Film Review: “Goodbye Christopher Robin”

Starring: Domnhall Gleeson, Margot Robbie and Kelly MacDonald
Directed By: Simon Curtis
Rated: PG
Running Time: 107 minutes
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Origin stories are all the craze in Hollywood right now, so why not one for Winnie the Pooh? I know that’s a tough sell. But luckily “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a decent enough biopic drama that sometimes handles the weight of its thematic messages. The film is about author A.A. Milne (Gleeson) and how through his own struggles and an attempt to bond with his son, he created one of the world’s most iconic children’s characters.

The mood of England is to forget rather than confront the demons of WWI that linger throughout its picturesque countryside. Milne’s writer’s block is compounded by his that he suffered on the front lines. When Milne’s wife Daphne (Robbie) gives birth to their son, Christopher Robin (or Billy), Milne sees it as an opportunity to hit the restart button on life. The young family moves to rural Essex where Milne’s bouts with PTSD flare up, Daphne becomes disenfranchised with her husband and a young Christopher Robin has a more meaningful connection to the family’s live-in nanny.

It’s not until Milne’s life begins crumbling around him, that he attempts to find some sanity and joy to grasp on to by playing with his son in the surrounding woods. Milne views these moments initially as an opportune moment to bond, but as time passes, he finds that his creative juices start to flow again. He brings his son’s stuffed animals to life and makes the sleepy humdrum woods around them more vibrant and adventurous. But not everything works out in the end as Christopher Robin’s persona becomes larger than his own life.

Most of “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is mired in turmoil, with happy moments and achievements sprouting up few and far between. But even those tiny victories for our characters are quickly overshadowed by more troubling developments. It’s interesting watching a family suffocate from early-to-mid-20th century tabloids and a boy’s childhood innocence and wonder get smothered in a flood of worldwide fame. Instead of playing with his toys or meandering outside, he’s making global calls to radio stations and having tea with dignitaries.

Gleeson plays an emotionally fragile, yet stonewalled man who’s finding it hard to tap into his own youth that was nearly killed in No Man’s Land. Much of his role is spent expressing the difficulty of restraining tears and fear while raising a child, teenager, and then a man. He’s definitely the highlight of the film considering Robbie is wasted as her character is relegated to bored housewife/angry spouse purgatory for unknown and unexplained reason. Gleeson also has to work with a child actor that’s equal parts adorable and annoying.

“Goodbye Christopher Robin” spends a little bit too much time playing in the woods instead of expanding on its emotional stakes for a finale that should have been way more impactful. It attempts to tie a lot of its theme together in the final few minutes, with some hitting harder than others. It manages to squander its theme of unnecessary war and the heartache it causes, but manages to find beauty in forgiveness and child rearing. We also learn that Christopher Robin’s miserable childhood led to happiness for millions of children and adults. Almost makes you hate yourself for ever taking pleasure in ever loving Winnie the Pooh.

Win Tickets to the Kansas City Premiere of “Goodbye Christopher Robin”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Fox Searchlight to give 50 of our readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “Goodbye Christopher Robin.”

The film, starring Domnhall Gleeson and Margot Robbie, will be screened at the Glenwood Arts Theatre on Monday, October 23rd and will begin at 7:00 p.m.

All you have to do is click here and download your pass. The first 50 people to do so will receive a pass for two to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve giveaway. After the allotted 50 passes have been claimed the giveaway is ended. Good luck!

When: Monday, October 23, 2017 – 7:00 pm
Where: Glenwood Arts Theatre
Leawood, Kansas

Film Review: “Suicide Squad”

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie
Directed By: David Ayer
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes
Warner Bros.

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

The Suicide Squad is a generally unheard force in the DC Universe. They’re a group of underdog villains attempting to do good, drawing comparisons from some that this is Warner Bros. attempt at their own version of “Guardians of the Galaxy”. While the comparison is fair, “Suicide Squad” is a far more sinister beast. While Marvel’s Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon are likable thieves and thugs, the members of the Suicide Squad are a terrifying ragtag bunch of assassins, murderers and sociopaths.

The Suicide Squad is made up of the smooth talking Deadshot (Smith), Joker’s squeeze Harley Quinn (Robbie), the beer drinking Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the gang banger El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and the hulking monster Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). They’re all led by the self-righteous Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). The founder of this group is Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who may as well be the villain of the movie. She’s an unsympathetic, calculating, and murderous government official who abides by her own rules.

Her basis for creating the Suicide Squad is so that the U.S. military has an controllable force that can stop the next Superman (spoilers if you didn’t see the disappointing “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice”). Waller has a working knowledge of nearly every villain on the planet, and seemingly every superhero, which gives pause as to why she thinks this would ever be a good idea. Despite the rather large nature of the cast working under Waller’s character, director and writer David Ayer wisely chose to focus the movie’s attention on the best actors, Davis, Smith and Robbie.

While the media lead-up to “Suicide Squad” has been about Leto’s disturbing antics off-screen, his on-screen Joker portrayal is underwhelming. It’s not because it comes on the heels of Ledger’s performance back in 2008, but because I still can’t imagine the Joker having the patience to get a tattoo or ever concerning himself with fashionable bling-bling. Despite the disappointment of Leto’s Joker, Robbie wows as the stunning lover of Mr. J, Harley Quinn. While we’ve never had a theatrical version of the Clown Prince of Crime’s murderous hunny, Robbie has set the bar, and it’s pretty damn high.

Robbie displays a natural ability to blend Quinn’s flirtatious, deadly, and juvenile nature seamlessly. She manages to convey her as a trashy, demented high school cheerleader most of the time, while displaying a softer, human side to the villain in brief glances. Matching her scene-by-scene is Smith, who’s back to his action movie roots as the assassin that never misses, Deadshot. Both of them provide most of the back story and emotional depth amongst the Suicide Squad, and rightfully so.

El Diablo has a heart breaking backstory, but Hernandez isn’t a strong enough actor or given enough dialogue to feed into his tragic past. Killer Croc is simply a grunting brute covered in scales and Boomerang is the wisecracking comic relief, minus the comic relief. The movie also finds time to wedge in Ben Affleck’s Batman, Ezra Miller’s Flash, and a brief nod to the future “Justice League” movie. Sometimes it’s a visual buffet that finds the right balance without making you too nauseous, as long as you know what the hell the movie’s talking about.

The characters are what make “Suicide Squad”, not the story, which clearly came second. When David Ayer needs to introduce the characters, he establishes a pecking order and focuses on the most relatable. As for the plot, it’s a mess involving the mysterious Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), who’s never explained, possibly angering those unfamiliar with comic books, and maybe even those familiar with them. The exact reasoning behind the Suicide Squad’s pact is a little iffy and the movie doesn’t find a satisfying conclusion after the bombastic finale.

“Suicide Squad” is a wham-bam action punch with enough exuberant and unique performances to help overshadow the lacking plot structure. You’ll be talking about Robbie’s Harley Quinn more than you will about Leto’s Joker. And that’s not a bad thing when DC is trying to establish some girl power. If DC wants to start working on a solo Deadshot or Harley Quinn movie, go ahead and buy my tickets right now.

Film Review: “The Legend of Tarzan”

Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Christoph Waltz and Margot Robbie
Directed By: David Yates
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 109 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

As someone pointed out to me at the screening, the only version of Tarzan I grew up on was the Disney version (with that obnoxious Phil Collins song). My research skills did yield a cringe worthy adaptation of Tarzan featuring Casper Van Dien in 1998, but I’m fortunate to have dodged that abomination. So it seems after a nearly two decade cinematic drought, the feral child is back on the silver screen with the help of CGI and a bloated Hollywood budget.

I won’t lie. “The Legend of Tarzan” could have been bad. In fact, I thought it would be. I’m happy to say it’s not. It’s an entertaining movie with typical summer blockbuster faults. I’m sure some segment of the movie going population will be upset because “The Legend of Tarzan” drifts away from the standard Tarzan tale; explorers discovering a wild man who was raised by apes as a young boy. Instead “Legend of Tarzan” starts off in the mid 1880’s with a man named John Clayton (Skarsgard).

Clayton (which feels weird to type when referring to Tarzan), is more well behaved than the monkey speaking savage we’re used to. Clayton is stylishly dressed like a British aristocrat,
instead of a loincloth that manages to always tastefully conceal himself. He also walks upright instead of getting around like a primate in his swanky New World mansion. He lives there with Jane (Robbie) and leads a seemingly simple life.

The couple is called to the troubled country of Congo, although it’s not quite a country yet in this tale. Belgium is swimming in debt and trying to find anything that could possibly recuperate the massive debt they’ve accumulated by purchasing the African country. Their last ditch effort is Leon Rom (Waltz) and his ruthless plan. Rom’s preposterous scheme involves a massive influx of mercenaries that’ll turn the Congo into a slave machine, pumping out human lives, blood stained ivory, and sparkling diamonds.

The actual logic of everything is put in the back seat while CGI and action are the true drivers of “The Legend of Tarzan”. Don’t worry yourself with how studied and sophisticated Tarzan is despite being raised in the wild and only having a few years to acclimate himself to civilization. Don’t even think about questioning why Tarzan is fighting an imperialist who’s saving a debt-riddled country by hiring mercenaries and purchasing rows of 19th century machine guns. Of course a lot of the absurdity is quelled by Samuel L. Jackson’s character, George Washington Williams. With a name like that, and his constant witticisms about the irony of everything, it’s easy to forgive “The Legend of Tarzan” for being more fantasy than action-adventure.

“The Legend of Tarzan” is sometimes too caught up in tired clichés like revenge, the more human than human escapades of its main character and the unlikely buddying of two opposites. But like I’ve stated, this isn’t a serious movie. I’d legitimately be upset if this was a serious movie. Halfway through, it seems like Jackson’s character is one moment away from being lost in the lush jungles of the unexplored Congo and one line away from saying, “Damn nature, you scary.”

“The Legend of Tarzan” is a contrived, silly blockbuster. But on that same note, it’s an entertaining, and funny, summer escape. “The Legend of Tarzan” may have arrived a decade late. Blockbusters these days, at least the successful ones, are remembered for their deep characters and developed storylines. This movie is a simple CGI spectacle with a story that’s reliant on pure visual adrenaline. And well before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that’s all we wanted. But if both those reasons are enough for you to sit back and relax, “The Legend of Tarzan” is your movie