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Tales from the Cinemaplex: December 2018

The biggest movie releases of December 2018 are examined from a different point of view.

Recently, I ended up getting a job at a movie theater. It has been an interesting ride with many stories to tell. However, I’m not here to discuss private matters. Working there, I have been able to see a lot more movies than I’m used, A LOT more. From new to old, to regular to event screenings, let me take you on a small journey through these feature presentations.

Welcome to Tales from the Cinemaplex. Today, we look at the films and features I’ve seen during December 2018.

Elliot: The Littlest Reindeer

Oh boy, now this was something. I already talked about Elliot: The Littlest Reindeer not that long ago, so I won’t go into much detail with this again. Basically, one of Santa’s reindeer abruptly retires to Florida a few days before Christmas. Thus, a miniature horse, who has been training all his life, wants to step up to become the newest reindeer for Santa’s sleigh. However, it is not going to be an easy time.

I can’t fully sum up how bonkers this movie is. It is kind of like The Magic Gift of the Snowman, but with questionable 3D animation instead. Not the same plot of course, but about as weird and baffling. The wonky and cliched plot, the weird villains (one of whom is kind of in the right about everything), the odd humor and plot points that would make you do a double take, and more come together into such a weird film. This is the kind of thing you expect to see on Netflix during the holiday season while you’re searching its catalogs.

And yet, on the first of December, I was in a crowded room watching this movie. A one-day, special event that opened with several opportunities to take Instagram photos with the main characters and free foam antlers. I can’t say the crowd seemed that much into it, but I was too busy just focused on bizarre sight to really notice. This movie is easily my favorite bad film of 2018. It’s awful, corny, and filled with moments where you question the creators, but yet, just so enjoyable that I loved my time with it. I will definitely be re-watching this one again next Christmas, but with friends to share in the insanity.

Robin Hood

You know you’re in for something special when a movie opens up by telling you to forget everything you know about past incarnations of the property it is adapting. That is how Robin Hood starts and it set the tone perfectly for me. Coming home from a crusade/the War in Afghanistan, Robin of Loxley discovers Nottingham has been taxed and smashed into the ground by the corrupt church and Sheriff, who has no name. With the help of Yahya, aka Little John, a former enemy from the Crusades inspired by his heroism, he sets out to become Robin Hood/Batman/Arrow’s Green Arrow and stick it to the rulers. Also, maybe toss some money to the poor too.

Robin Hood is bad. Magnificently bad. It is hard to describe how bad this thing is. Do I mention how desperately it wants to be a superhero movie with how much it rips off modern superhero tropes and ideas? Should I focus on the bad love triangle between Robin, Maid Marian, and Scarlet Tillman that ends up driving straight into a hilarious Two-Face’s origin? How about the fact that Robin Hood is strangely incompetent, having to be told by everyone what to do, even giving money to the actual poor instead of just Marian. What about the fashion sense or that this is so gray and ugly-looking visually with the story confine to urban settings 99% of the time? The spotty CGI or the fact that one of the high stakes fight scenes is clearly filmed in an abandoned warehouse somewhere? Or how about the fact that the movie oddly promotes anarchy as the solution to dealing with big problems? Feels weird seeing that after watching the third season of The Legend of Korra.

There is almost nothing redeemable about this film outside of a few jokes and performances. The standout actor is Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff, who nails everything perfectly and really pulls you in with his presence. Just the final scene with him as Robin throws his past trauma in his face is perfect. But yeah, this was awful. I walked away thinking this was bad and after everything, I still think this is the worst film of 2018 I’ve seen. Only recommended if you can see this with friends so you can riff through it the entire time.

Once Upon A Deadpool

Now, I never watched Deadpool 2 or Deadpool. I simply just dived straight in by watching this edited version of the original. The premise is the same from what I understand, just with Deadpool retelling the story to Fred Savage recreating The Princess Bride essentially. Almost all harsh swearing is cut, violence and gore is edited around, and so on. Basically, you got the television cut of Deadpool 2, but with an overlay to it.

To be honest, watching this film, I feel I wouldn’t have liked the original cut that much. The story mostly bored me, since for most of the opening, it was just all over the place until it finally decided to focus on one point. It felt like a collection of scenes just taped together with a loose thread to it. Pretty much all of the gross-out and adult humor fell flat to me and even adding edge to it wouldn’t have done anything. It also wasn’t particularly good with tone, having humor that really butted into the drama often. It wanted to have serious moments for sure and on occasion, it worked, but they didn’t feel like they gelled all that well.

Now, I didn’t think the movie was completely bad. The acting was perfectly fine, I love how Domino was written and presented throughout, some of the humor did land, and I really did enjoy almost all of the scenes with Deadpool and Fred Savage (except for one bit that just dragged). There is good to this film, even with the cutting and editing, bu really it is just kind of a mediocre comedy.

Mortal Engines

This movie bombed hard, so much harder than even Robin Hood did. While only having it for two weeks, Robin Hood was still selling out screens at my theater. This film I barely sold anything to sadly. Even seeing the movie myself on a special deal day, I was one of only five people to watch it then. It was a sad sight and what hurts more for me is, despite its critical panning and failures, I really dug this film.

Mortal Engines is complicated to discuss. In the far future after a great war, humanity builds giant mech cities that roam the land, the sea, and the sky. One such city is London, which survives by eating other roaming cities. There’s conspiracies, other groups trying to take control or steal supplies, and a certain woman with a vendetta out there. Like the machines themselves, there are many moving parts to this plot. While there is a lot to unpack and tons happening, everything just kind of works oddly enough.

Now to be fair, while the premise is interesting, under the hood the plot is very cliched and filled with many familiar tropes and ideas. Some of these are incredibly blatant, especially towards the end when I just wanted to shout out, “This is Star Wars!” You see one big, epic fantasy, you kind of have seen this film. The acting is fine, but chemistry between characters leaves something to be desired since you don’t feel the commitment to one another that is supposed to be there. Also, the product placement, while cute and silly, is egregious with how crammed in it is. But it all did work well enough, as samey as it can be.

It is a visually beautiful film with lots of spectacle and excitement from beginning to end, with one of my favorite openings to any movie this year. I did like the acting and there are some stellar character moments, especially the final one between Shrike and Hester. The technical aspects, from the set designs to the costuming, was incredible to look at. I liked the pace of the movie and while a few characters were forgotten, the story wrapped up pretty well. It didn’t even try to sequel bait, telling a complete story. It’s something a lot of companies making these big movies should learn. Tell a complete tale first and then maybe come back later.

However, there will be no coming back to this series. With it bombing hard, Mortal Engines is certainly “mortal”. It is probably already gone by you, but if you happen to catch it on Netflix or find it cheap, I would say give it a look. It was a pretty alright experience.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

There isn’t much for me to add to what has been said. Everyone’s already talked this film up online. And, I’m inclined to completely agree with all of them: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a terrific film.

This is the origin story for Miles Morales, a Spider-Man of a different universe. Within his universe, a threat emerges that could wipe out Brooklyn, bringing several different Spider-Men to his world. There’s a lot to this story and I won’t spoil any of it. It is a solid experience from beginning to end that is a blast to enjoy with fun characters, great humor, fantastic animation, and strong, dramatic moments that are executed flawlessly. The humor and drama is balanced perfectly, unlike other films I’ve seen.

Outside of the soundtrack, which really isn’t up my alley, I have no complaints with this film at all. It was a bit sad at first when I saw this film, being one of only three people to see it at my screening. Plus, I heard it wasn’t doing so hot in this jam-packed winter season. However, I’ve noticed interest has been steadily increasing and the movie is getting sold out more and more where I am. Here’s hoping that’s a sign that more people are checking out this wild ride.

Mary Poppins Returns

And last, but not least thanks to Robin Hood, Mary Poppins Returns. I caught it on opening day. Going in, I hadn’t seen the original in probably a good decade and even then, not all of it at once either. Mary Poppins isn’t really a film that I was into as a kid, but you know what? I wanted to see the sequel and see what Disney had in store for us.

Thirty years have passed since the original film and the kids are grown up, living their own lives. Michael has the old home and is living there with his kids, his wife having passed a year ago. However, the house is threatened to be taken away by the bank unless he can find some old bank shares to pay things off. In comes Mary Poppins to look after everyone and maybe guide them in the right direction mood-wise or something. The lessons here feel murky, and I’m just kind of left dumbfounded by everything.

Mary Poppins Returns, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired. Now, the acting is perfectly fine and I enjoyed just about everyone in their roles, questionable accents aside. Mary Poppins felt a little off, but I rolled with it and even enjoyed the silliness of Jack, who is pretty much Dick Van Dyke from the original. However, the plot is kind of stupid since it feels like it should have been resolved almost right away. The music didn’t really jump out at me much outside of the opening and ending numbers, with some tunes just kind of boring or going on way too long. A lot of the film felt like it was stretched out and some scenes were just weird, like the cartoon chase scene. I’ve heard people say this retreads too much of the original’s story. Again, haven’t watched it in a long time, but I did notice that some things felt like they were really tried to capture the same spirit of the classic film.

Depressingly, in comparison to every film I saw this year, I felt bored by it. With scenes dragging on and some songs just not very good (“Turning Turtle” in particular), I was not invested a lot of the time. I ended up taking three bathroom breaks during it and somehow, didn’t feel like I missed a thing. The audience didn’t even seem to fully into it. Many children talking during the film and most bits of comedy met with silence outside of a few bits. I don’t think Mary Poppins Returns is a bad movie by any means, but it just didn’t click with me that much.

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