Archive for Anna Kendrick

Trolls

Posted in Movie Reviews, Animation, Family with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Inspired by the beloved troll dolls that have entertained kids for decades, this animated tale follows the always-happy Princess Poppy and her grouchy survivalist companion Branch as they embark on a journey that takes them into an unfamiliar world.

What people are saying:

“combines the barely-there characterization and irritating cutesiness of The Smurfs and Jelly Jamm with the hideous character design and awful pop covers of Strange Magic” 3 stars

“”Trolls” combines dreadful kindergarten humor (one troll poops cupcakes) with a feeble plot, much padded with high-fructose-corn-syrup versions of pop and R&B classics.” 1 1/2 stars

“Cute and colorful with some great voice work from an all-star cast and some of the dialogue is definitely geared towards the adults in the audience. The synthesized music gets a bit cloying after a while and the nod to Cinderella is…well…what it is. As it goes it’s decent family entertainment” 3 1/2 stars

“What a perfect example of this stupid generation I’m apart of. All the millionnials who don’t know how to do anything useful and they think as long as their happy life is good when there’s so much more to it than that.
Reminds me of all the people I hate.” 1 1/2 stars

“Wow, I was not expecting this to be this good. It’s bright, colorful, vivid, trippy, and the songs chosen for the musical numbers (That’s right, this is a musical featuring mostly 20th-21st century pop hits plus some original songs as well.) are fantastic. The story is pretty simple, and the whole thing kind of reminds me of a 90’s Saturday morning cartoon updated for the modern day. Anna Kendrick was my favorite voice actor here, and is bubbly, cute and adorable. Trolls is a painless, enjoyable film” 3 stars

The Accountant

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a math savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Behind the cover of a small-town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. With the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division, run by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), starting to close in, Christian takes on a legitimate client: a state-of-the-art robotics company where an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. But as Christian uncooks the books and gets closer to the truth, it is the body count that starts to rise.

What people are saying:

“It’s transparent in its attempt both to pimp a future franchise and give autistic kids their own superhero. There’s a genuine sweetness to the latter that converts me on the former. Headshots, math problems, and pained social interactions? Sign me up. Of the two movies Ben Affleck has been in so far this year, The Accountant and Batman V Superman, The Accountant has by far the most franchise potential” 4 stars

“The Accountant should be a straight-ahead thriller, but the film keeps tripping over its own incompetent feet. Maybe it was made for adults, but it sure doesn’t feel like it was made by them.” 3 stars

“It’s not that often a great story gets translated into a classy script and then benefits from top level acting. Thankfully this film manages to do all that and more. The unique story line combined with some excellent acting and action scenes is a triumph and is not just for those who crave some realistic looking action. Ben Affleck does a great job and makes the unusually talented and afflicted ‘Accountant’ believable. After this performance Ben Affleck must surely be at the top of the list to play ‘007’.” 5 stars

“This movie was sooooooo predictable and terrible. It rips off elements from “Jack Reacher”, “Rain Man” and “Grosse Point Blank”. All three of those movies are way better than this piece of turd. I think the PC crowd want to portray this movie as “inspiring” and about “family” or some other B.S. The movie has a message that autistic people have can live a productive life in a manner of a “normal” person. Meaning, we (the non-autistic people) just mis-understand the very special autistic folks. It’s the same formula as you have seen a hundred times. The Accountant is killing the bad folks for the greater good, but he is not an official law enforcement agent. He has to do things secretly, but with the covert help of a couple of legitimate treasury agents. Sound familiar? Kind of like Batman and Commissioner Gordon. (I did that on purpose btw.) Believe me, I “get” this movie. Wooden acting, (exception: J.K. Simmons) stupid, predictable story, and very slow pace. It’s pure garbage. I just read they are going to make “The Accountant 2″ as well. I guess it’s true, you can’t fix stupid” 1 star

“I thought the film did an excellent job of developing and explaining Ben Afflecks character. I also enjoyed the duplicity of his autism and the fighting skills that his father imbued in him and later how he learned to cope with these abilities / disabilities in adult life (quite the paradox). From personal experience: I know that autistic people have a skill sets, its finding it and making it useful too themselves and society that’s difficult. Too many times these people are written off because they are different than normal expectations and thats kinda of the bottom line of this movie. The previous reviewer is a good example of the herd mentality of people that just don’t get it and never will. (Small people with even smaller minds). I also enjoyed his marksmanship skills with a 50BMG Barret rifle, the one mile shots at cantaloupes and how he took out a pickup truck with it by shooting a hole in the engine block, no doubt also inspired by his Army father. In summary this movie is imperfect by design so that only enlightened people will appreciate and get it.” 5 stars

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on February 25, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Hard-partying brothers Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) place an online ad to find the perfect dates (Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza) for their sister’s Hawaiian wedding. Hoping for a wild getaway, the boys instead find themselves outsmarted and out-partied by the uncontrollable duo.

What people are saying:

“…where the comedy really takes off, Aubrey Plaza, who was so sharp playing a good girl pretending to be bad in The To Do List, is even sharper playing a bad girl pretending to be good. She’s got a face made for deception — she’s like a devil doll, eyebrows lowering with cunning — and her line readings are killer.” 3 stars

“The story and humour do fall flat occasionally however the central 4 and there combined comedic flair (which makes it annoying to see Plaza and Kendrick split up for the second act) add up to enough craziness to keep viewers entertained for 90 minutes, even if it’s not one you rush to re-watch.” 3 stars

“It was very raunchy…I know some people like that, but I felt it was too much. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it in small doses–wedding craters, hangover, horrible bosses are all great movies but, as someone else said, raunchy-for-the-sake-of-raunchy can lose it’s appeal very quickly. I thought the premise of the movie seemed different and intriguing, especially because it was loosely based off of true events and the girls were far from boring–I just couldn’t find the humor” 2 stars

“Based on a true story (of sorts), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is an extremely raunchy sex comedy. While it sports an impressive cast that includes Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Aubrey Plaza, and Anna Kendrick, the writing is atrociously bad. The plot’s pretty much a standard rom-com vacation, with all the usual tropes and clichés that go with it. And the comedy is chock-full of gross-out sexual humor. Formulaic tripe, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is utterly pointless and vulgar.” 1 1/2 stars

“I hate to write anything bad about Anna Kendrick or Aubrey Plaza as I usually really like both of them. However, they completely ruined this movie. Their acting was fake, forced and obnoxious. Zac Efron and Adam Devine were hilarious and the only scenes I could stand were the ones with them. I don’t think it was the fault of the two actresses, it seemed more like a directorial error but unfortunately, it ruined the entire film. It does have a few laughable moments and Adam Devine and Zac Efron definitely make a great duo. Hopefully they join forces again under someone else’s direction.” 1 star

Pitch Perfect 2

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Three years after the events of the first film, the Barden Bellas are performing at the Kennedy Center for President Obama’s birthday. Now led by Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick), the Bellas – Beca, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe Beale (Brittany Snow), Cynthia-Rose Adams (Ester Dean), Stacie Conrad (Alexis Knapp), Lilly Onakurama (Hana Mae Lee), Jessica (Kelley Jakle), Ashley (Shelley Regner), and the newest addition Flo (Chrissie Fit) – come out in sequined outfits performing “Timber”. Commentating the event once again are a cappella commentators John Smith (John Michael Higgins) and Gail Abernathy-McFadden-Feinberger (Elizabeth Banks). Fat Amy comes out hanging from a silk sheet singing “Wrecking Ball”, when she is suddenly swung upside down and her outfit rips. She spins around and gives the crowd a great view of “down under”. The incident becomes nationwide news, and the Bellas are called in to see the university’s dean (Gralen Bryant Banks). Due to “Muffgate”, the Bellas are suspended from performing in any a cappella showcase or competition. Their best bet of getting back in is to compete in an a capella world tournament. John and Gail laugh them off since no American team has ever won a world title.

Freshman Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld) walks to a orientation with her mother Katherine (Katey Sagal), who was an early member of the Bellas herself. Emily hopes to follow in her mother’s footsteps, despite their recent troubles. She goes to the auditorium to see the Treblemakers, co-led by Beca’s boyfriend Jesse Swanson (Skylar Astin) and his best friend Benji Applebaum (Ben Platt), perform “Lollipop”. Emily meets Jesse and Benji outside, where Benji immediately develops a crush on Emily. He tries to talk to her, but only makes things between them increasingly awkward.

Beca secretly starts an internship at a recording studio. She sits in with other interns as the boss (Keegan-Michael Key) tells them that Snoop Dogg is going to record a Christmas album with them, but he is looking for something fresh to add over all the other Christmas albums put out.

Chloe registers the Bellas to compete for the Worlds in Copenhagen. Emily stops by their house to personally audition for them, and the ladies become interested after learning that Emily is a Legacy Bella. Emily performs a song that she wrote called “Flashlight”. The Bellas like her, despite some reservations, and they officially make her a Bella. They take Emily to a party of a cappella students. Beca finds Jesse, who is the only one that knows about Beca’s internship.

The Bellas go to a car show that they would have performed at before their suspension so that they can check out their replacements, Das Sound Machine, a German powerhouse. DSM performs an epic mash-up of “Uprising” and “Tsunami”. The group, led by Pieter Krämer (Flula Borg) and Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), approach the Bellas after the show to make condescending remarks, though Beca finds herself unable to retort. At work, Beca watches her boss as he records Snoop Dogg singing “Winter Wonderland”. The boss is frustrated at not finding anything good to add to this, until Beca steps in and volunteers to tweak with the beat player and then starts singing “Here Comes Santa Claus” alongside Snoop. The boss likes what he hears, and he asks Beca to show him whatever else she’s working on.

Beca goes back to the house to find the ladies pillow-fighting. She brings them a fancy invitation to the Bellas for an exclusive a cappella riff-off. The Bellas go to the house where the riff-off is held, and they find the Treblemakers there, along with DSM, the Tone Hangers, which now include ex-Trebles captain Bumper Allen (Adam Devine), and even the Green Bay Packers. Kommissar and Pieter taunt the Bellas again before the competition starts. The Bellas and DSM make it to the final round, but DSM wins when Emily flubs her song. The other Bellas are disappointed.

Beca’s boss is unimpressed with what she brings him since it’s mostly mash-ups. This, coupled with the Bellas’ recent embarrassments, hurts her confidence. Fat Amy goes into Beca’s room and tries to help boost it, admitting that she knows about the internship since she saw her badge after sneaking into her purse. Bumper brings Fat Amy into the bodega with a dinner he’s prepared, and he asks her to be his girlfriend since he wants to do more than just hook up. Fat Amy declines as she does not want to be tied down. She leaves Bumper disappointed. The Bellas go to put on a performance at a country club as a sort of practice before the Worlds. They braid their hair and do a medley of “Promises” and “Problem.” However, this performance fizzles after Cynthia-Rose’s hair gets singed by pyro.

Chloe decides to bring the ladies to a retreat center run by their old comrade Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp) in hopes of helping the Bellas get their sound back. Aubrey subjects them to several group exercises and activities. Beca becomes frustrated, prompting Chloe to ask her why she’s been acting odd lately. Fat Amy makes Beca admit to the internship, but she also adds that she’s the only one in the group that’s thinking of the future beyond being a Bella, unlike Chloe who didn’t graduate with Aubrey and stuck with the Bellas. They argue, and Beca walks away right into a net trap that pulls her up into the trees. She is cut down by Lilly.

At night, the ladies have chilled out and are roasting marshmallows. Beca says that after college, she won’t remember performing, but she’ll remember her Bella sisters. Chloe decides that she’ll finally graduate and teach children to sing…or exotic dancing. After regaining their harmony with “Cups”, Fat Amy starts to say what she’ll do later on, until she realizes that she is in love with Bumper. She runs off to her man, until she also gets caught in a trap. Fat Amy rides a paddle boat back to campus to find Bumper where they sing “We Belong” to each other, after which they start making out on the field. Beca helps Emily record her song with some of Beca’s beats. They show it to the boss, who feels the two of them have potential and is willing to work with them.

The Bellas graduate and head off to Copenhagen for the Worlds. As the show starts, the other competing teams sing their own renditions of “Any Way You Want It”. DSM goes up to do a grand medley of “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” and “All I Do Is Win”, complete with fire effects. The Bellas are up next, and they perform “Run the World (Girls)”, “Where Them Girls At”, and a special performance of Emily’s “Flashlight”, with a surprise appearance from other former Bellas, including Aubrey and Katherine. The audience waves the flashlights that Benji passed around, and they love the Bellas. Kommissar and Pieter shake their heads, knowing that they’ve been beaten. The Bellas become the new World Champions.

When the ladies get home, they give Emily a proper Bella initiation. The last step is to christen the house by sliding down the stairs. Fat Amy demonstrates and tumbles down the stairs hard, but she gets back up on her feet quickly. Emily then takes her turn.

In a mid-credits scene, Bumper performs “All of Me” on The Voice. He gets Blake Shelton to turn around until he starts acting weird and makes him turn back around. Bumper keeps performing his heart out and gets Blake to turn back around, along with Adam Levine, Pharrell, and Christina Aguilera. Bumper picks Christina to be his coach, and he goes to give her a hug.

REVIEW:

So, it was about this time last year that this city was being overrun by production crews. One was for Fantastic Four and the other was the just finished Pitch Perfect 2. Since this production overtook the city and streets and everything, I can’t help but feel a little biased, but then I remember that this is one of those rare films today that, in its own way, pushes music education, and I can’t be mad at it…or can I?

What is this about?

Hoping to be the first American group ever to win a prestigious international a cappella competition, the Barden Bellas return in this song-filled sequel and come up against a rival group of European singers who are also determined to win.

What did I like?

Pass the torch. In the years since Pitch Perfect, our Bellas have grown from freshman to seniors. While none of them really seem ready to strike out in the world, let alone willing, it is something that must be done. Of course, when they do this, someone has to fill their shoes. The film does a good job of letting them go out with a bang, as well as introduce the first of the new generation, if you will, in Hailee Steinfeld, who shows she has the talent and drive to keep this going both in and out of character.

Music. There seemed to be much more music in this film as opposed to its predecessor. Is that a good thing? I’m not so sure, especially given that there weren’t as many instantly recognizable tunes as before and it ended with an original piece. That being said, when the performances are happening, be they from the Bellas, Treble Makers, the German group, or even the Green Bay Packers, you can’t look away. I know that in the last performance, I nearly stood up and clapped when the “old” Bellas joined them on stage. It was a great moment, especially at that point in the plot and the song lent itself to that very well.

Now you know. Anna Kendrick’s character was so gung-ho about her “talent” for mixing songs in the last film and she thought she was could skip college and go straight to a career doing so. As I said in my review of the last film, that isn’t music. Furthering my point, Becca gets told by her boss that “any kid with an ear and some equipment can do what you do.” Sounds harsh, I know, but it is true. Mixing songs together isn’t music, and someone needed to tell her!

Germans. Here in the US, whenever we need a foreign villain, that isn’t going to destroy the world, we tend to make them German (pending the era). Nothing wrong with that, just an observation. This German group, whose name totally escapes me at the moment, is like a machine. They sing and perform with military precision and it is no wonder they are considered one of the world’s best. You can’t help but be in awe of their talent and physical superiority. A perfect foil for our Bellas.

What didn’t I like?

Sequelitis. If there is one thing I can say about this picture, it is that it doesn’t suffer from sequelitis, which is repeating the same film all over again. While there are some places that can be said to be copied, for the most part, this is a picture with its own plot. However, I do take issue with this being the second time the Bellas have had a disgrace on the national stage. Couldn’t there have been a better way to get them to compete on the international level than to go through all that? Not to mention using Fat Amy for that stunt was questionable in the first place.

Announcers. On their own, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are actually two really funny people. Put them together and the sparks fly. However, this script was not written very well, as all of their jokes are just unfunny, racist, or sexist. I appreciate their trying to get audiences to lighten up a bit.

Catalina she ain’t! Every chance they get, we are forced to suffer some sort of joke from the token Latina of the group, played by Chrissie Fit. I wouldn’t have a problem with her, except for the fact she was really playing up the illegal immigrant angle, which was done much better by Catalina from My Name is Earl. This chick doesn’t measure up and took away screen time from what should have been more randomosity from Hanna Mae Lee’s character.

My initial bias against Pitch Perfect 2 quickly went out the window and I was able to enjoy this film for what it was. A musical comedy meant for fans of the first film, but also aimed at bringing in some new blood. I do have some issues with the film, but for the most part, I found this to be an enjoyable time. Did it need to be made? Probably not. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! The last number and the underground riff-off sequences, as well as the performance by Key (from Key & Peele) is worth the price of admission. Check it out!

4 1/4 out of 5 stars

Pitch Perfect

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film revolves around the Bellas, an all-female a cappella group from Barden University. Reeling from a humiliating loss at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, the group struggles to find new members the next year.

Beca (Anna Kendrick), a Barden freshman, has no desire to go to college, but is forced to attend by her father, a professor at the university. Wishing to instead move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music production, she takes up an internship at the school radio station, where she meets fellow freshman Jesse (Skylar Astin). When Beca’s father (John Hickey) finds out that Beca has not been attending classes, he offers to let Beca go to Los Angeles if she joins a club and proves that she wants to be involved. After some persuasion from Aubrey (Anna Camp), the group leader, and Chloe (Brittany Snow), she joins the Bellas, along with a group of other women who do not fit the Bellas’ typical mold, including the homosexual Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean), the sexually driven Stacie Conrad (Alexis Knapp), the quiet Lilly Onakuramara (Hana Mae Lee), who speaks inaudibly, and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson).

At practice, Aubrey’s controlling nature gets on the nerves of the other girls. She is constantly critical and insists that they use the same set list the Bellas have been using for years, which clashes with Beca’s contemporary style. Meanwhile, Beca hangs out with Jesse—who has joined the Treblemakers, the Bellas’ main rival—despite Aubrey’s warning to the group not to get involved with Treblemakers. Beca plays several of her own mixes of contemporary songs for him, and he compliments her for her talent. He then tries to get Beca to watch the ending of The Breakfast Club, his favorite movie, after Beca tells him she does not like movies because they bore her and she never gets to the ending.

Despite their issues, the Bellas attend the regional a cappella competition. In spite of their bland set list, the group manages to place second at the regional a cappella competition. On the way to semifinals, the group stops for gas where Fat Amy is hit with a burrito by Bumper (Adam DeVine), the leader of the Treblemakers, as they drive past in their own bus. After the other girls clean her up, they continue on to the venue but run out of gas since Fat Amy forgot to put any in the bus. They are then forced to call the Treblemakers to drive them to the venue.

At the semifinals, Beca notices how bored the audience is with Aubrey’s traditional arrangement, so she provides impromptu back-up, La Roux’s “Bulletproof”. The Bellas come in third in the competition behind the Treblemakers and the Footnotes. Even though the audience was pleased, Aubrey is not and she yells at Beca, who quits the group. The Bellas make it into the Nationals after the Footnotes are disqualified because their lead singer was discovered to be in high school, not college. The Bellas get back together after spring break, but Beca is not included.

During this time, Beca begins working as a DJ at the university radio station, playing her music on the overnight shift, and also steadily distancing herself from Jesse. She finds a copy of The Breakfast Club and watches it. She realizes how much she needs the Bellas in her life. Her father convinces her to rejoin the Bellas, who she finds falling apart. The Bellas, complete once more, have a heart-to-heart and decide to kick things up a notch with Beca’s 21st-century mash-ups.

At the National Competition, the Bellas sing a piece arranged by Beca, including “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, the theme from The Breakfast Club. The Bellas win the competition and Beca and Jesse reunite with a kiss. Fast forward to 6 months later in new auditions, where it shows Jesse and Benji sitting at a desk in the auditions hall, followed by Beca and the Bellas, along with their Nationals trophy, preparing to select new members for their groups.

REVIEW:

Pitch Perfect has one thing to thank for the fact that it was even made, and that is the show Glee. Without it, a cappella music would still be the butt of every music joke seen in movies. I’m glad that the star aligned to get this film put into production, though, because this pleased the film fan and musician in me.

What is this about?

The Barden Bellas are a collegiate, all-girls a cappella singing group thriving on female pop songs and their perfect looks. After a disastrous failing at last year’s finals, they are forced to regroup. Among the new recruits is freshman Beca, an independent, aspiring DJ with no interest in the college life. But after she meets Jesse, from the rival all-male a cappella group, Beca has a new outlook and takes it upon herself to help the Bellas find their new look and sound and get back into the competition.

What did I like?

Focus. We’ve all seen films like this where the choir, band, nerd fraternity, or what have you is the focus of the film, but some kind of cruel fraternity, athlete, or corrupt administrator gets in the way of everything they do. Someone realized that we’ve seen that scenario played out too many times and didn’t include them. The film focuses so much on the groups that is seems as if they are the athletic teams for this school or, at the least it seems, the only thing that is going on campus.

Fat Amy. At first, I thought Rebel Wilson was just doing her best to be a female Jonah Hill, but she turned out to be actually funny. On top of that, the only mention of her weight is by her, which I found to be a nice touch. She calls herself Fat Amy so that the “skinny bitches” can’t do it behind her back. Love it! Need more characters like her in movies, I tell you! If you were wondering where you’ve seen her before, think of the goth girl who talks to reporters early on in Ghost Rider, that’s her.

Oh, snap. The writers of this film deserve some major accolades for delivering one of the funniest films of 2012. Often, comedies are brought down by some melodrama in the middle and never recover. This is a film that doesn’t fall in that trap and with a mostly female cast it mos certainly could have. The jokes and characters keep the non musical parts of this film afloat until we get to the next song, much in the same way the frist season of Glee did (before they went overboard with their gay agenda thing and turned into more of a drama than a fun musical show).

Soft-spoken psycho. A woman of few words, the little Asian chick has some quite disturbingly funny lines when she gets them out. Think of the Asian kid from American Dad, only she speaks English…just very quietly. It is the same idea, but it works better for some reason.

What didn’t I like?

Bad influence. I think all those Twilight movies finally rubbed off on Anna Kendrick. Her acting didn’t seem as genuine as with other films I’ve seen her in, such as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Up in the Air. Part of this I can attribute to her character being the way she is. I still wonder why she just kept blowing up at this guy who was just trying to help her out. Also, she insults Darth Vader, there is no reason for that!

DJ. Contrary to popular belief, DJing is not music. Anyone can hit play on a couple of songs and come up with some sort of mix. It is an insult to the true musicians of the world to call DJing music! At least no one tried to force dubstep on us. Maybe they’re saving that for the sequel.

Characters. To me, it seemed as if the film was so centered on Anna Kendrick’s character and her relationship with her dad, the guy who wants to be her boyfriend, and the senor leader of the Bellas, that they forget about the other girls. Fat Amy has a few good scenes, but that’s about it. I dare you to watch this and tell me about Stacie, Cynthia-Rose, or the two girls who are just there to fill out the quota. They could have done better with this, especially since Becca wasn’t really that great of a character.

Roommate. In college, I mostly had private dorm rooms until I moved off campus, but the few times I did have a roommate, they weren’t exactly the best in the world, but they weren’t antisocial, either. We just didn’t get along, except for my last roommate, he was pretty cool. The girl Becca gets stuck with, another person that isn’t developed, just doesn’t seem to be a good roommate. She shows this by her action in the few scenes we see her. In one, she and her friends come in and they say something about “the white girl”. In a pivotal scene later on when the Bellas are in Becca’s room, something is said about them waiting for her. Of course, as she is on her way out, the roommate says something about they’ve been there forever. Uncalled for, I tell ya!

Someone described this as Drumline for vocal groups. At first, I didn’t understand the comparison, but now I do. Each of these musical numbers is polished to such an extreme lustre that it is obvious they were done in the studio, but it is still an a cappella film, something that there aren’t very many of. As a matter of fact, I think the only non-church choir film out there are the Sister Act films, and they straddle the fence. With all that said, my final verdict on this is that it is a must-see!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

ParaNorman

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the small New England town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, a boy named Norman Babcock is able to speak with the dead, including his late grandmother and various ghosts in town. Unfortunately, almost no one among the living believes his ability is genuine and he is isolated emotionally from his family while being ridiculed and bullied by most of his peers for his seemingly strange abilities.

However, Norman makes a friend with Neil Downe, an eccentric overweight boy who is bullied himself and finds Norman’s earnest admission as a medium an intriguing part of a kindred spirit. During rehearsal of a school play commemorating the town’s witch execution of 300 years ago, Norman has a harrowing vision of the town’s past and being pursued as a witch by the town’s citizenry. Afterward, the boys are confronted by Norman’s estranged and seemingly deranged uncle Mr. Prenderghast who tells his nephew that the vision is a sign that he soon must take up his regular ritual to protect the town.

Norman refuses to take him seriously, but soon has another vision during the school play, creating a public spectacle of himself which leads to his embarrassed father unjustly grounding him, before hurting his feelings by muttering that he never asked for his son to have this supposed awful gift. His mother tells him that his stern manner is because he is afraid for him, just as ominous storm clouds begin to brew. The next day, Norman is confronted by the ghost of the recently deceased Prenderghast in the restroom who tells him that the ritual must be performed with a special book before sundown that day, before departing for the afterlife. After some consideration, Norman sets off to Prenderghast’s residence to retrieve the book. Believing that Neil would not truly understand his situation, he drives him away. He arrives at the graves of the town’s ancestors/founders, including Judge Hopkins, who were supposedly cursed by the witch they condemned, but finds the book is merely a collection of fairy tales.

Before Norman can ponder the situation, Alvin, a bully who overheard Norman’s encounter in the restroom, intrudes and interferes with the reading until after sundown. With that, a ghostly storm resembling the witch appears in the air while the cursed dead arise and pursue the boys until they meet Norman’s sister, Courtney, Neil and his older brother, Mitch, who have come to retrieve Norman. Together, the kids are relentlessly pursued by the zombies into town, but Norman manages to contact a classmate named Salma, who tells them to access the Town Hall’s archives for the location of the witch’s unmarked grave.

As the kids make their way to the Town Hall, the zombies eventually lose them and find themselves confused by modern society and then are beset by the citizenry, who attack them en masse. During the riot, the kids break into the archives but cannot find any information they need. As the mob moves to attack Town Hall, Norman (in frustration) temporarily drives away his companions only for them to be trapped by the mob. However, the Witch storm appears and Norman climbs the Hall’s tower to desperately attempt to read the book to stop her, but the witch blasts it with lightning and causes him to fall back down into the archives.

Unconscious, Norman has a dream where he learns that the witch was actually Agatha Prenderghast, an innocent little girl of his age who was also a medium, unjustly condemned by the town’s superstitious and frightened elite, who were then cursed to reawaken as the undead by Agatha as she was taken for execution. After awakening, Norman encounters the zombies and realizes that all they wanted was to speak with him to ensure he would take up the ritual to minimize the harm of the terrible mistake they made with Agatha. However, Norman decides that this gesture is not enough and resolves to find Agatha’s ghost to arrive at a permanent solution.

Norman attempts to help the zombies slip away to have them guide him to Agatha’s grave, but are cornered by the mob. However, Courtney, who has come to realize her brother’s true abilities, heroism and task, confronts the crowd and convinces them to back off. As the witch storm rages ever more destructively, Judge Hopkins guides Norman’s family to the grave in a forest. Unfortunately, Agatha’s magic separates Norman from the others and he must reach the grave on his own to save the town.

Norman finds the grave, and soon confronted by the vengeful spirit of Agatha, interacting with her in the spirit dimension. She tries to drive him away, but Norman resolutely holds his ground, telling her that he understands how she feels as an outcast. As she struggles to drive him away, Norman endures her assault and eventually convinces her that, despite her legitimate grievance, her thirst for vengeance is accomplishing nothing but inflicting more pain and persuades her to stop. Norman tries to convince her that even in the darkest times, there must have been someone who was kind to her. Focusing only on the tragedies and forgetting the good things in her life is what reduced her to a malevolent force devoid of her true identity.

Eventually, the girl, nicknamed Aggie, calms down at Norman’s eloquence, recalling her true personality and happy memories with her mother. She is able to find a measure of peace, knowing that she is not alone and one person in the town understands her, allowing her to let go and move on to the afterlife. At that resolution, the storm dissipates, and she and the zombies all peacefully fade away. As day breaks, the town cleans up and regards Norman as a hero even when the outside media tries to explain the disturbance as merely a powerful storm. Norman, realizing that he, too, should stop focusing on his memories of being ostracized and pushing others away, accepts Neil’s companionship. At the end, Norman watches a horror film with the ghost of his Grandmother, and his family eagerly joins him.

REVIEW:

When Halloween comes around, we are all looking for films that can put us in the mood. If you’re like me, then horror just isn’t your thing, especially right off the bat, so a nice supernatural family flick like ParaNorman, or the other Halloween themed films that were released this past summer, Frankenweenie and Hotel Transylvania, are sure to be a treat.

What is this about?

When an army of zombies invades a small town, it’s up to an odd local boy with a knack for communicating with the dead to save the day. But judgmental adults prove to be even more formidable adversaries.

What did I like?

Stop motion. As we all know, I’m a huge fan of stop motion animation. With the exception of hand drawn animation done the old-fashioned, non computer way, I find it to be the best form of animation out there. Sure, it takes a while to get everything done, but you put in the work and you get a good product, as we see here. There is something rough around the edges about each of these characters that really is refreshing compared to the heavily sanitized characters we tend to get from CG.

Old school. I think this film was meant to be a throwback to the old school, probably a reason for the stop motion. The film opens with a vintage sequence that fit the tone of the first half of the movie. The second half is a different story, but I’ll touch on that in a bit.

Story. In this day and age, points for originality are hard to come by, but this earned each and every one of those points. The only thing that I can think that’s even close to this film is an old Michael J. Fox movie. I believe it was called The Frighteners, but don’t quote me on that. Obviously, the whole saving the town from zombies and a so-called witch has been done to death, but the resolution of that conflict was something new. I was interested in seeing where this story went, though. What twists and turns await our hero and his resistant comrades?

What didn’t I like?

Ghosts. Every trailer I saw for this film made a big deal about how Norman was able to talk to ghosts. That was the whole advertising angle but, for some odd reason, the ghosts appear as he is on his way to school (it takes them awhile to actually be seen, btw), and then we don’t see or hear from them again. This excludes his grandmother and creepy uncle who dies during the film, but for a film that is advertised as a ghost film to feature them for less than 5 minutes was a kind of disappointing. Nothing against zombies, though I am starting to tire of them, but this is a film that was advertised as a boy who talks to ghosts. Hell, the title even implies it!

Voicing and character design. For the most part, I don’t have a problem with the cast, but there is just something odd about Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a bully. His voice, mainly because I know what a skinny nerd he looks like normally, doesn’t work in such character. Yeah, he can play a bad guy (spoiled rich kid) in Kick-Ass, but that isn’t what this is. I felt like they brought him at the height of his popularity following Superbad, but didn’t realize his voice wouldn’t work. Then again, maybe this is some kind of inside joke or irony. My issue with the design is with Norman’s mom and sister. There is just something Tim Burton twisted about his mom’s face. I didn’t care for it, to be honest, and it sort of freaked me out. As for his sister, they gave her an ass that rivals Kim Kardashian. It doesn’t seem that this is supposed to be some kind of twisted reality or parody, so there was no need for that, especially she isn’t exactly a major character (story of Anna Kendrick’s career, it seems).

Humor. Maybe the jokes just all fell flat with me, but it sure seems as if this film was trying to be a bit more serious that it needed to be, and I don’t really understand why. By all stretches of the imagination, this should have been a great little supernatural romp. Remember Monster House? That wasn’t the greatest picture, but it had some jokes that worked and kept the audience’s interest. I’m not saying this film got boring, but a few jokes here and there, especially in the heavy later section where it seems to forget what the target audience really is would have been nice.

I was looking forward to ParaNorman this summer, but didn’t go see it. I forgot the reason, but I think it was during the time when I didn’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt. For me, this is a film that had unlimited potential, but fell flat mainly because of the way it was advertised. Couple that with the high expectation I garnered for it, and I just felt let down. Despite that, I do recommend it as you may not have my preconceived notions and could very well enjoy every minute.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Up in the Air

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) works for the Career Transitions Corporation (CTC). He makes his living traveling to workplaces around the United States and informing workers of their dismissals in place of their employers, who fear doing it themselves. Ryan also delivers motivational speeches, using the metaphor “What’s In Your Backpack?” to extol the virtues of a life free of burdens like relationships with people as well as things, arguing that the best way to live is to travel light, with little to hold one down.

Ryan relishes his perpetual travels. His personal ambition is to earn ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines. While traveling, he meets another frequent flyer, Alex (Vera Farmiga). They begin a casual relationship, meeting whenever they can arrange to cross paths.

Ryan is unexpectedly called back to CTC’s offices in Omaha, Nebraska. An ambitious, freshly graduated new hire, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), is promoting a plan to cut costs by conducting layoffs via videoconferencing. Ryan argues that Natalie knows nothing about the actual process, live or not, as she has never fired anyone and does not know how to handle upset people. He plays the role of a fired employee to show her inexperience. His boss (Jason Bateman) assigns him to take Natalie with him on his next round of terminations, much to his annoyance. Throughout the rounds, Natalie is visibly disturbed by firing people face to face.

As they travel together and become better acquainted, Natalie questions Ryan’s philosophy, but he is satisfied with his lifestyle. During the trip, Natalie is shattered when her boyfriend unceremoniously dumps her by text message. Ryan and Alex try to comfort her. Natalie later lectures Ryan about his refusal to consider a commitment to Alex in spite of their obvious compatibility, and becomes infuriated; she apologizes later, but soon afterwards they are ordered back to Omaha to begin implementing Natalie’s program. There are problems during a test run; one laid-off man breaks down in tears before the camera, and she is unable to comfort him.

Instead of returning immediately to Omaha, Ryan convinces Alex to accompany him to his younger sister Julie’s (Melanie Lynskey) wedding near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Julie had him (and others) take photos of a cutout picture of her and future husband Jim (Danny McBride) in various places because they cannot afford a honeymoon trip. When Jim gets cold feet, Ryan’s older sister talks Ryan into using his motivational skills to persuade Jim to go through with it. Although this runs counter to Ryan’s personal philosophy of non-commitment, he persuades Jim that “everyone needs a co-pilot” and the important moments in life are rarely unshared. The wedding takes place without any further problems.

Ryan begins having second thoughts about his own life. As he starts to deliver his “What’s In Your Backpack?” speech at a convention in Las Vegas, he realizes he no longer believes it and walks off the stage. On an impulse, he flies to Alex’s home in Chicago, Illinois. When she opens the door, he is stunned to discover she is a married woman with children; Ryan leaves without saying a word. She later tells him on the phone that her family is her real life and he is simply an escape. When she asks him what he wants out of their relationship, he is unable to answer.

On his flight home, the crew announces that Ryan has just crossed the ten-million-mile mark. The airline’s chief pilot (Sam Elliott) comes out of the cockpit to meet Ryan. He notes that Ryan is the youngest person to reach the milestone; Ryan, who had been preparing for that moment for a long time, shows little emotion.

Back in his office, Ryan calls the airline to transfer five hundred thousand miles each to the newlyweds, enough for them to fly around the world for their honeymoon. His boss then tells Ryan that a woman he and Natalie fired has jumped off a bridge, just as she warned them she would, and that when Natalie found out, she quit via text message. Ryan claims to have no memory of the employee making this threat. The company puts the remote-layoff program on hold because of government concerns, and Ryan is once again “back on the road”.

Natalie applies for a job in San Francisco, California. The interviewer is puzzled as to why she chose to work for CTC, given her sterling qualifications; she tells him she followed a boy. Based on a glowing recommendation from Ryan, he hires her. The film concludes with Ryan standing in front of a vast destination board, looking up, and letting go of his luggage

REVIEW:

I happen to be lucky enough to work somewhere where if they want to fire me, they need to call me up to the front office to do so. Not everyone is so lucky, though. Some people work in stuffy offices and can be fired by people who don’t even work for the company. This is the basis for Up in the Air.

What did I like?

The truth. I’m scared to death of flying. No, it has nothing to do with 9/11. I’m on of those people who is scared og heights, so flying is also out of the question. In this post 9/11 world, we are always hearing about how airlines are either charging for this or that and how rigorous and invasive bag checks and searches are. It doesn’t show that too much here, but Clooney’s character does give us some ideas about how to get around those things that are supposed to “help”

Cover your bases. More often than not, we see films that veer off in too many directions, leaving the viewer lost and confused as to what is going. Not to mention the fact that some of these plot tangents either don’t get resolves or are totally forgotten. This film, though, manages to give equal time to all these various storylines and resolves them all…some not so happily.

The bottom line. In the early scenes of the film, we get a shot of the extremely attractive Vera Farmiga’s backside. That right there is almost worth a star! I’m sure the female audience members would have preferred it to have been George Clooney’s, though.

What didn’t I like.

Glittery vampires rot your brain. This is Anna Kendrick’s first film that has no glittery vampires, werewolves who can’t keep their shirts on in human form, or no talent, overrated, Down Syndrome looking leads. Kudos to her for making the leap into more adult films. She does a good job for the most part, but she still comes off as a bit of an immature teen, when she is supposed to be fresh out of college. Yes, some teen-ism is  expected, but I felt she coud have done better.

At least someone is getting work. Melanie Lynskey and Jason Bateman seem to be in nearly every film these days. Hell, Melanie has been in the last 3 in a row that I’ve watched, I think. I don’t have a problem with her, though. She’s talented and not an eyesore. However, Jason Bateman is just starting get on my last nerves. He’s not on the list of people I want to use medieval torture devices on…yet, but he’s getting there. Roles like this where he is nothing more than a douchebag boss, aren’t helping his case with me.

Family. Maybe I’m just cold-hearted, but I really didn’t see the need to bring in Clooney’s family issues. That whole thing about carrying around a cardboard cutout of his sister and her fiancée so they could be photographed in various places and then the whole thing about him not being around  really ruined his character for me. I say this because, he builds it up that he is one of these people who rarely goes home (I can relate), but rather a loner. That’s the way he should have stayed.

Up in the Air is a good film. Critics were head over heels for it. However, like many critical darling pictures, I wasn’t in love with this. I liked it, but wasn’t crazy about it. The film is a bit too slow and dramatic for my taste. Still, there are those out there who will actually be head over heels for this kind of picture. I’m just not on of them. Still, it wouldn’t hurt you to give it a shot.

4 out of 5 stars