A purrfect catastrophe
Cats (2019): A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life.
It’s not hard to know what you’re going to get walking into a screening of Cats. Universally panned, bombing at the box office, the reputation of this film far proceeds itself at this point. Yet, never have I ever been more excited to watch a film as I was going into Cats. I even flirted with dressing up as one because, why not? If you’re gonna go watch Cats at 10:30 at night, might as well go all out. Do what the film should have done and dress up in a unitard and dance around for two hours, right? From the first moment to the end credits of this 110 minute cat-tanic disaster, my hands never left my mouth. I was shocked and amazed, yet delighted that something as purrible as this could possibly be green-lit by a studio, let alone have that studio legitimately think they had a glitzy, deserving awards contender on their hands. (Cats has since been removed from Universal’s “For Your Consideration” awards page. Don’t worry, though: cats have 9 lives, right?) This film somehow, inexplicably exists, and honestly we are better off for it.
Do you need a summary of what Cats is? Is that why you’re here? Probably not, but if you are, Cats comes to us from direct Tom Hooper (bless his heart, he’s done good work before and will make good films again. If he can get over the PTSD of looking at this digital fur technology for an entire production cycle) and is an adaptation of the musical of the same name from playright and man-who-just-discovered-LSD Andrew Lloyd Weber. The musical is essentially cats introducing themselves for 2 hours via hit-or-miss numbers, with the final cat (that the rest initially shun because that cat is poor and uncharismatic, but we won’t talk about the message of hating something simply because it’s different) singing the (admittedly) iconic “Memory” and instantly winning the competition for 9 lives. Or the Jellicle Cat award. I don’t know, whatever trippy title Weber thought of when he wrote this. (Are you mad I just spoiled Cats? Are you really?) Tom Hooper’s cat-daptation (they’re not gonna stop, I am gonna work through all my lives with these) tries to use CGI to create “digital fur technology” (yes, that is the official PR phrase from our friends at Universal, and don’t you feel better knowing that) so it doesn’t look like we are looking at people in form-fitting unitards dance around for 2 hours. Instead, we have to look at some of the worst CGI on the planet, so that’s better? I guess? Don’t worry, we’re gonna talk more about this digital fur technology in a bit. Ugh. Never have I ever been more ashamed to like cats.
If you’re looking for a disaster in filmmaking that is so bad it’s actually kind of fun to watch it implode on itself…. Look no further than Cats. Literally every aspect of this film is catastrophic, from the editing to the cinematography to the lighting to the sound design to the very un cat-like performances themselves. The editing varies WILDLY from number to number, as it was clearly used as a crutch to mask the hilariously terrible CGI. Some numbers have so many cuts it’s literally incatprehensible to process what is happening on screen. (I’m pretty sure I counted something like 25 cuts in less than 30 seconds in one number? That is NOT how you want to film a musical) Fortunately, “Memory” is almost a single close up on Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) in a moment that is totally-absolutely-not a shameless attempt to recreate the “I Dreamed a Dream” sequence in Les Misérables. (which, to be fair, is also a Tom Hooper film so not the worst thing?) This sequence, akin to the actual musical itself, is the only thing of any value Cats has to offer to the world.
There is absolutely no direction in this filmmaking. How do you butcher the sound design in a musical? I’d rather listen to cats howl than listen to this again. The vocals were clearly added in post production, so how do you not get the balancing right among the singers? And how do you not balance the singers with the instrumentation properly? These are basic qualities of a movie musical, and when you can’t even get that right…. Yikes. Also, the lighting. Is so bad. Like the rest of this dumpster fire, the lighting is created via CGI, and it looks like the filmmakers spent their CGI budget on cat fur and forgot that they needed to actually light the cat fur, too. And can we talk about the set design? Because, it’s great. Said no one, ever. The sizing of the cats in correlation to the set around them is wildly inconsistent. It’s distracting and uncomfortable watching a cat transform from the size of a peanut to a human in correlation to the set around them from one scene to the next. It’s almost as if the filmmakers ran out of time adjust the sizing of the cats, or had some sort of existential crises realizing they were working on Cats and tried to escape before completion. It’s bad.
But the worst offender in all of this is undoubtedly the digital fur technology, and the actors underneath the disturbing CGI. At best, the CGI creates a disturbing cat-human hybrid, a product of a science experiment gone horribly wrong, and at worst we witness an abomination that would make Sega Genesis graphics proud. This was amplified by the cast, which clearly didn’t rehearse together before shooting, as there was no consistency in the performances whatsoever. Some (like James Corden) are actually trying to act like a cat, others (like Rebel Wilson) are making jokes at the expense of cats, (rude) and others (like Ian McKellen) are just walking around like humans, clearly not even trying.
Ok, ok, ok. I need to vent and ask the void what on earth are Ian McKellen and Judi Dench doing here? They can’t sing, they barely dance, (and the dancing they do do is baaaad) they don’t have a chance to act under all the CGI, so…. Why? Both of them are clearly #initiforthepaycheck, but why give them the paycheck at all? They bring nothing but their likeness to these roles, a likeness which you can barely see under the digital fur technology, so, I ask again: why? But that question is exactly what I was asking myself for basically two hours. An indecipherable, incatprehensible disaster of a film that is the very definition of “so bad it’s good.” Destined for cult status, this film is almost worth watching during its brief run in theaters just to say that you witnessed it. Because, at the end of the day, it is a lovable, joyous meowtain of cat litter.
My Number: 1/10 So Bad It's Good
The biopic Elton John deserves
Rocketman (2019): A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John's breakthrough years.
…...and you can tell everybody, this is your review. It may seem quite simple but, now that it's starting..... this movie is freaking great. Regardless of whether you actually like Elton John or not, this film is the standard-bearer for what a musical biopic should be. Step aside, Bohemian Rhapsody. (Actually shoves BoRap off to the side to be forgotten forever.) There's a new queen in town.
This film works on so many levels, but it starts with actually getting Elton right. Taron Edgerton is phenomenal as Elton John. From his voice actually sounding like vintage Elton (you hear that, Rami? Yes, I'm gonna take pot shots at BoRap throughout this review because society won't actually let me forget it) to matching the mannerisms with incredible makeup to boot. The A-lister is absorbed by the mystique of the knight. And it helps that the story here is the story Elton deserves. Each scene embodies the definition of what Elton John stands for while actually being informative about his life and teaching us, the viewers, some lesser-known things about his life. Never did this film feel influenced by the man himself. Never did this film feel entirely too complimentary of its subject matter. Never did it feel revisionistic. (Betcha don't know what film I'm indirectly referring to!) It felt accurate and meticulous, moving gracefully from one flamboyant scene to the next, surrounding Elton's rockstar life with the music he actually released in those moments, using his songs to actually convey the emotion of individual scenes. Ah! It's so good!
Oh ya, this film is a musical, and the music is wonderful regardless of your feelings towards Elton. The dance scenes are actually well-choreographed and shot, with only the editing rearing its ugly head at a few points. (Though, let's be real…. It's not the worst editing to come out of a musical biopic recently. Cough cough) Also, I do take slight issue with John Reid's (Richard Madden) near comedic villain character. For a film that feels as meticulous as this, Reid feels very out-of-place. I'm not sure how accurate that character was to his real life counterpart, but it sure beats creating an entirely fictitious character to turn down a certain rock band after a DESTINATION ALBUM RECORDING SESH. THAT DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE, WHY WOULD YOU TURN DOWN THE END RESULT OF A MILLION DOLLAR RECORDING SESH? That eerily specific example doesn't refer to anything in particular, I swear! That said, Reid is made up for by Elton's partner-in-writing, Bernie Taupin. Portrayed wonderfully by the incredibly underrated Jamie Bell, Taupin helps to ground Elton throughout most of the film, almost turning into an "audience POV" character as Elton's worst impulses play out. All wrapped up in a dynamic and intriguing supporting character that is the embodiment of a true friend. Not someone we're supposed to laugh at because he wants to write a song about loving his truck. (Kristen Bell sums up my sentiments right about now.)
In short, Rocketman is wonderful, and soooooooooo much better than Bohemian Rhapsody it actually hurts. I hate that I've taken pot shots at BoRap as much as I have, but when one film becomes the highest grossing musical biopic in history and the other is struggling just to break $75mil at the domestic box office, it's hard not to constantly remind people that Rocketman is just that much better than BoRap. It encompasses Elton to a wonderful degree, complete with beautiful dance montages and amazing song choices from the knight scattered throughout. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll dance, you'll sing. What more could you possibly ask for? I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind, that I put down in words. How wonderful this film is, now that it's in the world.
The Critique: The story Elton John deserves, Rocketman is the best musical biopic I've seen in years, showcasing his life brilliantly with great musical numbers and an incredibly engaging story.
The Recommendation: An absolute must-see for everyone. I think that's my first must-see rec of 2019?
My Number: 9/10
Light on substance, heavy on flair
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018): A chronicle of the years leading up to Queen's legendary appearance at the Live Aid (1985) concert.
*Cue the music* I like Queen. I've enjoyed them ever since I could remember. I have many a fond memory of singing my guts out to classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” and “We Are the Champions.” But I've never considered myself a super fan who knows every bit of Queen trivia, inside and out. I think of myself more as a casual fan of the band. So you can understand my frustration when I sit through a 2+ hour movie about Queen and don't really learn anything new about the band. While that's not entirely true, it is an accurate representation of this film. There is NOTHING here resembling substance. Instead, director Bryan Singer and co. spend (and at moments waste) their time showcasing the flamboyancy of Queen and its iconic front man, Freddie Mercury. Spoiler, right? Bet you didn't know Freddie Mercury was a flamboyant fella!
Ok, ok, ok. Let's not get too depressing off the bat. The best thing about this film is the band. There are two great performances here. The one everyone's talking about is Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. He is terrific and is effectively absorbed into the iconic persona. He captures all of Mercury's outlandish personality and witticisms. But the one I really love is Gwilym Lee as guitarist Brian May. Granted he had the added benefit of having the Queen guitarist on set (May receives an executive producer credit for his work on the film) but…you wanna talk about being absorbed into a role, look no further than this incredible performance. Only time will tell if Bohemian Rhapsody has the staying power to net either Malek or Lee an Oscar nomination for their work. I'm honestly not sure it does, because there are a lot of problems with this film.
Oh ya. I should also mention the live performances are fun. They're certainly enjoyable, but this is where the problems start for Bryan Singer and co. Actually, back up. The problems start with the fact that Bryan Singer's name is on this at all. The troubled director showed a significant flair for the dramatic throughout the production cycle, and clashed at many points with the lead of the film. Singer is nothing more than a powerfuf white man who has power simply because he's a white man, and his POV of Freddie Mercury and Queen is reflected as such. (Also, there's an impending Esquire article that exposes some of Singer's more disgusting habbits, so there's that.) This is very much the PG-13 interpretation of Mercury and his life, as we zip through anything that might be construed as controversial in order to have another live performance or another shot of Mercury's cats. It's ok for a film this grandiose to bite off more than it can chew. The problems arise when it feels like Bryan Singer and writers Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan are merely checking off boxes in Freddie Mercury's life. Show a scene of the band fighting then merely refer to it the rest of the time? Check. Show Freddie Mercury struggling to find acceptance with his family and his father, then randomly tie up this plot line up with no context or background? Check. Do literally nothing but fly over Mercury struggling with his sexuality, short of one good scene between him and his then-wife? (Played by Lucy Boynton) Check. (That one scene is the best scene in the movie, by the way.) But hey, gotta be sure to make time for the LIVE AID performance! Because we really need to see 10+ minutes of this performance and get a legit 3+ song set in a biopic about Queen. Ugh! While these lengthy performances are enjoyable, and Rami Malek / Gwilym Lee are exceptional, Bohemian Rhapsody fails to teach its viewers anything about Queen that they didn't already know, which turns it into a fairly run-of-the-mill rock biopic. And to say a band as rambunctious as Queen deserves better is something of an understatement.
The Critique: While an enjoyable concert, Bohemian Rhapsody fails to show any of the inner workings of Queen, despite its lead's terrific performance.
The Recommendation: …..eh? Easy answer is don't see it because Bryan Singer is a jerk, but if you do go see it, don't expect to do much more than dance along to the Queen songs you grew up with.
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
And the Oscar Goes to.....
A Star Is Born (2018): A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.
Wow. Talk about coming into your own. A classic story re-imagined for the 21st century featuring the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper and the silver screen debut of Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born is a truly incredible and remarkable film. Cooper's directorial debut reaches for the stars and succeeds on nearly every level. It was an ambitious undertaking for the prolific actor turned rookie director, to say the least: reinterpret one of the most reprised stories in Hollywood for a modern era, (this is its 4th iteration, and each time the starpower has been there, with actors like James Mason, Kris Kristofferson, Judy Garland, and Barbara Streisand playing the lead roles) and as if that isn't enough, might as well put an established pop star with virtually no previous dramatic acting experience in the lead role because....why not? But every facet of the movie works with flying colors, making A Star Is Born one of the best films of the year and an early heavyweight contender for this year's Oscar season. It's well worth the watch!
There's not much this film does wrong, so I'll intersperse it throughout my glowing sentiments about this uplifting film. The heart and soul of this is, of course, Lady Gaga. Almost certainly the favorite for Best Actress this year, Gaga makes the accomplished cast of this film look like amateurs with her iconic performance as Ally. Bradley Cooper wasn't kidding when he said that he fell in love with Lady Gaga's eyes when he decided to cast her, and I can see why: her incredible performance starts with the amount of emotion she can convey with nothing but her eyes. I haven't seen that much emotion one's eyes since Nicole Kidman in 2016's Lion, which is still one of my favorite performances of recent memory.. And that's just one of many things that contribute to her enduring performance. She also has an incredible amount of control over her voice. I know, she's a pop star so this shouldn't be too surprising, but Gaga shows a meticulous level of attention to detail with her voice to convey the emotions she needs to in any given scene. Seriously: Lady Gaga's performance is the best I've seen this year, (sorry, Toni Collette, but I'm still rooting for you to at least be nominated!) and it's worth the cost of admission by itself. And I haven't even mentioned Bradley Cooper or the songs yet!
Which are amazing, obviously. The lead single of this film, "Shallow," is all but assured the Oscar for Best Original Song. Even 2016's La La Land wishes it had music as good as this. Because the crazy thing about this film's music is how diverse it is. It's not like every song in here is a country song. No, no. There's some rock, some pop, some country, there's something here for everyone. And all of it is executed flawlessly. I'm already playing the music on repeat on Spotify, and I suspect this will only increase as time goes on. Oh! And, ya! Bradley Cooper is really, really good! His portrayal of the troubled music star, Jack, struggling with alcoholism is fantastic. He plays off Ally exceptionally well while letting her be the star of the show.
And that, my friends, is the strongest part of this interpretation of A Star Is Born. The 1976 version is really good, don't get me wrong, but there is a frustrating amount of time spent focusing on John Howard (Kris Kristofferson) when the film should be spending 80%+ of its time focusing on Esther Hoffman. (Barba Streisand) Fortunately, the same mistake is not made here. This is Ally's show, from start to (almost) the end. Speaking of, the ending has been updated, but it's still a little messy and the weakest part of the film as it does become a little too much about Jack, despite giving Ally the best solo number of the film to wrap it all up. Either way, it is a HUGE improvement over its 1976 counterpart, so I'll take it. Hopefully the next version will finally be able to smooth this out. In conclusion, though, this movie is fantastic and a great pick-me-up for what's happening in the world right now. It is well worth your time and money at the theater right now.
The Critique: Featuring phenomenal original music and a great supporting cast, A Star Is Born effectively showcases the diverse talents of its lead actress while all but ensuring her (at least) an Oscar nomination.
The Recommendation: You could probably guess this one, but seriously: it's an absolute must-see for everyone!
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome.
Oscar Talk: Haven't done this in a while! Ya, I keep saying it, and I'll say it again: I will fall to the floor in utter disbelief if Lady Gaga doesn't receive nominations for both Best Actress and Best Original Song. The Best Actor field is shaping up to be a bit more competitive this year, so I'm not sure if Bradley Cooper will join her. If anything, I'd say it would be more likely to see him receive a Best Director nomination. Also, expect a Best Original Score nomination as well, assuming it's eligible for the category. (There are some weird rules with Best Original Score that I don't entirely understand.) Oh, and it's almost a given, but expect a Best Picture nomination as well!
The Greatest Showman (2017): Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.
Merry Christmas Eve everyone! The train keeps on rolling here at Enter the Movies. Today we're taking a look at The Greatest Showman a film that definitely should be good, but fails miserably. Perfect film to discuss during the holiday season, right? Let's just get this over with.....
What happened here? I wanted to like this movie so much. A musical centered around the life of the great P.T. Barnum? Featuring the lyricists for La La Land? Sign me up! But.....what we got was a superficial biopic musical that does everything it can to skip past the more interesting/controversial aspects of Barnum's life. If you're just looking for a feel-good family flick this holiday season, or are a big fan of Hugh Jackman, there may be enough here for you to have fun. But, if you're looking for anything more than that you're gonna have to keep on looking. It's not here. Which is a real shame.
So there's a surprisingly good allegory at the start of this film between "what you're hoping for" and "what you get" in this movie. Right off the bat, we're greeted with the classic 20th Century Fox title card. Like the one that preceded their films from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. It's accompanied by the classic theme as well, but as soon as that's done we're thrust into the "modern" 21st Century Fox title card with a very "current" and "hip" pop beat underneath it that leads into a tease of one of the big musical numbers. That ends up being the perfect summary of this film: you want a (at least) somewhat in-depth investigation of the life of Barnum that really gets your nostalgia going, but all you get is a flat and generic musical that makes Barnum out to be a hero and vilifies all who found what he was doing to be.....less-than-commendable. As for the music, (you know, the most important part of a musical) it's..... ok. The big single, "This Is Me," hits all the right notes, says all the right things, swells at the right moments, and will inevitably be nominated for an Oscar, (this year has been a somewhat weak year for original songs, but that may be because there's no La La Land this year) but the rest of the music is really lacking in my book. It's just generic pop music, which feels very out-of-place here. Oh hey! There's another good allegory here between what the music should've been and what we got! All the allegories. Rebecca Ferguson (GAH c'mon Ferguson! You can find better work than this!) plays the great opera singer Jenny Lind. She has a big solo number in the middle of the film, because of course in a musical someone playing a singer would get a solo number. What kind of song do you think that's going to be? If you thought "Celine Dion rip-off," then this film may be perfect for you! I almost burst into laughter when Jenny Lind started singing this song that is nothing like anything an opera singer would sing. I mean, I get that we may not get an opera song here, but really? This is what you're going to give us??? Sure, guys. Sure.
There are a few good things to like about this film. Hugh Jackman is great as P.T. Barnum. This role is right in his wheelhouse, and he is as charming and charismatic as ever. Zac Efron and Zendaya are pretty good too, and their duet has easily the best choreography of the entire film. (It may even be the only worthwhile choreography in the film) The editing is really good too, featuring some enjoyable transitions and good cuts in the dance numbers. But even within the editing there's some negatives. The final big dance number is a clusterbomb of visuals. We get this big long take where the camera is flying everywhere and people are dancing and animals are jumping around and it's just.....bad. It's such a visual overload that you just don't care about what's going on. Speaking of animals, though, hey! Remember when they were introduced to the circus? If you watch this movie then neither will you, because they will just randomly be introduced in the final scene with no real rhyme or explanation! Guess one day P.T. Barnum woke up and said, "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" And then they were a thing. But that sudden introduction of animals is just an example of a larger problem with this film: it bites off way more than it can chew. Not only that, it chews on the wrong parts of Barnum's life. I mentioned that before, but it really irks me! This film turns Barnum into an undisputed hero, and vilifies everyone who took issue with what he was doing. Barnum was a lot more complicated than that, but this film doesn't have any time to investigate it. The protesters are all just people who hate the fact that Barnum was employing unique individuals, and the critic, played by Paul Sparks, (WHAT ARE YOU DOING MAN? GET IT TOGETHER YOU'RE BETTER THAN THIS) is just a whiny old man who hates fun. Oh! The unique individuals! They are nothing more than a sideshow in this film, despite being the focal point of "This Is Me." The film speeds past these individuals coming to grips with making money to have people laugh at them. That is a really interesting dynamic that should be at the center of this film, but no! We cannot move past it fast enough. Also! The film HORRIFICALLY botches Barnum's adventures with Jenny Lind, doing everything it can to vilify her and glorify him. (It made me extremely uncomfortable, especially now with the prominence of #MeToo) But it botched this section all while trying to make this movie all about following your dreams and being yourself, no matter who you may be. You can't have it both ways, guys. Oh and of COURSE Michelle Williams is wasted as "the wife." But at this point with all the other errors of this film, does that really surprise you? At least we can all laugh at how in the opening scene of this film she and Barnum are the same age, but later on they grow up to be Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. They're only twelve years apart so you almost got it! And what's with the romance between Efron and Zendaya? Why is it a thing? Why should we care about it? Why is it "controversial"? Beats me. UGHHHHHHH HOW DO YOU SCREW THIS SOURCE MATERIAL UP THIS BADLY. This is the directorial debut of Michael Gracey, and boy do I hope he can recover from it.
There's really not much else to say about this thing. There are better films to see in theaters right now. I love me a good musical, and will make a point to see as many of them as I can when they hit theaters, but I have no intention of watching this one again any time soon. Go and give The Shape of Water some love, or just see Star Wars again. You'll thank me later. Now hallelujah I can stop thinking about this film!
The Critique: Despite the charisma of its leads, The Greatest Showman falls flat on its face in spectacular fashion thanks to the very poor handling of its subject matter.
The Recommendation: If you're a die-hard fan of Hugh Jackman, there may be enough to get you through this. Everyone else, though? Find something better.
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad
The Movie 2016 Needed
La La Land (2016): A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.
Wow. Well done, Damien Chazelle. If you follow my blog (thank you, by the way) you'll know that I called his debut film, Whiplash, the best film I've ever reviewed since I started Enter the Movies back in September, 2013. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to his follow up ever since it was announced. And somehow.....Damien Chazelle has done it. He has avoided the sophomore slump and delivered a film that is not only as good as Whiplash, but is better. That's right. In my opinion La La Land snatches the title for best film I have ever reviewed, and I can now say with 100% certainty that Damien Chazelle is the next great revolutionary filmmaker in Hollywood. I have already seen this film twice in its opening week, and have every intention of making time to see it again while it's still in theaters. And dear GOD see this film in the theater! Watching this film in theaters in a packed room is why I love movies. So, what makes this the best film of the year?
Well, that's kind of a big question. Where to even begin with this film? Let's start with the acting. This film is the Emma Stone show. While there are still several big time acting films I haven't seen, (most notably Jackie) I can say to this point Emma Stone's performance in La La Land is the best performance I've seen all year. The performance of her career, Stone is asked portray an actress trying to make it in Hollywood, and steals the show thanks to several emotional audition sequences, the final of which is easily comparable to Anne Hathaway's iconic "I Dreamed a Dream" scene from 2012's Les Miserables. Stone's counterpart, Ryan Gosling, also puts in the performance of his career. Thanks to being in previous films together like 2013's Gangster Squad, the two have wonderful chemistry, which is crucial since this is basically their film. I must also give heavy praise to the story. Usually in a big musical like this you're asked to make leaps of faith from time to time. Like Maria and Tony falling in love from across a gym in West Side Story! I mean, c'mon, right? But that doesn't happen here. The relationship between Stone and Gosling is easily earned, and the events that follow take you through every single emotion imaginable. Be prepared to rock the ugly cry, guys. Even on the second viewing, when I knew exactly what was going to happen, I was still in tears. It is a beautifully told story and shows Chazelle is just as good a writer as he is a director.
But it's far more than just the writing and acting that make this the best movie I've ever reviewed. It's the costumes. The makeup. The set design. The choreography. The editing. The cinematography. It's the care that goes into the making of this film that is simply spectacular. I must especially praise the costumes. There's a few sequences early on in particular that feature some absolutely gorgeous costumes. And theeeeen there's the opening sequence. The first song, "Another Day of Sun," is actually going to overtake the ending of Rogue One as my favorite movie moment of the year. Believe me when I say a few weeks ago I did not think that would be possible, but OH MY goodness is this opening sequence utterly exhilarating. And did I mention it's shot in a single take? This opening sequence is a marvelous and iconic moment in filmmaking, and will certainly inspire a new generation of filmmakers for years to come. And if it doesn't, then the final 15 minutes of the film certainly will, which are just as exhilarating as the first 15 minutes.
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned one....kind of major thing from this musical: the music. That's because it is the best part of Chazelle's masterpiece. I'm not sure if it will be elgible for an Academy Award because it's not comprised entirely of original music, but Justin Hurwitz has established himself just as much as Chazelle has. He has only composed three films, which happen to be the same three films Chazelle has directed, but each of these films feature wonderful renditions of classic tunes as well as some great new music too. The truth is I have not been able to stop listening to the score of La La Land over the past week, and I found myself humming along an awful lot on the second viewing. There's no doubt that the most important part of a musical is the music, and Justin Hurwitz hits it out of the park in this department.
If you should interpret anything from this review, it's that La La Land is a cinematic triumph, like Whiplash before it. Chazelle has done what I thought was impossible, and he does it so well that I almost feel foolish for thinking that he could not top Whiplash. This film is a masterpiece, and firmly sets Chazelle right alongside the legendary Martin Scorsese for the "coveted" title of my favorite director in Hollywood right now. Every facet of filmmaking is meticulously cared for, and a film like this is a wonderful reminder to me of why I am hopelessly in love with cinema. Forget Rogue One. If there's only one film you see this holiday season, see La La Land. Well done, Damien Chazelle.
The Critique: The best film of the year, La La Land is a cinematic triumph in every sense of the phrase.
The Recommendation: An absolute must-see. Do yourself a favor and see this in the theater. You'll thank me later.
Rewatchability: I will rehash what I said about Whiplash here, because it's just as true. Infinite (I've already seen this movie twice at the time of this writing, and I watched it for the first time less than a week ago)
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect.
Oscar Talk: I would be SHOCKED if this film is not your Best Picture winner for 2016. It's the film 2016 needs, and it also is right in the wheelhouse for films that the Academy loves to give Best Picture to. (Just ask Birdman) I also expect wins for Best Director and Costumes, as well as Music if it's elgible. I think this also wins Best Original Song regardless of whether they put Another Day of Sun or City of Stars or the Audition (The Fools Who Dream) up for the award. Heck this film might have multiple entries competing against each other for Best Original Song. Also I expect Emma Stone to make a strong case for Best Actress and at least be nominated for the award.
Seriously, though. Go see this film.
Not perfect, but damn close
Straight Outta Compton (2015): The group NWA emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.
Is it a surprise that I love this movie? Well, I do. And you will too. Because it is emotional. It is powerful. And it is epic. Straight Out of Compton raises the bar for musical biopics. From a phenomenal set design to masterful acting from everyone involved, Straight Out of Compton feels incredibly authentic. This isn't always in a good way though. There is one major problem with this film, and that is it's glorification of abusing women. There is one scene in this film that is incredibly uncomfortable to watch, as we get a long take of NWA in the middle of having sex with about 20 women as another guy looks for his "girl" amongst the women. This scene was incredibly uncomfortable, and will (and has) turned off a lot of women to the film. The film also conveniently forgets to mention Dr. Dre's near constant abuse of women, which has also upset a lot of people. Myself included. I guess really my biggest beef with the film is that it glorifies these people a little too much. That said, the film is still fantastic, and it features as much tension between NWA and authorities as a great drama might have. So, let's dive in, yes?
So let's talk about what this film does right. Aka almost everything. The set design is....absurd. Holy crap. This is one of the best set designs I've seen all year. The film covers a huge amount of ground, and each location feels authentic and real. Easily the best part of the movie, this film absolutely deserves a nomination for production design, as it will be hard to top it at any point for the rest of the year. The story is gripping. I was on the edge of my seat throughout entire sequences, mostly during NWA's time together, and I felt legitimately angry at the authorities as the events of the infamous Detroit show played out. Then I went from being angry to laughing my ass off as I discovered the true meaning of some of Ice Cube's early hits. One of the big reasons why I was with this film, even when the orgy scene occurred, was because of the acting. This film went with some lesser-known stars (including the bold choice of having Ice Cube's son play his father) and the film was significantly better because of it. The only well-known actor in the film was Paul Giamatti, and it was distracting whenever Giamatti was on screen. Had the film gone with some more popular actors to fill the roles of NWA it would have definitely been distracting. So kudos to the film going for staying true to story versus selling tickets.
Apart from the film's overlook/glorification of abuse, there are two other problems with this film. One is its runtime. At a lengthy 147 minutes, I couldn't help but feel that the story of NWA got a little too bloated. The pacing really suffered because of it. The pace of the film slows to a crawl right after NWA's breakup, but then it races to the finish in the final act. In this third act there are a bunch of cameos, but they felt forced because the film went from turtle speed to rabbit speed in about 30 seconds. The cameos, which are easy to miss if you're not paying attention, really felt like a way to allow fans of rap today to be like "Oh! He started because of NWA? No way!" and that's pretty much it. They are really surface-level cameos and nothing more. That said, this film is still awesome, and even though it glances over its treatment of women, I can forgive the film just because the rest of it is that good. If you're a fan of music, you owe it to yourself to check out this film. Well done, guys.
The Critique: While not without a few faults including and especially its treatment of women, Straight Outta Compton highlights the tension between African Americans and police, as well as the rise of gangster rap as a response to this, in a gripping and authentic manner. A must-see for our generation.
The Recommendation: Millennials and music fans? This is as much a must-see as any film this year.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome
Whiplash (2014): A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential.
I.....I....wow. This is...far and away the best movie of 2014. Not only is it the best movie of 2014, it is the best film I have ever EVER had the privilege of reviewing here on Enter the Movies. This movie is a complete and total masterpiece of cinema. Flawless. Perfection. I cannot recommend enough that you go and see this movie as soon as humanely possible. The theme set up here is a very thought-provoking theme, and it is sheer and utter genius on behalf of the filmmaker Damien Chazelle to leave the question this movie presents with this theme...unanswered. You don't see that nowadays. Now I know some of you may say, "Of course Joe likes this movie, he's a freaking music nerd!" But no. This movie is as dramatically intense as it is musically intense, if not more so! Never have I been on the edge of my seat more than when I was watching this 107 minute marvel. For the love of God, go see it.
So. This movie does everything right, and nothing wrong. But I'll just focus on a few of the highlights. First off, the acting. J.K. Simmons is nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and likely the favorite to win it. This performance of his is the best I've ever seen from him, which is saying something. Easily one of the best performances of the year, Simmons is entrancing and intimidating as Fletcher, the instructor, creating one of the most unique characters I have ever seen. While Simmons is the performance everyone is talking about, we cannot forget to mention Miles Teller. His performance is extraordinary enough as is, but then when you take into account the fact that he's also doing the actual drumming in the film? He blew me away just as much as Simmons did. There's also an incredible and undeniable chemistry between these two characters from the first moment they interact all the way through the incredible and climatic finish. And the supporting cast is great too! Paul Reiser is excellent as Teller's father, despite only being in a few scenes. Actually his few scenes are incredibly powerful as he watches his son strive to be one of the greats and goes through a wide array of emotions during this journey.
And then there's the rest of the movie. The editing. The freaking editing! Some of the best editing I've seen in a long time. The editing just screams jazz. And the cinematography, too. The scenes involving drumming were shot beautifully, and will become synonymous with jazz. From closeups of the individual pieces of the drum set to crazy cuts between the pieces to symbolize the frantic pace of the solo, Chazelle and company simply left me breathless with these scenes. The story, also written by Director Chazelle, is obviously phenomenal. I would really love to know how much of this movie was improv'd between Simmons and Teller, because their interactions are so damn organic! But I will probably never know. Additionally, the character portrayed by Simmons is portrayed in such a relatable way. Everyone has, at some point, had a boss like Simmons who will stop at nothing to obtain greatness out of their employees. I know I have. And that's the incredible theme this movie has. With the right incentive, those who are good can achieve greatness. But the question is....at what cost? When does achieving greatness cost too much? That's the question this movie leaves you with. Unanswered. And that is why it is a masterpiece and the best film I have ever reviewed. Please. I know I say go see movies, but please. Go. See. This. Movie.
The Critique: One of the greatest movies of this decade. Whiplash is the definition of a masterpiece in its truest sense. The best film I've ever reviewed.
The Recommendation: An absolute must-watch for anyone. Even more so for those who love music, but everyone should see this movie at this point.
Rewatchability: Infinite (I've already seen this movie twice at the time of this writing, and I watched it for the first time less than a week ago)
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
Oscar Talk: So the movie did receive several nominations (six!) and I think it deserves to win all six. However, realistically, I think this movie will win Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor. Seriously, though. Please go see this movie. PLEASE.
Into the Woods (2014): A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.
Before I start this review, I should mention that I saw this movie at the fantastic El Capitan in Hollywood. The El Capitan is owned by Disney, and they put a lot of money into ensuring that the movie experience was one of the best I’ve ever had. Into the Woods is a Disney movie. While I do not believe that has influenced my review in any way, I do want to make that known to you, the reader. If you feel that this creates a conflict of interest, then you are absolutely entitled to ignore my review. I won’t feel bad I promise. Up to you. Anyway…
So this movie is…interesting. Its source material is a bold undertaking as it mashes five classic fairy tales into one giant musical in the woods. (WHOA IN THE WOODS???) Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Giant Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood all get featured in this musical. And for the most part this movie stays loyal to its source material. With two major exceptions. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are both left in the dust in this movie, likely per corporate directive. While personally I did not miss these two stories as much as others might, those who want to see those stories meshed in here will be sorely disappointed. However, my biggest issue with this movie involves what happens after happily ever after, aka the third act. Hey! We have yet another third act screwup! Woot woot! I’ll get into that in a bit. That said, this is still a good movie. But that’s all it is. Good. So, let’s jump into it yes?
So, let’s talk about what the movie does right. It’s a musical, surprise surprise, and guess what? The music is awesome. To watch Annie just a few weeks back and see how terrible that movie was, it is really nice to see a musical done right. All the actors can sing well, thank GOD. With the exception of Chris Pine, but fortunately he knows he cant sing so he makes up for it by overacting the crap out of his role. But here it is very welcome because he is ridiculous and he knows he’s ridiculous. He’s just having fun! That’s when overacting is acceptable. Actually that’s the thing with most of these actors: they are having an absolute blast with their roles. Meryl Streep is absolutely having the time of his life in this movie, and it is great to watch. But above all of that, yes above the legendary Meryl Streep, we have Emily Blunt. Finally. This is the role that will blow her into the mainstream of Hollywood. She blew me away as the Baker’s Wife, from her phenomenal voice to her phenomenal acting while singing, Blunt just shocked even me, one of her biggest fans, and put in one of the best acting performances I’ve seen all year. While it likely won’t be nominated for anything, (especially over Meryl Streep) and it likely won’t make my top ten performances of the year, Blunt will be remembered for this performance for years to come when we see here become a staple A-lister in Hollywood. You heard it here first, folks.
Let’s see what else does this movie do right? Um…the first two acts are great, story wise. The writing is excellent, thanks to the source material. The musical and movie does a great job mashing the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Giant Beanstalk, and Red Riding Hood together with the witch of Snow White. Until happily ever after. Then corporate directive takes the day.
Here’s the main problem with the third act. The story gets so scattershot as the movie delves away from the musical in order to avoid the adult themes brought up in it because, you know, this is a Disney movie. We can’t talk about anything adult-related. We can’t set up a love story between Riding Hood and Jack because they’re young! And the idea of young people having feelings for each other is…oh no we can’t have that! Absolutely not. Additionally, Lilla Crawford, who played Riding Hood sucks. She couldn't sing, and she couldn't act. But it’s ok! Not the end of the world to see a child actor who can’t act. Jack is ok, but he was faaaaar better in Les Miserables. Oh ya. Look up who he is in Les Mis and you’ll get a kick out of it. Promise! I’ll even leave it up to you as a surprise. Another thing going on here is that the movie never really gives you any understanding of just how big these woods that they are in actually are. Characters run into each other left and right, but yet it still takes hours to walk from one spot to the other? There was absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever. But ya, that’s basically it. The movie is good, but because of a very scattershot third act that has too many things happening at once as the movie becomes too big for its own good keeps it from being great. That’s all I got. If you don’t like it, too bad. I still love you. I will always love you. AND IIIIIIIIIIII WILLL ALWAYS LOVE YOUUUUUUU. I’m….I’m sorry about that.
The Critique: A good musical that sadly becomes too big for its own good as corporate runs its hands over the final act. Emily Blunt shines, though.
The Recommendation: If you like musicals, check this one out. It is probably the best musical of 2014. Also if you like these stories check it out too.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
Oscar Talk: Here’s another negative: while the music is good, there is no outstanding single. There is no Let It Go. There is no Skyfall. So, while I’m sure some song will be nominated for Original Song, it is not a sure-thing for this movie, despite being the best musical of the year. However I foresee nods for both original song and score. I also predict a nod for costumes at least. The costumes were amazing. Some of the best I’ve seen all year.
EDIT: WOW. No music at all. But I was right on the costumes! 1/2 right? In baseball terms I'd be a legend!
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966): Um....f*ck it. Here's IMDB: A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshiping cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo. SO MUCH INTRIGUE RIGHT?
First of all, thank you for reading. Damn. 10,000 views. If you told me back when I started this thing in September 2013 that I'd hit 10,000 views I would've just laughed. See I started this thing just for my own personal amusement. I just wanted to remind myself of these movies so that I could have a conversation about these movies whenever I needed to with people. Just be like hey! I saw that movie once! Let me see what I said about it! And whip out my phone. Since I was just writing for myself basically, I didn't hold back with what has come to define Enter the Movies: my incredibly weird and unusual writing style. Now, it's here to stay. However, over time, people started approaching me saying that they liked my reviews. I was surprised, because I didn't think anyone even knew that they existed, much less enjoyed them. Now, an article from the local paper (thank you Madeline Rafi!) and an endorsement from a local athlete (thank you Nikki Newman!) later, as well as a lot of support from Reddit, my blog has become...well, a thing. So thank you everyone Thank you. I now do this for you. To entertain you. If I put a smile on your face, then I did my job. That said, let's celebrate by watching the "movie" Manos: The Hands of Fate! Because that sounds like a good idea....should get the smile part done at least....
Supposedly made on a bet between friends, Manos: The Hands of Fate has reached cult status, but not in a good way. This movie.....where do I even begin? Seriously. Let's talk about Grown Ups 2 really quick. That was the worst movie of 2013 due to bad acting and a terrible story, as well as horrid directing. However even in this movie there is a level of competency with the making of the film, as the editing, cinematography, and sound are at least decent. There's a certain level of competency you expect in any movie, right? After all if it's made it to the big screen it should be at least, well....made properly. This movie, however, fails on every aspect of movie making. In my junior year of high school, I made a 20 minute(ish) movie called What Is Justice? I'm not trying to self-promote, because after all there is only one copy, but my movie, hastily made in about 2 hours on Movie Maker software with stock Movie Maker sounds, is better than this piece of sh*t. A f*cking gorilla could make a better movie than this. Every aspect of filmmaking is completely nonexistent here. From random illogical editing cuts, to incredibly distracting music, to the fact that this movie is shot ENTIRELY in hand-cam fashion, to the fact that ALL of the actor's voices were dubbed in post-production by THREE people, this movie is the worst movie ever made. Done. How did no one step up and tell the director, insurance salesman Harold P. Warren, that this was a bad idea? Oh wait, was Harold P. Warren also the lead actor, writer, and producer? .........yep. That'll do it. He had no one around him to tell him that it was a bad idea. That just allowing this movie to exist was a bad idea.
Here, let me give you an example of how bad this movie is. So, this is meant to be a horror movie. So Warren and the female lead, played by Diane Mahree, are looking at a very "creepy" picture. They are having a conversation, with the distracting music behind their conversation, when all of the sudden, without warning, there's a cut to their character's daughter holding a (clearly untrained) dog. Everything stops as we watch this girl struggle to keep the dog from jumping out of her lap. And the music stopped. So, basically, we go from a very loud conversation and just overall noise to silence in.....instantly. Because f*ck you. Seriously, this movie deserves to be the blunt end of a would you rather question. It's so bad that it's not even funny bad. It's below that! It's like this.....there are good movies, and there are bad movies. Then there's 50 feet of crap. And then there's Manos: The Hands of Fate. (Thank you to my inspiration, Hollywood writer Aaron Sorkin, for that reference.) Here, I'll get the would you rather questions going. Would you rather watch Manos: The Hands of Fate, or sit through an hour-long sermon courtesy of the Westboro Baptist Church? Spoiler: if you pick Manos, you're wrong. At least Westboro will give you a good laugh. This is comparable to hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. Or dying. The one saving grace of this movie is that it is disgustingly short. While most of the time I would criticize a movie coming in at 74 minutes, here it is welcome, even though those 74 minutes CRAWLED by. I had to take breaks to finish this. I'm not even kidding. I HAD TO TAKE BREAKS TO COMPLETE THIS. AOEIFAJWEOIFJABNADFLKADAKLDALKDSF I DON'T EVEN WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS MOVIE ANYMORE. NO YOU CAN'T MAKE ME. I DON'T WANNA I DON'T WANNA....
Ok I'll say one more thing. The only thing even remotely memorable about this sh*t show of a movie is the character Torgo. He is played by John Reynolds, who supposedly did LSD before his scenes in this movie and as a result was constantly twitching uncontrollably throughout his performance. All it did was lead to a few good laughs. We got to laughably bad a few times, guys! Whoo! Oh ya, and his death scene is hilarious, as he is seemingly massaged to death by a bunch of women. Spoiler? F*ck you. The biggest crime of this movie is that not everybody is dead by the end of it. Bite me.
The Critique: The worst movie ever made.
The Recommendation: A MUST SEE FOR EVERYONE. FEEL MY PAIN PLEASE.
The Verdict: 0.1/10 That 0.1 is for Torgo. #TORGOCOMEBACK2014
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): A week in the life of Llewyn Davis, an aspiring musician in the 1960's Greenwich Village folk scene. Please don't be alarmed that it's about the folk scene. It's still worthy of your attention if you are a fan of any kind of music.
So this is a great movie. If you like music, like I do, and really want to see a great piece about the life of a small-time musician, then this is an absolute must-watch. It is a brutally real and honest movie about the hardships that a nobody has to go through while trying to just make a living. He's not trying to make it big, he's just trying to get by.
The directors, the Coen brothers, do not treat their characters very well in their movies. Most known for movies like No Country for Old Men and True Grit, they certainly continue their tradition of creating a character that you so desperately want to root for but as soon as you start to like them nope! They go and do something assholish and douchey. Llewyn Davis is a jerk. No other way to say it. You do nothing but feel for him because his life is incredibly difficult, even though he is an incredibly selfish person. I mean, how would you feel if you legitimately had no idea where you were going to sleep that night? And yet while you sympathize so much with him, he goes and does terrible things, like leave a cat that he's gotten rather attached to in some dudes car so that it's his problem, or yell terrible things to a girl on stage while she's performing. It's awful. In short, this is a great character study on Llewyn Davis as much as it's an investigative piece on the life of a nobody musician. A bold undertaking for sure, and the Coen brothers nail it. Not to mention the part where it is breathtakingly shot. 10/10 on cinematography that is complete with a well-deserved Oscar nomination.
The acting is fantastic. There's really only two primary actors here, Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan. I'll start with Carey. I've seen her in several movies, none of which were any good, and she was a primary reason for the movie being not very good. Gatsby? She was terrible! And she wasn't much better in Wall Street 2. But you know what? She is fantastic here. She is so angry all the time at Davis and it's wonderful! She allows herself to be fully immersed in the role, and since it's not a love story between her and the lead (which is usually where she's falls apart) she does a great job calling Davis terrible names and treating him like complete crap. I was genuinely impressed. Oscar Isaac was also fantastic as Davis. He actually has a great voice too. He brilliantly displays the various emotions that he's asked to convey. It's not an easy role at all, and he dives right into it. And, as I said, he can sing quite well. This helps a lot. Additionally, there are many great cameos from various actors, including Justin Timberlake, Ethan Phillips, and the legendary John Goodman. All put in good performances. Nothing really memorable except maybe Timberlake, primarily since he's FINALLY playing himself in a movie, but really this is Oscar Isaac's movie. I didn't really know him before this movie, but now I am excited to see what he does next.
Now this movie did have several faults. The entire trip to Chicago, which is essentially the second act, feels rather out of place. Actually, I'll make it a bit more specific: the drive to Chicago from NYC feels out of place. Really it feels like an excuse to put John Goodman in this movie. I'm totally ok with that don't get me wrong, as they probably just brought him in for a day or two to sit in a car on set and read a few lines, but it really is unnecessary. The movie is 104 minutes long, so it's not too bad, but these few exchanges in the car go on for about 20 minutes and really takes away what the film is good at, like its stunning cinematography work, or watching Davis' life unfold in front of him. It also really throws off the pacing of the movie. Not to fear though, as the journey back only takes about 5 minutes. So at least they don't make the same mistake twice. Another thing I should mention is that the ending does not tie up a lot of loose ends at all. It might be too unsatisfying for some, despite the fact that it's trying to convey the fact that it's a circle that he's in. And he can't get out of it. I personally didn't have much of a problem with it, but if you don't like the movie that will likely be reason number one as to why you didn't like it.
In conclusion, I cannot recommend this movie enough to those who enjoy music. Don't be turned off by the fact that it's folk music! I know I have a thing for it as it is, but there is plenty more to enjoy here than just the music. Even if all you listen to is rap. It's easy to get into the life he's living while not even enjoying the music he's playing. About the only time where I felt liking folk actually benefited me was at the end where there was a great and clever cameo from the greatest musician to come out of the Greenwich Village folk scene. Obviously he was a nobody at the time but he has come to define the entire genre. You should also see this movie if you like character pieces. Unlike August: Osage County, this is a character piece where you can actually identify and appreciate the person being studied! WHOA.
The Critique: one of the best films on the music industry in recent years, Inside Llewyn Davis is a great piece of cinema from start to finish.
The Recommendation: A must-watch for any fan of the music industry and those who like the Coen brothers. Also a solid recommendation to those who like character studies.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome
Quick Oscar Talk: Only two nominations here, but honestly if this movie does not receive the award for Best Cinematography, it will be solely because of the extended John Goodman-in-a-car conversations. Also the musical single, Fare Thee Well by Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford, definitely deserved a nod for Best Original Song. Just saying. Go listen to that song if you like folk. It is fantastic.
Frozen (2013): Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have FROZEN the kingdom (see what I did there????) in eternal winter.
IMDB is probably the way to go with most of these from now on, so I might just keep doing that. Even though the frozen part was from my comedic genius. Don't worry I'll be here all night. Ok if you haven't seen this movie and like Disney movies, GO SEE THIS NOW. Seriously. Stop what you are doing and go see it. Right now. In a movie theater. I'm not kidding. What we have here is without a doubt in the top 3 Disney-exclusive (thus excluding Pixar movies so don't bring any of them up if you disagree with this statement) movies to be released in the last ten years, and is the best Disney musical since Hunchback of Notre Dame in my opinion. One of my favorite critics claims since Beauty and the Beast but that is debatable. Point being, it is an absolutely phenomenal all-around movie, and the fact that Disney is not doing much to market this is absolutely criminal. I'm pretty sure Planes got more advertising than Frozen has, and they aren't even in the same city let alone same ballpark in terms of how good the movie actually is. Seriously Disney. You strategy here is bad and you should feel bad. And Planes 2 is not only announced BUT IT IS COMING OUT NEXT YEAR. If you have been living under a rock and don't know anything about animation that means THEY WERE WORKING ON THE SEQUEL LONG BEFORE THE ORIGINAL EVEN CAME OUT. Like they were working on them both AT THE SAME TIME. WHAT ARE YOU DOING DISNEY?????
Ok. Deep breath self. Now that I've ranted on the stupidity of Disney, let's talk about Frozen! First of all, some time was clearly put into animating this. It's so easy nowadays to go with cheap animation (which Disney is no stranger of....cough Planes cough) to push out a movie as quickly as possible. As the good animation gets better, the bad animation becomes more noticeable. However here the animation is GORGEOUS. I'd say the best I have ever seen hands-down. Including Pixar movies. Bold statement I know. There's just so much visual spectacle here to marvel at, and the animators knew it, because there are definitely several points where they give you a moment to just breathe it all in and adore how beautiful this movie looks. And the fact that cinematography is becoming an actual legitimate thing with animated movies is just scary. And this movie definitely sets the bar high with its cinematography.
Next up is the voice acting. Kristen Bell. She puts in one of the best voice acting performances as the lead I've seen in an animated movie in quite some time. And of course Idina Menzel as the queen was a brilliant decision too. It's both a blessing and a curse though because she simply blows everyone else away in the singing portions. And this is an animated musical, so there is a lot of singing obviously. She's in three songs I believe, and all three are the best songs here without a doubt because of her voice. And Let It Go is Menzel's solo which is likely headed for Best Original Song at the Oscars. And it's already stuck in my head. Of course that's not bashing any of the other music here. Christophe Beck (most notably known for the Broadway production's Avenue Q and Book of Mormon) is phenomenal here, putting in a soundtrack most certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination for best score. Back to voice acting. Now Bell and Menzel plus Josh Gad as the comedic relief (and he is hilarious) are really the only three memorable performances here. Yes it's a princess movie but the male characters are not fleshed out at all. But that's ok because Bell, Menzel, and Gad do plenty to carry the movie from a vocal standpoint. Gad even has a decent voice. I was impressed.
Finally, the story. Everyone can agree that so many Disney movies of late have become incredibly formulaic. This much is certain. And Frozen does follow the formula to an extent, but there are enough twists in here to make the movie feel fresh and original as well. Including a few twists I did not see coming at all. Which obviously means that I didn't see them coming because they don't make any sense, but I should forgive this because after all the movie is set in a world where one person has the power to change the entire country's climate from summer to winter. So there's that. Also the overall theme here is not one that you would expect. Like Monsters University and its "Even if you put your entire body, mind, and soul into something you may not achieve it, but that doesn't mean you can't be happy" theme, Frozen goes for an interesting and unorthodox one here, even though if I say what it is its a spoiler. So guess what? I'm not going to say it. Because I try to avoid spoilers whenever possible. But it's at the bottom if you care to know.
In conclusion, GO SEE THIS MOVIE. PLEASE. I don't know why Disney is sort of throwing this movie under the rug because it shouldn't. This should be a future addition to Disney's coveted Masterpieces collection if it gets some good publicity behind it. So go and see what all the fuss is about!
The Critique: A masterpiece of Disney Animation. Fun music, breathtaking visuals, and a (somewhat) original story make this movie the best Disney movie or recent memory.
The Recommendation: For the love of our dear baby Jesus, GO AND SEE THIS. Like ASAP. In theaters. It deserves to be admired at in a theater. In 3D too. I didn't see it in 3D but I wish I had.
The Verdict: 9.5/10 Damn Near Perfect
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Score, Best Original Song, (Let It Go) Best Animated Movie, (Sure-win I might add, unless if Walking With Dinosaurs is the best thing since sliced bread)
*SPOILER SECTION* (Theme talk time!)
The theme here is a good one: you don't necessarily need someone else to help save you. You can do it yourself. Unorthodox yes, particularly in a princess movie, but it also allows them to make the female leads into badasses. Seriously. The princess here are not damsels in distress. They are badasses. Like Brave is initially except they don't become damsels in distress. Well I guess the queen technically is initially but she becomes a badass by the end. So.....ya! Go see this. Please.
Les Misérables (2012) In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever. That is the IMDB synopsis, not my own words.
Ok I feel like I need to open this by saying I love the musical. Unfortunately I have never seen it in person, but the music is some of my favorite music from a musical out there. I Dreamed a Dream, Do You Hear the People Sing? and One Day More are 3 must-listens for me whenever I get in a musical mood. Which happens a lot. So please keep that in mind as I say that I really do not like this movie. Why? Well, my good sir, (or madam) I will tell you why! Several reasons: first of all, this movie is shot in a disgustingly horrible manner. Tom Hooper, who jus directed The King's Speech, makes his return to the screen with Les Mis . Unsurprisingly, he brings that same style of directing to this. It works in The King's Speech, however it does not work here. Not only does it not work here, but it crashes and burns spectacularly with the exception of one scene, which, if you've seen the movie or know anything about it at all you know exactly what scene it is I am referring to. I'll get to it later. But using uncomfortably close headshots throughout the movie just doesn't work in a musical as grand as Les Mis. It works brilliantly to create the intimacy of The King's Speech, but NOT HERE. And when it's not uncomfortable head shots, we get these these HUGE wide shots of Paris or wherever they are at that point of the movie. Why can't their be a medium ground? Why can't we have typical dialogue style shots? Guess we'll never know. My next complaint: Amanda Seyfried. She is hopelessly out-acted by Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne, who I know very little about. Also she can't hit some of her notes. I know they are impossible notes for almost anyone to hit, but if you can't do it, please take it an octave down. It was painful to hear her sing those notes. This isn't my only complaint against her. She was in Mamma Mia as well (for better or worse) but she was pretty awful in that as well. Final complaint: Russell Crowe. Ok everyone who knows me knows that I don't like Crowe to begin with, but he was grossly miscast in this movie. It's comparable to seeing Alec Baldwin in Rock of Ages. Well, a lot of the actors in Rock of Ages shouldn't have been in Rock of Ages but that's besides the point. But he's a guy who's in the movie musical more because he's a recognizable actor as opposed to his musical talent. To appeal to the common folk. Seriously? Les Mis isn't going to appeal to the "common folk" regardless of whether Crowe is in it or not so might as well get someone who's actually qualified to be Javert to play him.
Ok those are my complaints. Unfortunately that paragraph is going to be longer than this one, which is about what I liked. First of all: Hugh Jackman. He was spectacular in this movie, fully engrossing himself as Jean Valjean. He kind of starts out absurdly strong then slowly gets weaker as the movie progresses, but it's like going from phenomenal to just great. So not much of a fall of here. Next: Anne Hathaway. Yep. I Dreamed a Dream is without a doubt the best scene of the movie, and also without a doubt the best single scene in a movie of 2012. I feel safe saying that. In that scene, everything Hooper does works. And it brought me to tears. But the credit goes to Hathaway here for making the single 6-minute long head shot work. That scene is all her. Did it deserve an Oscar? Well personally I say no but clearly I'm in the minority because she did win it because of this single scene. Of course the other major problem with this is that this scene is about 15 minutes into the 158 minute movie, so the rest of the movie cannot live up to this scene. The other thing I like about this movie is action sequence. There's only two real action scenes but they were shot and choreographed really well. Finally, I also liked Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the comedic relief, (no surprise here....Helena Bonham Carter is one of if not my single favorite actress right now) and Samantha Barks, who plays the character she played in the movie in the actual musical as well. I am glad that they did this. But can I just say that Marius is silly for picking Amanda Seyfried over her? No offense to Seyfried but man is Samantha Barks beautiful.
To wrap it up, this movie is defined by the I Dream a Dream scene. This one scene is worth the price of admission. The problem is that when it's done it's back to the same old crap from Hooper for another 2+ hours. And in my opinion it gets really hard to watch as time goes on. Not even the fantastic music could save this for me. One final note: apparently there was on-the-set singing in this, but in my opinion this didn't really add anything to the movie. With the exception of I Dreamed a Dream, obviously. If this scene isn't in the movie, it's probably about two points lower for me. You know what? Two different verdicts coming up.
The Critique: A great musical shot in an unbelievably uncomfortable and distracting way. Overlong, too grandiose, and poor acting mixed in with some great acting. I hate to use the word mess but that's kind of what it is.
The Recommendation: if you are going to see it, you already have. If not, I would not recommend it.
The Verdict: With I Dreamed a Dream: 5/10
Without 2.5/10 so that's an average of 3.75/10 somewhat bad
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