Spy Kids 3 and Spy Kids 4 – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2004 and 2011 movies Spy Kids 3: Game Over and Spy Kids 4-D: All the Time in the World.

I reviewed Spy Kids 1 and 2 in a previous post

Story

Spy Kids 3

Villain captured in a cyber prison turns that prison into a game in order to enslave kids minds and …? Spy organization sends kid spy into game to find his sister and shut the game down.

It has serious potential but there was so little story and what there was, was confusing, ableist, or just boring. I spent most of the movie shaking my head or yelling at the main character. The first two were all about family but this one barely makes a cameo out of everything.

Score: 0

Spy Kids 4

It took seven years for people to forget about the last one. This one brings in new kids, new parents, and a very updated OSS. The time manipulation was utterly unbelievable and made my head hurt.

The story did go back to it’s roots and become all about family. The cameos by the original kids was great.

Score: 0.5

Characters

Spy Kids 3

They really tried to make Juni the sensitive outsider here and it failed completely. He’s basically a bumbling idiot. While in the others he and his sister bumble together and solve the problem, in this one the villain is helping him win and his sister is only in a tiny part of the movie.

Stalone is fantastic at chewing the scenery but his character is confused, confusing, and barely above useful. And don’t get me started on the one girl character.

Score: 0

Spy Kids 4

The characters in this were much better and less insulting stereotypes. I like that the boy being hearing impaired doesn’t make him weak, I like that the mom kicks ass while pregnant, I like that the kids are smart again. That being said, they were all a little bland as characters.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

Spy Kids 3

There’s a scene near the beginning where the main character is talking about family and another character says, “Everyone is family Juni.”

His reply is, “That doesn’t any sense.”

That’s the best description of this movie. Nonsensical drivel followed by insipid dialogue.

Score: 0

Spy Kids 4

It wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible. There are a few good puns and a lot of clock or time jokes. It’s ok.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

Spy Kids 3

I thought 2 had a lot of 3D gimmicks and stupidity. This one practically based the entire movie on it. It’s cheesy pseudo computer game graphics for the entire movie. It looked bad sixteen years ago and looks worse now. The music was better.

Score: 0.5

Spy Kids 4

It took a few movies but they finally moved back to the hyper-saturated cartoon look of the first one. The action well done and the scenery is great. The music wasn’t fantastic but it was pretty good.

Score: 0.5

Fun

Spy Kids 3

The beginning and the end are a lot of fun and the middle parts are interesting if non-nonsensical and dumb.

Score: 0.5

Spy Kids 4

This was my daughters favourite of the four. She said it’s cause there was a dog and a baby. I liked it because it was a fun kids action movie. It doesn’t hold up to the original, but it was ok.

Score: 1

Overall

Spy Kids 3

Taking out the sibling dynamic from this series was a mistake. This movie doesn’t live up to the first and frankly is one of the worst movies I’ve seeen. It’s not offensive (Except the honeypot, nerd bashing, and ableism) just boring.

Final Score: 1 Star

Spy Kids 4

This movie tried to recreate the whimsy and awesomeness of the first but doesn’t quite get there. It’s bogged down by fart jokes and 3D gags along with a premise that makes my head hurt if I think about it too hard.

Final Score: 3 Stars

Spy Kids and Spy Kids 2 – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2001 and 2002 movies Spy Kids and Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams.

Story

Spy Kids

I was expecting this to be silly and juvenile. It was, but it owned it to a degree that I never expected. The story is a near perfectly crafted spy adventure, with just the right amount of twists and surprises. What elevates the movie is the purposeful overdoing of literally everything. This is a lovingly crafted homage to spy movies that manages to amp up the silly.

Score: 1

Spy Kids 2

The sequel suffers from the tightness of the firsts writing. Expanding to include more spies and more gadgets and more of everything. It did manage to capture the joy and charm of the first one but it took a while.

Score: 0.5

Characters

Spy Kids

Each character is built as a caricature of a standard spy trope and each one manages to overcome it through depth of character and some surprisingly good acting.

Score: 1

Spy Kids 2

The main actors reprise their roles well if not as well as the first. The characters are a little less intricate to make room for the plot and special effects. The inclusion of Buscemi, Montalban, and Taylor to the cast adds skill and gravitas but doesn’t save from the rest of the poor characters and some truly terrible acting from the villians.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

Spy Kids

Overall the dialogue is hammy and overblown. It’s fun but nothing extremely special.

Score: 0

Spy Kids 2

The dialogue in this movie is best described as a pale imitation of the first movie.

Score: 0

Visuals and Music

Spy Kids

This was a pretty solid movie for a low budget 2001 film it still looked good. The music was okay both are acceptable.

Score: 1

Spy Kids 2

This did not age well. The special effects look terrible and the constant 3D gimmicks actually hurt the composition of most scenes.

Score: 0.5

Fun

Spy Kids

This movie was fun and consistently so throughout the movie. Wonderful commentary on kids entertainment, spy movies, and family.

Score: 1

Spy Kids 2

This was uneven and there were several times I wished I wasn’t watching it. It really wasn’t terrible.

Score: 0.5

Overall

Spy Kids

Lovely little film that explorers what it is to be family with an impressive absurdity.

Final Score: 4 Stars

Spy Kids 2

It fails to capture the whimsical absurdity of the first and almost completely loses the heart. It’s not a bad movie but it’s not very good.

Final Score: 2 Stars

Happy Death Day – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2017 movie Happy Death Day.

Story

I’m frankly shocked and surprised that it took this long for someone to combine the slasher and the Groundhog Day concepts. It’s a beautiful mashup that works because these two sub-genres and surprisingly compatible. They both traditionally have horrible stuff happen to the main characters, they both usually involve death, and they usual end happily for at least one character.

This story works, not because of the twist, but because of how heavily it leans into the tropes.

Now that being said the first two loops are set up really slowly, however anyone who’s seen the trailer knows by the second day that the tension isn’t from the slashing but the loop.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters are mostly stereotypes with a few little tweaks. This is a weakness of both sub-genres. Because you live the same day over and over again, only one character develops, leaving the entire emotional outcome of the movie on the shoulders of the main character and their massive development.

Tree’s the heart of the film and without her and us feeling for her, this movie would fall flat. Thankfully it didn’t and she is awesome.

A lot of the characters are superfluous and feel like unused threads. The Vietnamese girl who sits outside the sorority house is a good example of an unused character.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The dialogue was quick, quip-y, and felt right for the characters. It’s fun but not poetry or super memorable.

You’ll laugh, but you won’t be quoting this one in twenty years.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The music is very much from a slasher but it’s unobtrusive and works really well. Visually this movie doesn’t need to be anything beyond a B horror style but doesn’t rest on expectations. The compositions, cuts, and references to other movies is fantastic. The transition where Tree gets hit by a baseball bat and falls into the next day is beautiful on it’s own, but the fact that it’s directly referencing a similar transition in Groundhog Day makes it ever so much better.

Score: 1

Fun

I love slashers and I love Groundhog Day style stories. This movie delivers exactly what I wanted from all of it and has a nice little twist. I’m very glad they changed the ending to what we see in the theatrical version.

Once it got going I didn’t even consider looking at my phone. High praise, considering it was my second viewing.

Score: 1

Overall

This is a movie that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and it certainly isn’t high cinema but it is exciting, smart, fun, and funny. If you like slashers or Groundhog Day stories, you’ll love this movie.

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5


We reviewed the movie on Silver Stag Entertainment‘s Aurora Nominated show Nights at the Round Table.

Teen Beach 2 – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2013 Disney Channel movie Teen Beach 2

I reviewed the first one and gave it a 3.5

Story

While the first movie pretty much wrote the most basic story and used it as a love letter to musicals, this one decides to amp up the drama and show what happens after the endless summer.

This movie is the embarrassed child of the first one. It is ashamed of where it came from but can’t seem to forget it. The plot is basic teen angst until a third of the way in, then it shifts into fish out of water, then it sort of gets lost and forgets where it was going.

At the end, it really doesn’t matter, because through magic, the entire movie and it’s predecessor are wiped from existence.

It does however attempt to have a self-empowerment storyline and spends a lot of time talking about being yourself and accepting others even if they are different. It’s a positive message that I can get behind.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters are different. They don’t act or feel all that much like they did in the first one. They almost feel like caricatures of the originals, which were caricatures to start with.

Nothing is explicitly cancelled out, but liberties were taken with personalities and actions.

Again, it really doesn’t matter because they aren’t the same people at the end of the movie.

Score: 0

Dialogue

The dialogue is updated for modern times and loses the cheese that made the first a lot of fun.

Score: 0

Visuals and Music

The movie was pretty, the people were pretty, the clothes were pretty. I found that the contrast between worlds was lost and I missed the glossy Gidget-style look.

The music was adorable and the dances were great. This movie is only redeemed in it’s music.

Score: 1

Fun

I’m really sour about the ending and it kind of ruined the rest of the movie for me. I hate it when time travel etc re-writes the characters that we spent 3 hours getting to know. I feel cheated.

Score: 0.5 (Only because I loved the songs)

Overall

This movie isn’t hateful, but it isn’t particularly good. I’ll watch the dances on youtube instead of rewatching the movie.

If you loved the first one, be prepared to be disappointed. However, it’s not something I have to worry about showing my kids.

Final Score: 2 Stars

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2019 movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

Story

This isn’t the story of Mister Rogers. It’s a story where he’s a force of nature and personality, making him feel surreal and almost prophet-like.

The actual story is a basic workaholic writer with daddy issues. It’s the kind of thing that makes English majors roll their eyes and critics salivate.

That being said, the parts with Mister Rogers were expertly done. He’s part guru, part prophet, and part therapist.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters aren’t boring, but they are overall cliché. The story was paced to keep me watching but I couldn’t care less about the characters.

However again Mister Rogers and his wife were fantastic.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

This movie was way quippier than you’d expect or than it had any right to be. From jokes about the sister’s third wedding, to quotes from Mister Rogers, to dialogue between the characters.

While the characters were pretty boring, the dialogue was authentic and interesting.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The visuals were interesting. I liked that the cuts were versions of models like in the Mister Rogers show. I liked that they switched to full screen for the fake clips of the show. I even enjoyed the fever dreams of the main character. But at some point the movie crossed into the WTF just happened and then stopped doing anything. The last 15-20 minutes the cuts become real etc. It’s jarring and ignoring some trite, “it represented the character becoming more intune with his real life once he accepted his father and emotions”, it wasn’t well done.

The music was mostly forgetful or taken directly from the Mister Rogers show. There was a great piano duel between Mister and Mrs. Rogers.

Score: 0.5

Fun

I didn’t like it. But I did like parts of it. The surreal aspects and quippy dialogue. The saintly Mister Rogers reminded me of a great Doctor Who quote: “Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.”

Score: 0.5

Overall

Tom Hanks is spectacular, the dialogue is great, and the nostalgia is fun but beyond that it’s a typical white male 30 something writer’s story.

If you replaced Mister Rogers with Jesus or some other saint like figure you’d get the same story but with less people caring.

Final Score: 3.0

Josie and the Pussycats – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2001 movie Josie and the Pussycats.

Story

Let me start by saying this is the most 2000’s movie ever. This is a movie that predates smartphones, 9/11, and MTV no longer playing music videos.

The plot could have been pulled straight from a comic book from the 90’s, the main message is literally explained, and it can’t seem to decide if it wants to be family friendly or not.

The movie is riddled with sex jokes (I mean really ‘backdoor lover’?), puns (the band ‘Dujour’), and patented 2000’s anti-commercialism (buy stuff to make you unique not to be like everyone else).

This is thoroughly a pre X-men and Spiderman comic book movie. Hammy, fourth wall breaking, and terrified it’s audience won’t get it’s messages.

Score: 0

Characters

After 15 minutes I turned to my wife and said, “Ah the 2000’s where female characters were finally allowed to be 2 stereotypes.”

The three protagonist are: Josie (Rock Star, mechanic), Valerie (Activist best friend), and Melody (Animal loving Ditz).

The rest are pretty much the same, Allan Cummings eats up the scenery as does Parker Posey. They ham so much and seriously make their characters work.

Are they balanced? No. Are they an attempt at social commentary? Maybe… Are they likeable? Yes mostly.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

Trite, silly, and downright hilarious. The dialogue in this movie is written to both date it and make it wallow in it’s own silliness. From the code words based off of old rock songs, to the puns, to the line, “I’m here cause I was in the comic” This movie doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to silly dialogue.

Somehow it manages to skirt quotability.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The movie goes out of its way to push the anti-commercialism by including over 70 brands as product placement. It’s coloured and shot like a comic book and genuinely pretty.

The music is good, if repetitive. I’m sad that none of the cast actually performed the songs.

Score: 0.5

Fun

This movie is a condensed feel of my teen years and brings back good and bad memories. It was a more innocent time and because of that I really enjoyed re-watching this.

There’s a little cringe in there but overall the music and corniness make it a lot of fun.

Score: 1

Conclusion

This movie is a snapshot in time of what the late 1990’s early 2000’s was like. Before the world was changed by 9/11 and everything thing else the 2000’s brought.

It’s fun, but not the greatest movie. I feel the messages and lessons get drowned out by the ham.

Final Score: 2.5

Onward – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 film Onward.

Story

I had heard reviews about this movie that said it was the herald that Pixar had lost it’s magic and just become another copy of Disney. (Which I think is unfair since modern Disney owes a lot to Pixar.) This movie didn’t disappoint me. Like the vast majority, it left me crying.

I think the story itself is fairly simple but the world and buildup are fantastic. There’s very little in the movie that isn’t used or exploited again.

That all being said… It was a little predictable. The structure of a Quest or road trip movie, dictates that no matter what they choose, it’ll be wrong but end up pushing the character development. I guessed every twist in advance, which is uncommon for a Pixar.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The story is the characters. That’s really what Pixar is best at, engaging, flawed, lovable, characters that grow because of the story.

From the awkward Mom’s boyfriend to the retired adventurer, they all have depths. I mean, they somehow managed to make a character who was just a bottom half, have a loving and endearing personality.

Score: 1

Dialogue

“You’ll never be ready. Now Merge!” is probably one of the most inspiring things I’ve heard. As someone without his license, it’s also terrifying.

The dialogue is true and it’s certainly authentic; but it’s not extremely memorable after a first watch.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The movie’s description call it a Suburban Fantasy and the visuals never let you forget it. Anytime you see a lush, beautiful, fantasy moment, the visuals will throw in a plane or road sign or manhole cover.

It’s a great balancing act that makes the entire movie visually coherent. I love the look and feel of this world. It’s beautiful and ugly in all the right ways.

The music is mostly variations on fantasy themes with a bunch of classic rock inspired music thrown in. The combination gives a quirky feel but is definitely authentic its Dungeons & Dragons influence.

Score: 1

Fun

This movie had everything I wanted and didn’t try to jam in an awkward romance.

It was exciting, pretty, and a lot of fun.

Score: 1

Overall

This movie feels like it was made to entertain me and pull at my heartstrings. It won’t hit everyone the same way but it is an extremely fun road trip movie set in a suburban fantasy. Plus there’s a gelatinous cube.

Score: 4 stars

Teen Beach Movie – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2013 Disney Channel movie Teen Beach Movie.

There are a few movies about people getting sucked into their favourite movie, book, or game. I’m not sure what this niche genre is called but I obviously love it since I wrote a book in the same genre. Go check out Everdome.

Story

The movie’s plot is simple and too the point. It’s almost completely unimportant and used as a vehicle for the music, whimsy, and references.

Score: 0

Characters

The main characters in this movie are basically Disney Channel cutouts that develop as time goes by.

Oddly enough the “real” world characters have less depths then the stereotypes in the movie world.

They are however very sweet and extremely fun to watch.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

This movie is pure and utter cheese and ham. The movie revels in some of the best cheese lines.

The dialogue is delightful.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie is surprisingly pretty. They really worked towards making it over saturated and beach movie like.

The music is a love letter to teen love stories and classic movie musicals.

Score: 1

Fun

Fun music, cool concept, and extremely entertaining dialogue. This movie has a very low cringe factor and a lot of fun.

Score: 1

Overall

If you’re a fan of musicals and classic beach movies you’ll love this one. I’ve seen it twice and it’s the kind of movie I’d watch without being annoyed. I will also absolutely sing along.

Final Score: 3.5

Enchanted – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2007 movie Enchanted.

Story

This is a tongue-in-cheek love story to Disney princess movies made in a time where there hadn’t been a princess movie in nearly a decade (Mulan came out in 1998). This was before Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Frozen; and way before Sophia. The love of princess movies was considered childish unless you liked them ironically (That’s 2000’s for making fun of something you like so that you come off cool and aloof.)

All that being said, this movie revels in fairy tales and magic. It swims and dances in all things genuinely innocent and magical.

Underneath all that, it is an expertly pulled off Rom-Com.

Score: 1

Characters

Intentionally grating in their saccharin sweetness or in their jaded bitterness (dude, it’s the late 2000’s, enjoy having survived the 90’s and prepare for the ridiculous and horrifying 2010’s.)

There are three characters that grow, Giselle and Robert do the old innocent and grump move towards each other and fall in love, dance. And Nathaniel realizes he’s just a minion and learns to love himself.

Giselle could easily have fallen into the manic-pixie-dream-girl category but over the movie she adjusts to the world and gains agency. She goes from needing to be caught to catching. It’s lovely development but without insulting what she started as.

Score: 1

Dialogue

Like the rest of this movie, the dialogue is peppered with in-jokes and allusions to Disney. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s fun to pick out. Beyond that, the dialogue relies heavily on double meanings and misunderstandings. I really enjoy the way the characters talk with each other when the misunderstandings happen.

Although well done, the dialogue sometimes got self-indulgent in the, “I’m from a fairy tale” sense.

I also rolled my eyes hard at, “I have a gift / A book I know.” I realize they were trying to make him seem down on fairy tales and wanting her to find real life role models, but it just came off as hating on books. I wish they’d had a scene with the little girl and Giselle geeking out over the book.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

This movie is colourful and beautiful. The music is great.

However, the Central Park song (How do you know) is one of the greatest musical moments I’ve ever seen. Both in it’s contrast with Robert’s disbelief and eventual acceptance and with the pure joy that everyone throws into it.

Score: 1

Fun

This movie is a joy to watch from beginning to end. James Marsden hams it up with a delightfully nice prince. (Look at his face with Giselle and Robert kiss.) There’s action, romance, and lots of Easter-Eggs.

Score: 1

Conclusion

If you like Rom-Coms, princess movies, musicals, or fish out of water stories, this one is worth a watch. The world of 2007 was a different place and time, but you have to love it’s innocence.

It’s also a movie filled with strong, capable, and lovely women with urgency and character development. Something that is sometimes lacking in Rom-Coms.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 movie Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

This is supposed to be a sequel to the 2016 Suicide Squad. I reviewed that at the time and was extremely generous in my rating.

Story

The story was overly simple which was a good thing but also telegraphed what was going to happen. This wasn’t a movie that left me guessing, it told you early on what was going to happen and then those things happened.

As with any anti-hero story, there were a few morally awkward moments and a lot of humour.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The movie truly shines through its characters, all written and acted superbly. It was nice that they remembered that Harley is smart. I hate smart characters doing dumb things, but Harley did dumb things because she was hurt, broken, sad, and disturbed.

All that other characters were fantastic and left you feeling like they were well rounded (Although definitely in need of a hug and a paid vacation).

Score: 1

Dialogue

Some of the dialogue was brilliant, the narration was awesome, but not everything was great. All the actors had moments were their natural accents slipped, some of the turns of phrase felt like they were meant for someone else to say, and when Harley wasn’t there or narrating, the movie took a dive towards bad cop drama.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The action pieces, aesthetic, and music were fantabulous. The simplicity of the story led to those big action set pieces. I don’t think I’ve seen better action than that scene in the evidence locker. I also desperately want this soundtrack.

Score: 1

Fun

Other than a few moments were it started dragging (usually non-narrated story parts for the BOP) this was a thoroughly fun movie. Action, humour, drama, and great music.

Score: 1

Conclusion

This movie was fantastic and if you can handle brutal action, I highly recommend it. I definitely look forward to re-watching it.

Much better than Suicide Squad, which I’ll have to re-watch and re-review.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 stars