Venom: Let There Be Carnage is exactly what it is

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the exact movie it needed to be. This movie knows what was the good part of the first movie, Eddie and Venom, and then gives you more of that plus a foil in Cletus Kasady and Carnage. I really liked this movie. It was exactly what I wanted to see… almost.

I don’t really have complaints about this movie. It did a lot of things right. It was violent, a bit messy in the good way, entertaining, funny and it’s tight. There are no wasted scenes. You can’t take a bathroom break during this movie because every scene is relevant to what is going on.  

Like it’s only 90 minutes long. You can’t waste a scene in a movie that long. I love it… except it should be rated R.

I know why they didn’t, and they do a good job to cut around and keep their PG13 rating while still pushing the envelope as much as you can expect. I just really want to see the rated R cut of this movie. Hopefully it gets a special release but unfortunately it isn’t likely to be quite the pop culture hit of Deadpool. They did take full advantage of PG13 though and drop an excellent f-bomb, but no boobies.

The best part of the movie is the titular characters: Eddie and Venom, Cletus and Carnage. You get all the great couples therapy moments again but now they’ve grown more used to each other, but still aren’t totes besties. Cletus and Carnage have a simple dynamic, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

Carnage is one of my favourite comic villains for the simple reason that he is simple. Cletus loves murder. Carnage loves murder. That’s why they’re so good together. No plans of world domination. No delusions of grandeur. They’re plenty happy together just roaming into a small town and killing everyone at the diner just because they can.

It sounds awful, because it is, and a bit sick, because it is, but that’s why I love the character. Villains don’t need to be complicated if they’re effective when played straight. There’s no ambiguity around the morals of Carnage. He has none.

And because Carnage is a bit simple and more of a small-time villain despite his main event status, the movie follows suit. The plot is small and personal to the characters. There’s like six people in this movie with speaking roles. The two headliners and four other folks. There’s no unnecessary bloated arcs to give side character 3 a full arc. Who cares. Not me. The whole movie is in service of Venom and Carnage.

Tom Hardy does a great job being the nervous, twitchy regular-ish fella that has an alien amoeba slime half in control of his body. Venom, voiced by Hardy though you wouldn’t really know it, does a great job of caring for Eddie and being sick of him at the same time. But they just work, and that’s the point of them. They’re the cutest Lethal Protector and I ship them forever <3.

Woody Harrelson just seemed to have fun on this movie. His performance isn’t exactly deep or layered like an onion but he’s gets Cletus Kasady. See above for why.

The rest of the cast are all good. They do their parts well and make you care just enough. They play well off the dynamic of the movie. Michelle Williams does her thing. Peggy Lu returns and is fun. Naomie Harris looks unrecognizable as Shriek. Whoever plays Dan is great because Dan is a great guy.

Andy Serkis directed this movie and you can tell someone who cares about motion/performance capture and CGI directed this movie because it looks SO MUCH BETTER than the first film. You know what is happening at all times in this movie. I also feel like he brought a bit of his Gollum-Smeagol experience on the characters to this film which is no bad thing.

Part of what helps that is that Venom looks like Venom. Big and black. Carnage looks exactly like Carnage. A bit more slender and red! They pulled more from the Maximum Carnage design with the black mouth and black accents than the more modern Carnage’s that are almost a straight red Venom.

Ultimately, I want to watch this movie again way more than I want to watch the first one again. If you’re reading this and haven’t seen the first one, give it a shot. There is great odd couple energy from Eddie and Venom. And the movie is perfectly fine enough to watch once.

But the real prize of these Venom films is this movie. It’s kind of like a throwback to the era of Raimi Spider-Man and Fox X-Men and Fantastic Four and “ice skating uphill” Blade. It’s cheesy but not insulting you for watching.

The movie takes itself exactly as serious as it should. There’s lots of little key frames and in jokes and iconography that hardcores are going to love, but nothing a general audience member won’t understand. I’m happy. This movie was fun. And fun things aren’t bad.

Oh! And the end-mid credits scene! Please sit and stay and watch that because that is some gourmet teasing. Holy poop! Heck, it even makes the Morbius movie somewhat interesting.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

‘Cruella’ Is Insane

I can’t believe this movie. I watched it and everything you heard about it is true. Cruella is insane. The character and the movie. It is ridiculous.

On one hand you’re watching an insane live action film meme and that’s wild. On the other, if you’re looking at this as capital C ‘Cinema’ then it isn’t great at all. Charming and absurd because its so manic. Manic is just the word I couldn’t stop using thinking about this movie. Manic.

It’s a crazy person movie. It’s like the flower shop scene from The Room but as a full movie. And in a similar way to The Room, its goes so far around the dial in a circle that it comes back around to a positive.

I didn’t know what I was in for. I didn’t watch a trailer and I really should have known better by the one marketing image I saw on Disney+. But for some reason I thought it was going to be a bit more of a drama about how messed up the world of high fashion is as an industry and how a desire to reach the top made her evil to the point her name is almost literally CRUEL DEVIL.

I don’t know why I thought that but I’m willing to toss blame on it being the fact I haven’t seen a comic book movie since like Spider-Man: Far From Home and I’ve been watching film and TV dramas a lot through the last year of quarantine. You know, “real art” or whatever. My brain has hit a reset point but I think this is going to help get me back to where I belong. Mortal Kombat and Godzilla vs Kong reviews incoming!

The entire point of the movie hinges on the fact that Dalmatians are villains. I’m not sold. What kind of evil psychopath sat down and got other psychopaths to agree that the world needs a movie where dogs are evil?

Like, I guess Dalmations are kind of dicks as far as dogs go since they require super hardcore training to be well behaved.

Maybe it’s a secret meta story? Because prior to 101 Dalmatians coming out Dalmatians were actually pretty darn serious guard and security style dogs. When that movie came out though that kinda changed and they’ve sort of become messy mutts because of severe inbreeding issues to meet the puppy demand after the movie came out.

But they’re still dogs!

You can’t really review this movie without spoilers, so I’ll keep it to the intro of the film that was posted on YouTube already:

  • A Dalmatian dropkicks Cruella’s mother to her death off a cliff
  • The Dalmatians are trained to literally do this by the antagonist of the movie
  • The name of the antagonist is Baroness Von Hellman. I don’t think she makes mayonnaise.

The movie basically comes down to Cruella de Vil vs Woman Who Trains Dogs to Dropkick People Off Cliffs. And we get it as a “sympathetic” origin story, again, for a character whose name is basically CRUELTY EVIL.

In some bananas way, this is almost like Batman’s origin story but replace Batman with Harley Quinn and Joe Chill with a Dalmatian. All the notes are there, but its manic and insane.

This is kind of a good capital M ‘Movie’, but its bogged down by being a Cruella movie. There is kind of a heist thing going on and I love me heist movies. There’s very much a style and vision here.

But its couched in this layer of thick, cream cheesy icing where it’s like a shitpost on Tumblr went viral and someone wrote an insane fanfic that lasts two hours and 14 minutes.

Emma Stone looks great and is wonderful in the role. So are the rest of the cast. The characters are simple and fun and wild. It’s overacted in a fun cheesy way but there doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of cake-like substance under the icing.

One major negative to the movie for me was the fact that Cruella doesn’t smoke one cigarette the entire movie. I get it’s a “kids movie” but properties like Pixar and Digimon have shown you can tackle slightly more adult themes and have some darker elements without children turning into Satan worshippers.

You can portray smoking as a normal and fine or intimidating. You just gotta try. Someone sparking up a smoke doesn’t automatically have to equal burnt out scrub stressed out and mentally falling apart anymore. Watch Letterkenny where smoking is casual and you almost don’t even notice it. Watch any non-Strangers Things-ish 70s or 80s throwback movie and smoking is just there and casual because it was. This is a movie set in the 60s and people loved their cigarettes back then!

There’s a plot thing about poop and murder but smoking is too far? This is a character basically named CRUEL AND VILE.

I don’t think this movie can be watched before 101 Dalmations and make any sense. I just don’t really see where this silly-crazy-IDK-BUT-MAYBE-wink-wink style character becomes the pure evil lady who wants to skin dogs to make a fancy jacket to smoke cigarettes in.

She goes from this meek “Oh shucks I’m just Estella oh jeez!” style character to comedic levels of “I will bathe in the blood of 1 billion Dalmatians while the planet burns around me!” and it doesn’t feel earned. It just kind of happens and switch gets flipped. I would have like to have seen more Cruella under the Estella mask moments. Maybe it is there and I missed it but I’m not sure.

Like a lot of movies that come out now as sequels, reboots, soft reboots, etc. this movie almost feels like the script was for something different but the writers couldn’t get it green lit as Unknown Intellectual Property. So they turned it around, shoe horned it, cut and covered it in “Cruella de Vil’s origin story but live action and it has levels of story insanity that not even the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon on Fox could match!” Boom, script greenlit.

I don’t know where this places overall as a Disney live action remake/reboot/whatever. It would have to be almost on its own because of the absurdity of it all. The climax is straight out of Saturday morning cartoons where you basically get the Team Rocket “We’re Blasting Off Again!” moment.

The movie is insane and I don’t even really know what I think about it. I won’t watch it again, but I hope this enters the cultural zeitgeist and we get memes for a long time. It absolutely feels like a movie you maybe wouldn’t enjoy a second time. But maybe the meme scenes are strong enough. I’ve really enjoyed seeing random Dalmatian-posting. Is it worth watching? Maybe. Is it worth the money on Disney+? Probably not. But are you a big Disney weeb? Well I guess sure then.

Lastly, Disney’s BS “inclusion” scene annoyed me in this movie maybe even more than the 2 second kiss in Rise of Skywalker. It’s Cruella holding hands with a lady for 2 seconds before the scene matters so it can be cut so China doesn’t get mad like someone dared to say Taiwan is a country. F off!

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker is Whatever. It Exists.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the Transformers movie equivalent of a Star Wars film. It fell into itself and didn’t want to change anything.  It clings to the basic premise of Star Wars, which is fine, and doesn’t let go for anything or any reason, which is frustrating. This might be Star Wars at its worst, which is afraid to be anything you haven’t seen before.

Star Wars, cinematically, is an echo. Everything rhymes. “It’s like poetry” said George Lucas once. Everything Star Wars is here: the Force, X-Wings, Star Destroyers, Sith, Jedi, lightsabres, etc. Empire big strong and then the underdog Rebels pull a John Cena to a victory. That’s where the movie becomes frustrating because that’s all the movie is, again. We saw that in Episode VII and in Episode VIII.

That’s to be expected. The Lord of the Rings movies are fantastic and every movie ends with the heroes winning over evil. The key difference is that it feels earned; every movie ups the stakes and increases the grandeur in a way that makes sense step by step.

Was Episode VII – The Force Awakens good? Sure it was. Don’t pretend it’s a bad movie. Call it unimaginative if you want, but it was a safe and entertaining blockbuster that made you interested in what Star Wars could be again. You can go back and watch it and enjoy how it brought a charismatic cast together, planted seeds, had some mystery, did the big stuff and was enjoyable. Probably as good a reboot as you would get.

Was Episode VIII – The Last Jedi good? It was fine. It did some stuff that was interesting, had pointless side plots, some frustrating character choices and decisions (maybe the Rebellion really likes to watch Suits in space). For everything good, it did something a bit whatever and a few things just plain blargh. If that movie ends after the back-to-back fight on a cliff hanger then everyone is probably thinking of it relatively favourably. But it didn’t, oh well. However, it gets worse because of what follows.

Is Episode IX – Rise of Skywalker good? Eh… your mileage may vary. How much are you into wanking off to nostalgia, hectic action, 1+1=2 plot, frustrating character decisions and insane pacing? I can’t get away from thinking the movie was just frustrating. I’m not mad or sad. I’m not giddy. Depending on which 5 minute span of the movie I was watching I would go from enjoyment to indifference to annoyance or displeasure. But I know that after it ended, the conclusion to the 9 movie 40 year Skywalker arc, I wasn’t satisfied.

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The worst thing movie’s can do is waste potential because that can make an okay movie bad. A bad movie is just bad and you know its bad. But leaving an okay movie that could have been more feels worse because your brain is telling you “That should have been better.”

I didn’t know a movie could make me appreciate Avengers: Endgame as a film more than I already did. Imagine if Infinity War and Endgame were condensed into one two hour movie. No scene has the time to sink in. There’s barely been a pause in dialogue before the scene is transitioned and someone else somewhere else completely is talking. It’s like it was edited on TikTok.

There’s so few moments where things move at a “normal” pace that when it does happen it feels almost jarring that a “normally” paced scene is occurring. But then you take in the normally paced scene and enjoy it just to get discombobulated right after by another hectic, lightspeed mess.

Plot threads IN THIS FILM are literally being dropped from scene to scene. Something will be brought up and then 15 minutes, or less, after someone says the cinematic equivalent of “Oh that? Doesn’t matter. Forget about it, please.”

There are moments and decisions that should be Big Things that happen so quickly that the movie feels like a TV edit. There are other times where the weight of a decision is completely negated or becomes inconsequential almost immediately after it happens.  Characters are making turns and decisions so quickly that you feel like someone off screen is tapping their watch saying “Wrap it up” like Monica during Phoebe’s wedding speech.

So many scenes could have been so much more if they were given more time, but you travel across like 6 planets in less than 90 minutes. When scenes don’t have the time or weight to happen “properly” then you forget about them. Moments don’t become memorable otherwise.

There’s a scene where they straight up pull it from a WW2 movie with Nazi SS dudes doing door to door raids and stuff. The Rebels have to sneak about to find a macguffin and avoid the First Order. That could have been 20 minutes with a lot of tension and pressure. Instead it was like 10 minutes and it ends on what feels like a whim. And it was the second time they landed on Planet Convenience in a row.

Characters will face down something that appears harrowing, say “we gotta climb the big thing”, “wow that’s gonna be tough”, and then it just cuts to them at the top of the harrowing big thing. Usually this kind of stuff goes: Introduce an issue, struggle with issue, solve it. Instead we get: introduce a thing, solve it immediately, move on. It’s like a chain of fetch quests in a video game.

You would think a director who is also a fanboy of Star Wars, in JJ Abrams, would understand these things. He did these things pretty well in his Star Trek reboot. He got emotion and excitement right in those movies.

I can’t help but feel that JJ Abrams was the angry fan who walked out of The Last Jedi with a wet diaper. There’s such a feeling of “Episode VIII didn’t happen! Episode IX is the REAL VIII and IX at the same time!” There are moments that feel like actual middle fingers to the previous film to the point you could probably just watch Episode VII and go to Episode IX just off the pre-scroll.

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I just want to vent for a bit about Kylo Ren and Rey, and their relationship. There may be a few spoilers from here out but we’re talking about a movie from 2019 in 2021, so…

Kylo Ren, portrayed by Adam Driver, is the best part of the movie, again. He deserves so much more than this movie for his acting. He carried this franchise. He’s the closest to feeling like a real movie person across three movies, where other characters are all over the place due to the lack of foresight from page one or they’re almost entirely static.

Daisy Ridley is perfectly fine as Rey. But the issue is Rey. Rey gets to do everything for free. Our other big Force characters always took an L where they screwed up, but came out the other side as a better character:

  • Anakin lost an arm because he was too cocky, then he became a robot because had an unstoppable boner.
  • Luke lost a hand because he was too brazen and didn’t take his training seriously.
  • Obi-Wan lost his mentor and didn’t listen to his better judgment and it led to Darth Vader.
  • Kylo Ren is suffering from the galaxy’s biggest case of imposter syndrome after his Uncle tried to murder him in his sleep.

These are important because to round out a character they need to take a loss. Aragorn took an L in Lord of the Rings. Tony Stark took some L’s as Iron Man. Rey gives up a late goal but always scores it right back to win.

She might not win clean, but she’s basically John Cena when John Cena couldn’t lose a match for like 10 years. She’s Hulk Hogan from the 80s. I don’t consider her a Mary Sue, but I get why people say she is now when I didn’t really hold that belief before.

Her biggest trauma relates to her parents (fair enough), but she’s never gets her Big Loser moment to teach her a lesson. Not that I’m trying to neckbeard here, but there’s a moment that could have been her “oh my god I effed up” but like 12 seconds later they go “no it’s okay”. She’s never had to come back from a big mistake that changes her. That’s… boring.

It makes it even worse when the movie climaxes and she kisses Kylo Ren. The kiss sucks. It wasn’t about good and bad meeting and the whole world is grey.

Kylo Ren is shown to be a paranoid-schizophrenic with a hunger for violence and anger problems that have stunted his maturity to the point that he has had different Big Evil’s doing his thinking since he was a teenager when he became an intergalactic Neo-Nazi. He has tried to kill the Rebels more times than you can count and has killed enough of them, and innocents, to make Stalin feel inadequate.

His first encounter with Rey begins with him torturing her for information and he’s relentlessly antagonized her for a couple years now by killing her friends, blowing up planets and doing his best to manipulate her at every turn.

He’s basically happily killed both his parents. He is in no position to be in a relationship with anybody. No matter what you feel about him, he is in no position to be in a relationship with anyone. Especially not the equivalent of a Force using demi-god with her own abandonment issues with big time force powers she can’t even control.

But apparently torturing her left a good first impression. Killing her friends and tons of randoms and innocent civilians was also okay and cool and forgivable. Killing his dad was fine. Being hell-bent on destroying almost your entire resistance was okay.

Screw it. Maybe they deserve each other.

Just about everyone else in the movie is useless and don’t really matter but they get B plots that are easily solvable so they can kill time while the headliners do their thing because if you don’t have The Force Juice you don’t matter in Star Wars.

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If you’re going to spend 4 billion dollars on a media property famous for trilogies, lore and the expanded universe then perhaps plan your new trilogy out in advance. It doesn’t need to be scripted to the second, but setting up plot threads and then doing nothing with them because you had no plan is so painfully WWE.

Movie universes shouldn’t struggle and fail this often. What Marvel is doing, and to a lesser extent Legendary with the Godzilla and Kong movies, isn’t terribly difficult. Plan it out, have patience, execute it.

You can understand DC stumbling because it took them four years to realize they couldn’t do six years of build in three films. You get why the Dark Universe bumbled, because they couldn’t contain themselves and wanted to go big right away. Sony’s Spider-Man world failed in the exact same way. You can’t hit the gym twice and then hope to hit world record numbers on a deadlift.

But you would have thought Star Wars, a Disney property, would have been able to knock on the Marvel, a Disney property, door next door and get such simple advice as “yeah try to at least sorta plan things out and stick to that.” It’s like they went and knocked on the Fox’s X-Men door, a Disney property, and got their advice from them.

Or maybe the guy who wrote Batman v Superman isn’t the best choice for cohesion in your climactic film.

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The Last Jedi was not perfect, but it did do like four great things: Rey being a nobody, Old Man Luke not living up to the myth, Kylo talking to Rey about “Jedi and Sith are both dumb. What if we did our own thing?” and posing the question of “Maybe anyone can tap into the force/be a hero?”

This movie pretty will dumps on all of those: Rey is important and always has been like Harry Potter-Aragorn-Anakin. Luke wasn’t tired, he’s actually silly like puppet Yoda now. Then “actually the Jedi are good and right and the Sith are pure evil and wrong. There is no merit to the Jedi having their issues as well.” And absolutely no way can anyone be a hero. Only people from basically two families are allowed to be heroes.

One of the worst ways to handle something that is potentially cool is by going “Look how cool this could be?” and then going “Nope. That isn’t cool and you’re bad for wanting something like it” because now you’ve gone and split your audience further.

Rise of Skywalker is so desperate to course correct on The Last Jedi that in their attempts to make you forget about it that it instead makes it so you can’t forget about The Last Jedi at all.

I do want to say that I feel the amount of freedom Disney supposedly gave Rian Johnson for Episode VIII was overstated as a lame attempt to satisfy people through post-film PR – I’m basing this off the weird shifts in tone and the extraneous forth act and how they fit the film compared to Rian Johnson’s other work.

But maybe you hated The Last Jedi for perfectly good reasons and you feel this actually did things right. I don’t know. I feel this movie bashes as much “established Star Wars” with a hammer just as much. However, I get the feeling that cinematic Star Wars has just reached fan apathy level.

Cinematic Star Wars is just so weird. You have so many people, that call themselves huge fans and maybe they are or maybe they’re “fans” for the hustle, that seem like they’re always racing each other to see who can hate it more. Who can be the most contrarian? Who has the hottest take that they can back with the most nerd cred?

It’s just so weird to see Nerd Media become the behemoth it has where you get the same level of tribalism and viciousness that have been present in sports and politics for years. You get the feeling from the discourse that most of the most vocal fans don’t even like it, but that feeling of not liking it also fuels them to keep not liking it while staying engaged with it.

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For what it is worth, the movie does look great. I love the lightsaber battles in the new trilogy. They aren’t swinging glow sticks and breakdancing, but they’re a bit more involved than a classic style sword duel that more resemble pirate movies from the original trilogy. They swing the swords like they have weight and like they’re really exerting themselves.

The cinematography is great. It’s a well shot movie that’s colour coded well so you understand where you are, even if you don’t know where you are. It isn’t completely devoid of creativity. You get all your classic Star Wars shots and iconography. It’s all here and that part is still pretty cool and backed by a traditional and excellent score.

The character designs and props are always a high point. Maybe its one of the reason’s that Star Wars relies so hard on its own iconography, because its that good: Storm Troopers look good, black bad guy looks good, white good girl looks good, scrappy Rebel outfits look good, the X-Wing and the Millenium Falcon are wicked designs. “Show, don’t tell” as a rule has been a strength of Star Wars for the better part of it’s existence.

The themes, as repetitive as they’ve become, are still strong. Anyone can stand up to oppression. Maybe it’s ten people but maybe then its twenty people, then fifty and then you’ve started a revolution. There will always be resistance to tyranny. That’s good and especially in 2021 its a really prevalent message.

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In the end, the worst thing Big Hollywood can do is be average. This movie is average. Did I complain a lot? Yes. Did I enjoy myself? Kinda. Would I recommend this? I guess but not really.

I’m just sour because the potential of this series declined at an exponential rate and that’s a bummer. Fantasy movies are cool. Space movies are cool. Fantasy space movies should be really cool.

I was just hoping for something slightly new creatively. A slightly different take on things that avoided wanking itself off with the nostalgia glove. It’s just a very predictable movie that never catches you off guard, subverts your expectations in a good way or satisfies the obvious outcome either.

This is the finale. The Finale. The finale to a nine movie arc (ten if you want Rogue One in here). This is the cap to Star Wars as people know it. The end. The big climax to it all. But it just piddles itself out with a sloppy landing.

At some point we’ll be into Episode X, XI and XII and everyone will be excited again. People have started looking back at the prequels and think they’re good movies for some reason. In 10-20 years I’m sure the same will happen here. Everyone cheered like crazy for The Last Jedi. Then they hated it. But then everyone rushed right back in for Rise of Skywalker only to hate it. People couldn’t keep their pants on for The Mandalorian but I’ve even seen some people start to poo poo that.

Maybe the best thing this set of Star Wars films did was get so mad at Rian Johnson that they kicked him out, and he responded by making Knives Out. Go watch that. It’s great.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

Everyone Needs to Watch ‘Soul’

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Soul is good. Like damn good. A movie hasn’t hit me like that since Inside Out. Pixar really is unmatched when it comes to knocking out absolute bangers. Soul is terrific, creative and thoughtful. I continuously said out lout during the movie “Wow, this is really good” and “I really like this movie” when it had barely been running 30 minutes.

There will be some light spoiler-ish things below but it’s thematic and not plot.

Its refreshing to see something that feels so earnest and thoughtful, especially to cap off a year that was not all peaches and candy. Maybe that’s part of what made Soul hit me the way it did. The movie isn’t fast paced but it moves along really well and never gets boring. At the same time, it gives you time to think about what its showing you and saying. You can pause and reflect during a scene as it breathes, allowing you to take it all in.

The best part is that it says a lot visually without having to explain everything. The animation is simple yet complex. The message of the movie is conveyed via visuals and feeling, not just dialogue. Show, don’t tell. It makes the message that much stronger when you can feel something. You can feel what the heavier, weighted scenes are saying without saying anything at all.

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I’m not trying to give the impression that the entire film is heavy or dark. It isn’t. You get a lot of fun and humour and hijinks with creativity and laugh out loud moments. It’s just that there is a balance of those scenes with the scenes that make you think, and that’s why Pixar is Pixar.

I feel like this movie wasn’t really made with kids in mind, or not as much as you might assume considering it is an animated film from Pixar. Its still a kid’s movie, but I don’t know if the themes are as easy to spot for a child as they are in something like Inside Out by comparison.

Sure, you’ve got your bright colours and your silly, creative and fun cartoonish non-world world. But you’re also dealing with themes such as life purpose, death, fulfillment, passion, self-reflection and self-image. What is the purpose of life and how do you approach that versus how does someone else?

It makes me wonder what Pixar could do if they fully wanted to drop the Rated G focus and went for something a little more Oscar bait or “adult” in its target. However, part of the magic is that they can approach topics that relate to all ages with a maturity that Soul carries but also make it light and digestible as media.

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I wouldn’t say the movie goes anywhere unexpected, but that isn’t a bad thing. Doing what people expect is perfectly fine when you do it well. Subversion of expectations is great too, but it isn’t always necessary. This isn’t to say the story is completely linear as it does twist and turn, but never in a way has loses the plot. It keeps focus on the message.

Pete Docter did a wonderful job directing this film as everything is spot on from character designs to the look of the world to creating a simple to understand not-world world to explore. The characters are animated and obviously cartoonish, but they also look and act like people. Jamie Foxx does a terrific job as the lead in Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher with a deep love of jazz. Tina Fey is terrific in her role as well and as much as Joe is the main character, you could argue this is just as much her story.

The best part about both of their performances is that they both just come across as regular people. Foxx is great at making Joe sound just like A Guy, the same way as Tina Fey makes her character sound just like a completely normal random as well.

Sometimes you just need a reminder to appreciate the small things and live. It sounds like a Hallmark card, but it doesn’t make the message any less important. Perspective is everything. There’s nothing wrong with a life highlight being when you sit down to eat a piece of pecan pie, just as much as it may be exciting to have highlights where you’re living your dreams and are genuinely feeling fulfilled and successful.

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Having passion is great, but don’t let it become an obsession. Don’t let one aspect of your life dominate everything else as that could limit the connections and experiences you have with others. To me, that might be one of the biggest takeaways in a world where fandoms of video games, comics, anime, music, sports or politics are becoming defining features where you it can make you feel like you have to strongly belong to one Thing and get tunnel vision to an extent you lose empathy for other opinions and the world around you.

Focusing on one Thing might make you happy. I won’t tell you not to, but having to compromise that Thing due to life and finding happiness within the life you’ve built and in new avenues holds exciting potential. Diverging from expectations can be as fulfilling as meeting expectations.

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Its fitting that Soul is about making you feel, reflect and emotionally analyze. The magic comes in doing that without being preachy as at no point do you feel like the film is talking down to you. You’re swept up by the bright colours and the story telling before you even realize you just got a great lesson in mental health.

I honestly can’t think of the last time a movie made me reflect on my life and made me want to do more as a person.  It’s a great middle age version of a coming of age story. You’re never too old to learn more, achieve better and become more of who you want to be.

Music really is a great metaphor and focus for the film. Music isn’t always about what you hear. Music is about how it makes you feel. Just as important as a big solo are the quiet sections and the build as the song progresses, the rests and resets. A song that is five or ten minutes of a solo or a great hook would get boring and would not have as much meaning without everything else around it.

Can’t believe we’re at the end and I avoided saying Soul has a lot of soul. Oops.

If you want to get mad at me or be my friend: @Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

The Lion King: Its The Lion King ft. Real* Lions

I love The Lion King. It is my favourite Disney animated movie. It’s a masterpiece and I’ll fight anyone who wants to talk trash about it. There’s so much art and craft in it that I’m willing to bet often gets dismissed because its an 88-minute long hand drawn Disney flick. It is an amazing story with memorable characters, excellent direction, animation and cinematography, beautiful visuals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it (unless you want to discuss the problems of a monarchy, arranged weddings,  a ruling class that literally eats its servants and stuff but please just shhh and let me enjoy what I like).

The biggest fear when remaking something so damn good is screwing it up. Bright side: They didn’t screw it up. Down side: I don’t think this one is better.

It was a bit of a difficult time titling this review. I didn’t want to say it was bad. I can’t really say it’s better. It is prettier, but it’s less imaginative as a result. It pretty much just is The Lion King remade with real* lions.

I can’t say for sure if that’s been the case in previous iterations of the Disney live action remakes. I’ve actually seen remarkably few animated Disney classics and even less of the modern live action remakes in recent years.

For reference:

  • The Jungle Book: saw live action, never the animated version
  • Beauty and the Beast: never the animated, lasted about 20 minutes into the Emma Watson version
  • Dumbo: didn’t see either
  • Aladdin: see above

The biggest change is that this movie traded the fantasy elements of the original for realism in the portrayals, as if this could actually be happening or did happen over in Africa.

For every amazing visual of the landscape or close up on the animals or amazing tracking shots of the lions running that look straight out of a documentary, you lose some whimsy and fantasy that came with the musical numbers or interpretations of certain conversations. I was really hoping to see what director John Favreau and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel would come up with for those more fantastical scenes, but they kept it “realistic” throughout the film. It isn’t a bad choice, just a slight bummer.

One thing you really miss with the realistic animals is elements of character design. Scar in the animated is very wiry and thin; his claws are always out, vibrant green eyes, black mane and he almost has an “evil beard” in his mane.

Same goes Mufasa. In the original, while a lion, he’s shaped like a body builder and has a silhouette as if Superman was there. Big shoulders, chest out, glorious mane and a broad face similar to the square jaw you’d see on Batman or Captain America in a cartoon. Simba looks like a young boy animorphed into a lion. Same with Nala and Sarabi. They look feminine through their eyes and slight difference in head shape far more than the “real” lions in the movie. Timon doesn’t quite seem like the used car salesman as his mannerisms aren’t the same now that he’s an accurate meerkat.

It’s those elements of personification that allow for just that extra bit of connection and storytelling to the characters and thus the story. You might not have noticed those things, but your brain did.  Simba looking like a boy makes you feel like he’s you as a kid or your son. The look of Mufasa really gives him the look of a protector and king. That little bit of a human look to the animals makes their actions and voice work feel more personal.

While that is lost, the look is still a treat as the designs are now more subtle. The photorealistc animals are great to look at and tell their story in a more subtle way. There is more emphasis on colour palette and using natural proportions to their physical best. The animals are adorable and imposing. Child Simba moving around on his little legs helps make him feel like he’s just that much more of a child.

The story is still excellent, and the few additional scenes and beats are improvements. The voice cast is great.

James Earl Jones is back as Mufasa and his performance is as strong as it was 25 years ago. Child Simba and Nala are great. Timon, Pumba, Zazu, and the Hyena’s are great. It’s a coin flip on who does a better job. I prefer Donald Glover’s adult Simba to Mathew Broderick’s. Beyonce isn’t quite as good as Nala as Moira Kelly.

The biggest change comes in the form of Scar. In the original, voiced by Jeremy Irons, the character is more of a conniving trickster and betrayer. A character not unlike Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. He’s more cheeky and campy. He desires the throne and wants to scheme his way to the top. Every word was dripping in contempt for Simba and Mufasa.

While both are characters who have been passed over for not being “good” enough, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s is more terrifying. He really comes across as if he’s brooded on the shortcomings that have kept him from the throne far more than Irons’. You don’t really sympathize with him, possibly empathize as he’s less cartoonishly evil, but you get a bit more of a feel for how a life of being #2 when he believes he should be #1 has poisoned him.

Ejiofor is more menacing as Scar. He’s angry and hate-filled. There is a lot more raw power to his voice that comes across as hatred. He’s a far more evil character, and that makes the stakes feel higher in the darker moments of the film as he seems like a bigger threat. He truly covets power and seems as if his hunger will never be sated. You get more of a feeling that he has planned and made contingencies to protect him akin to James Spader’s Raymond Reddington. There’s more of an imposing danger to the modern version.

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The movie doesn’t transform the source material, but I don’t know why you would want it to. The Lion King is a perfect movie. Call me a fool for supporting the laziness of Big Hollywood, but a visually refreshed version of this is all I wanted. It’s what I got. It’s what you’ll get.

I expect at some point, maybe 10 years from now, where this version is the definitive The Lion King for a whole new generation and that people will judge it more on its own merits. I just hope that this one doesn’t come to replace the 1994 version and a masterpiece is lost.

One question I’m left with though: why are the gazelles and giraffes and all them showing up at the baby shower? If my boss also ate me to stay alive there isn’t a chance in hell I’m showing up to watch him parade around his kid who will grow to be my boss by birthright and possibly eat me. Maybe I’m taking it all a bit literally.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.