“We Bare Bears: The Movie” stars Eric Edelstein, Bobby Moynihan, Demetri Martin, and Marc Evan Jackson. Released on June 30, 2020, the film has a group of bears journeying to Canada in order to escape from a Wildlife Control agent.
The film is directed by Daniel Chong, and it is based on the television series We Bare Bears created by Chong, which is based on his webcomic The Three Bare Bears. Cartoon Network has its share of ups and downs when it comes to their programs, but it did offer some pretty popular shows in the 2010s that managed to keep its brand going, such as “Teen Titans Go!”, “Steven Universe”, “The Amazing World of Gumball”, and “We Bare Bears”. For those who haven’t watched Cartoon Network in a long time, “We Bare Bears” is an animated comedy series about three different bears who live underneath the same roof, treat each other like brothers, and attempt to fit in with the human population in San Francisco. It premiered on the channel on July 25, 2015 after the success of the pilot episode that was showcased at the KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival in 2014. It gained positive reviews from critics for its humor and its handling of specific themes like modern millennial anxieties, and it lasted for four seasons. A couple of days after the show’s final episode aired, Cartoon Network announced that they were developing a movie based on the show as well as a spin-off series that focuses on the younger versions of the bears. Right now, my eyes are set on the former. I was able to watch plenty of episodes of “We Bare Bears” whenever it was on television, and it was actually pretty entertaining in my opinion. It’s not one of my favorite shows in the world, but it had enough suitable moments for me to be excited for the bears’ first-ever full-length adventure. Last year, I took the opportunity to review another Cartoon Network film, “Steven Universe: The Movie”, and since I felt confident in talking about a film that’s made for the small screen, I decided to do the same with “We Bare Bears: The Movie”. Would it be able to satisfy both fans and newcomers? Let’s find out.
The story follows Grizz (Edelstein), Panda (Moynihan), and Ice Bear (Martin), three bears who get into trouble once again when their chaotic attempts to be accepted into society ignited a series of complaints from the residents. Seeing that the bears are becoming a threat to the human population, Wildlife Control Agent Trout (Jackson) proposes an idea to separate the bears from each other and relocate them to a wildlife preserve. This resulted in the bears going on a perilous road trip to seek refuge in Canada. Along the way, they experience several obstacles that will test their brotherhood bond. Similar to the likes of “Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo” and “Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Big Picture Show”, “We Bare Bears: The Movie” serves as a conclusion to the series it’s based on, bringing the characters’ four-season-long story arc to a respectable close. The film also explores several topics like acceptance, racial discrimination, and family separation, which are inspired by Daniel Chong’s experience as a minority in America, resulting in its story being a bit darker compared to the light-hearted tone of the show. This is another film that successfully teaches its viewers about the importance of accepting people for who they are regardless of their differences. More importantly, it shows that brotherhood is more than just being related by blood. It’s about those who love, protect, and support one another no matter what. It’s what I would call “brothers by heart”. For what it’s worth, I thought the film did wonders in representing these types of themes in a family-friendly matter. Aside from that, how is the film itself? Well, it doesn’t reach the same levels as “Steven Universe: The Movie” nor have the same quality as the animated films from Disney and Pixar, but as a movie about three talking bears traveling to Canada, it’s an endearing diversion that will impress fans of the show. Plus, it offered enough material to get newcomers interested. The three main characters are just as likable as they were in the show, and the main actors (Edelstein, Moynihan, and Martin) behind them did a remarkable job in providing some entertaining voice work. I’m also happy with how they developed Grizz. Aside from coming up with ways to either fit into society or solve difficult problems, Grizz is also facing the responsibility of keeping his non-related family together as an older brother, especially in the midst of being forced to separate. I think older brothers in real life will be able to relate to this character because of his determination and his kind-hearted nature. I also felt that both Panda and Ice Bear had enough charm in their personalities to win me over. Like the show, The film’s animation style as a whole was simplistically colorful and appealing. It’s more of a slice-of-life type of animation style rather than the usual cartoon-like format that offers boatloads of slapstick and gross-out gags every few seconds. It’s not going to win any major awards for its quality, but for the most part, it’s good enough to display its cute, imaginative, and humorous moments. Speaking of humorous, the humor is quite effective in terms of balancing the modern pop culture references with the bears’ personality. As for its flaws, the film’s plot did have a difficult time fitting in with its timely themes. Clocking in at around 70 minutes, “We Bare Bears” came off as a fast-paced and basic road trip adventure that somehow failed to expand on certain elements that could’ve make its messages much more meaningful. I think if they spend a few more minutes on the bears’ backstory, particularly Grizz’s, and some of the supporting characters who are already friends with the bears like Charlie the Bigfoot (Jason Lee) and child prodigy Chloe Park (Charlyne Yi), it would’ve been good enough to emphasize the importance of family and acceptance. I also felt that Agent Trout, the film’s main antagonist, wasn’t all that impressive as a character. His only intention was to separate the bears and maintain the balance between animal nature and human nature, which does sound like a suitable threat to the main characters, but the way they executed this type of scenario was about as flat as a flat tire.
Overall, the plot in “We Bare Bears: The Movie” does come off as a hit-and-miss, but its heartwarming nature and relevant themes are respectable enough to represent an endearing conclusion to one of Cartoon Network’s most likable shows of the 2010s. There are a couple of plot elements that could’ve been explored a bit more and its antagonist was anything but memorable. However, it was able to make up for its noticeable flaws by providing plenty of charm into its characters, the animation, and its humor that will satisfy fans and people who are unfamiliar with the show. This is the type of film that could’ve been a great conclusion but wound up being a decent conclusion instead, which is fine by me because a decent movie is always better than a bad one. The film is available to rent or buy on any digital platform as of this writing, so if you and your kids are still waiting for the new SpongeBob movie to come out, this animated comedy should be able to tide you over for a while.
“42” stars Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, André Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater, and Ryan Merriman. Released on April 12, 2013, the film follows the accomplishments of baseball player Jackie Robinson.
The film was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who also directed “Payback”, “A Knight’s Tale”, “The Order”, and “Legend”. For an occasion like this, I think now is the time for me to look at one of the films that honor some of the legends from the African American culture. One legend in particular had the courage to end racial segregation in the baseball community and inspire others to put more focus on racial equality, and his name was Jackie Robinson. Without him, the world of baseball wouldn’t be what it is today. There were at least a couple of attempts to adapt Robinson’s life story as a feature film. Spike Lee was originally attached to write and direct the project in 1995, and Robert Redford was set to produce it in 2004, but both of these attempts fell apart, resulting in Brian Helgeland taking over the helms in 2011 under the distribution deal with Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures. It was then released to the public two years later to positive reviews from critics and became a modest success at the box office, earning over $97 million worldwide against the production budget of $40 million. This was something that I was planning on revisiting for my blog for quite some time not just because of the “Black Lives Matter” scenario, but also because of how much I loved it. I remembered watching it for the first time with my sister in a sold-out theater and immediately recognized how well this story was told in a PG-13-rated manner. My sister and I enjoyed it so much that I wound up getting the film on Blu-ray. Plus, it was the film that introduced me to Chadwick Boseman, who went on to portray a couple more real-life historical figures like James Brown and Thurgood Marshall and join the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Panther after his success with “42”. Yeah, it was a good day for me to be a film lover. So, how does this sports biopic held up in my critical eyes? Let’s travel back to the 1940s and find out.
The story focuses on the life-changing career of Jackie Robinson (Boseman), a baseball player who is chosen by Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Ford) to play in the Major Leagues, resulting in him becoming the first African American player to play in the MLB (Major League Baseball). From playing with the Montreal Royals to leading the Dodgers to the World Series, Robinson faces several race-related challenges that happen on and off the baseball field. What makes Robinson such an iconic person is not just his undeniable talent in baseball, but also his personality. He didn’t let anyone bring him down with their racist remarks and their awful actions towards him. His acts of kindness and respect towards others showed the baseball community that generosity is the only path to victory and that everyone is equal regardless of their skin color. As I mentioned before, I loved every minute of “42” during my first viewing, mostly because of the cast and its inspiring storytelling. Those major things are what made it one of my favorite baseball movies of all time. Looking back at it now as a film critic, I can see that it’s not exactly a perfect sports biopic, but it still holds up well as an important and well-acted baseball drama that honors Robinson’s accomplishments. The only thing that kept it from being an A+ movie was its screenplay. On the one hand, the script has plenty of moments that offer some respectable dialogue and heartfelt drama. On the other hand, it didn’t exactly transcend beyond its genre tropes nor further explore its social commentary in an emotional light. People who wanted a Jackie Robinson biopic with stronger storytelling may feel a bit disappointed with this one, but if you don’t mind this flaw, there’s a good chance that you’ll find plenty to enjoy. I can understand that some of its mild sequences may become a problem for some viewers, but I think the reason why Brian Helgeland went with this direction was because he wanted to make the film accessible to people of all ages, especially kids. It’s important for children to learn this type of stuff. While the execution was far from perfect, the film is suitable enough to show to your kids without making them feel uncomfortable with its themes. What kept the film going for me in terms of storytelling was Helgeland’s direction. Despite missing some of its emotional beats, I thought he did a good job at balancing the film’s themes with some of its light-hearted moments, which goes to show that biopics don’t always need to be overly serious to be great. Sometimes, you just need the good moments to go along with the bad. You know, like life itself. The performances from the cast were also top-notch, most notably Boseman as Jackie Robinson. Boseman had that specific soul in his performance that made his character endearing, but also vulnerable. The film portrays Robinson as a person who enjoys playing the sport he loves, but is struggling to keep his cool around other people who were against him being in the same field as the white players. With all that talent Boseman had to play this type of character, it’s no wonder why he was chosen to sing several songs from James Brown and become a Marvel superhero. Harrison Ford also delivered one of his best performances in his career as Branch Rickey. His strict and scruffy voice was well-balanced with a character who wasn’t afraid to do the impossible despite the controversy he’ll wind up getting. I also want to point out the elephant in the room, which is Alan Tudyk as Phillies manager Ben Chapman. Tudyk’s performance was obviously respectable, but it was his character that I both appreciate and hate. Chapman served as an example of how society treats people of color during that time period in the most distasteful way possible, which I thought served the film’s purpose quite well. I am not kidding, once Chapman opens his big mouth, you will immediately despise him like he was the plague. I like what they did with this character from a critical perspective, but from my normal perspective, his actions made me want to smash his head in with a baseball bat. It’s like having a love/hate relationship with someone. You like them because of their appeal, but you also hate their attitude.
Overall, “42” is far from a grand slam, but it’s still an entertaining baseball drama that’s both inspirational and heartwarming. While its screenplay didn’t delve deep into its social commentary and Robinson’s personal life, the film was able to hit a couple of home runs thanks to its superb cast, Helgeland’s direction, and its heartfelt messages. It’s an endearing biopic that honors the struggles Robinson faced in his baseball career and the spirit of the sport itself. It’s understandable that the film didn’t exactly do anything special with the genre in terms of storytelling, but thankfully, it didn’t take away my love for it. I will always appreciate this film for its themes and the incredible talent from the cast regardless of what anybody says about it. For those who haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth checking out.
“The Old Guard” stars Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Released on Netflix on July 10, 2020, the film is about a group of immortal mercenaries that must fight for their freedom.
The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, who also directed films such as “Love & Basketball”, “The Secret Life of Bees”, and “Beyond the Lights”. It is based on the comic book of the same name by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández. Being immortal does have its share of faults, but that’s okay. We get to battle bad guys for centuries, so that’s cool. This month sees the release of a film adaptation of a superhero team that refuses to die…literally. No matter how hard the bad guys try, they’ll just keep on coming back for more. This film marks director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s first experience helming an action film after directing plenty of romantic drama films throughout her career, which is something that kind of caught me off guard considering her track record with the latter. I haven’t actually seen some of Prince-Bythewood’s other works because of my lack of interest in the romance genre, so sadly, I can’t compare this one to those films in terms of her direction. But I can compare it to the other superhero films we got over the last few years. With that in mind, let’s see if this film is just as fun as being immortal.
The film’s story centers on a team of mercenaries, which consists of Andy (Theron), Booker (Schoenaerts), Joe (Kenzari), and Nicky (Marinelli). This peculiar team has been living in secret and protecting the world for centuries thanks to their mysterious inability to die. Seriously, just try to kill them. I dare you. Their latest mission forces them to go on the run from Copley (Ejiofor), a former CIA operative who is hired by an executive businessman (Harry Melling) to capture the team. It’s up to Andy and their newest member Nile Freeman (Layne) to protect the group and fight their way out of this predicament. The story has the qualities of a superhero film and the main characters who can heal from any wound imaginable. They’re basically Wolverine times five. This is something that had me quite concerned before I went into this film because of the challenge of developing the characters who can literally live forever. Why should people care about these types of characters? Fortunately, the film offered the right answer to that question. While the film’s script by Greg Rucka felt limited by its familiar genre elements and the lack of memorable characters, the film is never afraid to combine entertainment value with proper storytelling that deals with the grieves of immortality. Yes, the main characters are invulnerable, but it was able to introduce some plot elements, which were somewhat convincing in my eyes, and plenty of character-driven moments that level the playing field without making things unfair for their opponents. As always, storytelling is just as important as the action. The entire cast put plenty of effort in making their characters enjoyable, especially Charlize Theron, who once again showcased her impressive skills as an actor and as an action star. Her performance as Andy was obviously one of the reasons why the film shouldn’t go by unnoticed. KiKi Layne also did pretty well in her role as Nile, the team’s newest recruit, even though her character arc was lacking some strong depth in some places. The other actors who played the other members of the group (Schoenaerts, Kenzari, and Marinelli) had some good moments that were able to prevent their characters from being forgettable. As I mentioned before, this is Prince-Bythewood’s first attempt at directing an action film, let alone a superhero film, so there’s no doubt that she was facing the challenge of having her directorial abilities blend well with this type of genre, especially after directing plenty of drama films during her career. All I can say about her direction after watching it for myself was that she handled the action sequences just as effectively as the drama sequences. It’s no surprise that the action was entertaining, but it was the way these sequences were swiftly shot without succumbing to the overuse of choppy editing that made the film highly watchable. It didn’t come close to reaching the same heights as the “John Wick” films, but I enjoyed them regardless. The last thing that I wouldn’t mind mentioning is the soundtrack. The film had a respectable score by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran, but the song choices that they put in during a couple of scenes were a little bit off-putting in terms of its intended tone. It didn’t hurt the film that much, to be honest, but I think it’s better off without those song choices.
Overall, “The Old Guard” is another action film that succeeds in delivering some engaging sequences and providing a decent story to go along with its butt-kicking goodness. Lead by an appealing performance by Charlize Theron and Prince-Bythewood’s confident sense of direction, this latest superhero film proves that there are indeed some good perks of being immortal. It’s always nice to see a director like Prince-Bythewood step out of their comfort zone to deliver something new and come out on top. It just goes to show that trying something new can often be rewarding, especially when it comes to directing. If Prince-Bythewood gets another opportunity to direct an action film, I will be hoping that it’ll be just as good as this. For those who are in an action-packed mood, this film is worth your time.
“Greyhound” stars Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, and Elisabeth Shue. Released on Apple TV+ on July 10, 2020, the film has a US Navy Commander defending the convoy from German U-boats.
The film is directed by Aaron Schneider, who also directed the 2003 short film “Two Soldiers” and the 2009 film “Get Low”. It is based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester. There have been plenty of war films that take place either on land or on sea. They contain stories about courage, hope, and leadership in the midst of the World War that will be remembered for years to come. This film is indeed one of them. Originally set for a theatrical release, this latest war film became the latest victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced movie theaters to shut themselves down temporarily. Instead of postponing it until next year, the studio decided to release it digitally on Apple TV+, making it the latest original film to appear on Apple’s streaming service, which I don’t have sadly. I’m only able to hold on to at least four streaming services at a time in order to avoid breaking my bank, which includes Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO Max. Luckily for me, the streaming service still has the free seven-day trial option, which means I can check out the film and try out the Apple TV+ app at the same time. Thank you, free seven-day trial options. Going back to the topic at hand, is the film good enough to stand alongside the other war classics? Let’s find out.
Taking place months after the United States entered World War II, the film centers on Ernest Krause (Hanks), a career officer turned commander of the USS Keeling. He is tasked to lead an escort group across the North Atlantic. When Krause’s crew is under attack by a wolfpack of German U-boats, he must deal with his self-doubts and personal demons in order to effectively lead his convoy to victory. Similar to “Dunkirk” and “1917”, “Greyhound” wasted no time in getting to the plot right away. Seriously, it just gets right into the action just like that. This is also one of the films where the majority of the story takes place in a single setting. In this case, the film is entirely set in the USS Keeling. In addition to its respective ability to represent the work fundamentals of the Navy vessels, the film took advantage of its 90-minute runtime by offering an exhilarating and smoothly-directed experience that never slows down to take a breather nor exceeds its budget. Unfortunately, its biggest downside to this scenario, aside from releasing the film on a streaming service instead of in the theater, is its lack of strong character development. While the film did give out a few hints at who these characters are, especially Krause (who is remarkably portrayed by Hanks, who also wrote the film’s screenplay), it didn’t deliver anything else to make the viewers care more about them and the situation that they’re in. In other words, “Greyhound” doesn’t entirely work as a character-driven war film. However, I have to say that it does work as a mid-budget, action-driven war thriller. Sure, it didn’t pack a lot of emotional punches when it comes to its storytelling, but the effort that was put into its tension-filled sequences and the high stakes that were given to the characters made this noticeable flaw almost forgivable. Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” had that similar problem. Its characters were nothing to write home about, but its attempt on delivering a tension-filled war experience was nothing but satisfying. I still favor “Dunkirk” for its cinematic scale, but “Greyhound” had some pretty good moments to keep itself afloat, such as the action sequences. What made the action sequences work was not just Schneider’s direction, but also the sound mixing and Blake Neely’s riveting score. There’s nothing too special about the music, but Blake Neely did a solid job at enhancing the experience regardless. I also have to give credit to the sound mixing team for the film’s authenticity when it comes to its environment. It did its job in making its viewers feel like they're actually in the middle of a naval battle. It would’ve been awesome to hear the sound effects in the theater, but hey, what can you do?
Overall, “Greyhound” mostly relies on Tom Hanks and its tension-filled action to prevent itself from sinking, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your expectations. If you’re expecting it to be a non-stop thrill ride that’s well-paced and filled with intense moments, this film will satisfy most of your needs. However, if you’re expecting it to be the next war classic like “Dunkirk” or “1917”, this film will make you want to go down with the ship as soon as possible. Personally, I enjoyed the film because of Hanks’ riveting performance and its ability to provide some intensity in its scenario, even though its character depth was severely lacking. I also have to say that this is something that’s best suited as a theatrical film rather than a “streaming service” film in terms of the sound mixing, but that’s just me. “Greyhound” is available to watch on Apple TV+, so if you’re in a mood for some Tom Hanks goodness, this film should suit you well.
“Hamilton" stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Jonathan Groff. Released on Disney+ on July 3, 2020, the film chronicles the life of Alexander Hamilton.
The film is directed by Thomas Kail, who is known for directing Broadway productions and television shows like “2 Broke Girls” and “Fosse/Verdon”. It is a recording of Miranda’s 2015 Broadway musical of the same name, which is inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. This weekend is Independence Day, which means it’s time for us to once again celebrate our independence, crank out the fireworks, and explore some American history. Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you can’t learn some history, am I right? “Hamilton” is considered to be one of the best Broadway musicals of all time as it earned rave reviews, received numerous awards, and played to sold-out shows. With Lin-Manuel Miranda’s infectious music and a story that combines the old with the new and respects the importance of America, the musical has become an American treasure that everyone should experience for themselves, especially on Independence Day. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to wait until the Broadway theaters reopen to see it because Disney is releasing the live recording of the 2016 performance of “Hamilton” on its streaming service so that everyone can see it without wasting their money on some expensive Broadway tickets. It was originally set to hit theaters next fall, but due to the pandemic affecting the performing arts, Disney decided to just release it on Disney+ during this year's 4th of July weekend. I’m honestly glad that they made this decision. We get to celebrate the performing arts in our living room and celebrate the American nation. I call this a win-win. I’m one of the few people who have not seen “Hamilton” since it was first released, so this review will be my very first experience with the Broadway musical. With that said, let’s dive into some history.
Divided into two acts and filmed from the Richard Rodgers Theatre performance in June 2016, the story depicts the life and career of Alexander Hamilton (Miranda), an immigrant from the Caribbean island of Nevis. Throughout the span of his life, he works as General George Washington’s (Jackson) aide-de-camp, marries Eliza Schuyler (Soo), becomes the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and engages in a duel with his friend turned rival Aaron Burr (Odom Jr.). What makes this musical unique compared to the other representations of American history is its perspective. The depiction of America in the past is told through the use of modern music that draws from certain genres like hip hop and pop and a diverse cast, making it accessible to…well, everyone. But do these things alone make a great musical? Honestly, they absolutely do. You can argue that the story in “Hamilton” isn’t 100% accurate to the history books, but when you look at the bigger picture, it’s actually a one-of-a-kind experience that brilliantly captures the spirit of Broadway and represents the rise and fall of the title character in its own way. From its relatable political themes to the show-stopping musical numbers, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” is a music-driven and captivating drama that’s full of energy, pizzazz, and more importantly, heart. I was a bit concerned going into this one, considering the fact that the film is basically people singing or rapping for over two and a half hours. However, I was generally surprised to see how highly entertaining (and important) it was to watch history come alive from a different perspective. Sure, the runtime can be a bit problematic for those who aren’t into the performing arts, but the pacing and the music were suitable enough to keep things moving along. The entire cast of the film consists of Miranda and the original principal cast of the musical, and, unsurprisingly, they were all fantastic, especially Miranda, who performed his heart and soul out as the title character. Jonathan Groff as King George III has to be one of my favorite highlights of the film. Not just because of his musical numbers, but also because of his humorous and enjoyable delivery of his lines (or lyrics). The film’s music by Miranda is also my personal highlight. “Hamilton” is best described as either a story-driven concert or a song-driven historical drama, whichever one works for you. What could’ve been an off-putting and derivative storytelling tool turned out to be something more than that. Not only were the musical numbers filled with stellar lyrics, catchy music, and stunning choreography, but they also play an important role in representing the film’s events and the characters’ emotions through modern eyes. The result is a visual soundtrack that’ll get you to either dance along with its upbeat score or feel emotionally moved by its lyrics. From a Broadway perspective, the production design and the costumes were simplistic, yet well-crafted enough to depict America from the 1700s and the 1800s.
Overall, “Hamilton” is a joyous and heartfelt musical that respectfully celebrates both America then and America now. Thanks to its incredible cast, Miranda’s unforgettable music, its well-portrayed narrative, and Thomas Kail’s successful attempt to bring the musical to life for newcomers, the film marks another reason why you should subscribe to Disney+, other than to watch all of your favorite Disney classics. It would’ve been nice to see the musical in person, but with everything that’s going on right now, I guess this will have to do for now. For people who are unfamiliar with the musical and people who are fans of Broadway, it’s definitely worth checking out.