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.

4 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Meet me in St. Louis Review


It’s time to look at a fairly old film about lots of romance and drama. It’s not one of those old classics that has aged really well with a compelling story. On the contrary the characters can be a bit on the annoying side and most of them tend to make the wrong choices time and time again. In particular you’ll feel bad for one character who just wants to move to New York where everything will be amazing, but is being guilt tripped by everyone. The film definitely had potential and could/should have been better, but ultimately was not able to step up to the plate.

The movie starts off by introducing us to the various characters. First off we have Rose who is the eldest daughter and she is expecting a phone call from her beloved with an offer for marriage. Well, he does call but doesn’t really have anything to say which ends up hurting her day. Perhaps everyone was just too hasty in assuming anything important was going to be in the call though. That’s what happens when you let the assumptions rise with no real basis. Well, at least there is a big dance coming up so she can look forward to that.

Then you have Esther who has fallen for the next door neighbor. She isn’t really sure how to approach him though which mostly leads to a lot of scenes of the two characters not knowing what to do. John seems to like Rose at first, but eventually comes around. Their relationship gets put to the test when Esther’s little sister Tootie tells her that John hit her. Family should always come first, but would her next door neighbor really do such a thing? Meanwhile her father ALonzo has received a promising job offer in New York and so he plans to leave and of course the whole family would have to go as well. Can Esther really start fresh?

I think one of the main problems for this film is the fact that it’s a romance film that has a lot of weak romances spread together. For starters Esther falls for John almost instantly without even meeting him when he moves in. It feels quite superficial from the start and at least in their first meeting with turning off the lights he doesn’t even seem that interested. Then after she assaults him in retaliation for allegedly hitting her sister he takes it in stride almost too well. He has that “Things happen” kind of attitude about it and so they stay together.

Hey, it’s nice that he’s so cool about it I suppose, but you’d think he’d at least he asking some more questions as to why she came over and beat him up without a word. She didn’t even explain it when she came back. Where John drops the ball is at the final dance though. At the last moment he shows up and explains to Esther that he can’t go with her because he lost track of time playing Basketball and didn’t pick up the suit. Really? That’s one of the worst excuses I’ve ever heard. Look, if you’re taking a girl to the dance then you’ve got to actually take her. Cancelling at the last second is completely terrible. If he doesn’t have a suit then he should still go with her even if he’s in more of an informal attire. Maybe he’ll be embarrassed, but it’s the least he could do since otherwise he’s just wrecked Esther’s night as well. It’s not her fault that he isn’t good at managing time. John’s just not a good character. Esther may not always be the best, but at least she definitely wouldn’t pull something like that.

Lon gets one of the smaller roles from the group of kids. He’s the only son in the family and likes a girl in the town, but that relationship is barely even referenced until it happens at the very end of the movie. You could cut Lon out and nothing really changes. Meanwhile Rose gets more of a role, but definitely does seem more stuck up than the others. I think part of it is that she just has a hard time talking to the others and doesn’t always mean to appear arrogant, but it’s just how she keeps her guard up. Her character isn’t nearly as interesting as Esther’s. Then there is the old grandpa in the house who looks good. He at least arrives to help Esther when John ends up completely failing.

All right, now we’ve got the best and the worst characters left to talk about. Who should go first? Let’s start with Tootie. She’s the youngest kid and a chronic liar. Lying is already pretty bad, but when you’re lying to get someone else in trouble then it’s even worse. She makes up a story about John hitting her and everyone believes Tootie since I guess most people don’t know she tends to lie. After they find out Tootie basically gets away scott free as everyone comments how funny it is. I don’t see what’s so funny about really hurting someone’s reputation by saying that they hit kids. Tootie should have definitely been punished for that. Throughout the movie she’s also just generally annoying as she likes to say edgy stuff for no good reason.

The whole night party in the neighborhood was also a scene that started to drag on for quite a while. Nothing was really happening except Tootie ended up throwing powder in an old man’s face as part of a dare. Again, she is definitely the worst character without a doubt and the film started to get pretty mean spirited here. Some of these scenes seem to have been supposed to be funny, but they were far from it. The humor did not land in this film and I’d question the writing as well.

Finally we have Alonzo who does his best to fix the film. From the start you feel bad for him since he arrives home after a long day at work and everyone wants him to skip his bath and eat dinner hours early. He’s pretty confused at this and asks why this is the case, but they all just lie to him. I’m glad he insisted on taking the bath and then came in later on. Likewise he gets the same treatment at the end as he gets a new job which will pay a lot more and comes home all excited…only for everyone to give him grief about this. Alonzo can’t catch a break throughout the whole film and it’s a shame because he just seems like a really nice guy who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. He doesn’t hold it against the others, but it does make for a lot of pretty emotional scenes.

Overall, Meet me in St. Louis is a film that had a reasonable premise, but ended up dropping the ball. You really need to drop Tootie and then the film could rise up to at least a 5 or maybe even a 6. She just holds everyone back, but in general was just the biggest issue here. I’d say that the writing was really at fault with characters making questionable decisions and the pacing wasn’t very good. It’s a fairly long film that feels long. The ending should have also just had them all go to New York. It would have been the perfect ending and then at least Alonzo would have gotten some kind of win. He earned that much.

Overall 4/10

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

A Star is Born (1976) Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

It’s time to look at another take on the A Star is Born story. Unfortunately this is the weakest one and it’s not even close. This version tries to take things on a darker path with the characters not being nearly as good as in the old ones. There’s not a whole lot of fun to be had here and the movie relies on edge over substance. Sometimes you just shouldn’t remake a film over and over because you’re going to be tempted to change things. Well, this one definitely changed things all right, but they didn’t do it for the better.

The film starts off with a bunch of guys waiting for the main singer to arrive so they can start the concert off. Unfortunately he appears to be late as always and is holding everything up. He eventually shows up, but is drunk out of his mind as usual and messes things up. He decides to go to a club at night instead of practicing for the gig the next day and meets up with Esther. He convinces her to come along with him to the next show and eventually she starts to get some gigs of her own. Before he knows it more people want to hear Esther sing than him. As John’s career continues to slip hers continues to rise and he doesn’t take it well. Can John clean up his act long enough to be a reasonable character or will he just keep on sinking?

One of the main differences here compared to the other versions is that John actually was still pretty popular at the beginning of the film. In the others John had already started to be on the decline. I’d also argue that this version of him was more irresponsible than the others. John is already doing drugs in his first scene and spends over half of his screen time drunk. It’s really hard to come back from something like that and you can’t blame anyone but himself for his falling out of the limelight. Every scene John is in is pretty annoying especially because he never even tries to improve himself. The guy is given tons of opportunities to do just that until those chances are finally exhausted. He even had more of a solid network of friends compared to previous versions of the character and he still blew it. I couldn’t deal with him after that.

That’s not even taking into account that he randomly cheats on her near the end of the film. This really felt like the writers were trying to make the guy as unlikable as possible and that wasn’t needed with how bad he was. The whole scene was just very mean spirited and I feel like there should have been no coming back for him from there.

As for Esther, she’s a reasonable lead although not quite as nice as the first two. Part of why her character isn’t as good is how quick she is to get together with John when they don’t even know each other. If anything you’d think that he would have made a bad impression on her since his first appearance is wrecking her show and getting into a drunk fight with some random guy. He also very quickly tried to get into her house. She seems to dismiss this as just being quirky and then they get together, but the whole romance plot made no sense. The romance happens very quickly and without any build up. At least the older films tried in this area.

Esther tries to handle the situation as best she can so she doesn’t do a bad job there. If she was dealing with a reasonable man then I dare say that she would have been quite successful. Unfortunately John is anything but reasonable. If he could have tried to work with her at all then this all could have been avoided, but at this point I’m just re-hashing the same point. John’s terrible, we get it. Lets move on. Esther does her best to get through all of this to the point where she is too forgiving and takes away from her strength as a lead. If anything her manager/John’s old manager is a more balanced character as he isn’t afraid to call John out each time and doesn’t reward his bad behavior.

Unfortunately the writing is also pretty bad here which doesn’t help matters. There’s a ton of language since John’s pretty vulgar most of the time. The characters aren’t written in a way where you can root for them. Some of the songs aren’t bad, but overall they’re weaker than the older versions as well. You can really see why John fell out of favor here even aside from the off the stage issues because his songs aren’t that interesting. Esther easily had the best tunes here and comparing their songs were like night and day.

Overall, A Star Is Born is a story that has had some good adaptions, but this is not one of them. I’d recommend staying far away from this film as it’ll just wind up being a big disappointment if you liked the older ones. This film focuses too much on making the characters unlikable and not enough on actually telling a good story. Even the “little” things like everyone doing drugs sets the characters back quite a bit. It’s certainly trying for a gritty look at the story, but that combination doesn’t work. It’s a lot harder to try and forgive John when he is unlikable and gritty. I’d say that the film had potential but it didn’t even start off on a good note so that idea dried up pretty quick. Definitely just stick to watching the original adaptions instead, you’ll be glad that you did.

Overall 3/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Cricket on The Hearth Review


It’s time to look at a short Christmas film I saw last year. I haven’t seen too many films with a cricket in the lead, but typically it’s worked pretty well since crickets are just a lot of fun to hang out with. This one is a little weaker than the average Christmas title though because the characters aren’t great and the story is a little on the weak side. Still, it’s entertaining enough and makes for a good viewing even if you don’t need to see it again.

So the film starts off with Bertha and a nice young man being together. It looks like this will be a happy little romantic tale, but then he is called into war when everyone is drafted. Unfortunately he does not return and Bertha’s household is quite poor. Her father Caleb does his best to make ends meet as an inventor and falls into the hands of a selfish business man. The guy uses Caleb for all he’s worth but the man endures in the hopes of at least getting enough money to keep Bertha safe. Still, the situation isn’t getting any better and now this owner wants to marry Bertha. What will they do?

The plot may sound pretty terrible here, but there are a few details I left out. Why would Bertha ever even think about marrying this guy? Well, the trauma of losing her man was too much for her so she ultimately went blind. Then Caleb figured that he should try to let her think that everything is okay so he gave her a very optimistic look at things. He was not an accurate pair of eyes for her and he also made the corrupt business owner sound good which was his biggest mistake if you ask me. So as far as Bertha knows this guy is actually pretty nice and has helped the family a lot over the years. It’s all trust based upon a lie which is unfortunate.

Still, you can probably tell that this isn’t really my kind of plot. Everyone’s a little at fault here. Lets start with Bertha, she really shouldn’t have become blind just from hearing a lot of bad news. No matter how tragic it is it’s just hard to buy into that. I’d also have liked her to have stayed strong and not want to marry anyone. The man’s body was never found so if anything this would still feel like a rebound. Bertha just wasn’t a great heroine for me, she was too passive.

Then you’ve got Caleb who goes way to far in trying to make Bertha think things are okay. I don’t have anything against the sentiment of trying to help her get through this, but there are limits to how far you can stretch the truth before it just becomes a lie. He could have at least told her that the owner was no good. I feel like she should have been able to figure it out, but the lion’s share of the blame still goes to Caleb. He really took them down a dangerous path.

As for the cricket himself, he’s a good guy. At least he is actually trying to sabotage Bertha’s efforts, unfortunately the villain was actually quite smart. He figures out that it is the cricket almost right away which is really scary since most people would not have jumped to that conclusion so quickly. He sicks a bunch of animals after the cricket and then destroys them. Why didn’t he destroy the cricket? I dunno, but this guy was definitely pretty merciless. I was not expecting the gunshots at all, especially not in what was otherwise a light hearted Christmas special. The villain may not be a good guy, but he definitely knows how to execute a strategy as well as silencing underlings. The film handles this animal violence as well as it could with the whole thing being off screen as you just hear the gun and the villain laughing, but it wasn’t exactly needed to show how ruthless the guy was. If anything then the film should have given him human underlings to bump off. Nobody would mind them getting shot away.

The animation isn’t bad. It’s definitely got that retro feel to it and flows pretty well from scene to scene. I don’t think it’ll come across as all that memorable, but works out well in what it sets out to do. Meanwhile we get a few songs. They all basically sound the same, but are also solid. I can definitely work with these and it does give the film a grander feel even if the plot doesn’t really warrant it. I’m always up for seeing some songs in a film.

Overall, Cricket on the Hearth is not a film that will really be making my rounds in future Christmas viewings. There just isn’t a whole lot in this film to make it stand out in the crowd or compete with the bigger titles. The characters aren’t all that likable and the cricket isn’t as helpful as you would expect. He loses just about every fight he is in and never seems to be a match for the villains. He just gets lucky that they always choose not to finish him off. The main guy who vanished at sea has a plot twist that everyone saw coming, but I don’t think that quest aged well either. It’s not a bad movie so if you want to check out a quick Christmas film then by all means go ahead. It just won’t really do anything for you and you’ll quickly head back to something a little more classic like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.

Overall 5/10

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

The Nine Lives of Christmas Review


Hallmark has returned once more and delivers one of the strongest Christmas films I’ve seen from them. This one has a plot that’s a little more unique next to the others and it was a fun way to wrap things up for Christmas. This one even has a bigger focus on the animals with the Cat playing a big role here. I’d like to see the Dogs take center stage, but cats are cool too of course.

The film starts off by introducing us to Zachary. He’s a firefighter who does a lot of good in the community. As a result everyone just loves the guy and he isn’t really a big fan of the attention. He’s together with a model at the moment, but doesn’t believe in long-term relationships. This in itself raises some questions, but at the moment his life is still pretty complete. That’s when he meets a cat named Ambrose who belonged to someone who recently died. The cat has grown attached to him so now they share a house. The problem is that Zachary’s girlfriend doesn’t like cats and he will now have to choose between them.

Meanwhile you have Marilee who is studying to be a vet. She is very close and is working on Finals in her last year. She has decided not to get into a relationship until she is graduated which is quite admirable. Unfortunately her sister and her husband do not want to wait that long and keep trying to pair her up with someone. Marilee quickly fibs that she and Zachary are going out and must now find a way to grab him before the big party. Can she pull it off?

The film has quite a lot of story. Even the two paragraphs of plot I put there isn’t quite the whole thing, but it’s hard to say much more without going into spoilers. If we’re being real here there isn’t a lot to spoil just due to the nature of what kind of film it is, but you should still discover as much of it for yourself as you can. In a way the plot is the flip side of a lot of the others. This time it’s the guy who already has someone but is about to get his head turned when the new girl on the block shows up.

From the start of the film Zachary is portrayed as a pretty nice guy. He’s a little on the humble side and prefers not to be the center of attention, but he’ll put up with it if it’s for a good cause like taking photos for the calendar. I don’t think he needed to be all that embarrassed about someone giving him a hug though considering he saved her life. That would probably just be a very happy moment for him since it’s a moment where he can see first hand the good that he’s done over the years.

Crunch time for Zachary’s character is with the cat though. It goes without saying that if he picked a person over a cat he was going to really sink as a character. Animals come first and usually the person who tells you to choose one or the other is the one who should lose out there. He was a bit slow on the uptake when looking for the cat though. I think Zachary should have suspected foul play from the start but he surprisingly didn’t even seem to consider it. Good thing Marilee was around.

Meanwhile you have Marilee who is a little more awkward than the other leads. She definitely tends to mess up a bit when talking to Zachary but is always ready with her pet skills. I think she had better reason to jump to conclusions than a lot of the other Hallmark leads and I think Zachary should have handled that situation better. Marilee stays professional throughout though and just seems like a nice enough person. Painting the whole wall definitely seems like it would have taken a great deal of effort.

I was glad her co-worker stood up for her later on when someone tried to find out her info. Marilee’s boss was definitely pretty weak willed so at least the store has someone who can be helpful. The whole situation at the pet store still feels like a big betrayal considering how well known Marilee was for being a great worker. It’s briefly mentioned that the owner is afraid, but I really don’t see why he would be. I suppose we needed the situation to happen, but it could have been done in more of a realistic way. Marilee’s sister was also a fun character. She was always very supportive. While she may have been a little pushy with getting Marilee together with someone, at least she was doing it for the right reasons. Marilee just needed to point out that having fun while alone is easy.

One thing that makes this film especially strong is how good the supporting cast is. I believe there were more of these characters around compared to usual and they gave sound advice throughout. Zachary certainly got to hear a lot of wise advice from the other firefighters and Marilee had her own support crew as well. These characters may joke around from time to time, but ultimately they are here to help and do a good job of it. Marilee’s friend helps her create a profile and takes her mind off of her current issues for example and I already talked about the others. A good supporting cast helps to propel the main characters to greater heights and that’s what happens here.

Overall, The Nine Lives of Christmas is definitely a nice film to check out. It’s a fun film as expected and there are no real weaknesses here. Adding in the cats was definitely a good idea since it’s always fun to have them around. Without the cats the film would lose a lot of what makes it unique in the first place. Films usually want to have some kind of hook to make it different from the rest and the cats were definitely a good way to do that. No worries, the film doesn’t feel like you’re watching nine movies back to back. The pacing is solid and the story is engaging from start to finish so I recommend checking it out.

Overall 7/10

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

Christmas at the Plaza Review


It’s time for the third Hallmark film. This time we’ve got a big hotel to play with in terms of the decorations so it looks really nice by the end. The Hotel already looked good on its own so that doesn’t really come as a surprise anyway. It’s another good movie and while it does borrow a lot of elements from the others, that’s true for most of these titles. It’s all about how you use the elements and this one does a pretty good job I’d say.

The movie starts off with Jessica heading to the hotel as a historian here to do a piece. She finds out that this actually entails finding a theme for the hotel’s big Christmas anniversary. That’s not really her area of expertise as she prefers history to celebration but then she meets the guy in charge of the lights, Nick. Nick is all about Christmas and he loves putting on a good shot. He’s going to help her find her Christmas spirit and make this big showcase a success. The toughest part is going to be finding the missing ornament. See, every year the hotel always had a different tree topper for the Hotel except for one year where it seems to have been empty. The owner Amanda will not accept a blank spot in her presentation so Jessica is going to have to move planets to find this. Can she do it?

First off, I have to say that Amanda is definitely a little more unreasonable than the other Hallmark owners I’ve seen. She refuses to listen to a single thing that Jessica says. Now I know that she is hyped for the big celebration and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if Jessica does have an actual issue you’d think that Amanda would want to hear about it. Then you can also factor in the fact that Jessica almost did leave the project and Amanda really would have been in quite a bit of trouble there. I suppose she just likes to live dangerously.
Reginald is one of the main characters here, but he can be a bit on the annoying side at times. He has a past that really comes into play as the film goes on so you can give him some sympathy points. That being said, he could have been a little more helpful. Even if he didn’t want to actively help Jessica he could have at least given her a direct answer on what he knew and that would have saved them all a whole lot of time searching and everything. It’s one of those things that should have been simple, but he complicated the issue.

Nick’s a pretty good main guy. I was glad that he was very assertive compared to a lot of the others and also didn’t even entertain his ex’s proposition to show up once more. In this case he handled the situation perfectly even if Jessica did take things the wrong way. Nick was firm without being rude and didn’t let any of this psyche himself out of the job. He was professional at all times. Meanwhile Jessica is one of the weaker heroines. She jumps to conclusions pretty quick with Nick near the end of the film which didn’t seem all that reasonable. Additionally I feel like she was a bit rude to Nick at the start for no reason. Once he pointed out that he did have a sign up warning people not to get too close, Jessica seemed to take it personally. She was the one who bumped into him so I don’t see why she was so defensive. She even refused his help right away even though Amanda is the one who told him to help. Things worked out, but it was in spite of Jessica as opposed to being because of her at some points.

While she may not be as good as some of the others, it should still be noted that the character cast is still good. You don’t have to be perfect to be a great character after all and these two were able to hold their story up pretty well. We got our classic family Christmas party as well and this time we even got the “current boyfriend” character. I feel like it’s been a while since we got this guy to show up so that was nostalgic. He’s about as obvious as you would expect. The guy always loves talking about his job and barely seems to care about what Jessica does.
He’s quick to tell her to give up her job to work with him on his project which shows how dismissive he is. The guy was more eager to get his next drink than to hear what she was going to say. All of the warning bells were there from the start and the party was probably one of the last straws. That was a time where he openly said her job didn’t sound as important and he sent her off on her own. The cab driver helped to salvage the situation at least. It does mean that this romance is a complete rebound even compared to some of the others though so that part doesn’t work quite as well. Even if your current relationship didn’t work out, you’d think that it would take a few weeks or months until you move on to the next guy. If you can do it in the span of a day then the feelings may not be as serious as you think.

Overall, Christmas at The Plaza is a fun film. It’s a pleasant Christmas movie as you would expect. There’s a lot to look at with all of the Christmas lights and having one of the characters actually be an professional decorator was a good move so the film could really go all out. We get some nice Christmas movies as well and this one will have a lot of replay value as you’d expect. It’s true that after a while all of the Hallmark films start to feel the same, but I’ve never thought that was a bad thing. It’s like having a favorite movie and then you see everyone remaking it every year. It may be the same story, but it’s just as strong as it ever was. If you haven’t watched this one yet then it’s time to change that. The period from Christmas to New Year’s is still super festive outside and it’s never too late to check this one out.

Overall 7/10

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

My Christmas Dream Review


Time for the next Hallmark title! This one definitely puts the lead in the toughest dilemma yet because you need a lot of creativity to get out of this one. I don’t consider myself a very artistic person for the masses. I’ll make things that look great to me which is really what I tend to focus on, but if I have to make something to impress someone else then it’s gonna be tricky. I take the same approach to things like cooking as well. I make things that I would love to eat but making things for someone else to find delicious is trickier. I figure if they don’t like it that means more for me….

The movie takes place at a McDougal’s store. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary and the store always has a unique Christmas display each year. As it’s their biggest one yet there is a lot of pressure to make a really good one. Unfortunately, the store had to let go of their main painter a few days before the display because he was missing deadlines and also ruined Christina’s outfit right before her meeting with the big wigs. Christina took this assignment for granted herself, but now Victoria has implied that if she does a good job of it then a promotion is at hand. Not just any promotion, but a promotion to Paris! Christina has always wanted to go there so now she is prepared to do whatever it takes to make this display a success!

One of the big impact moments here is when Christina allows Kurt to be fired in the opening scene. It’s sort of like a Peter Parker moment from his origin only this time I don’t necessary believe Christina handled the situation that badly. Sure, she could have spent a little more time discussing the situation, but her logic was pretty sound. The boss is the one who should be making the call about his subordinate particularly as she had never even met him before. The guy missed the deadline and while he gave his excuse about a second job (Which is a little sketchy because everyone guilt trips Christina throughout the whole movie, but it’s not like he’s out of jobs right?) you do ultimately need to pull through. If the organization is counting on you to get something done and on their 50th anniversary meeting as well, you’ve got to get it done. This would have been even worse if the owner Victoria had been the one to walk in there. She absolutely would have gotten rid of him in a snap.

Kurt’s a good guy otherwise. He mostly stops guilt tripping Christina after the opening scenes. The guy’s a little timider than some of the other guys though as he doesn’t really ask Christina out directly and instead uses his son as a shield the whole time. I don’t blame him for being a bit dismissive the first time they meet since he had literally just been fired, but after she helps his kid out he’s nice enough. The party they went too was also pretty neat. I’m sure I would have passed on the karaoke but it was a good way to get her mind off the deadlines.

The kid’s a little on the annoying side though. He escapes from home just to go to the mall and complain to Santa without thinking about how much it would make everyone worry. He gives Christina a hard time throughout the movie as well but she really handles the whole situation super well. The film treats Christina taking 30 minutes to an hour off from work as the end of the world, but that just means the rest of her staff are terrible at their jobs. I don’t care if she’s the best staffer in the store, they can’t rely on her to the point where she can’t leave for a few minutes.

Her second in command was very unreasonable to this effect. While she ultimately didn’t rat her out to Victoria, I don’t think there was anything to rat out. The whole point of being a second in command is that you have a lot of work to do so if you can’t handle it then it’s not the position for you. I couldn’t believe it whenever she would appear and start sulking. It seemed a little unreasonable to me personally. Meanwhile Victoria was mostly good although the one part I took issue with was her decision to use last year’s display over the one Christina presented. While I understand that you wouldn’t want to use a low quality one, you can’t just re-use the last design. For one thing, people would remember it since it just happened. If you’re going to use an old one then it has to be one from way back in the day. It also felt like she gave up a little too easily considering that she’s such a big business guru. What would have made more sense was to have a meeting with another employee and then promoting him or her if they came up with something.

You will feel bad for her in the end though. She’s about to have some good character development and has great Christmas plans only for Christina to walk in with a revelation. It’s a super happy ending for Christina but not a great one for Victoria. The ending is a little on the cheesy side this time since Christina really gets to have her cake and eat it too. It takes away from her decision a bit because it feels like both options could have worked. I am glad that the friend didn’t get the position though.

What I was expecting to be an option from the start is Christina inviting Kurt to come to Paris with her. He would bring his kid and could start his art business fresh there. It would have been a pretty ambitious ending and of course he might not want to leave at the drop of a hat like that, but I think it would have just made a lot more sense. Ah well. Christina is a solid lead although I think she probably should have started planning for the end of the year display a lot sooner. Considering that she was pretty obsessed with work at the start, I was surprised that she didn’t have it ready.

Overall, this is another really solid film to watch. As always the landscapes chosen here look really good. We also get some nice Christmas music which is always fun to listen to. The soundtrack is just on point and helps give the film a festive feel from the start. The writing is great as always so there’s nothing really negative here. Films like this are just a lot of fun to watch and they’ll leave you feeling happy as well. It’s perfect to watch around Christmas, but naturally I can recommend it at any point in the year. A good movie is a good movie no matter what day it is.

Overall 7/10

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

Coming Home For Christmas Review


It’s time to look at a classic Hallmark Christmas film. I’ve actually seen quite a few of these as of late so expect for a mini marathon of reviews. First up is Coming Home For Christmas and it hits all of the right notes like most Hallmark films do. This one is a little weaker relative to their usual ones though due to the addition of a love triangle which really wasn’t all that necessary. Still, you can expect a wholesome experience as always.

The movie starts with Lizzie’s friend getting her a gig as the house manager for a rich family. She is eager to get to work, but unfortunately the lady of the house does not like her. This is an old lady named Pippa who is currently at odds with Robert, the executor of the estate who plans on selling the place. While they may be mother and son, they disagree on getting rid of the house. Lizzie has to find a way to get these two to open up to each other while also making this the best Christmas they’ve ever had. She has always loved a good Christmas party and hopes to get these characters to appreciate this as well. Meanwhile Robert has a brother named Kip who likes Lizzie so she will have to decide what’s more important, romance or her job.

It goes without saying but going out with your boss or even another co-worker is typically a bad idea. There’s a lot that can go wrong and there’s no real way it can help your job performance. Lizzie also isn’t all that interested in Kip from the start. If you’ve ever seen any romance film you know who she was going to choose. Interestingly though, the film doesn’t paint Kip in as bad a light as they usually do for the fall guy. The traditional formula for these films is that the girl is already with someone, but it turns out that he isn’t too invested in the relationship so then she rebounds with the first guy she meets.

In this case Lizzie wasn’t with someone at the moment so there are 2 new guys with one of course having to lose out. Kip is introduced as a bit of a flirt who can’t deal with a serious relationship so that means he is doomed here. He does try to say that this time will be different and while I’m not inclined to believe him, the film doesn’t send clear signals on this. I suppose it’s up to your interpretation, but either way Lizzie wasn’t interested so that was that.

This means that this film had a little more romance than the others although to an extent they all have a lot of romance with Hallmark. The film’s at its best when it’s not worrying about the tension here and instead focuses on how Lizzie makes a good party. With enough resources and time you can do a lot of creative things and these films will give you some good ideas.

The characters are also solid. Lizzie’s got a good attitude when working on the job and doesn’t let all of the antagonistic characters keep her down. She keeps trying to win over Pippa with her ideas until she eventually succeeds. She also doesn’t jump to conclusions the way that Robert does. There’s always one character who makes the leap but she stayed strong here. Lizzie really did her best to make Christmas special for everyone, but I think one important thing about her character is that she is a professional. Whether or not she became their friend you can’t deny that she did an amazing job setting up the party. The house looked a lot better than it had originally.

As for Robert, he’s a decent character. He takes a while to come around but for the most part he was still pretty cordial. He didn’t get upset every time he happened to show up and Lizzie was taking a break. He was reasonable there since he knew she was doing a good job and that’s how a boss should be. I do think he could have done a better job explaining to Pippa and the others why they had to sell the house though. Due to how the plot twists go and why they need to sell, I don’t see how everyone was so aggressive towards him. Surely at least Kip and the sister should have understood.

As for Kip, he wasn’t as good as Robert mainly because he was trying to be with Lizzie from the start. She brought up the valid point that effectively she works for Kip since he’s a part of the family so that dynamic was never going to work. Kip really should have given up at that point. Meanwhile Pippa is definitely not the nicest character, but she’s not too exaggerated or anything. She may not be all that kind to Lizzie, but she’s not slamming doors in her face or anything like that. She also does go along with the lead’s idea when she acknowledges that it is sound.

As mentioned earlier, this film is just solid all the way around. The writing is good and I enjoy the scenery we get in the various shots. The characters are all written well and the movie’s pacing is on point. There’s time for a lot to happen, but it never drags on. Romance movies really aren’t my thing, but the Hallmark Christmas films consistently deliver so maybe this is the winning formula. The ending surprisingly isn’t quite as happy as most of the others when you think about it. Of course Lizzie and Robert get a happy ending, but Lizzie’s sister and some minor characters we didn’t know the name of had to lose a bit. The sister should be okay since I think the agent keeps money no matter what but the other guys were ready for a new experience. Naturally Kip lost out as well. Still, the positive parts of the ending outweigh the sadder parts as no character should be particularly crushed with how this turned out.

Overall, Coming Home For Christmas is a solid film. It does remind you that you gotta be careful not to let business get in the way of enjoying Christmas and spending time with everyone. Without Lizzie at the ready Robert probably would have completely lost touch with everyone in the end. The setup is more old school with everyone arriving for several days at a large mansion to do all these traditions, but you can certainly do the same in a smaller set-up as well. The only thing this film was missing was more Christmas food as we didn’t get to see the cast eating all that much.

Overall 7/10

4 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Pitch Perfect 3 Review


It’s time to end the trilogy at long last. Pitch Perfect has definitely been a series with a lot of musical themes and some fun ideas, but ultimately it has not been able to reach up to its potential. The best parts of each film have always been the riff offs. This film does improve upon the second film in almost every aspect which is good, but ultimately still couldn’t shatter the border into being one that I’d recommend. I appreciate the fact that we got some fight scenes though.

The film starts with the Bellas all still on their separate paths in life since they aged out of the Bellas. None of them are enjoying their current jobs though and Beca ends up quitting hers. Fortunately that’s when she becomes aware of Emily sending everyone an invite to take a look at the new Bellas. The heroines were hoping to sing, but it wasn’t to be. Still, it gets them together and they decide to compete in the military contest. The winner gets to be the opener for DJ Khaled. Do the Bellas still have what it takes?

Pitch Perfect 3 is more of the same in many respects. It’s an adventure with the girls trying to prove that they have the best acapella skills out there while having to compete with people who use instruments to augment their singing ability. They are also dealing with real world issues that makes it hard for them to focus on the group at times and that is really their main dilemma. This time the main character is probably Amy although Beca gets a large role as well.

One area where it improves from the second is that the film isn’t quite as crude. Keep in mind that this is relatively speaking though as the second one was just super over the top. The third isn’t quite as bad, but that doesn’t mean that the writing is good. Most of the characters are pretty obnoxious the whole time and you can’t help but root for the disaster group instead. The Bellas really haven’t proven that they deserve to be on the grand stage.

Unfortunately the musical numbers aren’t as dynamic as in the second film. That one had a ton of songs left and right with all of the bands while this one had fewer ones. It did have the big riff off that all of the films have though. As always it was the best film in the series and it does remind me that if the whole film were about the riff offs it could be amazing. I just like the concept of people battling it out through song. The Bellas were party poopers the whole time though as everyone on the base were trying to have some fun. Without a doubt the main characters lost that round.

Despite being the protagonists, you’ll be rooting against the heroes most of the time. The disasters actually earned their spot here and you just know that they’ll get snubbed right from the start. Then you’ve got the army guys who want to have a good time, but Amy continues to harass them the whole time. They probably could have sued her to be honest, but they were trying to keep things professional at the very least. I’ll give them some props there.

The romance here is pretty weak. We do learn that the main characters broke up with the guys from the second film and I don’t see any reason why this would be any different in the third film. There’s a bit of a twist with Theo so we may not need to count that as a romance plot, but there did seem to at least be one-way interest. The film’s at its best when the gang are just pumping out songs, but surprisingly we just don’t get a lot of that.

Beca is greatly improved from the second film though. She’s more of a leader here even if she’s making some of the same mistakes. I don’t really think she needed to quit the job since it wasn’t that unreasonable. You are working for someone so you can’t expect to have everything go your way all the time right? Once she is on the team she may still panic quite a bit, but at least she isn’t being humiliated the whole time the way she was in the second film. Now that was an embarrassing showing for her. Meanwhile Emily gets a very small role here which is unfortunate. She’s still the best member of the group by far. It’s not even remotely close despite the whole cast constantly ganging up on her. She’s the only one to come up with a plan to try and get their dignity back, I think that’s pretty impressive in itself. At least she is still on the real Bellas team while the others are just getting their last hurrah.

Amy continues to be one of the worst characters in the series. Part of the issue here is that she is the comic relief character in a comedy film so they have to dial her to 11 just to stand out in such a crowd. Her fight scenes aren’t meant to be taken seriously, but I suppose it’s nice to have an action parody in here. If she was more of a loyal friend and not super desperate to be with a guy she could have some potential.

We can’t forget John and Gail who are always here to make their crude comments and follow the heroines around. They get significantly less to do here even though their plotline of filming a documentary had a lot of potential. They’re reasonable as humor characters since I do like the fake announcer voices they use. Their lines aren’t 100% terrible this time either so they have their moments.

As I mentioned the songs aren’t as good as in the second film, but they’re not bad. The tunes during the riff off are pretty clever and it’s always interesting to see how many songs you can come up with for a single theme. That’s tough to do on the spot and I still think we need a whole film for this. The climax had the heroes singing a better song than in the second film which is good as it felt more like they could hold their own. Beca also made the heroic call when it counted.

As a whole I have to dock the Bellas some points for falling for such an obvious trap near the end of the film though. That’s the kind of thing that you just can’t let happen to you if you want to keep your hype. Fortunately the villain wasn’t all that smart so things worked out, but it could have gone sideways very easily based on how they fell for this.

Overall, Pitch Perfect 3 improves on the second one and likely beats the first as well. The fact that it is basically a franchise by this point does help since you are used to the characters now. Still, it makes a lot of the usual problems which keeps it from going higher up the ranks. The dialogue is pretty weak and that’s going to doom any film. The fun parts aren’t enough to raise it above this. You’ll have a good time watching this film and if the plot sounds good then you may have a great time. That being said, don’t expect this film to really stand up on its own merits all that well. It’s a fun ride where you’ll feel motion sick afterwards.

Overall 4/10