Whiplash: The Bloodiest Drum Kit You Will Likely Ever See

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Andrew Neiman, played by Miles Teller, has the world’s worst student experience.

Previously I have not liked Miles Teller as a performer, he often gives off a very smug and irritating air that I find ruins a lot of his performances for me, however, here I thought he was first class. Teller brought a lot to this film, you really felt the character’s pain both physical and mental over the course of the film. Moreover, I thought this character’s journey to greatness was incredibly inspirational and I thought a lot of that had to do with Teller’s performance.

In addition, I hadn’t been a great fan of Damien Chazelle’s other films La La Land and First Man did little for me in either case. However, I thought this film was incredibly effecting and one of the tensest films I have ever seen, the battle between Neiman and his abusive conductor, played by J.K Simmons, was marvellous and never let up.

Simmons was fantastic as well and truly deserved the Oscar for his performance, he portrayed the character in such a flawed and layered way that you are never quite sure how you feel about him, on the one hand he is incredibly abusive but on the other he really does want Neiman to be the best he can be.

Overall, a powerful film.

Pros.

Simmons

Teller

The tension

The emotion

Cons.

The pacing, it could have been better being about 15 minutes shorter with a tighter edit of the second act  

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Pitch Perfect: When They Give Up On The Pretense That Adult Actors Are Uni Students

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of people, who are far too old to call themselves students, gather together for a university  acapella tournament.

I may be alone in my belief, but I actually think that the Pitch Perfect films get better with each subsequent instalment, that is to say that when they get sillier and more out there I enjoy them more. As such I found this university set competition all too familiar and boring. What I wouldn’t have given for a boat chase or a global romance arc.

My main issue with this film is that it has been done before and feels far too similar to its predecessors, there is no drama or stakes as we all know where it is going. Moreover, rather than feel like characters each of the girls in the main group just feel like different stereotypes and cliches stitched together by an algorithm.

Furthermore, the villain of the piece, if you can call him that, Bumper Allen, played by Adam DeVine, is as paper thin as you can get. Moreover, the plot just abandons him when it realises it doesn’t need him anymore which makes no sense and reeks of convenient  writing. Usually DeVine can save a project but this isn’t his day at all.

Overall, a weak start to the franchise.

Pros.

The songs

Anna Kendrick is a serviceable lead  

The pacing

Cons.

DeVine

Most of the characters are cliched

It feels far too familiar

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Cyrano: Dinklage’s Best Performance

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Cyrano, played by Peter Dinklage, loves from afar and is confined to do so for the rest of his life, until his romantic words find a vessel in the form of Christian, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr, sadly Cyrano finds loving someone through the guise of another is not the same as real love, and so a tragic love story is born.

This film is a deeply mixed bag, on the one hand you have a series of very good performances from Haley Bennet, Harrison Jr, Mendelson and Dinklage, with the latter being especially good perhaps even a career best. However, on the other side you have musical numbers that don’t feel needed, that often aren’t very good and that are bafflingly choreographed.

The tale is a classic one so of course the narrative felt familiar, yet for the most part I felt like the film kept me guessing. The ending was particularly bleak, so make sure you are ready for it because I wasn’t expecting such an ending and it really hit me hard, it depressed me for the whole afternoon.

Overall, a lot of strong performances especially from Dinklage, however it is ruined somewhat by the songs.

Pros.

Dinklage

Bennet

The emotions

Cons.

The ending

The songs    

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Sing: Seth MacFarlane Really Wants To Be Frank Sinatra

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A gang of animals perform in a singing competition.

In my review of this film’s sequel I said that I hadn’t seen the first film and I doubt I would gain much from going back and watching it, but regardless I knew this was outstanding so I went back and subjected myself to it. My findings being that this was actually better than the sequel, clearly Illumination at least tried with this one, whereas with the sequel they just needed to pump something out to help pay the costs of keeping Minions 2 on the shelf.

I will open by saying I didn’t think any of the voice actors did a particularly good job, in most cases I would be hard pressed to tell you who was who, and I do believe that most of the roles could have been played by any actor with very little different in quality. Moreover, I didn’t think any of the pointless side stories added anything to the characters or the film as whole other than to pad out the runtime.

The song’s were mostly just used in an irritating gimmicky way as they were in the sequel. The only one that I thought was well used was the cover of I’m Still Standing by Elton John sung by Taron Egerton. It wasn’t well used as in it added something to the film, no, it was well used in that it reminded me of Rocketman, a much better film.

The good side to this film is only attainable once one turns there brain off completely, at which time the film becomes mindless fun perhaps even so bad it is good.

Overall, mostly bad but if you turn your brain off it gets better.

Pros.

It is mindless fun

So bad it is good

Cons.

The characters and voice actors

The songs, for the most part

The side stories  

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Sing 2: Is Illumination The Worst Studio In Animation?

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of talentless animated animals gather together to listen to licensed music with you, as the writers can’t even be bothered to show up to work.

So I didn’t watch the first film, and somehow I don’t really feel like that would have made that much of a difference as there is no plot here, I doubt there was in the last film either, so I haven’t missed much.

Frankly if I were a parent I would feel insulted by this film, Illumination clearly think that they can just send out any old slop to the cinemas and that children and begrudgingly there families will just eat it up: know your worthy families of the world, you deserve more than this. This reeks of greed and cynicism.

Until the last twenty minutes of the film I don’t even remember any of the characters singing, which is baffling as that is what the whole film is supposed to be about. Instead for the most part the characters do very mundane generic quests in the purposes of killing time and the film blares out some equally bland licensed music. This is in no way interesting.

As I left this film I thought for sure this must have been some kind of tax write off, or money laundering scheme, as I can’t see why else  it was made.

Overall, kids deserve better than this.

Pros.

I found it unintentionally hilarious a few times.

Cons.

The characters are awful

There is no plot

The animals barely sing

The music that we do get is generic and forgettable

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Encanto: Does Every Animated Film Need To Be A Musical?

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A family is each gifted with superpowers by a miracle however when one of the members of the unit does not receive her powers then things start to fall apart and the family has to work through there issues to restore the magic.

I am very mixed on this film. On the one hand, the message is very good and important and one that is worth remembering by everyone in the audience. Furthermore, the film does manage to connect emotionally and pulls on all the right heartstrings to make you feel something and care about the characters.

However, on the other hand, this film has no stakes and there is no real journey to it. The issues come about because of miscommunication and then the family communicates and everything is fixed, there is no real peril and it all feels very simplistic.

Moreover, the musical numbers start to get in the way of the plot. By that I mean they are unnecessary, overused and not particularly good. As I have said before there is something about the Lin Manuel Miranda style of musical that doesn’t jive with me and that I find irritating, having what could easily be dialogue sung for the sake of it is not clever or inventive- it feels lazy.

Overall, though some parts of the film connected with me for the most part it either left me cold or slight underwhelmed. Certainly not worth seeing at the cinema, wait until you can watch it for free.

Pros.

The message

Stephanie Beatriz in the lead role

The emotional resonance

Cons.

The songs

The lack of real character journey or stakes

It has pacing issues  

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Tick Tick Boom: Andrew Garfield Really Can Do It All

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film tells the somewhat real life story of Johnathan Larson, recounting the making of his first musical Superbia.

I have been decidedly negative on the work of Lin Manuel Miranda  for the most part, I didn’t like In The Heights, Vivo or his role in the Mary Poppins revival; the only thing I have liked from him has been his role in His Dark Materials. However, this blew me away and really resonated with me.

I thought this film was strong across the board, Andrew Garfield was splendid in the lead role, but when is he not? The songs were top tier and the emotion always rang true. I think the latter of those points is the feather in the film’s cap as the writing here has an uncanny ability to reach through the screen and tug at your heartstrings. There were multiple moments in this film were I was on the verge of tears; the writing is incredibly poignant and meaningful and Garfield sells this to the letter, in what may be one of his best performances to date.

Honestly Netflix needs to make more films like this as it might shake up their stale blockbuster wannbe slate and actually help to elevate them as a studio.

Overall, a magnificent film in many ways with only a few slight pacing issues holding it back.

Pros.

Garfield

The songs

The emotion and the impactful ending

It is inspiring

Cons.

Pacing issue

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Anna And The Apocalypse: The Version Of High School Musical That The Disney Channel Rejected

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A Scottish highschool finds itself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

I had heard lots of positive things about this prior to watching, however I did not end up liking it. The people I spoke to about this film prior to watching it had left out one key aspect, namely that it is a musical. I really didn’t like that part of the film.

The songs in this film aren’t good. Yes, that is a personal taste thing on my part but every time someone started singing in this film I started to cringe. It felt like a knock off High School Musical clone without the talent, zombies aside. I understand what they were trying to do merging horror and musical elements is a novel idea, accept Sweeny Todd did it about ten years earlier and then there is Rocky Horror so maybe not so fresh an idea after all.

The horror elements are okay but again nothing game changing. For me the best part about this film was seeing Paul Kaye get to have some fun as the evil schoolmaster. Kaye is a tremendous actor, and he was the only reason I kept with the film.

Overall, Paul Kaye is always fun but everything else just doesn’t work.

Pros.

Kaye

It is unintentionally hilarious

Cons.

The songs are Disney Chanel reject quality

The elements don’t come together well

It is cringey  

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Respect: Musical Biopics Have Been Done To Death

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

We follow the life of Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, and see the highs and lows of parts of her career.

Since release this film has been much maligned, and my review is decidedly in the middle.

Do I think this is a good film? No not really, average but certainly not good. There are positive aspects to this film, the story is interesting, and it keeps you hooked for about two thirds of the film. Moreover, Hudson and Forest Whitaker both grace us with terrific performances, that really help to bring these characters to life and elevate the film.

However, that is where my list of pros runs out. There are many issues with this film, the most glaring of which is the run time. There is no reason for this film to pass the two hour mark, none. Earlier I said, the film keeps you entertained for two thirds and that is very true as by the final third you have already lost interest and are ready to leave or turn it off if you are watching it at home.

Moreover, try as it might this film can’t escape the fact that at its core it is just a very average biopic film. There have been many, many musical biopics over the last few years, but truly this one feels the most soulless and lifeless. There is so much more the film could have done with it’s subject matter, but instead decides to settle for mediocrity.

Additionally, for as good as Hudson and Whitaker are Marlon Wayans is bad. Seeing Wayans appear as a serious actor is always a gamble, more often than not a bad one. That is proven thoroughly by his performance here where he stands out for all the wrong reasons.

Overall, Franklin deserved better than this.

Pros.

It is interesting at times

The songs are still powerful

Hudson and Whitaker

Cons.

Wayans

It is generic

It has huge pacing issues

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Annette: The Strangest Musical You Will Ever Watch

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film charts the life of a stand up comedian, Adam Driver, and an opera singer, Marion Cotillard, after the birth of their first child.

I will say this for the film, I take my hat off to it for committing to being strange, quirky and unique.  

Personally, this film wasn’t to my taste. Though I enjoy Sparks I thought the music in this film was a bit overdone. I understand that the film views itself as a rock opera type musical, and that really isn’t my problem with it, my problem is that nearly every line is sung. This reaches such a point where you just want it to stop, and then the film just keeps going.

This film is on for far, far too long.

Moreover, though I admire the quirky elements of the film I find some of them to be clashing, and sometimes off-putting. Maybe it is my sensibilities, but there were certain more interpretive scenes where I had no idea what was going on or how it fit into the story in any real way, yes they were singing about how it fit in no doubt, but by that point my mind had found a way to drown out the singing.  

The performances were all fine, though I would say they didn’t feel like real people or characters rather they felt like some sort of twisted, warped idea of what humans are like as viewed by aliens. However, I am sure that was a deliberate choice.

Overall, it was not to my taste.

Pros.

I enjoyed the strangeness

You have got to love Sparks

Cons.

Too much singing, that often isn’t very good

Some of the elements clash

The characters didn’t feel like real people

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