Amy reviews “Trolls”!

trolls Amy was so taken by the movie “Trolls” that she asked me if I would run her review of the film if she wrote one. I said sure, half thinking that she would start a review, but then never get around to finishing it (and as you can see, it took her a month to finish it. I figure the lesson about meeting your deadlines can wait until she’s 8.) So here it is, my 7-year-old daughter’s first movie review (with spelling and grammar cleaned up by dear old Dad), which she penned a full 18 years before I wrote my first one. The girl is driven.

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Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

fantastic_beasts_1_J.K. Rowling dreamed up the entire Harry Potterverse, and there isn’t a person on the planet who understands these characters better than she does. She has probably written a back story for Mrs. Norris the cat. However, when it comes to the much-anticipated “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” she is making her screenwriting debut, and it is clear that she still has much to learn about writing a script versus writing a novel. What made the film adaptations of her Potter books so successful was that she packed her stories to the gills with details, and allowed an experienced screenwriter (usually Steve Kloves, who is an executive producer here) to pare them down, making them leaner and better. Rowling does not appear to have written a novel of “Fantastic Beasts” that she could then dissect like Kloves did her books. In retrospect, that feels like a mistake.

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This is the only logical explanation for the past 12 months

I will continue updating this through December 31, 2016. It appears that the universe was only getting started when I first posted the piece in November.

devil_flanders_3November 2015. The back table of a Wrigleyville bar.

Cubs: We want a World Series.
Devil: Okay, but it’s gonna cost you.
Cubs: We figured. How much?
Devil: David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, George Martin, Leonard Cohen, Gene Wilder, Leon Russell…
Cubs: WHAT?
Devil: I’m not even remotely finished.
Cubs: You’ve got to be kid–
Devil: George Michael, Pete Burns, Carrie Fisher, Sharon Jones, two thirds of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Prince Be, Maurice White, Garry Shandling, Merle Haggard, Muhammad Ali, Paul Kantner…
Cubs: Are you done?
Devil: No. Abe Vigoda. Vanity. Arnold Palmer. Gordie Howe. Kevin Meaney. The guy who wrote “Thriller” and “Rock with You.” The tall man from “Phantasm.” The keyboardist from the Black Crowes. The guy from “One Day at a Time.” Glen Frey…
Cubs: Can we trade that entire list and just give you all of the Eagles?
Devil: Everyone asks me that. The answer is always no.
Cubs: Okay, is that the final list?
Devil: Almost. You know that flame thrower on the Marlins?
Cubs: Dude, not Jose Fernandez. He’s 23.
Devil: He’ll live to see 24.
Cubs: Ugh. Anyone else?
Devil: That depends. When was the last time you talked to Lemmy?
Cubs: You wouldn’t.
Devil: I would.
Cubs: I hate you.
Devil: That’s the idea. Also, Donald Trump wins the election the week after the World Series.
Cubs: So, the year that we win the World Series will be remembered by nearly everyone on the planet as the worst year of their lives.
Devil: At last, you understand.
Cubs: Where do we sign?

Note: I have been a Cubs fan since 1986.

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Movie Review: The Bad News Bears

bad_news_bears“The Bad News Bears” is at its best when, like all good major league pitchers, it isn’t afraid to get a little mean. Clemens, Pedro, Unit, Schilling, they’ve all got that ‘don’t mess with me’ vibe that makes them dangerous, even when they’re getting shelled. Likewise, when the movie lets its characters loose and unleashes their inner demons, it’s a lot of fun. The problem is that those moments are more fleeting than they should be.

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Movie Review: The Back-Up Plan

backup_planI don’t know Kate Angelo, the writer of “The Back-Up Plan,” but after seeing the movie, it would appear that she’s never been pregnant, and doesn’t know anyone who has ever been pregnant. There isn’t a single note in this movie that rings true, resorting to cartoonish portrayals of the pregnant woman stereotype (they throw up, they get cravings, their hormones are out of whack) for cheap laughs. When they get really desperate, they cut to a shot of Jennifer Lopez’s dog.

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Movie Review: Trolls

trollsA movie about Troll Dolls is almost comically cynical. Take a product line that has lost its luster, repackage it to the next generation, laugh all the way to the bank. It’s the textbook definition of a cold, calculated, brand-driven cash grab. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is exactly what people said about “The LEGO Movie” before it came out. Then that movie turned out to be awesome, and the nation ate a fair amount of crow.

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Movie Review: Inferno

infernoIt’s been seven years since the world last saw a film based on author Dan Brown’s renowned symbologist Robert Langdon. The last installment, “Angels & Demons,” had a worldwide box office gross nearly $300 million less than its predecessor, “The Da Vinci Code.” That sounds bad, but to be fair, “Angels” still took in nearly half a billion dollars, so even if the idea of a Langdon film in 2016 seems unthinkable for a number of reasons (time, diminishing returns), money clearly did most of the talking when it came to green lighting the latest film, “Inferno.” And for a while, the movie distances itself from the first two films thanks to a breakneck opening pace, only to turn into the Dan Browniest Dan Brown adaptation to date halfway through, and grind to a screeching halt.

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Movie Review: The Girl on the Train

girl_trainPaula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train” instantly drew comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” thanks to the use of multiple viewpoints, but let’s make something clear: as enjoyable as “Train” was to read, it doesn’t come close to plumbing the emotional depths that Flynn wrote into the truly psychotic Amy Dunne. At the same time, this works in the favor of the film version of “Girl on the Train.” Erin Cressida Wilson’s script puts a higher percentage of the source material into the film (the one thing book fanatics complain about the most), and the story’s main obstacle (recovering a lost memory) is a tried and true film device. Ask anyone who saw “Jason Bourne” earlier this year.

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Movie Review: Storks

storks“Storks” is filled with sweet and funny moments, but it has two teensy weensy (read: massive) problems: a lot of the funny bits are stolen, and there is no story. Like, at all. It’s actually kind of impressive how far out of his way screenwriter Nicholas Stoller went to not come up with a coherent story, and then you remember that he’s written some funny movies that had a story (the two most recent Muppets films, for starters), and that’s when the feeling of being cheated sets in.

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