he expected the win every time. Fred never goes off the deep end as Bonnie brings him back from that and ultimately he is able to remember what is really important. Fred and Josh go fishing and do a lot of the other fun activities they used to do before Chess and that gives Josh a more balanced life.

Bruce is the teacher and he’s definitely the worst character in the movie. The film goes too far in painting him as an antagonist for you to like him much by the end. Part of it goes back to how Bruce grew up since he is used to everything being strict and applies it in his teaching. Once he starts to tell Josh to hate everybody and skips games that’s when it goes too far. I also don’t get Bruce’s rationale here. He’s teaching Josh how to play Chess but doesn’t want him to play in the park or enter tournaments? What is Josh going to do with these skills then? The tournaments part I was particularly surprised about. Fred accuses Bruce of just wanting to make money and he may be right. 60 an hour to hang out is crazy since Bruce wasn’t even playing Chess with him in every meeting. I think once they kicked him out of the house that really should have been it for his screen time in the film. It was too late for him.

You also didn’t need Bruce to return because Vinnie smoothly stepped into the mentor role. While his style of play is primarily advantageous for speed chess, the fundamentals don’t go away. I also agree with him that it’s best to play to win as opposed to “not to lose.” because at the end of the day you should be aiming for victory. He’s the most entertaining character in the film and I was glad he was invited to watch the match in the end. He was a great friend for Josh and was the only one who was there for him 100% of the time. Vinnie doesn’t hold grudges and just seems like a fun guy. Vinnie’s the kind of guy you’d want to play in a chess match as his constant banter helps make the whole round more enjoyable as well.]

The movie also tackles the unique issue of being the best in your field. It’s something you see from a lot of people in real life as it’s a tough spot to be in. If you lose then everyone’s disappointed in you, but if you win everyone will either dislike you for beating the underdog or at the very least won’t be impressed because you always win. A lot of times the player at the top ultimately retires or just tries to get a lower ranking because the pressure is too much. For a kid this would especially be difficult.

Overall, You’ll need to like Chess a lot to get the most out of the film, but the story is strong enough where you can watch just for Josh. I think the only weak part of the film is all of the flashbacks about Bobby Fischer because it didn’t really feel all that relevant. You could cut him out of the film and nothing would really change. If anything it just took away from the main story but I suppose the film was trying to go for some parallels here. Based on what we hear about Bobby, Josh is already a much kinder player and that should take him far. Based on the epilogue we get, he already made quite a name for himself in Chess.

Live Action Movies

Chariots of Fire


It’s time to look at the well know Chariots of Fire film based on the real events of the 1924 Olympics and follows the two runners Harold and Eric. Both characters get a lot of screen time so you can say that this film really has 2 main characters as opposed to one. We see their motivations and both have a lot of trials to get through in order to perform at this event. It’s a pretty solid adaption.

Eric is a very talented runner who has had a lot of success over the years. He has now been selected to go to the Olympics and is thrilled about the opportunity. He does receive some push back from his sister Jennie though who believes that he should be focusing on his missionary work and that it is distracting him from God. Eric’s counter is that God gave him his speed for a reason and he honors him through running. Eric also does intend to do the missionary travels, he just wants to run this race first.

His main dilemma is that one of the big races in the Olympics is on the sabbath and so he can’t race. Eric gets a lot of pressure from the committee and basically everyone involved, but doesn’t budge on this. It’s definitely why he ended up being my favorite character in the film. Harold and the others are solid as well, but Eric to me had the strongest resolve. He did not waver or even seem hesitant about his decision at any point. From start to finish he was not going to race.

His actions also proved that he hadn’t put God behind racing and always had his priorities straight. Whether or not the other racers agreed with his decision or not was immaterial to him at that point. It was the right call. Meanwhile, I wasn’t a big fan of Jennie because I feel like she should have been more supportive throughout. Having someone there who has your back is very important rather than having to do everything on your own.

Then we have Harold who has always known himself to be the fastest runner. This changes when he is defeated by Eric and now he is desperate to claim victory in the re-match and prove himself once more. It’s easy to see why he was frustrated since he always used to win, but the guy isn’t quite as humble as Eric. Furthermore, I would make the case that Eric was more talented even after Harold improved through the training. Eric was just really gifted so there shouldn’t be any shame in losing to him.

An interesting parallel is that Harold had much more support throughout the film. His fiancee Sybil was around to knock him out of his depression from the first bout. While he wasn’t in the best place art the time, it was definitely important to have her there because otherwise he would have been too stubborn to change enough for the future rounds. Then you have his coach Sandy who was really solid. He helped Harold pick up his form and do little things that improved his overall speed. There is a point where being self taught will have its limits so having a coach is extremely handy.

That’s not to say that Harold had an easy time throughout though. The College did not like that Harold hired this coach trying to say that it’s just not done and making up various excuses, but there is nowhere in the rules that forbids it. There was a lot of passive aggressive talk in the room, but Harold stuck to his guns with his coach and ended up doing quite well.

As this is based on a true story the ending does get a bit sad for one of the characters. It is good that the movie chose to stay accurate rather than omitting things just to make it more uplifting. Either way you see the complete story for both characters and see all of the good they did. Both of them brought honor to God in their own ways and ran really good races.

Overall, Chariots of Fire is a pretty good film. You’ll definitely see a lot of running throughout with various montages and such as they hone their skills and race in bigger and bigger settings. I haven’t seen a whole lot of running based films so it was definitely engaging. A fun thing about the sport of running is how simple it is. Ultimately you just have to get faster and faster. Whether you win or lose will totally depend on how you perform. There are no random elements to consider or outside factors that start to appear. It just comes down to whether or not you’re fast.

3 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Pitch Perfect 2 Review


It’s definitely been a while since I saw the first Pitch Perfect. The series definitely goes for a very “Bring it On” vibe throughout and this sequel is no exception. A film being about A Capella is definitely still pretty original since that’s not the most popular form of entertainment out there and the movies consistently make you aware of this fact as everyone comments on it. Unfortunately I can’t say that this film was a success, it makes pretty much all of the mistakes you would expect.

The movie starts with the Bellas performing on another grand stage. Unfortunately there ends up being a mishap involving Amy which shames the group and puts them in a global controversy. Their group is now about to be disbanded. Fortunately, due to some quick thinking on the group’s part they are going to get a second chance. If they want to keep the group alive then they are going to have to win the world tournament. The problem is that America has never won it before and the commentators mention that nobody likes the U.S. so it’ll never happen. Still, at least now they have something to fight for!

The group isn’t in perfect sync at the moment though. Beca still enjoys this competition, but she is ready to move on with her life and has begun an internship at a big music recording studio. She is actually having some success here, but keeping this big secret is threatening to ruin the group forever. Meanwhile a new girl named Emily has shown up and she really wants to be a Bella. Her Mom was one and always mentioned that it was the best time of her life. Emily is doing her best to fit in, but the only issue is that the others are giving her a hard time and the group may not even exist soon. Still, she is ready to give it her all. Can the girls find a way to win this tournament against the German favorites DSM?

Well, I guess we should get into the positives first because they are outnumbered. Some of the songs can still be catchy. I always like the idea of a Capella battle which is just really cool. One group starts a song and then when the judge gives the queue the next team has to immediately jump in with a different song, but tuned to the same beat. In a sense this means the first team will always have the advantage, but since they’re starting they need to pick a song that picks up right away. This film has a bigger song battle than the first film as it is around 4-5 groups all going at it. It’s easily the best part of the film and really should have been the climax.

I also liked Sammy. He’s Beca’s boss at the studio and is really a scene stealer. He’s definitely a bit on the rude side, but definitely does know what he is doing. He’s got a real quick wit when it comes to music even if he is considerably slower on the take when it comes to learning someone’s name. That’s one thing he couldn’t wrap his head around. His dynamic with one of the interns was also pretty fun as the guy kept on throwing ideas, but Sammy really didn’t like any of them. Honestly I didn’t think that the guy’s ideas were all that bad. At least he was trying right? This is exactly why some people don’t volunteer ideas because you don’t want to get shut down like that. I think part of what makes these scenes work though is the intern never loses his nerve and keeps trying to talk anyway. He certainly doesn’t take it personally and it takes a lot of fortitude to keep getting back up.

I thought Emily was also a reasonable character. She wasn’t as strong as Sammy, but at least she had a lot of enthusiasm and wanted to help make the Bellas better. It’s hard to excuse her for messing up in the music battle since that was a bit selfish, but otherwise I don’t think she made any mistakes. She felt more like the main character than Beca this time around with how much of a focus she got. Without her in the squad ironically not much may have really changed, but I’m sure her optimism helped the group out a lot off screen as well.

Now lets get into the bad parts of the film. First off, the writing is pretty terrible. Almost every line is someone making a dirty joke or just saying something super offensive for no real reason. The latter kind of humor can work if handled perfectly like in Airplane, but you really have to have talented writers to pull it off. Otherwise everyone just ends up being unlikable and you’re always getting ready to cringe at what’s about to be said next. There is really no safe point where you can just wait for it to all go away.

The romance plots in the film are all handled poorly as well. This is to be expected, but they all move very fast with no realistic development. You’ve got the magician who likes Emily but can’t even form a coherent sentence together. Then you have Amy and the other guy whose romance goes from being completely shut down to then they are back in biz. If I were the guy I’d be a little worried since Amy constantly hints that she will have a hard time sticking to one guy so that really does not bode well.

Meanwhile Beca isn’t quite as good as she used to be. Her keeping the massive internship secret was not a good idea. She also gets overly defensive about it when pushed which is just playing the blame game at this point. Beca also gets completely defeated by the leader of DSM in every single confrontation they have, which was not a good look. She may not be the leader of the team or anything, but she is a senior member so you would expect her to stay strong and at least have some kind of retort to the antagonists. By losing each time she really lost her chance of being a capable member.

Then you have Amy whose gimmick revolves around constantly using self deprecating humor on herself and also leads the charge for most of the iffy jokes. She’s the one who gets the group into trouble at the very beginning of the film and doesn’t really stop from there. Her character is definitely the most extreme from the group but it doesn’t always work out in a good way.

There are other characters on the Bellas and some of them have a good sized role but not to the same extent as the big 3. Mostly they’re just here for humor scenes and the leader is the only one who gets a role. She has good reason to be upset since none of the others seem to be taking the team seriously at times. She did invest multiple years on the team so to watch it go down like this is tragic.

The film did a good job of picking commentators who really sound like professional ones in real life. The humor there is supposed to be in how crude they are while announcing. I’ll grant the film that the voices are on point and sometimes they land a good joke but usually the guy goes a little too far. Both of them constantly walk into the insults and then throw some more of them out there.

As for the climax, that one was underwhelming. I didn’t mind the songs in general. Using a competition to end off the film is a good finale. It’s just that the film really gave the Bellas a bad song to end things off with. DSM’s song completely blew theirs out of the water so it’s hard to see how the heroes won that match. I suppose going for a brand new song is a pretty bold tactic, but not one that would win you the world championships. Of course music is completely subjective, but for me it was one of the weakest songs in the whole film so ending off with that was…interesting. It really didn’t have energy compared to DSM’s.

Overall, Pitch Perfect 2 is not a sequel that takes the series to new heights. It makes all the mistakes it possibly can. The plot makes sense for a sequel as you can’t get bigger than the world championships and adding a new main character was good since she was better than most of the established ones. That being said, she couldn’t help carry the film. More scenes with Sammy would have been great since he was definitely entertaining. This is the kind of film that may be fun as you are watching it, but ultimately falls well short of being a good title. If you want a better musical film you should check out Camp Rock or High School Musical.

Overall 3/10

7 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

The Sweetest Christmas Review


It’s time to look at the next Hallmark film. This one is another Christmas rebound adventure but with a food themed plot to spice things up. When competitions are on the line even Christmas can get a little hectic. Still, the main characters are ready for anything and this is another solid film to check out.

This film starts out with Kylie lamenting her loss for the Gingerbread contest. She sent in a submission weeks ago but never received a response. At least things are going well at work and she thinks that Alex may be ready to take the next step as he invites her to a fancy restaurant. Her hopes are dashed when he says that he just brought her over so ask if she would like a promotion so they can be a team at work. Honestly it wasn’t a bad idea but Kylie already had her heart set on something else so she ends their “partnership” as he would put it. She then meets rebound guy #1…her ex Nick. Nick is living the tough life of being a single Dad at the moment since she formerly dumped him as well but now they can get back to the past. Also, Kylie ended up doing well on her submission, the letter was just loss behind the fridge. She is now determined to win the contest and prove that her cooking skills are the real deal!

This is a pretty fun film like the other Hallmark title. While I don’t think it is quite as impressive it still has all of the fundamentals down. First off, it’s an enjoyable movie with no real negative scenes to drag it down. I wouldn’t say that any of the characters are downright terrible and the pacing is on point as well. The cooking scenes are always nice and the supporting characters had nice contributions and managed not to feel tacked on. The writing is pretty good and I continue to be impressed with Hallmark in general.

On the other side of the spectrum, once again the whole film’s plot revolves around a rebound and the film pretty much justifies it here like in the last movie. I certainly find it hard to root for Kylie myself especially since Alex doesn’t even seem like a bad guy. Oblivious to be sure, but at least he’s not cheating on her or anything like that. I think the main character is where the last film really takes the edge. That’s a good segway into talking about our heroine. So, Kylie is an aspiring chef who has had a hard time breaking into the industry but is looking to do so now. This is her golden opportunity but you wouldn’t know it since she is so quick to throw in the towel all the time. As soon as she hears that a professional is joining the contest she is ready to throw in the towel and must be told repeatedly not to do so. Why does she have to be convinced to enter the contest she’s been waiting for her whole life? She throws the pity party way too quickly.

Then we find out the reason why she broke up with Nick and it’s a bad one. Basically his Dad died and Kylie didn’t want Nick to have to be busy driving to her place all the time since it was so far…so she broke up with him. She acts like she was doing him a favor but I think it’s pretty obvious why this would be one of the worst times to break up with him. With his life basically being turned upside down all she is doing is amplifying that even more. Things could have ended up pretty badly for him. Now when Nick is just getting over him she is ready to reconnect.

Meanwhile, Nick is fairly reasonable as he does his best to turn her away and also doesn’t make any kind of move until he is sure that she is no longer together with Alex. For him this is also a rebound since his wife died and the time frame can’t have been too long based on the timeline of when this all went down. Naturally the romance in this film is more of a weakness than anything. The movie is at its best when it’s focusing on the comedy and just having a good time. The film never gets too serious though and even the negatives in the romance are typically glossed over. I don’t think you’ll notice it much unless you are paying a lot of attention to it.

Ralphie is Nick’s best friend and he does a good job of looking out for him. The guy’s a lot of fun and certainly is supportive. Without him Nick and Kylie would have definitely been doomed. Likewise Kylie had a sister who was also with her throughout all of this and always had a good attitude about her. Again, the supporting cast was just quite good. I didn’t care much for Nick’s kid, but they can’t all be good. Alex was still fairly decent. He does his best to try to make things right with Kylie. He seems to have a hard time really expressing himself but you never get the feeling that he doesn’t care for Kylie. He’s just grown up in a business environment and doesn’t really know how to differentiate the two. He probably gets the saddest ending from all of the characters. His plan for the contest was certainly convoluted and didn’t work too well but again it was all for Kylie. If anything I found him to be a lot more impressive than Nick and he was certainly a more likable character. He’s the kind of guy where you knew he was doomed from the start though. He never stood a chance.

Overall, This was a fun Christmas film. There’s a lot of baking and solid characters to root for here. Even though this is primarily a romance/comedy film it only succeeds in half of its genre. That’s enough though especially since there are no true negatives here. There was no scene where I thought to myself “I’m gonna drop a star for that.” That’s definitely important and a big reason as to why I can safely recommend this title to anyone. It’s a nice feel good film to end the year with.

Overall 7/10