Irving Berlin's finest number, "White Christmas" is introduced in this holiday classic. Starring two Hollywood giants of its era, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, this box-office attraction is pure entertainment. Featuring plenty of laughs and more than enough musical numbers to get you going, this family film is one of the finest of it's genre. My only gripe is that the screenplay makes Astaire's character a bit too unlikable, as it trusts that Fred's presence and reputation can move you from noticing his character's blatant unlikable traits. At least, that's what I thought. Nonetheless, this film is a must-watch not only when the season is right, but anytime of any day.
This adaptation of the stage musical takes away many of Cole Porter's wonderful songs, which proves to be it's biggest mistake. The plot is not strong enough, nor are the non-musical scenes without Astaire entertaining enough to fully keep our attention. I'd almost recommend skipping to the musical numbers and save yourself some times of boredom. This is far from Fred and Ginger's best musical, and whilst it's not bad (which is to say it keeps your attention), it's isn't great. But, I do insist you try and enjoy the most famous, and finest number from Cole Porter's classic score, "Night and Day"; it's the highlight of the film.
When the film began with the cliche coach's monologue to his team, I had a bad feeling about When the Game Stands Tall. I had a feeling the script would be problematic, and the dialogue would be a major weakness. I wasn't completely wrong. The first half of the movie is the bad part. The part with inconsistent acting and the scripts worst moments. I know I'm touching on the screenplay a lot but it really is this movie's downfall. I mean yes, the plot is well balanced and the story is touching, but the dialogue far too often spells out its message and literally tells us things. At times, it was as if the characters were indirectly breaking the fourth wall, just telling us things about the situations and people in the film. Treating us as if we wouldn't be able to get to those conclusions ourselves if they had shown us, or used their lines intelligently. I've briefly mentioned the acting, which was for the most part, believable. On the backs of Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis, and Laura Dern, this film gives us characters and portrayals that are consistent. But, even they, due to the direction of Thomas Carter, fall into bad melodrama. Some scenes were just made for a soap opera, or at least they came off that way. What Carter tried to show was sentimentality, but instead we got over-dramatic scores on the backdrop of overacting. Luckily, the second half features much more consistency. Even though the number of cliches increases, the acting evens out much more, and the screenplay is less erratic. That part of the movie got me invested. It sucked me into its story and got me caring for the characters. That's the half to look forward to. Nonetheless, the best thing about When the Game Stands Tall, are those beautifully filmed football scenes. The in-game camera work that cinematographer Michael Lohmann does, combined with the wonderful editing Scott Richter, create for exciting and tenses moments of in-game action. That of course, is good news for the football fans going to see this film. Also, for you football fans, the sound team (including the great Joe Iemola and Dan Izen) does such a great job, that every tackle and fall can be heard crisply and clearly. I mean you can heard the impact, bones, helmets, everything. It's quite exciting. So, do I recommend this movie? To be frank, it's up to you. I have it a half-and-half review, which means that it's not good, but it's not bad. The first half is bad and the second half is good. Football fans, I'd think you'd enjoy this film a little more than others, so I guess I'd recommend it to you. But for causal fans of film looking for a nice time at the cinema, this decision is all yours. How about this: go at your own risk.
It's predictable, cliche, and often times cartoonish...yet "Guardians of the Galaxy" is still one of the most entertaining blockbusters you'll see this summer. Boasting beautiful special effects and constant humor, "Guardians of the Galaxy" may not be a groundbreaking entry into its genre, but it certainly is a welcome addition. The finest thing about this movie is the comedy that goes with it. Writer James Gunn, really does a fine job of using these cliche archetypes (the tough female, the dumb big guy, the sassy little guy, etc.) and giving them attributes that add to their farce. And really, the comedy is the film's saving grace, as it's predictability sucks away any suspense. But, you must remember, with a film such as this, it's not where the path ends that matters, it's how much fun you have on the way there. And "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a lot of fun...despite being able to literally predict every recycled plot point. I give my utmost respect to Bradley Cooper for his sensational, and hilarious voice over work. Between his pre-recorded deliveries, and the wonderful editing of Fred Raskin, Hughes Winborne, and Craig Wood, the character of Rocket becomes an instant fan favorite. As well as his lovable sidekick, Groot (who tells you his name a ton of times in the film in comedic fashion). But, if you're a film and acting nerd like me, I think you might find more excitement in seeing Glenn Close and Benicio Del Toro in fine supporting roles. They don't do much but their presence alone is enough to appreciate. I find it interesting how Groot, who has the least amount of lines, is the best written character in the whole film. It's funny how films of this nature (action, comic books films) feel they have to spell out everything. This film does. As if we the audience, are too stupid to read emotions and they therefore have to throw in an unnecessary line to tell us about it...but I digress. Groot says so much without saying anything, he is easily the most lovable and the most human character this film has (as far as realism goes). But, despite the fine characterization and portrayals of the "good guys" in the film, the villains are terrible. They are probably the worst thing about the movie. They are overly cartoonish, and come off as B-movie caricatures. From the over dramatic (yet beautiful) score that accompanies the villains, to their hammy portrayals, they are just hard to watch. But, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed this film I also found it to be a bit frustrating. Like Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy "The Guardians of the Galaxy" actually has a deep, and darker meaning to it. If you can look beneath the explosions and punch-lines, you'll see the film is about the loss of loved ones. Now, I'm not gonna give the movie away for you but just know the film is about losing family and friends and how that affects your motivations and loves. And, the frustrating part, was that if the film could have dropped it's formulaic nature to actually stay committed to its theme, it could have been one of the greatest films of its genre. Easily. The characters are deep enough, and their motivations and loves are justified enough through rational traumas, that this film could have been Marvel's "Dark Night". Unfortunately, it didn't pan out that way. Nonetheless, I give this film 3 1/2 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for anyone 13 and up. You can see this film in 3-D or 2-D at your local theater. "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a fun, entertaining romp, that offers a lot of laughs, and is a guaranteed good time.
Reviewed by Willie Jones KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15