Sunday, March 19, 2017

Theatrical Review: Beauty & The Beast

Date: Sunday March 19 2017
Time: 1:30pm 3:55pm
Party: 3 (mom sister and I)
 
Director: Bill Condon (of Breaking Dawn and Dreamgirls fame)
Screenwriters: Stephen Chbosky (wrote "Perks of Being a Wallflower", the book as well as directed the movie that Emma Watson co-starred in) and Evan Spiliotopoulos
Composer: Alan Menken (lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice)

Cast:
Belle- Emma Watson 
The Beast- Dan Stevens 
Gaston- Luke Evans
LeFou- Josh Gad
Maurice- Kevin Kline
Lumiere- Ewan McGregor
Cogsworth- Ian McKellan
Mrs. Potts- Emma Thompson
Duration- 130 minutes ( +2 trailers)
 
Opening remarks 

It's finally here!
I almost feel like it'd been looking forward to this movie than any other- at least in a long time. I think the thing that came closest to this for me was twilight. Seeing that world I came to love in the books and its characters come to life.
As a kid I think Ariel was my favorite Disney princess- even if i always cry at the end of the little mermaid. (The goodbye at the wedding always kills me).
But beauty and the beast was always something I enjoyed but didn't have any major fandom over. But I will say as I've gotten older I love this story so much more. I see myself in belle more than any other Disney princess- we have the same appearance (brown hair brown eyes- that's the one thing about Emilie de Raven's once upon a time portrayal of belle that's amiss for me- she doesn't have brown eyes!!- otherwise she's amazing and perfect in the role).
And of course there's Belle's love of books. I really didn't get to love books as much as I do now until I was in my 20s- where I always had to be reading or was looking forward to the next installment of the series I was reading at the time. And I only recently "got" in the last couple years that people in Belle's town thought she was weird cuz she was always reading. Like what the hell is wrong with that?! Seriously...
 
Anyway-- it should be noted that we didn't get to the movie until almost 4.
We completely screwed up by not double checking the movie times. We got there and the movie had already started. We thought it was 1:30 and it was really 1:05.
Like wtf! Who starts a movie at such a weird time? (But I suppose if I went through old ticket stubs I might find some really random times).
So anyways my mom said "I'm sorry" a hundred times as we turned back to go home. I thought about maybe going back for the next 3D showing so we wouldn't have to wait as long. I found a review that said it didn't have enough going for it to warrant the price. So here we wait- and hopefully some other mishap doesn't happen between now and 3:55 when the next showing starts.
The Arnold Palmer invitational was the perfect way to kill time (yeah I'm such a dork- I like to read and enjoy golf and figure skating).
 
A bunch of people still coming into the theater despite it being one of the later showings. A few families with a bunch of little kids I hope will stay quiet for the whole movie. At the moment it doesn't sound promising.
Three people in their mid 20s or early 30s took a seat two rows ahead of us. Two girls and a guy-I wonder if he really wanted to see this or he lost a bet.
Also we're back in the theater from that notorious "La La Land" showing with the audio issues.... we'll see how it goes
 
(Spoiler alert: both went fine. Although some kids rows behind us were making farting noises with their mouths at one point and one of the parents in front of us crossed the aisle to tell his kids to be quiet because the BIG number- you know the one- was about to start)
 
Somewhere between 40 to 50 people showed up to the theater for this... which is pretty darn impressive considering this isn't the first showing of the weekend.
Trailers 

"Coco" is the latest Pixar film. Looks like a boy and his dog wind up in the realm of the day of the dead and he admires this man (who may or may not be his father) who is a great guitar player- mariachi type.
 
Then a lengthy trailer (much more than a tease) for the last Pirates movie. Complete with Johnny Depp himself in what will be his most famous role ever.
Looked impressive but I don't know if I'm sold enough to buy a ticket.
 
The Main Event 
 
We finally arrived!!
 
Everyone knows the story by now so I won't go too much into it.
First off the visuals are AMAZING. Definitely see a bunch of Oscar nominations in the future. For production design and possibly makeup (unless The Beast makeup is CGI- in that case maybe special effects).
Seeing the sets from the animated film in real life... it was halfway between fangasm and "I wish I could live there."
Of course Emma Watson was great as Belle. And she was definitely a strong confident woman like the character demands. In some aspects more so but that's what happened when you have the freedom to go behind what's drawn on a page.
Luke Evans oddly made me like Gaston for the first half of the movie. Not in that way but I didn't find him as repulsive. Not until he had the town believing Belle's father was crazy. He just needs to walk into a room and give his opinion and people automatically follow him. (I'm sorry but these townspeople are so fickle and stupid sometimes).
Dan Stevens embodied the beastly side of his character really well. But he also had some help from the script he was given. There were a few changes in his early interactions with Belle between the two versions that I didn't appreciate and made it harder to really like him or imagine these two together. This time around anyway I wasn't thoroughly convinced that they belonged together. There just came a point where I threw my hands up and just said "to hell with it."
Other than the romantic side (I can see how they can become friends but falling in love... not so much) everything else worked so well. There was plenty of nostalgia with the songs and the score at certain points (that transformation scene at the end in particular... that was an especially powerful moment in the original and those feelings came rushing back).
I was able to recall a lot about the original and relish in how it was adapted for this version. And I was also able to let go and appreciate the changes (well most of them) as they came.
One massive improvement- LeFou and his relationship with Gaston. Josh Gad couldn't have been any better in this role. He felt like one of those characters you see in a musical where you don't expect them to steal the show and they just do. His character arc was so great- both cause for celebration, laughs and fist pumps (in particular- the battle scene in the castle at the end).
Ewan McGregor was really great as Lumiere and "Gaston" and "Be Our Guests" and "Beauty & The Beast" were all highlights both carried over really well from the original but also bettered with the special effects. Definitely worth a round of applause.
And there are also some great twists about the townspeople and how they have connection to people in the castle.
We also get more backstory from our two main characters that don't, personally, slow the story down but add to the film's length tactfully. One or two songs ran a little long and one of the new songs maybe felt unnecessary.
Overall this is a movie and story for escapism and suspending belief and for me it did its job. Makes me wish I didn't have to go to work tomorrow and see the movie again. But I'd more than enough time away last week with the blizzard.

And when the movie finally ended, a bunch of us in the theater clapped, which pretty much says Disney did their job and nailed it.

Grade: A-

Monday, February 27, 2017

Oscars 2017

I "live-blog" during figure skating all the time, so I figured... why not try to do that with the Oscars this year?
[I'm keeping the politics out of it- I started to but changed my mind... everyone else can worry about that]


So far for best dressed... I always gotta have a couple favorites...

Nicole Kidman- love how she's classic Hollywood elegance. Loved her being interviewed with Keith Urban and so gracious and supportive to one another. They're so cute together- I cannot stand it :P

Image result for nicole kidman oscars


And Emma Stone, omg, gorgeous! From the waist down, she looks like a chandelier and that's an absolute compliment.

Image result for emma stone oscars

And Viola Davis- such a gracious interviewee, amazing red dress. Being a three-time Oscar nominee (and loving her so much in "How to get away with murder"), I REALLY hope she wins this year.


Image result for viola davis oscars


As for picking the winners and such... I really haven't gone through the list and done that for myself... I just might pick who I want as the names are being read off.

I hope "La La Land" wins Best Picture because I went and saw the damn thing (loved that damn thing...). But something in my gut tells me "Moonlight" might pull out an upset. Reading briefly about it, it sounds like a powerful movie whose story deserves to be shared. I also want to see "Hidden Figures," "Fences" and "Lion" at one point.

Justin Timberlake opened the show with "Can't Stop the Feeling" in an AMAZING performance. I'm so sick of that song, but he made it fresh again. Got it off to a really positive joyous start.

Jimmy Kimmel gave a great monologue that teetered from hilarious to "oh god no" back to hilarious. They teetered on political a few times, I held my breath, the joke was usually in good taste, but managed to rein it back in each time.

Okay, Best Supporting Actor... I dunno who I pick to win this one...
I want Dev Petal, but it'll probably go to the guy from "Moonlight."
It's the guy from "Moonlight"- Mahershala Ali.

He looked like he was on the edge of getting emotional, so kudos to him for keeping it together and giving a nice solid speech.
I guess that's 1 for me.
I planned, before running out of time, to go through all the nominees on the Wikipedia page and do my picks. I found his name and clicked it. I'd previously seen him in "Mockingjay" as Katniss's boyguard.

Best Makeup and Costume is up next.

Kate McKinnon looks amazing as a presenter. With the right amount of her brand of awkward.
Best Makeup- Suicide Squad (cuz we just saw the movie :P... and we got it! we had a quick celebratory moment about that)- I love that these guys are European and I pick out their accents.
Best Costume Design- La La Land (just because... even though they weren't anything spectacular)... nope, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find"... Colleen Atwood- so great to see her win cuz she'd worked on a bunch of Tim Burton movies. Amazing designer. She'd been nominated a bunch of times, but I don't remember her winning before. (She had won three times- "Chicago," "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Alice in Wonderland").

Best Documentary- presented by the tri-form of "Hidden Figures" actresses- and they actually have one of the actual Hidden Figures women on stage- wow!
Feature- OJ: Made in America (boo! I would've given it to "Life, Animated" or "I am Not Your Negro"... can we just stop talking about OJ and glorifying his story?)

Dwayne Johnson gave a great speech and segue way to the performance of the "Moana" song "How Far I'll Go"
Lin Manuel Miranda rapped his intro to it, really done well.

The actress who played Moana sung it so beautifully with some great visuals behind her. A golden sculpted sun and people waving large blue plumes to resemble waves. It was so sweeping and beautiful- I wanted the song to win instead of both of La La Land's songs :P never doubt a good Disney ballad, even if it's not "Let it Go."

Jimmy Kimmel just had this whole Ellen Oscar moment- but instead of ordering pizza, he just had all this candy rain from the ceiling- junior mints and red vines in parachutes ;)

Sound Editing- La La Land (wouldn't it be crazy if with all this hype it was ZERO...)...
Nope, Arrival... (I really hope this isn't "American Hustle" all over again- I picked it to win all its awards and it won ZERO of, I think, 8 nominations).
Sound Mixing- (trying this again) La La Land...nope, Hacksaw Ridge (good for them, I didn't think they'd win any).

Okay, so that's three awards La La Land hasn't won... is it too early to be concerned?

Great speech- Kevin O'Connell said his mom got his first job in sound and when asked how he could thank her, she said work hard and win an Oscar so you can thank me in first of 10 million people... that's me paraphrasing, of course.

Best Supporting Actress- oh yeah, I wanted Viola Davis to win this one... but my gut is saying Naomi Harris from "Moonlight"... looking at all the clips, I don't think you can go wrong with anyone here...
three times the charm, baby! :D
oh man, it was almost surreal to see her finally win and give this great speech. I almost got choked up a couple times because you knew she believed and breathed every word of it. Definitely have to see this movie now.

They had this cute bit where talking about the theme being inspiration- then they had a clip of Charlize Theoren watching "The Apartment" and saying how Shirley Maclaine inspired her with that performance. And the two of them presented the next award together and had some funny banter.

Best Foreign Language Film- Elle (because it won the Golden Globe... oh shoot, it's not even nominated... I guess The Salesman...)

They had Sting sing "Empty Room" which was from the James Foley story- a journalist that was beheaded by ISIS.

Best Short Animated Film- Piper (cuz it's the only one we've heard of)... I guess it being Pixar helped a lot :P when he went to thank people, I totally knew he'd say John Lassester first. One of the biggest people at Disney and Pixar films (also the world's biggest Miyazaki fanboy).

Best Animated Film- I wish it was "Kubo & The Two Strings" but it most likely will be Moana... just because Disney always seems to win. [and of course one of the presenters had to speak out against the wall... damn it...]
Zootopia (boo! we didn't see that one...)

Production Design- LA LA LAND... please! finally won one! Geesh... what a pain...

nice quick speech

a bunch of tourists on a tour bus were brought into the Oscars as a surprise and they'd been leading up to it for the past half hour. They just walked in and they're filming it on their phones, lol
I think Denzel just married a couple, lol and one of them got Jennifer Aniston's sunglasses. Too many great moments to list all of them right now :P And Guillermo is there to usher them through. Definitely going to remember this for years to come.

Visual Effects- tough call between two... or three... oh man, I don't know... Jungle Book... gotta see that one... I thought it'd be Doctor Strange, but then I saw Jungle Book listed and it was kinda hard to say no after that.

Best Film Editing- uhh... La La Land?... I dunno... this is a hard category to call...
wow, two for Hacksaw Ridge... I'm really happy for them, then, getting the acknowledgement for their efforts. And this makes Mel Gibson look even better for Best Director.

They had a cool "inspiration" bit before that with Seth Rogen watching "Back to the Future" and talking about how Michael J. Fox inspired people to skateboard off the backs of cars. Then the two of them came out of a DeLorean on the stage.

Jimmy Kimmel is looking really good as an Oscar host. He had another great moment- this time with the kid from "Lion"- did a quick Q&A with him and they reenacted the "Lion King" moment in the opening of the movie and Mike & Ike parachuted from the ceiling.

They had a Google commercial with the story "Lion" was based on... and it was amazing... almost got teary-eyed on it.

Documentary Short Subject- (I blanked out... I had no idea which one to pick)... The White Helmets... Wikipedia says it's about volunteers helping the civilians in Syria...
Live-Action Short Film- uh... Sing, because it's about music? I dunno... I got that win by luck. According to Wikipedia, it's a Hungarian film that's the "story of a girl who moves to a new elementary school and becomes a member of the award-winning school choir."

Short Films and Documentaries are always so hard for me to pick winners for.

Yikes... there's still 9 awards left to give out and it's almost 11. Bleck... this is gonna be over at midnight, isn't it? I get up at 5:30am for work- this isn't good for me...
On the plus side, the mood of the night overall has alleviated. It kinda picked up after La La Land won its only award of the night so far.

Best Cinematography- La La Land... I'm gonna keep saying it all night, I swear...
okay, that's two so far for this movie... its cinematography really was amazing- the whole glitz and glam and heart of it. I didn't expect it to sweep, but it seems like it's getting the awards it really deserves.

Time for their Mean Tweets segment... hopefully this isn't too bad...
Oh, actually those were pretty great... some were really mean, like the Emma Stone one... but some like the Miles Teller one were great, he even acknowledged that...

John Legend sung the two songs nominated for "La La Land" with Mandy Moore choreography around him... and there was a couple floating in the air like Ryan and Emma did in the movie...
I'm still mad at him for his character did to ruin the movie for me... if there's anything I'm good at, it's holding grudges against actors for what their characters do in movies... (ask James Spader)
Best Original Score- La La Land.... seriously, it helped save the movie when we couldn't hear what anyone was saying in the film in that theater... great job, Justin Hurwitz! nice speech too- he summed everything up really well to save time ;)
Best Original Song- uh... I loved "Audition" but it'll probably be "City of Stars" for La La Land. [yeah, I'm getting the movie on DVD as soon as it comes out... and I'll probably watch it by myself dozens of times].
The speech of the last guy who thanked his mom for letting him quit the soccer team to be in the school movie... that's just great

"a musical Prince leading The Revolution on stage"- what Jennifer Aniston said as part of her summation of the In Memoriam section intro. And she got a quick mention of Bill Paxton.
They mentioned Anton Yelchin and Gene Wilder and Prince was maybe just before the halfway point. They showed the scene where he says "I'd like to dedicate this to my father"... by the end of it, where they had Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds... and the lights went dark... I finally started tearing up.

When I go back to Purple Rain in a month or so, I'll probably do a post here and on my regular blog (same exact post) to touch on what it's like to watch that movie again for the first time since he died. It's going to be hard.
For the most part, I trick my mind into believing he's still alive by listening to his music (where he's very much alive). But there are times like these it's hard to keep those walls up.

Anyway... Jimmy Kimmel is watching "We Bought a Zoo" with Matt Damon and making all kinds of comments said so seriously, but he means them as a joke.

He let Matt Damon on the stage to give the award for screenplay, but called him guest in the voiceover. He's being played off whenever he's talking in the presenting alongside Ben Affleck. Cuz Jimmy Kimmel is leading the orchestra.

Best Original Screenplay- La La Land... [my dad's laughing at "The Lobster" like he did "My Life as a Zucchini"]... nope, it's "Manchester By The Sea"... that's good for them- they finally got one. I heard the movie's depressing, but also well done.
Best Adapted Screenplay- Fences (but this is another TOUGH category- Hidden Figures or Moonlight could win)... okay, another for "Moonlight"- great job, guys.

Parachutes with cookies and donuts just came down :P and Taraji B. Henson was freaking out (cuz she gave away cookies at the Golden Globes the year she won for "Empire")

Okay, now down to the final big awards... phew...

Here are my guesses:

Best Actress- Emma Stone
Best Actor- Denzel (but right now my gut says Casey Affleck)
Best Director- Damien Chazelle (or it could be Mel Gibson, who knows at this point?)

Best Movie- La La Land (but my gut says Moonlight has a really good shot)

Just end this as soon as you can, guys... I have to get up for work in less than 6 hours.

Everyone kept saying how great Damian was, so I had to go with him (but wouldn't be surprised if Mel Gibson won at all). The youngest ever director to win an Oscar- he was born in 1985, a year older than me. I'm amazed he was so composed about it.

I just had this gut feeling about Casey Affleck- the way they were talking about how good he was... and he gave a good speech as any dumbfounded winner could... but it makes him human, which is a great. I just wish he didn't have to look so scruffy because he's busy filming another movie... or doing a play or something.

OMG- I'm almost crying right now :P I never thought this would happen for her and it did.
A really great speech- she kept it together so well.
Wow, I just can't believe I'd been following her since "Easy A"- maybe not seeing all of her movies, but a bunch of them. And it's led to this point. And I really hope that she continues to get great roles and do well- because not all best actress Oscar winners rebound from that high.

Bonnie and Clyde- Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty are presenting the final award... amazing, that they're still alive 50 years after the movie was done... and they actually look good for whatever ages they are.
(Sorry, so many people have died in Hollywood over the past year... it's hard to keep track of who's still alive anymore, especially among the older members).

So far I have 13 correct guesses... can we make it 14? I think my best grand total was 13 correct guesses... I'll have to double-check...
14!!

Yeah- I've seen and picked three Oscar-winning movies over the past... I dunno... 4-5 years...
La La Land- I think this was their 7th win...

omg, yeah!!! I'm tired, good-night
I'll finish editing in the morning

***

I am SO GLAD I didn't post this last night because this would've been super awkward.
And it's also good that I had all day to let this process in my mind so I could come up with a tactful response.

"La La Land" didn't win best picture... "Moonlight" did... for whatever reason, the presenters were given the wrong card and read off the wrong name.
Halfway through the acceptance speech, the producers came on stage and tell them the truth. It was all kinds of awkward... I thought for sure that one of the guys from "La La Land" had a guilty conscience about winning and said that "Moonlight" deserved it more.

Now- I'll be clear about something- I had a gut feeling after hearing about the Spirit Awards that "Moonlight" might sneak in with a surprise win. And I expressed earlier in this post that I'd be interested in seeing the movie just to see what all the hype is about.

I don't mind that it won- but they should have gotten it right the first time. Not before I celebrated and so many other people did...

Seriously... if the Oscars can't get THIS right... I mean, the whole sanctity of this prestigious awards show is GONE.

People will go on about how this is karma for Hollywood for interfering so much with the election and such.
And several others boycotted because of the Meryl Streep and so many other things.

Truth be told, apart from the "statement" from the Iranian director "The Salesman" (that was a part of the show that really brought it down for me), it was actually done well without too many major political soapbox statements. There wasn't another Meryl Streep moment anyway.

As a host, Jimmy Kimmel was great. I was afraid the whole thing would get overly political and it really didn't. If it did, it was done with a sense of humor and most of the jokes were done with tact. Or the next joke brought the show back up again. And I could appreciate that.
My hope is that he doesn't take this whole Best Picture debacle too hard because up until that point, he was great.
That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Congratulations "Moonlight"- hopefully I'll see you in the future on HBO or Showtime.

And I got 13 correct guesses on winners-- my record was 14 back in 2014 (hmm... go figure, right?)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Theatrical Review: Lego Batman

Date: Sunday February 19 2017
Time: 12:10pm
Party: 3 (mom sister and I)
 
Director: Chris McKay (of "Robot Chicken" fame)
 
Notable Cast:
Batman- Will Arnett
Robin- Michael Cera
Barbara Gordon- Rosario Dawson
Alfred- Ralph Fiennes
The Joker- Zach Galifianakis

Opening comments 

Who knew that the Lego movie would be so huge that it'd warrant a batman spin-off that won over the box office in its first week (now second week)?
It got such rave reviews- certainly more than the past few solo batman movies.
The theater wasn't as full as I thought it'd be with the amount of cars in the parking lot. But a good number of people- mostly moms and younger kids.
 
Trailer
 
Yeah they've had several commercials for "Beauty and the Beast" (and I'm equally excited every time) but it was kind of a letdown that it was the teaser trailer again. Not quite as appetizing as it was the first few times. March needs to get here like now.
The main event 
Yeah I'm not going to go into too much detail about it, but for the first half hour, it felt over hyped. 
Batman kinda did what Deadpool did in his movie- breaking the 4th wall- but to the extreme. From the very beginning, talking us through the opening credits. Batman is so into the character of Batman you kinda gotta wonder about his sanity a bit.
It starts with this big elaborate heist with all the villains led by the Joker that Batman somehow thwarts. But you get to know the man behind the mask (he's rarely without it in this movie) and how deep down he's lonely but is afraid of his own feelings (and snake clowns apparently).
Things are changing in Gotham with Barbara Gordon taking over for commissioner James Gordon (her father) and wanting to reform Gotham's actions against crime. Batman unwittingly takes in Dick Grayson. And even though the Joker surrenders himself (along with 99% of the other villains) there's obviously something afoot. Otherwise it wouldn't be much of a movie.
Batman takes a long time but he eventually does change and accepts that he can't do this alone and that he needs other people in his life. 
The Joker recruits so many different villains it's hard to keep track of them all (and I don't want to spoil how bizarre a lot of them are since they're not exactly from the same realm of fantasy). But the second half is definitely better than the first. It doesn't get nearly as insane as what they did with the Lego Movie and it makes about as much sense (which is still very little) but sometimes you just have to sit back and go with it.
There were a lot of great jokes (once the movie stopped taking itself so seriously) and it got lots of different laughs. Some were great adult jokes without being raunchy. (One of the villains being named Condiment-man is debatable). Like one part where the computer reads off the emails he has and one was a newsletter from bed bath and beyond. (That got a laugh out of one of the 40-somethings in the crowd).

The cast itself... Will Arnett does the whole Bat-voice and is totally into his character. He's great at what he does here, but it wears out its welcome for me and took a while to win me back.
Michael Cera- I hadn't seen since the year I saw "Scott Pilgrim" and a bunch of his other movies. He's really good at the orphaned Robin character. Ralph Fiennes is interesting as Alfred- a good interesting. It's different from his typical work.
And Zach Galifianakis is the perfect Joker in this. He's brilliant and should really do voiceover work more often.

Other comments I can add...
I liked the use of music in this. I mean, there's no original songs that are as catchy as "Everything Is Awesome" but they're not bad. Yet I remember more that they liked to play "I just died in your arms tonight" by the Cutting Crew whenever Bruce Wayne/Batman sees Barbara Gordon (ok, only twice... but I love that song... I remember loving it when I was a kid because I picked out by the instrumentals that it was from the 80's... the best decade of music in my opinion).
Then Robin had a scene where he wanted to pick a theme song for them to kick butt and fight crime. Including "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley (one of my many favorite 80's songs... and I have dozens :P) and "Fly Robin Fly."
Batman was certainly a fan of heavy metal and beatboxing.
But I also didn't appreciate the fact the code to the Bat-Cave is "Iron-Man Sucks"...

like, HELL NO!
I can only hope that they don't try to reincarnate Iron-Man as many times as they did with Superman and Batman, trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle they had with Michael Keaton and Christopher Reeve.
And for me, it's kinda at the point where I want RDJ to have more creative freedom in his career, so the sooner he stops being Tony Stark/Iron-Man, the sooner he can get that Oscar he deserved years ago for "Tropic Thunder" (yeah... never letting that go).

Grade: B+
(yeah, all the hype it got from the critics kinda ruined it for me... not to mention "Deadpool" kinda beat Batman to this type of movie and he did it a lot better...
I may add "Suicide Squad"  to the list as well, but I gotta see the movie first. And we do have the DVD in the house. Just waiting for dad to get home so we can watch it together... it was his idea).

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Theatrical Review: 50 Shades Darker

Image result for 50 shades darker
 
Date: Saturday February 11 2017
Time: 1:30pm
Party: 2 (my mom and I)
 
Director: James Foley (I looked it up and he is the same James Foley who almost directed purple rain- he turned it down and suggested Al Magnoli who went on to do an amazing job with it)
Writers: EL James (novel), Niall Leonard (screenplay) (fun fact: they're married! mind=blown)
Composer: Danny Elfman
 
Cast:
Anastasia Steele- Dakota Johnson
Christian Grey- Jamie Dornan
Jack Hyde- Eric Johnson
Elena Lincoln (aka Mrs. Robinson)- Kim Basinger
Leila- Bella Heathcote (Victora in Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows")
Elliot Grey- Luke Grimes
Mia Grey- Rita Ora
Taylor- Mark Martini
Jose- Victor Rasuk
Kate Kavanaugh- Eloise Mumford
Dr. Grace Gray- Marcia Gay Harden
 
Duration: 118 minutes (+3 trailers)

Write-up:
my review of the original movie for those who are interested... then maybe you'll get an idea of what kind of review is about to follow
Opening comments 
 
I still can't believe how excited I was about this movie and waited 2 years practically counting the days for it. It seriously has to be the guiltiest guilty pleasure ever for me. I should not like it as much as I do.
Of the books it was my favorite in the trilogy just because Christian wasn't as daunting and abusive although he still had his typical control freak moments.
The theater has way more people than the first one did. (A good metaphor for the crowd size: think of it like the mathelete championship in "Mean Girls"). At least 3 couples in their mid to late 20s maybe older. I said last time there was only 2 other people in the theater and they wouldn't have been there if they had anything better to do cuz they weren't terribly into it. [I think both days were particularly rainy ones].
 
The more I watched the movie and it was maybe 3-4 times since (still need to get the DVD back from my aunt- don't know if she even saw it yet- I'd seen it once or twice on HBO for the heck of it) I disliked Christian more. But I still liked it for some odd reason. And of course it gave me 2 great songs. "Love me like you do" especially. I'm using it in my latest figure skating montage. Not because I have those strong romantic feelings for the skater in question but because his skating fits the timing of the music so well- I couldn't not do it. (Hopefully will post it to YouTube soon).
Trailers 
It's kinda lame when they show the same trailers for movies a couple trips in a row. Saw "Julieta" (I tried to look it up online and couldn't find it... but I found out I was googling the wrong name... the lesbian relationship is the daughter and her friend and she's estranged with her mother because she's afraid her sexuality led to her father's death- like God was punishing her)..
Then "love and friendship"(which is based on a Jane Austen novel and looks like a fun thing to get on DVD for a rainy day- when/if it hits DVD it just said coming soon).
Then there was "Amityville Awakening"- why the hell do they have to keep making these movies? And why is this in 50 shades? Is this movie so genre-less and random that they don't know what to lump in with it?

Ok moving on...
 
The Main Event 
(I see a patten developing- I might keep doing that heading for my movie reviews).
 
So the movie picks up exactly where the book said it would- we have a Christian Grey flashback and we catch up with Anastasia Steele 5 days or so after she ran out of the red room. She's got her life together with a brand new job in the publishing industry. Things are good but she does seem kinda miserable at times- for only one conceivable (although not necessarily believable) reason. 
Christian shows up at her friend Jose's photography show and asks to "renegotiate terms." And much of the movie is about that. Anastasia and Christian figuring out their relationship and what they're willing to give the other.
Add in a few chance encounters with Mrs. Robinson, Anastasia's boss Jack Hyde and Christian's ex submissive Leila stalking her and just about anything can happen.

Book to Movie Adaptation I'll add this in briefly (I actually wrote most of this post on my iPhone because I didn't want to be stuck behind a computer screen yesterday).
Again, another really good book-to-movie adaptation. But anything that erases Anastasia's "inner goddess" monologue is a huge plus in my book (I think this was the book that combined gymnastics and figure skating terms in one metaphor... just no!).
The storyline follows just about the same way. But obviously there's a scene or two that Anastasia isn't physically in that helps bring more to the story. One of which I was very skeptical about in the book and seeing the visual made me believe it actually happened.

Then after posting this, I forgot a couple things I wanted to address.

First, there's a certain sex toy that comes into play in the movie. One that Anastasia was a fan of... but the discrepancy is that in the movie, she was seeing them for the first time. Whereas in the books, they were first introduced to her in the first book and they make a comeback going to the masquerade ball and she's eager to use them again. [A couple silver balls connected by a chain that- to quote the movie- "don't go up your butt"].

And at the final scene where there's another huge party (this time for Christian's birthday), Kate somehow finds the original contract about Christian's "master & servant" arrangement and Anastasia talks her out of confronting him about it.

That was actually a great touch in the book because it seems like Christian has so much control over Anastasia, isolating her from everyone else in her life. And he was finally going to be held accountable. In the movie, Kate and Elliot spent most of the time away on vacation and communicating via Skype. Almost like Christian had Elliot frisk Kate away on this trip so he could have time alone with Anastasia to get her back... but he left out the part that she broke up with him.
Yeah, that second party was already crazy enough with that all-too brief Mrs. Robinson/Dr. Gray cat fight. [Also kinda funny in an odd way how Kate is so fixated on Anastasia losing her virginity in the first movie yet here she's only concerned that she's happy]

Other commentary

For starters the movie was better than the first one. There's the same amount of sex scenes (counting the ones fully fleshed out- yeah that innuendo was impossible to avoid- if you add the scenes where they're making out and in the next they're in bed covered up with blankets then it's twice the amount of the original). 
I mean I'm still a virgin and nothing has really changed between this movie and the last one from a maturity perspective. But at the same time- the sex scenes were very vanilla for the most part- so they weren't as intimidating as the last movie- but they were actually kinda boring because the first two were in the same position. Going from that perspective alone though just talking sex- the one masquerade ball was the hottest. (It boggles my mind how people can go somewhere during a party, hook up and return to the party. It seems exhausting. I wouldn't have the confidence, let alone the stamina for that).
 
Sex aside... I spent the first 10 minutes of the movie on edge about Christian coming back into Anastasia's life and if she'd be able to handle him. The first few times they were alone together I'm thinking "don't have sex with him"- because that would be okaying him to have his way with her again and just erasing her free will cuz she can't help herself around him. But I give her credit for not compromising right away and even though she did give him some free passes, she at least made him work for it. She also had some good burns on him. One went like "you can't use sex to solve this" (got a laugh from the audience- cuz that's kinda their relationship) and after he tried to take her the same salon he took all his past submissives to and he tried to explain how she's different than the others she says something "yeah I'm so special you tried to take me to the same salon as your other submissives."
As for the other characters, they certainly made things interesting. Like Mrs. Robinson- she's so cordial with everyone else but when she's alone with Anastasia she's such a bitch- putting the idea in her head that she can't give him everything he needs and she isn't good enough. Easy to say for someone who took advantage of him as a teenager and turned him into the sex freak he became. (Yeah it is kinda impossible to review this movie without taking about sex- even in general terms cuz it is the plot and character development).
I cheered at the end of the movie when Christian's mom bitch slapped her when she overhears a certain conversation.
Taking a moment aside from the new characters it was great seeing more of Marcia Gay Harden in this. Since the release of the first movie, "Code Black" has kinda made her a fixture in our house and it brought a sense of comfort. Especially during a scene late in the movie where there's a family crisis.
Rita Ora also gets a little extra screen time as Mia. But I didn't really feel a connection to her cuz the blonde hair was such a random aesthetic change. She was at the masquerade ball and I thought she was Anastasia's friend Kate. Same exact hairstyle. She's not nearly as fun to be around as Alice (the "Twilight" character she's supposedly based on).
Jack Hyde I liked at first. Seemed like a good guy who was very open to Anastasia's opinions. But when he finds about her and Christian, it gets intense. Anastasia taking care of him was another "hell yeah" moment but a bunch of us just said "oh!!" when she did what she did. (Nothing excessive- just enough to get away- in the book she said her mom's 2nd husband taught her special defense... maybe moves she should have maybe used on Christian but won't).
Then Leila- her storyline was just sad and kinda intense- how it all is developed and resolves. I just found it weird we see her stalking for several moments early in the movie and she disappears until we completely forget about her and there's a dramatic confrontation.
My opinion on Jamie Doran hasn't really changed. I'm less intimidated but I'm still not head over heels. With Christian Grey, it's kinda hard to be. (There's a moment coming up in the last movie that I'm not looking forward to because in the book he was so loathsome I wanted to beat the shit out of him).
Dakota Johnson is still great. If she wasn't, I wouldn't be as engaged in these movies as I am. I go through the events of the plot through her. Although once or twice there was slight disconnect. There was one point in the movie I was actually bored but it lasted all of 10 seconds. (And no- it wasn't a sex scene that fixed that- I think it came either before the confrontation or the crisis).
Music and directing

It was a little grittier at points with the change in directing, but it wasn't distinct enough for me to say much more with this script. (If "Purple Rain" had him directing with Vanity still playing the love interest- it'd be a little more intense. It'd be interesting if both versions of that movie actually existed so I could compare them- but I also hadn't watched the one and only version since Prince died so it's a moot point). 
Danny Elfman did the score but it's kinda hard to pick that out when it's not in a Tim Burton movie.
I'm doing the music subheading because of the Zayn/Taylor Swift duet that's been on the radio for a month. It appears in the scene where Anastasia and Christian are on the sailboat. And also the end credits. I didn't really love the song but it grew me when I found it at home- the movie it was created for. It was because of it that I saw a post credits preview of the next movie- which will be out next year. I heard they were filmed back to back but didn't think it'd be that soon. I had to wait 2 years for this one. And it was definitely worth the wait.

Grade: A-
(I had an A yesterday on my iPhone and changed it to A-. I thought a bit about how one or two moments were unintentionally funny and a movie like this, you can't really rate too high. But dammit, we had fun with it for what it was. I gave the original a B+.)
 

Theatrical Review: La La Land

Date: Saturday January 28 2016
Time: 1:10pm
Party: 3 (my mom, sister and I)

Writer/Director: Damian Chazelle (of "Whiplash" fame... I still don't want to see that movie)
Composer: Justin Hurwitz (also of "Whiplash" fame- you know how directors like to work with the same composers a lot of the time)


Duration: 2 hours and 8 minutes (+3 trailers)

Cast:
Sebastian- Ryan Gosling

Mia- Emma Stone
Keith- John Legend
JK Simmons

Awards and Nominations [as of January 28th]:
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best picture (comedy/musical)
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best comedy/musical actor- Ryan Gosling (still think it should've been Ryan Reynolds- but it was one of the best moments of a kinda unpleasant Golden Globes... Meryl Streep's speech pretty much ruined it]

GOLDEN GLOBE- Best comedy/musical actress- Emma Stone
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Director- Damian Chazelle
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Screenplay- Damian Chazelle
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Original Score- Justin Hurwitz
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Original Song-
nomination-OSCAR- Best Picture

nomination-OSCAR- Best Actor- Ryan Gosling
nomination-OSCAR- Best Actress- Emma Stone
nomination-OSCAR- Best Director- Damian Chazelle
nomination-OSCAR- Best Cinematography
nomination-OSCAR- Best Costume
nomination-OSCAR- Best Film Editing
nominations-OSCAR- Best Song- "City of Stars" and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)"
nomination-OSCAR- Best Production Design (used to be called "Art Direction")
nomination-OSCAR- Best Sound Editing
nomination-OSCAR- Best Sound Mixing
nomination-OSCAR- Best Original Screenplay- Damian Chazelle
nomination-OSCAR- Best Original Score- Justin Hurwitz


Write-up:


Introduction

It's been a LONG time since we've gone to the movies to see an award nominated film upon knowing it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The last time was when "Les Miz" came out. Once I got lucky and saw "The King's Speech" and "The Artist" and both of them won Best Picture. Both were at the downtown community theater and both happened to be Weinstein Company films. ("The King's Speech"- we saw the day OF the Oscars. But after seeing "The Social Network," I kinda wished Jesse Eisenberg and "The Social Network" won Oscars instead of "The King's Speech" and Colin Firth... just so the Oscars can go non-traditional for a change).

Anyway... "La La Land" swept all the Golden Globes they were nominated for. Best Actor and Actress, Best Director, Screenplay, Score, Original Song, and of course, "Best Comedy/Musical"... one much more worthy of the category than "The Martian"... yeah, we're not letting that one go anytime soon :P I will have to review that at some point because I did enjoy that one a lot.


Trailers

I found it kinda interesting that all three trailers were for female-forward movies.

The first was "Certain Women" starring Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart. An IFC film that is running the festival circuit. I don't really know what to make of what it's about.
Next- "Julieta"- which was foreign language, maybe French or Greek. I couldn't tell, but it looked like it was about a same sex female couple. Why that garnered an R rating, it's hard to tell from the trailer. But the context seemed weird... almost like it was a mother falling in love with her daughter.
Then there was this Amazon series "Love & Friendship" based on the Jane Austen novel. It looks like something I'd like to watch if it ever came out on DVD. (We don't do Netlfix, Amazon or streaming in our house... except the occasional YouTube and Hulu).


The Main Event

We get to know our two stars pretty well early on in the movie.

We learn that Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress trying to make it into the business  and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is trying to break through in his own business-- jazz music.

The two of them meet in a rocky place (a traffic jam of all things... neither of them are in that opening dance number at all for whatever reason), bump into each other randomly a couple other times, and somehow they get together.
Then things start to happen in their careers, more ups and downs, their relationship is tested... we have our typical Hollywood romance with all the trimmings and some musical numbers thrown in to keep up the heart rate.

Characters and Actors

This is the third time these two have been cast together in a movie and were romantically involved. It's great for the actors, of course, to go in knowing each other this well, so they don't need to work on their chemistry too much. Although at first, I didn't really feel that chemistry. I didn't buy into them as a couple. Maybe because he was a little unlikeable at first. But when they had their stumbles, I just wanted so badly for them to stay together.

I'm still teary-eyed thinking about it, but that's not the only reason why I was a complete mess when the movie ended.

I really hadn't seen much of Ryan Gosling. I think he was in "The Big Short" (which I kinda don't remember much of because it was so damn hard to follow). I saw "The Notebook" just like everyone else (but it was such a tearjerker that it was hard to forget what he and Rachel McAdams brought to the movie). And I saw him with Emma Stone in "Crazy, Stupid, Love." I liked him a lot in that movie (but the movie went downhill when the truth came out... that Steve Carell is her dad and suddenly he's not jazzed about them as a couple).

Yikes... I guess I have a problem with a lot of Ryan Gosling movies, but it's not entirely his fault. It's just how they're written.
Sebastian is an interesting character for him, something a little different. I read an article about he's one of those characters who are so into music and their playing and composing that the rest of their life kinda suffers because it's life vs. art and choosing one over the other. He had some comments on jazz that had me thinking about the genre like I never had before. I mean, Prince did some great jazz and "The Rainbow Children" has some great jazz aspects to it, but the overall message of the lyrics gets in the way of that.

All Mia had to go by at this point with jazz music is Kenny G and elevator music. But Sebastian takes her to a club with some really good jazz musicians and shows her how it's supposed to sound.
It's also a little ironic, considering the way his career eventually does take off.

Mia is the girl that all of us can relate to. She wants so badly to make her dream a reality, but keeps hitting all these stumbles. Lots of auditions that just don't go anywhere. Then she's caught in this whirlwind romance with Sebastian, who she leaves her current boyfriend for (why they had to write she was already in a relationship really made no sense).
Of course, Emma Stone I've loved since "Easy A" and this is another shining moment for her. Particularly her final audition where she sings "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)."

Music and Sound

From the get-go, I knew I was going to be excited about this movie. The opening traffic dance scene was parodied on the opening of the "Golden Globes" (that nobody liked for whatever reason... we all thought it was great). I think anyone who's been stuck in traffic in LA wished that something like that happened if only as a way to pass the time.

The music was so great and there were so many great songs. I almost want to run out and buy the soundtrack.
Another bit of irony: the music sorta helped make up for a technical issue we kept having.

I don't know what was going on with our particular theater that day, but the sound kept having problems. The volume on the voices was quiet and, even worse, muddled. We were in a theater with maybe half a dozen other people (all older than the age of 50) and they took turns going to the concession stand to get someone to fix the sound.
After a while, it just got exhausting to mentally try to stay engaged in the movie and keep track of what was going on. Again, it's lucky that there was a lot of music, so there was less dialogue, but that excuse could only go on for so long.

For the record, the sound started out muddled in the trailers and we had to get it fixed at least 4 times.

Maybe that's why I didn't like "City of Stars" so much. It was hard to hear it, but compared to some of the other numbers, it didn't get me particularly excited. Maybe I was too busy thinking about how unfair it is that this movie got two songs nominated for Oscars. Obviously, they can't both win.

Additional Comments and Spoilers

Yeah, what really got me was that the movie just had a sad ending....

All the movies do this where things are so great for a couple in a romance, but then it all falls apart and the rest of the movie kinda does. Emma Stone helped me get me through it because I wanted to see how her character fared and how her one-woman show (that her relationship with Sebastian inspired her to write-- since it was something she used to do as a kid).

Why is it that people who both are in the entertainment business never stay together? That seems true in real life as well. Nearly every notable Hollywood couple has broken up after long marriages (Robert Downey Jr.'s seems the safest in this aspect because his wife isn't an actress, she's a movie producer and a damn good one).

Anyway... I think I'm going to be mad at John Legend for a while because it was his fault that our protagonists broke up.
Granted, Mia pushed Sebastian to consider the proposal from Keith (his character's name) to join his jazz band. But then they have some stupid fight about it. He's going on tour with them and he misconstrues her comments. She asks if this is something he really wants because the music isn't exactly the kind he introduced her two. He thinks she's saying that she was happier when he was struggling like her because it made her feel better about herself.

We see one performance of it and she seems taken aback by it. It starts out kinda cool and such, but then it just gets way too big and flashy. It teeters more towards R&B than jazz and Sebastian seems like he's in the background more than being part of this team. (At least when he was part of an 80's cover band-- not a bad one by any means-- he could walk away after a couple gigs with no problem).

I would have preferred to see Mia's one-woman show performance than that. We never get to see it, which I was disappointed about. I didn't even know what it was about.

Back to the positive... Mandy Moore did some really great choreography for this movie and I loved the fantasy aspect of it.

A couple of cool little parts: Emma goes by a mural on the jazz club where she sees Sebastian perform for the first time. On it, it had a bunch of old Hollywood stars sitting in theater. Among them, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. And there are a few nice references to "Rebel without a Cause" including the movie itself and the two stars going to the actual planetarium from the movie.

I think I'll be getting this movie on DVD as soon as it comes out. Possibly the soundtrack as well. And I'm going to watch it a bunch of times.
Either way, it'll be nice to be able to hear the entire movie without interruption.


How Many Oscars?


I don't see them running away with every award, not counting the whole bit about them having two songs nominated.
The film editing had a few rough patches for me that I didn't like. They show place cards saying the names of the season we're in, but they came about abruptly some of them.

I want badly for Emma Stone to win Best Actress, but considering who she's up again (Meryl Streep doesn't always win... but maybe with her Golden Globes speech they might give her another trophy so she'll have another soapbox moment none of us in my house want to hear again), it's not likely.
Ryan Gosling isn't a shoe-in for best actor either. I see Casey Affleck as a more likely candidate and Denzel, you can never count out.

So I think they'll get at least 10. Take away the acting categories, one song and probably costume (they were nothing out of the ordinary, I don't think).
I want it to win Best Picture simply because I saw it. I go to a movie that's nominated, of course I want it to win. But I wanted to see this even before all the accolades came out. I just heard whispers about it being a great tribute to old Hollywood musicals with a modern twist.

Grade: A
(despite what Saturday Night Live said, the movie was kinda slow in the middle and the ending... even then, I don't think I'd give this a perfect A+).

Odd Side-Note

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R4T0Nc4jig

It's hard for me to hear "La La Land" without thinking about this song by Jax from "American Idol." Her finishing third was one of the most crushing moments I experienced on the show. She'd gone through so much since then, including a bout with thyroid cancer, but she's doing much better now. She also released an EP that I should at least listen to on iTunes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Theatrical Review: Sing

Date: Saturday, January 7 2017
Time: 2:00pm
Party: 3 (my mom and sister)

Directors: Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet
Writer: Garth Jennings (directed "Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy")

Cast
Buster Moon- Matthew McConaughey
Eddie- John C Reilly
Mike- Seth MacFarlane
Rosita- Reese Witherspoon
Gunter- Nick Kroll
Norman- Nick Offerman
Ash- Scarlett Johansson

Lance- Beck Bennett
Johnny- Taron Egerton
Nana Noodleman- Jennifer Saunders
Miss Crawley- Garth Jennings (also did the voice of Bean's Son in "Fantastic Mr. Fox")

Meena- Tori Kelly
Meena's grandfather- Jay Pharaoh
Meena's mom- Leslie Jones
Judith the banker- Rhea Perlman

Duration: 108 minutes (+3 trailers and a number of commercials per the usual)

Opening Comments:

First movie of the year! I was hoping to catch it at the end of last year, but we went away the last week and I didn't have a time otherwise to go.
The theater had a decent amount of people, most between the age of 7 and 10. Not bad for a movie that came up two weeks ago... was it really Christmas two weeks ago tomorrow?

Front & Center:

This is the segment they sometimes show before movies for those who get to the theater early. They show behind-the-scenes of some upcoming movies.
The second of the two got its own full length trailer later on.
But the first- I have to address.

NERD ALERT!!!
Apparently, they are releasing a new Yu-Gi-Oh! movie in theaters in 10 days. Where Yugi looks like he'll be tested once again with a new villain and considering the end of the animated series, he might not have the assistance of the Pharaoh from the Millennium puzzle this time. And of course Seto Kaiba returns to find away to regain his dignity... he never quite got it back after the first time Yugi beat him with Exodia (short version: it's a 5 card combination that gives the player who uses it an automatic win).

Anyway... why I'm bringing extra special attention to this... aside from just another chance to have a great time with one of my favorite animé series... they introduced it by showing the voice actors. For the first time, I saw Dan Green (who also did Mewtwo in "Mewtwo Returns" and Entei in "Pokémon: Spell of the Unown) and Eric Stuart (who also did Brock and James in Pokémon). I had a full-on fangasm (or nerdgasm... I think the terms might be interchangeable) seeing these guys in the flesh and that high rose with all the effects, seeing the characters again and how much they talk about how they love their characters.
This is why I love English dub voice actors- they really love their job. Every now and then, Veronica Taylor will tweet or answer someone's tweet about how much she'd love to play Ash again. If only the Pokémon casting people would listen...

I'm sorry :P I'll tack on a "nerd alert" at the top of this...although it was kinda funny to hear my mom's reaction to my sister and mine's reaction to this news... if we can't see in theaters (where it's sure to be amazing), we'll get it on DVD as soon as it comes out.

Okay, now for the actual trailers...

THE ACTUAL TRAILERS

The first (that I waited to talk about) was for "A Dog's Purpose." The behind the scenes special had the actors from the movie talking about the dogs they owned in the movie as well as their own dogs in real life.
I mean, any movie with a beloved pet has the potential to be a tearjerker. "Marley & Me"... forget it... but there's a bit of safety net here because the movie is about a dog and how it lives many different lives in different forms and with different people. He starts out as a retriever and later becomes a German Shepard, Corgi, etc. Josh Gad (Olaf from "Frozen" does his voice) and Dennis Quaid plays the grown-up version of the dog's first owner, Ethan.

I think it's based on a James Patterson book [nope, author's name is W Bruce Cameron] and it looks like a good movie. And I'm sure my dog will love it when it premieres on HBO (he runs up to the TV and whines/barks when he sees another dog on screen).

Second... Boss Baby... we saw the posters for it at this theater and seeing it in full... it just looks so stupid. Animated movie about a kid's new baby brother who happens to be a secret agent or something... I don't know... I don't really care. Alec Baldwin is the baby. Even if Bruce Willis did his voice, there's no saving this movie.

Third... it has been such a long time since I had this much fun during a movie trailer. Fun from start to finish. "Despicable Me 3" shows Gru and Lucy up against a new villain who has retro fashion sense and killer taste in music.
When he goes off to pull a job, "Bad" by Michael Jackson starts to play. I'm dancing in my seat, having a good time. And he does this heist on a ship encasing all the shipmates in giant balls of bubble game. Gru gets on the ship and the music temporarily changes to "Sussudio" when they get into an altercation.
Such hilarity happens in this trailer... I can't even remember when the darn thing is supposed to be released... but I'm super excited for it already.

2017 is already full of so many great possibilities. Now onto the actual movie...


The Actual Movie

yeah... I couldn't resist keeping that theme again...

Buster Moon is a koala who owns a theater and it's in financial trouble. It used to be known for these great stage shows and dramas. But he gets the idea to hold a singing competition to save it. It was handed down to him by his father and he loves it more than anything. You'd think going in that he'd be in this just for himself and he has a lot of silly suggestions for some of the contenders, but he offers them a lot of support, which is nice to see.
Hard to believe McConaughey is doing this when he has an Oscar that made him so expensive that the "Magic Mike" sequel couldn't afford him. But he must have really wanted to do this movie.

The singing competition meanwhile gives opportunity to a great cast of characters we get to know throughout the movie. They're all dissatisfied with things going on in their lives and this is their way of changing that.

Because Reese Witherspoon gets 2nd billing, it's hard not to talk about Rosita first. She's a pig with a husband and 25 kids. She is run-down and feels underappreciated. In the competition, she was assigned a partner because she wasn't deemed strong enough by herself. When she can't find a babysitter or get her husband to help her out (he's busy working a job he doesn't really like), she puts together this crazy contraption that gets everyone up and fed and laundry done and put to bed. Just... no way... but somehow, it works.
Gunter... throughout the trailers, I thought he was her husband and that she was unhappy about being overshadowed by him, that he thinks he's more important than her. But Gunter really just a flamboyant pig that looks more like he'd be better for a dancing competition. He's got a lot of Spanish flair with somewhat of a delusional ego to match. Over time, though, he got a little less annoying and he really did care about Rosita as much as them putting on a good show together.

Ash is a porcupine who auditioned with her boyfriend Lance. They're kinda of a grunge rock band who were having trouble breaking through. Ash is the only one who gets through in the audition and it puts a damper on their relationship. Buster Moon wants her to do cheesy pop songs like "Call Me Maybe," but after she gets out on her own, she puts together a really good original song called "Set It Free." I think it's even nominated for a Golden Globe. [nope, that was "Faith"- the song played at the end of the movie].
"Set it Free" was still pretty awesome.
Scarlet Johansson totally rocks it.

From the audition trailers, you get familiar with a lot of the characters. But most of them didn't make the final cut. Only maybe 5 of them.
One of the ones that got the most buzz was Meena the elephant played Tori Kelly. She's gotten a bit of notoriety over the past couple years. After she was dismissed from American Idol season 9 in Hollywood week, several years later, she finally somehow got together with the right studio and press team and her career exploded in the best way.
And of course people like Lyndsey Parker will roll their eyes whenever "American Idol" tries to claim ownership for her YEARS after she was dismissed before she could make the top 10.

It was so long ago, I didn't remember her at all. But I often don't with those who don't make the top 10. Plus Season 9 was mostly forgettable.

Meena's deal is that she has a huge voice, but she's too shy to get up on use it. She fumbles her audition, winds up working as a stagehand for Buster Moon and gets a spot when a couple acts get quit or get injured.

Don't know why I remember this, but one team that quit was three frogs. Buster Moon walks past them into the theater as they're leaving and one says how they called him "an intolerable egomaniac" and stops away moaning "I don't even know what that means!"

To quote Yoda: "and that is why you fail..."

For a while, there was also a running gag with these five little Chinese pandas who do this cutesy K-Pop act and can't get the hint that they didn't move on to the next round. And of course when he tries to translate what he wants to see with a book, he says the wrong thing.
I kinda saw that coming after what happened with Gru in the first "Despicable Me,' although it took awhile for his mistranslation to be found out.

Of the group, one I liked the least was Mike, this mouse who we first see on the street playing a saxophone and hustling a guy when he gives him a penny for a tip. He's good with the Frank Sinatra type stuff he does, but he is just mean to a lot of the other characters. Now he was an egomaniac. Finding out he was Seth MacFarland's character in this... I should have guessed... he doesn't even have to try to be unlikeable sometimes. He also impacts the plot in multiple ways, but also gets some karma coming back at him to balance the scales of justice a bit.

I like a lot of the characters, so I can't just say that Johnny the gorilla is my favorite. He's just one of them. Everyone but Mike is pretty darn likeable.
Johnny's family likes to pull robberies and heists and he wants more than that. In one job, he's their getaway driver, but considering he's up against rehearsal... you can kinda see where this is going.
But it's great that he earns his dad's respect back when he sees him perform.
In the trailers, I thought for sure Ed Sheeran was doing his voice because he had a British accent. But he didn't... which kinda sucks... I mean, the movie is called "Sing" and they played the Ed Sheeran song in their trailers... he should've been in the cast or they should've at least played his song somewhere in it.

A couple of scene-stealers: Miss Crawly, Buster Moon's chameleon assistant with a glass eye she keeps losing. Hard to believe the writer/director of this, a dude, did her voice (although Brad Bird did do a female character in "The Incredibles" so it's not too outside the box). She has a bit of dry sense of humor that's a little left of center, but she was great.
And Nana Noodleman- she was an old star of the theater. Who happens to be the grandmother of Buster Moon's friend Eddie. He spends part of the movie trying to convince her to help finance the future of the theater. Jennifer Hudson did her voice in the beginning where we see her singing.

I've seen a lot of serious and dramatic movies lately, so I thought this would be a nice change of pace. There were moments in the beginning with the writing came off as cheesy without a lot of thought really put into it. But they more than made up for it as the movie progressed. It follows that typical pattern movies follow where they introduce characters and their quirks and struggles. Something big and dramatic happens halfway through that almost derails the whole thing, but we get a happy ending after all.

The final half hour where everyone performs... it isn't just the best part worth sitting through the movie for. But seeing everyone come together and supporting each other and stuff... and of course the power of music in general. I was super stoked and loving every minute of it. I actually was thinking about seeing it the next time and spending more time with these characters. If you're not invested from the beginning, at least one of them will grow on you over time. I have no doubt of that.

The trailer did it justice where you know what to expect going on in. But as it progresses, you get a lot more than you expect. And that's pretty cool.

Grade: A