Tag: Musical

A Week Away

You know what is exactly one week away from today? Whatever day it is today again! Hooray never changing cyclical weeks of 7 days!

The only thing I knew about A Week Away going into it was that it was about a troubled teen and maybe a musical. A musical I never heard about? You certainly have my attention, random movie drop on Netflix. In fact, its musicalness is why I decided to not watch it on my phone but instead at a better place/time when I could give it my full attention.

With musicals I need to pay attention to the dances, the plot, the lyric choices, how they filmed various fun scenes, all of that. I can’t just give it a listen and a half watch.

It turns out, A Week Away is exactly worth an eighth of a watch.

fists
At least they are all fans of black power. 

Will (Kevin Quinn) is some troubled kid. He is in the foster system, both parents dead, and he is just completely rambunctious. We are talking something ridiculous like, 80 schools in 2 years. That is an exaggeration on my part, but whatever they said in the movie was larger than what should be likely as well. He is about to go back to juvenile detention because no one else will take him in. Oh noooo. “Please I can change despite my arrests and saying I can change before!”

So he gets a shot. A mother (Sherri Shepherd) and a similar aged boy, George (Jahbril Cook). They aren’t taking him in, but they are going to take him to a week long camp. Will thinks that is quite dumb, but its better than Juvie, so fine. And when he gets there, he sees all the happy teenage kids his age, also wearing no branded clothing, and they sing a song together and mention…God?

“Wait, this is a Jesus camp” both Will and the audience will say together at some point. Did I misshear a lyric? Did they say God was a glorious leader? That sounds like North Korea stuff. Anyways. Not only is this a church camp that Will got sucked into. This is also a religious film that you got sucked into, and you had no idea! Me neither! At least the second song hints at the theme and the third song makes it quite damn obvious.

Anyways. Will has to do camp things, which is great, because he likes a girl Avery (Bailee Madison), and he will lie about his past, to help his team win the camp stuff against the other teams, and also help other romances.

Also starring Iain Tucker, Kat Conner Sterling, and David Koechner. Wait, Koechner? Todd Packer from The Office? And all of those crude and crass roles? Why is he in a religious film? Is he part of the trickery to swindle people into watching it?

guitar
Is there anything more dangerous than a white boy with a guitar?

I feel duped, I really do. I was excited to watch a musical about who knows what, that came in under the radar and no prior hype from me. I was ready for it. Musicals are a rare commodity. But faith films are not that rare, and generally most of the time, they are pretty darn bad. I do actively avoid most of them it turns out for that reason. Every once in awhile you can get a big movie that is faith based and not terrible, but they are huge exceptions, for many reasons. 

A Week Away is not a bad movie because it is a faith film, however, it is just a regular bad movie. I am not sure if it is going for the High School Musical crowd, if so, they are like a decade too late. That is definitely how I can describe this one, with better camera work (like from HSM3). But it turns out half of this movie is a Jukebox musical, as they take already existing songs. Did I know any of these songs before hand? No. but I know how to research and I know how many of the songs felt very shoehorned in.

Darn it. To make a good musical, the songs need to give the characters growth. It needs to express things that words cannot do on their own. It cannot just be generic music, which a lot of the songs in this film end up feeling generic. Oh we want to do a remake of a song named Dive? That mentions rivers? Let’s just have the characters sing it on the beach of the lake, because water references. Boom. Musical song made.

Jukebox musicals are easy because hey, music is already written. Jukebox musicals are hard, because you need to take something already written and it has to adapt super hard to your work in a unique way so that it isn’t just a song being sung that kind of sort of deals with the topics. What would happen in RENT if instead of La Vie Boheme, they just sang some pop song about never giving up or whatever? It would have no emotion or feeling behind it. And that is true for most of the songs in this movie. They feel like they just want to do pop (slightly elevated Kidz Bop) religious songs that don’t help the story. 

The story itself is weak. I don’t know why it is a religious camp with so little religious stuff going on. It seems to be just an activity camp focused entirely on sports and games between three teams. And I guess that is church camp now? They go out of there way to even call a day Sunday, and no church happens that day. There is one scene around a bonfire that is Church-y, and who knows when that is supposed to take place. It can’t even commit to its theme.

I will say, the point system doesn’t make a lot of sense for the camp. The final talent show is crap. Having every single event center on our main people, in their boring sort of romances, including every game and activity is bizarre. Why did they have moment to even have sign up for events at the beginning if ever team already did every event? Come on now.

Heed my warning. Do not be fueled into the musical that is bad, but also a faith film that even tackles the subject of faith poorly. 

0 out of 4.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Lee Daniels has never been known to be shy about the types of movies he wants to do. He did Precious, which was groundbreaking in lead and topic (which is unfortunate, because it should not have been ground breaking) and The Butler, which was like the Forrest Gump of Butlers.

And now, he wants to tackle on a bio film about Billie Holiday, famous American singer from the 30’s to the 50’s. A film about music with music but not a musical. Apparently he was reluctant to cast Andra Day in the titular role, because she is a singer not an actress, but was blown away by a quick acting real she put together. And I am so glad she did.

I hate it when bios cast purely actors who cannot sing in films as singers. You can tell the difference and it really bugs me. And yes that is still one of my issues with Bohemian Rhapsody, a film that had a lot of issues. Let singers play singers. Don’t give me recordings of the original artist someone pretending. I want someone who can sing like them too.

Now who was he going to cast as America in The United States vs. Billie Holiday?

singing
Sing like, look like, all of the above. We need perfect castings!

At this point in the movie, Billie Holiday (Andra Day) was already pretty famous. Why? Well, she was a good singer sure, but her soulful an sorrowful song Strange Fruit really got to people. It was a song about the southern states doing lynching and hangings of free black citizens, and Holiday obviously had a problem with it.

However, the people in charge, the government, the FBI, her show promoters and venue owners had a problem with the song, not with what the song was about. Weirdly mixed priorities. They wanted to put a stop to her song in whatever way they could. They couldn’t arrest her for singing or ban a song, But they could arrest her for other things.

And then began the long campaign to try and ruin Billie Holiday’s life, because they didn’t want her to sing a song or cause a revolution. So they put some moles in her close circle. They got her arrested on drug charges mostly and some conduct things. They really had it out for her and kept being pretty big jerks about it. Fucking FBI.

Also starring Tyler James Williams, Garrett Hedlund, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Rob Morgan, Leslie Jordan, Natasha Lyonne, and Trevante Rhodes.

rain
That is the tears of white upper class people feeling oppressed by a song. 

The story of Billie Holiday is not unique and unfortunately familiar, despite being a unique and fantastic individual herself.

In fact, thanks to recent films, I am learning the the US FBI was kind of huge dicks in the early and mid 1900’s. Probably after that too. Are they dicks now? I have no idea, but they were definitely more aggressive dicks then. (Although if they are being aggressive dicks now, we will have to wait until files become publicized and we might have to deal with this for decades).

Anyways, they are huge dicks confirmed. It is confirmed here. It is confirmed in Judas and the Black Messiah. It is confirmed in MLK/FBI, all movies released within a month or so of each other. Very interesting this very apparent and strong theme. Who else did they screw over? How have they negatively impacted the growth of American and our history?

Back to the movie. Day absolutely destroys it as Billie Holiday, and that is the main aspect to talk about. The voice, the singing, the swagger, she was great. She really puts it all out there for this performance, you can tell it is personal.

It is long movie, but one that will likely lose luster over time, especially due to its similar (unfortunate) themes to other recent films. I learned a lot about a musical artist who I can say I definitely didn’t know much about before. And at least we have that going for us.

3 out of 4.

Music

Hey look, its the movie Music! You know, the one recently nominated for some golden globes? It received a nomination for both Best Musical or Comedy and a nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. That must be why everyone is talking about it, right? Right?

Oh wait, no. That is…anger I see and hear on the internet. Probably more anger than I have ever seen from any film nominated before. And wow, those IMDB ratings are super low. And (checks my own rating), wow, a 0 out of 4. I don’t know if I have ever given a 0 out of 4 to anything nominated for Best Film. That is pretty bizarre and rare.

What could have people (and myself) so up in arms about a simple movie, directed by Sia, our favorite wig wearing singer?

award winning
“Shhh, don’t listen to the haters, you are wonderful.” – Sia, probably.
Zu (Kate Hudson) is recently out of incarceration and living on her own. She used to do drugs (a lot of drugs) and also sell drugs (a lot of drugs) and that got her put away from some time. She is on the mend, on the rehab, and is clean, but her life is still a bit poop.

Her sister’s name is Music (Maddie Ziegler) and she, in fact, loves music. She is also a mostly nonverbal autistic girl living with her mom in a small apartment. She always has headphones on and is listening to music (way to pick a good name as a baby, I guess), and able to go about her day. She can do a whole lot on her own, she can leave the home, go on walks, and all of that, no issues! Unless her life suddenly changes or something alters her schedule. Like when their mom dies.

So now Zu is brought in to take care of her sister, and gains any and all rights over her. She doesn’t think she can “handle her” and wants out of it as soon as she can, but also, family, you know. And since Zu is still very much mostly in on the drug selling game, it is not like her job is friendly towards those with “problems” they might have at home.

Also starring Hector Elizondo, Ben Schwartz, Sia, and Leslie Odom Jr.

listen
There is a Tropic Thunder reference I can’t make anymore that applies here.
Very briefly, let’s talk about the backlash this film had regardless of how the actual film was. A lot of people, especially autistic people, had a problem with Sia casting Ziegler as a nonverbal high level autistic girl, instead of actually going with an autistic actress who could better represent the community. People were quick to point this out when the trailer dropped, and Sia went totally “I am a bad director” at them and argued with people on twitter, and didn’t listen to the people affected, and changed her story several times about what is going on and just full on ape shit rude.  She has been famous for decades, so she certainly should be above any of that by now and went to the deepest levels of not giving a fuck about others.

A lot of what was said and spoken out against has points. It would be different if it is was just a low level of autism, but Ziegler went really really far into the spectrum with her acting, so the whole thing shows as mocking and uncomfortable. The entire film.

It is very clear Sia just loves working with Ziegler and wants her in every project she does, given their relationship in music videos for the last decade. This film seems to actually exist to create more fun and colorful videos to Sia songs. I lost count how many times it happens, more than five. I believe they are to represent what Music’s reality looks like, as it features the people in her life, and singing and dancing and elaborate costumes. It is all very much on Sia’s brand. I guess that is Sia stating that she pictures her music videos as an autistic girls reality fuel? I don’t know.

But back to more of the movie. We have an insulting performance by the lead, a main plot that is basically having to “deal with family members that need help” and the burden of autism, and a shit ton of Sia music videos that thematically are repetitive. She claims to be woke and trying to represent the autism community, but she is doing it by failing to represent the actual autism community. Hell, there is even a line where they decide to culturally appropriate spirit animal and no character on screen is there to correct it.

Look, this film is problematic in its obvious (and Sia agrees) ableism that is being shoved in the viewer’s faces. There are plenty of reasons to avoid it for all of that. But the film itself is also a really bad movie and completely should be blasted on that front as well. And for something like the Golden Globes to nominate it? Well, awards are usually bought anyways.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to listen to the long version of Breathe Me one last time and be annoyed that this basically puts a dark mark on the absolutely perfect ending of Six Feet Under as well.

0 out of 4.

Hamilton

I am not throwing away this review, but I am going to keep it short and sweet.

Bless Lin-Manuel Miranda, who decided in 2016 they needed to shoot their musical with the original cast. They could have held on to this for over a decade and waited and waited. They said it would come out October, 2021! And then? Then pandemic.

And now it is out much, much, much earlier. On Disney+ so most people don’t have to pay much at all to see it, versus the theaters (Which it should still go to when it is safe, I would buy that ticket).

Thank you for spending three days getting this filmed, including the off-Broadway day for all of the cast and crew, putting in extra shows to make this thing out there.


It’s Alexander Hamilton, singing on the screen for you.

Wait for it! The entire original cast and crew is in this picture!

Anthony Ramos, Chris Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Jonathan Groff, Leslie Odom Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Sydney James Harcourt.

And its the Hamilton musical, damn it! This is my plot outline. It is about Alexander Hamilton and some more people. There.


The room where this whole thing happened was actually in a theater in Broadway!
A phenomenon greater than most other phenomenon, I can die happy now that this is available. I never could see it on stage, and I likely wouldn’t now anytime remotely soon thanks to pandemics. This is a blessing and we should cherish it.

This counts as a movie for the year? I’ll take it. Now I have given two 4 out of 4s so far this year.

What are you waiting for, what do you stall for? It’s available now, go see it.

One last time, this musical is love.


My wife said I needed some more review aspects to this, fine. I cried five times despite hearing this musical so many times, some of my cries were new, some where at the same time I cried during just the music.

A few songs were enhanced thanks to the visuals. Like Satisfied, and seeing King George in more scenes. The use of moving stage was used wonderfully. The ending is so much better (of an already awesome song) with the dancers and background.

I will note that Odom Jr.’s Burr uses a much more lispy voice in this recording versus the original cast recording. I assume that was done in the main show way before it, maybe it is easier to sing with that voice in the long term, maybe it is to make him seem a bit more sneaky, but it is noticeable and completely acceptable.

4 out of 4.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

The last time I had an actual positive review for a movie where Will Ferrell had a leading role was in 2010 for Everything Must Go. That is basically a whole decade of meh or worst.

“What about The Lego Movie? You can count The Lego Movie!” I did count that! I gave it a 2/4 and stand by that still.

So I will be clear that I fully intended to just ignore Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Even the name hurts me a bit.

And then I got stupid one night and just put it on (I lasted like, a day). And the good news is, it could have been a lot worse!


Everyone cheer for something to make us happy…please?
ABBA changed the world forever with their performance on Eurovision. I don’t know if that is true, but that is what I gather as an American who has never seen Eurovision. It is the main band I have heard come out of it and be really world vision, so I guess so?

It certainly changed the world for Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell), who seeing that performance as a kid claimed he would one day win Eurovision as well. And he would take Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams) on this decades long journey, the girl who never talked but found out she can sing!

Decades later, they are Fire Saga, with hits and electric pianos. No one really cares about them in their small village, but they get gigs as the only band to play covers and silly songs. Lars’ dad (Pierce Brosnan) is a typical disappointed dad based on his son’s dreams.

But of course, somehow they make it to Eurovision! Thanks to plot. And that is where things get slightly more difficult. Highly rated to win Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens) out of Russia takes a liking to Sigrit and might put the duo in jeopardy before they can even perform!

Also starring Melissanthi Mahut (who is also Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey), Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Demi Lovato, Graham Norton, Jamie Demetriou, Alfrun Rose, Elina Alminas, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, and Mikael Persbrandt.


Parts of this still look like the men are painted with the background.
From the various plots and subplots, some of them stuck the landing and some of them floundered. The Icelandic villain is obvious throughout the film, but over so quickly and so unnecessary that it just takes away from the rest of the movie. If all of that was cut, they would just need to have a new explanation for one aspect of the film and it would still work fine.

What does work on the “villain” scale is Stevens the Russian singer. Because he isn’t really a villain. He isn’t even a bad guy. He is just not with Ferrell’s character, but he seems genuine in wanting his own success for himself and for McAdams’ character. He says things that are correct, and I have no hate for him as a character.

The only main character one would dislike is, (unfortunately? of course?), Ferrell’s lead. He has one goal and one goal only, but for whatever reason, that means he can be a dick to those who love him. His reactions make no sense. The viewer are supposed to hate him and find him annoying, but I’m not sure why because it makes me never want to rewatch the regular parts of the movie again. His only great reoccurring joke is the hatred towards the Americans.

Ferrell’s character is so bad, it makes us sad that McAdams’ is with him at all throughout the film. McAdams carries this movie for me, her character is so innocent and fun and wholesome you just want her to succeed and hug her. We can get it by the end, and sure, missed 20-30 years of growth between them before that. But still, come on, step up your game lady.

The music is the real reason why the movie can get a higher rating overall. It is so fun and interesting. Having past winners as cameos is nice, and the “Song-a-long” scene made me feel so Euphoric (while also annoyed at how auto-tuned it was, and how badly cut it was). Our final song of the competition was wonderful and I cannot get Ja Ja Ding Dong out of my head.

I offer some disappointment that a lot of the main characters aren’t the real voices uses. Of course Ferrell’s is his, its unmistakable. McAdams’ is apparently her voice and another’s mixed together, so it is “slightly” there. Stevens’, despite being a singer, is entirely dubbed by a more operatic dude instead of mixed based on Stevens’ own wishes. Even our Greek character is someone else singing! All of the Eurovision stars and actual musicians likely really sing, but they also are autotuned, so nothing gets to feel natural.

Overall, ESC:TSOFI is a cute story, an overall loving story, a story with some comedy and a lot more heart, and fun music numbers to keep you entertained along the way. It might be the pandemic talking, but it is something that feels necessary right now.

3 out of 4.

Trolls: World Tour

And now we can talk about the biggest release since the theaters went under! Not the first new release of a movie that was supposed to go to the theaters, but the biggest at least.

Trolls: World Tour was moved around a few times on the calendar, and it turns out that they probably should have kept that date in February for making that money.

At first saying they would go straight to digital instead was almost an inspiration. But then as more and more movies got pushed back, including to future years even, and all left but Trolls. That is a bit weird right? Some other theater films changed to VOD and a lot of them were movies that were expected to bomb.

Did they not actually think Trolls: World Tour would do well, or are they sacrificing profits to bring some happiness to those stuck inside? Hard to say. The first Trolls was okay, and in general, this plot of the sequel made me super weary, but that doesn’t mean I wanted it to fail either.

onward
Ooooh, they better not say Onward, that’d help the competition.
Ah, life is wonderful again. Until it isn’t.

Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is in charge of her people, every day has singing, dancing, and hugs because the Bergens are cool now and doing their own thing.  Branch (Justin Timberlake) probably wants to make Troll babies with her.

But Poppy gets an invite from a Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) to come to her World Tour. This is where we get to have the secret backstory of Trolls that never came up in the first film. You know. There are different troll kingdoms out there each with a magical string each that gives them the music to get by in life. One of Pop (our trolls). Of Funk, Classical, Country Techno, and of course, Hard Rock, where Queen Barb comes from.

So Poppy thinks that Queen Barb wants to unite all of the strings together to unite all the music genres and unite the trolls. But really, Queen Barb just wants to take all the strings to make them rock and make rock music the only music for everyone.

Oh no!

Also starring a whole lot of other voices, some new, some old: James Corden, Ron Funches, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson .Paak, Sam Rockwell, George Clinton, Mary J. Blige, Kenan Thompson, Kunal Nayyar, Flula Borg, Ester Dean, Jamie Dornan, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Ozzy Osbourne.

rock
Rock is evil. Satan is rock.
Lame new Trolls backstory aside, it turns out there is a little bit of good backstory in there as well, but it is a mid movie reveal. It turns out that the former bad guys aren’t necessarily who we thought, and I thought that would be a big turning point for the film.

I can’t wait to see where it goes from there, and from my point of view, basically nowhere. Poppy wanted to unite the Trolls together to let them experience all music. Barb wanted to unit the Trolls together to make them all listen to rock music. And despite revelations made, the ending is exactly as one would expect going into the film. Exactly.

And thus I am left disappointed.

The music is okay for the most part, we do get more genres, but I didn’t feel like were stiffed in the first one due to how diverse pop itself actually is. There is no original song like Get Back Up Again, and that is the real shame. I believe the only original song is at the end, and that is supposed to be our new Can’t Stop The Feeling. Which sure, is an original song, but no where close as exciting as Get Back Up Again. I am not counting songs where it is meant to a famous one with some changed lyrics as original, like Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Overall, it is likely this movie would have done just fine in the theaters. It is better than the animated show, but relatively clunky and beyond simplistic with the plot, despite rays of deeper hope in the middle. I will call the original better despite the same grade, because this one did not make me cry.

2 out of 4.

Yesterday

When I first saw the trailer for Yesterday, I will admit it intrigued me. A world where only one person knew about The Beatles? Okay, cool.

A world where something never happened can be a hard subject to take over. Are the writers/director going to really drive hard into all the consequences of the bigger band ever never existing? Will a lot of the world be different? Or will it just be an awkward hole that needs filling.

And honestly, I don´t care about The Beatles at all. So hearing some guy do covers of their music all movie doesn´t appeal to me in the slightest, so I would go in only caring about the story, the why, and the ramifications.

sing
He also seems to be screaming instead of singing most of these shots.
Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a British man from an Indian family, trying to make it big in the music business. He can write songs and play guitar, but no one gives a damn about him. His best friend for a long time is his manager and a school teacher, and Ellie (Lily James) has always supported him, even when he wants to give up.

And he wants to give up, a lot. Especially after he is hit by a bus when a global blackout occurs.

After his recovery, he plays a Beatles song for his friends, and none of them recognize it. That is a dumb joke, but whatever. And when he references them to more and more people, no one has a clue what he is talking about. Shit, even the internet is confused by his nonsense.

Time to exploit this knowledge, sing all of their songs, and become world famous! But wait, it is 2019. Will people care about the Beatles songs outside of the context of their role in history? Aren´t they all basic forms of music compared to some of the complex music we have today?

Eh, who cares. Let´s get rich and deal with the how and moral implications later.

Also starring Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, and Joel Fry.

shout
Scream number 2.

If you want a light movie with some Beatles covers and some light romance too, then I got a movie with you. If you care at all about plot or the ramifications, well, do not watch this movie.

This is the type of film where they had the idea and stopped developing it after the idea. There were a few cute moments about OTHER popular things that did not exist because of the Beatles fame. But the only one that made direct sense was Oasis, because of course. The filmmakers just nonchalantly picked other famous things to delete as well.

Were they because of the no Beatles? Were they also wiped during this weird event? Were they the real thing that was disappeared and that caused no Beatles? They do not explain it at all, and do not make an attempt.

And also, as most of us would assume, no one would get super famous from Beatles music in 2019, if it didn´t come out 60-70 years ago. No way at all. So his strange rise to success feels forced and at no point am I given a believable picture of this strange rise to fame.

Just kidding. A scene where his parents gave no fuck that he was unveiling a new song for them to hear, and interrupted him multiple times? That was believable.

A concept that could have been great, but was instead left up to mysteries and lack of thought.

1 out of 4.

Cats

Cats.

I was looking forward to Cats! When the trailer dropped, I was giddy with how ridiculous it looked. People bad mouthed the CGI designs, which I can see, but I figured I’d get used to it.

I love musicals, so I was excited to see a new musical on the screen, especially from an established property. I knew very little about it, except some cat names, and the song Memories.

But most importantly, I saw the movie Six Degrees of Separation, based on a play of the same name, with Will Smith in one of his first film roles. Why are they related? Because there is a long discussion about the musical cats being made into a movie, how it could not be done, and with Ian McKellen‘s character trying to get a role in the film.

It took 26 years, but he finally got that role!

TS
Cat Boobs

Alright, so in this movie about cats, there is kind of a plot?

It takes place in the alley’s of London, where every year, these cats gather together and do a singing competition, where one of the cats is chosen one! The chosen cat gets to arise into the heavens and be reborn. There is a lot they could do about that plot if they wanted to, like questioning motives and stuff. Maybe something like Logan’s Run!

But they don’t, we and they accept all of this. We get to be told their story, because a new cat, Victoria (Francesca Hayward) gets thrown into their ally from a bag, abandoned on the same night of their festival. So we get some narrator cat Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild) to take her under the wing and introduce people.

These cats are all about their names and having a purpose in their lives. There is a cat for a very specific focus, and I guess that is it. Only some cats want to be reborn though, and for what reason is mostly unclear.

Anyways, a lot of cats get together to sing about themselves, and one cat, Macavity (Idris Elba) is a bad guy cat who wants to eliminate the competition so only he remains.

Starring a lot of weirdly named cats. Like Danny Collins, Naoimh Morgan, Mette Towley, Laurie Davidson, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Ray Winstone, and Steven McRae.

Wilson
More Cat Boobs.
Assumption: I will get used to these CGI looks for the cats and maybe the trailers weren’t just super polished.

Reality: Oh my goodness, these CGI looking cats look terrible. Why did they not do cat costumes!?

Yes, it is really distracting/off putting. I can see a lot of work done on most of their faces, but the rest of them, neck down, just feel like poor animation for the most part. When they are doing elaborate dance numbers, taps, or flips…it does nothing for me. I don’t know if there are real people behind them doing that. They might be! They probably are! But it also feels like it could be completely animated and just a face, which makes it zero levels of impressive.

It makes sense that the main song people know is Memory. It is probably the only song in the entire musical that isn’t very repetitive and full of a cat’s name over and over. Wanna know which song is sung by Rum Tum Tugger? The one with his name a whole lot. Shit, Pokemon execs probably saw Cats and thought them saying their name a lot was a good idea and launched the biggest multi-media franchise of all time.

This is a movie that is just a lot of introductions, and eventually it ends. It is visually appalling to watch not amazing CGI cat bodies dancing in front of pretty bad CGI backgrounds.

And one final note, how many times do they sing Memory in the musical live version? I feel like it heard it three times, or maybe one of those times was extra long. It did not have an amazing impact on me at the end when I already heard the thing 40 minutes prior. Such a strange decision.

Easily one of the worst films of the year, and a shocking (because of my naivety and love of musicals) one at that.

0 out of 4.

Frozen II

Seven years ago, Frozen hit the world one Thanksgiving week, and we weren’t ready for it. I don’t recall a lot about the trailers, but I do recall the teaser trailer, and it was very basic.

And you know what? I loved it. Most of the soundtrack was really good. They didn’t use Menzel enough, and Groff was ignored stupidly, but they could have done better. It was still a really good sign of Disney amping up their animation department, and led to the also quite perfect Moana!

And let me say, that for Frozen II, I wasn’t dreading it at all. I loved their first teaser trailer. It made this movie look darker, more plot focused, more adventure full. I was ready to be blown away.

horse
A water horse in water? That makes sense. Land horses are on land.
Three years after the events of the first film, everything in Arendelle is going so darn swell. The gates have been open, people are happy and prosperous, and oh golly gee gumdrops, everything will stay the same.

Except… Elsa (Idina Menzel) is starting to hear a strange calling in the distance, and only she is hearing it. And Anna (Kristen Bell) is helping run things, she loves having all these freedoms. Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) is about to propose to Anna, but she is so preoccupied with her sister things keep coming up. And Olaf (Josh Gad) is dealing with his strange existence, getting older and more mature.

All of this only slightly matters. What matters the most is that voice, and all of the exposition the beginning of the film talked about. There used to be an enchanted nearby that the old King saw when he was a boy, and the two groups tried to be friends. But, betrayal! Sadness! And a lot of magic left the world.

I guess Elsa just has that magical adventure itch, because she gets the gang together after a disaster in their city to try and enter that blocked off enchanted forest to see if they can figure out what is going on, or maybe just that voice.

Also starring various voices by Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, and Jeremy Sisto.

deer
Reindeers rush better than people, Sven wouldn’t you say that’s true? 

Really early on in Frozen II is when I realized things weren’t going to be as good as I had hoped. It started with a scene from their childhood, pre trolls interfering with memory. And it had the long story their dad said about the forest, and a bonus mom song. And the entirety of the movie relies on the scene.

The entirety of a sequel relying on a scene that didn’t happen in the first film? Ugh. There were a lot of plot points they could have naturally done based on the first film. Hell, they could have done most of this film without that scene. But really this just feels like changing the canon. Sure, that kid conversation could have happened in their life and not changed the first film at all. But it now just feels tacked on.

Another downgrade for me is the music overall. Now of course, I love that they gave Groff his own song and parts of other songs, keeping true to his character. They also used Menzel more. But most of the songs don’t capture the spirit to me like they did in the first film. I already listened to the soundtrack a second time and I am not left with whimsy, I’m not wanting to hear and sing a long over and over.

Again, overall, the plot is okay. It has some good parts, some lame parts, some rushed parts, and some tacked on parts. Some of the Elsa and Anna scenes are really strong, but the film overall feels a lot weaker. And that is a shame. It will still probably win an Oscar for animated awards because the Academy is usually really lame though.

2 out of 4.

The Lion King

It’s the circle of life, and fifteen years after The Lion King graced our screens, we are now given a new The Lion King. But there is so much different between the two! You see, the one twenty-five years ago was animated, while this one is…animated differently!

Only one scene had some live action components, and that was in the opening montage of animals, some of the backgrounds were real. That is it. Everything else you couldn’t even call a green screen, because it is 100% made on computers.

We just really want you to make sure you don’t call this the Live Action version, like a lot of their recent remakes. It is not, it is still animated, and nothing is real anymore anyways.

hakuna my tatas
Hakuna my tatas, life is a lie.

Ah good. Simba (Donald Glover) exists. Maybe this time his Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wont trick him into thinking that he killed his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Oh… Think again!

No, but this time it is different. We have more animals! Like, we got this spiritual one, Rafiki (John Kani) who likes to wait around and draw on his walls. We got Nala (Beyoncé) who likes to wrestle, we got super mad Zazu (John Oliver) just trying to give advice, we got Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), mad that her husband had to go and get dead. Okay a lot of that is the same.

Uhhhh, we got Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), and they like to relax, but this time more animals in the oasis have words too!

Oh, oh, oh, the real difference. None of our hyenas are unable to speak! Yeah that’s it. Nailed it.

Also featuring the voices of Chance the Rapper, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, JD McCray, Keegan-Michael Key, Penny Johnson Jerald, and Shahadi Wright Joseph.

circle of life
“Shit, I was brought into this world just for this?” – Simba, probably.

Let’s take something people like, bring it back again, and make it worse, while also technically improving it. Because sure, the animals looked very realistic, which is what they were going for. Technology sure is wonderful.

And the realistic animals is also the cause of all of the other problems in this movie.

Because they are so realistic, having them talk looks awkward. And more awkward than talking animal films like Homeward Bound, because in Homeward Bound, they didn’t try to match words to their mouth movement, they just put voice overs. Watching the animals talk is distracting and downright wrong. The animals don’t have emotions on their faces either, so when the voice actors ATTEMPT to give emotion, then it is seemingly lost and wasted.

I do say attempt, because honestly, most of the voice acting was phoned in. People coming from the movie usually talk about Eichner and Rogen being the stars, because at least they are funny. Everyone else is super serious all the time. Sure, there are dark moments, but many characters provide laughs in the original.

However, even Rogen falls short for me, because his singing is terrible. I can’t enjoy Hakuna Matata when Rogen is bringing it down. Poor Eichner, actually singing well. Speaking of songs, whatever they did to Be Prepared will forever be seen as one of the biggest mistakes int his films history.

Now, what I am most disappointed about is this movie added almost 30 minutes of material, so I figured we’d get expanded characters. All we really got expanded was Sarabi, and that is barely. We still have a whole trove of lionesses that are just background, and still only three hyenas. No new animals to speak of and introduce as characters.

The only little bit of reprieve we get is in the oasis, where finally some random animals are also talking and adding in words, especially during the grub scene. How do we not have more of that?! It is so easy to do, and plus, more goddamn toys to sell.

Instead we got a movie with worse music, worse voice acting, technically better animation, but a lot less heart.

1 out of 4.