Universal Pictures are this morning pleased to release the trailer for Blinded By The Light, a joyous, coming-of-age story about a teenager who learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the words and music of Bruce Springsteen.
Set in 1987, during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, BLINDED BY THE LIGHT is a joyous, coming-of-age story about a teenager who learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the words and music of Bruce Springsteen.
Summary: Wide Open Sky follows the heart-warming story of an outback Australian children’s choir. Chronicling their journey from auditions to end-of-year concert, the trials of trying to run a children’s choir in a remote and disadvantaged region are revealed. Here, sport is king and music education is non-existent. Despite this, choir mistress Michelle has high expectations. She wants to teach the children contemporary, original, demanding music. It becomes clear for the children to believe in themselves, they all need someone who believes in them.
Summary: As a small-town girl catapults from underground video sensation to global superstar, she and her three sisters begin a journey of discovering that some talents are too special to keep hidden.
Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A
Australian DVD Release Date: 24th March, 2016
Director: Jon M. Chu
Screenwriter: Ryan Landels
Cast: Justin Alastair (Esteban), Ken Baker (Donnie The Reporter), Nicholas Braun (Brad), Barnaby Carpenter (Emmett Benton), Jimmy Fallon (himself), Katie Findlay (Stormer), Eiza Gonzalez (Jetta), Ryan Guzman (Rio), Dwayne Johnson (himself), Djoir Jordan (herself), Jason Kennedy (Jason Kennedy), Kesha (Pizazz), Alicia Keys (herself), Hayley Kiyoko (Aja), Hana Mae Lee (Roxy), Juliette Lewis (Erica Raymond), Christy Marx (Lindsey Pierce), Nathan Moore (Zipper), Aubrey Peeples (Jerrica/Jem), Aurora Perrineau (Shana), Chris Pratt (himself), Isabella Kai Rice (Young Jerrica), Molly Ringwald (Aunt Bailey), Stefanie Scott (Kimber), Jackie Tohn (Rebecca)
Runtime: 118 mins
OUR JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Jem And The Holograms is a film based on Hasbro’s super popular doll line of the Eighties, which had a cartoon series still loved to this day. The screenplay of this film was written by Ryan Landels and the film was directed by Jon M Chu.
The story revolves around the orphaned Jerrica who grows up with her little sister, Kimber, and 2 adoptive sisters, Shana and Aja, in a house where music is cultivated as a way to bond. She becomes an online sensation overnight when she dons a pink wig and performs a song under the name ‘Jem’.
When I heard that Jem was going to be done as a live action movie I was so excited. I loved the cartoon when I was a child. I t was the essential Eighties cartoon – full of music, colour, crazy style but with real heart at its centre.
Then I saw the trailer for the movie. What was being advertised was absolutely nothing like Jem – it was just using the name. I’m pretty sure this pissed-off a lot of people and the film’s release suffered for it.
However, having just watched the DVD release, I have to say it was not as horrible as I feared. Synergy was there as a character, albeit a little different to the original, as was Jerrica’s backstory, slightly tweaked…
So why was I shown a completely boring ‘I-want-to-be-on-American-Idol’ type trailer to advertise the movie – with almost none of the classic Jem elements and characteristic details?
Despite this, the film does offer good fan-service throughout the film; a lot of characters and elements from the show appear. Some elements are not used enough, such as the classic Jem “truly outrageous” style. This appears briefly at the start and gets our hopes up… only to be watered down when they hit stardom.
The filmmakers have created a story about finding the ‘real you’ and being courageous enough to be yourself and follow your dreams. To sell this, we not only follow Jerrica’s journey to becoming Jem via her online video, but other ‘everyday people’ are shown throughout the film with their video uploads. This is meant to be an inspirational “we are all Jem” idea, showing that everyone can make their dreams come true.
Whilst I applaud the idea and lesson, I have to say that all those videos were annoying and detracted from the narrative. More time spent ‘showing’ Jem’s effect rather than a bunch of low-quality home video scenes of people saying how inspired they are would have been more beneficial.
Overall, the story was good and engaging but suffered from lazy and predictable moments later on. At one point the band falls apart, but all is forgiven without any kind of prompting a few minutes later. Character-wise, the movie starts good and builds each of the main characters, then becomes all about Jem and the others start to become background elements.
Jerrica’s biological little sister, Kimber, is the catalyst for the events and is built up at the start. Jerrica finds clues left by their father and follows them as her personal journey and, apparently, is nothing to do with Kimber. A message from their father at the end is all directed at Jerrica, only acknowledging Kimber at the very end.
Fans of Jem will have been wanting to see the Misfits in the movie. They’re not the main antagonists as you might have hoped, but do appear in a mid-credits bonus scene (with Pizazz played by Kesha) obviously intended to set-up a sequel. Their absence did not bother me, though, as it made sense to set Jem up as a star before introducing rivals.
I hope we actually do get a sequel, but with stronger writing (I’ll do it!) and ‘style’ showing it to be a bit more faithful to the franchise – especially in how it’s advertised. I hope they make the effort to set it straight and actually make Jem ‘truly outrageous’, which she really wasn’t in this film.
A nice touch might have been to update the old theme-tune. The music was good in the movie, but it should have been more striking and utilised more than it actually was for a film about a musician. It was disappointing to see her turned into a Lady-Gaga-clone at one stage – although this could have been a device used to show her becoming unpopular when they tried to change who she fundamentally was; you missed something there, Hasbro Studios!
Performances by the cast were generally strong, given what they had to work with. At times the film did not know if it wanted to be funny or feely and could have been executed better. Our heroine played her part well but we would like to see more opportunity to be the striking character and talent that she is built up to be (more the script’s fault than the actress’).
This film deserves 3.5 out of 5, with plenty of room left to be truly, truly, truly outrageous.
Average Subculture Rating (out of 5):
Other Subculture Entertainment Jem And The Holograms Reviews: Nil
Summary: Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) return and this time they have a huge problem. Not only has their ‘father’ Dave (Jason Lee) put a stop to them performing live, so they can be normal kids for awhile, but his relationship with Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) is going so well it looks like they are about to get engaged.
Now the Chipmunks are happy for Dave but are concerned that if he marries Samantha that wil mean that they that are now ‘brothers’ with a boy that seems to enjoy torturing them, Miles (Josh Green). When they learn that he isn’t too happy about being related to them either the four decide to embark on a road trip to Miami to prevent the engagement from happening.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 26th December 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Walt Becker
Screenwriter: Randi Mayem Singer, Adam Sztykiel, Janice Karman (characters), Ross Bagdasarian (characters)
Cast: Christina Applegate (Brittany (voice)), Jennifer Coolidge (Ms. Price), Kaley Cuoco (Elenaor (voice)), Anna Faris (Jeanette (voice)), Josh Green (Miles), Matthew Gray Gubler (Simon (voice)), Tony Hale (Agent Suggs), Ellie Knaus (Anna), Jason Lee (Dave), Justin Long (Alvin (voice)), Jesse McCartney (Theodore (voice)), Maxie McClintock (Alice), Joshua Mikel (Wyatt the Pizza Guy), Red Foo (himself), Eddie Steeples (Barry), Bella Thorne (Ashley Grey), Kimberley Williams-Paisley (Samantha)
Runtime: 92 mins
OUR ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS:ROAD CHIP REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Well I guess it had to happen to one film and for most territories around the world it was Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip that went up against the might of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. When you actually think about it it’s not such a bad strategic move considering that most little kids who will want to see Alvin and co will have very little interest in going to see a film about intergalactic warfare. That leaves the big questions being… is this the kind of movie that will entertain or put my children to sleep?
Anyone who has sat through all four Alvin & The Chipmunks movies will tell you that this has been a franchise that has been all over the shop when it comes to quality. The first film surprisingly had meaning taking a huge swipe at the music industry and the way it treats young artists, but from then (like most of the franchises) these days it seems to have had more lows than highs. That is where you might be pleasantly surprised by Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip.
While the cast in front of the camera (and behind the microphone in some cases) haven’t changed this time around, the crew behind the scenes has. Known comedy director Walk Becker (who has previously brought us Van Wilder and Wild Hogs) steps up to the plate and is probably the reason behind a lot of the slapstick that surfaces this time around. Also new to the creative table are screenwriters who can boast films like Mrs Doubtfire and Due Date on their Resumes.
The new creative team behind the film takes this movie in a completely different direction to the last two films. Here the franchise once again finds its heart as the film explores the delicate subject of siblings being brought together as parents remarry etc. Surprisingly the film actually does that quite well, and while Miles is originally set-up as a brat you are supposed to hate the screenwriters do actually take his character on a journey that allows the audience to see how he ended up the way he did. It’s surprisingly moving.
Of course as you would expect from a movie aimed at the younger demographic there is also a lot of scenes that adults are going to find ‘silly.’ The battle scenes with Agent Suggs (Tony Hale) are over the top and too slapsticky for adults to really enjoy but you can guarantee younger kids will be in hysterics over them. Likewise the Red Foo scenes which are nauseating for anybody that has taste in music, but luckily the latter music scenes depicting the Chipmunks doing everything from playing in a redneck bar to rocking out with a brass band in New Orleans are a lot better.
As is normally the case with this franchise the actors are really overshadowed by the CGI chipmunks. Jason Lee seems to be cruise control, as is Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Tony Hale overacts constantly throughout the film, something that it is obvious he was asked to do by the creative team and for the most past it works. The biggest surprise though is the acting performance of Josh Green. The young inexperienced actor really shows that he may be an actor to watch in the future and he masterfully takes his character on a journey throughout this film. He manages to switch from comedy to moving emotionally scenes at a whim and he is one of the few actors who isn’t over-shadowed by his furry, cute co-stars.
Alvin And The Chipmunks: Road Chip has enough crazy scenes and music sequences to keep younger kids happy while the older generations will warm to the more heartfelt moments throughout the film. Yes this film isn’t the car crash many expected it would be.
Summary: Based on actual events London Road looks at the reactions of local residents in a quiet street named London Road in Ipswich whose peaceful neighborhood was at first disturbed by the arrival of prostitutes deciding to sell their trade in their street and then the craziness and fear that resulted after a serial killer murdered five of the woman.
With a script that has dialogue that comes straight from the interviews conducted with the residents over a three year period London Road explores how everyday people such as a taxi driver named Mark (Tom Hardy) and local residents like Dodge (Paul Thornley) and Julie (Olivia Colman) cope with the resulting media and Police circus.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 24th September 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Rufus Norris
Screenwriter: Alecky Blythe
Cast: Angela Bain (Kath), Rae Baker (Anglia Newsreader), Jason Barnett (Chris Eakin), Gillian Bevan (Colette McBeth), Clare Burt (Jan), Steve Carroll (Tony – Kerb Crawler), Olivia Colman (Julie), Rosealie Craig (Kelly McCormack), Calvin Demba (Alec), Anita Dobson (June), James Doherty (Seb), Kate Fleetwood (Vicky), Hal Fowler (David Crabtree), Michael Fox (Nightclub Bill), Richard Frame (Jason Photographer), Jenny Galloway (Margaret), Jonathan Glew (Steve Cameraman), Amy Griffiths (Sarah), Anna Hale (Jessica), Tom Hardy (Taxi Driver Mark), Linzi Hateley (Helen), Janet Henfrey (Ivy), Rose Hilal (Hayley), Paul Hilton (Tim), Nick Holder (Ron), Ruby Holder (Stephanie), Philip Howard (Bob), Sean Kinglsey (Alan), Mark Lockyer (Grahame Cooper), Helen Lymbery (Stella), Barry McCarthy (Harry), Jayne McKenna (Imelda), Claire Moore (Counciller Carole), Michael Shaeffer (Simon Newton), Mark Sheals (Wayne), Nicola Sloane (Rosemary), Frank Stone (George – Kerb Crawler), Paul Thornley (Dodge), Morgan Walters (Graeme), Howard Ward (Terry), Duncan Wiseby (Gordon)
Runtime: 91 mins
OUR LONDON ROAD REVIEWS & RATINGS:
London Road is not an easy film to talk about because to be brutally honest this is a film that is going to divide cinemagoers like no other film this year. On the one hand London Road is a breath of fresh air in the cinema, a type of film that we haven’t really seen before. But then on the other hand all the things that make it so different are also the things that are going to make this film appeal to a very small audience indeed.
For those not in the know London Road is based on the popular National Theatre production that had critics and audiences raving. Now the name National Theatre shouldn’t be foreign to cinema lovers any more. Over the past few years the theatre company have reached out into cinemas with countless productions that have featured some of cinemas’ biggest names – Danny Boyle directed Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein, Kenneth Branagh directed Macbeth and Gillian Anderson starred in A Streetcar Named Desire. With these productions filling cinemas worldwide it is very little wonder that the National Theatre have decided to look at other ways to bring their work to the cinema and the result is London Road, a film that is produced by them, stars most of their actors and is directed by Rufus Norris, a Tony nominated theatre director who has had a few films reach the cinemas over the years as well.
Now this is where things get tricky for London Road. The idea of creating a modern day musical about a spate of prostitute murders is so different to anything we have ever seen before that it is actually something that is worth watching. At times the film does really draw you in but the alternative style of musical theatre that makes up the score never really allows its audience to comfortably forget the fact they are watching a musical. The key to a good musical films – things like Sweeney Todd, Moulin Rouge or Rock Of Ages – is to make the audience forget that most of the dialogue is being delivered in song, but here the fact that the songs often contain the one piece of dialogue used over and over again, and the fact that in trying to make this film feel natural they haven’t selected the best singers in the world means that for the entire film you are conscious of the fact that you are watching a musical.
On the plus side though London Road is different enough that it does draw you in. You genuinely feel sorry for the innocent members of the public that through no fault of their own got swept up in this Ipswich Ripper case and at times the directional hand of Rufus Norris does creatively show things such as how scared young girls were scared to walk down the street or were judging every man they meet. Moments like a radio station capitalizing on the murders by running a promotion giving away personal alarms for women are memorable but the most powerful part of this film is when you start to hear the stories of some of the prostitutes who worked in London Road at the time and the effect that the murders had on them.
Aside from those moments the other thing that works for London Road is the fact that there will be one or two characters that each audience member will warm to and you find yourselves really wanting to go on the journey with them. Dodge played by Paul Thornley is one such character and he is one of the more interesting characters. Unfairly you sometimes wonder if he is the killer because of his appearance and seemingly unhealthy obsession with the prostitutes early on the film, and as a result characters like this become a lot more interesting then people like Mark who you know have only been added to the film to get a big name actor like Tom Hardy into the film. While these appearances are a little unnecessary we do learn rather quickly that it’s a good thing that Nolan didn’t want Hardy to portray a musical version of Bain.
London Road is a film that is only going to be lapped up by a very small clique of audience members. Its musical stylings are a little too alternative for you traditional musical lovers while the film is too musical for lovers of alternative cinema. It’s quite a pickle the film finds itself in, but the core problem is that the filmmakers didn’t seem to realise that audiences are a lot more open to alternative theatre than alternative film. Still London Road is worth a look if you like your cinema on the quirky side and it certainly shouldn’t be described as a bad film.
Summary: A look inside the personal life of star Amy Winehouse. The film follows her from being discovered through to the dizzying heights of winning a Grammy Award to her tragic demise.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 2nd July 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United Kingdom
Director: Asif Kapadia
Cast: Juliette Ashby (herself), Darcus Beese (himself), Tony Bennett (himself), Sam Beste (himself), Yasiin Bey (himself), Russell Brand (himself), Raye Cosbert (himself), Dale Davis (himself), Shomari Dilon (himself), Pete Doherty (himself), Blake Fielder-Civil (himself), Nick Gatfield (himself), Lauren Gilbert (herself), Lucian Grainge (himself), Dave Grohl (himself), Tyler James (himself), Jay Leno (himself), David Letterman (himself), Monte Lipman (himself), Phil Meynell (himself), Guy Moot (himself), Andrew Morris (himself),Salaam Remi (himself), Cristina Romete (herself), Mark Ronson (himself), Nick Shymansky (himself), Chip Somers (himself), Amy Winehouse (herself), Janis Winehouse (herself), Mitch Winehouse (himself), Blake Wood (himself)
Runtime: 128 mins
OUR AMY REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Not being a fan of Amy Winehouse’s I wasn’t sure what to expect from the documentary Amy. The film had received rave reviews from right around but aside from knowing one of two of her big hits (namely Rehab) I actually didn’t know that much about her. Therefore the fact that this docco actually had me feeling somewhat emotional times really just goes to show how inside the life of his tragic star that director Asif Kapadia really goes… he doesn’t leave one single stone unturned.
Kapadia announced himself as a seriously gifted documentary maker when he released Senna in 2010. The docco went so far into Senna’s life that even those film critics and fans who despised and knew nothing about Formula One racing were listing the film as a film that you had to see. Kapadia does the same here with Winehouse. He doesn’t sugar coat anything and instead shows the tragic life of a girl who was given an amazing vocal talent but probably would have much better off and happier if she reached the level of stardom that she did.
One of the best things about Amy is just how watchable Kapadia has made the film. Yes it runs for 128 minutes (some would argue overly long for a documentary) but so gripping is the story being told that you never once start to feel bored and start to think what coffee you might order after the credits roll. Kapadia allows Amy to start off like any music documentary chronicling a young star’s life would. There are the customary shots of her mucking around with her friends, singing at clubs in front of small crowds, but Kapadia also allows the audience to see more than that as he clearly shows that even at the age of nine Winehouse was already deeply troubled and the rollercoaster was just starting to take off.
Like he did with Senna Kapadia breaks with normal traditional documentary filmmaking. There are virtually no talking head interviews here, instead the audience are treated to a lot of private home movies of Winehouse, her family and her friends that tell more about the star and her lifestyle than what any interview could ever do. Also making this a gripping watch is the fact that Kapadia doesn’t hold back when he is trying to tell his story. He doesn’t allow everybody in Amy Winehouse’s life come out of this smelling like roses. The audience watches as Winehouse’s life of destruction comes a lot worse with the arrival of her boyfriend (and then later husband) Blake Fielder-Civil on the scene – the film then basically points the finger as an expert eerily reveals that it was in Fielder-Civil’s best interest for his gravy train not to get sober again. Likewise Kapadia has the bravery to lump blame on Winehouse’s own father and he first reveals that Amy’s bulimia etc started when her father left the family home when she was just a child, how he was the main reason that she didn’t go into rehab when her managerial team was begging her to and how he brought film crews around and planned tours when all she wanted to do was rest and get herself well. It is a very brave documentary maker who is willing to tell a story with such brutal honesty.
Kapadia’s alternative style of filmmaking also allows for him to let the documentary move along as he showcases the events in Amy’s life that was making her write the music she was writing. As handwritten lyrics appear across the screen the audience watches the life events unfold that sparked her to write the usually dark lyrics in the first place. Just as that similar kind of thing made Teen Spirit a must read if you are a fan of Kurt Cobain, this style here makes Amy a must see for Winehouse fans. I know having seen the film set out in this way I will never listen to the track Rehab in the same way again.
There are times when you are watching Amy and it feels like you are watching car crash in slow motion. Instead of becoming a character study of one of the most successful young musicians of our generation the docco almost becomes a cautionary tale of what drugs, bulimia and super stardom can do to an ordinary person’s life. Kapadia’s brilliant style of story-making makes this the can kind of film that not only educates but washes over you with every emotion imaginable. One of the best music documentaries you will ever see.
Summary: Mike (Channing Tatum) has been out of the stripper lifestyle for three years, and while his furniture job is doing well it’s not exactly flourishing. Add that to the fact that he is having some personal problems and it doesn’t take Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and Richie (Joe Manganiello) much to convince him to join them once again for their last hurrah.
It seems like Dallas has left the group for good and now the boys have decided that they will go out with a bang at a stripper convention. But not all are pleased to see Mike return, and some are downright insulted that he wants to ‘freshen up’ their routine for the last performance. With not everything going right though Mike soon finds himself on a road trip that sees him become attracted to Zoe (Amber Heard) while also having to come face to face with a ghost from his past, the powerful but seductive, Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith).
Australian Cinema Release Date: 9th July 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United States
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Screenwriter: Reid Carolin
Cast: Elizabeth Banks (Paris), Matt Bomer (Ken), Stephen Boss (Malik), Kimberly Drummond (Caroline), Alison Faulk (White Shadow), Donald Glover (Andre), Raeden Greer (Charlotte), Rhoda Griffis (Julia), Ann Hamilton (Diane), Amber Heard (Zoe), Carrie Anne Hunt (Megan Davidson), Crystal Hunt (Lauren), Gabriel Iglasias (Tobias), Patrick Kearns (Slick Willy), Mary Kraft (Jessica), Andie MacDowell (Nancy Davidson), Joe Manganiello (Big Dick Richie), Jane McNeill (Mae), Kevin Nash (Tarzan), Juan Piedrahita (Salvador), Adam Rodriguez (Tito), Carla Shinall (herself), David Silverman (Scott), Jada Pinkett Smith (Rome), Michael Strahan (Augustus), Channing Tatum (Mike), Vicky Vox (Tori Snatch)
Runtime: 115 mins
OUR MAGIC MIKE XXL REVIEWS & RATINGS:
When the first Magic Mike film was announced way back in 2012 a fear (and much laughter) spread across the film loving world. Channing Tatum was starring in a movie about male strippers, it seemed like it would end up being a storyless excuse to get some male flesh on the screen and would end up being one of the worst films of the year. Yet it proved to be something very different as director Steven Soderbergh made it a gritty film exploring the sex industry and the personal make-up of those involved in it. Now comes Magic Mike XXL the sequel which has a lot less fear revolving around it, but sadly if you are expecting a film like the original you are going to be sorely disappointed because this film has everything wrong with it that people were expecting could have gone wrong with the first film.
Really alarm bells should have been ringing before walking into the cinema. No Steven Soderbergh in charge this time round, instead he acts as cinematographer while Gregory Jacobs (a man with two B-Grade movies on his directional resume), and then the news that neither Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn or Alex Pettyfer were returning either. Then just to add insult to injury Aussie star-on-the-rise Margot Robbie pulled out of her role before shooting began. So why was there such an A-List avoidance of the sequel, because obviously those stars picked up the script and read it.
To be blunt Magic Mike XXL is simply a bunch of music videos with male grinding joined together by a flimsy bus trip that tries in vain to make it seem like the screenwriter didn’t just write lines like “Mike takes his clothes while women throw cash at him.” The screenplay here is lame at best and it seems that both director and screenwriter knew that and instead just tried to do overlong scenes of dialogue in the near-drowning bid to try and give this film some artistic credibility. But the scenes are so long they become boring, the characters so under-developed that become disinteresting while the lack of any sexual chemistry between Mike and his supposed love interest Zoe means the film just fizzles out with no resistance.
In fact the lack of character development in this film is frightening. Screenwriter Reid Carolin (who did funnily enough write the original film) sets up all these interesting little titbits about the various characters but then never fully cashes in on them. I mean come on, a stripper who wants to be a singer, the moment of realization that Mike has danced with Tarzan and didn’t even know he was a Gulf War veteran, both plotlines are a goldmine for a screenwriter but here Carolin just seems to throw them up in casual conversation and then forgets about them.
The weak script here also dangerously lets down the cast. Recently people have been uttering lines like ‘hey maybe Channing Tatum can act’ well here his only worth seems to be to look pouty and take his top off. As a result Tatum comes across looking like a a dumb himbo who has nothing to offer Hollywood at all, it’s like he has flashed back in time and is once again the type of actor who is only hired for his good looks and not his acting ability. Still at least he comes off a little better than the female cast because sadly Amber Heard, Andie MacDowell and Elizabeth Banks are all wasted in their roles and you can only wonder why they agreed to do the film in the first place. The only actress that does get a meaty role is Jada Pinkett Smith whose character of Rome is interesting enough for her own film, especially considering once again the screenwriter here leaves us asking more questions about her than what are answered.
Aside from its soundtrack Magic Mike XXL is a complete let down. Gone are the edginess and the witty script that made the first film so different and instead we are left with a film void of much storyline and just held together by a few dance sequences that aren’t even as impressive as what you would get in a Step Up movie. Avoid, especially if you loved the first one.
Summary: The pitches are back! Set three years later than the original film Pitch Perfect 2 finds the Barden Bellas, now led by Beca (Anna Kendrick), as three time National A Cappella champions. They have finally arrived and get to showcase their skills at a gala attended by President Barrack Obama, but that is when everything goes horribly wrong and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) suddenly finds herself unwillingly flashing the Prez.
With most of America convinced that it was deliberate the Bellas suddenly find themselves suspended from the collegiate a cappella circuit and being replaced on their national tour by the current German champions Das Sound Machine, led by their bitchy leaders (Birgitte Hjort Sorenson and Flula Borg). As if Das Sound Machine don’t get in their face again the Bellas are told the only way they can get back onto the circuit is if they become the first American group to ever win the World Championships.
The task seems impossible as the Bellas struggle to find their sound and Beca keeps a secret internship from the rest of the group it begins to look like the Bellas aren’t going to have enough firepower to see them even compete at the championships let alone win it. Even the introduction of the talented Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) to the group doesn’t seem to be starting a fire for them. Is this the end for the Bellas?
Australian Cinema Release Date: 7th May, 2015
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Screenwriter: Kay Cannon, Mickey Rapkin (characters)
Cast: Skylar Astin (Jesse), Elizabeth Banks (Gail), Flula Borg (Das Sound Machine), Rachel Marie Burgess (Taylor), Anna Camp (Aubrey), Jeff Caperton (David), Ester Dean (Cynthia-Rose Adams), Adam DeVine (Bumper Allen), Chrissie Fit (Flo), Karen Gonzalez (Barb), Desiree Hagadus (D-Ray), John Michael Higgins (John), Kelley Jakle (Jessica), Anna Kendrick (Beca), Alexis Knapp (Stacie), Hana Mae Lee (Lily Okanakamura), Austin Lyon (Frank), Shawn Carter Peterson (Dax), Ben Platt (Benji Applebaum), Shelley Regner (Ashley), Trip Roby (Simon), Katey Sagal (Katherine), Brittany Snow (Chloe), Birgitte Hjort Sorenson (Das Sound Machine), Hailee Steinfeld (Emily), Freddie Stroma (Luke), Rebel Wilson (Fat Amy)
Runtime: 115 mins
OUR PITCH PERFECT 2 REVIEWS & RATINGS:
With the surprise success of 2012’s Pitch Perfect there is little wonder that a sequel has surfaced. Pitch Perfect was to the female audience what American Pie was to males and slotted in nicely for those that were just that little too young for Bridesmaids. But aside from the best thing about the film was that it was unique, new and actually made its audience laugh – something that many comedies around that time certainly weren’t able to do.
Pitch Perfect 2 sees one of the stars of the first film, Elizabeth Banks, step into the director’s chair as she tries to make amends for the fact that she was one of the directors responsible for a segment in the awful Movie 43. Thankfully Banks decides not to do what most music or dance flavored sequels decide to do and she steers clear from creating an exact replica of the first film. Teaming up with the same screenwriter from the first film, Kay Cannon, Banks puts her own unique stamp on this film tipping it right over into the outrageous side of the comedy genre without forgetting that this is a film that also needs heart.
Somehow despite the fact that the seriousness of the first film seems MIA (except for the scenes between Beca and her boss) there is still a lot to like about Pitch Perfect 2. Banks and Cannon pile on the comedy with a huge amount of one-liner zingers that mostly seem to hit their mark. Cannon’s script also shows a fair bit of bravery as she makes John’s (John Michael Higgins) one-liners much more outrageous than the first film. No punches are held back as he brilliantly delivers some sexist and racist gags that take a swing at Indians, Koreans and women to just name a few. The fact that a comedy writer is still willing to take a chance and go there in this time of the nanny state certainly shows that this is a film that is willing to be a little bit different.
As is the case with most sequels somethings aren’t explored that really should be. Beca and Jesse’s (Skyler Austin) relationship seems to be pushed right onto the backburner while Cannon and Banks seem more intent in bringing forward the outlandish comedy that can be obtained with the relationship between Fat Amy and first time round bad guy Bumper’s (Adam DeVine) relationship. The film does miss the serious topics explored in the first film, such as how hard it is for someone to try and live in their parent’s footsteps and doesn’t have a memorable scenes such as Anna Kendrick’s Cup Song from the first time around, but it does deliver a laugh a moment and manages to have a fair say about the music industry with some well written scenes at the recording studio where Beca is interning.
Acting wise it almost seems like Anna Kendrick takes a step back in a franchise that is built around her character. While she is on screen for most of the film most of the memorable comedy moments go straight to Rebel Wilson which seems to be what the filmmakers wanted this time around. Still Kendrick does at times step up to the plate especially with some of her scenes with the talented Hailee Steinfeld, who shows audiences that she can also add comedic acting and singing to her many talents. Is there anything she can’t do?
Pitch Perfect 2 may not quite live up to the greatness of the original film but at least it is different enough to be kept interesting and doesn’t recycle any old storylines. The comedy is certainly ramped up to outrageous and over-the-top and to the film’s credit it does actually work. Rebel Wilson’s rise in Hollywood takes another big step-up but it is perhaps the work of Hailee Steinfeld that this film might be best remembered for. Fans of the franchise may be happy to know that the ending seems to suggest that we may soon have a Steinfeld-led Pitch Perfect 3 on our hands very, very soon.
Summary: In the remake of the classic musical Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) is a young orphan who lives with Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a washed-up, alcoholic pop star who now lives off the money she earns for looking after a number of foster children… none of which she particularly likes.
Annie spends most of her time trying to keep out of Hannigan’s way and trying to piece together what happened to her parents who abandoned her at a restaurant years earlier. Things change for her however when a chance encounter occurs between her and wannabe-Mayor, mobile phone tycoon Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), his assistant Grace (Rose Byrne) and campaign manager Guy (Bobby Cannavale).
Australian Cinema Release Date: 19th December, 2014
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Will Gluck
Screenwriter: Will Gluck, Aline Brosh McKenna, Thomas Meehan (play), Harold Gray (comic)
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Nash), Scarlett Benchley (Fish Goddess), Mike Birbiglia (Social Services Inspector), Brad Bong (Pickle Stevens), Rose Byrne (Grace), Bobby Cannavale (Guy), Zoe Margaret Colletti (Tessie), Cameron Diaz (Hannigan), Eden Duncan-Smith (Isabella), Andrew Fleming (Cleve Sweetzer), Michael J. Fox (himself), Jamie Foxx (Will Stacks), Ray Iannicelli (Waiter at Domani), Mila Kunis (Andrea Alvin), Stephanie Kurtzuba (Mrs. Kovacevic), Ashton Kutcher (Simon Goodspeed), Dorian Missick (Annie’s “Dad”), Jill Nicolini (Ms. Giannetti), Nicolette Pierini (Mia), Taylor Richardson (Red Haired Annie), Rihanna (Moon Goddess), Jessica Sherr (Mary Gillen), Pauline Simkin (Maria), Raushanah Simmons (YaYa L’Occitane), Temple University Diamond Marching Band (themselves), Tracie Thoms (Annie’s “Mom”), Amanda Troya (Pepper), Peter Van Wagner (Harold Gray), Quvenzhane Wallis (Annie), David Zayas (Lou)
The critics seemed to by baying for blood for Annie before the film had even been released. Many were tipping that it was the kind of film that was perfect for a Worst Films Of 2014 list and many even seemed to rejoice in the fact that the cast seemed to be ever revolving door as producer Will Smith tried to put the film together.
Then of course there was disaster for the film’s distributors Sony when Annie turned out to be one of the films that the hackers managed to steal from them and release online weeks before it was due to the cinemas. Yes it really did seem like it was going to be a hard-luck life for Annie, but luckily this has turned out to be a film that comes with a few surprises.
By the time Annie did reach the cinemas early there should have been more than enough warning signs to indicate that Annie might have a few things in its corner. First of all its director Will Gluck has good pedigree being the man responsible for the fairly well received comedies Easy A and Friends With Benefits. Add that to the fact that the cast contained the likes of Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne and Cameron Diaz and maybe it was time to start re-evaluating things.
Having said all that though Annie is the kind of film though that will divide audiences. Some will instantly dismiss it will others will be able to spot a certain quirkiness that makes Annie it an enjoyable, dumb-but-fun film.
Gluck it seems is the perfect man to be at the helm of Annie as he makes sure the film never takes itself too seriously, something that he sets-up from the get-go with an opening shot of a red haired Annie, showing he is only too aware of the original film. He then manages to keep the fun and games going while at the same time pointing out some very relevant facts such as how many black American students slip through the cracks when it comes to things like reading and writing. Gluck makes sure that the film is just the right amount of over-the-top, he allows Cameron Diaz to really go all out and also allows to Jamie Foxx to center himself in the middle ground between comedy and drama.
Even the early concerns that this was just going to be a rap/hip-hip version of Annie are put to rest with most of the original songs getting just the right amount of R&B flavour to make them new and interesting but not getting to the point where they are unrecognisable from the original. Bringing on board Sia to oversee a lot of the musical side of things was also a fair touch of genius from the people behind the scenes.
The one thing that will hit most people about Annie is how many actors use this film to showcase their many other talents. Rose Byrne has already shown the world she can do more than just drama with her comedic performances in films such as Bridesmaids and Bad Neighbors, here she shows she has another string on her bow by adding singing and dancing to her resume. Likewise Jamie Foxx capitalises on the fact that he already has a successful singing career behind him and manages to make himself a triple threat with music, comedy and drama.
Perhaps the biggest acting surprise in Annie though comes from pint-sized Quvenzhane Wallis who has already wowed audiences with her dramatic performances in Beasts Of The Southern Wild (which she scored an Academy Award nomination for) and 12 Years A Slave. Here Wallis also shows she is a worthy little singer and dancer and she quickly wins you over as she plays the sassy and intelligent Annie.
Annie isn’t exactly going to be the film that you are going to be raving about for years to come but it is fun enough that you won’t exactly be leaving the cinemas complaining about it either. It’s cute and funny, but never gets annoying, while it’s reworking of the story is just modern enough to make it work and create its own identity.
The real plus though are the acting performances. Everyone seems to be having fun and it shows on the screen, especially with Cameron Diaz who seems to love the fact that she is playing a role that completely allows her to lose control. Meanwhile the film even finds time to take a swipe at social issues such as modern politics and how the rich treat the poor making sure the film does have some substance as well. Also watch out for some smart cameos from Michael J. Fox, Sia, Rihanna, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.