Coco

Walt Disney Animation Studios have been on a kick lately, where they want simplistic, yet bold film titles, often in one word. Tangled. Frozen. Moana. Zootopia. Gigantic, which apparently isn’t going to happen anymore.

Disney isn’t officially doing Coco, Pixar is (Which is owned by Disney), who, outside of the franchise that should not be named, has mostly shied away from these sort of titles. Is Coco a sign of things to come for Pixar in the title department? It is hard to say, given the fact that its previous two movies, and next two movies are all sequels. Ugh.

I will note I experienced almost no hype for Coco. And that is because of its immediately similarity to The Book of Life. They aren’t even doppelganger films, because the other one came out years earlier, so it is just a bit odd to see such similar topics in animated films so close to each other. But the good news is, The Book of Life was only okay, I forgot basically all of it by now so it really didn’t mess with my opinion.

Strum
Guitars, afterlife, Mexico, love, sadness, revenge. Very similar films indeed.

Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) has a sad story, but a strong one. She had a daughter, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), with her husband, who had more loves in the world than just his family. He left them, to become a singer and a star, and never returned. Poor Imelda had to raise Coco on her own, while also bringing home the bacon. She learned to make shoes and started her own shoe empire, going down her line of children.

Now, many years later, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12 year old boy, and he loves music. He wants to play the guitar and sing, but there is a ban on music in his family, given the past incident. His Abuela (Renee Victor) is the main matriarch now, since his great-grandmother, Coco, is in a chair and doesn’t speak much.

Miguel idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who is basically the Mexican Elvis in this film, extremely famous and well loved. But he has to keep his obsession secret. Well, due to some shenanigans involving a dead man’s guitar, Miguel finds him in the underworld! And on this, Dia de los Muertos, when the dead are trying to get back to the real world, not the other way around.

Miguel is going on an adventure, on the run from disapproving and dead realities, while he searches for his great great grandfathers approval, so that he can return to the real world AND play music officially. And he has bumbling Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) to help him, who just wants someone to post his photo in the real world so he can cross over to the real world just one time before no one remembers him.

Also featuring the voices of many others, including Edward James Olmos, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Herbert Siguenza, Lombardo Boyar, and Sofía Espinosa.

Familia
Well, Miguel doesn’t LOOK like his ancestors.

It is interesting that this film came out in Thanksgiving weekend and not like, the week before Dia de los Muertos like the film takes place on. Usually films go into effort to come out near specific holidays, but Pixar needed that Thanksgiving break money. It was released in Mexico before the day at least, so it has been out for almost a month somewhere else in the world.

On an emotional level, Coco hits on most of the cylinders. It should be a relatively easy feat, given the subject of DEATH and loss being its main focus. Relatives dying? Wives, kids, parents, whatever the level, it will get people choked up. It had a diverse soundtrack of authentic sounds, and despite Remember Me getting the most screen time (and one cry), my favorite song was Proud Corazón by the end, which tied up everything with a nice bow, as these films tend to do.

Miguel’s relationship with his various family members feels real on the level that a 12 year old boy might feel, including the parts where no one lets him talk. But adults refusing to listen to children in films end up usually being a pet peeve, as they just create lazy plot situations where communication does not occur and leads to all of the conflict.

Coco is a beautiful film, physically and emotionally, but it just seems to falter on the smaller elements. Ideas I couldn’t get out of my mind. Timing these events on Dia de los Muertos seemed to have hurt it instead of helping it. On this day, the dead want to go to the real world to party, hang out, get trinkets. And yet the city of the dead is so fucking full of people. We see a very small shanty area of folks who can’t cross because they don’t have pictures. But all of the biggest underworld celebrities are just still there? All the citizens are having their own parties in the place they are stuck so many days of the year?

It seems like a minor nitpick, and maybe it is, but it really distracted me most of the film. There were issues with the spirit animals, in that apparently one is so much more powerful than the others that it can just murder in the underworld and be basically okay. We have the fear of falling to death ruined by a last minute save, that would have still killed the person falling based on how they did it.

And we had SO MANY times when slow decisions were being made just toe extend the film. At least three times we had moments where the viewer would assume that everyone is fine now, time to fix things, and then wham, nope. Whether it be from last second pointless arguments, lack of communication, or just forgetting how to move.

The plot felt very lazy, so much that the film became more tearjerky than anything.

I love the culture of the film, I love the authentic voice actors, and how some of the songs were actually all in Spanish. Having this much of a multicultural element in a Pixar film is a welcome change (since most of their culture is inanimate/dead things with feelings). It just relied to heavily on that component and not enough on a decent plot.

And to bring us back to the beginning, Coco is not a good title for this film.

2 out of 4.

Rosewater

I don’t often use the democratic process when working on my website, but I like to keep things interesting. Because I only go to 1 pre-screening a week now, I have to sometimes make difficult decisions on what I want to watch now and watch later. I had FOUR choices this weeks of screenings, and since none of them were Foxcatcher, I took to Facebook and Twitter to let the people decide.

And overwhelmingly, the people decided on Rosewater.

Like most people, the only thing I knew about Rosewater is that it was directed by Jon Stewart. And that is it. Current events be damned, sometimes I don’t keep up with all of the happenings all around the world.

Shock
Don’t look too shocked, I am just super America-centric.

Rosewater is the true story of journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal), a guy who worked for Newsweek in London. Mazier was born in Tehran, Iran, but he left it to go to Canada to get the college education and has mostly stayed away since then. Now, in London, he has a pregnant wife (Claire Foy) and things are looking good. They are sending him to Iran to cover a new election. It is a big one, because a dude who has been there forever and very religious might actually lose the election. The people are clamoring and demanding change, so they are going to maybe elect a professor who wants to help his country grow.

Very exciting times.

But while there, he ends up hanging out with some activists who are really anti the current Iranian government. Thanks to them, he can see Iran as it really is, with the protests and the underground movements. And when the conservative guy wins again? Iran blows up. Figuratively. Protests, anger, rah rah rah. Now Maziar is there a lot longer than he expected. Oh well. As long as he doesn’t do anything illegal, he should be good.

Well, he gets locked up anyways. Just for filming and showing it on the news. And he gets called a spy. And he has to stay in solitary confinement, with blindfolds, for almost 120 days, while they mentally torture him believing him to be an American spy. Weeee~

Also featuring Kim Bodnia, Dimitri Leonidas, Haluk Bilginer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Golshifteh Farahani.

Blindfold
He probably got a lot of sleep with that thing too.

In case you didn’t know, the reason why Jon Stewart felt compelled to tell this story in movie form is because The Daily Show had ties to Maziar. Maziar was interviewed by The Daily Show when he was in Iran for this election in which he was jokingly called a spy along with other terrorist jokes. The Iranian government used that interview as part of their proof that he was in fact a spy, despite the nature of the show. Yeah, Jon probably felt pretty bad. But they go over that in the movie.

In case you didn’t know where the title came from, Rosewater is a scent and the main interrogator for Maziar had that type of cologne or whatever smell on him. However, awkwardly enough, the movie didn’t really explain or say that, from what I can tell. Just a small snippet about it at the beginning and then never really brought it up again. Seems to be an important point.

Rosewater really is just an average movie. I liked the cinematography, but the aspects of it as a complete film are probably Jon Stewart’s faults. It felt like a movie 10 years ago showing the few “social activism” scenes, like trending hashtags and news reports about his situation. They stood out way too much and seemed like a way to escape the film and the horrible conditions Maziar was in. Because of the frequent interruptions and weird way to present his imprisonment, I rarely could connect with him. It just didn’t feel serious enough.

I also couldn’t really figure out the purpose of this is, outside of maybe letting more people know that Iran government is kind of corrupt. It was a shitty situation, but one that also kind of got resolved pretty easily and the whole thing just felt…weird. I heard there was a documentary on the same subject, it is probably a better source of information and maybe even more entertaining.

2 out of 4.

Casa De Mi Padre

I don’t think the readers here are ready for this. I just don’t.

A Spanish movie, made by Americans, in America. Where we speak American, damn it!

First time I have put up the language tag without the “Foreign” tag. Because this is all USA baby. Just in Spanish.

Yeah, you were not ready for Casa De Mi Padre.

Campfire
Gay cowboys eating beans around a campfire. Oscar gold.

Armando Ernesto (Will Ferrell) is the not so smart son of a rancher, and has lived at home his whole life. He has simple needs and pleasures, and loves spending times with his other ranch hand friends, Esteban (Efren Ramirez) and Manuel (Adrian Martinez). But his father, Miguel (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) is upset about something, but won’t tell his son about it, mostly because of his incompetence.

But thankfully, Raul (Deigo Luna) returns! Raul is the younger brother who left home some time ago and he looks rich and successful. Huh, wonder where it all came from? So does Armando. Miguel doesn’t care though, because his younger son is a smart man. Not to mention he brought Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) and plans on wedding her the next day. Hooray, family growth!

Armando is super suspicious of all of this and of Sonia, she just looks like a money grabbing whore. But of course the suspicion leads to spying, and secret jealously and love. Come on Armando, don’t screw your brother like that. Even if he actually is dealing with drugs, and thus has the local cartel leader Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) coming by to kill everyone, and also problems with the US DEA agents like Agent Parker (Nick Offerman).

Offerman
Just by saying Nick Offerman, you should know exactly what kind of character he plays in this movie.

Alright readers, it is very possible I too was not ready for this movie. I just expected a normal comedy, set in Spanish though. I am fine with that. I don’t hate that. It’s weird, but could be good too. But what this ended up being is a larger parody/satire on the entire telenova experience, which is something I have definitely never experienced. Sure, I heard they were overly dramatic, basically soap operas amped up a bit.

Quite a few jokes probably relied on realizing the ridiculousness of it all, and this movie adding even more to that fact. But without knowing that? There will be few laughs. I noted that there was badly edited scenes, one in particular I loved was this fight scene involving coyotes and pumas, but the real humor will come in the smaller details. The scenes keeping the camera on the persons face just a little bit too long. Pretty much all the scenes just going on a little bit too long. Not to mention people getting offended quite easily.

Oh and the songs. There are two and there songs out of no where. Probably common place in Mexico, I don’t know. Hell, the Spanish might not have been real Spanish and I wouldn’t even know. So many layers of comedy I just couldn’t get, I think I have to watch this movie a second time to get a better grasp on it all. But for now, lets keep it neutral. Definitely a different film experience than you are used to from Will Ferrell.

2 out of 4.

Letters To Juliet

Before you get confused, Letters to Juliet and Dear John are different movies. Both are romantic comedies starring Amanda Seyfried with “letter” themes. Or at least I assume Dear John has that in it. But Dear John is a Nicholas Sparks book/movie, while Letters To Juliet came out…well damn, after Dear John and in the exact same year.

What the hell Amanda Seyfried?

Amanda Seyfried
“Oh, my bad.”

Amanda is a fact-checker for a new york newspaper! Oh man! But she wants to be a writer. Too bad. Oliver Platt don’t care. She is going on an early honeymoon with fiance, Gael Garcia Bernal, to Italy! For he is Italian and opening an Italian restaurant in NYC and needs to meet with suppliers. But when they get there, it seems like he only wants to do work. For shame!

Amanda scurries around on her own, bored, and finds the “Juliet House” from that Shakespeare thing. For some reason, a whole bunch of women write romantic queries to Juliet and hope she responds. A group of women write letters back with advice, because they are bored. She finds a 50 year old letter, and decides to respond.

A week later, very British Christopher Egan appears on her doorstop. Oh, with his grandmother, played by Vanessa Redgrave. She has determined to return to Italy and find her long lost love when she was 15, and see if he remembers her. Amanda agrees to go on the journey with him, since her fiance doesn’t mind, as they travel the country looking for the right old dude.

As you can imagine, the thought of old people love and growing old with the person you actually love is discussed a lot. Turns out Amanda doesn’t love the husband that cares about his restaurant more than her (Selfish). So yes. Another movie where a woman travels and changes her mind about marriage, choosing another foreign person.

I knew this would happen! Why did I watch this movie in the first place?!

Amanda's
This is NOT an answer.

Only a few moments did I find amusing. At the end, where the balcony scene was “accidentally recreated” before Amanda officially started to get it on with British dude was pretty funny though. After all, NYC is kind of overrated.

For some reason (not that one, damn it) I did find this one more enjoyable. I thought they were good together chemistry wise, and the old woman love story was fantastic. So it is decent, you know, for a RomCom.

2 out of 4.