Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thomas & Friends: King of the Railway (2013) Review:

With more recent specials receiving better ratings and appreciation among fans, the Thomas & Friends brand at this point was beginning to have a comeback. Not only were older characters returning, but the plots were becoming more crafty. This attracted more of the older fan base and began making people feel more optimistic about the show's future. However there were still a number of changes being implemented that further distanced the brand from its origins. A big one was dropping Michael Brandon and Michael Angelis and replacing them with Mark Moraghan as universal narrator for the show. Adding to that were other things being altered that demonstrated the creative team behind everything was looking for new ways to bring in old and new fans.

The plot to this story has a mix of threads that intertwine into one. With the Earl of Sodor arriving on the island, Sir Robert Norramby looks to rebuild an old castle that had been abandoned for some time. Along with that he brings an engine to the island named Stephen who was one of the first railway engines around. From what's been told though, there's a possibility of the king's crown of the old castle lying around the land somewhere. The direction and writing for this feature was handled by a whole new set of people this round. Directing went to Rob Silvestri, an animator to other films like 9 (2009) and Gnomeo & Juliet (2011). The screenplay was written by Andrew Brenner, a long time fan of the show and writer to shows like Fireman Sam. These were things that made fans look forward to what this feature was going to offer.

What makes the plot to this feature more engaging than previous ones is how it merges all threads together at the end. The Earl of Sodor voiced by Mike Grady is about the second most significant human being aside from Sir Topham Hatt on the island and his personality is quite energetic. There's also some new engines being introduced. Stephen voiced by Bob Golding as the new old fashioned engine is great. His voice is enthusiastic and makes the old timer engine quite a peppy guy. Accompanying Stephen is another small engine called Millie (Miranda Raison) who has her own spunk and will not be pushed around by other engines. Then there's two streamlined engines Conner (Jonathan Forbes) and Caitlin (Rebecca O'Mara) who play the exact opposite of what would typically be expected by such an engine. They are mold breakers.

And for these characters mentioned, they at least have purpose in the development of other characters. Unlike the other specials where there were several newly introduced characters, they ended up not being used in the execution leaving them as background characters. Even Jack the bulldozer (David Menkin) from the sodor construction company returns and is utilized in the plot to some degree. These are the reasons why multiple fans from the classic era returned so they could witness the upcoming strides the new features were showing. The interesting thing is too, these actors voicing these new characters play their roles like they've been a part of the show for a long time. When in fact, they have no other acting history in the show to begin with. Either way, it's impressive to how well they do.

Caitlin & Connor
The animation to this feature is also well done. The motions the engine characters make look more realistic in their physics and it's believable. With various people in the animation department having experience in other films like Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil (2011), The Backyardigans, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) to name a few, it certainly feels like the people working on the film knew what they had to do. Not to mention all the great looking sets like Ulfstead Castle, the Vicarstown Bridge and the Sodor Suspension Bridge all look well detailed. Music unfortunately has remained anonymous as usual like the past several specials. Composed by Peter and Robert Hartshorne, the music has respectable tunes but lacks the identity that the older series had so well. The sing-along songs though help make up a little of that, but that's it.

Music as usual is the underlining weak point of the feature even with its jumpy catchy sing-along songs. However the characters introduced and how they are used in the plot are done much better than prior specials. The animation also looks great and the look of the locations is spot on.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Deliver Us From Evil (2014) Review:

Filmmaker Scott Derrickson has definitely been through a lot when it comes to movies even if he hasn't output a large volume. He's also been through several areas of the movie industry; everything from home video, independent to mainstream blockbuster studios. And of course now that he's been inducted into the family of Marvel Studios, his credibility has been more or less confirmed. Prior to this though he was still trying to make a name for himself in way that would make him stand out. While The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) remake was boring for most, his comeback with Sinister (2012) turned the tables in his favor. While Sinister (2012) did engage its audience at the beginning, the predictability became fairly obvious as time went on. Sadly it seems as though Derrickson did not notice this when he released this movie as his next feature.

Mendoza & Sarchie
The story for this movie displays events that allegedly were told to be true by a New York police officer named Ralph Sarchie. According to him, he came across a number of strange moments where he would be on duty and witness abnormal actions by people. Playing Sarchie is Eric Bana and soon he teams up with a priest by the name of Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramírez) who believes the cases are related to a greater evil. With the screenplay adapted by Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, the execution of the story feels very similar to that of Sinister (2012). At the start, the plot will capture the viewers' attention, but over time it begins to lose its grasp on what matters most. This is unfortunate because initially it has an interesting detective supernatural vibe going for it, but then it turns to a rather conventional method of execution and begins to lose traction.

And there's a reason why the play out to this feature feels similar. The explanation to this is that Paul Harris Boardman has been a familiar writer to that of other Scott Derrickson productions, surprisingly not Sinister (2012) though. Putting this aside however, the acting by the main cast is fairly good. Eric Bana as the tough Sgt. Sarchie has a captivating presence along with his partner Butler played by Joel McHale, who seems to find a way of making light of any situation. Olivia Munn is also involved as Sarchie's wife who adds some tension to the story being that most married protagonists are easily held as leverage. Edgar Ramirez as Father Mendoza has a peculiar back story working with the supernatural and also serves as a good backup to Sarchie. Lastly there's Sean Harris who plays a significant part to the plot, and Sarchie's investigation.

The visuals to the film were properly placed. Derrickson has done horror films before and this one does not divert from what's been done before. The gore is not over the top but can get times. This makes for an effective take on just how bad things can get surrounding Sgt. Sarchie. The worst it gets is body contortions and really freaky looking faces. The special effects themselves though are well done. There's no areas in the run time that look heavily edited or overly fake. Though some of the events that happen are questionable as to if they actually happened at all. Of course this comes with the understanding that certain liberties will be taken with the story that was given from the original source. The question is, exactly how much of it is true? That's to be debated over since the screenplay is based off of a book by Sgt. Sarchie.

Olivia Munn
The camerawork was well done too. Filmed by Scott Kevan, the cinematography is displayed competently. There are dark areas throughout the film but it is not to a point where the audience will not be able to see what is happening. If anything it helps emphasize how peculiar some scenarios get. Occasionally there is some shaky cam and dutch angles, but it occurs quite infrequently that it's not really a bother. Kevan was also the cinematographer to Cabin Fever (2002), Death Race (2008) and The Darkest Hour (2011). Composing the film score to this feature was Christopher Young who has not only worked with Derrickson before but has done many horror scores in general. Sadly, what's only heard here are repeated tracks from other movies like Sinister (2012), and the rest are all stings. It's pretty underwhelming because only a couple areas actually sound unique.

Music and story execution is unfortunately a large portion why the movie could not be as good as it presents itself. Yet the actors, horror visuals and premise make the view enjoyable to watch for the most part. It's decent enough to warrant at least one watch but that's it.

Points Earned -->6:10

Monday, July 9, 2018

Thomas & Friends: Blue Mountain Mystery (2012) Review:

With the slump of Thomas & Friends: Misty Island Rescue (2010), that many fans saw it to be, hope was slightly redeemed when a year later Thomas & Friends: Day of the Diesels (2011) came out. The writing was a tad better and had some of the biggest gripes fixed many were not pleased with. However there were still things that needed correcting, as much as that movie had made its improvements. Fans would only begin to feel less concerned over the brand when this special was released. The reason for this were attributed to a few things. First, the narrow gauge engines return for this story and are more or less at the center of this plot as oppose to the standard gauge engines. Second, the movie focuses on a new interesting character as oppose to an old returning character. On top of that, other bits from the show reveal signs of restoration that was once questionable.

Luke & Thomas
The plot for this special is when Thomas discovers an unknown narrow gauge engine by the name of Luke at the blue mountain quarry. Being that Thomas nor anyone else had ever seen this engine before, he makes it his mission to find out why nobody is aware of Luke. For a screenplay written entirely by Sharon Miller, it's surprising to say how much better of a job she did this time than the last two specials. No rhyming in the dialog ever comes about, the focus on Luke is a fresh take on a new character compared to how other new characters were introduced in the show. Plus with the narrow gauge engines returning, it gives a large throwback to the older fans of the show. Seeing this being done the right way is actually amazing and it tends to be forgotten that Miller worked on this project.

Occasionally the standard gauge engines are featured, but much of the time the story revolves around the narrow gauge engines. Either way, the voice actors for the standard gauge engines like Michael Brandon (as narrator and Diesel), David Bedella, Jules De Jongh, William Hope, Glenn Wrage, Martin Sherman, Steven Kynmam and Kerry Shale, all return for their respective roles. With that said though, having Keith Wickham and Matt Wilkinson voice majority of the narrow gauge engines was a good step forward. Both actors perform well and make the characters believable. Michael Legge as the newcomer to the show as Luke does a good job too. His voice makes quite a match to the mysterious and overly sensitive narrow gauge engine. Not to mention the back story that the little guy has. It's not a blow you away kind of history but it certainly is relatable.

However this does not leave this special without its problems. The biggest problem that seems to becoming more and more noticeable is the making of inanimate objects living. Prior to this feature, there were new characters being introduced but not to the point where it seemed to just to cash in on a new role credit. This was most noticeable in Thomas & Friends: Day of the Diesels (2011), with all the new diesels but none of the viewers having any clue who they were. The same could be said for three new characters introduced aside from Luke. Merrick and Owen are two new faces at the blue mountain quarry but are not engines. Then there's Winston, Sir Topham Hatt's new railway car where he can ride the rails easier. It's fine and all to have new faces, but some of them seem like they won't ever be used again. Sounds and feels kind of pointless.

The narrow gaugers
This doesn't take away the quality of the animation or music though. Animation continues to look better and better for the specials. To see the narrow gauge engines finally rendered in their CGI forms is quite a sight. Seeing Skarloey, Rheneas, Rusty, Sir Handel and Peter Sam all on the same screen is cool. Although the thought of showing Duncan seemed to have slipped the mind of the film crew. Everything from the lighting and shadowing looks great. As for music, the score has continued to be underwhelming for the most part. Peter and Robert Hartshorne know how to make good music, but nothing seems to truly stand out in these specials except for the one or two songs at the end credits. The sad thing is, the score will probably never be released for these specials, which isn't fair to them.

While the music and introduction of most new characters is disappointing, the rest to this feature is well done. The animation is respectable, the return of the narrow gauge engines is quite welcome, and the writing for the story is much better than most specials written by Sharon Miller.

Points Earned -->7:10

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Incredibles 2 (2018) Review:

When Pixar released The Incredibles (2004), the thought of super hero movies being as big as they are today was certainly not as popular. However, several aspects to the original film made it so that it stood out from the norm. Yet sometimes even greatness proves to be a challenge when it comes to a proper follow up. For director Brad Bird, that was exactly his dilemma. The first film was so well received that it was not easy for him and the rest of the film crew to determine what would make an adequate sequel. Thankfully, the time came where Bird and everyone else felt that what the story at hand was ready to be put into action. To some extent, everyone was right, but even so there's still one noticeable element to the story that feels less creative than it should have been. However, if anything else had changed this sequel would not have been as good as it is.

The Incredibles are back!
The plot picks up right after the events of the first movie where the Parr family (the incredibles) decide to take on the Underminer. Unfortunately they fail at foiling his plan and because super heroes were still illegal, they get forced into hiding again. That is until Lucius AKA Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) comes to them with a new proposition. The proposal is to reinvent the image of super heroes led by billionaire tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener). Together they push Helen Parr AKA Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to the forefront while Bob Parr AKA Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) becomes a stay at home dad watching over Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Jack-Jack. As this goes on, a sinister individual known as the Screenslaver begins to make their move on the public, looking to permanently damage the image of supers.

For a movie directed and written solely by Brad Bird and who also voiced Edna Mode, it's impressive with how well the execution made out. Doing all of these is not easy but for the most part everything turned out rather well. Within the running time, the main characters experience much development. Helen Parr becoming the breadwinner of sorts for the family is typically unheard of in modern society, while Bob Parr acting as a stay at home dad is also not a very typical occupation for most fathers. Violet also goes through a series of emotions dealing with her confidence and being able to talk to her crush from school. There's even a history as to why the Deavor siblings are so passionate about helping out the Parr family and all other super heroes. Lastly Jack-Jack gets a chance to show off more of what was missed during the first film while he was being baby sat.

Unfortunately the script does miss some things. One of them being that Dash and Frozone do not really get much of any time to do something out of the ordinary. Dash still runs fast but doesn't learn something new about his abilities or his relative behavior. Frozone, who suggests the Deavors to the incredibles is not as involved as one might think either, which is kind of misleading. The biggest problem though is the premise for the script. The similarities to how everything is set up feels very much like the first movie, with somebody making a very special and secret deal, when behind the scenes, there's more going on. Or at least, so it seems. On top of that, these offers would seem rather obvious being that these stories take place pretty much back to back from each other. Wouldn't one be skeptical after coming across such an incident so recently?

Aside from this though, the final bits to this feature film are well done. As to what Mahyar Abousaeedi and Erik Smitt contributed to this movie with cinematography, it's possible to say they did a good job. But there would need to be more information on the matter because this was an animated movie. For that, the animation was great. The details to various objects are much more profound now and the movements among characters and other things are much more fluid. As for music, the score composed again by Michael Giacchino was just as competent as the first score he created for the original movie. With jazz instruments livening up the mood and energy, the tunes played throughout most of the scenes will engage the viewer quite easily. And of course without the signature cue for the Parr family, the music would not be as incredible or memorable.

While the script suffers from a couple developmental flaws and fails to set up the plot any differently from that of the original, it still manages to entertain and perform well as a sequel. The main characters are fun to watch, the action is cool, the music remains bombastic and the animation is even more profound.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ghostbusters (2016) Review:

When it comes to reboots, production companies tend to have a fifty fifty shot at winning over newcomers and old fans alike. If it's done correctly, things will be amazing for everyone. The audiences will be pleased and the studio will make a profit off of their release. If done incorrectly, then everyone will have a bad time. And seeing that another sequel to Ghost Busters II (1989) was taking an eon to make, it was later decided to just reboot it entirely. So how did this reboot fair? Middling to say the least for most. There were groups of people who were accepting of the finished product, while others were not content at all with how things were handled. There are things that work here though, it's just that those parts are scattered throughout a pile of multiple other problems. Some of which are difficult to get over. One of the biggest gripes hardcore fans had on this film was the whole gender swap gimmick. Honestly, that's not really a big deal.

Tolan, Yates, Gilbert & Holtzmann
The plot of this story is familiar to those who know the original. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a promising teacher who ends up being rejected by her employer after they discover she once had written a legitimate scientific book on paranormal beings with a classmate by the name of Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). But before getting Yates to remove the published book, Gilbert ends up discovering an actual ghost with Yates and another cohort by the name of Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). They also attract the attention of Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a person who is quite knowledgeable of the city's geography. Together they seek to stop the release of the random ghosts they find. The villain behind these random releases belong to Rowan North (Neil Casey), an individual looking to get back at society for his poor treatment of life in general. For the overall play out, it’s alright. But with director Paul Feig at the helm, things should have been better. He did after all director Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013).

Feig also helped co-write the script with another person by the name of Katie Dippold. Dippold was also the sole writer to The Heat (2013) and Snatched (2017). She has also wrote for the Parks and Recreation show. Even so, writers can have hit and miss projects. For one, the cast to this feature is exactly that. Only half of the actors who take center stage are actually likable to some degree. The two who make the viewing experience fun and fresh was McKinnon and Jones. Both had comical delivery and their mannerisms were unique. As for McCarthy and Wiig, both are not the greatest leads. McCarthy is winey and gabs too much. While Wiig is even worse with constant awkward dialog and unfunny lines. The same could be said for Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) who becomes their secretary. Here, Hemsworth plays Kevin as a hunky dork and it's really cumbersome to watch him act like a big goof. As for Neil Casey as the main villain, he's not bad but he receives almost no back story. His enthusiasm for the paranormal is only lightly scratched.

Admittadly, Casey does resemble a distant relative to that of Peter Lorre. Either way, looks will not make a villain. The same could be said for the cameos of original stars Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd. Are they in the movie? Yes. Do they have memorable cameos? Only one of them really does. The rest are mostly throwaway roles and it's unfortunate. It just doesn't add much to the experience, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the initial franchise. However the special effects to the feature are well put together. Not only do the old gadgets make their way back to the big screen, but new ones come into play as well. McKinnon who plays Holtzmann is the tech wiz of the group and manages to create different kinds of paranormal weapons that help the ghost busters battle their demonic enemies. Some of which are ingenious by design. As to how on earth they were able to manufacture such a device and have it work properly all the time is still a miracle in itself.

Chris Hemsworth as Hunky Dumb Kevin
As for background visuals, the camerawork was adequate for this summer blockbuster. Robert D. Yeoman was the cinematographer for this production and a lot of it is well shot. There's no weird angles or shaky cam like sequences that will annoy the viewer. Yeoman has also worked on other projects like Dead Heat (1988), Yes Man (2008), The Heat (2013) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Lastly when it came to music, the film score and soundtrack were decent too. The soundtrack is mainly made up of the Ghost Busters theme (originally sung by Ray Parker Jr.) being performed by other artists. In the end though, the film score was the real driving force throughout the running time and much of it helps. However unlike Elmer Bernstein's or Randy Edelman's score, this one remains to have its own signature theme. Composing the score was Theodore Shapiro. He does take Parker Jr.'s song and make an instrumental out of it but that's it. Shapiro also scored Wet Hot American Summer (2001), Tropic Thunder (2008) and Central Intelligence (2016).

While it may have a good cast of actors and decent looking special effects, there are a lot of obstacles for viewers to overcome if they really want to enjoy this soft reboot. Only some of the main characters are likable and the villain isn't developed well enough. Camerawork and music is okay but it only helps a little.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Thomas & Friends: Day of the Diesels (2011) Review:

With the rather underwhelming reception of Thomas & Friends: Misty Island Rescue (2010), it seemed as though the show was being taken in a direction really none of the original fans wanted. There was too much juvenile type material being thrown in and for no good reason. That didn't mean that special didn't have its fans, but it was far from the most popular entry. However what did leave people intrigued to see what was coming next came at the very end of the special. The reason for that was the surprise appearance of Diesel 10, fore shadowing a plan that was going to be executed soon. The question was, did it pay off? To some degree yeah. This special is better than the last but it still has its hang ups unfortunately. That will be explained shortly though.

Diesel 10's return
The plot is actually a tad different from what would typically be expected. The story focuses on Percy, believe it or not. After having a fire on the island, Sir Topham Hatt introduces fire engines Belle and Flynn to the railway engines. With Thomas assigned to show Belle and Flynn around, Percy feels left out and forgotten. Thinking nobody wants him around anymore, Diesel convinces him to visit the Vicarstown Dieselworks. In charge of that area was none other than Diesel 10. As Percy gets reintroduced to him and the other familiar diesels like Mavis, Salty, Arry and Bert, he also meets some new ones. Paxton, Sidney, Norman, Den and Dart are the fresh faces to be seen. There Percy befriends them and figures it would be better to help them since none of the steam engines seem to notice him.

The screenplay to this feature was written again by Sharon Miller, who at this point did not have a good reputation with the older fans of the show. Here though, it seems like she heard some of the complaints. The fact that the story looks more at Percy than Thomas is a good idea. Thomas doesn't have to be at the center of every story so that's fine. Percy is also the second oldest tank engine to be on the island so it's interesting to see him get his own narrative. Being that Greg Tiernan is directing again, at least he's open to go this route. What's most impressive however is the inclusion of Diesel 10 into the story. The last time he was seen was in Thomas & Friends: Calling All Engines! (2005) and that in itself was a surprise. However the negative thing about this is the exclusion of other older characters. There's no mention of Lady, Splatter or Dodge, when in fact, these three could have definitely taken the spots of the new engines (diesel or steam) mentioned before.

It's just strange to insert these old characters without any kind of background to past experiences. Yet this doesn't mean some of the new characters brought in aren't peculiar. Belle and Flynn are the best additions mainly because they do bring up the question of fires on the island. Certainly before them there have been other fires, but just exactly how was it handled? No need to worry now with them on board. The voice cast continues to work well except for one. Teresa Gallagher voices Belle, Rupert Degas voices Dart, Keith Wickham voices Den and Matt Wilkinson voices Diesel 10. Sadly, it's Wilkinson who's the wrong choice for Diesel 10. Someone in the same vein as Neil Crone or Keith Scott would have worked just fine. Here though Diesel 10 sounds less intimidating, his voice is just too high pitched.

"Hi Thomas, my names Belle!"
The dialog was also fixed. Thankfully there is no rhyming involved in any scenes. That was one of the more annoying elements of the past feature. As for appearances go, the visuals to this feature are as acceptable as they have been. The new characters all have interesting train designs and Diesel 10's rendering is accurate from past showings. For the locations largely featured in the show, fans will get to see places like the Sodor Search and Rescue Center, the Sodor Steam Works, Brendam Docks, Tidmouth Sheds, Knapford Station and even Henry's Tunnel. The newest place however is the Vicarstown Dieselworks that houses all of Sir Topham Hatt's diesel engines. Quite the contrast to that of the Steam Works. Lastly, the music was largely uneventful unfortunately. Composed surprisingly by Ed Welch, Peter Hartshorne and Robert Hartshorne, the music just isn't that compelling for the scenes shown, and no character themes are heard. The only catchy tune is the Day of the Diesel's rock song at the very end. Too little too late though.

With people falling over from the silliness that was Thomas & Friends: Misty Island Rescue (2010), the quality has made a mild return to form for this feature. While it may still have problems with character backgrounds, and bland music, there are things to like about it. The story decides to focus on Percy instead of Thomas, the are some new and old returning characters to see and the animation is still well done.
Points Earned --> 6:10

Amusement (2008) Review:

When it comes to horror films, villains usually take center stage. It is their grotesque and bizarre behavior that gets people's attention. Why do they do such horrible things? Is it their passion? Was it because of their upbringing of some sort? These kinds of questions can always pop into the viewer's mind because it's not normal and unhealthy. The real sad part of it, is when these incidents are treated as a joke. Those kinds of mentalities are cruel and baffling. When it's only done for laughs, there's a true sense the person behind the act is highly disturbed. For this movie that's exactly what is dealt with to some degree, although it's not done well.

Tabitha (Katheryn Winnick)
The story focuses on three friends, Tabitha (Katheryn Winnick), Lisa (Jessica Lucas) and Shelby (Laura Breckenridge). Opening separately in different places, the plot brings them together under the circumstances of a mysterious person only known as the laugh (Keir O'Donnell). As it turns out, all three share a history with this individual back in elementary school. The laugh had a fondness for making sick art displays for his own amusement (ergo the title), but the other three did not find it funny at all. Thus the psycho finds them later in life and begins having his fun. Written by Jake Wade Wall, this horror film has areas that work but end up leading to its downfall for a number of reasons. Unfortunately this is not a true shock since Wall had also written for the despised horror film, When a Stranger Calls (2006). For direction, John Simpson headed the project. Simpson was only known for directing Freeze Frame (2004) prior to this.

The problems that lie in this movie are all in the script. Overall the execution just has mediocre story building. Nothing about it is very consistent and doesn't really connect easily until roughly half way through. The first sequence to take place in the film focuses entirely on another character that comes across as the antagonist. Later though it turns out that individual was never of focus at all, yet this leaves a subplot completely unchecked. At least close it out or something, because it never got resolved as to whether or not it was important. This also leads to random continuity being that not everything clicks into place like it should. There are locations that are shot, where later on they lead to other places, but it never geographically or logically made sense. All this does is create further confusion among the audience.

However what can't be ignored about the production is the concepts used in the movie. The laugh character himself has a strange sense of humor that only he would understand. But of this, there are hints that the production crew were fans of Clive Barker's Hellraiser (1987) and maybe some inspiration from Dr. Giggles (1992). That's it for that though. As for the cast, the lead actresses perform okay. Of the three however Shelby receives the least the focus, then comes Lisa and lastly Tabitha. All of which show some kind of strength at one point or another. Jessica Lucas was the only one of those three to actually come out into an even bigger horror film was Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead (2013) remake. As for Keir O'Donnell, not so much. His role is given no explanation for his motive at all and having him just laugh the whole time doesn't give him much to work with. He barely says anything.

"Here's looking at you kid....."
It's weird because O'Donnell can play a creepy antagonist but little is revealed about him. Why does he make these sickening displays for fun? Why does he find it hilarious? Aside from this though the cinematography is well shot. Captured by Mark Garrett, the set pieces that are used and how they're filmed look authentic. There are two places that legitimately look unsettling and that goes to a specific room in a family's house that is stuffed to the gills with clown dolls. Why on earth anyone would collect that many is beyond comprehension. The other was an abandoned asylum that is pretty grungy looking for all the right reasons. The music to this feature was composed by horror score enthusiast Marco Beltrami. Being that Beltrami has scored for other horror films like Scream (1996) and Blade II (2002), the tracks to this feature are well constructed. There are plenty of creepy themes and hardly any horror stings.

While the music, actresses and camerawork are the highlights to the feature, the overall experience is messy and not well put together well. The script has too much random continuity, the villain has no background for his motives and there are subplots left unchecked even after the story finishes.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Thomas & Friends: Misty Island Rescue (2010) Review:

With the release of Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails (2009), productions were definitely underway at that point for the new era of the show. All episodes were being made completely in CGI and the production changed hands. And from an initial standpoint, that specific feature impressed enough to convert even some of the diehard fans. However, that would change drastically with the next feature that came along. Not only did it annoy the fans of the original series, but even some of the newcomers found it to be an odd direction. There were just too many things going in the execution that did not resemble what used to be the show a year ago. Thus in accordance with all other features released, this was considered a very low point. And quite frankly, it is still seen as one.

"Look at me, I'm so lighthearted and free!" -__-
The story begins with Sir Topham Hatt making an announcement about his new rescue center that is being built. The center will be made of a certain kind of wood that is very special and difficult to retrieve. Of course the engine asked to bring this cargo was Thomas. However Diesel is up to his usual behavior and decided to take the special wood himself, only to cause a total disaster. After that Sir Topham Hatt has Thomas head to the mainland to get more, only to be lost out at sea and land on a mysterious island covered in fog. While there he meets three new engines by the name Bash, Dash and Ferdinand and learns what they do on the island. Written this time completely by Sharon Miller, the writing is unfortunately not to the standard any of any other Thomas feature to come before. This also includes the quality of the tv show as well.

The pros to this feature are really the supporting elements and the voice cast. The actors who reprise their roles as the engines of Sodor continue to do an adequate job for the characters. The problem though is in the writing itself. The structure of the story starts off okay, but quickly degrades and becomes very elementary. After making a decision that gets recognized by Sir Topham Hatt, Thomas begins to get a big head. Every chance he gets from then on, he would brag about how he makes good decisions. This is repeated so much so that it becomes obnoxious. On top of that is rhyming dialog, which was something the show and other features never included. Worst of all is that it's not even continuous rhyming; it's just clumps of lines that happened to be paired and up rhymed occasionally. This doesn't make the experience any more fun.

Bash, Dash and Ferdinand, could have been interesting characters but the way they communicate is also frustrating. All three will speak together to form sentences and Ferdinand will more often than not finish it with a "That's Right" line. This provides no development at all to these engines and turns them into characters no one will care for. Adding to that are contrived sequences that make no sense and goofy gimmicks. As Thomas discovers misty island, the rail bed raft that he's on, docks perfectly in line with the rails of the land. Something like that is never that perfect. Then there's things like the "shake shake" bridge, a construct that is so feeble looking it still manages to let Thomas and other engines cross it. How is that even remotely possible? It's these types of moments that are downright questionable.

Bash, Dash & Ferdinand
Even with Greg Tiernan returning as director to this feature, it feels like nothing could overcome the silliness that was the writing. Also the blame can't be put on narrators Michael Brandon or Michael Angelis because they were just reading what was given to them. Thankfully the animation and music were acceptable. With the show and other features now being fully converted to CGI, there really isn't anything to point out that looks wrong. Iconic locations like Brendam Docks, Tidmouth Sheds and the Sodor Search and Rescue Center are some of the biggest sights to see. As for misty island, when the fog clears the main place to be featured there is the logging station, which is unique but nowhere near is visually pleasing. The music composed by Robert Hartshorne was nice. Although the whole bit of using iconic themes for characters has been kind of forgotten, the cues still work for the scenes at hand. The ending song though to this feature is middling at best. It depends if you like country music.

Of all the Thomas & Friends features to be made, this is weakest. It has good animation, music and all the right voice actors, but the script is what fouls it all up. The new characters are not developed, the dialog contains unnecessary rhyming and several moments feel too improbable to belong to this series.

Points Earned --> 4:10

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Shack (2017) Review:

Every day, the average person finds themselves working to do the right things. Whether this be for others, themselves or in other places, it feels good to do them. It brings closure and gratification to the doer knowing that someone else will feel good too. But in life, not every waking moment is filled with joy and happiness. Sadness and tragedy is also a part of this cycle and sometimes it happens to people who are not deserving of such horrible acts. For those who believe in a higher power, this becomes quite the challenge for the religious. So many questions begin to flood the individuals mind asking why and how come. The problem is, the more one thinks about it, the more consumed they can become. This is similar to what happens here.

"Why am I back here again....."
The plot is about Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington), a loving husband and father of three children. One weekend in the summer he goes on vacation with his family, only to not pay attention during a certain moment to have his youngest daughter Missy (Amélie Eve) kidnapped. Sadly when she is found in shack, the worst of his nightmares came true. Sometime later, he receives a mysterious letter inviting him back to the shack. Wanting to take matters into his own hands, he sets off. When he arrives, he realizes he's come to meet God and thus begins his journey of self enlightenment. Based on the book written by William P. Young, the script adapted by John Fusco, Andrew Lanham and Destin Daniel Cretton makes good use of its character development on Mack. The direction was headed by Stuart Hazeldine, who had only lead Exam (2009), which was more of a thriller. For this he does a decent job.

Throughout the running time, Mack goes through many ups and downs while talking with his creator. Questions that many ordinary people would ask themselves too. Why must bad things happen to innocent people? What was the point? Why do bad people get away with good things? As time passes Mack begins to learn the answers to his questions and realizes certain things he never thought were possible. He also discovers things about himself and how that affects his wife Nan (Radha Mitchell), his son Josh (Gage Munroe) and daughter Kate (Megan Charpentier). How Mack interacts with the higher entity is also done in a unique way. Instead of just having God present himself as an all powerful being, he gets split into four different people. Octavia Spencer plays papa, the nickname Mack gave his god, Avraham Aviv Alush plays Jesus and Sumire is Sarayu. These three more or less are a reflection of Christianity's holy trinity. Then there's Alice Braga who is the personification of Wisdom and also has lesson to teach.

There's even an appearance from Graham Greene as another character portrayal of papa when Mack hits an even harder roadblock. Tim McGraw is also cast as one of Mack's closest friends. For all the actors involved, they all perform very well. For those who believe in a higher power, this film may even give insight to those who wonder themselves. The emotion looks authentic and the feeling of loss is relatable. If anything, Sam Worthington still can't seem to get rid of his English accent every now and then. He's convincing most of the time, but every so often his original accent slips out. However even with all these positives, the film still has moments that are off putting. For one, the idea that God is always happy and believes even he does no wrong. It seems almost too sure of oneself. Almost arrogant sounding and in some scenes. It just doesn't sound right.

The other problem is expected Christian movie clichés. Some are just so blatantly foreshadowed, it can be quite obnoxious. It's understandable that something's are supposed to be emotional and heartfelt, but then there are points where it begs the question why must a story always try to lead it's audience to a sense of false security. Just stop it already. Aside from this though, the music and camerawork were well executed for this production. Declan Quinn as the cinematographer to this movie had a number of captivating scenes that had beautiful scenery. Having experience in other coming of age movies like This Is My Father (1998), In America (2002) and Ricki and the Flash (2015), Quinn has an eye for getting the right shot. Areas like the shack, where Mack meets God or even being at home is visually pleasing. The music is also on the same level with Aaron Zigman composing the score. Utilizing as much piano as possible, many of the key strokes used are grounded and touching. Since this isn't really a franchise it's not expected to have a main theme really.

This movie may seem rather heavy at first, but the overall message to the story is interesting enough to at least have viewers listen. While it does have some strange moments about God in general and the usual Christian genre clichés, the main cast perform well. The characters develop nicely, the camerawork is pretty and the music is effective.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Odd Couple II (1998) Review:

Prior to the start of the 21rst century, movie franchises that had sequels were more or less on time with their releases. Other sets of movies were created not long after. This was due to movie studios finding it to be profitable and producing a sequel almost every year. Whether or not they actually were of good quality is a separate matter. The point is, sequels came in a rather systematic fashion. Rarely were sequels made years later except for some. A very mainstream movie series that has quite a number of years in between its entries was James Cameron's The Terminator (1984) film. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) came several years later and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) was even longer still. However the longest awaited sequel ever to be made might in fact be this movie since its predecessor goes back three decades!

Can't seem to cut a break huh?
The Odd Couple (1968) was based on a play written by Neil Simon. This story would then also receive a TV show adaptation. But as for this sequel, the script was also written by Neil Simon but was completely original. Nothing had been written before as to what would happen if the two main odd balls would reunite. For this film, it just so happens that the daughter of Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon) and son of Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) are getting married. When Oscar and Felix cross paths, the madness begins. The question is, will they reach the wedding in time? For being a sequel that came far after its original, the play out to this feature is not as bad as one might think. Heading the production was Howard Deutch. He's mainly known for directing TV shows now. Deutch also worked with Matthau and Lemmon in Grumpier Old Men (1995).

What does work here are the two stars and thankfully much of the supporting cast. Even for thirty years later Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are great at reprising their all time famous roles. Lemmon still plays Felix as about as stressed as ever, while Matthau plays Oscar just as relaxed and out of touch as well. Both still have the same likable chemistry and great wisecracks towards each other. The next actor to have some funny scenes is Richard Riehle the local sheriff. As Oscar and Felix try to reach their family's wedding, they continuously run into Riehle's character. Seeing his reaction every time after the first gets more comical. As for the couple getting married, Brucey (Jonathan Silverman) and Hannah (Lisa Waltz) are both okay in their roles but they really don't have a lot of shine time.

The parts that aren't effective in the story deal a lot with how the script was written. The plus side is that Neil Simon takes the scenario between the iconic duo and shows the audience what happens when these two are let out of their cages. Yet somehow there's a lack of witty dialog among the whole running time. Matthau and Lemmon are wonderful no doubt, but they can't work alone. Part of what made The Odd Couple (1968) funny was the funny supporting cast. Aside from Riehle, there's not many other actors to find hilarious. On top of that, there a couple of scenes that have the two leads dropping the "F" bomb. The original movie did not use that word at all and it was still hilarious. So what was the point of using it now? Lastly there's a brief subplot that comes up out of nowhere and is quickly settled, so again, why bring it up to begin with?

Jonathan Silverman
But aside from this there are appearances from other actors like Mary Beth Peil, Christine Baranski, Jean Smart, Rex Linn, Jay O. Sanders and even Earl Boen. For camerawork, the shots captured are decent for the picture. Credited as cinematographer was Jamie Anderson. Unlike the original where much of the settings took place in the apartment, now the whole adventure takes place outside and there's lots to see. Anderson was also the DP to movies like Piranha (1978), Unlawful Entry (1992) and Small Soldiers (1998) that same year. Lastly, bringing forth the music was composer Alan Silvestri. Being known for all kinds of scores Silvestri did a great job revisiting the famous main theme from the original and it is repeated quite often in full orchestra. A job well done.

While the script may suffer from unnecessary add ins and occasionally less energetic dialog, the rest of the viewing experience is still enjoyable. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon remain the highlight of the feature, with great exchanges, acceptable cinematography and respectable music.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails (2009) Review:

The year 2009 was a big year for the Thomas & Friends franchise. After the failure of Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000), a transformation began to occur to the series that would change the show forever. Creative consultants began to retire from their roles and new ones took their places. On top of that the rights to the show transferred to different hands, leading to new ideas being added. Still though, live-action physical models were being used, that is until the 12th season when CGI faces were added to the models. This was a big sign to those watching that the show, it was headed in a direction many thought would not happen. But by the time the 13th season rolled around, Thomas & Friends had been fully converted to CGI with the release of this home video special.

"What up Spence!?"
Even more surprising was that the director to the special was Greg Tiernan. Prior to this Tiernan had only worked as unit director and not much else. He would later go on to direct the adult animated film Sausage Party (2016). The exact opposite of Thomas & Friends' demographic. Aside from this the story to adventure has Thomas and his friends going about work as usual until Spencer the fast silver engine arrives on Sodor. According to Spencer, the Duke of Boxford is having a summer house built and will be around all summer. This means being harassed by Spencer nonstop wherever he goes. Thomas becomes fed up and races Spencer only to discover in the process another engine by the name of Hiro, abandoned long ago in the brush. Hoping to help Hero, it's up to Thomas and his friends to help put Hiro back together.

With a script written completely by Sharon Miller, the story itself isn't the smartest but also isn't the laziest either. Being that she's written screenplays before for this franchise, it's acceptable to a point. The biggest issue this story has is trying to cram in a bunch of different characters by only giving them a few lines. Toby, one of the oldest characters in the show has one line of dialog; impressive. However what will lessen this burden is hearing all the unique voices all the engines have now. Prior to this, every story was told by the narrator only. Now the narrator talks along with the engines having their own voices. Both Michael Angelis and Michael Brandon act as the narrator respectively while the rest is performed by other voice actors.

As for them, there really isn't an actor who out performs the other because they all do well. For the US dub, Martin Sherman voices Thomas and Percy and he sounds youthful enough for it. Jules de Jongh voices Emily and Mavis. William Hope voices Edward, Toby, Rocky and the Duke of Boxford. Kerry Shale voices Henry, Gordon, James and Sir Topham Hatt. Voicing Spencer is Glenn Wrage. Finally voicing Hiro, the new main character is Togo Igawa. All of which give their roles life and something unique to hear. The animation was also quite the departure from past features. Being that everything has been converted to CGI, several iconic places have also been transferred over. Much of it is well done when taking it all in.

Thomas & Hiro
There is a new area to be featured though and that's the Sodor Steamworks lead by two new characters. Kevin the crane (Kerry Shale) and Victor (David Bedella). Other places like Tidmouth Sheds, Knapford Station, Gordon's Hill, and Brendam Docks are remarkably kept intact. It is a bit jarring at first though because no longer are the sets physically limited. Now the locations can be expanded to have many layers of colors, textures and the scope can expand far beyond any physical set. Those will be missed but seeing how much detail is put into these settings is still respectable. Acting as animation supervisor was Jeff Bailey who had held similar positions prior to this production. Music was thankfully well composed with Robert Hartshorne continuing to score the franchise. The unfortunate part is that the music is no longer a large center piece to the overall picture. Much of it seems to be over shadowed by sound effects and other things. With that there isn't any new character themes to hear except for a the second original theme song. Lastly there's one pop song called "Go Go, Thomas!" at the end, which is fun to listen to. Aside from this not much else.

With the newest transition of the show moving from practical effects to CGI, the conversion is pretty good. The characters, sets and animation is rendered well. The voice actors for their respective dubs are also performed competently. Writing is slightly above average with an okay story even though it tends to leave some main characters in the background. The saddest part is the lack of iconic music that was once so profound in its presence, no longer at the forefront.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Thomas & Friends: The Great Discovery - The Movie (2008) Review:

Once Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000) failed to make a lasting impression in theaters, HIT Entertainment, who recently acquired the rights to the show made their first experimental special in 2005. Thomas & Friends: Call All Engines! (2005) was a trial run for the studio to see if whether or not home video release movies would be profitable or not for the show. As time went on though, it was decided that the show would enter the realm of CGI and leave the practical sets and models behind. Entering the start of season 12 was the beginning of this next experiment where CGI was mixed with live-action. However HIT Entertainment released one more home video special. This would be their last special completely filmed with live-action models. And for what they were able to make, it is not vastly stronger by comparison to Thomas & Friends: Calling All Engines! (2005), but the studio did make several improvements. This shows that they're listening to the people who watch the show.

Thomas discovers some crazy stuff
Making this particular feature all the more unique was the inclusion of James Bond star Pierce Brosnan to narrate the story. At one point Brosnan was going to be the narrator to replace Michael Brandon and Michael Angelis respectively. However when HIT Entertainment moved fully to CGI production, his status was changed to temporary. The story for this special is about how Thomas ends up discovering the town of Great Waterton. An area on Sodor that had been lost to the ages. However with Thomas discovering it, Sir Topham Hatt gave him full reign over the reconstruction of it. Hatt also brought on Stanley to help out, a new tank engine that the rest of the engines found a liking too. This unfortunately causes Thomas to feel threatened. As an overall story, this kind of plot isn't unheard of. Nor is the story of Thomas feeling no longer like the number one engine that uncommon either. But being that this was Thomas' final adventure in physical model form, it's apparent the film crew wanted as much as possible.

The script to this special was written by Sharon Miller, a frequent collaborator with the franchise that would end up annoying many fans. Right now though, the work she completed here is harmless by comparison to her future work. The story may be somewhat cliche in certain areas but it isn't horrendous. This was also her real first feature credit. Directing again was given to Steve Asquith, which at this point was the most trusted hands that could and should handle the execution. So here's what has improved since Thomas & Friends: Calling All Engines! (2005). Remember those learning segments placed in almost every major scene in said special? Well no longer! There are none of that here and that's great. Many of those learning segments contained no value and felt more like filler just to complete the hour. This special shows things like that are not a necessity. Making things even better was the wider use of all the characters introduced into the Thomas & Friends show so far.

In this entry, not only the main eight steam engines (the steam team) are used, but several other minor characters. Narrow gauge engines that belong to Mr. Percival are also featured as well as the Jack the Sodor Construction company. The set of characters that were to start the spin-off series, but would end being canceled. As for Thomas feeling threatened about the newcomer engine Stanley, that's understandable to some degree. The thing is though, Stanley never came across with bad intentions to begin with. So it's odd Thomas would make such an assumption without trying to further judge Stanley. Guess that's what happens when you're the number one for so long. These are easy misunderstandings but they are ones treated to the extreme. The real drawbacks to this film though are some real obvious things. That being the lack physical limitations. There's a derailment that occurs where an engine flips off the tracks. This is done so to not frighten little viewers but most trains are unusable after a full rollover.

Stanley (far right)
The other is the use of flimsy bridges and engines jumping gaps. These kinds of things are to make the adventure exciting but this just feels improbable. A thinly constructed bridge will not hold a heavy metal tank engine. However, this does not take away from the set pieces used. Several sets and miniatures used within the running time are full of detail and make the visuals that much more realistic. There's also a collapse of a giant metal truss bridge and it looks awesome. Brosnan's narration of the story is also unique. He's like no other. His vocals are much smoother by comparison to anyone else and it works well. It's sad he didn't go further as the narrator. For music, the score and sing-along was composed by only Robert Hartshorne this time and not with Ed Welch. Everything there is done really well. The best of the songs are probably "Jobs a Plenty" and "Where oh Where is Thomas". Oddly enough the ending also includes a rap/pop song for Thomas. It's not bad but feels definitely like a fish out of water.

For the show's final special filmed in live-action, the plot itself isn't exactly the most unique. Also some scenes feel like the physics behind it aren't true. Yet with catchy songs, the use of as many characters as possible and having Pierce Brosnan narrate helps make this adequate to watch.

Points Earned -->7:10

Friday, January 26, 2018

Hush (2016) Review:

Throughout history, there have been all kinds of stories dealing with mysterious killers. Some of which still have not been named or captured and have lived in infamy for their obscene crimes. For horror films, the horror genre has made use of these stories to give viewers a better understanding how things went down. Whether certain liberties were taken with the material varies, but it's how the film makes the viewers feel after coming out is what matters. Several horror films rely more on gore and violence when really a movie with the exact opposite in traits can be just as terrifying. This is exactly what happens in this movie, which at first felt like it was going to be a by the numbers killing type horror film, when really, it wasn't at all. Prepare to feel the most restrained you've ever felt in some time.

The story to this killer thriller is about Maddie (Kate Siegel), an author of a popular book. Hoping to strike gold and create another great novel, she continues to write in her home on her own. What may not be evident is the fact that she is mute and deaf. The only way she communicates is through sign language and mouthing words. She has a few friends but none that live with her on a constant basis. Unfortunately for her, a stalker (John Gallagher Jr.) discovers her house and realizes she has these disabilities. With that said he decides it would be great to slowly mentally torture her. Written and directed Mike Flanagan, this movie is one of the more taught ones shown in a while. Since much of the story revolves around these two, the development only happens here. Much of it is placed on Maddie, who goes through several strategies on how to escape the evil that has fallen on her.

The weakest link is actually the killer because nothing is really explained about him. The character name is just called "the man", and that's fine. Not every psycho has to have a name, it makes it all the more creepy. However, having no reason for the motivation of killing is something else. This is exactly the problem with Gallagher's role. He has no rationale as to why he's doing what he's doing. That doesn't mean he has to have a connection to Siegel's character either. But there must be something that is making this guy do what he's doing. Yet this part is overshadowed as to just how creative the heroine lead becomes when she realizes she's starting to run out of options. That's where things become so white-knuckled, it becomes too difficult to just sit and watch. Some viewers may feel the need to retroactively try and yell recommendations to the screen. As if the individuals on screen could hear.

Kate Siegel as Maddie does a great job. She truly makes a viewer believe everything she goes through. And as cliché as it is to have a female lead in a horror film, she deserves this one. Siegel has been in other productions prior but this would be her breakout role. It's truly impressive to watch this film unfold because of how well it was directed. Normally writer directors have tough times producing adequate films because the task of doing both isn't easy. However being that this was a small production, this might've lessened the burden. Flanagan was also the director to movies like Oculus (2013), Before I Wake (2016), Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) and Gerald's Game (2017). Being that these movies have all had mainly positive praise, this shows Flanagan has a knack for the genre. This goes hand in hand with the tension delivered. Much of the execution remains silent to make the viewer feel like Maddie, which helps a lot. In some ways it reminisces to that of James Wan's Dead Silence (2007).

"The Man" killer
Camerawork was well put together too. James Kniest was the director of photography to this feature. Even though the overall setting changes very little, Kniest manages to find ways of showing every inch and crack of the house Maddie lives in. Kniest worked on other movies like Annabelle (2014), Within (2016) and The Bye Bye Man (2017). Adding to that is the violence that occurs throughout the running time. There's not a lot of gore, but what is shown still can get pretty gnarly. Some of it can really make a viewer cringe. Sadly this could also be said for film score. Composed by a duo who go by the Newton Brothers, the music to this movie isn't that impressive. It is understandable as to why it isn't heard much, but when it is used, it's not ultimately that complex. Thankfully it has no jump stings, but the organics of it does not blend with the visuals and comes off rather forgettable. Even if they worked with director Flanagan before.

While the music and antagonist motives are not that well rounded, the rest of this thriller is tense in its structure. The two main actors work their parts well, the cinematography is engaging and the whole situation presented to the audience reminds us just how vulnerable we all can be alone at home.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Odd Couple (1968) Review:

Not every pairing is a perfect match. Everyone has their idiosyncrasies that only suits them. It's this part of living with someone else, one must learn to accept those differences. There's a give and take when it comes to these kinds of set ups. During the mid 20th century and before, married folks were under much more pressure to maintain their vows. If a divorce occurred, it was frowned upon, so many stuck it out. However, if one partner did leave the other, sometimes it was never brought to light. As time has progressed though, the notion of marriages not lasting forever isn't as uncommon. But would any of the separated ones hang out with another person from another divorce? Well look no further than to Neal Simon's film adaptation of one of his famous plays. Best known for putting the show on Broadway, Simon took it to the next step by writing a screenplay for the film.

"Smile at the camera Oscar..."
The story follows two men divorced by their wives that find some level of compensation through each others' tendencies. Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) is a slob who can't get his act together for anything, especially maintaining any sort of common cleanliness. Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) is the exact opposite. He finds keeping things neat and tidy something that's fulfilling. However, Ungar took it to the extreme; finding almost EVERYTHING not to his liking because it was no according to his level of order. Yet somehow the two boneheads manage to make it work, at first. Until they start to realize how polarizing their preferences are, that's when things go bananas. And for what's shown, the execution is well done thanks to director Gene Saks. He may have not directed that many films in his lifetime, but he did helm Barefoot in the Park (1967), Cactus Flower (1969) and Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986).

There's a great mix of comedic timing and writing handled by the actors and Simon's writing. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are a funny duo in this feature film. Lemmon perfectly drives up the hypochondriac scale past its peak, making cleaning and timeliness feel way more important than it should be. While Matthau distorts any sort of reality by feeding his guests with varying color assorted sandwiches. But of these two, the actor who steals the show was Matthau. His comedic talent shines through with some of the most hilarious lines ever spoken. And though what's said at times may not make sense immediately, the reasoning can be validated. There's also appearances from Herb Edelman, John Fiedler, David Sheiner, and Larry Haines, who play Oscar and Felix's gambling buddies. They two have their funny moments. One of the greater interactions however performed between Matthau and Lemmon were with Monica Evans and Carole Shelley.

These two actress really nailed their skills in sounding like sisters. Their giggles and reactions to either Matthau's and Lemmon's lines or themselves is well articulated and timed. Walter Matthau was known for several films like JFK (1991) and Grumpy Old Men (1993). Jack Lemmon is best known for other films too like The Great Race (1965), Airport '77 (1977), Short Cuts (1993) and Hamlet (1996). Both would also star in The Odd Couple II (1998). John Fiedler was best known for playing Piglet in all the Winnie the Pooh related films up until his passing in 2005. Herb Edelman was mainly a TV actor in shows like The Golden Girls and The Love Boat. The same could said for David Sheiner and Larry Haines. For Monica Evans, her career would not go much further but she would still voice Abigail from Disney's The Aristocats (1970) and Maid Marian from Robin Hood (1973). Carole Shelley also voiced characters in those two films but also voiced Lachesis from Hercules (1997).

Felix and Oscar's gambling buddies
The only component to not really come out looking unique was the camerawork. Provided by Robert B. Hauser, the cinematography is adequate for the movie. The problem is that it just doesn't have a real iconic setting. Sure, Oscar Madison's apartment is one of the more well known places to be featured in a movie, but it's just an apartment. The camera lens is wide enough to take all of the den and then some. Yet the audience only gets a good view of that, the kitchen and the main hallway. There's a bunch of other rooms but they're not explored that much either. Hauser also filmed for The Sweet Ride (1968), How to Steal the World (1968) and Soldier Blue (1970). For the film score, Neal Hefti brought the popular main theme to life. Although he only scored for a couple other films after, it would be this motif that would forever make his name recognizable. Throughout the movie, music isn't that abundant. But when it is, it's a classic sound.

While the cinematography is professionally crafted, it's just not that engaging when it comes to variety of areas to explore. Aside from this though, everything about this classic comedy works amazingly well. The music is catchy when heard, the comedic timing from the actors is well done and Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau steal the show with their funny lines.

Points Earned --> 8:10