Peter Rabbit

Ah, Peter Rabbit, a classic story turned into a movie about a rabbit and real people. CGI and humans. And bunnies.

The last time we had a CGI/live action film involving bunnies and real people was Hop, 7 years ago, and it was a goddamn disaster. It was racist and classist, with a terrible story. It was an attempt to teach that some discrimination is okay. I have no idea how the whole thing got green lit.

Is 7 years enough time to try again? Probably not. Because the one thing I heard about this film before seeing it was the huge controversy over a scene where the bunnies attack a man through his allergies. Trying to kill him by making light of a dangerous scenario, in an amusing way.

A good set up to go into a movie that already has a legacy of shit to pile its way through.

Bunny Pals
Stand back Cookie-Monster, get ready for a new healthier form of gluttony.

Old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) is a mean old man, who chases the bunnies out of his garden. He wants to grow his crops, they want to eat his crops. He has an artist neighbor, Bea (Rose Byrne), likes the rabbits and they trust her, so she likes to protect them.

Either way, when Peter Rabbit (James Corden) is doing his thing, taking that food, McGregor has a heart attack and dies. Damn.

Now the rabbits own the place, a big farm party, all animals, lots of foods lots of things break. But then one day, a young Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) shows up, the new owner. He has a lot of anger issues from his job, and now he finds this place he would just like to fix up and sell a disaster.

So of course he hates the rabbits, and says no to their shit. Even if he starts to find Bea attractive and wants to impress her. And this is the story of their war.

Also starring mostly the voices of Fayssal Bazzi, Sia, Colin Moody, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley.

Familypic
Some family trees are hybrids.

For a majority of this story, this film is spending its energy and effort on convincing me, a normal(ish) human male, that I should be on the side of the bunnies on this story. The bunnies who are certain that they should be able to eat the wonderful things that are grown in this garden, that a human spent time growing in order to make food for themselves or to make a profit in order to buy other things.

What in the fuck kind of movie is this? If the bunnies are so sentient that they can talk, and are just not talking to the humans out of secrecy, then goddamn it, go raise your own carrots in a garden and eat it. We can see them making traps and hatching plans, and grabbing and picking things up, then there is no excuse for this insanity.

The old man they have was mean, and he never searched out and tried to kill the rabbits. He just protected his land. Fair. The new guy? The one dealing with grief. Who also only goes out of his way to stop the bunnies when they trash his house, injure him, and kill him with his allergies. No. Just no.

They try to change it by the end, but what doesn’t change is that at least the first half if not more, it is a plot just wanting me to hate the rabbits.

What kind of values are this shit? Grow and go into poverty and depression so some bunnies can eat?

0 out of 4.

Trolls

This is my fourth movie this year reviewing with Anna Kendrick in it, and it hasn’t been a great year. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates was on top, above Mr. Right and Get A Job, all very mediocre to poor. Sorry, I haven’t hit The Accountant yet and The Hollars looks good too, but that is still six movies this year.

After the year she had been having, I wasn’t super surprised to see her starring in Trolls as well. Trolls is probably one of the most least anticipated animated movies of the year for me, after Sing.

I mean, I get it. Getting rights to old toys to make new movies for is in right now. The Smurfs movies did okay, why not create a world about Trolls? Gotta get that merchandising money back somehow right? Fuck new risks!

Sorry, I almost complained about films these days. Trolls just seems like a lazy cash grab, and they have been hyping it since Timberlake released that song like, six months ago at least. I am trolled out already and I haven’t even been forced to see a real advertisement for it.

Hug
One of those trolls is a fucking giraffe what is going on here?

The Bergens are large, basically ogre like entities that are disgusting and sad, lives devoid of happiness. The Trolls are tiny creatures full of color who are always partying and full of happy. The Bergens hate them and are jealous of them and also found out that when they eat Trolls, they get to feel happiness inside of them and it is kind of a big deal. So they captured all of the trolls and every Bergen eats one on a holiday called Trollstice.

Except this year they have escaped underground, thanks to King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor), saving every last troll, including his baby daughter Peppy (Anna Kendrick). This gets the Bergen Chef (Christine Baranski) into quite a big trouble, because King Gristle (John Cleese) cannot feed his baby, Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). So the Chef gets banished from the kingdom. The Trolls find a new place to live and they party for ever after.

Until twenty years later. Princess Poppy is throwing a huge party to celebrate being free of the Bergens. Everyone is going to be there, everyone but Branch (Justin Timberlake). The weird troll who is grey, doesn’t sing, doesn’t dance, doesn’t HUG. He warns them not to do the party like that or else the Bergens will come. And sure enough, the Chef Bergen finds them and takes all of Poppy’s friends. All of them, even the spiritual one (Russell Brand). So Poppy decides to get the rest of the Trolls into hiding and trick Branch into coming along with her to rescue them!

Back at Bergen Town, the Chef is getting back into business with the handful of trolls she captured. The king is dead, so the new king is that poor Gristle Jr. who never got a Troll before and he decides to restore Trollstice to make his kingdom happy! There is also a small maid, Bridget (Zooey Deschenal), who likes the king. This plays a part in the plot.

So yeah, get into the town, save the friends, and you know, survive. Whoa re the friends? Well, a lot of them are played by famous people, but if you asked me their character names I would have no fucking clue, as they kept them kind of hard to figure out and match. But we have Gwen Stefani, James Corden, Ron Fuches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, Quevenzhane Wallis, Walt Dohrn, and Rhys Darby! Oh okay, fine, I could figure out who Guy Diamond was based off of his name.

Scary
They live in a scary place where literally everything has a mouth and eats something.

Oh hey, Trolls. Of course it was a Jukebox Musical in some regards, and I hoped to see something creative. Instead, for the most part, the songs were bad mash ups with a loosely related theme and just choruses to get the little kids moving their feet. I don’t hate Jukebox Musicals, I just hate bad music ones. It was overall a lesser Happy Feet in that regard, but better than Strange Magic.

Overall there were two really good musical moments, one was the song Get Back Up Again which is technically the only original song in the musical (Does the JT one count as original?), and another song near the end that captured the emotions of the moment extremely well. It might have made me cry, but crying does not mean I give the film a passing grade. There was also a very awkward song moment with Deschanel’s character. She gave a unique voice for Bridget, but when Bridget sang it was uncomfortable as the voice did not transition at all into the song.

The colors are bright and kid friendly, but the animation style on its own felt quite dull. It felt too fuzzy and well, doll like. Again, their intentions I am sure to sell toys, but it wasn’t too visually pleasing.

The world they created was an incredibly scary place, as there is a recurring joke of how almost everything eats something else. It frightened me and not in a sexy way.

Plot wise, about 20-30 minutes in it was pretty easy to figure out how the whole thing would end. And yeah, it was true. The love plot between Bridget and the King, although arguably necessary, felt like it was taking too much time from the rescue plot. There are not a lot of surprises in this film, nor intellectual humor. They have a character who farts glitter, and another character who shits cupcakes. Yay butt humor.

Overall Trolls is just okay, which is better than I expected. There are only a few more cartoon movies to go this year and the only place this one will make an impact in the awards is nominations for Best Song, I imagine. It is unfortunately also really dated. They decided to make the Trolls super modern, so they are saying YOLO, OMG and more terms to connect to the youth of today, meaning no one will give a crap about it in ten years.

2 out of 4.

The Lady In The Van

Now, I am not trying to be sexist here. But let’s think about The Lady In The Van. Is it creepy? Maybe a bit. I imagine a cat lady, even though if you live in a van, you probably don’t want cats in there as well. That’d be poopy.

But if this was titled The Man In The Van, most likely it would be some sort of scary horror film. Lady is intriguing. What is she doing in the van? Man is sketchy. What is he doing in the van? He should stop it immediately regardless!

I guess I should be thankful this is about a lady. Early year horror films are janky, but dramas early in the year might not be.

Overall, this babble is brought to you by: Genders. Men are scary, yo.

Brit
How British in this movie you may be asking? Well…

Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith) is just a really old lady, and she needs help. Sure, she lives in a van, but she is self employed selling pencils and notes on the street. Not a beggar, no sir. People wouldn’t take too kindly to that. This is 1970’s England, and it is perfect! She parks her van in a nice suburb area. Where the people are relatively well off and in that range where they will help her out and let her use the water closet, to make themselves feel like they are doing good in the world. And Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) just moved in.

Alan is a writer of plays and, of course, mildly successful. He has finally moved away from his Mam (Gwen Taylor), who might need to be put in a home herself soon. He is our narrator as well, and he describes that he has two halves. The one who writes, and the one who lives. Sure enough, he befriends this lady in the van, who has lived an apparently long and complicated life. He already writes a lot about old ladies, thanks to inspiration from his Mam, and he has to figure out if he wants to write about Miss Shepherd as well, or just experience her like a normal person would.

Miss Shepherd is also very secretive about parts of her life. She hates it when anyone plays music and will rant wildly if it occurs. She is being blackmailed by a cop (Jim Broadbent) for maybe killing a person. Yeah, that is important.

Guess how long this old lady stays on the street/ in his driveway? Guess! Over a decade, that is the only hint I will give.

We have a lot of neighbors who are in the story, played by Frances de la Tour, Roger Allam, and Deborah Findlay. There were also quite a bit of cameos. People who I thought were way too famous to be in this movie for one line or one small scene and never seen again. They include Dominic Cooper, Sam Spruell, James Corden, and Russell Tovey.

Sneak
And this is the lady sneaking out from behind her van.

It turns out all the people who had small cameos in this movie were there for a reason. And no, it wasn’t because James Corden is a douchebag who only gets 1 line in British films and doesn’t deserve a Late Night talk show program. The director, Nicholas Hytner, also directed The History Boys about 9 years ago. It was his last film and all of these random famous people cameos came from that film. The more you know!

Also, this movie is technically a 2015 film, despite getting released in America so late. So it was up for all the fancy awards and it was nominated for…one golden globe! It was also nominated for some British awards, as expected, given it has Maggie Smith in it, who is basically the British Meryl Streep. They love nominating these ladies.

Speaking of Smith, she was fantastic in this role. I have never seen her so old or decrepit. I was getting worried about Smith herself, given how pale and old she looked. Thankfully I remembered that make up departments in a movie were a thing and she doesn’t actually look like she is one step away from death. But damn do they pull it off in this movie. She is funny and naggy and cantankerous. Everything you’d hope for in a movie old lady, but not in someone you actually know.

The rest of the movie leaves something to be desired. Jennings plays an incredibly closeted British man well, but as a narrator and co-lead he is never really exciting enough. He is basically playing the audience half the time, just watching things happen around him, due to his timidness (or Britishness, really). The split personality thing was confusing for the most part, never really enjoyed how they had that play out. It was made weirder at the ending when they tried to explain it a bit more in the conclusion, too. The many other characters give an occasional smile, but don’t do a lot outside of show up once in awhile to be nosy.

Overall, you can probably watch this for Smith as she gives a wonderful eccentric performance. But this is not something you would want to watch ever again.

2 out of 4.

Into The Woods

Yay yay musicals! If you are a long time reader, you know I really like musicals. Which is why I am finally having a musical theme week. Yay Musical Week!

Into The Woods decided to be a musical coming out on Christmas Day. The last time that happened was two years prior for Les Miserables which I absolutely loved. It was also my first real attempt at watching it, outside of listening to a few songs ahead of time. I loved the shit out of Les Mis.

But going into Into The Woods, I knew a lot more about it ahead of time. I saw a performance of it from college actors, which I guess is above community theater and high school actors, but still not great professional people. And you know what? I down right hated it. It took a lot of familiar stories, intertwined them, gave us their endings, and that was the halfway point. The second half was all new material, it felt super awkward, it got darker and more metaphysical, and it dragged on an on. So yes, I thought it was too long. I thought there was only four or so unique sounding songs, everything else kind of melded together and by the end, it was as if everyone got a long slow ballad, one right after the other.

I guess you can say I was not at all looking forward to this movie. But hey, the fact that it was only a little bit more than two hours definitely helped ease it in.

Cow
One of the biggest changes is that the cow was played by a real cow. Boooo.

Classic fairy tales go into the dark woods, because the woods were the scariest parts of Germany. This was Pre-Nazis, post Lutherans, I think. So it makes sense.

Like who? Well, Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) needs to bring food to her grandmothers house, in the woods. Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) was told by his mom (Tracey Ullman) to sell their milkless cow in a nearby village, on the other side of the woods. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) wants to go to the three day ball on the other side of the woods, but she has to get past her step family (Lucy Punch, Christine Baranski, some other chick).

And there is also the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who cannot bare children. Turns out, a neighboring witch (Meryl Streep) put a curse on them. So now they have to go into the woods to get ingredients over the next few nights to fix that with a potion!

And surprisingly, that is most of the plot you need to know. We’ve got princes (Chris Pine, Billy Magnussen), girls with long hair (Mackenzie Mauzy), and wolves (Johnny Depp)! Shit, I bet the woods even have more secrets than the Library of Alexandria.

Baker's Wife
The biggest secret is what is real name of the baker’s wife? Can she not have an identity outside of her relationship?

So for those big fans of the musical, there were changes made of course. This is a PG movie because Disney is involved, you aren’t going to see everything you saw in the musical. Like most of Rapunzel’s story line. The second Agony song. No sex is had in this movie. And the sexy times are subdued.

But the only thing I really was sad to see missing was the Agony song reprise, because like the college school production, it was my favorite part. In the movie, it is probably even better as the two princes ham it up and I was laughing hard the entire time.

I do feel like the beginning of the was extremely quick and just kind of threw you into all of the plots far too fast. (Some of these complaints would be complaints with the actual broadway version. I am not reviewing how close they are, just how I feel watching the movie). So that was awkward. I thought I saw some sound editing mistakes, which is one of the hardest parts about a musical to make sure to get right. I also have a problem with the ending, that seems to just whimper and finish instead of an awesome musical bang.

But throughout the film it is definitely entertaining. My favorite would be Blunt (who had an excellent year). I didn’t know she had such singing chops, but she played a great character. I have heard Corden sing before, and it was okay. He was better in this movie than his other recent roles. I was also surprised with the singing voice of Chris Pine, so much that I don’t trust it. And Lilla Crawford, a little girl, had a surprisingly powerful voice as well.

Overall though, Into The Woods is a decently good time. Still has its bleak and sad moments and it may be one of the best musicals of the year, but this year was a bit weaker in that genre. At this point, I would say I enjoyed Muppets Most Wanted more, and probably Begin Again had better music. Despite that, the music has now been stuck in my head for several days, so I will most certainly get a soundtrack as soon as I can and listen to half of it over and over again.

3 out of 4.

One Chance

Finally, the moment everyone has been waiting for. A comedy biopic about the life of Paul Potts!

What? You don’t know who Paul Potts is? I mean, come on, he is… uhh. Shit. I never heard of him either. This is a real story? I just thought it was a comedy about a guy wanting to sing Opera and people getting in his way.

So this guy got famous for winning Britain’s Got Talent, which is the first iteration of that show, and thus the first ever winner. I guess that makes him special? Sure.

One Chance is a reference to the show being his only opportunity to make it big and stop selling cell phones, and I guess the name of his first album.

Clown
And who can really hate a sad clown?

Before Britain’s Got Talent, Paul was just a fat kid in a choir. He sang like an angel, typical of kids, and got beat up for it, also typical for kids. Yet somehow into his early adult life, Paul (James Corden) was still getting beat up by local yokels every once in awhile. Bunch of savages…

Well, things are about to change. A girl he was talking to on the internet is coming over to visit! Julz (Alexandria Roach), and she was a real woman! Internet success! His job as a cell phone salesman is okay, but the manager (Mackenzie Crook) is inept. Either way, they like each other, and he just recently won a talent competition for cash. This will let him travel to Venice and take a real Opera class and maybe meet the Pavarotti.

I have been told this Pavarotti is a real big Opera name.

Either way, he does good there too. Performing with Alessandra (Valeria Bilello), he is able to earn a chance to perform for Pavarotti. But the theme of this movie and his life is that something goes wrong.

Paul is hit with injury after injury, with some freak accidents, to always take his career steps back before he gets his next “One Chance.”

Then you know, eventually Britain’s Got Talent does something.

His parents are played by Julie Walters and Colm Meaney.

Winner
Oh shit, he wins! Surprise!

Once he auditions for BGT, the movie quickly recaps that he wins and becomes famous, tours, sings for the queen, and then end.

Huh? What? But how did fame change him? We don’t get much of that story. I guess being a success isn’t as interesting?

One Chance is an incomplete biography that is comical in nature, in that bad things keep happening to him. Unfortunately, while watching it I could help but wonder who the hell care? Knowing how he got famous, and knowing that it was produced by the same people who did BGT, it just feels like an awkward advertisement to make their show seem relevant.

“See? We are awesome. We saved him!”

Yeah. Who cares?

A guy who is unlucky does not on its own an interesting movie make. I don’t know if James Corden was actually singing, but it didn’t seem like it, and felt pretty awkward.

I feel like this film could have been a lot better, but after viewing, the trailer makes for a much more enjoyable and time saving option than the film itself.

1 out of 4.

Begin Again

After the very recent disappointing musical that I saw, I quickly began looking at the other musicals to come out this year that might be of interest.

So Begin Again is a smaller musical coming out this year. I am not getting my hopes up that it will be a traditional musical in any way, because it is begin directed by John Carney. Carney brought us Once about five years ago, and although it was turned into a Broadway musical, the movie version is very musical lite. Just a few songs and a lot of emotion.

I can only assume this will be similar.

Ear Phnes
Try to say the movie title five times fast. Hell, just try to say it once.

Begin Again is a story about love, music, and losing it all.

Like Dan (Mark Ruffalo) who has lost it all, his love and music. He is getting outted at the record company he made with friend Saul (Mos Def) for not being able to bring in a successful act for several years. He also is living alone, his ex wife (Catherine Keener) has custody of their teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld). He has lost everything he has ever loved, until he hears a sound…

Like the sound of Greta (Kiera Knightley) reluctantly performing on an Open Mic night because her friend (James Corden) forced her too. She is having a rough time as well. She moved over to New York with her boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine). Dave and Greta are song writers together, but a song Dave sang was featured in a popular movie, so now they want to sign him to a contract. Yay success, but boo the price that fame brings.

Dan hopes that Greta will be able to get his life back on the right track in every direction.

Maybe they will also make some sweet and sexy music too, along the way.

Also, CeeLo Green is in this movie for a small part, so we can have half of the original The Voice judges in here.

Phone
Just like how they totally didn’t make this scene for Apple product placement, I am using this picture for the same not reason.

As expected, in this movie music plays a central role in almost every scene, but it isn’t a standard musical. No one is singing and dancing throughout the streets (kind of). Although, there is copious amounts of singing, dancing, and listening to music in the streets, it is all completely natural. All performances are performances, whether on a stage, in a “sound studio” or at home with a small recording device.

The music is also really fucking good. I don’t remember how much music was in Once, because I mostly just remember that one famous song, but Begin Again has a crap load of songs. And it is more than just artsy fartsy indie music too! I am not saying it is completely diverse, but it is there. Each song felt great. The soundtrack of regular background music also felt pretty unique.

Basically, I am saying that I am mad the soundtrack isn’t out yet because I want it hard.

The acting was pretty good as well. I mean that in regards to Knightley/Ruffalo/Steinfeld mostly. I am happy that Steinfeld is finally in a good role that can showcase her talent, unlike her last few movies. Ruffalo did give off a kind of creepy vibe for about half the movie to me. And this is completely different side of Knightley that we haven’t really seen before. I mean, singing songs!

I wouldn’t describe anyone else as being that spectacular. Most of the other side roles could have been anyone, including Levine’s character.

Overall, this is a fantastic movie, and personally, I liked it a lot more than Once. But then again, I only saw Once once, and I was way more immature then.

3 out of 4.