Pitch Perfect 2 Review

pitch perfect2I rank comedies on a very simple scale- did it make me laugh? If it did then it did its job. Pitch Perfect 2 made me laugh.  Throw in some good music and you’ve got a fan!

In Utah and particularly my alma mater, BYU, acapella is a huge deal.  I went to many competitions to cheer on my favorite groups and we even had a team on the Sing Off a few years ago.  Acapella is just part of campus life in my book so the first Pitch Perfect had huge nostalgia points for me.

It also did the rare feet of being funny without being too vulgar. I still will frequently put it on and laugh my head off while listening to great music.

So how does Pitch Perfect 2 measure up to the original? Well, it’s a tough question because they are basically the same movie.  They totally do the whole Mighty Ducks 2 thing where you do the exact same plot but you have it be the World Championships instead of the Nationals.

That said, it still made me laugh.

You’ve got all the major players from Pitch Perfect 1 back plus the addition of Hailee Steinfeld as a new legacy freshman to the group.

I love these women!

pitch perfect3Anna Kendrick is great even though Hailee Steinfeld is kind of playing her part from the first movie.  Rebel Wilson steals the movie once again and made me laugh every time she was on screen.  Her confidence as Fat Amy is just so likable, lovely and funny.

pitch perfect10I kind of wish they had developed a few of the other Bellas a little more, and they do go back to the same joke a bit too many times.  For example, a Guatemalan girl named Flo is repeatedly given the immigrant joke and it was naughty the first time but got a little old after a while.

pitch perfect9Elizabeth Banks (who directs) and John Michael Higgins return as the announcers and this time podcasters of the acappella world and they are hilarious.  Every time they are on screen it reminds of Fred Willard in Best in Show and cracked me up. I would love to know how much of their dialogue is improved like the Christopher Guest movies which Higgins is often in.

David Cross from Arrested Development appears briefly along with a cameo that has mostly been spoiled but I will let what few of you that haven’t heard of a certain new acapella team be surprised (was so funny!)

Keegan-Michael Key is very funny as Becca’s boss for an internship she gets at a record label.  He has this hipster employee that drives him crazy which made me laugh.

pitch perfect4The plot is completely stupid.  Basically a wardrobe malfunction happens and the Bellas are suspended from national competition.  However, they can compete at the World Championships (see totally Mighty Ducks 2).  The big competition is a German team called Das Sound Machine.

pitch perfect11For the most part they are the cliched German bad guys but they are given some funny interactions with the girls and they are pretty good singers.  I liked that it at least seemed like a fair fight.

pitch perfect7The boys are mostly relegated to a few scenes which is fine with me.  We need more female heavy pictures especially with female directors!

pitch perfect8Adam DeVine is probably in it the most of the young men and he is very funny as Rebel Wilson’s love interest. His idea of a romantic meal totally cracked me up.

In the end Pitch Perfect 2 isn’t creative or different but I can’t deny that it made me laugh and I loved the music. If you didn’t like the first one and didn’t find it funny than you won’t like this.  It’s as simple as that.  I did so I liked this.  It isn’t as good because first is always best but still I really enjoyed it.

Humor is completely subjective.  What makes one laugh may leave another stone faced and cold but I at least appreciate a comedy that isn’t completely raunchy like we were getting for a while.  There is nothing in Pitch Perfect 2 that made me want to cringe like in the Judd Apatow movies.

For some reason a lot of people that read this blog don’t like comedies.  I don’t really get that. I like to laugh probably more than I like dramas. I also love musicals.  In other words, Pitch Perfect 3- sign me up!

As far as content there is a scene at the beginning where a woman is exposed off camera and it is discussed. There’s talk of making out and sex but it is all pretty tame.  That’s about it.

Overall Grade- B-, Content Grade A

Any of you see it?  Did you think it was funny too?

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

Into the Woods: A Review

into_the_woodsHollywood’s latest stab at the Broadway musical adaptation, Disney’s Into the Woods, is mostly great, even brilliant, except when it isn’t.  I’ve rarely left a movie feeling more befuddled and mixed in my responses.  One side of me loved it and another was very frustrated.

In fact, if you had asked me at the 1 1/2 hour mark what I thought it would have been an enthusiastic A+ when it seemed like everything was ending and happy and then it took a turn.  In the movie’s defense the play takes that same turn but it felt like one ending too many and honestly it was a part of the play I was hoping would be omitted or glossed over.

Well, let’s talk about the good things because there are a lot.  Most importantly the singing.  It is uniformly great.  There is no Russell Crowe or Pierce Brosnan to suffer through.  They all sound Broadway level quality. Some we knew could sing like Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia, Prairie Home Companion), Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect), and Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd).  Others were not familiar to me as singers but do very well like Emily Blunt and Chris Pine.

I have no complaints about the singing and that is saying something because Stephen Sondheim’s music is no easy task to perform.  He is extremely challenging to sing because his musicals aren’t all that melodic and he loves minor keys and strange chords and key signatures.  On the Steps of the Palace changes keys like 4 times in 1 song.  It’s extremely difficult but they all did a great job.

The cast was also uniformly strong in their acting of these fairytale roles.  Meryl Streep is great, and Oscar Winner Colleen Atwood deserves another for the amazing costume and makeup.

witch and rapunzelJohnny Depp was actually very good as the Wolf.  It is the best I’ve seen him in since Finding Neverland.  It is another fairytale like creature but in small doses I didn’t mind it (I’m so sick of Johnny Depp/Tim Burton pairing).  He’s only in the movie for 2 or 3 brief scenes but he does them very well.

wolf and red ridingAnna Kendrick is also good as a very modern version of Cinderella. She can’t decide whether she wants to be a princess or not which is a clever take on the story.

cinderellaChris Pine and Billy Magnusson are also hilarious as the two princes’ singing the play’s best song Agony.princes

Like I said if the movie had ended at 1 and half hour in I would have been thrilled with it.  It’s a tacked on 2nd act in the final 30-45 minutes that begins to lose me.

I don’t want to spoil anything but basically Into the Woods is a combination in one movie of Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Into The Woods 2014 Cast1The new characters are The Baker and The Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt and James Drenton) who get told by The Witch there is a curse on their family and they must bring her back 4 items from the Woods to break the curse.  Naturally each of these 4 items are a part of the 4 fairytales.

But the last third of the story that narrative is kind of abandoned and we get a bit of a disaster/fight the giant sequence where people die, are unfaithful and everything gets very serious.  It just bummed me out because we were on such a high and then ended on a semi-high.  Still good but not as excited as I was at 90 minute mark.

Oh well.  What I did like I really liked.  The look of the film is dark but with a certain cheerful spooky feel to it.  Tracy Ulman is fun as Jack’s Mother and it’s fun to see her back on screen again.

The CGI looks fine because most of it is in the dark at night and I find darkness a bit more forgiving with CGI.

Basically I really enjoyed it until that last third.  It’s a joke it got a PG rating when you have multiple characters dying, 2 being eaten, feet getting severed, characters blinded, and a woman who is unfaithful to her husband.  Stupid MPAA. If I had kids those would all be points of concern.  I mean I don’t want to be explaining to my little child why the Bakers Wife is kissing another man.  I wish they had toned that part down from the original play. I haven’t seen the play in probably 10 years so I couldn’t remember.  I just hate it when you feel like everyone in the movie is a jerk. Need someone to root for.

Well, I can’t really give much else away without spoiling it.  Just keep in mind- I liked it, except that last 1/3rd when the personalities and tone shift.

Still a definite recommendation based on the great singing, costumes, and an overall entertaining movie

Overall Grade- B

Jeremy Jahns and I are on totally the same page on this one