The Greatest Showman Movie Review

greatest-showman-poster-lrg.jpg

Hugh Jackman stars in The Greatest Showman as P.T. Barnum, the man who starts the circus now known as the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus.

As Barnum sets up his circus he must contend with bigotry and family drama that threatens to upset his career and his marriage.

The plot of the movie is fairly predictable for a musical and even more so given the source material. It comes as no surprise that Barnum’s circus is successful.

The weak plot leaves the enjoyment of the movie not in the story but in the storytelling. How good are the songs, the dances, the costumes, and the acting?

Simple answer, marvelous! I loved The Greatest Showman! Continue reading

Beauty and the Beast Movie Review

Beauty and the Beast

Disney’s latest live-action remake, Beauty and the Beast, is out and I’ve seen it.

The movie is very much a remake of the 1991 animated movie. The plot, the songs, the characters, all pretty much the same.

For those who aren’t familiar with the story (really though?) Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a cruel prince who is cursed by an enchantress. Continue reading

La La Land Movie Review

la-la-land

I’d heard a decent amount of buzz before going to see La La Land. Critics gave it good scores, my friends and family were raving about it, and it even won a bunch of Golden Globe awards.

A lot of hype to live up to and while it was a very good movie it ultimately did not meet my inflated expectations.

I went into the movie only knowing it was a romance staring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Stone plays an aspiring actress/barista in Hollywood. Gosling plays her love interest

Continue reading

Sing Movie Review

sing

Illumination, the newcomer to the animation oligopoly of Disney and Dreamworks, has released their new animated animal movie, Sing.

Sing follows the story of a singing competition like American Idol, X Factor, The Voice and many others. At times the shows are parodied, but mostly the story is told straight.

Buster Moon, played by Mathew McConaughey, is a owner of a theater known for its poorly produced musicals. Buster is also a koala. He’s in debt and the bank is close to foreclosing on the theater which doubles as Buster’s home. Buster starts the singing competition in a last ditch effort to save the theater.

The movie tells many short stories about the different leading contestants, just like singing contest shows try to bring the contestants personal stories to life through interviews and documentary style shots of their daily lives.

I think Sing does a better job of this personal storytelling because inherently, the stories can be more personal and involved in a fictional setting than in reality where the cameras aren’t necessarily around at the moment of a character’s tragic loss/big break/whatever.

The characters are Rosita the pig, Johnny the gorilla, Mike the mouse, Ash the porcupine, and Meena the elephant. I feel your enjoyment of the movie hinges on your connection to one of them. Let’s go through them one by one and if their stories seems interesting than I think you should go see Sing.

Rosita is a homemaker with 25 little piglets. Her husband works from dawn to dusk while she cooks, cleans, and manages the household for her family. Feeling a little underappreciated at home, Rosita joins the competition to find feelings of satisfaction and acceptance that aren’t present in her domestic life. Rosita is paired with another pig, Gunter, for her performance. Gunter is a minor character inserted for comedic effect with no significant story or character development of his own.

Johnny is the young adult son of a burglar. He stands lookout for his father’s gang, warning then when the cops might interrupt one of their heists. Johnny wants to get away from the criminal life using his natural singing talent which his father has never acknowledged.

Mike is a street musician and small time criminal. Feeling that he has been unfairly denied his chance at the big life, Mike enters the contest for the fame and fortune that come with winning.

Ash is a member of a rock duo with her boyfriend, Lance. He is resistant to Ash’s desire to “sell out” or be successful as most people call it. When Ash makes it into the contest finals without Lance, that puts a strain on their fragile relationship which Ash channels into her music.

Meena is a shy girl who lives at home with her mother, grandmother, and overbearing grandfather. Meena loves to sing, but has confidence issues that prevent her from performing in front of an audience. Her family is aware of her amazing singing talent and push her to enter the competition so her dreams of being a star can be realized.

There are a few other characters that enter the contest initially but their stories are not explored and they are eliminated before the finale.

The plot is… a little predictable. I’m not saying I wasn’t satisfied, but don’t expect any surprises. The movie is targeted at children and is accordingly, simple enough for children to understand.

Each of the stories is nice and all the characters get happy endings in their own ways. The voice acting and singing were quite good as well. My wife and I have been listening to bits of the soundtrack since we saw it.

At first glance the animation style felt like Illumination attempted to capitalize on the success of Zootopia but I noticed its own individual flare once I got into it.

I’d recommend Sing to anyone who likes good musicals, to children, and to anyone who is interested in at least two of the main characters (one is not enough!). The movie appeals to a fairly broad crowd and I think the soundtrack has staying power. Definitely enjoyed it!

-GoCorral

Nashville: The Attractions

Nashville, is a tourist city, a state capital, and a center for the music, car, and health industries. All these things lead to a great deal of fun things to do, see, and visit in the city.

Nashville has an almost exact replica of the Parthenon from Athens in the American city’s Centennial Park.

No joke here, the tour guides are awesome.
Beautiful AND COMPLETELY UNOBSTRUCTED VIEW of the Nashville Parthenon.

The Nashville Parthenon is complete, unlike the Athenian Parthenon which seems Continue reading

Nashville: The Opry

Frank Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers
Frank Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers

The single greatest attraction in Nashville, Tennessee is the Grand Ole Opry, a radio show turned concert that has been active since 1925.

Given that it’s Nashville most of the Opry’s music is country.

We got tickets to the concert for our first day in Nashville. The headliners were Rascal Flats and Frankie Ballard. The other acts were The Gatlin Brothers, LOCASH, Parker Milsap, and someone else I can’t remember.

The concert hall is a big place that seats over four thousand people.

There’s a concession stand and they let you bring the food into the actual venue which was new for me. Rarely do I get to bring food into a theater-type venue.

The actual music was quite nice. My favorite was Parker Milsap and my wife enjoyed LOCASH, buying their new album after we left. We both liked Rascal Flats and Frankie Ballard (the names that brought us to the concert).

The Opry is also a radio show on 650AM in Tennessee and maybe in other places.

The Opry typically plays twice a night. They repeated the concert, so as we drove to the hotel we got to listen to everything again!

We liked the experience so much that we went back for a tour.

We got to go backstage and see the musician’s entrance, the dressing rooms, and the enormous green room that felt more like a living room.

Each of the dressing rooms was themed for different country music stereotypes (old dude, young cowboy, up-and-coming girl, comedic woman, etc.).

We got to go on the stage and get our picture taken standing on “The Circle.”

The Circle is a cutout of the Opry’s previous longtime venue, the Ryman Auditorium.

The Ryman eventually became a bit small for the audiences that wanted to attend an Opry show so the new concert hall was built specifically for the Opry show.

The Grand Ole Opry House holds twice as many people as the Ryman and still routinely fills up nearly all the seats!

After the tour there was a July 4th weekend concert as well.

Before the official concert there was an opening act outside by Fifty Shades of Hey who did a bunch of covers of famous songs.

Fifty Shades of Hay is all about BDSM (Bluegrass, Duets, and Super Music)
Fifty Shades of Hay is all about BDSM (Bluegrass, Duets, and Super Music)

The second concert was great too, but the first one was definitely more to my preferences and my wife’s.

A great experience and one of the most important parts of Nashville. I’d say if you’re only there for one night going to an Opry show is what you should be doing!

-GoCorral

Roll20 and D&D

I’ve mentioned Roll20 in past posts about how my group plays D&D, but I figure it deserves a post all its own.

Roll20 was a Kickstarter project back in 2012. It raised $39,651, well past its goal of $5,000.

Once funded the project team set out to create a free and simple way to play D&D and other roleplaying games online.

They created something that has been dubbed a virtual tabletop (VTT). D&D is normally played at a table, so when you play online everyone sits at their computers around the virtual tabletop.

What does that actually mean though?

First, Roll20 transmits your voice, video, and any typed messages you want to the other people you’re playing with. Continue reading

We Are Your Friends Movie Review

we_are_your_friends

My wife and I went to see We Are Your Friends last weekend. The movie title was often abbreviated as WAYF in the trailers.

My wife and I were excited to see WAYF for two reasons. 1. We’ve been fans of Zac Efron since High School Musical 3 came out because the movie parallels our lives. Zac Efron plays, Cole, the lead in WAYF. 2. My wife and I watch the TV show, Catfish. The deuteragonist of Catfish, Max Joseph, directed WAYF. Going into the theater we already had two big names pulling us in.

The trailers for the movie don’t tell you much about the plot, so I’ll have to fill you in.

Cole is an aspiring DJ who lives in San Fernando Valley, just outside of LA. He and his poor friends want to make it big, but they’re clueless on how to do that.

Cole meets James Reed at a club. James is a DJ who made it big. He takes Cole on as an apprentice.

Cole becomes attracted to James’s assistant, Sophie, whom James is sleeping with. Drama ensues and that’s the movie.

My overall impression of the movie was very good.

The music is decent. It’s not the genre of music I’m usually into so I can’t be a good judge of it.

The directing/acting was amazing. The characters do start to feel like real people with real reactions to their situations.

The cinematography is stellar. Every shot has a purpose in the movie and either looks beautiful or looks distorted due to some of the drugs that Cole has taken.

Which brings me to the large amount of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol the characters use in practically every scene. The only times they aren’t using something is when they’re hungover.

This may be an accurate portrayal of the characters’ life styles, but it was so far removed from my own that I didn’t really sympathize with the main characters.

The movie also had some cool animation sequences to go along with the drugs. Those parts were “trippy” as expected.

The crowd for the movie was interesting as well. We got there on opening night and only about fifteen people were in the theater. I’d expected way more!

The crowd was pleased when Cole said he’d gotten an scholarship to UC Davis for running track, but he hadn’t taken it. Woohoo! Davis!

Anyways, the movie is good drama in my mind, but judging by the crowds (and other reviews I’ve read), other people might not think so. I’d recommend it for anybody looking for a good stressful drama movie. Or if you want to know what taking PCP might look like. Either way is fine.

-GoCorral

Memorial Day Weekend 2015

My parents-in-law visited for Memorial Day weekend.

They’ve been coming up to Sacramento every Memorial Day weekend for ages because my father-in-law plays drums in the Sacramento Music Festival every year.

Look at those hands!
Look at those hands!
The difference for this visit was instead of all of us staying in a hotel in Sacramento, we had them stay over at our house in Davis.

They arrived on Friday night after we’d spent the day cleaning up the house (Things get really dirty when you’re still in the moving in process!).

My father-in-law wasn’t playing in the Sacramento Festival until Sunday, but he did have a gig in Oakland on Saturday night.

We spent Saturday hanging out and taking a tour of the activities in Davis.

Our new house is right by the Davis Greenbelt, a walking path that goes throughout the whole city and connects most of the city’s parks. We went walking on that and showed the in-laws the neighborhood that we live in now.

They got to visit with the cats and see Carma’s injury.

After my father-in-law left for his job in Oakland we went to our old apartment which we are still paying our lease on and swam in the pool there. I didn’t swim because I thought it was still too cold, but my wife and mother-in-law did.

Sunday morning I had an unfortunate surprise of having to do more schoolwork. I’d thought I was done, but it turned out that I needed to redo one of my lab reports. I spent the morning doing that and then we went to the Music Festival.

Usually we go out for ice cream after the festival, but this time we went to our favorite ice cream place, Leatherby’s, before. Ice cream for lunch is great!

The Festival was a lot of fun. The room my father-in-law’s band, The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, played in was so full that even though we were related to one of the band members it was difficult to find a seat.

After dancing and listening to some 20s and 30s style jazz we came back home and I continued to work on my lab report late into the night.

The next morning I continued to work on my report with a break to chat and talk with the in-laws before they left.

A great little visit from family. Lots of fun!

We figured out we could probably use another little trashcan, a lamp, and some hangers for future guests.

That’s the story from Memorial Day Weekend!

-GoCorral

Pitch Perfect 2

We saw Pitch Perfect 2 and sadly it suffered from sequelitis.

That’s when the sequel to a movie just isn’t as good as the original and probably wouldn’t have been made if it didn’t already have an established fanbase.

It’s still a decent movie and if you enjoyed the first movie you’ll most likely enjoy the second, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen the first Pitch Perfect.

So what was weaker in this movie than the first? Gosh… Where to start?

The two announcer characters got a lot more racy and offensive. They were already a little bad in the first movie, but it was cringeworthy in the second.

I listened to a few interviews of the production staff as well and apparently most of the announcer scenes were adlibbed. I don’t know if that makes the racy parts better or worse, but they’re there.

The romantic plot between Beca and Jesse is essentially absent in the second movie. Their relationship is stable and off-camera. Their romantic sub-plot is replaced with Fat Amy and Benji’s two love interests. While those sub-plots are interesting they don’t really compare to the entertainment provided by Jesse cracking open Beca’s shell in the first movie.

The other thing that’s absent is Beca’s dad. I really liked his role in the first movie.

It makes some sense to phase out parental figures as the characters get older. And the whole sub-plot of Beca getting over her parents’ divorce is absent in Pitch Perfect 2 means that her dad doesn’t have much to do. I still missed his presence though. He’s somewhat replaced by the mother of a new freshman member of the Bellas, but the new relationship isn’t nearly as interesting as the old.

The villains in the second movie, Das Sound Machine, aren’t nearly as likeable as the Treblemakers.

Now why would you want to like your villains? Well I just wrote about that in a previous post. Go read that one and come back if you need an answer to this question.

Das Sound Machine are portrayed as just evil which makes them a little boring.

The movie also portrays them as hyper competent. While that’s definitely true, their performances are still a little boring. Their first performance is Uprising by Muse, one of my favorite songs. They do a great job, probably as good as they could do, but the song just sounds awful in acapella. I could barely understand the lyrics over the background music imitations.

The musical performances do really suffer compared to the original movie.

There are good reasons for this. The Bellas as a whole suffer some sort of identity crisis that comes out in their performances not being as good, but that also means that the first half of the movie has unsatisfying performances by the Bellas.

The first movie had this as well, but it covered it with humor. Aubrey throwing up pulls you into the hilarity of the movie right away. Aubrey’s tongue lashing after the poor performance at the fraternity party is great character development for her.

How does the Bellas excess use of props enhance the other plots in the movie?

It doesn’t.

I felt the songs picked for numbers were in general worse than the original as well. I didn’t know as many this time around and that hampered my enjoyment.

And there’s just a few other things that the second movie just missed. Lily’s little whispers aren’t as terrifying as the first movie. Beca’s odd sexual attraction to Das Sound Machine’s leader isn’t explored further by having Jesse find out. The inclusion of the new freshman in the Bellas felt like an excuse to have an original song in the moive so they could sell something with fewer royalties attached. If the international competition is for college groups, why are people out of college allowed to compete?

Just tons of small stuff like that.

Like I said, its not a good movie for people who haven’t seen the original. For those who enjoyed the original, there’s still plenty of stuff like it in the new movie. The songs are still catchy and Fat Amy is still hilarious.

-GoCorral