“My Little Pony: A New Generation” stars Vanessa Hudgens, Kimiko Glenn, James Marsden, Sofia Carson, Liza Koshy, Elizabeth Perkins, Jane Krakowski, Ken Jeong, Phil LaMarr, and Michael McKean. Released on Netflix on September 24, 2021, the film has a pony going on a journey to restore friendship and harmony in Equestria.
The film was directed by Robert Cullen (the founder of Boulder Media) and José Ucha. It is based on the My Little Pony brand created by Bonnie Zacherle. I didn’t expect myself to revisit the colorful and friendly world of Equestria, but here we are. The My Little Pony brand made a successful comeback more than a decade ago with the release of “Friendship is Magic”. Along with a slew of merchandise, spin-offs, and a theatrical film, that show expanded its fanbase in more ways than one. After Twilight Sparkle’s journey came to a satisfying close two years ago, it didn’t take too long for Hasbro to reintroduce the franchise to a new generation of fans. Not only is it introducing some new characters in Equestria, but it also continues where “Friendship is Magic” left off…by wiping Twilight’s teachings about friendship out of existence. I guess nothing lasts forever, not even harmony. Initially slated for a theatrical release by Paramount Pictures, the film was sold to Netflix due to the pandemic, making the streaming service a new home for the brand. I hadn’t got into My Little Pony until I watched the 2017 film, which I thought was decent, by the way. That lead me to binge-watch the entire “Friendship is Magic” series, believe it or not. Long story short, I understood why it was that popular in the first place. When I saw that there’s a new film that’ll kickstart the franchise’s fifth incarnation, I became interested in seeing the direction they’re going to go for it. After all, I did experience its fourth incarnation, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t pass up on this latest generation. With that in mind, let’s travel back to Equestria and see if it’s harmonious enough to carry the franchise forward.
The story takes place many years after the events of “Friendship is Magic”, where the world of Equestria is now filled with paranoia and mistrust. As a result, the three pony species (Earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns) live separately in their respective lands. Sunny Starscout (Hudgens), an adventurous Earth pony in Maretime Bay, hopes to accomplish her father’s (McKean) dream of reuniting the ponies and bring peace and friendship back to Equestria. One day, Sunny encounters a lost unicorn named Izzy Moonbow (Glenn), who reveals that the unicorns can’t use magic anymore. Together, Sunny and Izzy, along with Sunny’s childhood friend Hitch (Marsden), embark on a journey across Equestria to restore magic to the land and make some new friends along the way. “Friendship is Magic” was known for teaching viewers about the values of friendship and unity. No matter how different they are, whether they’re ponies, pegasi, or unicorns, they’re the same, both inside and out. “A New Generation” did the proper thing by reintroducing those themes and setting the storyline in the same universe as “Friendship is Magic” instead of rebooting it from scratch. The result is a flawed yet joyful reintroduction that sets the stage for the franchise’s fifth generation. Like 2017’s “My Little Pony: The Movie”, “A New Generation” is meant to provide a harmless and kid-friendly adventure about anthropomorphic ponies who sing, dance, learn about friendship, and prevent that friendship from being destroyed. It’s never meant to be an animated masterpiece like the ones from Disney and Pixar. It’s a small-scale, cutesy-wutsey CGI cartoon aimed towards kids (primarily young fans of the brand) and nothing else. As long as it has something that gets the adults interested, like myself, I have no problem with that. Fortunately, that’s what “A New Generation” offered. While its story has some elements that “Raya and the Last Dragon” did better, the film compensated by honoring the brand’s magical spirit and themes and delivering a humorous and heartfelt journey through Equestria. As mentioned before, the film introduced some new characters to continue Twilight Sparkle’s never-ending quest for peace and harmony, including Sunny Starscout, who believes that friendship still exists. She and the other supporting characters provided enough likability and charisma for me to grow attached to their quest. This was mainly due to the voice cast, who did a decent job delivering their uniqueness to the characters. Former “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens led the cast with ease as the voice as Sunny, and Kimiko Glenn continues to impress me with her vocal talents regarding her portrayal as Izzy. Izzy is best described as the Pinkie Pie of “A New Generation” because of her high-spirited and innocent personality. She had a balance between energy and humor that didn’t come across as obnoxious or annoying, and Glenn succeeded in nailing that balance. Marsden, Carson, and Koshy were also good in their roles as Hitch, Pipp Petals, and Zipp, respectively. Ken Jeong’s Sprout Cloverleaf, the deputy sheriff at Maretime Bay, did the best he could to provide some silly humor, but his character came off as a one-note antagonist who’s gone mad with sheriff power. “A New Generation” marks the first time in My Little Pony history to have CGI animation instead of the usual traditional animation from the previous incarnations. While far from grand, the animation is vibrant enough to revamp Equestria in a distinctive and contemporary way. It’s also good enough to transition the character designs from the 2D world to its third dimension. It’s too bad that the world-building wasn’t massive enough to take advantage of the style due to its inconsistent pacing. Maybe they’ll explore more of that world in the upcoming television series? The film also included some songs performed by the cast, except Jeong for Sprout’s musical number, “Danger, Danger”. Alan Schmuckler provided Sprout’s singing voice. They’re nothing too special, but they were honestly fun to listen to with the right mindset.
Overall, “My Little Pony: A New Generation” has enough harmony in its friendly soul to continue the franchise’s positive reputation. Its storytelling and pacing made it feel like a 90-minute pilot for the upcoming show on Netflix. However, it does provide a sense of joy and harmlessness in its voice cast, animation, characters, and relatable messages about unity and friendship. The result is another decent addition to Netflix’s collection of family-friendly animated features. It’s worth checking out if you want to watch something sweet and innocent or if you like My Little Pony (mainly “Friendship is Magic”).
"Dear Evan Hansen" stars Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Colton Ryan, Danny Pino, Julianne Moore, and Amy Adams. Released on September 24, 2021, the film is about a high school student's journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
The film is directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also directed "The Four Corners of Nowhere", "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", and "Wonder". It is based on the 2015 stage musical of the same name by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul. Do you ever feel like you're alone in the universe like you don't matter? Well, so is everybody else. This weekend brings us yet another music-filled extravaganza to sing along to, although this one, in particular, appears to be more sentimental than the thousandth version of "Cinderella". That's right, folks. We're getting out a box of tissues for this one. This is another musical that I wasn't familiar with until recently, but I was intrigued to see its film adaptation regardless. Mainly because of Chbosky, who helmed the fantastic adaptation of "Wonder", and the musical duo Ben Pasek and Justin Paul, the ones behind the crowd-pleasing "La La Land" and "The Greatest Showman". Those people on board proved to be a nice combination regarding the musical genre and the dramatic elements. But does it help the film reach the same heights as the other movie musicals?
The story follows Evan Hansen (Platt), a teenager who suffers from social anxiety and wonders if life would be better without him. He writes letters to himself per his therapist's request and asks other classmates to sign the cast on his arm to gain some friends. Evan's classmate, Connor Murphy (Ryan), discovered one of his letters and believed that he wrote it to provoke him, resulting in Connor committing suicide. After finding Evan's letter in Connor's pocket, many people, including Connor's family, speculated that it was a suicide note addressed to Evan and that they were closest friends. This misunderstanding leads to Evan going on a personal journey that teaches him the importance of acceptance. I enjoy films that deal with important topics because they remind me that they happen to many people every day. Not only that, but they also tend to inspire those who went through these challenges themselves. "Dear Evan Hansen" undoubtedly fits into that category. The film's exploration of youth suicide, depression, and mental illness will surely get people talking about what needs to be changed to prevent further tragedies. The biggest challenge it's facing, however, is exploring these elements through song. They don't want to make it too "happy-go-lucky" that it's insulting, but at the same time, they also don't want to make it so dark that it's unwatchable for their all-ages crowd. It's a mixture that could quickly go south if not handled properly, which happened to be one of the essential issues that the critics noticed while watching it, along with its portrayal of mental illness and casting choices. Understandably, the balance between musical elements and depressing themes was pretty jarring at times, but does that make it a bad movie? Absolutely not! As someone who hasn't watched the Broadway musical, I thought the film was an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. It displayed the difference between what you need to do to be accepted and what you want to do while packing a poignant punch with its storytelling and music. While it did take a bit too long to get the message across due to its two-hour-plus runtime, "Dear Evan Hansen" is a compelling and highly engaging musical drama that's powerfully relatable to people who went down a similar path. One of the most significant controversies surrounding the film was the cast. The film featured a 27-year-old Ben Platt reprising his Broadway role as Evan Henson, a high school teenager. I didn't care that much about the age difference as long as the actor's talent was good, and man, was his talent that good. Ben Platt delivered a healthy amount of charm and nuance in his character's awkwardness and internal struggle, and his singing was surprisingly superb. It's no wonder they decided to bring him back to play Evan again. The rest of the cast was also very talented in their roles, particularly Dever and Stenberg as Zoe Murphy and Alana Beck, respectively. Even Julianne Moore delivered a suitable performance as Heidi Hansen, Evan's mother. Stephen Chbosky's direction doesn't entirely come close to being as grand and realistic as his previous works, especially "Wonder". However, he never lost his touch in providing a mixture of comedy and heart in the dramatic scenes and musical numbers. For a director who hadn't directed a musical drama before, Chbosky didn't do too bad. The songs in "Dear Evan Hansen" proved that Pasek and Paul are still the musical duo worth remembering regarding the lyrics. The musical numbers didn't provide anything too far-fetched as far as presentation goes, but they did bring a sense of energy and emotion into these scenarios. Out of the songs featured in the film, "You Will Be Found" and "So Big/So Small" were my top two favorites, mainly because of the emotional impact they brought to the film's themes. By the way, I became an emotional wreck during the latter. I literally cried like a little kid during that sequence. No joke. I rarely cry while watching movies, but this became one of the few things that actually made my eyes water.
Overall, "Dear Evan Hansen" is far from a cinematic masterpiece, but it's still an incredibly heartfelt musical that showcases the talented cast and relatable themes. This is another film that reminds us that we are not alone. As long as we remember that and show our support for one another, we can all feel accepted into this world. Thanks to its solid cast, Chbosky's direction, thoughtful storytelling, and strong musical numbers, the film is a soul-stirring experience that earns its tears of joy. It's worth a watch if you're into feel-good movie musicals. Just make sure you bring a lot of tissues just in case.
“Cry Macho” stars Clint Eastwood, Eduardo Minett, Dwight Yoakam, Natalia Traven, Horacio Garcia Rojas, and Fernanda Urrejola. Released on September 17, 2021, the film is about a former rodeo star who attempts to bring a young man back to his father.
The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, who also directed films such as "Pale Rider", "Unforgiven", "Gran Torino", "American Sniper", and "The Mule". It is based on the 1975 novel of the same name by N. Richard Nash. Today, we'll be taking a small break from all of the action and explosions and look at something more serene and dramatic. This film marks the latest effort from the award-winning filmmaker/actor Clint Eastwood, who's still not slowing down in the movie business, even at 91. I'm already expecting him to have a lot of money in his retirement plan...if he retires, of course. While I'm not familiar with the book it's based on, I was interested in checking it out, mainly because of Eastwood's involvement as an actor and a director. Sure, the recent films he has done had their share of faults, but his tranquil approach towards specific topics isn't without a few bright spots, especially the dramatic heft. With that in mind, let's see if his latest drama can get him back in the Oscar spotlight.
The film follows Mike Milo (Eastwood), a rodeo star whose career ended after a severe back injury. He is hired by his former boss, Howard Polk (Yoakam), to travel to Mexico to find his son Rafael "Rafo" Polk (Minett). Rafael lives with his mother, Leta (Urrejola), and participates in illegal cockfights with a rooster named Macho. Mike then begins his road trip to deliver him back to his father, one that also sees Mike developing a friendship with Rafael. The story is a simple road trip drama that represents the meaning of being "macho" in a more subtle and relaxing way. Aside from being pursued by one of Leta's henchmen, there were not a lot of high stakes present in its drama and action. It's just a smooth journey from point A to point B with a pit stop or two. The film should prove to be suitable for people who need to unwind and enjoy Eastwood's onscreen presence instead of being bombarded with explosive action and melodramatic films. Unfortunately, it also proves that this type of direction may not appeal to everyone. Suppose you're familiar with Eastwood's filmmaking style in his other works. If that's the case, then you'll quickly notice his ability to take things slow and allow his audience to enjoy the tranquility of the sceneries in "Cry Macho". Although it does run the risk of boring some viewers with its mundane pacing, the film offered some acceptable rewards to those who are patient, such as its cinematography and Mark Mancina's calming score. However, those things alone weren't able to place it among Eastwood's stellar works from the past. There's potential to be had here regarding its story and themes, but its constant desire to shine the spotlight on Eastwood caused it to lose track of what it's trying to say. Don't get me wrong. I thought the actor did a swell job with his performance as Mike. It's just that the film lacked a compelling script to match his talents as both an actor and a filmmaker. It's like taking a horseback ride through the middle of nowhere. It's a relaxing experience with a lovely view, but after a while, it wound up hurting your butt from all of that sitting and waiting for something to happen. As for the rest of the cast, they were fine enough to stand alongside the famous star. Dwight Yoakam delivered a respectable performance as Howard Polk, the man who sends Mike to find his son. Natalia Traven was also solid in her role as Marta. Although, there was one actor that left me feeling mixed, and that was newcomer Eduardo Minett as Rafael. He wasn't entirely awful, but I did find a few moments where his acting felt very rough and uninspiring, especially when taking his chemistry with Eastwood into account. The interactions between Mike and Rafael weren't without a few charming moments, but in the end, they struggled to maintain this spark throughout its sluggish journey.
Overall, "Cry Macho" has Clint Eastwood doing what he does best: acting and directing his heart out. Unfortunately, the film's weary and overly flawed approach towards its subject matter will make you want to cry foul instead. Despite Eastwood's watchable performance and its lovely sceneries, this is by far his weakest effort as a director regarding his hit-and-miss direction and Nick Schenk's emotionless screenplay. I didn't mind its purpose of delivering a subtle movie-going experience for its audience. Still, I do wish that it could've provided something more to reach out to people outside of its target audience. If you enjoyed it more than I did because of its tranquility, then hey, good for you. That means that it got the job done. I just don't think it's the type of road trip I'll be taking again anytime soon.
"Copshop" stars Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder, Toby Huss, Ryan O'Nan, and Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau. Released on September 17, 2021, the film depicts a showdown between a hitman, a con artist, a rookie cop, and an assassin.
The film was directed by Joe Carnahan, who also directed films such as "Smokin' Aces", "The A-Team", "The Grey", and "Boss Level". What do you get when you put three dangerous criminals inside a police station? You get something completely chaotic. We are continuing the month of action with a film that hearkens back to the old-school thrillers from the 70s. I don't know about you, but I'm already liking September regarding the genre. This is another film that looked generic on paper but immediately caught my attention when I watched its trailer for the first time. It's got two recognizable action stars and a small setting that's surprisingly fitting for its mayhem. What's not to love? It's no surprise that Gerard Butler is still on top of his game in the thriller genre recently. Whether his films are good or not, it's always nice to see him continue to provide some entertainment for his audience and get a lot of paychecks in the process. Was he able to do the same for this latest thriller? More importantly, was it exciting enough to get people into the theater? Let's jump right into the chaos and find out.
The story takes place in Nevada, where a con artist named Teddy Murretto (Grillo) is on the run from Bob Viddick (Butler), a professional hitman hired to kill him. Murretto hatches a plan to outrun him for good by getting himself arrested by rookie cop Valerie Young (Louder). His haven inside a small-town police station was quickly destroyed when Viddick got himself in the cell as well. When a mobster named Anthony Lamb (Huss) arrives at the scene, the station becomes a bloody battleground, forcing the three people to work together to survive. This is another action film with only one goal in mind: providing a fun time. It didn't need to have an award-winning story to be good. It just needed to embrace its fun and chaotic action and heart-pounding thrills while balancing them with an exciting scenario. "Copshop" was able to do that by taking three criminals and one rookie officer and having them battle each other in a small police station. While the final result wasn't as highly insane as I hoped it would be, it's still a nicely directed thriller that drenches in 70s-style goodness. Joe Carnahan has a knack for providing some fun sequences without taking the film's concept too seriously. Take a look at his previous film, "Boss Level", and you'll see what I mean. Despite a few pacing issues during its first half, Carnahan managed to deliver some pulses in the characters' interactions and reward those who are patient with a simplistic yet energetic shoot-em-up finale. Gerard Butler remains a charismatic force, thanks to his attention-grabbing performance as Bob, and Frank Grillo managed to follow suit with his role as Teddy. However, the film's real stars go to Alexis Louder and Toby Huss as Valerie and Anthony Lamb, respectively. This was my first time seeing Louder in the spotlight. She has been in other films and shows before "Copshop", but her roles in them were highly unrecognizable to me. All I can say about her performance here is that I hope she gets more roles like this in the future. Louder nailed Valerie's tough-as-nails personality almost perfectly regarding her impressive acting skills. As for Huss, I can quickly tell that he was having fun playing a psychotic assassin, which is where the film's comedy came into play. The actor offered a balance that combines his playful dialogue with his character's thirst for murder. The humor may seem out-of-place at times, but that's the beauty of it. It's not meant to be overly dark and gritty. It's supposed to be gritty and fun, and the film handled that style pretty well, even though the result is far from memorable. As for its flaws, the film's story did fall into familiar territory regarding the plot elements and character development. It didn't provide anything beyond its straightforward plot that pushes the characters outside of their two-dimensional personas. It's just four people trying to kill each other, plain and simple. If that's what you're searching for, then you'll have no issue watching this.
Overall, "Copshop" is a small-scale, old-school thriller that's best described as a wild night in prison. While it didn't go past its limit in terms of the violence and energy, it compensates with a talented cast, decent direction, and an explosive, action-packed finale. I still prefer "Boss Level" as my favorite film from Joe Carnahan because of its clever execution and highly entertaining action. Still, I was able to find some entertainment value in this one regardless of its few shortcomings. If you like simplistic action thrillers that don't cost over $100 million to make, then you might enjoy this one as well.
“Kate” stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Michiel Huisman, and Tadanobu Asano. Released on Netflix on September 10, 2021, the film has an assassin racing against time when she’s been poisoned.
The film was directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who also directed “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”. He also provided visual effects for films like “The Weather Man” and “Snow White and the Huntsman”. When your life is on the line, the best way to save yourself is to fight your way to the top. Last weekend brought us another round of action, thrills, and girl power thanks to Netflix, and yes, it looks as simplistic as its premise. It is also the second directorial effort for visual effects artist Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, whose skills as a director weren’t quite as impressive as his visual creativity. While I was all right with his direction in “The Huntsman”, it wasn’t enough to make me want to put him on my film-watching map. However, I was willing to give him another chance since his film has two big names, Winstead and Harrelson, and some candy-coated action. Were they enough to make this Netflix thriller watchable, or was it as deadly as the poison in the main character’s veins? Let’s find out.
The story follows Kate (Winstead), an orphan raised by her mentor and handler Varrick (Harrelson) to be an assassin and expert sniper. She also follows a personal code to not kill in the presence of children, just to let the audience know that she’s not a monster. During her final mission, she discovers that she got acute radiation poisoning from a stranger she met last night. With only 24 hours to live, she sets out to find the person responsible for setting her up. Unsurprisingly, the film follows the traditional revenge-seeking plot that we’ve seen numerous times before. Instead of avenging someone like a loved one or a family member, the story has the titular character avenging herself due to her urgent condition. Movies like this have provided some tense sequences because of the main character’s survival against their opponents and their impending demise. Whether the story is good or not, they usually succeed in being enjoyable popcorn films to watch on a Friday night. “Kate” happens to belong in that category, but you’re not going to get that much else regarding its storytelling. It’s a formulaic revenge tale that relied on its familiar tropes, mainly the white savior in a foreign location element, and its inspiration from the Japanese action films. It’s simple to a fault, but it doesn’t take away from the film’s swift style, entertaining action, and vibrant visuals. While the characters themselves were as effortless as decapitating someone with a samurai sword, the cast did what they could to deliver some tolerable performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has once again proven herself to be a suitable action star thanks to her eye-popping portrayal of Kate. Winstead had the proper energy of a ruthless yet caring assassin in terms of her acting and stunt work. Woody Harrelson also delivered a decent performance as Varrick, and Miku Martineau did all right in her first film role as Ani, the niece of a Japanese crime boss. My only problem with Ani was that her humor felt forced in some moments, and Martineau’s chemistry with Winstead was pretty lackluster. Other than that, she was watchable. Another element I enjoyed was its action sequences. After what Nicolas-Troyan did with “The Huntsman”, I was pretty surprised to see that he actually made an effort to provide some style and brutality in the fight scenes. Yes, the camera work felt familiar to the “John Wick” films, but it showcased its choreography effectively without using the shaky cam maneuver and constant editing. Hopefully, we get more action films with this type of clarity. The scenes involving Kate driving the car and fighting the members of Sato were the highlights, mainly because of the choreography and Nicolas-Troyan’s direction. Both of these scenes were a batch of colorful bliss that’s feast-worthy for the eyes, even though everything else was nothing but a bland appetizer.
Overall, “Kate” is an uninspired female action thriller that’s visually impressive and nothing else. It should make for a fine watch for genre fans in terms of its cast and action. However, if you’re hoping for this to be the next action classic, you’ll probably feel like you’ve been poisoned yourself. Its formulaic story, average characters, and weak tropes may prevent this from gaining some repeated viewing. But if you don’t mind any of those flaws and want to have a butt-kicking good time, then, by all means, give it a watch.