How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
It will do.

When it comes to reviewing movie franchises, I almost make it a rule to watch and review these things in order, but not always. I’ve seen How to Train Your Dragon enough times by now to know what I think about it, and not consider a review entirely necessary. To be frank, I wasn’t always the biggest fan of the movie. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, really, I just don’t think it was my thing. Was I really all that excited to see this one either? No, not at all, but it’s one of the more well-known animation films of the year, so I got to give my report. It’s basically the same deal – nothing wrong with it, but not really my thing either.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 comes back to the land of Berk – 5 years after the events of the first film. By now, everyone knows dragons aren’t the vicious creatures they once thought they were – and Berk itself has collected several dragons to train and ride. They even have a sport called Dragon Racing. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in the world bent on making the dragons vicious anyways. Knowing they are trainable creates cause to train them to be bad – and then we have the same basic idea…give or take…of the first film. Dragons against other dragons – some bigger, some smaller – lots of fire and animated violence. There ya go.

I was never a huge fan of the series, as I’ve said before, but this movie did a few things that weren’t only risky, but were smart as well. The first thing was aging the characters. I don’t know many animated films that actually age their characters through the sequels. It makes sense, and it creates a separate perspective on the entire thing – however, I do have one complaint about that. Hiccup’s voice is the same, as if he’s still going through puberty. I know that’s Jay Baruchel’s actual voice, but it annoyed me that they didn’t at least try to alter it – because…now it just sounds unnatural. He sounded younger than he looked, basically, just because of how he sounded in the first movie. It’s not a huge complaint, but it is an observation I wish was different.

Another smart thing they did was keep a strong focus on Hiccups history and character development. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a moment in the film that’s actually pretty surprising in that area…it’s actually where the film shifts and really gets on a roll. I wouldn’t say it was entirely unpredictable for everyone, but for the target audience, it will most definitely be a surprise – along with some powerful moments that may or may not tug on your heartstrings…depending on who you are. Since I didn’t care for the movie personally, it didn’t really affect me, but I can see it working for others.

The main issue I have with the thing is that there was never really any need for a sequel. Sure, the book the first film was based off of is part of an expansive book series, but that’s that…and this is this. The first had a complete and solid story that ended in a shifted perspective on the things we don’t understand and jump to conclusions out of fear. It had some really good messages – and that was fine. Sure, this one has messages as well, of devotion and family…but also of the darkness in the world that we can’t change. I’m not saying it didn’t have good messages, it did, but the story itself just looked a little too familiar to the first in general.

The Good:

How to Train Your Dragon 2 will most definitely work for its target audience, which for the most part, is children. It has a lot of valuable messages in regards to the importance of family and loyalty, and it also serves as a warning – that you can’t make everyone happy, and you can’t change everything for the better. Some things are dark and will always be dark.

The Bad:

I personally didn’t care for the movie. I thought that underneath all of the messages laid a movie that was a little too similar to the first one. If I muted it, it really wouldn’t look all that different either, other than the aged characters.

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

a-million-ways

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
This is bullhonky.

I’m a fan of Seth MacFarlane. Well, sort of. I like the things he voices sometimes, but everytime I see him, as an actor or host, I am beyond annoyed. A Million Ways to Die in the West was of course, a movie made by him, promoted as – the movie from the guy that brought you Ted. Ted, of course, was a success for the most part – and what better way than to reel in that specific audience? Well, ever since I heard about this movie, I’ve never been interested. There’s not a plot point nor trailer that got me interested because – well…because a lot of reasons. Was I wrong? Did it actually pay off? No.

So here we go. A Million Ways to Die in the West centers on Seth’s character, Albert. Now, Al is a farmer who tends to sheep, but that’s not important. What’s important is…I guess not a whole lot. He waddles around the screen complaining about how easy it is to die in the old west, making self-aware humor that only people in the present would understand, and then he falls in love with Charlize Theron, who is a gunslinger’s girlfriend…so…that can’t be good…or something.

I’ll tell you something, Seth MacFarlane’s ability to write self-aware humor has always been his best attribute. Always. It’s not always the best, but among everything else, we at least had that going for us for his projects…or at least we thought. This is one movie where his “self-aware” comedy is barely there, or at least barely registering. He’s clearly making jokes about the past – but he’s making points that we’ve already heard a thousand times over…who cares? The only thing that has a thread of humor in it – is just…the offbeat random things that go on – like the whole thing with Doc Brown. That was brilliant! It just wasn’t enough to sustain the comedy.

The comedy would have actually worked a little better had they written the story and characters better. I’m not kidding when I say that I couldn’t even believe Seth’s character. He’s supposed to be this lowly farmer that is more or less an outcast, and everything about that man just doesn’t match up. He’s more like the city bully – or one of the villains’ side men that doesn’t say anything – just spits on the ground. I can believe that. Then, we have the story of the film, which is so jumbled up and so incoherent that even that is pointless!

Seriously…what’s the point in even watching this movie? It’s not funny, it’s casted entirely wrong, the story is all over the place…there’s almost nothing good about the movie.

The Good:

Hmm, well…when it first starts, it clearly had an impressive cast. It also had a really cool scene with Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

The Bad:

That’s it, the rest is pure poop smears.

Think Like a Man Too (2014)

Think-like-a-man-too

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Bland and Bleak.

Everyone, what’s wrong with making a sequel to a movie that’s based off of a self-help book? Just think about that for a second – there’s a lot of process that is put into fictionalizing a self-help book and turning it into a movie – clearly there will be some specific themes going on, don’t you think? Think Like a Man was weirdly really good because of the characters and their chemistry with each other, but also because of the unique spin that the film ultimately took. In order to gain any kind of success for Think Like a Man Too, they had to imitate what went right the first time – and…no. They didn’t even come close, I’m sorry.

In this sequel, our couples are now in Las Vegas to support Michael and Candice, as they are preparing for their wedding. Throughout their trip, the boys stick together in preparation for the bachelorette party and vice versa with the ladies. But, as with any comedy with a setting in Las Vegas, there is clearly some hijinks to be had! Especially when Michaels clingy mother is behind the ropes, trying to manipulate everything.

Hey, remember when Steve Harvey wrote Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man? It really did gain some recognition, hence the movie. Well, the thing about self-help books is…it’s rare for them to get a sequel, or follow-up book. The same should apply to a movie. Now, the way this movie could have worked is if it was an all-new cast of women and it was called Think Like a Woman…or something. My point is, they needed to keep the self-help theme – and they needed to keep the chapter titles, and Steve Harvey’s interludes, and all that self-aware comedy…because those were the best attributes. It just kept…the characters.

The characters were phenomenal in the first movie because they were so diverse, and they were all so memorable because they had this tremendous chemistry with each other. Though, it’s clear to me that it needed the themes, titles, and interludes in order for the characters to still be good at all. I’ll be honest, as much as I felt like they jumped back into their characters, I also felt like they over-acted, and the importance of their roles was left in the first movie. Now they do blend together and aren’t so diverse. The same goes for the ladies. All in all, this was your basic ensemble cast comedy that is devoid of any uniqueness or color. It was bland and bleak, and I didn’t want any of it.

You remember the self-aware stuff from the first film? The very fact that it was a movie based on a book, and the book itself was practically a character in the movie? That was somehow brilliant and it really worked and made sense. Well, to the best of my knowledge, they tried to imitate that in this movie by making Las Vegas the character. In the first movie, it was “Steve Harvey says this. Steve Harvey says that. According to Steve Harvey…” yatta yatta. In this, it was “Las Vegas this, Las Vegas that”, and you know what? That doesn’t equal out. Not even close. Nice try though, but you lose.

The Good:

Not a lot. If I had to choose, the best part of this movie had to be the characters – because they still have a lot of great chemistry with each other.

The Bad:

Think Like a Man Too is bleak, bland, and has lost its place. It tries to focus on the characters alone, but the first movie was successful because of the structure of the thing – and the structure of the second movie is nothing noteworthy and a huge waste of time.

Think Like a Man (2012)

Think-like-a-Man

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A rare occurrence.

I really don’t understand it. This…need…to fictionalize a self-help book and adapt it to the big screen. I mean, plenty of films have done this, transforming a popular self-help book into (usually) a romantic ensemble cast comedy. Are there really that little of options in terms of novel-to-movie adaptations? I usually hate ensemble cast films, and I usually hate movies based on self-help books…but I have to admit…Think Like a Man somehow hit the magical note – and it worked for me. Though, I’ll just have to point this out right now…making a sequel doesn’t make any sense whatsoever…but I guess we’ll get to that later.

Think Like a Man is a film based on the  book, ‘Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man’, by famous comedian Steve Harvey. The book in question is a self-help book for women that just can’t seem to get a handle on men. To help move the film along further, each of the main characters are very different than each other. There is The Player, The Mama’s Boy, The Dreamer, The Non-Commiter, The Happily Married Man, and the Happier Divorced Guy. While extremely diverse personalities may come off as unrealistic at first, just remember no one is the same. Every one of these characters finds a girl they are attracted to and the first thing that crosses their mind is to take advantage of these women. Of course, women have been getting tired of being taken advantage of, so when Steve Harvey’s book hits the shelves, it is sold out almost immediately. They begin using the tools set out by Harvey to keep their man in control, and basically do their bidding. This all turns sour when the men find a copy of the book, and begin using the same tricks against the women to get what they want.

In my opinion, there are red flags everywhere that point to the fact that I really should hate the movie. A group of diverse men with different likes and tastes all being friends? I don’t know, but that’s far from the worst element. It’s the fact that – because this is based on a self help book, every character in every scene is always giving another character advice. This happens in all of these types of films. It’s unrealistic, but the thing that really saves it…is the pacing, structure, and most importantly, characters. In my honest opinion – they got that perfect.

These guys, because they are so diverse, don’t all blend together like other ensemble comedies. They are all very remarkable and very memorable – which is rare. The chemistry they have with each other and their respected lover is unmatched, hilarious, and serious when need be. What’s more, it’s completely believable. Past that, you have the structure – which was brilliant and self-aware. It’s a movie based on a book, literally, the book is central to the plot – it’s a character. There are “chapters” and themes, and interludes with Steve Harvey talking to the audience. You ask me, this is exactly how you make a self-help book-made-movie.

Now, it also relies a little too heavily on over-the-top facts. Think about it. The book is sold out for over a week, and every woman and their mother (literally) knows about the book – as if it were more well-known than the Bible itself…and yet…the guys are completely oblivious to it’s existence…which to me spells inconsistency. It’s not a huge flaw, but it’s important. The same goes for the “giving each other advice all the time” problem…these are things that I think are easily avoidable, but they are still there regardless.

The Good:

Of course a movie like this would have flaws, but what’s important to realize is that through all movies based off of self-help books and ensemble comedies alike, they did something special with Think Like a Man. They casted a really good ensemble group – each of which is very easy to keep track of and separate from the rest – plus, they all have very good chemistry with each other. There’s not one person in the entire movie that feels out of place.

The Bad:

It’s really unbelievable in some scenes. Primarily speaking, there’s just too many scenes where people are constantly giving each other advice…that’s unrealistic. But what the hey, it’s still a rare occurrence all around.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Transformers4

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Warning: Angry Optimus

After the first Transformers movie, everybody expected there to be a sequel, and because no franchise has anything under a trilogy, we got two more movies. That was expected, but no one really expected, nor asked for Transformers: Age of Extinction. Suddenly, it falls in our lap, as if Michael Bay himself said – “here you go, enjoy or don’t, I don’t care”. It was his way of re-vitalizing a dead series. All he had to do was look at the parts that failed in the second and third movie, and do them all over again. I kid, I kid, I actually enjoyed this film – and I consider it second best…but only by slightly.

After we toss Shia Labeouf in the garbage, we are presented with someone with a much higher capacity for acting – Mark Wahlberg. Mr. Marky Mark plays Cade, an unsuccessful inventor who dreams of putting his daughter through college. He is accompanied by his funky bunch – which consists of his daughter and her boyfriend, when they learn that humans now hate alien robots of all kinds. Autobots, Decepticons, doesn’t matter – they want them dead because their cities keep getting destroyed. The government, always wanting control, created their own form of robots built from the Transformer’s own technology, in order to help rid the world of the Autobots…but here comes trouble. A deadly Decepticon by the name of Deadlock is bent on finding Optimus Prime…but for what reason?

This movie had a lot of promise when it opened up, a lot. Then like a flawed snowball effect, it really starts to fall apart on itself. You know the thing is almost three hours in length, and that’s mostly because there are at least two full stories going on at once. It was fine when it started, because everything was woven together really nicely, but then as the movie dragged on – you felt it’s length – because these two perfectly woven stories – began to unravel. They began to pull apart, and then it just got to the point where it was a little more confusing than it had to be to follow the film’s story. I don’t know if Michael Bay felt the need to make it longer – with more explosions, catching falling people in slow motion, or “camera-pointing-up” shots, but there was something in there that was a tad unnecessary.

The reason why I still like this better than the second or third movie, is because despite the flaws, it’s still a lot of fun to watch – and it has a good feeling of freshness to it. There are new Autobots, there’s not really Decepticons – well, not the way you’d think. There’s a whole new cast – we got rid of Shia, of Megan Fox, of the other girlfriend, of the parents, of the military guys – and we introduced a new cast. One that had a very effective male lead. He was in the middle of the action the whole time – not shouting from the sidelines. It was also not filled with too much romantic bull crap, because the main girl was just the daughter. There were also, at least, a couple of really good Transformer villains – as well as humans.

Past the cast, we also have better graphics. I really wasn’t expecting the CGI in this movie to be as good as it was. I felt like this would be the nuking the fridge film.  The graphics were going to feel cheap and cartoony…but this movie had the best effects out of all four films. No joke. There is some really spectacular stuff here. It’s not just explosions, but the very way the robots transform somehow looked and felt so much better than before. Now, I wasn’t a big fan of the Dinobots. They felt like a mashup between Transformers and Beast Wars…which in theory is cool – but in actuality, just looks like they took it a step too far.

The Good:

Transformers: Age of Extinction was so much better than I thought it would be. I felt obligated to watch it because I’ve seen the others, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually liked it. As a whole, the movie feels a lot fresher because of the newer characters, and their basic roles. It also looked remarkable in terms of special effects and animation.

The Bad:

It’s Michael Bay, so you’re going to have people complain just because he made it…but then again…I did notice repetitive shots throughout the entire thing, and there may have been a scene or two where there was just scientifically too many explosions than reasonable. Thing is, I don’t mind his style, but we don’t have time for repetition, it’s already long enough. The main complaint I have is how the story went from having a solid foundation to falling apart at the seams. By the end, there was like, three different stories going on at the same time.

The Random:

Lol, Kelsey Grammer.

Patch Adams (1998)

Patch-Adams

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Laughter = Best Medicine.

In my quest to find the best Robin Williams film since his recent passing, I think I may have found a prime candidate. The thing that’s really interesting about Patch Adams is that it stars two celebrities of recent passing – Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and watching it back again shows not only their impressive ability to act, but it also showcases something that’s almost haunting…then again, that’s probably just my subconscious speaking. As a film, Patch Adams has everything you could ask for in terms of Robin Williams, which brings me to the conclusion that this is definitely one of Williams best works.

This film centers on the true story of Dr. Hunter (Patch) Adams, played by comedic legend Robin Williams. After a failed…suicide attempt…Patch finds his calling in life – to help people through smiles and lightened spirits. His basic idea of being a doctor isn’t only to delay death, but to improve the quality of life. He does this through making patients smile, which is threatening to “professional” doctors that are trying to do their job. The more he tries to listen to patients and make them laugh, the more his colleagues begin to believe he doesn’t take medicine seriously, and instead is making a mockery of their established principles.

I’m not always the biggest fan of “true story” films. They either follow a structure I don’t care about in film, or are so loosely based on a true story that it doesn’t matter anyways – and Patch Adams is a film I more or less find an exception with, because Robin Williams fit this role so perfectly. It’s hard to imagine anyone else being Patch Adams, because the mannerisms and affect he had on others lives, let alone the love he felt for others mirrors Robin’s own life. The only real difference is Robin is an actor while Patch is a doctor.

It also poses some really good points that are still valid today. Primarily speaking, the indifference that hospitals can possess when dealing with people in need. They follow rules and procedures so much that some people are turned away for not having health insurance – and those people are often the people that need help the most. This issue has been raised before, and sometimes the main focus of other movies and documentaries, but because this film was about a lot of different things, short and sweet was the way to go. It’s kind of ridiculous to think that Patch Adams would pose a threat to anyone or anything, and the idea that the real man went through all that garbage is ridiculous.

Like any true story, the structure is basically – follow this guy around and experience his life with him. That’s great, but it’s not my preferred film type. I like something where I know where it’s going, where there’s a set plot. Patch Adams follows a more solid plot than most true stories, though. You know what he’s trying to do – he’s trying to be a real doctor while practicing his own methods at the same time. That’s a true story that I can appreciate. Plus, there’s plenty of great messages of hopes and dreams that you can eat right up.

The Good:

Patch Adams is clearly one of Robin Williams’ best films. His portrayal of the real doctor are absolutely perfect, and the messages presented are heartwarming and still important to this day. Another thing I like about this movie is that it’s not really a comedy, it’s a drama about a comedic guy – and the balance is really nice.

The Bad:

I…don’t…really know.

The Random:

Seriously, Rotten Tomatoes? 23%…? You know what movie I consider that bad? The Number 23 and The House and the End of the Street.

Casper (1995)

Casper

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Decently stirs nostalgia.

The ‘90s were a special time to grow up in. It was the golden age for kids movies. If there was a decade you could choose for the best kids movies – it would probably be a safe choice to choose ‘90s. Any older, and you definitely risk films that don’t translate well for a modern audience, and any newer will be movies that are ultimately forgettable to a younger audience nowadays. The ‘90s, though, provided some of the most memorable and nostalgic movies for children. One of these films, many would recognize, is Casper – based on the very popular friendly ghost book series that began in 1939 and cartoon show in 1945. This is the height of Casper’s history though, in my opinion.

So, what’s a live-action Casper movie all about? Well, it’s about a father and daughter. The father, Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) is a ghost therapist that is searching for his late wife, and his search takes him all across the country – forcing his daughter to leave home and never build a real friendship with anyone. He eventually runs into Casper’s residence, that Casper shares with his three Uncles, Stretch, Fatso, and Stinky – his uncles are pranksters…the usual scary ghost – while Casper is the nice kid. At the house, Casper and the daughter’s friendship blossoms.

You’ll definitely notice some serious Cinderella references throughout the movie. Casper would be Cinderella while his three uncles would be the evil step-mothers. There’s even a party near the end (ball), an angel (fairy godmother), and if that wasn’t enough, they even bring up Cinderella. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad idea, but at the same time, we lose a lot of originality that the film could have had, because there is a lot of great potential material here that is ultimately ignored.

The origin stuff is really cool, because this is clearly the deepest, and most tone-accurate Casper films to date. This is a very cartoony story, as expected, and the only way to get out of the slump of being a terribly cheesy kids film is to offer some truly deep scenes, and not only does this have deep scenes, it has a good soundtrack which really adds to what we’re watching. Also, the Lazarus machine was a brilliant, unique, and original idea that should have been introduced way earlier in the movie. I understand the friendship part was really important, but it dived way too much into Cinderella territory that it needed something more.

As for the CGI, I was more or less impressed. This is a movie that’s almost 20 years old, and the graphics…aren’t really that bad. They are CGI ghosts, and they are pretty well done, if you ask me. They are more cartoony than realistic, but this is Casper we’re talking about, how else do you honestly expect they’ll be done? For what it’s worth, the ghosts look almost perfect. They have the right amount of transparency, and the things that they do in regards to pranks and jokes…isn’t bad at all. The characters are just good enough to laugh anyways.

The main concern I think people have, is the romantic chemistry that Casper seems to have with Kat (Christina Ricci), which I’m sure to some parents, would seem icky. After all, Casper’s dead, and he’s the friendly ghost, not the romantic ghost. I get it, but I also understand why they did it. Christina Ricci was perfect for the role of Kat – she just seems to be the perfect candidate for someone with a sixth sense…I don’t know what it is…she just has that way about her. The other complaint I have about this movie are the two comedic relief goons trying to get to a buried treasure in the movie. When you think about it, this subplot is completely unnecessary – and ultimately takes away from what good the movie has going for it.

The Good:

Casper carries quite a bit of nostalgia with it. There are a lot of good messages about friendship, being different, and dealing with loss in this movie that creates a perfect concoction of deepness and drama to blend in with the rest of the goofy stuff.

The Bad:

This resembles Cinderella way too much when it didn’t have to. There was a lot of fantastic material here that is only used as a secondary plot – which is really unfortunate.

The Happening (2008)

Happening

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Shyamalan’s last attempt.

I feel so bad for M. Night Shyamalan. He and I have a similar background in creativity, filmmaking, and a passion for the arts. He even made home movies when he was a kid, like me. People throw blame at him so much, but what they don’t realize is that it’s not really his fault. The best of the best of his films have been stories he’s had in his mind for decades…then producers came around and basically told him he had to keep making more movies, and guess what…they didn’t do so well. The Happening was the last movie he really did based off of his original horror mystery with a twist  design.

To give you an idea of what this movie is about, we are introduced to a pandemic that is affecting the eastern side of the country. What’s basically happening is that – something in the air is causing misfiring’s in the brain, causing people to ultimately kill themselves in very creative ways. School teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), his wife (Zooey Deschanel) and a friend’s daughter, must escape this pandemic and figure out what it even is. Is it a terrorist attack of some kind, is it the nuclear reactors, or could it be something mysterious in nature? Most importantly, can these people escape what seems to be the end of the world?

Alright, I’ll admit, I liked this more than the general public when I first watched it. That may technically still be true, but I like it a lot less now, and I think I know why. Besides my bias of respecting Shyamalan’s work, it was clear to me that I liked the concept of The Happening. People uncontrollably killing themselves, and no one knows why, and whatever it is – is coming for them. The shots themselves of people committing suicide are very chilling, and I think well done for the most part – which is magnified by the very idea that it’s ultimately inescapable. The overall idea is fascinating – I love this concept, it’s just…everything other than the shots of people killing themselves absolutely sucks.

I have never been so put off by a performance of Mark Wahlberg’s. It’s partially his character writing, sure, but even so – I think he could have still acted better than he did. Most of the dialogue in this movie is so unintelligent. First we’re talking about hot dogs for no reason, and then we’re talking to plastic plants…I don’t have any idea what’s going on, or why in the world it was written this way. The only thing that I can come up with is…filler material. Great, you got all of these chilling images of suicide, and you got a basic concept, but as far as the actual story goes – you have absolutely nothing…not even an ending – because that’s anticlimactic, confusing, and most importantly, stupid.

Also, if you are going for the mystery side of things, great, wonderful! At least pick something a little harder to guess – we know you Mr. Shyamalan. We know you have weird, off-the-bat writing styles. Even if you weren’t writing it – when you have the choice between generic terrorists, generic nuclear plants, and lots of talk and imagery of plants and wind…who do you think you’re fooling? So, right off the bat, you know it has something to do with the plants – so every scene where they try to figure it out wastes your time and makes the characters look even dumber. So, yes, the movie feels a lot longer than it needs to be, because it takes forever to get to the point, and the point isn’t satisfying in the least bit.

The Good:

While a lot of people will tell you The Happening is one of the worst movies ever made, I disagree. Somewhere in the film lies a pretty interesting concept, along with chilling imagery and music that Shyamalan is famous for.

The Bad:

Seriously? Just watch the thing. All it had was a concept. The production wasn’t horrible, surprisingly enough, but the story was wrong, the characters had the worst dialogue, the casting was maybe the worst element out of everything, and it writes itself into it’s own demise.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Dead-Poets-Society

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Captain, my captain.

“Oh captain, my captain”. We’ve been hearing that quite a bit recently, haven’t we? Dead Poets Society is a movie I don’t think I really ever had the pleasure of watching. The only thing I knew about it was that phrase, along with Carpe Diem. Beyond that, I really didn’t know too much about it, and I wanted to figure out why – of all things – people chose the captain phrase when Robin Williams passed. Was it about the movie itself and his performance, or was it more? After watching, it was clear that his role created in impact on these young men’s lives – so much that it expanded. If there was ever a movie that came close to showing the effect he had on people, Dead Poets Society might just give you a glimpse.

The story revolves around an off-beat English instructor, John Keating (Williams), who believes that everyone should have a free choice in life, and to seize the day, in whatever way that meant. Every student in the film was a little different, but Keating just wanted them to follow their passions and have fun – and they met collectively in the woods – as the Dead Poets Society…where they basically just sit around and talk poetry.

To kill the mood for a second or two, I just want to say that this isn’t exactly my type of film. I understand and appreciate the values of what it was going for, but a lot of it felt boring and a little over-the-top for me. My main complaint, unfortunately, had to do with the club itself, the Dead Poets Society. The idea of the club is fine, but it shouldn’t be seen any different than any other extra-curricular activity…because it’s just about poems and poets…that’s it, and it’s treated like a secret society where they are hazing new recruits…or something. Is it because they smoke and curse in this club? Is it because they are outside and not actually in the building? I don’t know, and I certainly don’t understand what the big deal is. Maybe in the late ‘80s it was more crazy and controversial,but it didn’t seem very nuts to me.

That being said, the messages in the film are important, and it is honestly laced everywhere with these messages. Things on the topic of honor, truth, following your dreams and passions, acceptance, loyalty, and most importantly, having fun. It is just an in-depth look at the human personality in general, which is absolutely fine. They did a tremendous job portraying their very diverse characters – but in the end, it’s just coming-of-age, which I don’t care too much for. I know the same doesn’t apply to everyone, which is why my score is more effected by the confusing nature of how the club is viewed than it is about the coming-of-age film structure.

This is one of Robin Williams best films, or at least it is in a lot of people’s minds. To me, because it wasn’t my cup-o-tea, it’s far from my favorite performance of his. Because this was still early, his character had a lot of comical celebrity impersonations…which wasn’t horrible, but it was typical of Williams in his movies, and I thought the film would be more than that. When it came to really getting his students attention, he did a fantastic job. I just wish the movie had more of him than it ultimately did.

The Good:

Above all else, the many messages in this film are dealt with appropriately and in a good light. “Oh Captain, my Captain” will forever be one of the most-memorable one-liners in film, purely because of the message behind it, and the image that will forever be engrained  into our subconscious for all of space and time.

The Bad:

The Dead Poets Society in question – is a club that the students start to talk about poetry and the get the free will to be themselves. Somehow, this should-be extra curricular class is seen as something as malice and bad as a secret society with hazing rituals…or something. I don’t get what all the fuss was about. It was kids talking about poetry…how awful.

The Random:

I like the part where Robert Sean Leonard’s father tells him to quit acting and become a doctor…because he goes on to act as a doctor in House, M.D. Oh…I crack myself up.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good-Will-Hunting

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Serious and soulful.

It’s still relatively recent and active news that Robin Williams passed. It was such a shocker that I, like the rest of you, felt an inescapable urge to honor him by watching his films. I won’t go on a strict Robin Williams diet, but here and there, I’ll check out the films that meant the most to you and me. The two movies that really shout Robin Williams in terms of what people consider his best roles, are often somewhere in-between Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society. I know this is horrible, but I can’t really remember either of these films very well, and I’m not even sure I’ve seen the latter. So these two films I will focus on first, the first being Good Will Hunting. I’ll admit it was done very well, but there are other Williams films that I prefer.

The story revolves around, surprise surprise, Will Hunting (Matt Damon). Will isn’t a bad kid, but he has had a pretty unfortunate upbringing in the system. He has truly devoted friends that love him, but they are seen more or less as scumbags with no futures – and because he is always with them, he has the same future…which is a waste, because he is a genius. He’s throwing his life away without really realizing it. So when a teacher at MIT notices him, he busts him out of jail on a probationary period – to do math problems with him, and to hand him his full potential…there’s only one catch – he must participate in therapy with an off-beat therapist named Sean.

This is a very honest, in-depth look of how messed up kids are that go through the system, but it goes about it in a different way that you wouldn’t normally expect. This is about broken trust and hidden feelings, and most importantly – about the slow buildup of self-loathment through life – and settling for second best because you’re around something you consider safe…because it’s the only safety you’ve ever known. In all honesty, it’s a very strong and powerful portrayal of things real people go through that are unnoticed constantly. You won’t hear any complaints from me in that regard, but you will hear one complaint – that it was predictable.

It follows a very basic routine. While it has a fresh way of going about things, the heart of the thing is still pretty predictable, and so I didn’t feel like I was as surprised as I really should have been about how things would turn out. The acting was out of this world, but as I sat watching…nothing threw me for a loop. It was very matter-of-fact and that actually disappointed me…but I also understand I’m probably in the minority in that regard, so I won’t let that affect much of my score. It’s still a very well-done movie.

I think the biggest strengths of the movie relied on the messages and various forms of human nature in general, which is all fine and dandy – they did a great job, but without that plot having any unpredictability involved, I’m forced to be a little set back. As powerful as the performances really were, I wasn’t personally connected with the characters, nor felt the emotional scene’s worth. I know that’s probably just me, so it is what it is.

The Good:

Without a doubt, this is more a character-oriented film than anything else. The issues it delves into about abandonment, trust, friendship, and how to free yourself from a mental prison are all dealt with incredibly well, and Robin Williams is such a fantastic actor that any real problems the movie faces, it doesn’t really matter.

The Bad:

I still require the movie to have a little more oomph. It was powerful, it was, but it was also predictable and very matter-of-fact. I don’t want to bash it for anything, as it was done well, but I expected more and felt let down.

The Random:

Truth be told, I actually thought this was the movie with the “oh captain, my captain” thing. I completely forgot about Dead Poets Society, and had pictured Matt Damon saying it.

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