My friend Sean Chandler over on his youtube channel talks about ‘Taco Bell movies’ and what he means by that is movies he knows aren’t great feats of artistic cinema but that make him happy when he’s in the mood for an easily digestible fun experience at the movies. His might be dopey action movies like Jurassic World where mine are feel-good community stories that usually involve some kind of romance. Often they will involve Christmas and sometimes dance is an element, preferable all 3. This should be no surprise to anyone as I am the founder and host of an entire podcast about these types of films, The Hallmarkies Podcast.
Recently a film debuted on Netflix which totally fits this type of experience called Feel the Beat. This film stars Sofia Carson (who I mostly know from the Descendants franchise) as April a young woman who is trying to make it as a dancer on Broadway with little to no luck. She was the big star in her town but after a big disgrace with a major director her hopes of starring on Broadway seem like an impossibility. So home she goes to small town somewhere with her Dad played by the always great Enrico Colantoni.
I really liked Carson in this role. She’s not only a gifted dancer (which we already knew) but she’s beautiful, warm and charismatic. Through various shenanigans her character becomes involved in the local dance studio, helping a small group of girls (and boy) become the best dancers they can. These kids are adorable and they all did a good job in their individual and team struggles.
We also have hunky Nick played by Wolfang Novogratz who April dumped via text before she went off to Broadway and they have a nice chemistry together. Is everything between them completely predictable? Of course it is but that’s part of the pleasure of watching a movie like this. When they have the chemistry all those predictable moments are a joy as you smile when each beat is met along the way. It’s like going on a scavenger hunt you’ve already done before. Sure you know all the steps along the way but the sweets still taste good when you find them.
There was also a nice amount of diversity for this type of film whether it be Carson, Rex Lee, Brandon Michael Goodman to a diverse group of young girls including black and deaf actresses who get sweet storylines.
My only real complaint with Feel the Beat is I could have used even more dancing. When compared with movies like the Step Up series the dancing here feels a little sparse. Part of that is probably because we are dealing with small children but they could have included more.
Again Feel the Beat does not reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t need to. It executes a sweet story with heart making it an enjoyable Netflix watch for a lazy Saturday morning. You can watch it with your family and have a nice time together. It’s a fun family dance movie with some drama and romance mixed in for good measure. Just my kind of film!
Hey everyone! Before I start my review I want to wish you all a Happy Valentines Day and share with you the annual valentine I designed. This year’s design is based on my recent selection as a critic at rottentomatoes.com. I even used the same color of green as the rotten splat is on their website. Happy Valentines!
I also have my review of Isn’t it Romantic on my youtube channel
ALITA BATTLE ANGEL REVIEW
Honestly Alita: Battle Angel is a movie I probably wouldn’t have seen if I wasn’t trying to be a more well-rounded critic. Fantasy movies don’t tend to be my thing and most of the live action anime adaptations haven’t been great (although I did enjoy the recent Ghost in the Shell adaptation more than most). With all that said, I actually enjoyed Alita: Battle Angel quite a bit.
Alita: Battle Angel tells the story of a cyborg (Rosa Salazar) with a fully intact human brain that is found by a cyborg scientist (Christoph Waltz) in the scrapheap. At first she can’t remember anything of her previous life but as she fights she gets back bits of that memory.
In the dystopian world they have a sport called Motorball which is kind of like a grittier form of roller derby and it turns out Alita is a natural. If she can win the grand championship of the sport she can get to a special city in the sky called Zalem, which is where she originally came from.
Alita also meets a boy named Hugo (Keen Johnson) and discovers there are assassins out to get her and her father. She can train as a ‘hunter-warrior’ to defeat these assassins but they are very strong and make things difficult for her and her friends.
That’s all I will say about the plot. The strengths of Alita: Battle Angel is in Alita as a character. The giant eyes may be off-putting for some, but I adjusted to them quite quickly. Rosa Salazar and the motion capture animators do a really good job making Alita likable and endearing. She’s such an honest character in a dark world that you can’t help but root for her. I also liked her and Hugo’s little relationship quite a bit (you know I’m a sucker for romance!).
It is also a beautiful movie with stunning world building. I saw it in 3D and I recommend it as it feels even more immersive than the flat images would on their own. Beautiful world building isn’t enough alone to win me mover but it is still a plus in the movies favor.
The downsides to Alita: Battle Angel is I didn’t like the goons who were hunting Alita down. There are 2 main cyborgs, and I found both of them to be pretty grating. Also the middle section of the movie where most of the fighting takes place gets repetitive and dull. However, it picked back up with a strong finale so I can forgive the film.
If you like action or scifi movies you should find more than enough to like with Alita: Battle Angel. It’s beautifully made with a charming and sweet lead character. Even if you don’t typically like sci-fi/fantasy you might like it with the teen romance, and sweet relationship between father and daughter. It’s true that some actors are wasted in bland roles like Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly, but I still had a pretty fun time with the film. It has its flaws, but I was entertained more than enough to give a recommendation.
It’s that time of year when I present my worst movies of the year list and this year I decided to do things a little bit differently. Instead of a strict bottom 10 I chose to spread the wealth and talk about a bunch of groupings of films I disliked. You can watch the video above to hear more of my explanations but here they are for the blog
Blockbusters that Stunk!
My first category is big studio releases that fell flat:
The Meg– disappointing shark movie that took itself seriously when its trailers promised camp. Instead of being fun it was mega-boring
Pacific Rim Uprising- removed any of the artistry or interesting choices of the original and replaced it with loud hard to visualize action filled with annoying characters
The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms- I was so hoping this would be a fun surprise but it was a dud. There was no conflict and most of the Clara was watching stuff happen (even on stage sometimes). Boring!
Once Upon a Deadpool- I’ve never seen either of the Deadpool movies and judging by this PG-13 version of Deadpool 2 I don’t want to. It was boring, unfunny and the acting by many was weak
Everyone knows I love romantic comedies but when they fail, they fail badly:
Destination Wedding- what everyone hates about romcoms all in one movie. Both characters were miserable and irritating and did nothing but argue for 2 hours. No chemistry and one of the least sexy sex scenes I’ve ever seen.
Little Italy- the leads were decent but the humor fell so flat with its constant sex jokes that were not funny. The stereotyping and plot were terrible. Yuck!
The Kissing Booth- an awkward film where the director seemed to linger the camera over its teenage protagonist in uncomfortable ways. Both male leads were terrible especially her BFF who was the worst
The Spy Who Dumped Me- this film has some decent action but it swings so strongly between slapstick comedy and extreme violence that I was very turned off by it. Let’s just say it was not for me
Adaptations that Bombed-
Some of my favorite novels were adapted in 2018 but unfortunately not adapted proficiently:
Wrinkle in Time-what a disappointment. With such a cast, budget and promising director to get this dud. They failed to capture the spirituality of the novel and put in place speechifying where Meg is told she is a warrior instead of coming to realize it herself. The plot was muddled and George Wallace irritating. It just failed
Little Women-I’m up for a modern take on Little Women but not one where they turn Jo into an obnoxious judgemental jerk, which is what this version did (amongst other problems)
Sherlock Gnomes- after Sherlock series 4sucked so badly I guess everyone decided it was time to follow suit with awful Sherlock Holmes stories like Sherlock Gnomes. This movie was irritating in so many ways especially the villain
Ophelia- I kept having to thwart my laughter at this ridiculous feminist take on Hamlet with Ophelia outwitting all and storming the castle along with the Queen’s secret twin who lives in the forest brewing potions…Embarrassing
Robin Hood- could have been a dopey action movie but it wasn’t even that. Everything from the costumes to the action to the script to the terrible acting was so misguided. I don’t know what they were thinking?
White Fang- some nice animation is hurt by a long, brutal exploitative dog fight sequence I could not forgive. The child next to me was in tears. It was way too much. No thank you
Gravitas that Failed
My next category is films that were presented with gravitas as great and innovative that failed to entertain or please me in any way. Unpopular opinion time!
Annihilation- some claim this scifi/horror film is a masterpiece but I thought it was a slog that couldn’t decide what it was trying to say so it just keeps piling on metaphor after metaphor to the point of exhaustion. None of the character motivation was well done and aside from pretty visuals it didn’t work
Fireworks- this anime is obviously trying to rip off Your Name (one of my favorite movies) and it failed. It is all over the place storywise and the characters make strange choices. The romance feels off. The animation is pretty and then terrible at spots. Just bad.
Bohemian Rhapsody- Freddie Mercury should be an interesting character but in this film he is so bland and generic rebel rocker it irritated me. Plus the script was so bad having his wife explain his sexuality to him and have him reunite with a boyfriend, make up with his family, and play Live Aid all in the afternoon. Give me a break
Gotti- John Travolta decided to play mob boss Jon Gotti as a ill treated persecuted civil servant in this ridiculous movie. The non-linear storytelling doesn’t work. The script, makeup, cinematography and everything else is terrible. Not even so bad it’s good.
Winchester- a haunted house movie with potential but instead it was just very boring
Life Itself- the movie that put me to sleep so hard I actually started snoring. It was a snooze but it was also surprisingly cynical and not hopeful abotu life at all. Everyone either gives up or kills themselves. What a heartwarming message…
MTKZ- some people think total chaos is creative. I don’t. This movie was completely random from the first image. Everything from the characters to the story to the visual choices felt like an assault on the viewer and was exhausting.
Sorry to Bother You- I was with this movie for the first 30 minutes and then it went completely off the rails once they get to this party. The movie felt like it was trying to be 12 different movies and especially once it went equine it completely lost me
Journey’s End- a war movie where the soldiers talk about rations a lot. I never need to hear about rations again. It was so boring.
The Party- a comedy with no jokes. Like seriously I didn’t see why any of these pedantic twerps talking at this party was funny. I just didn’t get it.
More Animation I Hated-
I mentioned some animated films I disliked already but these 3 were not great:
Duck Duck Goose- the worst movie I saw in 2018. It is garish and unpleasant in every way. The jokes with the Chinese people and the cat were bizarre and I just wanted the whole experience to be over as soon as I started watching it
Lu Over the Wall- a movie that is so spastic and insane that it made me nauseous. This director made another bonkers movie this year The Night is Short Walk On Girl that really worked for me but this one was too much. Plus, the story that it had felt like a ripoff of Ponyo so I didn’t even have that.
Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies- a weird fantasy animation made to teach lessons to evangelicals but if you aren’t in that group it will not engage you either with the songs, story or morality.
Two Bad Comedies
Finally I will end with 2 comedies that didn’t make me laugh:
Night School- Tiffany Haddish is not on my good side after both of these films but especially Night School where she shrieked her way through her performance.
Uncle Drew- I know other people found this funny but I didn’t laugh one time. The lead character is unlikable and I wasn’t interested in the sports story. A real dud.
So there you have it! There are my worst films of the year
If you are dying to know what the actual bottom 10 is here goes:
Anyone who follows this blog knows one of my all time favorite movies is the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail. I love pretty much everything about it especially Nora Ephron’s witty dialogue. It is perhaps my favorite remake ever and one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Recently my friend Christine sat down with me to talk about the film and why we love it and what it has to say about work, life, love and the human experience. It’s a really fun podcast that I think you will all enjoy. Give it a listen 🙂 You can also listen on itunes here.
I bet you didn’t know that Summer starts in April. Well, at least it does for the movie season. Marvel studios moved Avengers: Infinity War up into April and that forced us all to get ready a little earlier than we had planned. For the second year in a row my friend Conrado and I have gotten together to share our predictions for this year’s Summer box office. You can listen to the podcast above or on itunes/youtube.
I must admit my list is kind of bland this year. Last year I had a few more odd ball/risky picks but nothing stood out to me as a real dark horse or wild card pick. There are a few that could possibly make it like Mamma Mia 2, Eighth Grade, Christopher Robin, Teen Titans Go or Uncle Drew but I don’t see them as big challenges. We will see.
My Top 10 Summer 2018 Box Office Predictions
Avengers: Infinity War
Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom
Ant-Man and the wasp
Mission Impossible: Fall Out
Hotel Transylvania 3
You’ll have to listen to the podcast to learn why we picked what we picked and how our lists compare We would love your feedback. Thanks!
Hey guys! I just wanted to let you know real quick that I have started a new podcast with my friend Stanford. Each month we are selecting a Disney Canon film to talk about and give our analysis of its strengths and weaknesses. We just published our 4th entry in this podcast, and I’m proud of every last one of them. We are doing them in a random order to avoid the dead periods of a chronological rewatch. I would love your feedback as we are continually trying to improve. They are also available on Itunes and youtube at Rachel’s Reviews.
2. Talking The Great Mouse Detective- we had some technical difficulties in the last 20 minutes that impacted the sound quality but hopefully it is listenable
Hey guys! I just wanted to share with you a fun video I did over on my channel. In this one I rank the animated trailers of 2017. I didn’t include some indies or smaller films but still ended up with 22 trailers. This ranking is not indicative of my feelings on the final film, just the trailer. In fact, some of them haven’t even come out yet. It’s a longer video but I think you will enjoy it!
How would you rank the animated trailers this year? I would love to hear your list.
Hey guys! This is just a quick update to share some exciting news. This week I finally figured out how to get my podcast on Itunes and was officially approved! Now you can listen to my discussions with my friends about mostly movies on Rachel’s Reviews Itunes Channel.
I have currently uploaded a lot 49 of my past podcasts with more coming each week. There are discussions on all kinds of films including recent posts- Fall Movie Preview, Chicks on Flicks, Hallmarkies podcast of Hallmark movies and Talking Watership Down. I think there is something for almost any media interest. If you have suggestions for the podcast please let me know or if you would like to participate in a discussion I would love to hear your ideas .
In the next few weeks we are going to be talking about the new and old Blade Runner, My Little Pony Movie, more Chicks on Flicks, Hallmarkies and more. You will definitely want to subscribe and it would be a big help to me if you do. It would also be nice if you would positively rate and review the podcast.
This weekend the anime film Your Name comes to US theaters. This was my favorite film of 2016 and I saw nearly 150 releases. But don’t take my word for it. I compiled this video of a bunch of youtubers talking about why it is so special.
And here is my original review:
At least by me Your Name is getting a pretty big roll-out and is in 4 theaters, so hopefully that is emblematic of other places across the country. If not ask your local theater to carry it. This actually can make a big difference. I communicate with my local theater all the time about releases I want to see and more often than not they end up getting them if only for one weekend.
Your Name is the kind of film that doesn’t happen very often. It has layers of enjoyment. It’s funny, sweet, tragic, exciting and everything else. The animation is stunning and it’s one that gets better each time I watch it.