The Sparks Brothers: Committed To The Music

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A look at the career so far of the Sparks Brothers, known more widely as the rock duo Sparks.

This documentary made me aware of and listen to Sparks for the first time so in that regard it is a huge success. I found the documentary to be different to the standard life of x musician fare that often clogs up the genre and thought that this was a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed the more out there and experimental visuals that this film employs to relay its history to us, it made everything pop just that bit more and become more memorable.

I thought the documentary did a very thorough job of covering the lives and careers of the Brothers Mael and its attention to detail really helps to paint a picture for us the audience, helping us to better understand the brothers both as artists and as people. I also enjoyed the various famous faces giving their own stories about how the brothers have impacted them in separate ways. It is clear to see that a personal attachment has been made.

The strongest part of this film is by far its soundtrack. Even if like me you start this film not knowing who or what Sparks is, by the end you will be dancing along. I found myself being given an auditory crash course on all things Sparks as I learnt about the life and times of its members, it was a very effective conversion; like I said earlier, I have since been listening to them fairly often since watching.

My one criticism, and it is fairly large, is that this film is on for far too long. Though I enjoyed the presentation and the soundtrack and the story itself I feel it could have been condensed down. What we are presented with is simply too long, and though I was still enjoying the music by the end my mind was elsewhere.

Overall, a good music documentary that manages to separate itself from the pack, though it could have done with being shorter.

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In The Heights: A Rare World Where People Cannot Converse Unless In Song

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

I am not a fan of Hamilton……….. I’ll leave that to sink in.

When trailers for this film came out and a lot of people started to get very excited for it, I remained cool. After watching I am decidedly more so.

Firstly this is not a film that needs to be seen in cinemas; I am still waiting for a film that will make me say ‘wow this is better than watching it at home’ whilst in the cinema. The sound mixing much like Nolan’s Tenet serve to undermine the film some what and the loudness of the music itself makes the sung dialogue within it almost hard to hear.

Moreover, I don’t like that everything in this film is sung rather than said. Yes, I know it is a musical, but plenty of musicals have scenes of dialogue in between songs- it doesn’t all need to be sung. Almost every conversation in this film is done to music and in a song-like way, which honestly lessens any sort of dramatic impact.

Perhaps most damning of all the songs themselves are not even that good. The first song, the one that has been in all the trailers is passably okay, but after that they take a steep nosedive in quality to a point where it feels like they have given up trying.

Overall, maybe Hamilton fans or diehard musical lovers will be able to get something out of this, I for one just got my time wasted.

Pros.

It is a loud and colourful and easy to turn your mind off to

It doesn’t really require you to pay attention

Cons.

Too many songs

Most of these songs are of an average or poor quality

It is on for far, far too long

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Ham, A Musical Memoir: An Ode To The Past

HAM: A Musical Memoir is a biographical, comedy, musical film directed by Andrew Putschoegl. The film serves to tell the story of Sam Harris’ rise to fame.

This is a very effecting film, in multiple sense of the word. While watching it I became fascinated with this persons rise to stardom, not only was I rooting for them I also became invested in them as a person.

During my time with the film I was frequently smiling, also there were quite a large amount of laughs to be had over the run time as well; not laugh out loud sorts of laughs but definitely a few strong chuckles. Moreover, the complexity of this film’s emotion transitions comedy and becomes something more. Quite a few times while watching I could feel the film pulling on my heart strings, I found the character plight effecting, the film did not need to be overt in this, it never felt manipulative with its emotional delivery, yet it had a strong impact.
I also enjoyed the musical elements of this film I thought they worked well and added a nice flavour to the standard biopic format. I think in many ways this film seems destined to change the format of the biopic genre as a whole or at least pump some fresh blood into it, as it takes the best elements of something like Rocketman and distils them into a more refined product.

Overall, a must watch, it will make you laugh it will make you cry and most importantly it is a great way to kill a few hours.

Pros.

It is funny

It nails the emotion

I was invested in the story

The musical elements work well

Cons.

The first act is quite slow

4/5

Reviewed by Luke  

Sister Tempest: Watch Out For The Cannibal Cold This Winter

Sister Tempest is a comedy horror musical film directed by Joe Badon. The plot sees two sisters troubled relationship come under scrutiny from an Alien tribunal. Adjacent to this one of the sister’s new roommate’s illness leads her to become a cannibalistic murderer.

This one was a lot of fun; the premise is just as whacky as it sounds, and it never lets up for a second. I enjoyed how the film never went the way you were expecting it to go, where you thought it was going to zig it zagged. The more or less light hearted tone, also made it a nice breezy watch.

The acting was strong with Anne (Kali Russell), being my particular favourite. She was a strong lead and had just the right amount of rootability to keep me invested in the plot for the entire runtime. I have to give props to the script here as well, as Anne as a character is quite well fleshed out over the course of the film and you feel like you really get to know her and her sister.

I didn’t find the film scary, though I did appreciate its gore. The comedy and musical elements worked better for me, and I found myself being thoroughly entertained. Smiling the whole time.

Overall, this is a sight to behold, all of the elements work together in harmony to create something special.

Pros.

The comedy

The premise and committing to the wackiness

The acting

The musical elements

Cons.

I did find the horror lacking

4/5

Reviewed by Luke      

Cats: Eye Bleach

Cats is a musical drama film directed by Tom Hopper. The film is a big screen adaption of the famous theatrical musical of the same name.

So, yes I watched this to see if it was as bad as everyone said and yes, I can confirm for you all it is trash. Copies of this film should be burnt and we as a species would be better if we could erase it from our collective memory. Here’s how I got there.

Right from the off, the design and look of the Cats themselves is off putting, they’re too humanoid and also weirdly sexual. I don’t know if Furriers where the secret target demographic for this film, but it is weird, the casts are often shaking what would be their human sexual organs and yeah, its uncomfortable.

Secondly there is no real plot, from the opening moments of the film we are bombarded with songs telling us about what cats are and what their world is, but they don’t really explain anything, and you have no idea what is going on. There is also a song very early on in the film that takes place in a graveyard and I personally found something very disconcerting about this one, like it made me panicky and troubled and I can’t really tell you why.

I understand that it is a musical, but the constant songs get to be a bit much, there are other musicals that have actual lines of dialogue in-between their songs, but this is not one of those films. The acting is blatantly not there, most of the actors seem to either be there for an easy pay day or because they were forced into it (at least that is how they appear when they are on-screen as they clearly don’t want to be there).

Overall, this is as bad if not worse than you have heard.

Pros.

It is bizarre.

Cons.

The furriness of it

The design of the Cats themselves

The lack of a basic plot

The repetitive non-sensical songs

The terrible performances.

0/5

Reviewed by Luke

Moana: The Ocean Rises

Moana is an animated comedy adventure film directed by Ron Clements, Chris Williams, John Musker and Don Hall. The plot sees a Polynesian island becomes the recipient of a curse; this results in life on the island becoming increasingly worse. That is until one day a brave young woman called Moana (Auli’I Cravalho), sets out to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and lift the curse forever.

Recent Disney Animation films have been hit or miss for me, so I was cautiously optimistic as I watched this film and I have to say it was much better than I thought it was going to be. Yes it had a fair few problem, but on the whole it was very solid.

So, straight of the bat the plot is very predictable, you can tell from very early on where it is going, and you will have seen many different films very similar to this one. Secondly, Moana herself to me felt quite bland she never really had much to her that made her standout; from the lead she was deeply underdeveloped. Luckily Maui and voice actor Dwayne Johnson steal the show, he is the reason this film works; without his easy charm the film wouldn’t be even half as good.

The songs are quite good, particularly the first song done by Johnson, who knew the man could sing as well. I found them all to be quite catchy and I enjoyed them, my only issue with them was that they were ten a penny, there seemed to be a song every five seconds and yes I enjoyed the most of them, but some of them just felt forced in.

Also, something I will penalise this film heavily for is that they wasted the legend that is Jeamaine Clement, they give his character one scene and then he never comes back; the horror.

Overall, standard Disney fare made better by the presence of the Rock and a few good songs, however it is far from perfect.

Pros.

The Polynesian influence

Dwayne Johnson

Some of the songs

Cons.

Too many songs

It feels too familiar

3/5

Reviewed by Luke  

Rio: Feeling Blu?

Rio is an animated family film directed by Carlos Saldanha. The plot sees nervous Blue McCaw Blu (Jessie Eisenberg), go on a trip to Rio to save his species. One he is there; he is kidnapped by poachers and must fight to return to his owner as well as save the other birds.

This film worked for me in a lot of different ways, right from the beginning when we see Blu as a little baby bird I was on board; it was so cute. Couple this with the fact that two of my favourite actors provide their voices to this film (Eisenberg and Jeamaine Clement), it was always going to be a hit for me.

I think the story of his wild animal learning to be wild again was really well done and I think the role was cast perfectly with Jessie Eisenberg. He has the shy, timid, neurotic nerd who will rise to the occasion and save everyone vibe down to a tee and it was perfect for this role. His Blu was loveable and relatable despite being an animal. He also had a lot of on-screen chemistry with Anne Hathaway who voiced the other Blue McCaw Jules.

Clement was everything that I would want him to be in this. He was the villain and evil Cockatoo with a chip on his shoulder and evil in his heart. Clement was wonderfully hammy and milked the role for everything it was worth, my one complaint would be that he only got one song; said song was excellent though.

Overall, this is a sweet film that really appealed to the animal lover in me, the voice cast did a really great job and I ended up really liking it!

Pros

Blu himself

Eisenberg

Clement

Eisenberg and Hathaway have great on-screen chemistry

Cons.

It just needed a little bit more

4/5

Reviewed by Luke   

The High Note: That Is Inaccurate

High Note is a music romance film directed by Nisha Ganatra. The plot follows Maggie (Dakota Johnson), a personal assistant to a former worldwide star who dreams of more. Then one day she meets David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a young talented musician who might be her big break. A romance follows.

To me this is A Star Is Born but without the chemistry. We have seen this before, similar films that show a romance blossoming to the backdrop of the music industry and I don’t know why, but I expected more from this film, the first half an hour told me to expect it, but it just feel apart.

The only two good things about this film, that I almost turned off three times, are Johnson and a rare great performance from Ice Cube. Johnson and Ice Cube are both trying to make something out of what they have been given, but they can’t change the fact that what they have is cliché tripe that is so laughably predicatable you can turn it off after 15 minutes and know the ending.

It gets worse, this is one of the most melodramatic, overly mushy films I have ever seen. The filmmaker and writer seem quite set on making every little thing into a huge dramatic event, in such a way that it would put the finest soap opera to shame.

Overall, this is contrived and overly familiar with no charm or chemistry to make it worthwhile. Much like Johnson’s 50 Shades films there is no chemistry here and the romance and plot fall apart.

Pros.

Johnson

Ice Cube

Cons.

It is too mushy

It is too melodramatic

The leads have no chemistry

It feels like a retread of about 100 different rom-coms

1/5

Reviewed by Luke

Sister Act 2: This Time Its Personal

Sister Act 2 is a musical comedy film directed by Bill Duke. The plot once again follows Deloris (Whoopie Goldberg), as she takes up the role of Sister Mary Clarence; this time to save an inner-city school from closure.

Was this follow up needed? That is the question every sequel has to answer. In this case I am afraid the answer is no. It is by no means a bad film, rather it is just more of the same, it doesn’t push the concept or try and do something new with it; it just feels like a watered-down rehash of the first film.

The kids this film introduce to try and create some new flavour don’t work out. The mentor mentee relationship they have with Goldberg’s character is fun, but it just can’t compare with the relationships between Deloris and her fellow nuns in the first film. The new characters are so paper thin that you can’t for the life of you remember who is who and why are they important.

The songs are still a lot of fun and have a quality to them that makes you want to get up and dance, but even in this regard I have to say the first was better.

Overall, this entire film fails incredibly to live up to the first. It proves that just because something is popular it doesn’t always need a sequel. It is the shame that this film misses the note almost entirely.

Pros.

Its more of the same.

The songs are okay.

Cons.

It is nothing new.

It doesn’t justify its own existence.

It ends the series on a bad note

2/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Road To El Dorado: Streets Paved With Gold

The Road To El Dorado is an animated adventure film directed by Bibo Bergeron and Don Paul. The plot sees two rouges Tulio (Kevin Kline) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh), head down to South America around the time of the Cortes Invasion. The two are there to try and find the treasure of the city of El Dorado, one there they pretend to be Gods; funny shenanigans ensue.

This was a personal favourite of mine growing up, I watched it religiously. I recently watched it again to see if it holds up and I am pleased to say it does. Much like when I was a child, I enjoyed myself and found a smile never too far from my face.

I have been noted as saying I like animated films with talking animal sidekicks, I tend to find they’re my favourite characters, this film however negates that by having two leading characters rather than just one. The interplay between the two men is just what I would enjoy out of a relationship like Mulan and Mushu in that film, I buy the relationship and I think it is funny.

I love the South American inspired colour pallet and design choices of this film, much like I said about Pocahontas I feel like when I film taps into this sense of culture and identity it really brings it alive visually.

I thought all the characters were great, but Rosie Perez did end up stealing the show as Chel, she was very lovable and her relationship with the two men was always amusing.

Overall this film stood the test of time for me, so I hope you can watch it and enjoy it too. It is definitely one of DreamWorks’ hidden gems.

Pros.

The design and the animation.

The characters, particularly Chel.

A great voice cast doing good work.

The songs and the humour.

The bad guy felt threatening, as one should.

Cons.

None.

5/5

Reviewed by Luke