Coco

ratings4

In Pixar’s latest film, Miguel, a young boy who loves music despite his family’s ban on it, accidentally arrives at the Land of the Dead and must seek the blessing a family member in order to return home. The plot is a lot more complicated but that’s the easiest way to describe it without getting into any spoilers. The cast includes well-known Latino actors such as Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt, who are both fantastic in their roles, but I was also very impressed by the voice work of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, who plays the lead role of Miguel with lots of charm. Coco may seem to some like a rip-off The Book of Life, a great animated film released a few years ago which also focuses on a young man with a love for music despite his family’s ban on it, who ends up in the Land of the Dead on a  journey of self-discovery, but that is the only comparison the two movies share. Coco is much more beautifully animated, vivid with story and characters, and sure to make you shed a few tears by the end, a profession in which Pixar excels at.

When this movie first started, I was enjoying the nice animation and sweet heart its characters and writing had to offer, but I felt like I could tell where the plot was going to go and how everything would end up. However, the movie twists in a direction I did not expect, and becomes an even more complex family film with its themes about family, dreams, and legacy. The songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the husband-wife duo who won Oscars for writing the songs for Frozen, are very good and entertaining as well. What I liked is that the songs don’t serve a huge part in the film but they are still there and blend well with the Mexican culture of the film. By the end of the film, many young ones will likely cry as they did in previous films of Pixar, because the poignant themes are both happy and sad in this film, and work effectively in both ways. Pixar’s movies always looks magnificent in terms of the animation, and often millions of people work hours to months to get even a single frame (and that’s one per 24 in a second) to look nice. As I was told when I visited their studio 7 years ago, each film of theirs takes 5 years to make, and the effort each member of the studio gives in always pays off, and not only are the visuals majestic, but the storylines are unexpected, sweet, funny, and tear-jerking as well. Pixar has been in the filmmaking business for over 20 years now, and they even started the computer-animation movie-making genre with Toy Story. I grew up watching many of their films over and over again, and lots of their films shaped they way I watch and appreciate movies today. Without them, my love of movies and reviewing them may have not been the same. Some may believe Pixar has lost some of their steam and that their golden age is behind them, but I think they are still on their feet and are making stories as wonderful, family-friendly, and touching as they were when I was first introduced to their films many years ago.

Coco isn’t just a gorgeously looking animated film and tribute to Mexican culture, but it’s also Pixar’s most original and moving film since Inside Out. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and best of all, people of all ages can enjoy it. Parents will definitely want watch it over and over again with their families, and kids will want to watch it again through their childhood and eventually show it to future generations of their family. In a world where animated movies is a genre that is dying out, it’s a miracle Pixar is there to save it, and have their movies inspire families and become classics for the family genre instantly. Bottomline — go watch Coco with your family and have a blast!

Now I’m going to talk about the one problem I had about the movie, and it’s not even about the movie itself, yet it’s the worst decision Pixar has ever made by far. Before the movie, an awful, and I mean awful short film titled Olaf’s Frozen Adventure screens, and although I like the actual Frozen movie, this short film (which is a long 20 minutes as opposed to the usual 7 minutes of Pixar short films) is unbearable to sit through, with an absolutely terrible storyline and soundtrack, and even the cast’s singing is off this time for some weird reason. Disney decided to cram 6 songs in 20 minutes and pay Pixar to screen such an awful waste of time in front of a fantastic movie, which is a shame. So if you’re late to the movie, don’t worry too much about it because you won’t miss anything amazing. Otherwise, Coco is still a wonderful experience to watch with your family and nonetheless a great film that I had a blast with, regardless of the terrible short film that comes before.

Coco (2017 film) poster.jpg

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)

ratings4

The tale as old as time returns to the big screen, this time in live-action, revisiting the classical story of a cursed, monstrous-looking prince and a beautiful young woman who fall in love. Disney has been remaking a lot of their best known films lately, including Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that a remake of another one of the most influential and timeless animated films was being released. Although Beauty and the Beast shares many similarities with the original film, it’s still wonderfully heartfelt and entertaining. Emma Watson is perfectly cast as Belle, who brings lots of courage and heart to her character and the film, and she contributes her great voice to some of the film’s best musical numbers. Though Dan Stevens may not yet be quite a well-known actor, his leading performance in Marvel and FX’s hit series Legion, and now in this as the menacing Beast, demonstrate his excellent talent and his career is sure to soar from here. Luke Evans is well-cast as Gaston, who is bright but menacing and does justice to the original incarnation of the character. Kevin Kline is also great as Belle’s father, but my favorite of the cast has to be Josh Gad as Gaston’s hilarious and charming sidekick LeFou. Gad seems to be Disney’s favorite, first having played the lovable snowman Olaf in Frozen, and now he’s given more hilarity, great lines, and even another musical number, all of which you won’t forget. LeFou wasn’t a standout character for me before, but Gad entertained and surprised me like I thought no one could in the role. Also fantastic are the voices of Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts.

What makes Beauty and the Beast such a fun time is that although the story is pretty much the same as we know it to be, it’s still able to use the talents of its great cast, writing, and directing to bring new elements and twists into the iconic visuals and story we love. There isn’t much you can re-imagine very easily with this Disney classic, unlike last year’s The Jungle Book, which almost felt like a new adventure because its visuals made the film feel like a very new experience. Beauty and the Beast doesn’t do that as well, as the story doesn’t stride away from what’s already been established, but the director still makes similar shots and scenes interesting in a new medium. Although you already know the story, the film breathes new light into the visuals, humor, and style of the film. It’s very familiar yet exciting at the same time. The costumes and sets are gorgeous, but not as much of the budget is put into the CGI, which is solid but could have been better, especially the motion capture work on the Beast. It’s unfortunate that Hollywood will soon remake every movie we love because of how much money they’ll make off of it, but this movie is able to preserve the magic Disney had created with it before and re-imagine it on the big screen. It is still a remake, but it’s one that will inspire kids who are new to the plot, and fill older generations and especially fans with nostalgia. The movie sticks to the musical nature of the animated film,  so expect recreations of your favorite musical numbers, including “Belle”, “Gaston”, “Be our Guest”, and of course, the most famous “Beauty and the Beast”, just to name a few. These scenes are well-choreographed and the songs are so timeless that you still want to go back and listen to them after you watch the movie. Even if you know how the story ends, the movie will still make you rethink the film’s themes, want to sing and dance to the songs, and applaud at the end, like my entire audience did.

Beauty and the Beast follows the established formula that we know, but thankfully it’s not too familiar to not be enjoyed, with a great cast and visual appeal that do justice to its source material. Disney is coming at us with a handful of remakes, and thankfully this turns out to be one of the better ones. If you’re looking to revisit a classic or just have a good time at the movies with your family, then I’ll definitely recommend going out and paying to watch this on the big screen.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 poster.jpg

La La Land

ratings5

A jazz pianist and an aspiring actress, both pursuing success in the city of Los Angeles, fall in love, but the dreams they worked so hard to achieve threaten to break them apart.

From the brilliant mind behind Whiplash comes by far the most entertaining, heartfelt, vividly smart, and well-shot film of the year. Damien Chazelle has reached the heights of his previous film with a musical that pays homage to the golden age of Hollywood musicals yet comes up with something so original and relevant to our generation. La La Land is one of the most passionate and ambitious projects this year, and embraces its themes and emotions about pursuing your dreams in every moment of its run-time. From the beautifully shot musical numbers to the terrific leading performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, there’s nothing to this film that can be missed. The marvelous cinematography that almost never cuts in between scenes, the cheerful and praiseworthy music, and the incredible set pieces help make this film a wonderful visual experience as well, and there’s no doubt that it’ll get awarded for all the technical categories that it so beautifully masters. Gosling and Stone have excellent chemistry on screen,  and they were perfectly cast in their roles which they portray with tons of strength, character, and charisma. There is some excellent use of imagery and symbolism throughout that isn’t hard to notice. Every shot in this movie is something new, filmed like no other movie before in recent years. I did not think Chazelle would be able to reach the heights of Whiplash with his next film, but he was able to do it in the best way, and his career definitely won’t stop here. La La Land uses its incredible sets, camerawork, music, and acting talents to build a wonderful and extraordinary experience, and although tough, it’s ultimately settling in the most beautiful way.

La La Land is truly a special movie that tops nearly every movie I’ve seen this year with its emotional and visual brilliance, with a superb cast and unforgettable music. There’s no way you won’t love this movie if you go see it, so I highly recommend you watch it on the big screen, because you won’t regret it.

La La Land (film).png

Moana

ratings4

In Disney’s latest animated musical, Moana, the teenage daughter of a village chief, sets out to save her island and her people, with the help of a troublesome but fearless demigod named Maui.

We all know from previous experience you’ve got to rush to the theaters whenever Disney releases an animated movie – and this one’s definitely worth it. Moana is not a princess movie – even Moana herself denies that she’s one. There are story elements and character arcs that will remind you of Aladdin, Frozen, and more, but Moana is as distant from the “Disney princess” genre as it gets. Auli’i Cravalho, 16-year old Hawaiian native and newcomer to showbiz, voices our lead and brings tons of heart and independence to her character. Moana isn’t looking for a prince to save her – she knows only she can embark on this journey to save her island. Disney wouldn’t have thought to create a heroine like that 10 years ago, and I’m glad we live in a world where our next generation will be getting films like these. Cravalho not only delivers her character’s courageous soul, but also a few memorable musical numbers with a voice that I’m sure will get her somewhere soon. You know who else can sing? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who sings my favorite and arguably the catchiest song in the movie, and he also delivers a phenomenal voice performance as the self-absorbed demigod who reluctantly joins Moana’s adventure. Disney hired the right person to write Moana‘s songs in Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Although there is less singing than in Tangled and Frozen, and you probably won’t catch your children singing the songs from this film like they did with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Let it Go” a few years ago, the songs here were much better written and a lot more enjoyable for me.

Should Moana enter the race to the Best Animated Feature Oscar alongside Finding Dory and Zootopia?  Well, I’d say that it absolutely should. Who thought that Disney could release two computer-animated movies in the same year without the Pixar trademark and they’d both be so successful? The animation is stunning, and the ocean and the creatures living in it, from sea turtles to stingrays, look gorgeous thanks to the hard work put into the movie’s visual appeal. The uniqueness and entertainment of Moana is why you should definitely see this one on the big screen. The movie’s humor is mostly aimed for younger audiences, but it still had me laughing hard throughout. Although some plot elements at one point feel too familiar from other Disney films, as well as the message about how every individual is important and can make a difference, it’s the way it’s executed that makes it all fit perfectly in the end, and will be sure to leave a huge smile on your face.

Disney has done it again with Moana, an extraordinary, heartfelt, and wonderfully executed musical adventure that the whole family is sure to love. A beautifully looking tribute to Polynesian culture and mythology, this is one entertaining journey that you should not skip watching on the big screen. Stay tuned after the credits for an extra gag, and make sure to be there on time for a fantastic short film before the feature.

Moana Teaser Poster.jpg

Sing Street

ratings5

In Sing Street, a boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl he likes. Sing Street is by far the most excellent film I’ve seen this year. Director John Carney loves using music to carry a film, and doing that with a movie is often a challenge, because as a result, your film can become a complete bore or the opposite, a fun movie with a great feel. His 2014 film Begin Again, starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, wasn’t a miss but not quite a hit either, with some good original songs but not a great plot. However, he hits all the right notes with Sing Street, which feels like his ode to teenage love. Set in the director’s hometown (and school), a boy’s strive towards a beautiful girl leads him to discover a passion for music within him. Every musical moment in this movie leaves you with a huge smile on your face that you do not want to get rid of. The songs in the movie are all meaningful and connect well to the current tone within that certain point in the movie. The movie is so well represented and carried on by its songs that you simply don’t want the film to end. The actors also carry the film wonderfully. The film’s young lead Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is both an excellent singer and actor who is successfully able to bring his character’s multiple conflicts as well as his talents to the screen, especially for a Hollywood newcomer. His character feels very relate-able for teenage audiences, and can inspire you to seek a talent within you. Another magnificent breakthrough performance comes from Lucy Boynton, who plays the protagonist’s love interest. She brings lots of charm and positivity to her character that you immediately want to see more from this actress. Transformers actor Jack Reynor redeems himself in his role here as the protagonist’s older brother, who guides him through his life of love, music, and other challenges that we all face. Reynor’s character also feels like a great inspiration, as he is what keeps our main character confident about himself, and the brotherly bond between the two is a big part of what can inspire audiences.

It’s nearly impossible not to sit through Sing Street without a huge smile on your face. It’s a celebration of the universal 80’s age of music, and it’s the director’s ode to teenage love, talent, and passion. The pacing is always on the right key, so I guarantee it will keep you entertained. The music is sure to keep you upbeat and excited, and I haven’t seen a movie that’s been driven so well by its music for so long. This movie feels delightful, personal, heartfelt, and anything else you feel it to be. The message of this film is to pursue anything you truly desire, so this can appeal to adults of all ages, as well as teens starting from age 13. This film feels so delightful, entertaining, touching, and youthful that its definitely not one to miss, and I could even call this one my favorite film of the year so far.

Sing Street Poster

Frozen

My rating: ratings3

Frozen, Disney’s latest animated movie, follows the story of princess sisters Elsa (soon-to-be Queen) and Anna in Arendelle. Elsa can create snow and ice, but has repressed her ability since a childhood accident. The climax of the movie occurs when Elsa let’s her powers get out of hand and freezes Arendelle into ice, cursing the kingdom with eternal winter. One of the movie’s antagonists, the Duke of Weselton, attempts to turn the people against Elsa, for personal gain. Anna, embarks of a journey to save her sister and the kingdom, meeting a handsome ice seller named Kristoff, his reindeer Sven and a snowman named Olaf along the way. The film’s cast includes Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Josh Gad, and Alan Tudyk.

I saw this movie this week with my family. We all liked the movie but my parents enjoyed it especially! The film has great animation, great songs, and a great story-line. I think kids and adults of all ages will enjoy the film!  I have to admit that I enjoyed the film more than Tangled, another Disney animated film with the same elements as Frozen, but not as much as other animated films this year, such as Despicable Me 2 and The Croods. I also have to admit that Frozen was better than I expected. At first when I saw the trailer for the movie, I thought it would just be another predictable Disney princess movie, but eventually I decided to give it a try. And then I watched the movie, and enjoyed it!

The animated short film that accompanies Frozen, a Mickey Mouse short titled Get a Horse, was very hilarious and clever, in ways that I don’t know how to explain. It is kind of like you are watching it in a theater, and when Mickey and other characters burst out of the screen, they are in CGI and no longer in black and white.

Here is Frozen’s trailer.

Step Up Revolution

My rating: 

Yesterday I saw the movie Step Up Revolution with my cousin. It is the fourth movie in the ”Step Up” movie series (the previous movies are Step Up, Step Up 2: The Streets, and Step Up 3D). We both really liked the movie. It is about a girl named Emily (played by Kathryn McCormick) who moves with her father (played by Peter Gallagher) to Miami, where she falls in love with a man named Sean (played by Ryan Guzman), the leader of a dancing crew called the MOB. The crew want to win a dancing contest, but when Emily’s father threatens to destroy the MOB, they decide to turn their performance art into protest art. I really liked the dancing in the movie and I think this is the best of all 4 Step Up movies. I would recommend this movie for kids my age or older and adults. Step Up Revolution will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D starting November 27 in the United States.

Also, here is the trailer of Step Up Revolution.