Current Mini Reviews

I, Tonya

The performances are very strong from Margot Robbie and Allison Janney and deserve nominations, but I had mixed feelings on I, Tonya. On one hand it is interesting to hear another side of such a famous story but the style of the movie felt a little too silly for the narrative it was telling. It was unique but felt unfair and superficial to all involved especially Nancy. You can’t humanize a somewhat notorious character by making her struggles a joke.

Grade- B-

Smile Worthy for the Performances

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

I don’t have much nostalgia for the original Jumanji film, so I was able to go into this sequel with an open mind. In the end, I was entertained by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The movie gets a lot of material by mixing up the genders of the characters in the movie and it is pretty funny. The special effects are great and it was overall a fun family film. The middle dragged a bit for me and I got a little sleepy is my only complaint. It does have a few inappropriate jokes involving the gender swapping parents should be aware of.

Grade B+

Smile Worthy

Batman and Harley Quinn

This is an absolutely appalling movie where a man is raped as a joke and Harley Quinn proves to be one of the most annoying characters in recent memory. It is awful

Grade- F

Frown Worthy

Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

Very sweet animated shorts that will make the entire family laugh. The animation is a sketchy style but very pleasant and it stays strictly G rated fun. I particularly liked the final short which is holiday themed

Grade- B+

Smile Worthy

Call Me By Your Name

This film has gotten a lot of Oscar buzz with good cause as it is very beautifully filmed. The Italian countryside never looked better! Call Me By Your Name tells the story of a young man who falls in love with an older man played by Armie Hammer. I think this movie suffered a bit for me in comparison to Moonlight, which I think was a lot stronger. Moonlight has something anyone can relate to in the different parts of Chiron’s life. Here I struggled to relate to the lifestyle of these rather pedantic expats living in Italy. However, Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer are great and have wonderful chemistry together. I enjoyed the leisurely pace and the great writing by James Ivory. It’s a good movie. Just not as good as Moonlight.

The sensuality is very strong in here so you’ve been warned.

Grade- B+

 

Smile WorthyBattle of the Sexes

I don’t have many complaints about Battle of the Sexes. It’s a perfectly fine true story sports movie with some good performances. It tells the story of Billie Jean King and Bobby Rigg’s iconic tennis match in a satisfying but by the numbers way. Nothing really stood out to me and I had the feeling I will quickly forget it, but it’s fine.

Some strong sensuality in here also

Grade- B-

Smile Worthy

Sword Art Online: The Movie

As someone who has never seen the anime show it was a little confusing at times but Sword Art Online was pretty entertaining. I really like the set up and the world-building. The animation was great and the action was awesome. The female characters were a little weak. The pacing in between action scenes could drag but it was a worthwhile anime to watch

Grade- B

Smile Worthy

Ferdinand

This latest offering from Blue Sky is a harmless sweet animated film. It is certainly worlds better than the trailers demonstrated. I liked Ferdinand and how there really was no villain just characters with different points of view. The humor, especially the calming goat, was mostly good and overall it is enjoyable. The main problem is it feeling very played out and generic. I loved the music by John Powell with songs by Nick Jonas

GRADE B-

Smile Worthy 

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children-

I reviewed this for rotoscopers.com and it was a challenging film to review. It’s worth seeing for the visuals but it is a very strange movie. The characters are uber-cute but the settings and events are very violent and disturbing. It was intriguing but the lack of narrative was challenging. I admire it more than I like it but I’m glad I saw it

Grade- C+

Barely Smile Worthy for the Artistry

Disaster Artist

A very heartfelt and sweet movie about the making of the worst movie ever made- The Room. James Franco becomes Tommy Wiseau in every way and Dave Franco is also good as Greg Sestero. It’s a funny and engaging look at the power of creating something even if it is terrible. It’s no Ed Wood as far as filmmaking but I was entertained.

There is some nudity and language in this film

Grade- A-

Smile Worthy

The Mountains Between Us

This is a very dopey romantic survival story. Good thing for this movie is I like dopey romantic survival stories. It was just silly and fun enough to be entertaining. It’s not a good movie but I enjoyed watching it. It does make you wonder how 2 such quality actors got stuck in this film?

Grade- C+

Smile Worthy but I admit it isn’t a great film

Man Who Invented Christmas-

This checked off a lot of boxes for me. I love Christmas Carol. I love Dickens. I love British stories. I love this whole cast. I love Christmas movies. So it didn’t have to do much to win me over so it succeeded in doing just that. I loved the performances of Dan Stevens as Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Scrouge. I loved seeing the process behind the writing of Christmas Carol with them diving into his past and father at points. This is totally a  film I plan on buying and watching each year for the holidays.

Grade- A

Smile Worthy

So overall a pretty successful month of movie going! What have you seen? How would you rank these films? Put in the comments section. If I have time I will do longer reviews for these and will definitely be reviewing Greatest Showman and Coco eventually on this blog. Some like Ferdinand and The Disaster Artist I’ve reviewed on my youtube channel. Check those reviews out and make sure you are subscribed to this blog and the channel.

Merry late Christmas!

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Pitch Perfect 3 Review (Some Spoilers)

Let me start by saying to most people Pitch Perfect 3 is just a lame comedy but to me it hurt my heart quite a bit. I don’t have many live action comedies I like these days. Most are so vulgar and obscene that I don’t even bother seeing them let alone loving them. However, the original Pitch Perfect was an exception to this rule. It was funny, empowering and had some great music, and I loved it so much.

I went to a college where acapella music was kind of a big deal, so that music will always be nostalgic for me, but even beyond that nostalgia these girls were good singers, and the arrangements were creative. I also loved the characters particularly Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy who wasn’t just a fat joke but owned who she was and was hilariously self-confident. Anyway, I loved the first movie and it will always be special to me.

And then there was the second movie, which I probably gave more of a pass to than I should have. It had just enough funny parts but it was a decent step down in quality. Of course, it made a ton of money so we all knew there would be a Pitch Perfect 3 . Honestly, the resulting film is not a pretty scene you guys.

Pitch Perfect 3 kind of sucks and it makes me really sad.

The cast of the Bellas are all back and they are all trying. There is chemistry there and some of the singing is good (but a little boring this time). The problem is the plot is super weak and it’s not funny at all. I don’t know what they were thinking with this story. I felt embarrassed for these actors especially John Lithgow who should be banned from Australia with the accent he tries to pull off.

Basically the Bellas reunite and go on a USO tour which is also a competition for some rapper. Most of that is very boring with terrible jokes sprinkled in usually about how fat Amy is. Fat Amy has gone from empowering to a complete joke. Then in a completely baffling second act the girls get abducted and Fat Amy becomes an action hero taking out bad guys with karate chops. I just sat there thinking ‘what have you done with my sweet little comedy?”

All of the relationships from the previous films are abandoned except for the Bellas and Becca (Anna Kendrick) immediately abandons her dreams of producing music because pop stars are difficult to work with- what the heck? There was never any sense of her wanting to be a solo singer or that being a dream of hers in the previous films. Literally she doesn’t even want to join the bellas because it will detract from her producing work.

But all of that wouldn’t matter if it was funny but the humor was insultingly bad. They don’t even get any laughs from Gail and John commentating. It just sucks. My advice is to buy the album and listen to a few songs and watch the first movie again. Pitch Perfect 3 deserves to be pitched in the trash. To use a pun from the movie- it is acaterrible.

Lady Bird Review

Coming of age movies are some of the most important yet tricky movies to master. The teenage experience is so unique and sacred in a way that capturing it in film so many people can relate to is very difficult. For example, I love Perks of Being a Wallflower. It felt completely authentic to my experience, like someone had been filming my friends and I in high school; yet, I know others who that film rings completely false. I also love Juno, which many people find overwrought and annoying. To me it is funny and sweet, and I love it. Dazed and Confused and Dirty Dancing are two more favorites. However, other films like Edge of 17 or The Breakfast Club that others love don’t work for me. Today I went to see the latest entry in the genre, Lady Bird and for the most part I enjoyed it. I didn’t LOVE it like many seem to but it was good (I have a feeling this movie will be this year’s La La Land where merely liking it isn’t enough for some people. Sigh).

Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan (who I adored as an older character in Brooklyn) as a senior in high school in Sacramento (my parents lived in Sacramento for 9 years so I recognized many of the locations!). She is a sullen, angry teen who hates Sacramento and mostly hates her Mother. This is similar to the character in Edge of 17 but with a little bit more warmth than that film. I’m not going to lie I find this type of teenage character very uncomfortable to watch as it was totally me as a teen. I was pretty grumpy and hated my small town/parents who had a small baby at the time. I wanted nothing more than to get away from all of them and spread my wings (luckily I was also a die hard Mormon so didn’t get into much trouble!).

Still, whenever I watch these kinds of movies I want to call my Mother and apologize for how horrible I was. I remember one time throwing a book at my Dad because I was so angry at him. Another time storming up the stairs in one of the rare instances of my life I used profanity against my Mother. I remember feeling like nobody was listening to me. One time I screamed at my whole family “you’re the weird ones. I’m the normal one except in my own house”. LOL.  I was not pleasant to live with. I’m not saying this as a knock against the movie. I’m just trying to give some context into my response.

Lady Bird’s mother is played brilliantly by Laurie Metcalf. In fact, I kind of wish the movie was about her rather than her daughter. She’s a very interesting character where Lady Bird I’ve seen many times before. She loves her daughter but also finds her a royal pain, something most parents of sullen teenagers can relate to.

I also loved Lucas Hedges in this as Lady Bird’s first boyfriend. He is rapidly becoming one of my favorite young actors with his performances in this, Manchester by the Sea, and 3 Billboards. He felt very authentic and gave the movie some of the warmth I was missing in Edge of 17.

I know some people don’t like the glib dialogue in Juno and if that is the case then you will love Lady Bird. It’s very well done and feels authentic and natural. I prefer the more comedic, heightened dialogue of Diablo Cody but this is executed well.

I do have some negatives for Lady Bird. First, I did not feel the second boyfriend played by Timothee Chalamet worked. He didn’t feel authentic or real to a high school student and it was just bland. Perhaps this is because I loved Lucas Hedges’ raw performance so much that the new boyfriend fell flat? I’m not sure, but I didn’t like those scenes.

Also the movie should have ended with her leaving for college. Instead it goes on for another 15 minutes or so and this was anticlimactic. They had the perfect ending and stretched it on too long. I don’t know if I completely bought Lady Bird, with her personality, going for the popular girl either and leaving her best friend for a time. That didn’t quite feel true.

But that’s about it on the negatives. Lady Bird is worth your while if you like coming of age films and certainly if you are raising a teenager watch it! It will be very cathartic for you!

Overall Grade- B

Lady Bird is rated R for some sensuality, drug use but mostly language. It is fine for teenagers.

3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri Review

If I was going to subtitle this review I would say 3 Billboards: Voyeurism in 2017 Film. What I mean by voyeurism is the sense of glee we feel in watching the pain or difficulties of another person. This can be in dramatic or comedic form and it has long existed on television in shows like Snapped or sensationalized murder dramas. I personally felt there was a sense of voyeurism in Martin Scorsese’s Silence- that watching these Christians suffer for nearly 3 hours was somehow cathartic for some (I found it repulsive). The Glass Castle, which I hated, also had a sense of voyeurism and false heroism in the father and the treatment of these children. In comedy it has taken a different turn where the voyeurism is focused on a particular class of people- Middle American Trump voters.

There’s no doubt that most in Hollywood are angry at anyone who elected Donald Trump. Meryl Streep in her Golden Globes speech described the attitude of most when she said:

So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if you kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing else to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

It’s kind of ironic because Hollywood has been doing a pretty good job lately of kicking themselves out with all these sexual abuse scandals! But listen to the disdain she holds for the middle America, average American with their football and mixed martial arts “which are not the arts”. She doesn’t care about mixed martial arts. It was her way of taking a dig at a class of people she finds beneath her and is repulsed by.

Many who feel this way are angry and want revenge and since marching doesn’t seem to be doing much good they work it into their art, which they have every right to do. However, I don’t have to like said art! Earlier in the year we got Beatriz at Dinner, which actively irritated me. There is literally a dream sequence  in that film where the character gets to murder the Trump/1% clone. If that’s not voyeurism in film then I don’t know what is.

The latest journey into voyeurism is from writer and director Martin McDonagh called The Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. In the dark comedy Frances McDormand plays a grieving Missouri mother who is angry at the lack of progress in her daughter’s case, so she buys 3 billboards outside the town.

Without giving too much away the film becomes a revenge piece with McDormand as the supposed anti-hero. She reams out the clergy, police (literally setting the station on fire), her ex-husband and even young teenagers. The sheriff played by Woody Harrelson is supposed to be her antagonist, but he’s pretty unlikable too. He’s the heart of the movie but then does distasteful stuff, which make him hard to root for.

The anger at cops continues as Sam Rockwell plays a loveable racist cop if there is such a thing. He is an angry character who commits an act of violence against a gay character I had a hard time chuckling along with. The only character I liked was played by Peter Dinklage who is a little person who doesn’t care what others think about him. Lucas Hedges was also solid in the few scenes as Mildred’s son.

It’s not that every character needs to be likable for a film to work, but even an anti-hero needs to have moments of warmth that draw you in. There’s a scene in this film where Mildred kicks young teens in the groin and that is supposed to be funny. It felt more uncomfortable to me.

If you look at many of the reviews you can see this kind of voyeurism. One critic, Katie Walsh, who gave the film a perfect score said ”

“…a cathartic wail against the zeitgeist of rape culture and state brutality. It’s a rallying cry, a right hook to the jaw, and wow, does it ever hurt so good.”

There’s a catharsis in seeing police, religion and other institutions assaulted and torn down. That feels good to people that are angry at said institutions. It’s not helpful or entertaining in my opinion but it feels stimulating for some. Faith based communities have a similar catharsis when institutions and people they hate are torn down in their films. It’s stimulating and even arousing but not what I want out of film.

To be honest Three Billboards wasn’t made for me. In fact, I’m one of the people the movie is mad at with my conservative values and traditional religion. So people would probably get a kick out of seeing a revenge piece against me. More power to them but it didn’t work for me. The performances were all strong and it is well made but I didn’t care for it. They try to tag on a redemptive ending but it didn’t feel earned to me and didn’t work.

I didn’t find Three Billboards to be funny, insightful or have anything interesting to say about religion, politics, art, crime, police brutality or anything like that. I didn’t laugh much; although most of my theater was in stitches. I guess some find repeated assault on characters and on Middle American values to be funny.

I did not…

The Son of Bigfoot Review

 

I’m not going to lie to you guys. There are times when I get on here and think ‘ugh I’ve got to tell them about the latest mediocre….movie.” However, other times I approach the keyboard with great anticipation because I can tell you about something that surprised me. It’s like I heard a great secret and can’t wait to share it with all of my friends. Today is such an experience.

Let me tell you about the recent European import The Son of Bigfoot. This movie was not only way better than I expected it to be but it was legitimately a good animated film with tons of heart, humor and an entertaining story.

It’s perhaps especially surprising I enjoyed The Son of Bigfoot so much because it was made by the team who brought us such classics as Fly Me to the Moon and The Wild Life (which I didn’t hate as much as others but this is a huge step up!). It’s certainly much better than such mainstream animated films as The Emoji Movie, The Star and Despicable Me 3.

The story focuses on a very likable teenage protagonist named Adam. His main attribute is his bushy thick hair. His father died when he was little and his Mom struggles to help him deal with bullies and corral his need for adventure.

One day he gets a clue that perhaps there is more to his Dad’s story than he was told. Could he be the mysterious Bigfoot that has prowled the nearby forests? He, along with his buddy animals, set off to find out and in the process he learns a lot about his father, family and himself.

Here’s the trailer if you want to see more:

There is so much to like about The Son of Bigfoot. I really liked Adam as a character. He felt like a typical teenager without being annoying. The relationship between him and his Dad develops in a touching way as he comes to understand himself more in the process. He also has to learn to forgive both his Mom and his Dad and that journey felt authentic and real. There are no celebrity voice actors in the film (yay!) but the professionals they got worked and the dubbing seemed natural. The sidekicks didn’t feel like Minions clones (for once) which was nice and the humor in the film mostly worked for me. The action scenes were fun. The animation was pretty impressive for a small budget. I even liked the music by a band called Puggy!

If I was looking for downsides I guess the evil corporate villain is a bit of a snooze and not every joke lands. It can feel a little overstuffed at times with storylines like the bullying being unnecessary but these are all nitpicks.This is a thoroughly entertaining film that the entire family will enjoy. It also has a sweet message without being a MESSAGE movie.

I don’t want to oversell The Son of Bigfoot. It’s not Your Name or something earth shattering, but I was very excited after seeing it. I even got emotional at certain sequences. Like I cried! This was a really sweet, funny, pleasant movie that I hope you give a chance on demand or from your local library. It’s one I will be picking up for sure.

Wonder Review

Adapting a popular novel is always a tricky undertaking for a film studio. They could stay close to the source and please the die-hard fans, of which there are many, or they can make changes that work better for a cinematic experience. In the new film, Wonder, the creators have chosen the former and stayed very close to R.J. Palacio’s 2012 novel of the same name. Therefore, I can only imagine that fans of the book will be very happy with the adaptation. Unfortunately, as someone who was meh on the book, I had a lot of problems with it.

Wonder tells the story of Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), a little boy who has a facial deformity that makes it hard for him to fit in with other boys and girls his age. His parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, have finally decided to put him in public school. This is scary for the entire family, including Auggie’s long-suffering sister Via (Izabela Vidovic). Just as in the book, the film alternates narrators, and we see perspectives of Auggie’s schoolmates and family as he experiences a year of school.

All of these experiences have nice moments but, as a victim of childhood bullying myself, others rang false. Firstly, the film creators reduced Auggie’s deformity; he’s supposed to be so disfigured he barely has a functional face. If you look at the cover of the book, you can see that his eye is the only ‘normal’ part of his face. I had a hard time buying that kids would bully the adorable looking Tremblay. He’s also not that socially awkward either. He’s a little shy but nothing crazy. I think the pudgy girl or girl with an accent or something like that are far more likely to get picked on than Auggie for his mildly abnormal face.

But let’s go with his face is so horrific that he is bullied, which isn’t shown to us in a compelling way either. This is going to sound unfeeling but I often wanted to tell Auggie to buck up a little more. He is extremely sensitive and expected to be treated with unreasonably soft kid gloves, rather than simply expecting to be treated like a normal kid. In fact, almost all the students and staff seemed to go out of their way to be nice to him. The school even has kids, including the bully, take time from summer break to give him a tour of the school. At the end of the year, he is given an award for courage, which I didn’t think was earned. Frankly, the kids who gave him the tour and were nice to him probably deserved it more.

There is one point where Via says to Auggie, “not everything in the world is about you,” and this needed to be said much more frequently. In fact, I often felt like all of the characters were more interesting than Auggie, especially Via. Izabela Vidovic is excellent in the role and she’s a character that is constantly ignored in favor of her high-maintenance brother. She plays this with the right amount of kindness and irritation. Her romance subplot is also really sweet.

This is the risk a movie takes in having more than one narrator. It may expose the flaws of one narrator and leave the viewers preferring others. Like I said, I liked all of the characters more than Auggie and was disappointed whenever we went back to him.

It’s not good in a movie like Wonder when the bullies’ parents are explaining their point of view and I, a former bully victim, actually agree with them. Auggie is never asked to see things from others’ points of view, or to try to help those around him. It’s all about how he is hurt from the slightest things and, if such a hurt occurs, those ‘guilty’ people need to be punished and removed. Shouldn’t he be taught to deal with difficult people or to turn enemies into friends? That takes real courage.

I suppose there are some kids with facial deformities like Auggie who are as sensitive but it didn’t feel authentic or emotionally true. If he really was so fragile, it probably isn’t a wise time for him to be entering public education. Maybe even a private school would have been a better choice?

Nevertheless, if you like the book Wonder, then you probably will enjoy this movie. The acting is good, and it’s well-made by Stephen Chbosky, who also made one of my favorite movies, Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yet, in the end, the film was just too vanilla with a plucky kid that was more self-absorbed than wonderful.

Overall Grade: C

Blade Runner 2049 Review

I saw the original Blade Runner for the first time last year as part of my Blind Spot series. You can read my initial thoughts here. It’s a very impressive movie and worth watching just for the themes and influence it had on cinema. However, I must own I find it kind of slow and I’ve fallen asleep every time I’ve seen it (which is 5 times now). I saw the new film Blade Runner 2049 in a marathon with the old one and sure enough I fell asleep watching the old one. It’s just too languid in spots.

I did a podcast on the original with my friend Patrick you should check out

With that said, you can imagine my joy that Blade Runner 2049 not only kept me awake but I enjoyed it very much. I think it does the rare thing for a sequel by actually being better than the original film. It looks every bit as good but it is better paced with more engaging characters and action.


Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins do an amazing job creating a world with layers and that feels old and new at the same time. Whether it is sand, rain or snow the atmosphere never fails to be immersive and mesmerizing.

The story is a bit convoluted but basically without spoilers Ryan Gosling stars as K a young Blade Runner who is given the job of retiring older model replicants. As he does this he explores part of his past, a mysterious body and a new organization that replaced the Tyrell Corporation from the previous film.

Harrison Ford is back as Deckard and he’s not in it quite as much as I thought he would but he’s great. It’s definitely one of his better performances and I wouldn’t complain if he got nominated for the role. He’s not just the surly old man he usually plays these days but a wounded desperate man.

There aren’t many cameos in Blade Runner 2049 and it focuses on telling a new story. I loved all the performances with the exception of Jared Leto who I found a bit grating.Robin Wright, Ana de Armas and Silvia Hoeks are all tremendous in their roles and Ryan Gosling is wonderful as the Blade Runner K.

I am not going to tell you I understood everything in Blade Runner 2049 or that it all makes sense but that is part of the fun of a film like this. It has layers you can talk about and interpret differently. It doesn’t spell things out like exposition heavy movies do (except for the Leto character which can be a bit much).

Most importantly I didn’t fall asleep or get bored like I do with the original Blade Runner. I found it engaging and interesting, which was a relief.

There are some issues with the movie. As I mentioned, I wasn’t high on Leto and the plot can be a bit convoluted. Also, it could have definitely had 15-20 minutes cut out and it would have been a little better.

Still, a big improvement over the original so that is a tremendous accomplishment for all involved. Blade Runner fans and non-fans should definitely check it out and enjoy some striking scifi film noire. It’s still not my favorite genre, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

 

 

Current Mini Reviews

So I have been very behind in reviews for the blog lately. Make sure you are following my letterboxd account where I will at least post my star rating for a film I’ve seen. Also I do a weekly show on my youtube channel where I rank the new films I’ve seen that week and share some thoughts.

But let me catch you all up with some 2017 films I’ve seen in some Current Mini Reviews!

Beatriz at Dinner-

I thought it was awful. It’s basically a chance for liberals to have a pissing session over Donald Trump. The Lithgow character is a rich, white, racist capitalist who owns hotels and Beatriz throws his phone at him and envisions murdering him. If that is your jam than this movie is for you.
Basically this movie is the liberal equivalent of Christian movies that just tell the viewers what they want to hear and how much better they are than those evil atheists.

Frown Worthy

The Guardian Brothers-

This is a Chinese animated film that is now available to watch on Netflix. I’m not as hard on these Chinese animated films as most. In fact, I enjoyed this year’s Rock Dog when many didn’t like it. However, I did not enjoy The Guardian Brothers. I found it very boring. There is some nice animation but I honestly kept falling asleep because nothing engaged me about the story.

Frown Worthy

Megan Leavey-

I haven’t been a big fan of most of the post-Iraq war movies portraying the life of soldiers. I can’t explain why but most of them don’t really work; however, Megan Leavey is an exception. It’s very heart-felt without being preachy or overbearing. Kate Marra is great in the lead role and I really felt for her and her dog. Some may call it sentimental but I think it was moving and beautiful.

Smile Worthy

Louise By the Shore-

This is a french animated film about an old woman who gets left behind on an resort island and must figure out how to survive on her own. As she lives she is reborn in a way and gets a new energy for life.

I loved this film! The animation is beautiful with a whimsical quality and I loved Louise as a character. It might have too little plot for some people but I really thought it was charming. It’s worth hunting down if you can find it. The music and sound design were perfect also.

Smile Worthy

Wind River

It’s only major flaw is perhaps that it is not as good as Hell or High Water– writer Taylor Sheridan’s previous film. This is his first time directing and he does a great job creating atmosphere and tone. I had a few issues with the way the female characters were portrayed but it was still an engaging mystery.

Smile Worthy

Napping Princess-

2017 has been such a great year for anime that I wanted to love this but I couldn’t get on board. The visuals and world building are impressive and it will entertain small kids but I found it repetitive, exposition heavy and boring.

I reviewed it for Rotoscopers.com here.

Frown Worthy

 Home Again-

I was actually excited for Home Again as I love a good romantic comedy and we get way too few of them these days. Unfortunately Home Again wasn’t a romantic comedy. It wasn’t a romance. It was a sitcom about 3 guys trying to get a screenplay made in LA and an older woman helping them out. I hope we get better romances in the future but until then I will enjoy Hallmark movies and my Hallmark podcast I’ve started which you can find here.

Frown Worthy

Window Horses-

I absolutely loved this indie animated film about a Chinese/Iranian girl who gets invited to a poetry festival in Iran. While there she learns much about her father, family, identity, life and poetry. It was funny, emotional, sweet and very well written. I loved the unique artistic style and music. If you can find it see it!

I reviewed it on rotoscopers.com here

Smile Worthy

Viceroy’s House-

This seems to be the year for lots of films that satisfy the Anglophile in me and all of the British films have been worth a watch. So is the case with Viceroy’s House. It tells the story of the last Viceroy in India and the events that happened to split India and Pakistan. Director Gurinder Chadha has a personal connection to this story and it comes through. The cast is good and it is handsomely produced. There are definitely sentimental and predictable moments but it is enjoyable

Smile Worthy

Person to Person-

I recently became aware of the term ‘mumblecore’. This is an indie film that follows characters around and shows their everyday life and Person to Person is such a film. I don’t require a strong plot for my movies. I love Richard Linklater movies and enjoyed a film like Maggie’s Plan from last year. However, this one didn’t really do it for me. The people didn’t feel real enough and so it felt like following around a bunch of New York caricatures instead of people. There are some nice moments but over all it didn’t work

Frown Worthy

Lego Ninjago-

I have been a big fan of both the previous Lego movies but must own to feeling underwhelmed by Lego Ninjago. My main problem was it felt very derivative. It’s not just derivative of the previous Lego movies but of Kung fu Panda, Star Wars and a myriad of other films. This made it feel very repetitive and boring. The animation isn’t as good as the original Lego Movie (neither was Lego Batman tbh) and the live action elements didn’t have the emotion of the original film. There is some fun action and the scenes with the cat were hilarious but I can’t recommend Lego Ninjago.

Frown Worthy

Leap

Known in other countries as Ballerina, Leap is a European animated film that will satisfy its target demographic of little girls dreaming of being a ballerina. It’s got decent animation and is a perfectly harmless animated film. However, I did have a major issue with it. The message of the movie is to be a dreamer, which is great. The problem is these dreams come pretty easily to our young heroine. She gets parts in ballets that others have worked for years to get when she is just learning the basic positions because she has the heart! I don’t think this is a great message for girls. Dreaming is wonderful but it must also be accompanied by the requisite hard work.

Frown Worthy (but it is very close. Smile worthy if you are an 8 year old girl who loves to dance)

So there you have it! Let me know if you have seen any of these films and what you thought of them. Thanks tons and happy movie watching!

My Little Pony and Coco Trailer Response

We got 2 trailers today for upcoming animated films. They both have their pros and cons so I thought I would talk about them here on the blog and see what your thoughts are.

My Little Pony

The first is for My Little Pony: the Movie. This is of course based on the Friendship is Magic series and is a significant improvement from the first trailer and teaser.

What I like about this trailer is it feels like this film knows what it is and isn’t taking itself too seriously. It has a definite nostalgia vibe to it in the Saturday morning style of the animation, plot, and especially the villain. It’s like everything we love about the show but with a little more sparkles and colors to it. I am sure critics will be tough on it like they were Smurfs: the Lost Village, but I think it looks refreshing and fun. I like that they aren’t going overboard with the girl power and making it something that girls and boys can have fun with.

As far as concerns for the trailer I am a little worried they are focusing on Pinkie Pie too much. She has been a focus of the teaser and both trailers and while I enjoy her she can be a little screechy when over-used. I would much rather them focus on Twilight Sparkle or Rainbow Dash. AppleJack is my favorite of the Mane 6 but she is probably better used for comic relief. I also am not a big fan of the focus on the celebrity voices because this film should really be about the ponies. They are the true celebrity here and I hope that doesn’t get distracting.

I just want this to be a sweet, energetic movie for fans of the show of all types and I feel pretty good about where it is going.  What do you think of this trailer and the potential of the film?

COCO

The second trailer is for Pixar’s new film Coco. I am naturally excited for any Pixar film but I am starting to have some concerns about this one. Here is the latest trailer:

The strengths of this trailer are two-fold: the animation and the lovely message. We sometimes take Pixar’s amazing animation for granted but we really shouldn’t. I love the way afterworld sparkles with color and light and how likable all the character designs are. You just want to hug Miguel and his dog the moment you see him. I also think the message of the film is great. My religion places a lot of importance on connecting with our ancestors and honoring them so this theme is really lovely and important to explore.

Now for my concerns. I am hoping it is just trailers but both the main trailers for Coco have seemed tonally off. The first one had this strange narration that felt like something from the 90s. It didn’t feel part of a Mexican culture or style (no accent to the narrator) and it was frankly weird. Now here in this trailer they have a story that is focused on music and a character who dreams of playing music. This isn’t a background point but a key part of the story.

With that said, why on earth do they have Bittersweet Symphony playing in the background of the trailer? They have original songs for this movie. Why have we not heard any of them? One of them is written by Kristen Lopez of Frozen fame and we heard it at D23. It’s a good song. Why is that not accompanying this trailer? Why have we heard more music from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure than from Coco?

And if you are going to pick different music why on earth wouldn’t you pick something Mexican! Bittersweet Symphony isn’t even about a guitar player at least Kubo and the 2 Strings using My Guitar Gently Weeps makes a little bit more sense. Bittersweet is about a symphony!! There are no guitars in symphonies. It just makes no sense to me for the images of the trailer or the story and it makes the tone feel weird.  Why not use a Ricky Martin song or Shakira or something that felt a little bit relevant to the story!

Why are they hiding the music for Coco? Why aren’t they promoting it more? Make no mistake I think this will be a good film and I’m excited but I feel like Disney is really botching the marketing of this movie. I wish they put a tenth of the marketing in Coco that they put into Beauty and the Beast. There’s no way the music can be worse than that auto-tuned mess. Do kids even know Coco is coming out?

I just don’t get it! Am I nuts on this? What do you think of this trailer and the marketing for Coco?

Here’s a video I did on Coco trailer