MMT Quick Review: COLLATERAL BEAUTY

Collateral Beauty

I felt compelled to write about “Collateral Beauty,” which I screened last week, after the unfortunate slamming it’s taken in the critics’ circle. I say unfortunate because, unlike most of the reviews I’ve read – many critical of both actors and film- I don’t believe it is deserving of the almost hate I witnessed. In fact, Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore tell quite the story of what to expect from this film – with the former showing 14% rotten, but 68% popular with audience, and the latter showing an A- cinema score.

My take on the film? From the trailer, the audience knows that we are going to watch a sappy film about a successful businessman (Will Smith) who suffers the ultimate tragedy for a parent – the loss of a child – goes into major depression and has subsequent experiences with abstract concepts to whom he has written letters – Love, Time, and Death played by Oscar-nominated Keira Knightley, actor/singer Jacob Latimore (with a very strong performance) and Oscar-winner Dame Helen Mirren. And I mean, when have you not enjoyed watching Mirren on screen?

Smith has great moments in this, which to me suffered more from a heavy-handed emotional approach/screenplay that could have worked if not overdone. In the film, the audience finds we are dealing not only with Smith character’s (Howard) setback, but ultimately (without fully spoiling) major issues with his partners/colleagues played by Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Pena. There’s a lot to take in, and at some points it felt a bit lengthy but, I can’t front, I was invested in Howard’s recovery and the lessons to be learned by his colleagues – who tried to pull a fast one, only to have a few things about themselves revealed.

And the twist that so many critics are blasting? I actually thought that was the best thing! I was so invested in what I thought was the major plot point, and the expected pivotal moment, I completely misread the clues the film was giving throughout.

And I would be remiss not to mention Naomie Harris, who plays a counselor (Madeleine) in a parent survivors’ group that attempts to help Howard along his journey. While watching the film I remember thinking, “Boy this counselor is pushy,” as she follows Smith’s character to the street during an early meeting. But all, for me surprisingly, became clearer with the reveal.

In sum, I wouldn’t make plans to watch this movie every holiday, or put on the repeat list, but I am not mad that I watched it either – and I certainly don’t believe it is horrible. With moderate to good performances throughout and a “girl, weren’t you paying attention” twist, “Collateral Beauty” appears to suffer as “collateral damage” from its overdone screenplay. Like the title implies, there is meaning and beauty in suffering…see what I did there ( ūüėõ ).

Well MMT Fam, if you get out to see this one I would certainly like to hear your thoughts.

Until next thought, Thomasena

A Suicide Mission? MMT Review of SUICIDE SQUAD by contributor Darryl King

Suicide Squad

The Avengers, the X-Men, Justice League, and now the latest group – calling all bad boys and bad girls because this one‚Äôs for you – the ‚ÄúSuicide Squad!‚ÄĚ In the words of the bodacious, governmental leader Amanda Waller, ‚ÄúI want to put together a group from the baddest of the bad.‚ÄĚ

The concept of a team composed of villains to go on missions that are either beneath superheros but beyond common humans is refreshingly original, and has the ability to really tell some fascinating stories – with characters who aren‚Äôt always as likable or redeemable. Influenced by the movies “Deadpool” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the “Suicide Squad” movie seeks to reach some untapped terrain within the superhero movie genre.¬†But is this movie an oasis of great ideas or a mirage of failed experiments?

The ‚ÄúSuicide Squad‚ÄĚ movie overall is entertaining and at times a fun film, that masks its obvious flaws in storytelling, lack of action and a third act that totally falls apart.¬†So what‚Äôs good about “Suicide Squad”?

First and foremost, the star of the movie is Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. In the comic books, Waller is the most evil and ruthless dictator you will find, even though she believes her efforts are for the greater good. There is no secret kept from her and she in not afraid of any villain, metahuman¬†or superhero – which perhaps makes her the most dangerous person in DC Comics. For those who know the character, Viola Davis does a great job conveying her essence – and for those who don’t, after this movie will know that she is more dangerous than any bad guy.

Then there are the two biggest stars delivering big time performances. Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn are the best characters in the film Рmainly because they are the most developed, with fully realized backstories without going way over the top. They are the heart of the film and who you care for.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Jay Hernandez as El Diablo. A secondary villain, who is not well-known and for a group called upon to fight major battles, he is the only one with real powers. When his powers are on display it’s the only time when you believe the group is ‘super.’ The special effects showcasing his powers are well worth it and makes the 3rd act fight scene worth watching.

I will also point out Director David Ayers creativity with the opening and ending credits that borrowed a lot from “Deadpool” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But after that, this film gets messy.

All the hype surrounding Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker is wasted as this film used him only as a glorified manic boyfriend Рdefined only by his ability to help tell the story of Harley Quinn. The Joker is someone who introduces anarchy into every situation and whose true motivation ironically is his doppelgänger, Batman, not his crazy girlfriend.

Rick Flag, the leader of this rag-tag group, played by Joel Kinnaman, is also reduced to being a love starved/crossed boyfriend who just like the Joker in this movie, who will do anything to get her back. Maybe they can both find a support group for their relational pains.

This wouldn‚Äôt be a DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film if it weren‚Äôt for crammed in cameos to help serve the purpose to build their movie universe because they keep trying to catch Marvel with one movie. It’s this philosophy that hinders, so far, the DC movie universe. Taking shortcuts has led to bad storytelling and direction for their movies, which rears its ugly head in “Suicide Squad”

The film lacks the proper motivation for members of the squad. The reason for uniting the team and their mission is bland, poorly crafted and leaves good actors flying in the wind with a 3rd act that has no emotional weight and even less believable. The ‘big bad’ of the movie has no reason for its actions, with an evil plan that goes nowhere. ¬†Director Ayers uses lots of flashbacks and slow motion to attempt to create an attachment to characters that, because of a stellar promotional campaign, we were already ready to get into.

So why should we care? Because even with all of its flaws, “Suicide Squad” is still interesting and entertaining enough to make you overlook the problems and believe in the promise.

Will Smith said it best in the movie as Deadshot, “We almost pulled it off,” as he attempts to soothe his compadres and perhaps subliminally the viewers. With a better mission, and less studio meddling, we could have had a better movie. The “Suicide Squad” are unique enough to deserve another chance.

Give this movie a shot and stay for the post mid-credit scene so that in another time and place, just like Amanda Waller, we can believe in the “Suicide Squad.”

Darryl King (photo courtesy of Darryl King)Darryl King is a video director, film writer and avid Marvel/DC comic book/movie lover. Check out his reviews of Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman v Superman, and Captain America: Civil War right here on MMT.

GIVEAWAY: advanced screening of SUICIDE SQUAD on Tuesday, August 2 (Philly, PA)

Suicide Squad

Happy Wednesday MMT Fam! We have another great screening this evening, but you need to be subscribed to this website to enter! We’ve acquired passes to the Philadelphia screening of the summer blockbuster¬†SUICIDE SQUAD next Tuesday, August 2. Want to put your name in the hat for an admit-two pass?

Send an email to contests@musicmoviesthoughts.com with the subject line “Squad” and your full name in the body. As normal, active subscribers have increased chances of winning – so make sure you’re commenting on and sharing posts from this site and/or our Facebook page. Winners will be selected and notified by Monday, August 1.

You can read the synopsis and watch the movie trailer below, and get additional information at the official website here. SUICIDE SQUAD opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, August 5.

Good Luck!


SUICIDE SQUAD           In 3D and 2D in select theaters and IMAX on August 5

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Director: David Ayer

Writer: David Ayer                                                                                                 

Producers: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle

Executive Producers: Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Colin Wilson, Geoff Johns

Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis,

Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz,

Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Adam Beach, Karen Fukuhara

Action Adventure.  It feels good to be bad… Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous, incarcerated Super Villains, provide them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them off on a mission to defeat an enigmatic, insuperable entity.  U.S. intelligence officer Amanda Waller has determined only a secretly convened group of disparate, despicable individuals with next to nothing to lose will do.  However, once they realize they weren’t picked to succeed but chosen for their patent culpability when they inevitably fail, will the Suicide Squad resolve to die trying, or decide it’s every man for himself?

suicidesquad.com

GIVEAWAY: advanced screening of CONCUSSION on Wednesday, December 16 (Philly, PA)

Concussion-Movie-Poster

What’s new MMT Fam! Once again, I am looking to bless a few of my active subscribers with a highly anticipated screening event. Last time we screened CREED, a film made in Philly with plenty of Philly talent on screen and behind the camera. This time around, 5 lucky winners will get “reserved” seating to screen the new film CONCUSSION starring one of Philly’s favorite sons, Will Smith!

To try your luck for an admit-two pass, email your name with the subject line “Will Smith” to thinkmusicmovies@gmail.com. I will select five winners at random and notify by Tuesday, December 15.

You can watch the trailer for CONCUSSION below, and get additional information at the official website here.

Good luck family! Until next thought, Thomasena

MMT Quick Look: CONCUSSION starring Will Smith

Concussion (photo: Sony Pictures)

Happy Tuesday MMT Family! ¬†Well I believe I’ll be in the theaters all day this Christmas! There are so many great movies coming out, including the new Will Smith film CONCUSSION – and by the looks of the below trailer, I won’t be the only one that can’t wait to see Smith’s performance in this one.

CONCUSSION is a dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known. ¬†Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful institutions in the world.

Check out the trailer below and get additional info about the film at the official website here.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

GIVEAWAY: advanced screening for FOCUS Monday, February 23 (Philly, PA area)

Focus (photo: Warner Bros.)

Happy Wednesday MMT Family! ¬†Who’s been waiting for that new Will Smith film –¬†FOCUS? Well here’s your chance to see it – in IMAX – four days before it hits theaters nationwide – but you have to be quick! The screening will take place next Monday, February 23 at the United Artists King of Prussia theater.

For your chance at an admit-two pass, click here and follow the prompts.  Passes, like theater seating, are first-come, first-served and not guaranteed- so make sure you arrive as early as possible!

You can check out the below trailer and get additional info about the film at the official website here.

Good luck!  Until next thought family, Thomasena

MMT Quick Review of ANNIE

ANNIE (photo: Sony Pictures)

Happy Saturday MMT Family! ¬†I wanted to have this one up last night, because you know I have been anticipating this Annie¬†remake for quite some time. Unlike many of the people whose critiques I’ve glimpsed, I highly enjoyed this version and then some. Let’s be clear, this is not your great-grandparents’ or grandparents’ version of the beloved Little Orphan Annie comics, and it certainly isn’t the same 1977 Broadway stage production or even my generation’s classic (1982) movie version. ¬†And this new¬†movie proclaims that boldly in the film’s opening classroom scene – where there’s a cute parody of the classic Annie type giving a¬†my favorite president speech. But when Quvenzhane Wallis (Annie) steps up to the front of the class for her speech, backed by classmate participation with call-responses and hand percussion, on her favorite president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the first hat tips to the classic, it is cemented that this is something new (and really the produced by Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Shawn “Jay Z” Carter credits should have been a clue even before ūüėČ )

Though there was nothing simple about the ‚ÄúGreat Depression,‚ÄĚ the event that forms the backdrop of the original film, the times were certainly simpler when it came to our ability to impact social reach or access others socially almost instantaneously. And this is the effective update of the Annie remake ‚Äď bringing the story into the era of social media & technology – with a display of how it impacts people lives, both great and small. Will Stacks (Jamie¬†Foxx) is an indifferent cell-phone tycoon running for mayor of New York in contrast to Wallis’ Annie, a foster kid who manages to maintain and share the brightest outlook with everyone she interacts, despite her meager circumstances. The movie takes great care to insert current topics relevant to today’s youth – like the update to foster care vs. the term orphan and highlighting youth literacy issues.

The multicultural cast – loved seeing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Tracie Thoms, and Dorian Missick in key roles – was a beautiful reflection of what could and should happen more often with big studio productions, with lead Quvenzhane Wallis anchoring this modern version. Wallis has an unspoken, “old soul” quality with her delivery and facial expressions¬†– and I believed her journey in this story. And her moment with new song “Opportunity” is a sweet one, despite what some callous critics are stating.

ANNIE (photo: Sony Pictures)

And let me simply ask this, why is it so hard for some to acknowledge the talent of an eleven-year-old, who by the age ten was an Academy award nominee? She sings, no one said the baby had to be Whitney Houston. And she dances, no one said she had to be Katherine Dunham.  Her job in this movie was to act primarily and make us believe she was Annie and for most fair-minded people wanting to enjoy a fun, family film this holiday season, I think she will appropriately fit the bill. And if it or she is not for you, then tough Рshe got the role and rocked it!

Again there were a couple of¬†original film references I noted, like the aforementioned nod to FDR and the fictional band named ‚ÄúLeaping Lizards‚ÄĚ that played in one scene. ¬†I also wondered if the “rescue” George Washington bridge scene near the end – okay it’s not really a spoiler if you know the story MMT fam – was a nod to the scene with the late Geoffrey Holder and his character Punjab who rescues Annie in the 1982 film.

I do wish there was more of a character build for the other foster kids in Miss Hannigan’s (Cameron Diaz) care, since there were name/character changes and the beginning of this one felt a little rushed to get to the good stuff. ¬†I also must be honest and admit that Diaz, although she’s shown her comedic timing in several other films, did not win me over as Miss Hannigan until nearly the end of film. I like her comedy wise as the sweet one (My Best Friend’s Wedding, There’s Something About Mary) versus the mean-spirited one or vixen. By contrast, Jamie Foxx was a fun Daddy Warbucks….umm, my bad, Will Stacks and we all know he can sing, so the numbers with him were really cool. ¬†The chemistry between he and Wallis also worked well, and this film culminates in a very cute resolution to their respective characters’ journeys.

I took my youngest bestie, aka Jayla, and her mom with me to the Philly screening of Annie. At only two-years-old, Jayla visited my house and fell in love with the 1982 version on Netflix. We’ve watched it several times and I was excited to see how she would respond to the new version. ¬†She watched the film very intently, wanted to dance at certain scenes, and has talked about Annie, Quvenzhane’s version, her mother says since last Sunday’s screening. I was worried that the film, unlike the ’82 film with its stage musical similarities, was a bit too much for her – since it isn’t the same sing-song model – and honestly she did require a bathroom break and missed the big “Opportunity” number. But if it’s still on my little (moody) Gemini friend’s mind, I think it works not only for the school-age kids, but also tots. ¬†If they are not used to sitting for an extended period, the running time is 118 minutes, I’d recommend just sticking with school-age and older. ¬†They will certainly get a lot more – especially from the positive messages shared.

Alright family, you know the drill! Stop back and share comments after you’ve seen the film.

PS – Checkout the lyric video to “Opportunity” below and let me know your thoughts as well! ūüôā

Until next thought family, Thomasena

A Quick Review of After Earth

photo: Sony Pictures  www.afterearth.com
photo: Sony Pictures
http://www.afterearth.com

Hey there MMT family! ¬†How many of you have already checked out the new Will & Jaden Smith joint, After Earth? ¬† I would really love to hear your feedback, as I’m a little on the fence about this one. ¬†For those who haven’t seen the trailer, Jaden Smith stars as Kitai Raige, who crash lands on Earth with his hero, warrior father Cypher (Will Smith) 1,000 years after the planet is declared “uninhabitable” for humans and all creatures remaining on the planet have evolved to “kill” humans. Based off a story written by Will Smith, who designed the story to be a trilogy and subsequent vehicle for son Jaden, the screenplay was co-written by the film’s director M. Knight Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Village, Signs).

Okay, so those are a few basics now let’s get to my thoughts. ¬†First, I’m extremely proud of Will Smith and his whole Overbrook Entertainment production team, including Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, brother- in- law Caleeb Pinkett, and business partner James Lassiter. ¬†The trailers and anticipation built for this movie was on point and I had very high expectations; not only because of the former but also due to the elder Smith’s reputation as a box-office phenom. ¬†My love for I Am Legend and Hancock also added to the suspense. ¬†Although I do believe Will created a great story, I wasn’t as enamored with the screen version. ¬†I felt the story lulled at times, even with a short 100 minute run-time. ¬†Yet, I did find myself rooting for young Jaden, excuse me Kitai, on his mission to signal for help after his father is injured in the crash landing (FYI: that’s not a spoiler, it’s on the official website!).

I believe part of the let down for me was the fact that Jaden carried a lot of the movie versus his father, who took a back seat but is still very much a pivotal part of the film.  I believe Jaden has already proven his ability as an actor, the Karate Kid remake was phenomenal, but this was a huge sci-fi/action undertaking and his overall performance was moderate.   In contrast, I did appreciate the father/son struggle within the film and the natural chemistry between both Smith men complimented that element of the story nicely.

What I loved? ¬†The CGI was really cool, Sophie Okonedo¬†(The Secret Life of Bees, Hotel Rwanda)¬†is always a dramatic force and Will Smith didn’t disappoint with what was required. ¬†Well maybe he did with that horrible accent! ¬†I hated the accents in this movie! ¬†Some folk had them, some folk didn’t… I don’t know, apparently we left Earth and 1/2 of us adopted really bad accents in space, LOL! ¬†Also, Zoe Kravitz (yes, baby girl of that super sexy..eh-hem…of Lenny!) had a good cameo as Kitai’s sister Senshi.

If I’m completely honest, I will note that¬†Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was mostly assessed as the least favorable episode of¬†the franchise, but that didn’t deter me from giving¬†it and the others a chance. ¬†I think I’ll give this After Earth series the same courtesy, considering it was really cool watching two African-American heroes on the screen in a sci-fi fantasy flick. ¬†I’m hoping it does well enough that those sequels come to fruition. ¬†I really would enjoy seeing what next becomes of the young Kitai Raige character, and how Jaden develops him.

Alright family, those are my thoughts.   After Earth was released nationwide in theaters today May 31st.  Please stop back and leave a thought or two about the film when you check it out!

Until next thought, Thomasena

Will Smith walks BBC host Graham Norton and audience down memory lane (video)

Morning Music Movie fam! ¬†I just have to share a video with you this morning that really made me smile. ¬†Last Friday while promoting his new film After Earth on the BBC’s Graham Norton show with co-star and son Jaden Smith, Will Smith surprises the audience by performing The Fresh of Bel-Air theme song with DJ Jazzy Jeff. ¬†But wait, there’s more! ¬†Wait for Alfonso Ribeiro’s cameo and…oh, just watch the video, LOL.

I’m so Philly proud! ¬†Until next thought, Thomasena