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I like a wide variety of movies. My favorite directors are Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, and the Coens. My favorite actors are Philip Seymour Hoffman, Matt Damon, and Tom Hanks. My favorite actresses are Amy Adams, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Jennifer Connelly, and Naomi Watts.
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Meari to majo no hana (2017)
"What's done cannot be undone, until it is."
I've been wanting to watch a charming, beautifully animated, heart-warming fantasy anime feature for quite a while, and now I have. And I should do it more often. In the midst of all the dour dramas, seedy crime films and brutal horror flicks that occupy most of my movie watching time, it's nice to finish a movie with a genuine smile on my face.
Mary and the Witch's Flower would make an excellent double-feature with Kiki's Delivery Service. The stakes are higher here and there's more of an element of adventure, but both movies share themes of never giving up, sticking with your friends, and the real-life magic of overcoming your own self-doubt.
My only quibble is the somewhat slow start, but Mary and the Witch's flower truly gets better and better as it progresses. I highly recommend it.
The Lion King (2019)
There's little here to recommend.
When you remake a classic, it has to be better or it will seem very unnecessary to the original audience. "Different" just is not quite good enough.
The 2016 remake of The Jungle Book is a great example. It took the original movie and breathed new life into the story with charm. I liked it more than I ever did the traditionally animated version.
In comparison, this version of The Lion King is the same, but updated. And those updates felt worse, almost each and every time.
The computer animation is certainly impressive in its photorealisim, but the characters were uniformly less charming and interesting as a result. The elephant graveyard is no longer terrifying. Pride Rock is much less majestic. The savannah seems sparse and empty.
The songs were anemic and underwhelming compared to the original soundtrack, which is one of the best Disney ever produced. The new version of "Be Prepared" would have fared better being left out of the movie entirely.
The new voice actors ranged from passable to forgettable. It was jarring seeing the incredibly realistic animals' mouths moving in speech.
Positives? Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner were amusing as Timon and Pumbaa. Realistic hyenas are certainly scarier and more menancing than cartoons.
If I had never seen the original Lion King. I would have though this was an okay, if unremarkable movie that looks more like a showcase for how far computer animation has come in rendering realistic-looking animals. If you see it, see it for that reason. I don't think I'll fell compelled to ever watch this version of the movie ever again.
Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Annabelle Terrorizes Again
Is it good?
It's pretty good. Better than the first, a step back from Annabelle: Creation.
Is it scary? If you like jump scares. The movie is creepy and time is taken to build some dread before the scary stuff starts happening, but most of the frights are not memorable enough to stay on your mind after the movie is over. Props to the Ferry Man though, anything involving him was the most interesting part of the movie to me.
Should you watch it? If you're looking for a spooky movie that keeps things very basic. At times Annabelle Comes Home felt less like a cohesive narrative and more like a series of scary things happening with little in between. Teenagers doing dumb things is a major theme here, and some people are understandably tired of that trope. I don't mind it, but it doesn't exactly make me excited, either.
The ending was a bit anticlimactic, I was surprised by how simple it was. That kinda goes for the movie as a whole. It's decent, but I was hoping for more.
The Nun (2018)
Nun-thing Special Here
Where does The Nun rank in the Conjurung universe?
It's not great. (ex. The Conjuring, Annabelle: Creation) It's not good. (The Conjuring 2) It's not awful. (Annabelle)
Let's call it okay. It's definitely the goofiest of the movies that I've seen. There's some scary, memorable imagery here (creepy nuns are creepy), but that's balanced out by corny scenes and ineffective jump scares. The tone was off from the other Conjuring movies at times. There are moments here that would be more at home in a zombie flick, believe it or not.
On the positive side. the movie doesn't drag after its somewhat slow beginning; it doesn't linger long enough to be boring. Taissa Farmiga is as watchable and likeable as her mom, and really carries the movie. I was invested in her character even when the rest of the story threatened to lose my interest.
The Nun is a disposable piece of lite horror that really only holds strong appeal for the Conjuring completionist. For everyone else, you probably won't hate it, but you won't miss much if you choose to skip it.
Headshot 3: Still Shooting
Better than the second, still not as great as the first.
When Parabellum works, it WORKS! Some great action scenes in this one, including the first few fights. I need more of Halle Berry and her dogs, please. The title character still gives one word answers and shoots people in the head stylishly, which honestly is why most of us watch this series.
What doesn't work as well is when the movie slows down for worldbuilding and plot development. There's a cool story of survival here, but it's too simple to necessitate all the back story and peripheral information that we're present via exposition. Chapter 2 also suffered from this, while the first movie in the series seemed to clue us into the rules of this world and how it operates without taking some many frequent breaks to have someone explain it for our benefit (shooting the movie's momentum in the head in the process).
Overall, I was entertained and I'm here for any new John Wick movies that come down the pipeline.
Captain Marvel (2019)
A basic origin film like this was fine a few years ago, now I need more.
It's so difficult not to compare Captain Marvel to two other recent movies - Alita: Battle Angel and Wonder Woman. Both of those movies started actresses who did a great job of channeling iconic characters - making the audience root for them and showing what makes those characters special. Captain Marvel is lacking in that area.
It's not a bad movie by any means, it's just so unremarkable. It's missing the heart that Wonder Woman and Alita have. Brie Larson (who I know is a good actressss in other movies) is just so blank here. At first I explained that away as a part of the plot, but no she just doesn't give Carol Danvers much of a personality at all. Many comic book fans love these movies because we love these characters, and when it's difficult to invest in the character, it's hard to immerse yourself in the movie.
I will say that the special effects were great, but the plot just seemed to exist to get Captain Marvel to the end of the movie with powers in tow, ready to make her debut in Avengers: Endgame. As origin stories go, this one is just average. It went from mediocre to fairly entertaining by the end, but comic book movies have evolved to the point that my expectations for them are much higher.
Captain Marvel doesn't fail, but it also does not live up to the tagline of "Higher, Further, Faster" very well. I'm hoping the character has a better showing the second time around.
"Not boys, are you sure?"
Sorceress is further proof that a movie does not have to be good to be entertaining.
Pretty much every aspect of it is a mess. The acting and costumes are amateurish at best. My friends and I had better fight choreography as kids on the playground pretending to be the Ninja Turtles. The creature design is... disturbing. That goat man is going to give me nightmares tonight, and the sky-god-lion-dragon-thing was ripped right out of some bad Lovecraft fanfiction. The plot was... a plot. It had characters and they did things, and sometimes motivations for doing the things were expressed.
But all that said, I enjoyed Sorceress more than some more serious attempts at the sword and sorcery genre I've seen. Even with its many flaws, you can tell that the people involved in this movie really "went for it" 100%. It was actually engaging, which always makes a movie worthwhile. The flaws I mentioned previously were quite noticeable, but didn't detract from the movie experience, if that makes sense. If you enjoy some ridiculous trash from time to time, give this movie a chance.
A poor adaptation of a great character.
Venom is not a good movie, but I find myself giving it a (reasonably) good score. Certainly better than the sum of its parts deserves.
Largely, I think it's because I've always loved be character. And seeing a movie based on Venom is a cool thing by default, even when so much of the opportunity is wasted. The best part of this whole mess by far is the character of Venom, itself. It looks like Venom should look, and fights how Venom should fight. The few action scenes pretty much saved the movie for me, and without those, this movie scores much worse.
As for the bad, well there's a lot to choose from. The tone of the movie does not fit, and is not really consistent from one moment to another. Venom is a violent, brutal character, and does not mesh well with the lame jokes and all-around goofiness that the movie frequently delves into. This carries over into Tom Hardy's portrayal of Eddie Brock. It's just off, wrong, and far too silly. Michelle Williams is utterly wasted in a character that's barely memorable (other than the brief forest scene that's admittedly awesome), the villain is boring and cliche, and the first half of the movie (before the Venom character appears) is a dull slog.
Finally, the lack of Spider-Man as a part of Venom's introduction/origin is a shame. The two characters are so tightly linked that Spidey's absence is sorely missing.
Still, it's Venom. As terrible as the first half or so of the movie was, I was pretty dang invested once the symbiote started doing its thing. I can't really recommend this move to anyone, even fellow fans of the character. It (barely) worked for me, but I'm under no illusions that this movie is up to standard with the really good superhero movies we've been spoiled by the last several years. I really hope the sequel is better. If the after-credits scene is any indication... it won't be.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
An autopsy that begins and ends with death.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a horror/mystery about a dead body that is found in very mysterious (and morbid) circumstances. As a coroner and his son attempt to find a cause of death for the mysterious young woman, frightening events hint at a dangerous secret that the corpse hides.
I really liked some of the things about this movie. It ratchets up the tension at times to very high levels, and the mystery of what exactly is going on was very engaging. Was I ultimately happy with the answers? Not entirely, but they did at least make sense within the context of the movie, and that counts for a lot.
Even though the eventual conclusion of The Autopsy of Jane Doe was not exactly to my liking, I still enjoyed the movie overall. It's a nice little horror flick, and manages to diffentiate itself from the crowd. I've seen much, much worse.
Another bloody puzzle to put together.
I'm surprised to find myself revisiting the Saw franchise. I'm a little fuzzy on which of the earlier entries I've seen, they all blend together in a haze of severed limbs, endless plot twists, and lots of screaming.
It's no surprise, then, that Jigsaw primarily features severed limbs, endless plot twists, and lots of screaming. But a hiatus has done the series well. It feels less repetitive than it deserves, simply because I haven't seen a movie like this in quite some time. The plot essentially boils down to bad people being trapped in a deadly game that's designed to bring them to terms (usually via bloody maiming) with how badly they've treated others. There's a secondary plot that follows a group of detectives and medical examiners that are trying to puzzle out whether the title character has returned, after being believed to be dead for a decade.
I enjoyed Jigsaw, but eventually a feeling of deja vu gradually began to creep in. There's really nothing new here, but fans of the previous movies in the series will probably find this to be an acceptable entry.
Night School (2018)
Kevin Hart fans will enjoy.
Night School is a funnier-than-average Kevin Hart comedy with a positive message about adult education. With that said, you're enjoyment of this movie will depend on how amusing you find Kevin's brand of humor.
Hart stars as a high school dropout who managed to still find considerable success in life thanks to his natural skills as a salesman. When that avenue is closed to him thanks to an unfortunate accident, Kevin is forced to enroll in night classes at his old high school in order to prepare to take his GED, get a new job, and maintain his image of success so that his beautiful fiancé (Megalyn Echikunwoke) does not see him as a failure. Kevin's distaste for studying and instincts for seeking the easy way out fail to impress his very "hands on" night school teacher (Tiffany Haddish). Hijinks ensue and ultimately, positive life lessons are learned.
Similar to Will Ferrell's comedies, you either find Kevin Hart's over-the top antics funny, or you don't. I usually do, and I think that Night School is one of the better movies that he has been involved in. The supporting cast is quite funny as well. This is a light slice of entertainment that's good for a few laughs, and that's all it really sets out to do. If you're not a Hart fan, however, I doubt this will change your mind.
Solid creature feature
Rogue is a simple but effective Australian horror flick. The story setup is basic, with a group of tourists ending up off the beaten path during a river sightseeing trip, and stranded within easy reach of the jaws of a monstrous crocodile.
I had tried watching Rogue once a few years ago, but didn't give it more than a few minutes before I turned it off and watched another movie. Something about how it begins failed to catch my interest back then, but I've become such a big Radha Mitchell fan since then that I had to go back and give it another try. And I'm glad I did. Rogue is nothing genre-changing, but it does have some thrills to offer and will admirably serve if you're looking for this kind of a movie. The cast is decent, with a few faces you've probably seen (the aforementioned Mitchell, as well as Michael Vartan, a teenage Mia Wasikowska, and Sam Worthington), but the real star is the croc. The special effects are petty good for a movie of this budget, and as the croc is on-screen more Rogue gets more and more interesting. The finale is pretty awesome, as a result. Recommended.
A Bizarre Elevator Ride
Honestly, I initially only wanted to watch this movie because Naomi Watts is one of my favorite actresses. Once I read the fairly zane, B-movie plot description, I was sold. And honestly, I pretty much got what I expected from Down.
Essentially, this is a movie about an elevator killing people. The horrific and entertaining methods by which the victims die are what keeps Down from getting bogged down in the inevitable investigation the main characters (Naomi Watts as a scrappy reporter and James Marshall as an elevator mechanic) make into what's going on and how to stop it. The plot is nothing to get excited about, and mainly serves as filler between the creative and gory elevator deaths. There's a goofy sci-fi turn at the end that makes the movie even more campy than it already is, and to keep the late 90's/early 00's vibe going at peak efficiency, the audience is eventually treated to a bazooka explosion.
Down is occasionally dull and probably a little longer than it needs to be, but overall I thought it was fine for what it was. Mindless, campy movies can be fine at times, and while Down isn't the best of them, it certainly is not the worst, either.
Drinking Buddies (2013)
The complications of adult relationships.
Drinking Buddies is a bit of a buddy comedy, a romantic comedy, a relationship drama, and a slice-of-life movie, all in one. Accordingly, it is a little difficult to sum up. I have seen other reviewers describe it as honest and realistic, and those are apt descriptions.
I would recommend this movie on anyone who is interested in the kind of complications that ordinary people have to navigate in their everyday romantic lives. The co-worker that you laugh and flirt with on a daily basis, the relationship that's at the precipice of either moving forward into a new level of commitment or falling backwards into stagnation, the messiness of having feelings for someone who belongs to someone else - all those scenarios are here. The acting is heartfelt and believable, to the point that I alternatively found myself genuinely smiling along with a tender moment in a character's life, then feeling uncomfortable at a stress-fueled argument where cruel words are said between people who genuinely care for one another. Much of the dialogue was improvised, and I think that is very much responsible for how believable this movie is.
Give Drinking Buddies a try. At the very least, it should remind you of a situation that you or someone you know has been involved in. Don't expect much of an prologue or an epilogue, it's up to you what past these characters have had, and what future they may have. More likely than not, you will find yourself invested in how the romantic fortunes of these characters turn out. (7/10)
47 Meters Down (2017)
Leave this one in the depths.
I really wanted to like this movie. Shark movies can be very entertaining (Deep Blue Sea) or tense (The Shallows) when done well. Unfortunately, 47 Meters Down fails to entertain or thrill very much at all.
The story (two sisters, one of which in the midst of a personal crisis, take an ill-advised dip in a shark cage), is dull from the start. Mandy Moore's character may be the most annoying, frustrating character that I have seen in any recent movie. It's never a good thing when you're actively rooting against a character's survival, just so you won't have to hear them panicking and whining any more. The sharks are rarely on screen, usually quickly darting into view for a jump scare, and then darting away. The plot is simple to a fault, with pretty much the same scenario being repeated over and over. It becomes tiresome very quickly to see someone venturing into the dark water for some contrived reason or another, only to rush back to the shark cage in panic.
The finale provides some brief excitement and an interesting plot development, but it's not enough to ultimately redeem 47 Meters Down. This is a basic, uninspired, by-the-numbers shark flick that I can only recommend as a movie choice if there is literally nothing better to watch. (5/10)
Dead Birds (2004)
Most of the recent horror movies that I've seen have been so dismal that Dead Birds gets a slightly favorable review just for not being awful, despite the fact that it's not particularly scary.
The setting and time period were refreshing and the build-up and pacing of the movie were enjoyable. However, once the full story behind the haunted plantation is revealed, it was disappointingly generic. I only paid about $3 for Dead Birds, and I suppose that it's worth that price and a hour and a half of the average horror fan's life. You won't hate it, but a few months from now you won't really remember what the movie was about.
And yes, there was a dead bird in the movie, but what's with the name?
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Fun to watch!
The first thing that struck me about O Brother, Where Art Thou? was the locations. The Coen brothers did a stellar job of portraying the Mississippi of this time period as I have always imagined it would look. It makes me want to seek out these parts of my state myself, just to see what true rural Mississippi once looked like.
The second thing that caught my attention about this movie is how over-the-top it is. That will automatically make it unpleasant for some, but it became endearing for me after only a short time. Yes, George Clooney's accent doesn't work nearly as well as John Turturro's or Tim Blake Nelson's, but after a while it all seems to fit and just seems right.
The third element that stands out about O Brother is the songs. Awesome. Every scene is highlighted by some of the most kick-ass, old-timey tunes known to man. Anyone who doesn't want the soundtrack after seeing the movie is just being contrary.
The fact that this is loosely based on The Odyssey is only occasionally apparent, but the story that is here is more than enough to entertain. Every new character is captivating, no matter how long or brief their screen time.
The movies starts off brilliantly, sags a bit toward the middle, and then finishes fairly strong. It's not quite consistent enough to be a classic, but I definitely would like to see it again. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is just a lot of fun to watch.
Charm and humor to spare.
Enchanted begins as a typical, Disney-animated princess story. But after a gorgeously animated intro, it shifts to the real world, and suddenly all the cartoonish clichés and fairy-tale staples are unleashed upon the real world. If that doesn't sound interesting to you, clearly you're childhood was devoid of Disney or you don't have any young relatives in your life.
Enchanted is funny enough for any lover of (clean) comedy, charming, and...pretty much enchanting. All the fairy-tale characters fit their roles perfectly. Amy Adams perfectly captured the voice, mannerisms, and wide-eyed naivety of a real-life Disney princess. The Dashing Prince, Evil Witch, Comic Animal Sidekick, Inept Lackey, they're all present and accounted for. Disney did an excellent job of gently lampooning itself, but in such a way that it comes off as more of a loving tribute than any kind of mockery.
This movie has a lot of positives, and few negatives to speak of. I was slightly disappointed by most of the songs, none of them besides "That's How You Know" were really that memorable. How weird is that for a Disney movie? And occasionally the lovey-dovey factor went a little high for anyone that isn't an eight-year-old girl to be comfortable with. Hmmm, but it is a fairy-tale. so anything else could hardly be expected.
Enchanted is clever, sugary sweet, and amusing. Any past or present Disney fans owe it to themselves to see it. And the rest of you (if there's anyone left) should do yourselves a favor and watch a movie that's guaranteed fun.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
The first great animated Batman movie.
Superhero fans of my generation had tons of great cartoons to watch while we we're growing up, and Batman: The Animated Series was right up there among the best. It combined action with a cool art style and serious plots that made the show just as appealing to adults as it was to kids. Mask of the Phantasm is a side-story of that amazing show, so it's no surprise that I still love it all these years later.
Phantasm works so well because it pairs the usual themes of the show with an extremely bittersweet love story and tons of the detective elements that are always present in Batman's best tales. Equal time is spent with the present day mystery of the Phantasm, and Bruce's early experiments with vigilante justice.
It's great to see Bruce Wayne get equal focus in the story, and in many ways the scenes with him out of costume are the most interesting and pivotal to the story. The Joker plays a crucial part in the plot, and a woman is introduced who had a powerful influence on Bruce's decision to become Batman. What more could the true Batman fan ask for? Mask of the Phantasm is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as The Dark Knight and Batman Returns. There's a classic story within its animated trappings.
Exit Speed (2008)
Worth a watch with low expectations.
Exit Speed has no big stars and not much production value, but it offers an agreeable enough entertainment adventure. It definitely has that low-budget, made-for-TV vibe. I actually think that this could have been a solid big screen movie with an upgraded cast and a bigger budget.
The plot basically pits some everyday bus passengers against a biker gang out in the middle of nowhere. Some familiar character types are here, but there's also some left-field personalities (bow and arrow elven princess!) to keep the movie from being too cliché. It does drag on a bit, but it's extremely satisfying to see all the bikers meet their end at the climax. Watch it, if these kinds of movies are your thing.
The Guitar (2008)
A surprisingly good movie.
I thought that The Guitar was a pretty swell movie. I usually hate movies about people who suddenly find out that they're dying, and then finally start to live their lives when their lives are about to be taken from them. But The Guitar handles this kind of a story in an organic, modernistic manner that doesn't rely on sappiness or melodrama to connect the audience to the protagonist.
Saffron Burrows does a marvelous job. Her facial expressions almost tell the story well enough to preclude any dialogue on her part. There are other fine acting jobs here, but they all drift on the periphery of Saffron's excellent performance.
It's nice to find a movie from time to time that I like despite my reservations. I'm not the kind of guy who would typically be interested in this genre of movie, but The Guitar was more than enough to get me to overlook that particular bias.
Role Models (2008)
First of all, what's with the sudden pop culture saturation of LARP- ing in the past few years? It went from a fringe, nerds-only oddity, to the subject of a few documentaries, to a large portion of a mainstream comedy. Craziness!
As for a review of the actual movie, Role Models is a comedy that's a bit more palatable to female tastes than the average film of this kind. It has a positive core at the center of its amusing and slightly raunchy exterior. Paul Rudd is as funny as always, Sean William Scott does his usual thing, and Elizabeth Banks lends her beauty and potent appeal, but it's Jane Lynch who steals the spotlight in her short, but numerous scenes. It's nice to see that Arrested Development alums are still the funniest in the biz.
Role Models isn't nearly as touching or heartfelt as many critics would have you believe, and I do feel like it could have been much funnier. But overall, it left me with a good impression after I finished watching it, and that makes it a success in my book.
A dark fairy tale.
Coraline is a modern day, adult fairy tale. Neil Gaiman is known for his imaginative, genre-bending tales, and Coraline is no exception. It shifts in tone from whimsical to frightening to somber, but it's all presented in a truly engaging manner.
Even if the story wasn't as good as it is, Coraline would be worth seeing for its strikingly beautiful art style and fluid animation. It's different from that used in The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride, but it does remind one of them.
Kids may like this film for its pretty images, but it lacks the snappy humor and wackiness that many modern fairy tales have. It takes a older child or an adult to appreciate the subtleties, melancholic sensibilities, and depths of Coraline.
A good effort at making a difficult movie.
The Watchmen film adaptation is both helped and hurt by its cool trailer and its source material. The trailer was amazing enough to encourage those with no previous knowledge of the graphic novel (like me) to check it out before the movie was released. Unfortunately, this only served to raise my expectations a bit higher than they would have been if I would have gone into the experience completely fresh.
Taken for what it is, Watchmen is a laudable effort. While a few key scenes and important plot points ended up on the cutting room floor, that's more of a reflection of how well-written the source material is, rather than gaffs by Zack Snyder.
The narrative and overall flow suffers the most from the necessity of having a reasonable running time. At times the movie just feels like it's a string of cool events that are taken directly from the comic frames, separated by a bastardization of the rest of the story. But then again, once I think of how complex the story is to begin with, it's easier to give credit to it being handled the way that it was.
The acting was OK for the most part, by the end of the movie I had basically accepted everyone in their roles. Dr. Manhattan, Laurie and Dan took some adjusting too, while Rorschach, Adrian Veidt and Edward Blake were more of a natural fit. Some of the dialogue that works so well on the printed page seemed a bit clunky on the screen, but that's to be expected. Watchmen was written as a comic book, not a play.
I think that open-minded newcomers who watch Watchmen stand a pretty decent chance of liking it. It works fairly well as a superhero movie, even without all its depth and complexity. Watchmen veterans, on the other hand, will just have to come to terms with the fact that while the movie wasn't perfect, it will be very difficult to make a better version of Watchmen. Perhaps we should enjoy what we have, changes and all, and just be grateful that this movie was even made. Don't expect perfection from the Watchmen film adaptation, that's what the graphic novel is for.
One of my favorite movies.
Doubt is a compelling, emotionally dense drama. Not a typical, watered-down contemporary film drama, but the kind of drama that usually only comes from a compelling work of literature. It continues the tradition of No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood in the way that it suspends your own sensibilities and thrusts you wholly into the world of the characters.
The film wouldn't be so captivating without it's marvelous cast, but they wouldn't be able to shine so brightly without this outstanding script. The exchanges between characters are eloquent, yet believable. There's almost a music to the dialogue, and the theme of the tune switches from kindness to confrontation to lingering disquiet with every scene. It's no surprise that mixing acting titans with an extraordinary screenplay resulted in Oscar nominations for all the principal actors, as well as one for the script.
Doubt is essentially about the crisis of seeing the world in black and white, good and evil, when there's no way of knowing with certainty that you are right. Even if your actions or intentions are good, the consequences that they bring about will not come with a price. The subject matter is distasteful, but it's never handled in an exploitative or crude manner. Doubt is a marvelous achievement, and is an amazing movie for anyone who is willing to give it a chance.