*NEW* SING REVIEW *NEW*

Easy going toe-tapping fun.

In a city of humanoid animals, a crafty koala’s (Matthew McConaughey) attempt to save his theatre with a singing competition becomes grander than he anticipates even as its finalists’ find that their lives will never be the same.

I don’t know why the family put this on (considering our youngest is now 23) but I’m glad they did. A much needed tonic after all the hard hitting super serious Oscar flicks.

The cast were fantastic. I actually didn’t believe that all of them sang. I skimmed through the credits to double check (and for the awesome soundtrack listings).

Of course, a killer soundtrack is crucial in a singing competition and Joby Talbot selected some great choices. I did NOT expect to hear a chimp singing Elton John’s I’m Still Standing.

Or open the show with Kanye West’s Flashing Lights. Seriously, I wanted to revisit the albums on my iPod right there and then BUT I digress.

Matthew McConaughey nailed it as the bumbling Buster Moon. Desperate to save the theatre that his father bought him and spurned his love for the arts. Swindling and squeezing every penny he could.

Until that wonderful light bulb moment. A singing competition. With a cash prize. However, one silly typo from his scatty secretary Judith and that strapped for cash prize changed from $1,000 to $100,000!

Cue one mad little movie.

It was silly BUT entertaining fun that left me smiling. Funny, charming and one for the whole family.

You could argue that all the characters were loosely strung together around the American Idol style competition. BUT you could relate to them all in one way or the other.

Reese Witherspoon was brilliant as Rosita, the frustrated pig housewife desperate to break free from her hum drum routine. I knew she could belt out the tracks. Let’s not forget she won an Oscar for Walk The Line.

Any excuse for Seth MacFarlane to belt out the Sinatra tracks and he’s there. Always slipping a croon-sesh into Family Guy whenever he can. He marvelled as Mike the mouse. The mini street hustler out to earn a quick buck.

My future wife (I hear she’s divorced now) Scarlett Johansson nailed it as Ash, the punky porcupine desperate to sing her own songs instead of the generic tripe that everyone keeps forcing her to play or her moronic boyfriend’s metallic nonsense.

Her reaction when Buster suggested she sang Carly Rae Jepsen was great!

I couldn’t believe Eddie the Eagle could sing. Taron Egerton continues to surprise. He was brilliant as Johnny. The kid chimp desperate to break away from the life of crime to become a singer.

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) was on top form as Johnny’s mobster monkey dad (appropriately titled) Big Daddy. Completely oblivious to his son’s desires and determined for one last score.

I wasn’t familiar with Tori Kelly. Only that she had a duet with Michael Buble once. BUT she had one hell of a voice and played the part of Meena, the stage shy elephant perfectly.

I know, an elephant with stage fright. The mind boggles.

The animation was excellent and there were genuine moments where I laughed out loud. All I’ll say is car wash. That and a nervous buffalo with flatulence.

The supporting cast were on fine form featuring the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Saunders, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones and Rhea Perlman. The list goes on.

It’s corny, cheesy BUT easygoing. A lot better than the disappointingly droll Trolls.

It did the job and killed the time.

3/5

Advertisements

*NEW* IRRATIONAL MAN REVIEW *NEW*


irrational_man

Just like the protagonist. Strange, dark and all over the place.

A tormented philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix – Walk The Line) finds a will to live when he commits an existential act.

“All we do is talk, talk, talk”. I should have known what to expect from an Allen flick. The guy loves to talk. After watching Irrational Man, I’ve finally accepted that I’m NOT the biggest Woody Allen fan. BUT at least it featured one of Phoenix’s best performances.

The mind numbing opening didn’t really build my hopes up with Phoenix’s troubled Abe waffling on about morality and aesthetics. I felt like I was sitting in a philosophical lecture. Yikes.

The premise was hardly original. A radical professor shakes up the quiet life of a high school academic achiever. The first act trundled along at an easygoing pace with the predictable and nauseating romance blossoming between Emma Stone (The Help) and Phoenix.

The pair had good chemistry BUT somehow Stone just grated against me. Her role nothing more than an audition to be the next Diane Keaton. Strong willed and independent in one frame. Annoying and a chatterbox, the next.

You couldn’t find a better choice for an irrational man than Joaquin Phoenix. He really did carry the piece. There were moments to be had as he tried to avoid the flirtatious advances of his work colleague (played brilliantly by Parker Posey – Superman Returns). He even churned out some quick witted one liners; referring to his own philosophical theories as “verbal masturbation”.

His path to destruction made for engaging viewing. A man truly on the brink. Teaching his students a lesson in existentialism with a loaded gun and a game of Russian roulette.

BUT it was all a little too slow and pretentious for my liking. Listening to Phoenix’s philosophical ramblings and watching Stone inevitably fall for him while bleating on to her long suffering boyfriend (Jamie Blackley – If I Stay) really did test me.

However, my interest was finally peaked when the film went in a completely different direction. A change in tone and Abe’s character transformed a typical Allen rom-com into a black comedy.

My griping was soon put on hold as Abe set out on a moral crusade to punish a judge after overhearing a custody battle conversation at a diner. Random, strange BUT intriguing.

A slow burning stake out unfolded as Abe contemplated seeking justice on the small town judge. The dark thoughts turning into actions as our irrational man tries to rationalize this insane situation and the aftermath that inevitably followed.

The only problem was that, despite this much needed change in pace and tone, it was all a little mismatched. Too light and easygoing to be taken seriously. And even when things finally took a darker turn with Abe’s crusade and demented new lease on life, the end result was flat and didn’t really deliver after all the promise.

I could appreciate the irony of it all BUT it was all over the place. A watchable mess. It didn’t help that the leads’ chemistry wasn’t strong enough for me to care by the finale. Shame.

A sterling turn from Phoenix and a strange premise did enough to keep me watching BUT I won’t be taking this class again any time soon.

2.5/5

WILD REVIEW

WILD_movie_poster

Did Reese Witherspoon’s performance drive me wild with praise or RAGE?

The director of Dallas Buyers Club returns with another Oscar contender but can lightning strike twice?

Right, enough questions.

Not bad at all.

I had mixed feelings about Reese Witherspoon. I mean, Legally Blonde? No, no, no.

That was until her Oscar winning turn in Walk The Line. A complete transformation. And she delivers yet again with another solid performance.

So what’s it all about? Wild is basically a chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike (Short and sweet. Hey, no spoilers here).

Jean-Marc Vallee takes on another biopic but this time it just doesn’t quite feel as polished off as Dallas Buyers Club.

Understandably, they are completely different films BUT I found DBC had a lot more story and depth. This is a certainly an engaging if slow burning journey of one woman trying to find herself BUT it just doesn’t quite reach the heights that you expect.

Yves Belanger returns to deliver a visual masterpiece. The cinematography really made use of the locations.  A beautiful backdrop full of life and colour in one shot, desolate and dreary the next.

Witherspoon has more than enough screen presence to keep the film going. Crucial when she’s the main character that we are following for the next two hours!

The film flicks back and forth through Cheryl Strayed’s past as she embarks on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Vallee and Hornby cleverly juxtapose the flashbacks with the past and present well. Revealing Strayed’s demons and darker moments as the journey becomes more strenuous. The challenge continuing to test her by the day.

The inner monologues from Strayed were a nice touch. Some of her one liners were quite funny; “Morning. Cold mush. Afternoon. Cold mush. Evening. Cold mush. I love cold mush.”

Her initial struggle was quite humourous for any amateur hiker (*Cough* Me* Cough*). Wrestling with her monster backpack, failing to set up her tent, buying the wrong gas canister for her cooker.

The pace worked for the majority of the film as Strayed dealt with the ever-changing temperatures; searing heat in the desert to the sub-zero temperatures of the snowfall that was never supposed to hit.

There were some interesting revelations. Some that did surprise me. Others you could suss. As Cheryl delved further into the wild, you couldn’t help but feel an air of unease and suspense. The wildlife creeping in the dark.

The paranoia of the unknown made for a funny incident involving a caterpillar and a sleeping bag. BUT it also made for a tense one. A pair of hunters make an unpleasant and unwelcome appearance.

I loved some of the metaphorical imagery. The fact Cheryl is literally standing in the middle of a crossroads as she debates hitching a ride all the way back home was hardly subtle but nicely done.

The CGI fox was a little irritating. I mean, it was a nice moment when it first appeared but when it kept popping up, it was irritating and the CGI seemed to get worse.

Strayed certainly meets a strange bunch of characters. The only problem is that they aren’t quite as memorable as you hope them to be.

I actually had to do a quick recap by looking at the cast list. A shame.

Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom) was very good as Paul (Cheryl’s estranged partner). I thought Sadoksi and Witherspoon had great chemistry. It would have been nice to see more of their relationship. I mean the flashbacks zip through the life cycle of the relationship quite well but a little too quickly for my liking.

Laura Dern did a good performance as Strayed’s mum, Bobbi but Oscar worthy? I’m not so sure.

She certainly played the part well and I felt for her character in the small flashbacks she appeared in BUT then again let’s not forget that Dame Judi Dench won Best Supporting Actress for Shakespeare in Love and she was only in that for 8 minutes!

However, there was one scene in which Bobbi just breaks down after hiding behind her scatty, smiley mask for so long and Dern was outstanding. But I wanted more. There just wasn’t enough of that in the film for me.

The more I thought about the story line and the characters Strayed came across, it reminded me a little too much of Sean Penn’s brilliant travel biopic (coincidentally titled) Into the Wild. The beautiful landscapes, the flashbacks, a likeable lead (in Emile Hirsch).

I mean, even the whole “meeting different people who share their stories” spiel bared a striking resemblance (but with more memorable characters). If you were unlucky not to see this; first go see it and second, Wild may fare a bit better for you than it did for me.

BUT to those who have seen the Penn pic, you may find it hard not to make comparisons which Wild falls just a little bit short.

My main qualm about the film was that despite dipping in pace, it just ended so abruptly.

A quick quote and a summary of what happened next. That’s it?! We didn’t even get to see Strayed finish the trail properly.

I just felt after all that time, it would have been nice to have a few more minutes flashing through Strayed’s life after this spiritual journey to let it come full circle.

I won’t spoil anything but as Strayed explains her life in the closing speech, I couldn’t help but notice a massive continuity error with the time frame in which the events leading up and after her trail were supposed to have happened. It just didn’t add up.

It was a bum note on a well acted and highly watchable drama.

Witherspoon certainly does enough to warrant that Oscar nod but Best Actress? I don’t know.

But if you want a well acted spiritual journey flick to break up the hum drum heading our way, then invest.

3/5