A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

Who doesn’t remember good ole Mr. Rogers from back in the day right? The show was always fun and while I don’t think I saw a ton of episodes, it was certainly around. Having a film based on both the show and Rogers himself was a fun idea. The movie can certainly get dramatic and all but it seems to have been a rather accurate/realistic portrayal here so I imagine everyone would be satisfied at this point. Since the film is based on a real story there won’t be a review or score but I will still have my thoughts below.

The main character here is a guy named Lloyd. He has been dealing with issues with his father. Lloyd blames him for their mother’s notably unpeaceful death. The guy was cheating a lot back then and now Lloyd finds it hard to forgive him even if the guy seems to have changed. Mr. Rogers wants to help Lloyd let go of this grudge in the show and eventually meets him in the real world. Lloyd is a reporter and his boss wants him to write about Mr. Rogers. Lloyd looks forward to finding faults with Rogers but is unable to find any. Could it be possible that Mr. Rogers is just a nice person? Lloyd has never thought that this could even be possible.

The writing is solid and so even if you know more or less exactly how this will play out, the adventure is good. I would say the film’s only weakness is that it can go a little too far in being dramatic at times. For example, it takes Rogers an eternity to finish his sentences at times because he’ll take very long breaks to look at the camera. We have moments of silence that go on for a while and in general the film’s pacing is like that of a glacier. This is a movie that will absolutely feel long as every scene is stretched for maximum effect. I think it can be a bit much at times but I understand why the effect is used. That’s just how this is supposed to be played out.

As for Lloyd, well he’s definitely not a nice character for most of the film. He holds onto his grudges and just does not move forward. Ultimately he does manage to learn his lesson though and we see how Mr. Rogers has changed him. Rogers does a tremendous job of being a good role model at all times. He is very conscious of how much kids look up to him and doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s not perfect of course and he knows this but he goes out of his way to make sure that people see the good side of him. He even leaves mistakes in the episodes after editing so that kids can see that sometimes things don’t work out. It’s a good lesson to be learned and also shows that he was really good at being an editor. He knew what scenes to keep and what scenes to cut.

It’s very unlikely that you will walk away from the film not liking Mr. Rogers. He’s just a very good guy and I would have liked seeing him as the main character of the adventure even over Lloyd. I suppose Lloyd gives us the more dramatic parts of the story but you could absolutely do a lot with more Rogers scenes. Seeing him take the train or eat out at a restaurant are fun because you get to see him outside of the routine. At the same time, he always has to be with Lloyd in these moments since that guy’s the main character and it seems like he holds Rogers back there. I know the point is that Lloyd’s not a great guy but so until he changes, his scenes can be more on the brutal side.

More scenes showing Rogers hanging out with the kids and being patient with everyone would be enjoyable. We see that he drives his producers crazy since he has a hard time sticking to the script but it also shows that he is very serious about his show and persona. He never breaks character and is always helping out. More scenes could show him at various news shows and programs where he could talk to people directly.

I did enjoy the dream Lloyd has where he joins the show though and that was a moment where the movie used his character really well. It was fun seeing him shrink and have to accept his new situation. it was certainly very trippy but it worked out well. It’s also cool to see the old sets and the music since it’s exactly how I remembered it. It’s been many years since I’ve heard the theme song but there are just some tunes that you never forget. The intro song to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood is definitely one such example. It could probably be another 30 years before I hear it again and I would still recognize it.

Overall, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood does a great job of really capturing the spirit of the show while also having a story where you get to see how Rogers’ changes someone’s life personally. I do think that the adventure would be even better without Lloyd but having him around was a good way to see how Rogers would deal with this situation. It was important to see him take on Lloyd’s bad attitude with a good attitude of his own. Nobody could really knock Mr. Rogers off of his game. He was really committed to helping out everyone as best he could and ultimately he succeeded. If you’re feeling nostalgic about the series or just want an emotional story then this is certainly a good pick.

Cast Away Review

It’s time to look at a survival film. These are fairly hard to do. There are the easy ones where it’s a group of people stuck on an island inhabited by giant monsters or an enemy clan. Those can work because you’ve got a lot of dynamics at play. Then you’ve got a survival film like this one which is tricky because there is only one character on the island. As a result you run the risk of the film just being boring and unfortunately…that’s exactly what happens here. There is some spoilers for the ending of the movie below so you have been warned.

The film starts off pretty strong as we meet Chuck and see that he is a pretty fierce FedEx mail guy. He is pretty obsessed with his company being able to meet deadlines and wants them to achieve more. His advice seems to be working and so Chuck gets ready to make one last delivery/meeting before going back home for New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately the plane he is on crashes and now he is stuck on an island. He’ll have to try and survive for a long while as there is no way to get off this island and people may not find him for a long while. Can Chuck pull this off?

The film has a good beginning and an interesting ending. The problem here is the middle. As soon as the plane went down the movie basically went right along with it. There’s just not much to see or enjoy about Chuck’s isolated vacation on the island. There’s no one for him to talk to and not a whole lot for him to do either. As this is the bulk of the movie you can see how it gets old fast. It’s basically all of the usual survival tropes. He tries to make a fire, tries to make a boat, etc. Each attempt injures him further which makes all of his activities a lot harder than they would be otherwise. His attempts are pretty good for the most part and he’s definitely a creative guy so he is able to make things work out. You can respect that from his character, but again it doesn’t make for interesting viewing.

I’ll give the movie credit for not being nearly as gross as a recent film where a girl is stranded on a rock with a shark nearby, but it still does do some iffy things like having a crab get stabbed and eating raw fish. These scenes did the film no favor. It takes what could have been an easy 7/10 film and drops it a few stars until it’s under the baseline. If you want to do a survival film, you’ve got to have at least 2 characters. Yeah, you run the risk of adding romance to the movie but at least you can have some dialogue and maybe even throw some humor into the mix. With just one person there is no chance of that and it’s pretty much a waste for Tom Hanks since dialogue is his strong suit.

As I mentioned, the beginning of the film is pretty solid. It establishes Chuck as a pretty likable character. It’s a charismatic opening and the film has a lot of fun with the scenes. The writing is solid and a whole film could have been made about Chuck making the delivery times faster. Then once he gets off the island it’s like the film finally restarts. Of course now it isn’t quite as fun since everyone moved on without Chuck. His fiancee is gone and it’s like he has to start life over from scratch. At least he kept his job, losing that would have probably made the ending a little too grim. It speaks well to the company as FedEx just looks really good here. They even throw him a nice party and while part of that is for the PR, the guys in the office just seem like a lot of fun.

The movie does drop the ball with the climax though. As mentioned, the fiancee is with some other guy now and at first the movie is pretty tame here as Chuck accepts this and calmly tells her goodbye and wishes her well. Then she runs out of the house and cheats on her current husband one last (presumably) time. I think that scene didn’t need to be in the movie. She made her choice and now she needs to live with it. She makes it pretty clear that the new guy is just a rebound, but that doesn’t make the situation any better. Also, the fact that the other guy used to know Chuck just makes it worse. The fiancee moved on pretty quick after all since she already has a kid and it’s only been 4 years so that means she probably waited 2 years max. That’s a fairly quick rebound.

At least now Chuck will be able to focus on his job again. He’s definitely a solid employee as he gets right back into the field. The ending shows that he now has a passion for the work again and I expect he’ll be making a lot of deliveries. He also gets to meet the person who indirectly saved his life through the colorful package that he found on the island. I think that person could make for a good friend although I imagine that Chuck won’t be making a rebound anytime soon.

Overall, Cast Away is a film where the actual premise is really what held it back a bit. The characters are fun and all, but it feels like the film hits the pause button early on as we’re stuck on the island for an extremely long amount of time. Cutting part of that time out would have helped the film quite a lot. Being stuck on an island like that just limits the film’s opportunities. If you like films about experiencing nature and such then check this one out. If you’re hoping for a lot of fun dialogue and situations then you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Overall 4/10

Big Review

It’s time to look at a classic comedy film involving a form of body switching. In this case it isn’t a body switch like Freaky Friday, but more of a body upgrade as the kid turns into an adult. This kind of plot is always pretty interesting, but at the same time it can head into iffy territory very easily. This one does go there I’m afraid and ultimately doesn’t quite handle itself as well as Your Name did.

Josh has been having a tough time of it lately. He wants to impress someone at school but not only is she way older than him but she already has a boy friend. Josh runs off into the dark side of the park to try and forget this. There he sees a wish machine and wishes that he could be bigger so he could ride a roller coaster. As you can probably guess from previous wish type plots, the machine takes him very literally and decides to increase his size all the way to that of an adult’s. Josh tries to explain this to his Mom, but she’s not buying it. Somehow he has to find the machine again to reverse the wish, but he’ll need to find out where the circus is playing next. His friend Billy is ready and willing to help, but it’ll take a few weeks so in the meantime Josh needs to learn how to hold a job and live out this new life.

I think that’s where all the potential in these kinds of films is. Seeing how the kid in an adult’s body will handle the rigors of adult life. Honestly, most adult stuff a kid could totally handle. It’s just the taxes and finances that would probably start tripping him up. Josh is definitely lucky that this is a pretty old film as it was a lot easier to just walk into a shop and get a job back in the day. Being in charge of the toy section was also incredibly lucky for him. The film has a lot of nice scenes of Josh just enjoying this new situation. He can now buy whatever he wants and there’s little reason to go back to being a kid. Of course, he ultimately knows that he does need to return as it’ll be rough on his Mom if he doesn’t but Josh isn’t in as much of a hurry as he once was.

Where the film really drops the ball is the romance with Susan. Again, keep in mind that Josh is just a kid here. Even if he is in an adult body, it doesn’t make the romance any less iffy. He should have made sure things didn’t escalate since it’s hardly fair to Susan, but he decides to just enjoy the moment. The romance goes a lot further than you’d expect given the circumstances and it’s just hard for the film to recover from that. It’s a plot point that should not have happened at all. At the very least if the movie was going to go that route then Josh should have been aged up by a few years to make it less iffy.

Susan also doesn’t seem like a good character anyway. It seems like she has a lot of quick flings so she’s not very loyal. She takes the plot twists pretty well by the end, maybe better than she should. Then we have Paul who was the first rebound guy. He makes for a good antagonist, but of course he is naturally not here to be particularly reasonable. The scene of him trying to fight Josh in hand ball was pretty intense. I’m glad Josh didn’t let him cheat, but he certainly lost the fist fight there. Paul knows how to throw a good punch.

Meanwhile, Billy is a good friend to Josh. He does a lot of the research and puts a bunch of effort into getting Josh back into his original body. You can’t deny his work ethic, but I think he could have been a little more patient with Josh. Josh was ready to turn back to a kid after he finished some phone calls, why couldn’t Billy just wait a few minutes? Instead he pulls the whole “It’s either me or your job” card which isn’t particularly fair to Josh. Still, for the most part he is quite solid.

While the writing is decent for the most part, Josh could have been written a lot better. He’s extremely oblivious which is one of the reasons why the kids don’t usually rank. He doesn’t realize that he is acting like a kid half the time which is a bit iffy. Playing with his food at the ice cream store will probably make you cringe as well. He goes from being a kid to a grown up pretty quick mentally to the point where he’s probably gonna be pretty messed up once he becomes a kid again. Also, he could have done a better job of explaining things to the Mom. He should have gone with Billy and they could have proven themselves somehow or another.

I’d say that the best scenes here are when the characters first head to New York. I think the film did an accurate job of showing just how violent the city used to be. Gun shots were frequent and everyone was only concerned with staying safe. The New York pizza looks as delicious as ever and you’ll probably get hungry just looking at it. Getting any sleep the first few nights in such a rough neighborhood would probably be one of the hardest parts about suddenly growing up. I wouldn’t have minded just seeing more of the neighborhood and such.

Overall, Big is a fun film, but I can’t really call it a good one. Get rid of the romance and it’s a whole other ball game. After all, the film’s first half is where it is strongest. Once the film starts tying itself down with romance and drama it has less time to be a comedy. It’s unable to fulfill both roles. If you like the premise then I’d recommend checking this film out. Otherwise, Your Name is a better body switching film that avoids the issues that this one has. I definitely expect that Shazam will be able to pull off this concept more effectively.

Overall 5/10

You’ve Got Mail Review

It’s time for a relatively modern romance film from back in the day. Naturally romance isn’t exactly my favorite genre, but at least it also deals with small businesses vs corporate control which is more up my alley. It’s not a bad movie but as with most in this genre it does start out better than how it concludes. If the friend zone card had been played then that may have worked out a little more.

The film starts off by showing us Kathleen’s life. It’s rather plain at the moment and she needs someone to vent to. That’s when she reveals that she has been talking to someone online using a chat room in secret. This has been pretty good for her well being and the guy in the computer enjoys their talks as well. It’s all anonymous so nobody has to be any the wiser and even the two people in the chat don’t know who each other is. That’s when Kathleen’s life is turned upside down as a new book store shows up to run her out of business. They believe in the Wal Mart strategy of starting prices low to put all of the local shops out of business before raising prices again. The leader of this company is named Joe Fox and he is determined to destroy Kathleen.

Well, he does say that this isn’t personal but who would actually believe that? What Kathleen doesn’t know is that Joe is the person she speaks to on the phone. He didn’t know it either for a little while, but finds out before long. He has to try and keep this secret from her, but can he do it? It’ll be tough but Joe didn’t become a rich CEO for nothing, he’s still got a chance here!

The whole point of the dynamic is that both characters don’t know that they are actually confiding in each other. That should have stayed the focus for most of the film instead of Joe finding out and then tricking Kathleen for the rest of the film. I think the movie would have been a lot more fun if this had been the case. It is interesting to see Joe playing so many different roles of course, but it can also be a little dicey.

Also, we can’t just forget the fact that of course corporate wins because they always do in these kinds of scenarios. Kathleen was put out of a job so it’s hard to see her get so friendly with Joe right afterwards. At first he plays the friend card so they just hang out platonically but that never seems to last in these things. They may as well be honest with each other and just say that staying friends was never in the game plan for them. The actual romance just doesn’t work at all.

Fortunately the writing isn’t half bad though. For the most part the humor lands and the characters aren’t that annoying. I think Kathleen had the best supporting cast. Her reporter friend Frank was good for a while since he is so paranoid about everything and always trying to take shots at technology. The only tricky part here is how quick he was to try and leave Kathleen for another reporter. That’s where you end up losing all respect for the guy. Kathleen’s co-workers were also pretty fun and they did their best to be useful. Even when Kathleen’s mystery man seemed to be a crook they were very supportive.

Meanwhile Joe just had 2 characters on his side. The first was his friend who would walk him to the diner when Joe was feeling scared. He seemed like a reasonable guy, but didn’t get to appear much. Then we have Joe’s friend/maybe wife so seemed like a reasonable character until the very end where she suddenly wasn’t. That was the film’s forced way of leaving both Joe and Kathleen open but it was basically plot convenience there.

As for the two leads themselves, they weren’t bad. Joe is certainly ruthless in taking down the small businesses, but I guess that is his job so like the guy said, it just wasn’t personal. Of course you shouldn’t just leave your ethics at the door either so it’s complicated. Kathleen was also a reasonable character and put up a valiant effort in trying to stop Joe’s company. It’s just a shame that she couldn’t claim victory here.

Overall, You’ve Got Mail was a pretty fun film that was mainly held back by the unnecessary romance. Really, just take away the romance and you’ve got a better film. It could have easily ended when Joe put her out of business. If you want a happy ending then just have her get rehired by them. I think that would have made for a more wholesome film and would have given the characters more dignity as well. You still just can’t fall for the person who put you out of business. That’s just too much to buy into. If you want a decent rom-com to watch then this is your ticket. It’s a good bet to watch this one since typically the genre can be a little dicey.

Overall 6/10

The Polar Express Review

THIS IS THE POLAR EXPRESS!!!!! When the conductor yelled that, it was an intense scene. It’ll remind you of a time when someone may have said that you’re homemade oven baked french fries tasted like McDonald’s so you’d say “What…THIS IS THE HOME COOKED DINNER I MADE!” I dunno, I just got that vibe and it was a pretty epic quote. I can’t say that the film is very epic though. It’s a nice Christmas story, but that’s about all that I can say for it right now. It definitely needed some work in different areas and doesn’t fully live up to its hype, but it feels good to see a quality Christmas film.

I didn’t actually realize this while watching the film, but the main character’s name was actually never said? That’s pretty surreal if you ask me. Well…it’s not like he was a likable character anyway so I can get around that. One day, the kid goes outside so he can catch Santa Clause in the act of giving away presents, but a train pulls into his backyard. The conductor tells him to climb aboard and the main character reluctantly obliges this request. Once aboard, he meets the other kids, but the main character can’t stay out of trouble. He drops a girl’s train ticket out the window so now he must try to find it as the train gets closer and closer to the North Pole. Time to meet Santa!

As you can already guess, I did not like the main character. He was constantly double thinking the other kids and was always way too hesitant. Who would leave their warm house on Christmas Eve in the dead of night to go aboard a mysterious train? I would have still had some respect for the kid if he had gone in right away, but he waited until after the train was leaving to jump on. These moments of hesitation just make him look bad. The main character also loses the girl’s ticket in rather clumsy fashion. How hard can it be to hold on to a ticket?

The film likes to be very mysterious so you can decide on whether things really happened or if they were a dream. In one scene, the main character sees the conductor take the girl to the top of the train where they braved the elements and walked all the way over to the front area where she took charge of the controls. The main character tried to follow them, but it was a long journey and he got to go Skiing. I’m pretty sure that he just fell in the snow and fainted before waking up and quickly walking over to the front. Still, I wonder if he had started making the journey at all and maybe this was all just an elaborate dream…nahhhh. I still would never say that this was a dream, supernatural elements are fun after all.

The main girl was all right so she helped to cover for the main character. She believed in having a good time and going with the flow. Unlike the main character, who forgot about the kid who jumped aboard and then did not want to take the risk of giving him any hot cocoa, the girl was always ready to help. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the shy kid who came aboard. Jumping on the train was already dicey, but then deciding to hide by himself in the final car….I don’t know about that. Seemed like a strange move and there weren’t even any token bullies that were around to keep him away. There was the smart kid who loved to talk and talk and talk, but the guy was never mean spirited. If anything, it was impressive to see him keep up with the main characters. Almost a little too impressive, but I’ll let it slide.

There aren’t a whole lot of Christmas songs to be found here, but a few did pop up before the film ended and those tunes were good. The soundtrack was good enough considering that I didn’t have huge hopes for it and the quick Hot Chocolate dance wasn’t bad either. It was neat to see how you can throw a Hot Chocolate in such a way so that it would not spill. Now that’s what I call true Skillz!

The animation still isn’t my thing. It sort of reminds me of those “Animate yourself” ads that played a while back before the hand drawn versions replaced them. It doesn’t feel very high budget even though it probably did cost a bit for the transition. I think American animation can be good, but I prefer more of a traditional approach like Justice League or something or that nature. It allows for more streamlined action scenes. For example, jumping on the train and getting across the mountains would be more intense visually using the classic animation strategies. The scenes were still cool though and the animation isn’t bad like some other styles, but this “theater” feel that I get from the film isn’t really a positive this time.

I felt like the film moved on at a fairly quick pace. I never found myself bored, but you definitely need to go into the film remembering that there is barely a plot. Most of the film is just the train ride to the goal and the slight setback of going through a factory first. Nothing really happens by the end so you can go away with an empty feeling, but maybe you’ll walk away with a grin instead. I feel like the film would have been significantly better with older main characters. Yes, not just better, but significantly better. I actually thought up a plot that would have made this film almost unrecognizable in terms of quality.

The main characters could have been business folk who never had time to spend with their kids on Christmas because they would work overtime or they would be catching up on zzzzz’s. So, one day a train rolls into the backyard on Christmas Eve saying that they will learn the true meaning of Christmas, and a large check of money if the trip was a waste. The business guys and gals would jump at the chance for this and during the ride: bonds would be formed, (Friendzone bonds because the main characters will all already have an attachment or just not be interested in that sort of thing) challenges would be overcome, and lessons would be learned. The dialogue would be much better and the characters would have a chance to be charismatic.

Tom Hanks ended up being the best character here and more adults in the film could have given him some competition if given the chance. Characters are very important and you can always count on that aspect of the film being able to tip the scales when given a chance. We need a Polar Express remake with adults and as long as the writing is on point, you can bet that it will be an improvement.

Overall, The Polar Express is a good film. I don’t really buy into the enormous amounts of hype that the film got back in the day, but it’s a fairly nice adventure. I just wish that the characters could have been more likable as that was the film’s main weakpoint. I wouldn’t have minded an action scene or two as well while I’m on the subject. You can’t go wrong with a quick fight right? I doubt this film is getting a sequel at this point, but if it does…I want Santa Clause to have to debate on whether he should work on Christmas anymore or not. I also want to see the parents ask where the kids went during the night, they must have noticed that something was up after all! (I do like how they dismissed the bell though, it was an epic troll moment. Of course, I could go on and on about the bell. Just when I thought the main character couldn’t get worse…he put the bell in his broken pocket. I just don’t see how you would do such a thing, you would notice that it wasn’t in your pocket immediately right? Noooooooooooo)

Overall 6/10