Archive for category Miscellaneous Stuff
Movies may not change, but tastes in movies do. Sometimes you’ll love a movie when you first see it, only to be disappointed with it years later. Other times, you may find a movie doesn’t whet your whistle when you first see it, but your tune changes for the better when you stumble upon it on TV. One major example of the latter is Drop Dead Fred, a movie I loathed when I first saw it, but thanks to a little sister who couldn’t get enough of it, the more I watched it, the more it latched onto my marrow and bled my resistance like a tick, until I couldn’t get enough of its wild breed of insanity.
A more recent example — and less dramatic — is the 2007 buddy road trip movie, Wild Hogs. On first viewing, I thought the humor felt a little worn and the characters were just going through the motions. There was nothing inherently bad about the film, but nothing stood out enough to really grab my attention either. Fast forward a few years and while catching a scene or two here and there on cable, the film has grown on me. The jokes seem to land better with repeat viewings and the bonds between characters is much deeper than I remember when I originally saw it.
For whatever the reason, I can see this same scenario happening with the new kids film, Monster Trucks. On the outset, the movie is unable to find any time to build a strong foundation in plot or character, and plays it as safe as it can when it comes to the world it creates. At the same time, the movie is enjoyably meaningless, a combination that could lead to me warming up to it should I ever catch it again on the boob tube.
Tripp (Lucas Till) is a seemingly lonely high school senior with a penchant for both destroying and fixing cars. His father (Frank Whaley) left him and his mom (Amy Ryan) for some unknown reason and his mom’s boyfriend, Rick (Barry Pepper), the sheriff in their quaint middle-America town, constantly butt heads with him — again, for no apparent reason. The one friend he has, Sam (Tucker Albrizzi) is only a friend when Tripp needs help with something, because I don’t see the two (one a hunky brooder, the other a lackey nerd) forming any type of friendship based on the end of the film… not the best example for impressionable kids. Then there’s the love interest, Meredith (Jane Levy), another relationship that’s sort of a non-starter, as it begins with hardly any build-up whatsoever. It’s just kind of there and never really evolves.
His life gets turned upside-down when an oil company (which has basically paid off the town in order to drill on the land by Reece Tenneson, your typical ruthless oil baron oddly played by the Grinder… I mean, Rob Lowe) hits a pocket of water that unleashes a trio of creatures from within the depths of the earth’s crust. Two of them are captured right away by Reece and his scientific companion, Jim Dowd (Thomas Lennon), who quickly discovers how intelligent they are and how they communicate with one another.
The third somehow hides inside of a truck that’s destroyed during the melee and is towed to the local junk yard where Tripp works. When the pair discover one another, both are reasonably frightened at first, but quickly bond when they discover that neither is out to harm the other. All the creature (which Tripp names Creech) wants is food (in this case, gallons of oil) and all Tripp wants is a friend — wait. That’s wrong. All Tripp wants is a truck that will carry him out of town once school is over, which means, much like Sam, the creature is used by Tripp to get what he wants.
One of the major issues I have with the film — and this is an issue that a lot of kids films have — is that there are no repercussions for the protagonists. When Reece sics his corporate goons onto the world to find Creech so that they can kill the whole lot and keep from having the oil field shut down, Tripp tweaks out an old truck he’s been working on so that Creech can become the engine. At one point, he feeds Creech gasoline from a gas station, which, with all of its additives, causes him to get high. In the course of his acid trip, he crushes various cars in a used car lot as if he was a monster truck in a sports arena. The scene is meant to be funny, but plays like a cartoon.
Creech is also setup to be an extremely smart character, but at times it feels as if he’s a little too smart. Director Chris Wedge doesn’t spend enough time with Tripp and Creech at the beginning to warrant the friendship they build to the point where the two basically understand the other without being able to speak. It could be because of some type of psychic connection the two have, or maybe it’s just a convenient way for the director to make a lot of the movie work. The point is, it goes to show the lack of character development that kept me from feeling any sense of justice when the good guys triumph and the bad guys find their comeuppance. One set of characters in particular, the requisite bully that doesn’t do anything to warrant that title except have an extravagant truck and his girlfriend who may or may not have a crush on Tripp, are treated like nothing but glorified extras who the director uses to elicit manufactured drama (and laughs).
With all of that said, the special effects are serviceable, the action sequences well done, and Creech is a likeable little alien slug who deserves more than this selfish kid that doesn’t think much about anyone but himself. I’m not sure Tripp has learned any lessons from his adventures with Creech by the end, and believing that the relationship with the too-nice Meredith is going to be anything but a failure is foolish. But there’s something about the film that lingers… something that sparks an interest and makes me feel as if I’m wrong about the film. Who knows; maybe some day I’ll see Monster Trucks again and find it far better than I remember when I first watched it. But until then, all I can say is the movie isn’t great, nor is it bad. It’s simply a harmless piece of family entertainment.
My Grade: B
Next week, new movies include xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Split and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.
There are movies that wow you. There are movies that disappoint you. And then there are movies that underwhelm, giving you a taste of wow, but never fully delivering on that promise. Passengers, the new space adventure starring lovable every-man Chris Pratt and playful hard-ass Jennifer Lawrence, falls into that latter category. The film is swarming with good ideas, stellar acting from all three of its leads, terrific visuals and a somewhat bittersweet love story, but when all is said and done, and the final credits roll, I couldn’t help but wonder… was that all? Read Full Review
Even though it’s just as important to the quality of a film, production design isn’t talked about a lot when it comes to what makes a movie great. Bad acting keeps the viewer from investing in the emotion of a character, poor cinematography turns the film’s visual appeal sour, and bad sound design can make one’s ears bleed, but mediocre production design will make an entire film feel inauthentic. Like all aspects of a film, production design enhances the story, adding visual cues to character and location that are absorbed by the viewer throughout the film, adding layers to characters, locations, and mood that we didn’t even know we needed. The items placed in a bedroom, the wardrobe worn by extras, the color palette of a city landscape — they all hold meaning within the world the filmmakers are creating, and if just one thing is out of place or doesn’t make sense, viewers will notice, even if only subconsciously. I bring this up because Rogue One, the first of many standalone entries in the ever-expanding Star Wars saga, must rely heavily on the production design to make this fun, intense chapter fit into the massive world correctly. Read Full Review
Two films came out this weekend that couldn’t be more different. Almost Christmas is a run-of-the-mill Christmas dramedy and Arrival is a quiet, thought-provoking science-fiction drama. One follows all the rules, staying true to the cliche elements of the genre; one breaks the rules by presenting its subject matter in a smart, realistic fashion. One has a black cast with a token white guy; the other has a white cast with a token black guy. That last one was a joke, of course, but the point I’m trying to get across is that it’s perfectly acceptable to travel the ledge on either side of the spectrum, so long as the final product is entertaining and taps into the emotions the filmmakers were attempting to embrace. Familiar and comfortable can be just as engaging as introspective and unique. Read Full Review
Keeping Up With the Joneses is one of those movies you really, really want to like. It has an enjoyable cast, some promising ideas and a fish-out-of-water premise that when done correctly, is always fun to be a part of. And who doesn’t like Jon Hamm? He may be best known for his turn on the advertising drama, Mad Men, but having shown great comedic chops with his numerous pop-ins on Saturday Night Live, he settles into this story with ease, matching barbs and clever wits with more seasoned comediennes. It seems, though, that this is where the movie sort of rests, meandering through the potential bubble without ever being able to burst through and delight us the way it promises, instead playing it safe and doing just enough to satisfy its target audience without ever truly blowing them away. Read Full Review
I’m going to say something possibly unpopular and perhaps a bit strange. I hate the children’s book The Giving Tree, even though oddly, it was my favorite book. I remember being five and reading the story and just weeping for the tree, feeling devastated. Understanding what she was feeling. I recall hating the boy and the self-centered […]
You’ve seen some of the more prominent awards (read Part 1), now let’s move onto some of the specialty awards.
Coming Into Its Own Award: Girl Meets World
As the second season of the continuation of a beloved 90s sitcom continued, Girl Meets World started to find its voice without the old cast getting in the way. Like Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis), who matured into something better as he grew older, so too has the show started to mature along with its cast. Though I still feel that a lot of the writing is forced — that is to say, the lessons aren’t as organic as they were on the original show — as Girl Meets World grows, its finding its way a lot more, culminating in a three-part episode that showed it wasn’t afraid to reach deep for emotions. As Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) started exploring their feelings for each other as well as for their shared love of Lucas (Peyton Meyer), the show wasn’t afraid to stop mining for laughs and develop the drama in a creative, more realistic way. If its true that the show will continue to evolve into more dramatic fare and “real issues” that look to capture those strong moments while still being funny and sweet, then I’m excited to see what they’ll continue to do as season 3 progresses. See More Awards
One of the old adages for a majority of literary and creative writing “gurus” is to write what you know. This can take on different meanings with different people, but to me it means write for your passion; it means write for yourself first and the public later. By doing so you’re able to imbue your characters with the love, the pain and the life experiences that you’ve personally had, which in turn allows them to live and breathe through you while having the freedom to add the wild ideas you’ve always wished to explore as a scintillating garnish. Christian Warren Freed, author of Where Have All the Elves Gone? gives this wise-old adage an interesting spin by not only giving his characters backstories that may correspond in certain ways with his own, but creatively compounds the idea by turning the life we know into something far from what we think it to be. Read Full Review
My Never Ending Journey to Find Success with What I Love – guest post by Bryan Caron — Ana Spoke, author
My blog is supposedly about self-publishing, although that’s just the current flavor of my personal journey in pursuit of happiness. It has also become a platform through which I’ve “met” other writers and creatives actively pursuing their various original dreams and ideas. It has been a pleasant surprise to discover just how supportive these people […]