Blinded By Balanced Stories, Inspirational Moments, And A Killer SoundTrack

 

Blinded by the Light Poster

Music icons are those that seem timeless, maybe not in the way of new hits, but in the impact they leave behind.  Musical works speak to us on so many levels, potentially why we are able to play them as often as we do without getting sick of the tracks.  Yet, do we really understand how music impacts people?  Do we think about how music can motivate, inspire, and even more so revolutionize the changes that they incite on many people?  That is the theme of the final movie I review this week, a film that is all about the impact that movies have and what they can motivate to do.  So let us take a look as I dive into:

 

Movie: Blinded By The Light (2019)

 

Director:

Gurinder Chadha

Writers:

Paul Mayeda BergesGurinder Chadha  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Viveik KalraKulvinder GhirMeera Ganatra

 

LIKES:

 

Good Pace

Delightfully Funny

Nice Look At Culture and Music

Great Use of Music

Emotionally Deep

Decent Balance Of Most Stories

Relevant

 

DISLIKES

 

A Bit Preachy

Perhaps A Little More Investment In Two Other Stories

Hollywood vs. Reality

Cliched stands out

 

SUMMARY:

 

With movies like this that go to make a statement you sometimes wonder if the movie will move or potentially fall to the pace of being artistic.  In this case, the Boss’ journey movie seems to movie at a good enough pace to remain entertaining but yet still accomplish the statements it wants to make.  It’s charm comes in the form of the heartwarming tale, that manages to be funny without even trying and yet deliver the messages of inspiration and art that it wants to do.  The movie is a nice look at how music influences the world around us and can inspire those brave few who can be fueled to use their gifts for the greater good.  In addition, the cultural lifestyle is certainly a major part of this film’s energy, somehow managing to capture some components of a culture or two and yet paint in a way that is super relevant to many.  The tale of the main character holds a lot of heart behind it and seeing that journey unfold feels like a realistic heroes journey that many dream to accomplish.  But defying a culture is not the only tale, for Blinded By The Light manages to accurately represent the facets of life from the concept of love and friendship, to the aspiration of trying to live your dreams.  It’s emotionally deep and will speak to many members as the relevant tales begin to come to life and perhaps allow you to sort of walk alongside the characters as they face the fears.  Yet, my favorite aspect is the nice integration of the Boss’ music into the film, for like a musical the legendary tunes are solidly integrated into the sequences to deliver the emotional kick of the scene or perhaps just make a fun little cover in a bold attempt to please a character.

 

Despite all the fun I had in this movie though there are of course areas that acted as a somewhat limitation to the film.  Motivational as this movie is, it can come off a bit preachy at times too, a little too forced in the inspirational tale and focus and perhaps steering away from the balance I was enjoying.  In addition, the movie sometimes gets a little more reality vs Hollywood for me at the inconsistencies that real life deals vs. the magic of things working out in the Hollywood atmosphere.  Not the biggest dislikes mind you, but something that does not quite fit in the same light as some of the other parts of the movie.  I guess my biggest limitations come in the form of some of the story imbalances and cliché moments that start to take precedent the farther the movie goes in.  In regards to the stories, there are a few plots that I’ll admit could have taken a little more focus to help bring all aspects to full circle.  One has to do with the love story and integration, yes a surprise given my previous reviews, and the other with the racial tension that was in this movie.  I understand it’s not the main focus, but it might have allowed for other Springsteen songs to get integrated in about these issues and maybe add a little more suspension and challenge to the movie.  That’s the other component that would have been nice to see is breaking up the cliché moments and adding a little more challenge to the mix.  Blinded by the Light is a little too easily pushed through, and perhaps in adding the obstacles and suspense, the full emotional passion could have burst out in full strength and break up the predictability/monotony of it.

 

The VERDICT:

 

As you can see, the movie has more likes than dislikes for me, with many of the limitations pickiness to help give that movie the final push.  Blinded by the Light turned out to be better than I anticipated, with a nice steady pace filled with a plethora of components that includes well aligned story arcs, emotionally deep lessons, inspirational sequences, and of course the timeless music of Bruce Springsteen.  Yes, it’s preachy and cliché and some stories could have been tuned up and given greater preference to really maximize everything.  However, I applaud the balance and entertainment of this film and state that though it lacks the usual mechanisms for the theater (special effects, a big adventure, or a concert experience, I still suggest a trip to the theater for this one.  If you can’t get in to hear the Boss through the big speakers, then definitely set your sights on this one for a home viewing.

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Drama/Music: 9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

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One Day Meets Beatles: Music and Love Story Overpower Interesting Concept

Yesterday Poster

 

We all know music and many of us love it without so much a whim so long as we get the tracks we love.  The artists who work to make music often are recognized more for their abuse of money and fame, rather than the motivation behind their music. So what would happen if you could be that artist you admire so much?  What if you could take credit for their work and nobody had a clue they even existed?  Well that’s where tonight’s movie comes in, and yours truly is here to cover the film to let you know whether or not the film is worth a check out.  Let’s get started as tonight we look at:

 

Movie: Yesterday (2019)

 

Director:

Danny Boyle

Writers:

Jack Barth (story by), Richard Curtis (screenplay)

Stars:

Himesh PatelLily JamesSophia Di Martino

 

LIKES:

 

  • Charming
  • Fun
  • Good Covers
  • Decent Comedic Relief
  • The “cameo”
  • The Artistic Messages
  • The Love Story
  • The Acting

 

DISLiKES:

  • Trailers spoiled Much
  • Kate McKinnon’s Extreme Character
  • Other Secondary Characters Lost
  • A Little Preachy
  • Not Quite The Revelation/Tension I thought

 

SUMMARY:

 

Much like Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle’s work once again manages to capture a charming tale that holds so much in the simplistic story telling. Yesterday was able to bring a lot of fun into the tale, taking the idea of living life as a rock star and using the covers, which are of a good quality, to maximize much of the Beatle’s legacy without the masters themselves being present.  Despite the seriousness of the movie, Yesterday is funny, selecting a drier, English wit that is occasionally spritzed with some American antics including several cameos that are fun to see.  However, Boyle’s accomplishment also is finding a way to incorporate the true film art style by sampling some artistic messages into the love story at hand. Yesterday’s alternate reality is awe inspiring in terms of pulling the blinds of fandom down to reveal the moral testing sacrifices that the music celebrity world requires, managing to test the boundaries of love without diving too far in Hallmark territory.  And it’s actually thanks to the acting that I was able to become entranced by the magic of this film.  There are plenty of actors to talk about, but in reality it’s Patel and James that take center stage, each presenting balanced performances that work in tandem and craft the tale that many will enjoy, again making a believable romance story. 

 

Yet there are a few limitations for me that I have to say I was surprised to see, at least for some of them.  One thing that is not quite a shocker is how much the trailers have given away in the mass franchising, with many key parts and comedy hits revealed in the television spots.  Amidst the predictability, Yesterday starts to lose some of its balance in terms of several decisions they made with the characters.  One thing is Kate McKinnon, the comedic queen holds the same personality quirks that people loved, but for me her style of comedy was forced and a little too extreme for the tone this movie set.  It’s SNL like presentation worked sometimes, but like a few Sheeran moments felt out of place from the components I liked.  And much like many films, Yesterday’s secondary characters we are introduced to sort of feel lost to the layered storytelling, dropped in the background for more comedic one liners.  Sure a bit realistic, but again I’m about utilizing the characters as much as you can.  Oh well, I guess that decisions goes with the themes of the movie about fame vs everything else, which although artistically presented sometimes got a bit too after school special for me.  However, the biggest “let down” so to speak was the lack of mind-blowing, or even suspenseful, revelations that the trailers suggest lied in the wings of this mystery.  Yesterday’s concept is interesting, so you were hoping for some secret to be revealed that would not sweep the film off of the beautiful presentation he put together. Not the case, for the concept sort of fizzles out in favor of pursuing the character arc stories that were built in the 2 hours.

 

      Overall, Yesterday worked for me and was fun to watch.  A beautiful balance of love, music, and charming artistic quality, Boyle proves to still have the eye for alternative storytelling.  It’s an entertaining film with a lot of heart that many should enjoy and I feel the acting performances and direction give you the characters you want to invest your time in.  There are some forced moments into the movie, primarily in altering the comedy to add a little more moisture to the drier comedy, but it’s really the lack of that giant revelation punch at the mystery that really stood out for me in terms of areas to improve.  Still, the charming tale is one that can be enjoyed in theater, but the fact it doesn’t have enough flash bang boom components means that a home viewing is most likely in your future. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Fantasy/Music:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

 

That’s The Spirit

Teen Spirit Poster

 

With all the big events coming up, it’s sometimes not surprising to have some other films sneak beneath the radar.  Without advertising, these films go unnoticed, a weird title standing out in a smaller theater, dwarfed by the juggernauts of the cinema world.  Today, I ended my review run with a look at one of these movies, hoping to get some fun and surprises in store.  Checking out a movie with little knowledge, this is another Robbie K’s movie reviews as we check out:

 

Teen Spirit (2019)

 

Director:

Max Minghella

Writer:

Max Minghella

Stars:

Elle FanningAgnieszka GrochowskaArchie Madekwe

 

 

LIKES:

  • The Pace
  • The Character Portrayal
  • The Journey
  • The Chemistry
  • The Story Structure
  • The Performances, Especially the end one
  • The Music

 

SUMMARY:  Coming out of the gate, movies that are a little more than independent often come out a bit slower for my taste, but in this movie the spirit keeps things going.  Not too fast, but not too slow, Teen spirit finds a nice balance to cram enough stuff in and keep the entertainment factor going.  It works well with keeping things moving and getting to the climactic moments without skipping too much stuff.  What helps keep this pace going starts with the character portrayal, a teenage like Cinderella story that shows the hardships and begins to expand up on the complex character that Violet is.  The journey to which tests her is familiar, but holds the components necessary to grow and lash on to the relevant character that she is.  Elle Fanning’s acting, I thought, was well selected, utilizing her demeanor from several other movies and molding it into a familiar character with a slight twist.  The director I believed utilized the modern Cinderella portrayal and integrated it well with actors/actresses who meshed well to again fashion a believable relationship.  It’s this chemistry and inclusion of so many characters that I believe grounds some of the extreme moments of the character.

Yet the character/acting is only one part of the mix, and the story structure itself helps to revive the excitement of performing. In a presentation that feels part Black Swan (without the sexual aggressiveness) meeting a teenage singing spectacle, Teen Spirit takes a familiar tale and keeps it focused on its goal of blending the two worlds. Many elements are touched upon Violet’s life and many secondary characters help her explore those different aspects and integrated this into the tale.  Being a movie about performing, you are hoping for a little pep in the step right? Well, Spirit has you covered as there are some emotionally rich performances that should speak to a number of members.  Emotional ballads, saucy diva songs, and a few covers should help get some toes tapping, while also emphasizing the mind of the lead character.  Again, the use of music and performance to add to the struggle and impasses of the film, helps grant some originality to this familiar plot. Finally, the music is the key to my enjoyment in this film.  A fantastic selection of songs, Teen spirit has found a nice blend of original songs, fun covers, and use of some energetic tracks that are not only fun, but again fit well to the scenes.  I believe this may have been the component to turn me into the movie more, and hope you like it too.

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Mostly predictable
  • Touch and Go on some story elements
  • More Performances, especially with the other guys
  • The Credit scenes

 

SUMMARY: As much fun as I had with the movie, there were still some things that needed some rehearsal to help get it perfect.  First, the tale was predictable, only a few moments hanging in the balance to whether or not they would surprise me. Yet, working with the timing, and seeing the clues, it was not hard to decipher the grand finale.  Fortunately, the other aspects of the film were enough to distract from this, but they also open up the door to another limitation.  Violet’s life has some rather shocking trials and some openings to further expand her character.  The problem is, with all the components they wanted to place in this film it resulted in these problems being touch and go.  Secondary arcs and potential for character growth were dropped very quickly, sometimes solved in the blink of an eye and other times left to fade into bare memories.  Others are open ended leading to a possible sequel, but I would have loved some extra time into the movie to further explore these components or perhaps drop a few impasses to allow for others to get development. This was especially true for the coach she meets early on in the film, the most engaging relationship of the bunch and the one that had much pushed to the side.

It’s a bit frustrating for me, but again the entertainment factor helps hide it, though again this brings up another limitation.  For a movie about competition, Teen Spirit does a poor job of engaging in the rivalry aspect and actually showing that competition.  After a semi-flash introduction, and the potential to bring about more acts, this film surprisingly left little in the development of their rivals.  Many of these acts are looks alone, a mere placeholder to remind you this is a competition.  Sadly, outside of one act and a few montage shots, these groups are forgotten characters that serve little purpose other than stir the drama plot ever so slightly.  I would have liked a little more expansion to these moments and some better competition build up to add to the suspense of the moment, despite the cost of character development.  It would have added a little more flash, offered some openings for story told through song, the aspect I really liked.  Finally, the end credit scenes were a nice tie up to the ambiguous ending, but it also paved the way for some unnecessary shots and the potential for a sequel I don’t think I would fit in this world.  Still, only time will tell the relevance of this scene, for alone it is merely extra fluff to offset some of the work this film did.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Teen Spirit has a lot packed in its run time, and the entertainment factor is the key to why this film works as well as it does.  Storytelling, acting, and character development are all functional and simplistic enough they making a guiding framework, though their predictability is a little lackluster.  No, for me the entertaining relationships, the engaging pace, and the fun of the numbers and music will be the aspect that remains strong in my mind, especially in its use of storytelling and the energy it puts out.  It’s true that Teen Spirit is not the original story, but it’s reality based and movie magic will be a combination I feel will hit many.  Still, it needs to work on balancing plot and more importantly choosing which components to focus on to help provide sustenance and suspense.

 

 

My scores are:

Drama/Music:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Returning In A Style For Both Old and New. Mary Poppins For The Family Feature Win

Mary Poppins Returns Poster

 

Years ago, the nanny that changed everything charmed her way into the theaters, bringing song and dance to her teachings as he helped sculpt family lives.  It was a wonderful movie that shed so much joy and wonder to the families who gave it a try. Decades later, the mystical nanny has decided to return once more, in hopes of bringing the same magic to the mix. Will her resurgence bring the same joy and whimsy, or has her relevance blown over too many generations to warrant the same quality?  Welcome to Robbie’s movie reviews as I take on:

 

Movie: Marry Poppins Returns (2018)

 

 

Director:

Rob Marshall

Writers:

David Magee (screenplay by), David Magee (screen story by)

Stars:

Emily BluntLin-Manuel MirandaBen Whishaw

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting: While no one can replace the lovely Julie Andrews, it does not mean that Blunt has not done wonders with the character.  Still holding the same nostalgic quality, the new Mary Poppins has a little more edge, sass, and a wonderful balance of love that is quite endearing to see with her cast mates.  Lin-Manuel as well adds his own fun to the crew, bringing his theatrical qualities to the character of Bert. Nostalgic enough to have that same childish demeanor, but different to stand out, his musical skills were quite welcome to the mix. And as for the rest of the crew, they all do a bang-up job of adding to the film, and the young cast of the Banks kids are well directed to avoid being the annoying twerps these roles can be.

 

The Numbers:  Mary Poppins was all about bringing the energetic numbers that would forever ingrain themselves in the music hall of fame.  With her return, Mary once more brought the energy back to the screen, utilizing Miranda’s talents well to once more bring the showmanship of the theater.  This film is filled with the magical song and dance routines made famous in the first film and will have the young and young at heart dancing in their seats.  Each of these numbers accomplished the goal of being resident, and in true musical fashion was able to portray their inner feelings and lessons.  A wonderful ensemble of songs awaits the audience members, and holds great potential to become that new song to be repeated a thousand times.

 

The Story:  Thank the idea of nostalgia, or thank the director because the return of Mary Poppins brings with it a charming delight that holds both old and new motifs in its well-timed shots.  Lessons for all generations lie the nanny’s wisdom, utilizing a variety of worlds and settings to help the Banks family find their way in the harsh London streets  Much of the story contains nods to the original plot, while others hold something new and exciting in their powerful sequences. In addition, there is enough nod to other characters to establish the fate of the various characters, while also being original to stand on its own.  Regardless, there is so much delight and balance to the story to help rope many into the plot.

 

The Classic Animation:  Think back to the classic version and one might recall the dive into the 2-D cartoon land and the epic scenes and songs that came with it.  Over 50 years later, and Disney was not afraid to return to the cartoon theatrics again.  I thoroughly enjoyed the return to Disney’s origins, seeing the classic art style fill the screen and integrate with our live action friends.  Again, the memories of youth rush back in with it and bring perhaps my favorite number that held so much pep and vibrant enthusiasm.  A wonderful nod to the old, while making sure to balance the new style into the mix as well.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

More Of the Older Banks Children:  The trailers painted heavy integration of Michael and Jane as they fall under the care of the nanny to relearn things left behind.  While they have a decently strong integration into the mix, it’s not quite the same level I was expecting and as such wanted them to go on the journey a little more with their kids.  Again, nothing remotely weak, but perhaps a little more integration could have taken the element farther.

 

 

More Time In the Animation: The classic horse racing scene had plenty of time in the 2-D world, making sure to really give the audience the full fun of the scene.  This movie did a fantastic job in the short time they were there, but I was hoping for more time or at least another visit to an animated world where the two styles could meet.  Poppins may do a great job balancing a lot of components, but yours truly wanted another masterpiece in 2-D/live integration that could bring with it the same memory etching greatness it did.

 

The Meryl Streep Number: Is it cute?  Yes!  Does it serve a musical number with catchy lyrics and beats?  Yes.  Does Meryl Streep do a good job?  Yes. So why a dislike?  Well, this number as fun as it is, is very irrelevant to the story.  The dive into the workshop held some potential, but stuck out like the sore thumb at its inclusion into the whole plot, dropping it after the nearly 10 minutes of inclusion.  I just wished that they had continued the story, and perhaps brought another number in, again relevant tot eh story.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, the second visit to Mary Poppins’ lessons still has plenty of charm, love, and energy that will bring so much joy to the audience.  Get ready to have your family film of the holidays, ready to bridge generation gaps, and help one learn old lessons in the new age.  With relevant, energetic song and dance numbers, a fantastic cast with great chemistry, and whimsy from a number of sources, this reviewer encourages hitting the the theater for this one. And while it is not the same as the first movie, it holds its own charm and wonder that was long overdue for the cinema. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy/Family/Fantasy: 8.0-8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0-7.5

A Remake Is Born: Music and A New Face Are Very Appealing

A Star Is Born Poster

            Robbie K with the latest review on another holiday remake, this one hoping to bring the emotional punch that drama lovers well… love. Tonight two acting/singing icons are ready to lead the way, with plenty of reviews already praising the two in making this movie come to life.  Is it worth the hype, or have we been tricked by another Hollywood stunt?  Robbie K here to help guide your viewing pleasures, so let’s get started on my review of:

 

Movie: A Star Is Born (2018)

 

Director:

Bradley Cooper

Writers:

Eric Roth (screenplay by), Bradley Cooper (screenplay by)

Stars:

Lady GagaBradley CooperSam Elliott

 

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting:  Hands down, the two leading characters have amazing chemistry together.  Gaga’s mature optimism but realistic grounding craft a strong character ready to brave the storm of drama to come.  She brings the joy and energy to the film to help you get through the dark components of this film.  Bradley Cooper on the other reprises his role of the sultry, depressed like, hero, who is easy on the eyes of the females in my audience and brings a sort of romanticism charm as well.  Together, the duo tango in an amazing, dynamic dance of emotion that so many will grip on to. 

 

Decent Pace:  Another prime example of a drama being heartfelt, but also not crawling like so many of these movies do.  The first hour was over in an instant, and the second act, while not as fast, managed to keep a good run as they maneuvered through all the quirks. It led to my interest being kept for the movie and able to handle the predictable plot.

 

The Story:  The tale from the original is mostly there in a modernized form, reskinning the tale to have much more sex appeal than the original. Although not quite the same setting, the story still comes out strong, crammed to bursting with plenty of life aspects and lessons to hopefully resonate with the audience’s journey.  It’s got a realistic pulse to it, which should charm many of the intended group, and keeps you enraptured as you live their lives through the screen.

 

The Music: By far, the biggest and best component of this film for me was the music.  Like all my fellow reviewers, the magic of this motion picture score is the heart and soul of the characters’ feelings.  These poetic displays of artistry fill much of the screen time, some in the concert fashion, others as the fuel for a montage, it brings the full-on bite and drives home the emotion of this film.  As an additional bonus, you’ll get a mixture of styles though it is limited to country or pop, but still a little variety is better than none right?

 

DISLIKES:

 

Same Country Song: While not too overplayed, Cooper’s contributions to the music fest were not the most dynamic, choosing to play the same song four times and adding little with each replay.  True, I’m not a big fan of country, but in regards to soundtracks, I might try to pull a mamma mia and sample the music to boost soundtrack sales.

 

A Few Slow Parts: Scraping the bottom of the barrel for dislikes, there are a few slow parts that made me tired just watching. These moments were often prelude to another montage to buy some time, certainly a good trick to get you prepped, but maybe not the best in terms of pacing.

 

The Few Unnecessary Shots:  While much of the movie is spot on and necessary for the story, there are those moments that are merely for show to get things hot.  A Star Is Born had a few scenes that were meant to add to the story, but were grazed by as sort of a footnote to not be forgotten.  Sure it works with the new paint job this modernized version brought, and it had a few people hot under the collar, but for this guy, it just added fluff I didn’t need for the story.

 

Predictable:  There are a few surprises to be thrown in, but for the most part this movie isn’t too surprising or twist filled like I like to see. Not much I can say here, but don’t expect too much deviation from the tale.

 

The Okayish Character Development:  I’m not saying that this is weak by any means, but I’m saying compared to the original, I feel the story/character component is not quite as strong as the classic.  The new face of this story is all about the sex appeal and the music and while they did this fantastically, I feel that there was more potential to dive into these characters.  Key tensions are there, and you have enough of the background story to get the gist, but I still think the art of storytelling holds the strongest in the ways of old.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Did a Star is Born live up to the hype that reviewers and commercials built up?  The answer is yes for the most part.  The acting and music are perfect representations of this dynamic love story, capable of wooing you TGIT drama lovers and modern-day romanticists. Still, I think I like the original from what I remember and feel that the cool new look will appeal to the modern-day audiences more than anything else.  Still, I had a good time with this movie and was very pleased at how much I liked the movie given my doubts from the trailers.  So I would say this is the film for this weekend to check out, and have fun with the soundtrack if you so decide to do it.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Music/Romance: 8.5

Movie Overall:  8.0

 

Here We Go Again! Fun, Dancing, Emotion, but Sloppy Transitions

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Poster

            Musicals are often best left in the world of plays, where imagination and the acoustics maximize the song and dance number.  Yet, Hollywood just loves a good run at recreating the world in their high stakes glory, leading to some renditions that are fantastic and others not so much.  So, a sequel to an already obscure Mamma Mia, glorifying the incredible group Abba, seems like a bit of a stretch for a blockbuster movie.  Oh well, Here We Go Again as yours truly does his second movie review of the week on:

 

Movie: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018)

 

Director:

Ol Parker

Writers:

Ol Parker (screenplay by),  Richard Curtis (story by)

Stars:

Lily James,  Amanda Seyfried,  Meryl Streep

 

 

LIKES:

 

Toe Tapping Numbers:  For a musical you need, well you need music, and fortunately the film is loaded with a number of tracks to leave you dancing in your seat.  From upbeat, dance filled sequences to the more emotional, slower tracks there is a tempo for everyone in this film.  As the tracks play, the choreography is just as vibrant, packed with a fun energy that fits the tracks well, and brings you into the party.  If you liked the performances in the first movie than you are in luck my friends for this one.

 

Cute:  The movie may not be a big animated smash hit, or something crafted by Disney, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cute all the same.  Mamma Mia 2 is super friendly to many ages, and brings an easy tale of love and friendship all wrapped in a sunny bright wrapping paper.  Those fans who are really looking for an easy to handle movie where nothing intense happens are again the target demographic for this one.

 

Surprisingly Emotional:  If you’re this far in the review, you surely know that this movie is a fun ride, but there is a little more emotion to the film than I expected.  As the tale goes, there are more than a number of fun avenues and soap opera theatrics to catch your attention.  However, the movie manages to strike into deeper waters, resulting in some performances that had my audience tearing up/sniffing.  The fact the film did this emotional part well surprised me despite how extreme the film is, but trust me in saying that these moments are not quite as grandiose as they could have been.

 

Two Stories Are Integrated: You saw from the trailers that there were going to be two stories to balance.  Surprisingly, they did this, though not in a traditional sense for me. Mamma Mia 2 gives you about fifty percent in each story department, helping give each set of characters ample time to explore the uncharted waters of Donna’s adventurous life.  They manage to cover all their promised avenues and still keep the music infused into each aspect, thereby expanding the range of performances.

 

Lily James:  I’m a huge fan of this star, not only due to her charming beauty, but her talent of bringing characters to life.  Once again I was super impressed with her acting, happy to see her take classic Donna and put a more youthful energy to the mix. Her fellow divas captured their characters to the T, and the young squad really was my favorite part of the movie as they were the more interesting, and utilized.  Ms. James did a fantastic job carrying the weight of the movie, and I only hope for more leading roles for her to wow me in.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Not Every Character Utilized Well:  It’s a large cast, we know people are going to be short sighted, but sometimes it’s a little too much.  Much of the cast has really fallen back to the wings with only a few having adequate time to hold up the movie.  So much potential to relive the fun of the first movie gone because of too many cooks in the kitchen. As for some of the more publicized names, they don’t have quite the involvement you wanted, while others get a little more billing than you might expect.

 

The Story:  The story is cute and gives you all the pertinent information, but it doesn’t present it in the best light for me.  There are gaps in the plots, skipped over to allow you to fill in the details.  Relationships develop quickly, the pace rushed and glossed over so that more songs could be jammed in.  It’s a complete, yet incomplete set of stories, with sloppy transition between the two (at parts at least), with the random transitions jumping wildly with little organization at times. True, they did time some transitions perfectly, but for the most part not the best organization.

 

False Advertising:  The movie does deliver its promise on the fun, but some of the plot elements are very minor despite them being central in the trailers.  In fact, these plot elements feel rather limited and underdeveloped, so can’t state I was the most impressed with these parts.

 

Too Many Songs: The killing blow for a story of a musical is when the songs become the primary focus. Mamma Mia 2 really tried to pack as many numbers into the 2-hour running time as possible, sometime without regard to if the song was appropriately fitting in the story.  As a result, the story components suffered, the characters got catalogued into singing (or autotuned ability), giving it an erratic presentation that only semi impressed me. If you are just looking for musical numbers, your wish is granted, but for guys like me, I missed the complete picture.

 

The VERDICT:

 

         Mamma Mia 2 has expanded its emotional diving compared to the first, but manages to maintain the fun energy, charming cuteness, and beauty that was the first movie.  The song and dance numbers are the central focus, so those that love this glorification of Abba’s hits will be buying a ticket to musical gold.  However, the components I miss is the integration of all the characters into the mix and the linear story to tie everything together. The sequel gets points for balancing two stories, but needs to work on directing better transitions and details than what it did.  Still, this is definitely the upbeat movie of the month, and once I’m sure will please many audiences.  Recommended theater goers should be the midlife to elderly, girls trip out, and of course the musical lovers. Otherwise just skip and wait for something bigger to come.

 

My scores:

 

Comedy/Musical:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

 

 

Saved The Greatest For Last!: A Real Show Stopper

Greatest Showman

The Circus, a collection of assorted talent meant to wow and amaze the people the audience with their stunts.  At the head of this arena was P.T Barnum, a name associated with the Big Tent and imagination to continue bringing the magic to the world that so desperately needed.  So naturally, Hollywood would design a movie after him entitled The Greatest Showman, a musical piece that looks to be a big sensation this season.  But can Hugh Jackman

lead his cavalcade to victory, or is it just another flop the trailers bulked up.  Robbie K here to provide some thoughts, as we do yet another movie review.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Entertaining Pace:  You know I like a movie that moves, and Greatest Showman takes little time to get into the fun territory.  The excitement starts from the moment the opening credits begin, holding back little in order to get the magic started.  It’s a risky, but smart, move as their execution led to one of the most engaging movies of the holiday season.

 

The Acting:  I love a good cast coming together to bring the film alive, and again this film manages to accomplish this task.   Jackman takes the center stage as Barnum, capturing the imagination drive of the legendary ring leader and energizing the movie with his spirit .  The rebellious nature to take risks is portrayed quite well with him at the reigns, and the evolution his character goes through is spectacularly acted.  Michelle Williams was a great lead actress for the character Charity, bringing both beauty and class to role of a supportive wife doing her best to keep Jackman’s spirit in check with reality. Zac Efron and Zendaya, are wonderful supporting actors to the leads, they just needed a little more integration into the plot.  The rest of the cast knocks the movie out of the park, but I have more things to talk about so let’s move on.

 

The Messages: Greatest Showman by far has my favorite presentation of those pesky, yet important life lessons. Living your dreams, accepting yourself, and helping others are the key factors held in this movie.  This portrayed primarily from Barnum’s view, but the movie blends the perspective from the other performers and their judgement by the high society. A classy nod to the traditional, now outlandish, views, the movie does a great job clashing the concepts of society norms vs. uniqueness and the struggles of being brave to change the world. Seeing the emotional warfare unleashed on the performers tore at my heart strings, but made the relevant topic come to life in a fantastic way.  It’s a bit preachy at times, but given the quality and the use of multiple devices to bring it to life, it really does work .

 

The Numbers/Soundtrack: By far, my favorite aspect of the movie are the musical numbers.  Incredible is not nearly enough to describe the musical extravaganzas, each dance number being dynamic and fun with a well orchestrated choreography that combines Circus stunts with Hollywood footwork.  Outside of the thrilling movements though, these numbers are charged with emotion, bring the relevant messages to life with a powerful punch to penetrate the walls of hardened halls and bring with it joy, inspiration, or in some tears of joy. But if you don’t care about that component, then perhaps you’ll appreciate the story telling and relationship building of the numbers that help speed up the formalities of socializing. And if all that fails, well then just be stoked for awesome numbers with a good beat. I’ll admit that they all sound quite similar in many aspects, but there is enough of a twist to grant them their individuality.  Nevertheless, this is one soundtrack I plan to pick up.  Can you tell I liked the movie?

 

DISLIKES:

 

Wanted more:  For once I can say I wanted the movie to be longer.  Greatest Showman is a story that balances numerous things over the 105-minute run time with regards to love, loyalty, pressures of success, etc.  However, I wish that many of these qualities were either elaborated more, or held a little more struggle to provide a stronger development arc to the characters I loved so much. Most likely the extra content would not have felt longer due to the energy of the film, but this might have increase the run time to 3 hours so maybe it was a good thing. In addition, I wanted to have better integration of some of the other characters into the story, (i.e. Napoleon guy, bearded lady, and the wife) rounding out the experience of the film and giving us better backstories on our oddities. Those connections between the dots would have expanded the experience out and only further strengthen the story.

 

The CGI:  This component is not bad at all, but despite the spectacles you would have thought this production could have acquired some real live animals for the numbers.  The CGI work is good, fluid motion and semi-realistic design, but given everything they did with the live actors for the numbers, the CGI animals seemed a little like they were cutting corners.  Yeah, this is a picky dislike, it’s hard to find many big weaknesses in this film.

 

The Hollywood Treatment:  From the quotes we know the aspirations of P.T. Barnum, but like many biographies, one has to wonder how much of this is the Hollywood shine.  While uglier sides of Barnum do come out, I think the movie flew by his money making, business side because it didn’t fit into the story’s other moments or perhaps meant fewer musical numbers for our auto tuned cast to come up with. Still, I’m a sucker for seeing an uplifting tale, where the positives are the focusing point of the film.

 

 

The VERDICT

            Hands down, The Greatest Showman is one of my favorite films of the Hollywood season.  The movie is constantly entertaining the audience, utilizing the acting, the special effects, and more importantly the music to sell the moral points hidden in the 105 minutes.  Such a positive tale of friendship, self-discovery, and acceptance is a perfect match to the Holiday season and I for one cannot wait to see this film again.  Yes, Hollywood glamor is at work, and the movie could have expanded on both characters and plot elements to connect the dots a little more, but I was very pleased by this film.  Therefore, I highly recommend this one for the theaters, not only in terms of quality, but also because the songs rattling the theater adds to the experience that only the most expensive surround sound systems can begin to match. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/Musical:  9.5

Movie Overall: 9.0