Category Archives: Musical

Elvis (2022) Review

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Elvis

Time: 159 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug use
Cast:
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley
Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker
Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley
Helen Thomson as Gladys Presley
Richard Roxburgh as Vernon Presley
Director: Baz Luhrmann

Elvis Presley rises to fame in the 1950s while maintaining a complex relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

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Elvis was a movie that intrigued me leading up to its release. I’ve only seen three of Baz Luhrmann’s movies, I enjoyed his divisive adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but straight up disliked Moulin Rogue and Romeo + Juliet (which are generally liked by people). I just couldn’t get into his style and while I liked some aspects, Baz seemed to be just a filmmaker whose style just wasn’t for me. Then after a very long time since his last released movie, it was announced that he would be making a new movie, that being a biopic of Elvis Presley. I’m not big on music biopics and I’m not big on Baz’s movies but somehow them being combined intrigued me greatly. I was curious to see how Luhrmann would approach it and at the very least, he would provide the movie with a distinct style within a subgenre that’s generally repetitive and dull. So I’m happy to say that I ended up liking Elvis far more than I thought I would.

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I wasn’t familiar with Elvis Presley beyond a few of his songs, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie, overall I was satisfied with what we got. During its first act I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about the film, it was just leaving us to come to grips with Baz’s style. That being said, I feel like the movie hit its stride after 30 minutes. At this point we really see Elvis, his upbringing, and his rise to fame. The movie does contain music biopic tropes in the sense that it has familiar rise and fall aspects, but that is just about impossible to avoid when the movie is based on the subject’s true life. Elvis isn’t the most complex of music biopics, there is certainly more emphasis on the spectacle and getting the spirit of Elvis. But for what it is, it works. I much prefer the movie capturing the spirit of Elvis over feeling like a Wikipedia page converted into a movie. The film really doesn’t have much of a structure; it more feels like a bunch of events and sections of Elvis’s life strung together and relying on the audience to be riding the high of the vibe. If I watched it again, I’m not sure I would enjoy it as much, but on my first viewing I liked it. It helps that there is a contagious and consistent energy throughout. I also found myself engaged with what was happening with the story, I even found myself emotionally invested. There are some questionable choices with the way that Baz Luhrmann decided to tell the story. These help to make the movie interesting at least (and distinct compared to the other music biopics out there), but there are still parts which I wasn’t entirely on board with. Probably the weirdest choice is the way the story is presented. From the beginning, it is narrated by Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker as he presents his side of the story, and it’s like this throughout. It is an intriguing narrative decision, but I’m not really sure what the point of it was by the end. If Luhrmann were that insistent on having a narrator, I would’ve preferred it to be a random unknown person instead of making it Hanks. It is a very long movie at 2 hours and 40 minutes long, and in some ways, it pays off as it is trying to tell 42 years of Elvis’s life. But with Baz’s style, it can be an admittedly overwhelming and exhausting experience.

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One of the best parts of the movie, if not the best part is Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, who is absolutely fantastic. He fully embodies the Elvis persona from beginning to end, with the movements, mannerisms and lines. Not only does he talk and sing like Elvis, but he also captures his essence well. He also shows such range; even though the movie could be very theatrical and flashy, the movie slows down at times to provide Butler moments to really shine with dramatic scenes. It was also interesting seeing Austin Butler evolve and grow older as Elvis did. Other actors are good including Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh who provide good supporting work. There is one other key actor alongside Austin Butler which I haven’t talked about yet, and that is Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker. Elvis may have had raving reactions when it was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but the one aspect that not everyone was on board with was Hanks’s performance. Having seen the movie, I can see why. I’m not sure I’d say that it’s a bad performance because Hanks certainly sells the sleaze aspect and its one of the rare times where he plays a villain. That being said, it is a strong contender for Tom Hanks’s most questionable acting work ever. He’s very cartoonish and evil, it’s like he was playing the role like a typical Baz Luhrmann villain (see Richard Roxburgh in Moulin Rouge for reference) than a real-life person. I guess that might work in some respects, but it has its issues. It’s a bit jarring when most of the other characters are fairly grounded especially Butler’s Elvis, the latter is giving a very realistic and believable performance, whereas Hanks is very close to morphing into a cartoon villain at many points. Its worth noting that if you dislike his performance, you might have a hard time with the film considering that he serves at the narrator.

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This is a Baz Luhrmann movie, and his style is very much not for everyone, you love it or you hate it. The frantic camera movements and editing can be a bit in your face. As for me, its hit or miss, but for whatever reason, it worked this time for me. I have heard some people say that it is Baz at his fullest Baz, and I’m not disputing that. It was a real experience watching it in the cinema, from the over the top and dazzling visuals to the loud sounds and music, it actually felt like you were in a concert. The musical  sequences were very entertaining to watch, Baz particularly excels here. Occasionally there will be the odd modern song which feels out of place here, but that’s to be expected given the director. Admittedly the movie can be overwhelming at times, especially toward the end I felt quite worn down and tired from the whole thing. For what its worth though, this might be the director’s most accessible film.

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Elvis was pleasantly surprising. It is another music biopic with some of the typical failings, and it can also be a bit overlong, messy and exhausting at times. However, it is made energetic, chaotic and entertaining with Baz Luhrmann’s stylish and fast paced direction. Not to mention, I was actually engaged with the story. Even if you’re like me and don’t generally vibe with Baz’s style I do think it’s worth checking out, at the very least for Austin Butler’s excellent performance as Elvis Presley. As far as music biopics go, this is likely among the best.

West Side Story (2021) Review

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West Side Story (2021)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Ansel Elgort as Tony
Rachel Zegler as Maria
Ariana DeBose as Anita
David Alvarez as Bernardo
Mike Faist as Riff
Rita Moreno as Valentina
Director: Steven Spielberg

Love at first sight strikes when young Tony spots Maria at a high school dance in 1957 New York City. Their burgeoning romance helps to fuel the fire between the warring Jets and Sharks — two rival gangs vying for control of the streets.

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I’m not familiar with West Side Story, the musical. Nor have I watched the 1960s adaptation from director Robert Wise. So I wasn’t exactly interested in the latest West Side Story adaptation. What did have my attention however was that the fact that this most recent adaptation would be directed by Steven Spielberg, in fact it’ll surprisingly be the first musical directed by Spielberg. I’m not sure that I would put Spielberg as one of my favourite directors of all time but there’s not denying how impactful and influential of a director he is. So I was curious to see how it would be. I have to admit, his West Side Story turned out to be a lot better than expected, it was actually amazing.

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As someone who wasn’t familiar with the musical beforehand, I quite liked the movie. It was over the top, theatrical and cheesy at times, yet endearing, entertaining and emotional at points. I was quite interested with the story and the characters and how it played out (for the most part), and it helps that in each scene it felt that there was so much care put into it. I almost feel like it’s hard to critique the writing of the film here because it’ll probably be closely based off the source material, yet I’m unfamiliar with said source material so I can’t judge it as an adaptation either. As far as flaws with the writing go, I will say that I wasn’t invested in the love story at the centre with the main two characters (as played by Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler). Any story which has two characters instantly fall in love at first sight is immediately going to turn me off (large reason for why I just don’t care for Romeo and Juliet), and I don’t particularly like the way it plays out here either. However, I do feel like this’ll be a problem I’ll have with every variation with the story, and not necessarily an issue with how Spielberg presented it. West Side Story is a very long movie at 2 hours and 40 minutes, and despite that length it had me invested and entertained from beginning to end.

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A notable strength of the film was the powerhouse performances from most of the cast. One of the main leads is newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria and she’s really good, effectively portraying her character’s innocence and vulnerability, and her singing is particularly great. Other actors like Mike Faist, David Alvarez and Rita Moreno are also fantastic in their parts and sell their characters exceptionally. Even the more background characters make strong impressions in their screentime. The most memorable character and performance for me was Ariana DeBose as Anita, she felt very real and was amazing. There’s just one outlier in the otherwise strong cast in the form of one Ansel Elgort, the other co-lead as Tony. I wouldn’t quite say that he’s terrible, but he’s mostly just passable, and his performance could most charitably be called a charisma vacuum. Compared to all the other characters in the story, Tony is relatively boring, but its really not helped by the fairly bland portrayal here. I wasn’t invested in their romance at all but this really isn’t helped by the scenes between him and Zegler lacking the chemistry and believability needed. In fact, the way that Elgort plays those scenes gives his character a weird and creepy undertone at times that wasn’t intentional. Otherwise, the rest of the cast are fantastic.

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Steven Spielberg is a more than accomplished director, and even though most of his recent movies have been just okay to me, his technical work is always strong. However, this genuinely might be one of his best directing works. His direction of West Side Story is constantly fluent and fluid, and there’s a lot of energy throughout. The sweeping cinematography and camerawork from Janusz Kamiski is just perfect. From beginning to end, every shot is composed perfectly and so much thought was clearly put into every frame, from the lighting to the colour. The song and dance sequences are fantastic; the dance scenes are next level with outstanding choreography, and the scenes with singing are beautiful to watch too even if some are more memorable than others. Other details like the costume designs are strong too. However, I think it’s the production designs and environments that really sell the setting of the film, everything from the barriers, ladders, stairs, flags and destroyed building really works in making it all feel believable.

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West Side Story is a vibrant, entertaining and excellently made musical, with greatly directed song and dance sequences, and a mostly fantastic cast of performances. This really is Steven Spielberg’s best film since Munich, and it is possibly among his best movies. I highly recommend checking it out, it’s among the best films of 2021.

Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021) Review

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tick, tick... Boom

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson
Alexandra Shipp as Susan Wilson
Robin de Jesús as Michael
Joshua Henry as Roger Bart
Vanessa Hudgens as Karessa Johnson
Judith Light as Rosa Stevens
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Based on the autobiographical musical by playwright Jonathan Larson. It’s the story of an aspiring composer in New York City who is worried he made the wrong career choice, whilst navigating the pressures of love and friendship.

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I wasn’t sure about how to feel about Tick, Tick… Boom! going into it because musical theatre isn’t really my thing. I’m also not familiar with the musical its based on, nor Jonathan Larson, nor Rent. However it starred Andrew Garfield in the lead role and it was receiving awards attention, so I was willing to give it a go. I’m glad to say that I’m one of the people who liked the movie despite its issues.

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Tick, Tick…Boom! Is based off Jonathan Larson’s semi autobiographical musical, which is partially based off his own life. The story from its premise is quite accessible, focussing on someone who is a struggling creator, very familiar premise and setup and one that plenty of people can identify with. It is a lively, fun and emotionally bittersweet ride throughout. Even if his direction is a little rough around the edges, director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s passion for Jonathan Larson and the story shines through clearly, and the heart, passion and admiration is felt throughout. There are issues though. There is certainly some cheesy writing, and the pacing has problems especially in the second act, with some moments that can really drag. There is also one thing that made the movie worse the more I thought about it. I like character studies about what it takes to make it big, but there’s some mixed messaging regarding Jonathan’s actions and who he was. Larson in this musical seems to alienate people around him in his pursuit for greatness, and so it became very difficult to be sympathetic with his plight, not helped by his friends going through comparatively harder struggles. Its not enough to bring down the movie but it is something that you do notice when watching.

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If you need one reason to watch the movie, its Andrew Garfield, delivering one of his best performances, and he is very much the best part of the movie. So much of the movie relies on the lead performance, and he more than delivers. Garfield’s work feels very much alive, he is full of energy, charisma, life, and sadness, and he can really sing too. For all the issues that the writing has particularly with his character, Garfield sort of makes it work. The film belongs to him, but the other actors are good too, including Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, and especially Robin de Jesus.

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This is director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first film as a director, and as a film its quite rough around the edges. There wasn’t anything that special and it’s a little too safe, but as a debut, it was okay. Not all the choices work, but some of them really, such as the sound of ticking throughout. Some of the musical sequences were really well shot, there’s a number of flashy and fun musical moments. I did enjoy the songs and they are presented well for the most part, but I did find them somewhat forgettable, although that might just be me.  The editing can be a little jarring, mostly because it is very inconsistent throughout. With that said, the non-linear storytelling and narration worked quite well for me.

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Tick, Tick, Boom has its fair share of issues, mainly with the writing and directing. However I liked watching it, and the performances are great, particularly Andrew Garfield in the lead role. I do think its worth watching at the very least for Garfield here.

CODA (2021) Review

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CODA

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Emilia Jones as Ruby Rossi
Troy Kotsur as Frank Rossi
Daniel Durant as Leo Rossi
Marlee Matlin as Jackie Rossi
Eugenio Derbez as Bernardo “Mr. V” Villalobos
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Miles
Director: Sian Heder

Ruby is the only hearing member of a deaf family from Gloucester, Massachusetts. At 17, she works mornings before school to help her parents and brother keep their fishing business afloat. But in joining her high school’s choir club, Ruby finds herself drawn to both her duet partner and her latent passion for singing.

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Going into CODA, I only knew a few things about it. I just knew that it was a movie about a deaf family, it was from Apple, and it was a notable awards contender. I went in only knowing those things and it turned out to be much better than I was even expecting. It is certainly a familiar kind of story that we’ve seen many times before, but it is handled in a very heartfelt and nuanced way, and overall I think it works very well for what it is.

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CODA is certainly a simplistic movie with a straightforward narrative and structure. The story beats are somewhat predictable and its pretty easy to see where the plot is headed. It is a coming-of-age story, and as such it falls into certain cliches and has its fair share of predictable and cheesy dialogue and moments. I’m not someone who’s typically into coming-of-age stories and usually can’t connect with them, however it should say something that CODA is one of those select coming of age movies that I actually emotionally engaged with. It’s a very charming and heartfelt movie, and it hits the emotional beats in satisfying ways. There are some very touching scenes, particularly in the final act, and none of the familiarity of the scenes took away from the movie at all. An aspect that added a lot was the fact that it was about deaf people, which of course we don’t see in most movies, and the dynamic between the family really added a lot. The comedy also makes it even more enjoyable to watch, it’s a surprisingly funny movie. Essentially, CODA is a crowdpleaser movie, and it certainly succeeds as that.

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There is a great ensemble of performances here, the cast brought together such raw emotion to their characters. First of all, there’s Emilia Jones as the lead character Ruby, and she gives a great and nuanced performance. She pulls off everything that’s required of her, and she’s very convincing as someone who is torn between loyalty to her family and wanting to pursue her newfound passion of singing. Marlee Matlin, Troy Kostur and Daniel Durant are fantastic in their respective roles as members of Ruby’s family. Each actor was emotionally strong and represented their character very well. The family dynamic is what makes the movie works as well as it does, and their chemistry is pure, wholesome and believable. The rest of the cast are good, including Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Eugenio Derbez.

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The film is directed quite well by Sian Heder, its well shot and put together. The directorial choices that place the audience in the family’s positions were very effective, mainly the use of muted sounds. I also liked the musical performances that were in the movie.

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CODA is definitely deserving of the high praise that it has been receiving. Despite the familiar coming of age story and cliches, it genuinely connects with its touching story, and the performances from the whole cast are fantastic. Definitely check it out when you can.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) Review

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Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Time: 94 Minutes
Cast:
Viola Davis as Ma Rainey
Chadwick Boseman as Levee Green
Glynn Turman as Toledo
Colman Domingo as Cutler
Michael Potts as Slow Drag
Director: George C. Wolfe

Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player (Chadwick Boseman), and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable “Mother of the Blues”. Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play.

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I had heard about Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for some time as it was gaining awards attention, especially with its two lead performers Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Both are great actors, so I was looking forward to their performances alone. Aside from that I didn’t really know what to expect from the movie. While it does suffer the same problem as most movies adapted from plays, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is quite good on the whole.

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First of all, it should be known going into the movie that Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is based off a play from August Wilson. You can really feel that it’s based off a play pretty early on when watching it. Not only is it very dialogue based, with some big and extended monologues at times, the movie also spans over the course of one afternoon during a recording session, and is generally set in just one location. For the first 30 minutes of the film, you might find the pacing a bit slow, and it is indeed slow. After the first act or so though, you might get into it though, that’s what happened with me. At its core, the movie is a contained and subtle character study. I’m not familiar with the play so I can’t comment on how much is taken from play, but either way the film is well written, especially with the dialogue. There are long stretches of dialogue, and while thankfully I was interested in hearing them play out, there are parts where I’m not quite as interested and it dragged for me. Generally though, I found myself engaged throughout. Runtime is just over 90 minutes, which was probably the right length although if you’re not as invested it’s going to feel much longer for you. With that said, while the movie does have a lot of themes throughout including systemic discrimination and racial tensions, if the film was a bit longer it would’ve been able to flesh out its themes a bit more.

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For all the solid writing and decent direction, the performances were the highlight of the movie for me, and that’ll be the same for most people who watch it. The main stars are Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Davis as you’d expect, really gives it her all, she’s a powerhouse and has such a huge onscreen and offscreen presence. As Ma Rainey, this is practically an acting showcase for her. Davis isn’t the only actor delivering an outstanding performance in this movie. Chadwick Boseman sadly passed away in 2020, and this will be his last performance of his career. Everyone who has seen the movie have declared this to be a career best from him, and its definitely warranted. And yes, make no mistake, the movie may be called Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but it’s more like Ma Rainey and Levee (the name of Boseman’s character). Boseman’s performance was raw, tough, free, dynamic and liberated, and he brings a lot of passion to the role. The character is larger than life for sure, but there’s a lot of emotional depth to him too. His character had a lot to him, and eventually more becomes revealed about him as the film progresses. Boseman particularly has some great monologues, some of the best monologues in the whole movie, and those moments really stood out. Despite those two main performances being in the forefront, the supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked either, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and Michael Potts deliver some great work here. The whole cast really does play off each other very well, which is needed with it being a dialogue and character driven movie.

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George C. Wolfe directs this movie, and overall I thought his work here was good enough. If you couldn’t tell already from the writing and the dialogue that it’s based off a play, you can definitely tell that by the way it was filmed and directed. The sets are limited, but the production design, makeup and costumes are detailed and accurate to the time. One could say that the cinematography and camerawork is unremarkable, but it’s simple, vibrant and effective, and catches the right moments. It really does firmly place you at the setting of the movie. Also, while it could’ve been more stylish and stand out more, it is a step above most films based off plays. The music or lack thereof drives the plot forward, and so naturally the music is handled very well too.

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As I said before, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has the typical issues from other plays turned into movies, including pacing, some of the way the dialogue is handled, and some of the direction. On the whole though it is good. I think that it won’t work for everyone, even just for the structure. However I highly recommend that people watch it for the performances alone, especially with phenomenal work from Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman.

Sound of Metal (2020) Review

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Sound of Metal

Time: 101 Minutes
Cast:
Riz Ahmed as Ruben Stone
Olivia Cooke as Lou
Paul Raci as Joe
Lauren Ridloff as Diane
Mathieu Amalric as Richard Berger
Director: Darius Marder

A heavy-metal drummer’s (Riz Ahmed) life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.

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I heard of Sound of Metal more recently, I knew it was about a metal drummer who loses his hearing, and it starred Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke, both of whom are great actors whose work I’m always interested in. I also heard that the movie was great going into it, but it really caught me by surprise how fantastic it turned out to be.

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Now you could say that the movie is structured in a predictable way, and in some ways you’d be right. There aren’t huge surprises and in some ways, it does follow a familiar narrative arc of someone’s journey of self discovery and acceptance with their new circumstances, but it doesn’t play out in the same way that you would expect. The whole story really feels real and pulls you in, and you really get invested with everything that is happening with the main character. Much of the movie is Ruben coming to terms with his situation, and that part is handled so well. The writing overall is thoughtful, sensitive and very impactful, and it never feels heavy handed. There’s a genuine and down to earth rawness through which hooks you in emotionally, which is one of the key parts to why it really sticks with you. One of the most best films I recall seeing in recent memory when it comes to examining a character dealing with a sudden handicap, and it’s an insightful and respectful delve into a world that most people don’t really know much about. It refrains from big ‘dramatic’ moments, preferring to focus on quiet and powerful character interactions and moments, that has you constantly engaged. The last moments of the film are heart-breaking and uplifting all at once, resulting in a perfect ending for the story.

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The acting is amazing all round. As lead character Ruben, Riz Ahmed gives one of the best performances of 2020. I’ve seen him in a number of things, from Nightcrawler back in 2014, to his previous career best performance in The Night Of. Sound of Metal however has Ahmed’s best performance of his career. He is so believable and naturalistic on his part, conveying so much with his eyes and body language. It’s really his movie throughout, and it is one of the most well realised performances of the year. Olivia Cooke is great too as Ruben’s girlfriend whose also part of the same band as him when he finds himself losing his hearing. With this character, Cooke really conveyed how Ruben’s hearing loss also greatly affected her too. She’s not in the movie a ton, but she’s fantastic in the scenes she’s in, one of her best performances. Another heartfelt and great performance worth noting is from Paul Raci as Joe, who is a counsellor at the deaf community that Ruben finds himself in.

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The movie is directed by Darius Marder, this is his directorial debut and it’s a great one at that. The sound mixing is one of the highlighted aspects of the movie, particularly how it plays with sound and especially when it comes to what Ruben can or can’t hear. It often shows two different scenarios that it switches between, one which shows a normal sound one from a third person view, and the muted or distorted sound through Ruben’s perspective. It’s incredibly effective.

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Sound of Metal is an emotional and heart-warming yet incredibly genuine drama, powerfully led by great performances (including a career best Riz Ahmed) and is very well made. It’s one of the best films of 2020 and I highly recommend checking it out as soon as you can.

Bill and Ted Face the Music (2020) Review

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Bill & Ted Face the Music

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]  Violence & coarse language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Theodore “Ted” Logan
Alex Winter as William S. “Bill” Preston, Esq.
Kristen Schaal as Kelly
Samara Weaving as Theadora “Thea” Preston
Brigette Lundy-Paine as Wilhelmina “Billie” Logan
William Sadler as the Grim Reaper
Anthony Carrigan as Dennis Caleb McCoy
Erinn Hayes as Princess Elizabeth Logan
Jayma Mays as Princess Joanna Preston
Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Jonathan Logan
Beck Bennett as Officer Deacon Logan
Kid Cudi as himself
Amy Stoch as Missy
Holland Taylor as The Great Leader
Jillian Bell as Dr. Taylor Wood
Director: Dean Parisot

The ruler of the future tells best friends Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) they must compose a new song to save life as we know it. But instead of writing it, they decide to travel through time to steal it from their older selves. Meanwhile, their young daughters devise their own musical scheme to help their fathers bring harmony to the universe.

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I watched the first two Bill and Ted movies (and rewatched in the case of Excellent Adventure) recently, they were quite enjoyable if flawed movies from the 80s and 90s. With the third instalment released in 2020, I was wondering about how it would be. With an almost 30 year gap since the previous movie, I had no idea how it would turn out, especially as those movies felt like they were very much of their time. Bill & Ted Face of the Music actually turned out to be pretty good, and better than I was expecting.

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There is a worry about reboots (even though it’s the third instalment here), especially with franchises where the last movies came out a long time ago. You’d expect that it would just retread familiar territory and be a cash grab ultimately. However it captures the charm of Bill & Ted, while providing enough stuff to make it fresh and unique on it’s own right instead of just rehashing the first two movies. It not only delivers on the original’s heart and spirit, it also pushes the story further, more than I expected it. It keeps the DNA of the original two movies intact but have an incredibly heartfelt story to go with it. Like with the past movies, they are at the right length at 90 minutes, is very fast paced, and it just really works well. It’s also got quite a lot of good humour that works quite well.

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Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their iconic roles of Bill & Ted, and even after nearly 30 years later, they still have the charisma and chemistry which made the characters so great in the first place. They aren’t the only main characters in this movie, there’s also Samara Weaving and Bridgette Lundy-Paine who play Bill & Ted’s daughters. Their dynamic was also great and they embody that same spirit of their fathers, and it’s great when they are all together onscreen. William Sadler return as Death from Bogus Journey, once again he stole every scene he was in. The rest of the cast are good too, Anthony Carrigan was also a standout among the supporting cast.

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Bill & Ted Face the Music is directed by Dean Parisot, the direction is serviceable and is good enough for the movie to work. The visual effects in the first two movies weren’t that good, and that’s mostly because of it being the 80s and 90s so they can still be enjoyable in a cheesy sort of way. While the effects here are a little better, they are a bit average, and the colour palette overall is rather drab and boring at times. The composed music is also rather standard blockbuster music, which pales in contrast to the previous soundtracks.

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Bill & Ted Face the Music was quite enjoyable for me, capturing the charm and fun of the first two movies while feeling updated for today in all the right ways. If you didn’t like any of the other Bill & Ted movies, it’s not worth checking out. However as someone who does like the movies, I was pleasantly surprised by it, it really was a fitting conclusion to this trilogy. If you haven’t watched any of the Bill & Ted movies, I at least recommend giving Excellent Adventure a viewing, it’s a classic for a reason.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1988) Review

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Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Ted “Theodore” Logan
Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston, Esq.
George Carlin as Rufus
Terry Camilleri as Napoleon Bonaparte
Dan Shor as Billy the Kid
Tony Steedman as Socrates
Rod Loomis as Sigmund Freud
Al Leong as Genghis Khan
Jane Wiedlin as Joan of Arc
Robert V. Barron as Abraham Lincoln
Clifford David as Ludwig van Beethoven
Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Jonathan Logan
Bernie Casey as Mr. Ryan
Director: Stephen Herek

Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school buddies starting a band. However, they are about to fail their history class, which means Ted would be sent to military school. They receive help from Rufus (George Carlin), a traveler from a future where their band is the foundation for a perfect society. With the use of Rufus’ time machine, Bill and Ted travel to various points in history, returning with important figures to help them complete their final history presentation.

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I watched the first Bill and Ted a long time ago in history class in school, I remember it being quite silly yet fun. With the third movie out this year, I decided to watch the first two movies of the trilogy beforehand. Having seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure again, I don’t think it is great or anything, and it definitely has its problems. However it is very entertaining, and a cult classic for sure.

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At 90 minutes long, Excellent Adventure is quite fun to watch, it definitely helps that the movie is very fast paced. One of the things that I was guessing going back into this rewatch was that it probably hasn’t aged very well, and for a large part that’s the case. There are some elements that don’t hold up especially today (it’s very much a movie of the 80s), and some of the jokes fall flat. With that said, some of the jokes actually do still work quite well and are funny. In fact some of the jokes are so dumb that they actually kind of work. It is quite a dumb, cheesy and goofy movie, it’s really contrived and is a bit of a mess (some sequences are better than others). However it embraces that, and it’s not really a movie where you focus a lot on the action. It throws all theoretical logic of time travel out the window, and that was to the movie’s benefit for sure. It’s simple, light hearted, enjoyable and a fun time. It was particularly fun watching the historical figures interact with and react to many things in the present.

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Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves play titular characters Bill and Ted, and they are pretty much the highlights of the movie, sharing some great onscreen chemistry together. Their characters are kind of dumb but at the same time good intentioned characters, and they are quite endearing and likable. Keanu Reeves is particularly fun as Ted, in his first of many iconic roles. George Carlin also worked in his part as Rufus the time traveller (although wasn’t in the movie that much), as did the actors playing the historical figures that Bill and Ted come across.

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Stephen Herek directs this movie, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is very much a movie of the times, that being the late 80s, especially when it comes to the soundtrack and the CGI. The CGI isn’t exactly terrible, just quite dated. Though if you go in expecting that, it’s not really a problem. I will say though that the direction is just fine but it could’ve gone a little further or stand out more than it actually did.

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Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is often known as being one of the all time best (or at least most iconic) 80s comedies for a reason. With a great cast, quotable dialogue, inventive and funny scenarios, it was quite a lot of fun and I’m glad I revisited it. While it is very much dated and isn’t anything beyond decent, I do think it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it already. Having not seen any of the follow ups to Excellent Adventure as of yet, I’m interested to see how they turned out.

Blinded by the Light (2019) Review

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Blinded by the Light

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Viveik Kalra as Javed
Kulvinder Ghir as Malik
Meera Ganatra as Noor
Nell Williams as Eliza
Aaron Phagura as Roops
Dean-Charles Chapman as Matt
Director: Gurinder Chadha

Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani teenager who experiences racial and economic turmoil while living in Luton, England, in 1987. He writes poetry as a way to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the stubborn views of his traditional father. When a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels between the singer’s powerful lyrics and his own working-class environment. Springsteen’s melodies soon inspire Javed to find his own voice and follow his dreams.

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I remember seeing a trailer for Blinded By the Light when I was watching Yesterday in the cinema, and like that movie, it looked like a quirky dramedy with a popular band/artist playing a big part of the plot (in this case it being Bruce Springsteen instead of The Beatles). I really wasn’t sure what to expect, it looked fun but also seemed a little too cheesy for its own good, nonetheless I was curious enough to want to check it out. Having seen it, I’d say that it was pretty good, there are parts that aren’t so great and it is absolutely cliché for sure, but the acting is good and I generally enjoyed it on my one viewing of the movie.

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Blinded by the Light is a pretty upbeat and lighthearted movie, and while I wasn’t really invested in the story and characters, and it was rather predictable, I was entertained enough with what I watched that it wasn’t too much of a problem. It can be rather cheesy to say the least, it’s not to the point where I was cringing or anything, but it can get a little much at some moments, and I know that some people just wouldn’t be able to handle them. I do think the movie loses focus at times with what it was trying to be, getting caught up with its love of Bruce Springsteen, especially in the first half. The second half is where the movie really picks up, the story focuses up and it all comes together by the end.

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Viveik Kalra is the lead of Blinded by the Light and he does very well on his part, he has to lead much of the movie by himself and generally he does well. The supporting cast also work on their parts. I had no idea that Hayley Atwell was in this movie going in, she’s actually not in many scenes but she is quite good as a teacher of the main character. There’s also a romance between Kalra’s character and Nell Williams’s character, both actors do well enough with their acting, but the whole relationship just feels sort of sudden and a bit unbelievable. You can just follow along and tolerate it however.

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This is the first film I saw from Gurinder Chadha, but she did a good job directing this movie. With the amount of times that music (specifically that of Bruce Springsteen) plays a part in the movie, you’d expect the transitions and montages featuring said music and all that to fit with the film well, and thankfully that’s the case here. They are pretty fun to watch, even if they are over the top and silly.

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Blinded by the Light was a fun, upbeat yet cheesy and cliché movie, which I thought was decent enough for one viewing. It’s nothing great but it was directed well, and the acting was quite good. If you’re wondering whether if you’d like the movie, I recommend just watching the trailer as it is pretty representative of the movie. If it seemed like it’s something you’d be interested in, I’d say to check it out. As for me, I’m glad that I decided to see it, but it’s probably not something I would watch again.

Wild Rose (2019) Review

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Wild Rose

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jessie Buckley as Rose-Lynn Harlan
Julie Walters as Marion
Sophie Okonedo as Susannah
Director: Tom Harper

Fresh out of prison, a Scottish woman (Jessie Buckley) juggles her job and two children while pursuing her dream of becoming a country music star. She soon gets her chance when she travels to Nashville, Tenn., on a life-changing journey to discover her true voice.

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I only heard of Wild Rose very recently. The main reason I came to hear of it was that the most recent BAFTAs nominated and then awarded Best Actress to the movie’s lead actress Jessie Buckley. Looking into the movie, I heard that it was pretty good and so I decided to go see it for myself. It’s a decent movie for sure, with Buckley’s performance elevating it immensely.

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First and foremost, the story isn’t anything that you haven’t seen before. There’s nothing really bad about the movie but it does hit many cliché plot beats, and that could annoy some people who were hoping for something more fresh. It is quite enjoyable to watch though, and there is a heart behind it all as it also touches upon the idea of pursuing one’s ambitions, and the cost that comes with that. I will say that even if you’re not into country music, that won’t be a problem at all, you’ll be fine with it for this movie at least. At an hour and 40 minutes it goes for as long as it needs to be, although there are some times where the pacing drags and maybe it could’ve cut down up to 10 minutes from the runtime.

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Jessie Buckley is really the star of the whole movie and she does a fantastic job. Looking at the character of Rose-Lynn on paper, she needed to be played by someone who could’ve pulled her off. Rose-Lynn is very flawed to say the least and maybe even unlikable and unsympathetic, but Buckley still somehow manages to make you tolerate and even root for her at points, as she tries to achieve her dream. She goes on a standard character arc, but Buckley’s performance really elevated so much of the character and the movie. Her vocal performances of the music are fantastic as well, and it definitely makes sense knowing that she’s actually a professional singer too. Definitely expect her to be in a lot more movies after this. Julie Walters also does well in a supporting role as Rose’s mother, and she also gets some moments of her own to shine, especially with the scenes between her and Jessie. There’s also Sophie Okonedo who plays her role well as a rich woman that Rose-Lynn begins works for early on, and then has a friend in. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast but they all play their parts well too.

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Wild Rose is directed reasonably well by Tom Harper, it’s shot and edited well and all that. It’s not directed badly or even blandly, but it’s nothing special really, it feels like there could’ve been something a little more than what was given here. With that said, the cinematography during some of the performance scenes particularly stands out as being really good. The music was pretty good too, and it certainly helps when a lot of the songs are performed by Jessie Buckley, who as I said has a very strong and powerful voice.

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On its own, Wild Rose is a pretty decent movie. It’s directed pretty well, the script is good (if familiar), and features a couple solid supporting performances. However, it’s Jessie Buckley’s excellent star making lead performance that makes it one to definitely check out. It may not be something you haven’t seen before but it’s crowd pleaser, it’s got a lot of good things to it, and is worth seeing.