Bohemian Rhapsody

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Bohemian Rhapsody brings the story of legendary music group Queen and their center star Freddie Mercury to the big screen. I’ve been a hug fan of Queen and their music for a while, and they have been my favorite music group with their classics such as the titular song being among the best songs of all time. My love for the band explains why I was so excited to watch this film, and I was not let down. Bohemian Rhapsody lives on the promise of a great depiction of the behind-the-scenes of the making of some of your favorite Queen songs, as well as digging into its lead singer who still remains a legend to this day. Rami Malek hasn’t been in many major film roles before but was the perfect choice to play Freddie — he disappears into the role in every moment in an unbelievable transformation which required Malek’s full effort. It feels as if every movement he makes and every word or scene he’s in was perfected to feel like the real Mercury. Also great are Gwylim Lee and Ben Hardy as the other founding members of Queen — whose real life counterparts were musical consultants on the film. Knowing and loving the songs and group that the film is about, audiences will be sure to want to catch this one and be enthralled by how the band came to be or what inspired their greatest hits. Though some that don’t enjoy their music as much will be more keen to notice the formula that a lot of biopics use (“anyone can achieve their dreams” “character pursues their dreams/argues with those close to him/makes amends with them and redeems themselves”) — the film won’t offer much new plot-wise especially if you know more about the real story, but that’s alright. There’s also a few aspects that would have been more entertaining to see in extended sequences rather than being shortened to montages, but the movie already clocks in at 135 minutes anyway. The vivid cinematography and editing kindly boast uproarious musical concert sequences, which are also so enjoyable because of the fact that the songs you love so much are being played to you on the big screen and you can’t help but want to sing along.

You may read many different things from critics, but mark my words — any fan of Queen and Mercury will have a blast watching Bohemian Rhapsody on the big screen. Others may notice the familiar plot structure or formula but one thing is for sure — Rami Malek will get serious buzz for his portrayal of Mercury, and watching your favorite songs being created and performed on screen is nothing but a wonderful time on the big screen.

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A Star Is Born

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A musician named Jackson Maine helps a young singer and actress named Ally find fame, and they fall in love as their careers spiral towards different directions.

A Star Is Born shows that incredible passion both in front of and behind the camera can pay off wonderfully — and that an old story told well today can still stick with viewers. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is a stunningly told story of love, fame, pain, addiction, talent, and dreams. Cooper directs every scene with lots of energy and his editing and direction pay off to elevate the engagement and payoff of many scenes. His performance as Jackson Maine works on so many levels — Maine is a man you hate but love at the same time — he’s charming and caring but also has problems of his own that he deals with selfishly. Cooper dedicates himself to the role and has plenty of emotion that will move you to the core — and he can also sing very well. The complexity and might he brings to the screen makes his role worthy of an Oscar come awards season. And then there’s Lady Gaga — we already knew she has talent when it comes to her singing voice, but I could never tell that she wasn’t a professional actress and that this is her first major film role — she blends in with the other acting talents perfectly and stands out in her every scene. Gaga is remarkable as a woman who finds her voice and pursues her dream, and her range of emotion and presence are striking. I expect a Best Actress nomination for her as well. The chemistry between the two as well as their performances elevate the film and make it so interesting for the viewer — it wouldn’t have been the same without the dedication these actors put into their roles.

Also worth watching out for is the music — “Shallow” is a new original classic that I know will become more popular once more people see the film and Cooper and Gaga perform it ecstatically in one of the most memorable scenes in the film. Even though the overall story structure isn’t anything brilliant, and it’s the fourth remake of a film from the ’30s, the execution and delivery of the story is still made so effective for the audience and will resonate with you after the credits role. Some scenes will make you laugh, smile, or even cry, and the emotional connection to the audience is built so well that the ending will crush your heart if you’ve been engaged for the rest of the movie. A Star Is Born will definitely stick with viewers until the Oscars come around, where I’d say it has a really good chance, especially for its marvelous leading performances that deserve to win and the acting alone earns makes the film a recommended watch. Aside from that, there’s excellent directing and music, and Bradley Cooper has found himself an excellent voice in front of and behind the camera, as well as on stage, in an achievement for his career.

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The Greatest Showman

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The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, and is loosely based on the true story of how he rose from rags to riches by founding a circus that ended up running for nearly 150 years. Jackman has proven talent and range in his career, from 17 years as Wolverine, to impressive and deep performances in films like Prisoners and The Prestige. Here he finds himself another suiting role as Barnum, the showman who inspired those who were different to be proud of themselves and brought joy to many watchers with his entertainment. Jackman not only brings charm and confidence to this role, but can also sing well. Michelle Williams as Barnum’s wife, Zac Efron as his newly-found business partner, and Zendaya as a trapeze artist are all delightful too, despite some wasted supporting roles like Rebecca Ferguson’s character. The Greatest Showman will definitely appeal to fans of musicals and younger audiences, with very entertaining songs written by Oscars winners Pasek and Paul, which are fun and the best parts of the film. In addition to that, there’s a charming story about family, love, embracing those who are different, never giving up and bringing happiness to others. However, we’ve seen it all before and it’s not hard to predict where everything will go. The story of a character with nothing but a bold idea who convinces himself and others to never give up on their dreams has been explored many times before, and as a family film you can’t expect it to take many unexpected turns, but many times has this plot been shown and it’s not done very differently here to make the story stand out from others. Even the recent film The Disaster Artist was able to deliver this story in a way that felt creative and unique. Some of the plot elements feel heavily fictionalized to follow this family-friendly story, and I wish it had stuck true to the real events, which I’m not familiar with but I bet would have made a much deeper and resonating story and not just a fun one. Like I said before, Jackman is great as Barnum, but we never explore his inner self other than his love for his family and show business which has come out of nowhere. We don’t feel any conflict in him, only the positive decisions and emotions, which I understand as it’s a kid’s movie, but even younger audiences could learn a little more from him. I wouldn’t push audiences away from this film, as everyone in my theater clapped in the end and even I had quite a fun time watching it. However, I wish it had aimed for more than the cliche plot and themes and gone for something more daring.

The Greatest Showman will definitely please families with its entertaining musical numbers and cast, and has some familiar but sweet themes for kids and sequences that parents will enjoy watching with their children. I had a delightful time myself watching this one, and I would overall recommend it for families to go and watch. If only this had something for adults to grip onto and remember as well, and not just bring their kids to see.

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Coco

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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.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)

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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.

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La La Land

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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.

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Moana

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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.

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