CGI Animals and a Daffy Robert Downey Jr. Performance Make for a Feather-Brained ‘Dolittle’

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CREDIT: Universal Pictures

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Carmel Laniado, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Jason Mantzoukas, Frances de la Tour

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG for Mild Animal Chaos

Release Date: January 17, 2020

It’s not a great sign when my favorite part of a movie is the end credits revealing who all the voice actors were, especially when it’s a movie about talking to animals, because … I love talking to animals! Not necessarily in the Dr. Dolittle sense, but if I did have that ability, I would be happy to use it. As for Robert Downey Jr.’s version of the classic fictional veterinarian, I wouldn’t say that he is unhappy about his interspecies communication abilities, but he is making some odd choices, what with an unplaceable accent while barely opening his mouth whenever he talks to the point that it seems like he is practicing his ventriloquism. Dolittle is a movie whose existence in 2020 I’m having trouble fathoming, but despite that, I can’t say that I doubt Downey’s commitment, however strange it may be.

Anyway, the plot is some fever dream logic-driven concoction about how a reclusive Dr. Dolittle, hiding away in his home following the death of his wife, is summoned to set out on an adventure to find a cure for a deathly ill young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley). Naturally enough, his animal friends join him to help out, and their presence on this journey just feels too unremarkable. Perhaps that has to do with the reliance on CGI, which renders these creatures less adorable and more just humans with fur or feathers or scales. For the most part, then, Dolittle is a mix of humdrum when it should be goofy and ridiculous when it should be straightforward. Although, there is one part when Dr. Dolittle removes a set of bagpipes from a dragon’s colon, so this endeavor wasn’t a total disappointment.

Dolittle is Recommended If You Have: A Bottomless Appreciation for CGI Animal Hijinx

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Quacks

This Is a Movie Review: Assassin’s Creed

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assassins-creed-movie

In Assassin’s Creed the Movie, Marion Cotillard sends Michael Fassbender into the past by having him inhabit an ancestor of his. In premise and execution, it’s a lot like Wolverine being transported to his younger self in X-Men: Days of Future Past. So watching this movie gives me a sense of “Been there, done that” but also “This can be done well.” Also encouraging: the intricacies implied by the secret societies and the prison-like facility that is supposedly not really a prison. There are some sci-fi mystery concepts worth exploring here.

Unfortunately about halfway through, Assassin’s Creed confirms that it will not buck the trend of unimpressive video game adaptations. Plot developments, pieces of mythology, and new characters are introduced with little, if any, explanation. I suppose if you play the games you might have some semblance of understanding, but I have my doubts that such comprehension would actually improve anything.

I give Assassin’s Creed 200 “Why Are They in This’s?” out of 500 Shadowy Figures.

This Is a Movie Review: Brad Pitt Takes Matter Into His Own Hands in the WWII Thriller ‘Allied’

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Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in Allied from Paramount Pictures.

This review was originally published on News Cult in November 2016.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: R for the Horrors of War

Release Date: November 23, 2016

The World War II thriller Allied has a hell of a premise: intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is informed that his French wife Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) may actually be a sleeper spy for the Germans. If she is, he must execute her himself or face hanging for high treason. This is the sort of flashy, adult-oriented actioner that can only get studio backing if the biggest star in the world is in it, and that few directors besides Robert Zemeckis (Back to the FutureBeowulfFlight) are interested in making anymore. That’s a shame. Allied does not set any gold standards, but it is the sort of perfectly enjoyable effort that Hollywood should be cranking out with ease.

Do not let my pleasant but uninspiring description fool you into thinking that Allied lacks personality. Indeed, its best scene is both Max and Marianne’s sexual linchpin and the prime CGI showcase. Their relationship is confirmed as more than just the bonding of fellow warriors as they find themselves stuck in their car in the middle of a sandstorm. The camera rotates with the force of the environment, as the editing pace intensifies, placing them in a transformational vortex, which serves as the point of no return.

As Max disobeys orders and takes the investigation into his own hands, the twists pile up and complicate the initial assessment of Marianne. Yet the plotting remains straightforward. This is the Occam’s razor of spy thrillers: British intelligence may have a reputation for playing head games with its officers, but sometimes the most simple subterfuge is the correct explanation. Furthermore, while Allied’s official reports may be fudged a few times, its emotions never are. Subtlety may suffer, but integrity (and honor in a very classic sense) survives.

Allied is Recommended If You LikeCasablancaValkyrie, Thrillers About the Wrongly Accused Directed by Alfred Hitchcock or Those Influenced by Hitchcock

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Looks of Anguish from Brad Pitt