Life Itself (2014)

Life Itself Movie Review

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Life Itself Movie Review

Life Itself is a 2014 documentary film directed by Steve James and it tells the story of one of the most famous, probably the most famous, film critic of all time Roger Ebert.

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All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant

of those who do not agree with it

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Life Itself Movie Review

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This film is so masterfully well crafted and directed and that is evident throughout the whole movie, right from the beginning. It combines the personal life of Roger Ebert with his work along with his relationships and friendship with Gene Siskel. Speaking of Gene, that is the aspect I liked most in the whole movie, their troubled relationship. When it started, it was quite troubled and they honestly did not get along well which was somewhat evident in they work together. But, it became very beautiful and sad when Gene died and when Ebert talked about him when you see how much of a friend he was to him and how much he cared for him. That was the film’s most beautiful moment in my humble opinion.

Although there is less of the criticism parts in this film, those are also terrific. Every movie they chose was excellent and every point others and himself made really made you think. There are some really thought-provoking lines and thoughts here about the filmmaking and movie reviews. The interviews are also great and there is just enough amount of them in the film along with pictures and footage which really makes you realize how perfectly edited the movie is.

I honestly had a couple of problems with the documentary, two to be exact. First is that there is not enough footage, pictures or talk about his earlier career and life. And second is that the movie can jump too many times from time to time, from his early reviewing days to his illness days. But those two are the only flaws I found in this otherwise remarkable picture.

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Life Itself Movie Review

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Life Itself is, along with being very insightful and definitely engaging, also very emotional and even heartbreaking sometimes. The later scenes when his illness progressed are definitely hard to watch, but also inspirational when you see how strong and full of life he was as a person, even in the darkest hours. His relationship with his wife and the interviews with her are truly beautiful and extremely sad as well. It is all so heartwarming and sad without ever going to maudlin territory.

In the end, Life Itself is a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking, a movie that captures so many aspects of Ebert’s life and really makes you understand and care for him with a wide variety of interviews, footage, thought-provoking points, emotional as well as intriguing and even funny moments. It is very well crafted and directed, wonderfully made all around, involving from beginning to end and it is, without a doubt, one of the very best documentaries of 2014.

My Rating – 4.5

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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

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Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 monster film starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson among others. It is a pretty solid, entertaining blockbuster.

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This planet doesn’t belong to us.

Ancient species owned this earth long before mankind.

I spent 30 years trying to prove the truth: monsters exist

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Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

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Its story is actually quite solid which I did not expect. It is a remake of the 1933 original, but the time period is changed to 1973 and it is obviously influenced in style by various Vietnam War movies. It can of course never be compared to the classic original, but I never expected it would come close and it is in the end pretty solid and fun in its own right so it is successful in my opinion.

It is fun because it is so adventurous. The plot is typical, but at least present and well executed. I loved the twist with John C. Reilly’s character and I absolutely loved his entire story, so well done and fascinating, not to mention moving. I now have to see 2014’s ‘Godzilla’ because this MonsterVerse piqued my interest to be honest. That is because its end-credits sequence is really well done and intriguing, but the movie stands on its own and isn’t too connected to other things to come which is why this is definitely the first successful movie universe to come after the MCU, at least for now.

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Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

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What I didn’t like about Kong: Skull Island is of course the character development which is so incredibly weak that it hurt the movie so much. I don’t know what is the point of having all these great actors, and surely this ensemble cast is amazing, if you’re not going to utilize on them properly. Only Reilly’s character is well developed and I really liked him with all of the others being so weak.

It is disappointing to see that Brie Larson did not get a better role after her unforgettable performance in ‘Room’. Her character here is very disappointing and forgettable. Jackson’s character is somewhat better, but still a far cry from his other roles. Tom Hiddleston did not get much to do as well and John Goodman only got one good scene. As I said, the characterization is so weak that it was really troublesome to me personally.

That is also because Kong: Skull Island is just way too frenetic in pace and it didn’t have enough time for either of its characters because the storyline is too ambitious and it wanted to check a lot of the boxes and introduce a lot of the creatures. Certainly that made the film very exciting and hugely entertaining, but rushed and the running time should have been longer for sure.

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Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

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I really liked the use of score as the famous songs from the early 70s were very utilized into the whole picture. The film is very well made technically and I absolutely adored its cinematography. I loved the special effects work here, certainly one of the year’s best. Kong himself looked excellent, I loved his fight with Skullcrawler whose role I did not understand as much, but the fight was great and I loved his final reigning scene. All of the creatures look magnificent and are fascinating here, but also have soul and are superbly used in action scenes. The effects here are the kind of effects I love – light and colorful and pleasing to the eye.

Even though it is way too frenetic in its pace and thus the characterization is mediocre and I did not get why they assembled this great ensemble cast if they were not going to utilize them properly, Kong: Skull Island is so incredibly entertaining to watch that it ultimately succeeds as a solid remake. I loved its adventurous tone, the action was great, the creatures were fascinating, the end-credits scene was intriguing and the film looks fantastic owing to amazing special effects.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Merry Old Soul (1935)

The Merry Old Soul ReviewThe Merry Old Soul Review

The Merry Old Soul is a 1935 animated short film from the Merry Melodies series. It is such a weak, problematic entry.

I don’t know what they were thinking with this one. Admittedly, it does have very good animation and it is well scored and certainly never boring to watch, but I did not understand its plot at all. The king has a bunch of babies and takes care of them. Are they his babies or someone else’s? What is about that cry-filled ending?

The film was influenced too much by Disney’s Silly Symphonies of similar type, but it’s much inferior to them. It doesn’t have a clear plot nor goal. This is the point in time where Warner Bros. was clearly in a rut as is evidenced by these successive weaker entries. Thankfully, that is all about to change pretty soon with the arrival of Tex Avery, the end to Buddy and the start to regular Porky Pig entries.

The Merry Old Soul is well made, but so problematic and incomprehensible in terms of the plotting.

My Rating – 3.2

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Frozen Fever (2015)

Frozen Fever ReviewFrozen Fever Review

After over a year, the long awaited sequel to the smash hit Frozen has finally arrived and I have to say that it is a major disappointment.

The story is awfully slight and I know that they couldn’t do much in 7 minutes, but this is too slight regardless. The birthday idea is interesting and it has a couple of endearing sequences, especially the ending which is wonderfully warm and Disney earned that scene with great character development and troubled history between the two sisters.

But everything else fell apart, especially the music. The new song is so mediocre that it is definitely not worth it to learn and listen to the lyrics which are also subpar. And it doesn’t help the fact that the song is interrupted multiple times.

As for the characters, Kristoff is there barely, but the brief moment with Hans is hilarious and definitely the highlight here. Olaf is probably the best character here which is a shame because he wasn’t that good in the first film. His jokes were adequate to his persona and should prove amusing to children. Anna lacks her spunk here which is a huge disappointment, but Elsa is great. She is really caring for her sister, warm and compassionate and it is quite charming to watch her endlessly try to organize her sister’s birthday party despite her evident cold.

The animation is still great as well as the character design. The new characters Snowgies are just there for the charm and cutesy factor, but they are well thought out, if repetitive. And the ending with Olaf putting them all in a palace and naming them all is again a proof that he is the finest character here and a highlight which is weird and unexpected. Elsa’s new magic powers are also touched upon and it definitely opens it up for a feature sequel along with the Hans sequence.

Frozen Fever is definitely more meant for children to enjoy and it is simply fun to see all of those charming characters again on the big screen, but it is still some slight stuff with mediocre singing parts and not enough standout scenes. But it still has its heartwarming moments as well as fine jokes and it is all around a solid, if disappointing film.

My Rating – 3

 

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Modern Family Season 8 (2016)

Modern Family Season 8 Review

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Modern Family Season 8 Review

The eighth season of Modern Family is another solid, but far from great season. The show continues to be a lot of fun, but rarely truly great as it once was.

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How dare you.
That pig was my dearest friend

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Modern Family Season 8 Review

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The first of its twenty two episodes is A Tale of Three Cities which again showcases how horrible Gloria is to her sister which I just despise witnessing. Also, Mitch and Cam’s part was too typical. A Stereotypical Day is, well, a mostly stereotypical MF episode and I thought that the introduction of a transgender boy was handled not so greatly. He should have been used much more.

Blindsided is typical in almost every of its little stories and I thought that the rivalry between Like and Manny was way too rehashed from many previous seasons. Weathering Heights is a solid episode, but it’s guilty of introducing Reiner as Haley’s new boyfriend. Their age difference is creepy and their relationship wasn’t the greatest in my opinion.

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Modern Family Season 8 Review

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Halloween V: Revenge of Rod Skyhook is a pretty good Halloween themed episode with Phil absolutely killing it and proving once again that he is the most fun dad in the world. However, the episode falls short of many great previous same themed episodes. As for Grab It, it is way too forgettable and does not deserve to be talked about more.

Thanksgiving Jamboree is packed with too many plot points and situations which is a problem this season has been struggling continually, but at least Cam killed it and I loved his farm take on Thanksgiving. The Alliance is easily one of the best episodes of this season, if not the very best. I love Modern Family episodes full of intrigue and schemes and having the non-Prichetts start a team where they help each other with their partner problems was a silly, yet expected thing to happen and I loved how energetic and funny this episode was.

Snow Ball is one of those episodes that is way too stereotypical in its portrayal of gay people, this time gay bullies, and I was just not having it. Ringmaster Keifth is the best in its Cam subplot as learning about his past relationship with the titular ringmaster was a rewarding and surprisingly touching experience.

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Modern Family Season 8 Review

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Sarge & Pea is surprisingly thoughtful in the Jay and Dede storyline and thankfully she seemed like a human being here for once. Do You Believe in Magic finds Alex beginning a relationship with Ben who is Claire’s clumsy and nerdy employee and I have to say that I like this relationship, definitely much more than Haley’s one. But where the episode shines is in finally featuring wonderful Claire who at last gave her husband a magical Valentine’s Day experience in that beautifully romantic finale.

Do It Yourself is a pretty good episode which benefited the most from Cam getting bitten by a wasp. The physical humor was great there, but I just loved this season for exploring his country upbringing and how Mitchell is prejudiced towards it. Heavy Is the Head features a clichéd take on all of its characters and once again is guilty of portraying gay people in a negatively sissy light.

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Modern Family Season 8 Review

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Finding Fizbo has a boring Manny subplot, but at least the rest of it was pretty fun and solidly executed. Basketball is a missed opportunity as it is too tame sexually speaking which is a problem all sitcoms share plus of course Gloria’s part is very annoying as it sheds some bad light on her and Phil is dull here.

Pig Moon Rising is a pretty underrated episode in its own right as I loved its convoluted and amusing nature. The part with Cam and his pet Lily was of course the funniest. As I said, I love everything about his country side. Five Minutes has a somewhat moving Jay and Gloria part and of course Claire and Phil meeting Alex’s new boyfriend is the emotional highlight. But the rest of the episode is pretty mediocre. Haley finally broke up with Reiner in a not so great scene and Mitchell and Cam’s drug-fueled story here was awfully annoying.

Frank’s Wedding has a good usage of Pam and I found its take on Phil and his dad wonderful. They finally showcased how wonderful having a partner and father with a sense of humor is and how fulfilling Phil is to their lives. All Things Being Equal features a terrific plot with Phil and Jay, but the woman rights subplot is awfully misguided.

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Modern Family Season 8 Review

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Alone Time finds somewhat dull Cam, but Jay and Mitch share a couple of wonderful bonding moments together and I really liked how the show handled the parents wanting finally some time alone after so many years with kids. Claire and Phil’s part there was definitely realistic and great. As for The Graduates, it is overly emotional, but a pretty good and charming finale. But even though the jokes with Cam and Mitch not knowing a lot about Lily were funny, they were also very problematic as that implied that gays are bad parents.

Overall, the eighth season of Modern Family has its great episodes and is overall pretty solid, but too uneven with too many weaker episodes and missed opportunities. It is a typical example of how this show is still fun, but almost never as great as it once was.

Worst Episodes: Grab It, Heavy Is the Head and Basketball.

Best Episodes: The Alliance, Do You Believe in Magic and Pig Moon Rising.

My Rating – 3.8

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The Host (2006)

The Host Movie Review

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The Host Movie Review

The Host is a 2006 South Korean horror film directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Song Kang-ho. It is a competent, yet somewhat overrated horror flick.

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You are dimwits, right to the end.

I’ll see you in hell

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The Host Movie Review

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So basically the film is about an aquatic mutagen monster that starts attacking humans and not only killing them, but also spreading a virus that affects humans. The protagonist needs to save his daughter that was dragged into the sewers by the creature. That is the plot here and it’s definitely your typical monster flick, but done surprisingly well, I gotta admit.

It is competent in its action and effects. Yes, the creature isn’t great looking for today’s audience, but back in 2006 it was definitely terrific. The action is very well executed and every attack is well filmed and I really liked those scenes. The creature was so well utilized and although the film is never scary, it utilizes on its monster and setting really well.

But on the other hand, The Host doesn’t really have a lot going for it thematically speaking and in terms of the message. It is an emotional film at times and its characters and relationships are well established, but I never really got why the critics love it so much and praise it when it isn’t deep at all. Its criticism of America was on-point and I guess it realistically portrays paranoia and what would happen during an epidemic and catastrophe, but it doesn’t have anything else going for it.

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The Host Movie Review

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I liked the protagonist and you can see why Song Kang-ha is famous in South Korea as he really is excellent here and killed it in a difficult role. Others are very forgettable in comparison to him. The movie’s humor is your typical kind of Asian humor that sometimes hit but at times missed the target. But I do respect The Host for featuring a diverse tone.

The score is forgettable, but the cinematography is very good and the film is very well directed and made overall. It has a bunch of memorable action scenes, but I wanted more dramatic elements and the film isn’t really original in any way. So it is a good film, but far from great.

The Host is a good film that features solid characters, a very good performance from Song Kang-ho, great direction from Bong Joon-ho, well utilized setting and creature and stellar action/horror sequences, but it isn’t really original or thematically deep in any way and it is frankly a bit overrated.

My Rating – 4

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The Fox Hunt (1931)

The Fox Hunt ReviewThe Fox Hunt Review

The Fox Hunt is a 1931 Disney animated short film from the Silly Symphonies series. It is one of the better ones.

Yes, this entry is so good, unexpectedly stellar for it came out in 1931 which usually produced much weaker Silly Symphonies. So we basically follow the titular fox hunt and this short thankfully does not rely on repetitive music and dances as we follow how everyone rides their horses in a silly way and eventually some ride cows and even porcupines.

The animal designs are as troublesome as you would come to expect from this era in animation. The fox for instance does not look like a fox and has an overly angular look to it. But the music is solid and the human animation is quite good. The film is a lot of fun and its various riding gags were very entertaining and of course the highlight is the ending where the skunk and fox join forces to get rid of the humans. That was hilarious and extremely memorable.

Owing to a strong finale and many great gags, The Fox Hunt is definitely one of the better Silly Symphonies and one of the best from the early black-and-white era.

My Rating – 4

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Tangerines (2013)

Tangerines Movie Review

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Tangerines Movie Review

Tangerines is a 2013 Georgian-Estonian war film directed by Zaza Urushadze and it is about a 1992 war in Abkhazia and was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

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They are fighting for the land.

For the land where my tangerines grow

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Tangerines Movie Review

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The story follows Ivo, an old man who finds two wounded men and takes them in the house and forbids them to fight which they want because they are from the opposing sides. It is a solid, if typical and seen countless times plot. But what makes it very enjoyable and an above average experience is its cleverness in its execution and likable and very well realized characters. All three of the characters are sympathetic in their own way and the relationships between them as well as their characterization are great. However, the eventual coming to peace with the two enemies is very clichéd and of course as always unrealistic, more especially because it happens so incredibly fast and feels very rushed.

But the approach is good as it is more subtle than in-your-face whereas the direction from Zaza Urushadze is very good and quite professional. The three act structure is well executed, but is rushed in the last act and the ending feels contrived. As for the visuals, they are solid as is the cinematography, but nothing too remarkable and memorable.

But the acting is absolutely superb with each and every one of those three performances being incredibly good and it definitely helps the movie overall and brings it such a polished feel that it certainly possesses.

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Tangerines Movie Review

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The message is simplistic, but of course highly needed and it is great to have an anti-war film any time. The ending is incredibly good, the finale actually with such a warm and endearing resolution to the characters’ journeys. It is definitely the highlight of the whole movie.

With quite good character development, engaging story and incredibly good, warm and heartwarming ending, Tangerines is a pretty solid film that, although is very simplistic, sometimes rushed and has a very typical story, is always interesting to watch, has a good message, nice relationships between the characters, fantastic performances and very good directing leading to quite a solid film and a respectable anti-war movie.

My Rating – 4

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L.A. Confidential (1997)

L.A. Confidential Movie Review

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L.A. Confidential Movie Review

L.A. Confidential is a 1997 crime film starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce and Kim Basinger. It is one of the most overrated films that I have ever seen.

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Go back to Jersey, sonny.

This is the City of the Angels,

and you haven’t got any wings

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L.A. Confidential Movie Review

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The plot is your typical crime storyline. It is dull, uninspired and thoroughly difficult to follow and tedious owing to its too many characters and convoluted plot points that are not complex, but just needlessly complicated and none of them matter anyhow. I was bored endlessly by this film which is so long and so incredibly dull that it was almost unwatchable to me personally.

Yes, it does have a great cast, that is its only evident strength. Danny DeVito is as good as he usually is and the same goes for Kevin Spacey who is very good, but this is far from his best performances. Russell Crowe is the most likable of the bunch in one of his breakout roles, but Kim Basinger is not likable and Guy Pierce is actually very unlikable and annoying here. I really disliked him and his character. All of these characters are rather forgettable or dull or unlikable and all are very weakly developed.

L.A. Confidential is not a noir, neo-noir or whatever. They can call it that as much as they want, but this is a typical modern crime film that never can hold a candle to the noir classics of yesteryear. It is as overly violent as you would expect from these hideous crime films and as boring and as soulless per usual.

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L.A. Confidential Movie Review

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I also found its direction rather uninspired. The same goes for editing, cinematography and everything really is rather mediocre despite the acting which is the only good thing here. How it received its accolades is beyond me. Nine Academy Award nominations is just baffling to me. Thankfully it lost most of them to ‘Titanic’ which is a much better film and that says a lot as that film is far from great. This is a further proof of how the nineties proved to be the driest, worst period ever for the movie industry.

L.A. Confidential is very well acted by its great cast, but otherwise immensely boring and almost unwatchable, weakly developed in characters, so uninspired and needlessly complicated in its storyline and technically not that well made too. It is one of the most overrated films I have ever seen and I am thoroughly baffled at why everyone loves it so much.

My Rating – 2.5

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Buddy Steps Out (1935)

Buddy Steps Out ReviewBuddy Steps Out Review

Buddy Steps Out is a 1935 animated short film from the Looney Tunes series. It is a really dull, weak entry.

Yes, Buddy Steps Out is in my opinion the worst Looney Tunes as well as Merry Melodies entry of 1935. Nothing happens here, nothing original, nothing interesting and nothing fun or funny. Buddy is as weak and as dull as ever and the storyline itself is nothing to write home about.

I also really disliked its animation which is weak and again the video quality is quite poor. The same goes with the sound and score, both far from great. This short bored me immensely and that bird character is fine, but not utilized properly at all. It is a proof that Buddy shorts were finishing their run and I am thankful for that.

Buddy Steps Out is weak, dull and uninspired leading to a very mediocre Buddy outing that is thankfully his second last.

My Rating – 3.1

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