The Wandering Earth Review

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Recently I have really enjoyed getting into some of the big blockbuster films from China. I particularly enjoyed Stephen Chow’s film The Mermaid (2016). Now we get the massive interstellar disaster movie The Wandering Earth directed by Frant Gwo which scored $300 million in China during its opening week alone. To my surprise my local AMC was screening it so I decided to give it a watch, and I’m glad I did.

The Wandering Earth is big, loud, spectacle entertainment if I’ve ever seen it. It’s definitely convoluted and over-the-top but it embraces all these elements in an old-fashioned exuberance that made me smile. The style and special effects may not be as glossy as something like Geostorm (although it can be quite stunning in sequences) but all the choices they made gave it a charm and earnestness, which was very appealing.

WanderingEarth3The story is based on a novella by Liu Cixin and it is set in a future society where the sun has aged and the Earth is in danger of losing its axis and source of light and power. In response the nations of the Earth band together to create United Earth Government and cities exist underground where oxygen and temperature can be monitored.  They create a plan to use giant rockets on the earth to boost it out of orbit and move it over 2,500 years to a new galaxy with a new sun. A scientist at the beginning of the film named Liu Peiqiang (Wu Jing) goes up into space to lead the International Space station which is now responsible for navigating the Earth on its journey to the new galaxy.

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As you can imagine this plan is fraught with peril and Liu’s son Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao), father-in-law Han Zi’ang (Ng Man-tat), and adopted daughter Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmai) are left behind to try and run the rockets systems down on Earth. Unfortunately as the Earth passes by Jupiter it gets caught in the planet’s gravity and it starts to get sucked causing all kinds of problems they must solve.

I could totally understand  someone finding The Wandering Earth to be exhausting and frustrating. They throw a lot at you including a lot of characters, tons of destruction, loud music and big action set-pieces. They even have a portion where the artificial intelligence on the International Space Station turns into HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and tries to thwart the will of astronaut Liu. The subtitles are also very fast so you are not going to get everything and will have to fill in some of the blanks using your imagination.

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All that said, I’ve seen this type of spectacle entertainment done so poorly by the Roland Emmerichs and Michael Bays of the world that I found myself really enjoying this unbounded exuberant scifi film. It felt fresh by its unabashed insanity and enthusiasm. There’s just some time when you can tell that everyone behind a movie is trying really hard to make something great and it’s infectious. It kind of reminds me of the joy I felt watching the Baahubali films in 2017. It’s true spectacle entertainment, and I think that’s great!

wanderingearth4 If you have any palate for big over-the-top scifi blockbusters I think you will really enjoy The Wandering Earth. Who knows? You might even find yourself cheering the Chinese on as they save the Earth from literal destruction at the hands of Jupiter!

8 out of 10

smile worthy

 

 

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45 Years Review

45 years-4It’s funny I went to the theater tonight and scores of people were coming out of Deadpool with smiles on their faces.  I’m sure they had a great time and that’s awesome. I instead went to see 45 Years and I was alone in the theater and came out literally sobbing.  Quite the contrast! But I wager to say in 10 years my experience will be the more memorable one. Suffice it to say, I have a new entry in my Best Movies of 2015.

45 years-245 Years is a very simple movie.  It tells the story of a week in the life of a couple before they celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.  On day 1 Geoff, the husband, played by Tom Courtenay, gets a letter in German informing him that the body of the love of his youth has been found and he can come and claim it.

Kate, the wife, played brilliantly by Charlotte Rampling, is aware of the relationship but is surprised when the news is so impactful upon her husband.  She starts to wonder if there was a side to this old relationship she never knew about? Has her husband of 45 years been honest with her?  Was she the 2nd choice over his true love? All of these questions are asked by Kate as the days unwind.

45 years-3I think what made this movie so particularly moving for me is Kate reminds me so much of my beloved Grandmother.  She is one of my best friends but in the last 2 years her health has not been well and it is difficult for her to talk on the phone.  This has made talking to her quite difficult since we live in different states.  Watching this movie made me realize how much I miss my Grandma.

45 years-5Even Charlotte Rampling’s look and disposition reminds me of my Grandma. I loved the way she had her life ordered and was a bright light to all in her circle.  When she finds out her husband hasn’t been completely honest with her the devastation is so palatable.  You can see it in Rampling’s whole body not just her face.  I wanted to give her a hug.

If it hadn’t been so late I would have called my Grandma right after and told her I loved her.  I’m going to do it tomorrow. That’s the kind of emotion this movie evoked in me.  I was literally sobbing.  I just love my Grandma so much.

45 yearsI know what it feels like for people you love to come out of nowhere with news and to have to absorb it as best you can,  so I related to that storyline as well.  I related to having to come to grips when you thought the person you loved was one way and turns out to be another.  There is nothing harder than that in my opinion.

Some will probably find this boring.  It’s kind of like Boyhood in the way it is just about a week in the life of this couple.  Some people don’t like that kind of movie.  Some may not like the somewhat ambiguous ending, but I thought it was pure truth.  It may be the best movie I’ve ever seen about marriage.  That’s not hyperbole.  It’s really how I felt.

45 years-6Tom Courtenay is also wonderful in the role.  You want to hate him for the dishonesty and the pain he is causing Kate but you can also see why he left the past in the past. It felt authentic and real to the way such a man would behave. We all know older men like Geoff.

I’m not saying don’t see Deadpool.  Go see it.  Have some laughs if the content is your thing, but make time in your schedule to see a film that something to say about life.  Make time to see 45 Years. It was a stunning film and I’m so glad Charlotte Rampling was nominated for best actress. She is much better than either Cate Blanchett in Carol or Brie Larsen in Room.

The rest of the supporting cast is wonderful and gives the entire experience a lived in feel.  It seems like a real group of friends, a real community that surrounds Geoff and Kate.

Props to director Andrew Haigh for his tremendous achievement.  I loved this movie and I encourage all of you to see it.

As far as content it is rated R but it is a pretty mild R.  There are a few F words and one mild scene of sensuality between the couple.

Overall Grade- A+

My youtube review:

Rotoscopers, Little Mermaid Tag, and Dumbo

So today ended up being a crazy day content-wise for me.  I had 3 articles published on Rotoscopers.com you should check out!

Rocks in My Pockes Review for Rotoscopers.com

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/review-rocks-in-my-pockets/

My interview with creators of independent animated film Snowtime I did for Sundance Film Festival.

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/interview-with-snowtime-filmmakers-francois-brisson-and-marie-claude-beauchamp/

My review of Snowtime for Rotoscopers.com

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/review-snowtime/

I will be reviewing Snowtime in the next couple of days on this blog, as I didn’t want to take anything away from the Rotoscopers review.  I have previously reviewed Rocks in My Pockets on this blog (but I would still love it if you checked out the Rotoscopers review).

But I also posted 2 new videos on my youtube channel.  I created a tag called The Little Mermaid tag and my fellow youtuber Aly did it with me.  It ended up being really fun and if any of you want to do it I would love to hear your answers. (My cannon review of Little Mermaid is here)

Here are the questions if you want to do the tag.

Little Mermaid Tag
Favorite Ginger actress?
Have you ever had ginger hair?
What world from movie or book would you like to be a part of?
What teenage movie or book is your favorite?
If you could be a mermaid would you want to?
Best name- Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Attina, Adella, Alana or Ariel?
What would you wish for from Ursula?
What human device could you picture using in a new way?
Favorite Disney song?
Favorite Disney couple?
Favorite fish recipe?
Could you convince someone to love you without speaking?
What is your ideal date/proposal/kiss?
Best father/daughter combo in a movie?
Belle vs Ariel? Lumiere vs Sebastian?
Is Little Mermaid feminist or not?
Who should play Ariel in live action Little Mermaid?
Why do you love Little Mermaid?

I also posted my review of Dumbo in my Disney Canon Project on my channel this morning.  I worked really hard on it and would love if you gave it a look.

So a bit of a jumbled post today but I hope you enjoy all the content.  I had a blast making it!

This weekend should be very busy coming up as well with Kung fu Panda 3 and The Finest Hours,  which I will review.  Will look forward to your feedback.

Boy and the World Review

boy and the world poster2If you guys read my response to the Oscar nominations you may recall my disappointment at The Peanuts Movie being snubbed for Best Animated Feature Film.   In it’s place was a film called Boy and the World or o Menino eo Mundo in Portuguese.  I had heard of this film but it had mostly fallen under my radar so the nomination was a big surprise.  Today I had the chance to see the film and I can see why it got nominated.  I don’t know if I would pick it over Peanuts Movie but a lot of that comes down to personal artistic taste.

Boy and the World is directed by Brazilian animator Ale Abreu and was released in that country back in 2013.  It is made using mostly sketch animation with some live action imagery and paper mache thrown in.  The film’s biggest strength is it’s wild imaginative artistry.  It’s a real joy to watch.

boy and the world9999It’s a simple story about a boy who is devastated when his father leaves the family to go and find work in the city.

boy and the world89They plant a tree on his departure but the boy is still very upset.

boy and the world 7He goes on a journey to find his father and bring him back to the family but in so doing he dives into the city and confronts all kinds of people, industry, conflict and more.

boy and the world6 boy and the world4boy and the world5At one point he ends up living at a trash dump.

boy and the world8boy and the world3 As you can see the animation is quite beautiful but what adds to the appeal of the film is the wonderful music. Written by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat it combines ‘pan-flute, samba and Brazilian hip hop’ into a delightful absorbing experience that made me smile.  Here’s one of the main themes:

The visuals combined with the music at times feel like a kaleidoscope and I never grew weary of the imagery. It is a bit self indulgent and has little to do with  the main plot of the boy looking for his Dad, but I liked it.  However, I can picture that bothering some people but not me.

boy and the world kaleidescopeThe ending of Boy and the World does try to say something about war, commerce, industry and waste but  that wasn’t as effective as the rest of the visuals.  It felt a little heavy handed where the rest of the film had spread the same message using joy and light. We didn’t really need the contrasting images.

There is little to no dialogue in Boy and the World so there are no cultural limitations or barriers.  I know films with no dialogue aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoy them when done right and this is.

boy and the world2So is it better than The Peanuts Movie? Again, it just depends on what you like.  They both have simple stories at their centers with depressed little boys and great music.   Both are also visually innovative and beautiful.  If you like more earthy, surreal art you’ll like Boy and the World better.  If you like the more modern realistic pop art than you will like Peanuts Movie better.  I personally have an attachment to Charlie Brown so I enjoyed his story more but I also loved the newness and creativity of Boy and the World.

Either way I can see why the academy nominated it.  It’s a beautiful film and adds a strong artistic entry to 2015 that we really didn’t have outside of The Prophet.  If you get a chance to see it let me know what you think.

My youtube review

Did the Right Film Win? 2009 Animated Oscars

Hey guys!  So 2009 was a very strong year for animation.  It was a year with 5 films nominated for Best Animated Feature Film and all 5 I enjoy.  There were also strong films that I personally think could have gotten a nomination in another year like Ponyo (I know you’all disagree with me on that one but oh well!), 9 and A Christmas Carol, to name a few.

Not only are the 5 films nominated very strong but they are also really different so I had a lot to say about each.  I ended up making 2 videos about them (my editing software was also giving me all kinds of grief so I got up what I could in 2 batches).  The first video is about Princess and the Frog and Secret of the Kells.

Basically I’m hot and cold on Princess and the Frog.  There is a lot I love about it and then things I really don’t like.  I love the animation, the character of Tiana, vocal performances and 3 of the songs.  I don’t like the voodoo elements, the convoluted story or Prince Naveen.  He is not Tiana’s equal.  All in all, that puts it in the middle of my Disney rankings. It’s certainly worthy of the nomination and worth a watch even with some major flaws.

Secret of the Kells is beautiful and looks like illustrations from a book.  It is only lessened in my opinion because I think Song of the Sea by the same team is much better.  Maybe an unfair comparison but I can’t help it when they are so similar.  Nevertheless, Secret of Kells has a beautiful look to it.  I like the story and the lead character Brendon is very appealing.  The Aisling of the forest is beautiful with stirring music from Kila.

The next video has the remaining 3 films- Fantastic Mr.  Fox, Coraline and Up.  You all have heard my thoughts on Up ad nauseam but I did get a little emotional when talking about it and how it reminds me of my Grandpa who I love.  It’s a special movie to me and I filmed the review several times but each time I started to tear up.  That was my honest response so I left it in. 🙂

Fantastic Mr Fox is a very creative film directed by Wes Anderson.  I love the world building and the story is a lot of fun based on Roald Dahl’s book.  I really like the characters like Ash, Mr and Mrs Fox.  The story is unpredictable even for someone who has read the book and it is extremely creative.  It is actually my favorite Wes Anderson film and while I don’t find it super funny I do enjoy it.

Coraline is a film from Liaka and I liked it much more this g0-around.  I always enjoyed it but for whatever reason I really was charmed while watching it this week.  It is directed by Henry Sellick who did Nightmare Before Christmas and it has the same dark tone and style of that film.  I love the character of Coraline.  She is sincere, quirky, endearing, inquisitive and in the end loving.  She ends up getting presented with another version of her family through this magic portal and it leads to some big scares but also a huge heart.  I love that she comes to accept her parents for who they are, even though they aren’t very good people in a lot of ways.  She still loves them anyway.  It’s really surprising and visually inventive.

In this case, I clearly think the right film won because Up is my favorite movie.  If I was going to pick a second place I would pick Coraline, but I can see people’s arguments for all 5.  What would you pick?  Thanks so much for your comments and for watching the videos.  It has been a great series both on the channel and this blog and next up is 2010 where my Tangled got snubbed (wa, wa, wa,….).  I look forward to watching the Illusionist for the first time.  Thanks!

I’ll See You in My Dreams Review

dreamsLast night I had a bit of time and figured why not check out a movie?  For a second I thought about seeing if Fantastic Four is ‘that bad’ but just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I looked to see if there was anything else with actual good reviews I could see (I’m thinking about going out of my comfort zone and seeing The Gift but wasn’t ready yet).  Then I noticed at the cheap movie theater I’ll See You in My Dreams was playing.  This was a movie that I noticed at my local independent theater a few months ago and  I thought it looked good. Then I saw it had good reviews (94% on RT) so I figured let’s give it a shot and I’m glad I did.

In many ways I’ll See You in My Dreams is similar to Second Best Marigold Hotel with both featuring senior citizens trying to live vibrant lives.  They both explore themes of love, friendship, death and of course aging.  I liked the overall experience of Marigold a little bit better because it is more joyful and there are more characters to bounce off of, but I’ll See You in My Dreams definitely has better writing and characters.  So perhaps it would really depend on my mood?  Either way I’m glad movies are being made with an older audience in mind ( I would group Mr Holmes in that demographic as well for 2015 releases).

dreams2 I’ll See You in My Dreams stars Blythe Danner as a woman who has been alone for decades after her husband died in a car crash in 1994. But fortunately she has his life insurance and other income to live comfortably.  She also has a group of girlfriends played delightfully by June Squibb, Rhea Perlman and Mary Kay Place (I hope I have friends like that when I’m older!).

dreams6This is one of those movies I love that feels very ordinary.  It’s just about this woman’s life- her friends, losses, conversations etc.  It opens with a death that will make even the most hardened tear up but Carol doesn’t really absorb it or respond to it and that bothers her.  She also seems to be a bit of an alcoholic- medicating her loneliness with wine and other spirits.

dreams3She eventually is so lonely she starts up a friendship with Lloyd played by Martin Starr who cleans her pool.  This could have been groan inducing but it is actually a sweet friendship (and that’s it.  No romance!).  The dialogue in their scenes is particularly strong.  It felt almost like watching a good Broadway play.

dreams5He convinces Carol to go to the karaoke bar and sing and it turns out she has a great voice.  There is something a little bit sad about that, and it seems like she senses the missed opportunity which is her life.  (The movie really is quite tragic in a way).

There is also a lot of comedy with Carol going to a speed dating session and another hilarious segment when the cops pull the ladies over when they are a little bit tipsy from medical marijuana.

Then midway in the movie we meet Bill played by Sam Elliot.  He is a gold old boy Texan who is never without his unlit cigar.  Elliot is charming in the role but I never felt like him and Danner had much chemistry.  I didn’t buy her being attracted to someone like him.

dreams4But without spoiling it a tragedy does occur and I loved Carol’s interaction with her daughter played by Malin Akerman.  They did have chemistry and it was interesting Carol seemed disappointed with her daughter but it is never quite sure why.  Perhaps it is because she is single and never gave her any grandchildren? I’m not sure but I found the relationship compelling.

I'll See You In My DreamsIn many ways watching Carol reminded me a lot of my Grandma who is still with us but unable to carry on the kind of relationship we once had, which makes me sad.  I found myself feeling a little bit depressed at scenes because I miss talking to my Grandma and the way our friendship used to be.

I’ll See You in My Dreams is not a movie that will change your life but I liked spending 92 minutes with these people.  They felt like real people I could relate too and care about.  The dialogue was particularly strong from director and screenwriter Brett Haley.

This is coming out on blu-ray and Itunes soon so if you missed it I’d say it is definitely worth a rental.  Especially if you can get your Mom or Grandma together and have a movie night you will have a cry together and enjoy the film.

Also this may be the last movie I will see in current day where a character doesn’t have a cell phone but does have one of those old school answering machines.

Overall Grade- B

Content Grade- B

There is 1 f word, some vulgar language, drug use for humor, death of animal shown, and some sensuality mostly off screen.

May Youtube Videos

As is my tradition I like to keep you all informed on the latest movie related videos on my youtube channel.  Please give them a watch, thumbs up and subscribe to my channel if you haven’t already done so.  Thanks so much!

And this one doesn’t really have anything to do with movies but it turned out pretty well and I think you all might enjoy it.

If you have any suggestions for movies you’d like me to review either here or on the channel (or TV or anything else) let me know!

Drop Box Film

dropbox7Yesterday I had the chance to see a special documentary at my theater called The Drop Box.  This is a three day event movie that ends tonight at theaters sponsored by Focus on the Family.  It tells the story of Pastor Lee Jong-rak who takes in abandoned babies in South Korea through a special mailbox of sorts called the ‘baby box’. dropbox3

The idea for the baby box started when babies were left at the doorstep of his church, often special needs children and he heard about a baby box in Croatia that helped mothers when desperate to leave their babies rather than abandon or kill them.

dropbox2Pastor Lee has also adopted 15 of the children and have 2 of their own, one named Eun-man who is severely disabled and cannot function beyond a smile. Yet in one of the most touching segments we learn that the son despite being a burden in a way is deeply loved and was in fact the inspiration behind the baby box and Pastor Lee’s ministry.

Eun-man

The film is directed by Brian Ivie who lived at the Lee’s orphanage for 6 months and converted to Christianity during the filming.  He does a good job painting Lee as a normal man who saw a need and filled it.  It is not overly aggrandizing, which I think actually makes it much more moving and relatable.

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Director Brian Ivie

He also does include voices who see the baby box as a ‘too easy of an out’ for women who are merely scared of the challenge of a special needs baby but could do it. It also can be challenging for the caregivers who have no knowledge of the genetics or family history of the baby.

dropbox5It would seem to me that putting your baby in a box would never been an ‘easy out’ but I thought it was good the movie at least acknowledged some of those concerns.  Pastor Lee says many of the mothers are minors who are too ashamed to raise their baby or go through the lengthy process of adoption.  He said many come to him umbilical cord still attached, only hours old.  That kind of blew my mind.

The letters the mothers leave are so tragic and almost all start off with “I’m sorry. Please forgive me…” .  It breaks your heart but at least there is somewhere for the babies to go to not die on the street or in a trash bin but to be loved by Pastor Lee.  That’s pretty amazing.  The orphanage also reunites some families who return for their child.  I believe they said 145 in the segment after the movie.

dropbox8The month they were shooting Pastor Lee had gotten a baby in the box every day for 8 days straight.  He hadn’t slept because he didn’t want to miss the bell which signaled a new baby. It breaks your heart.

dropbox6We get to learn about Pastor Lee’s family and have little vignettes about the children who are the sweetest boys and girls.  I particularly liked his middle son Ru-ri who is missing some fingers and was mocked for it but then ran for class president and won the kids over with his charms.  He loves  taekwondo and wants to keep his father’s mission alive when he grows up.  That was just lovely.

Ru-riWhat impressed me the most is Pastor Lee’s unending ability to love everyone.  When I think of my own squabbles with people (and I’m sure he isn’t perfect) but each time a new baby came or a child with severe problems was presented to him Pastor Lee loved that child.  You could see it in his face, like he was holding the most perfect child he’d ever seen. That’s such a gift from God to love all things.  My beloved Grandpa was like that and its what I strive to be like.

Pastor Lee’s wife is also wonderful- so positive and upbeat in the midst of what must be incredibly stressful.  Just the lack of sleep and caring for an adult severely disabled son would be enough but she was a special lady. It made me wish we could get the extreme home makeover crew over there to make life a little easier for the Lee’s.

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Some may wish that abortion and other birth control would be discussed but that is not my personal feeling and belief or the perspective of this movie or Pastor Lee. This worldview believes children are a gift from God and have divine value no matter how they are brought into the world but I don’t want to get into politics.  It’s just simply the view of this movie.  If you don’t like that view than the movie may not be for you but all movies can’t be everything to everyone, especially documentaries.

Maybe partly due to director Brian’s conversion while making the film it felt very personal and it made me feel like I could do something to help.  Pastor Lee seemed like an ordinary man who decided he could help and then did it.  It’s motivated me to look into how I could serve my community a little bit better.

In the live broadcast there was a segment from Jim Daly of Focus on the Family and his team which was a bit too long and will probably be better as a bonus feature on a DVD but the main point was to encourage adoption and foster care through their organization Wait No More which puts foster children with their ‘forever families’.  It definitely had the feel of a 700 Club segment but I didn’t mind it because I believe in adoption and what they were sharing.  However, some will definitely want to leave at the end of the film.

I really loved this documentary.  I feel inspired by Pastor Lee’s example of service and love and shouldn’t movies inspire us from time to time? Especially if you are Christian I would encourage you to hunt the Drop Box down when it comes out on blu-ray  and support the lifesaving missions of all involved.  I’m certainly grateful I saw it and felt very close to God’s spirit while watching it.  Can’t say that too often these days and it was a rewarding experience.

Last Five Years: A Review

last five years posterAfter venting my annoyance at yesterday’s Oscars I decided to watch the new film version of one of my favorite Broadway musicals- The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown.  Faith now restored in movies 🙂

The show and movie are about a couple whose relationship lasts 5 years.  Cathy played by the luminous Anna Kendrick dreams of being a Broadway star.  Jamie played by Jeremy Jordan is a young novelist whose first novel is a big hit.

LastFiveYearsAnnaKendrickThe timeline for the movie is very clever.  It starts out with Cathy getting the break up letter and singing. While Jamie begins the movie at the beginning of the relationship and then it flips back and forth. I thought that was neat.  (The play is divided into separate segments on the stage and they get together for a duet at the proposal)

Here’s the trailer

I love, love, love, love, love the music and they translate it to the movies very well.  We know from Pitch Perfect and Into the Woods Anna Kendrick can sing but her voice is at its best here. Jeremy Jordan isn’t quite as good but he still holds his own.

The music in Last Five Years sounds like simple narration but trust me it is very tough to pull off and they do a great job here. See I’m Smiling is my particular favorite. It is such a well written song that goes through every emotion from hope, happiness to anger to despair.

One word of profanity in this but I just love it. (I like every song in this show. They feel so authentic, human and real)

last five years3

The show and movie does a great job showing the complete journey of a couple with the highs and lows.  Jordan and Kendrick have wonderful chemistry and it feels like they love and hate each other depending on the moment.  Kind of like Boyhood on the surface it is simple, just the story of a couples ups and downs over 5 years, but it tells us so much about love and life along the way.

It is also not a downer with very funny sequences like ‘In Ohio’ when Cathy is working trying to catch the eye of someone who can give her a part in New York.

last five years2

For someone who is a die hard musical fan I don’t find that many new movie musicals I like. Most are either too explicit, vulgar or dopey. Into the Woods was great until the 3rd act and then the tone went all wrong.  However, The Last Five Years is the exception to the rule.  I loved it. You can watch it on demand or in theaters so please check it out! (Wish more movies did that).

As far as content it has a little profanity, sensuality and a character has multiple affairs but it is pretty tame. Certainly appropriate for teens and up.

Content Grade- B, Overall Grade- A