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

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

kubo-and-the-two-strings

It took a lot of begging to get my wife to go see Kubo and the Two Strings with me. She’s not into fantasy movies or animated films and the double-whammy almost prevented me from seeing it in theaters. As such, this review will probably not be very helpful for those of you who weren’t sure if you wanted to see this movie. Chances are it’s already out of theaters by the time I post this.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop-motion animated adventure film.

Our one-eyed main character, Kubo, lives alone with his mother. She suffers from PTSD of some kind that renders her nearly catatonic for most of the day.

Kubo suports himself and her by playing songs in the local town square with magical self-moving origami characters as his actors.

Kubo’s mother always tells him during her lucid moments, “Never stay out after dark because then your grandfather, the Moon King, will see you. He wants to take your other eye because he’s Evil.”

So what does Kubo do? There are no points for answering this question correctly as it’s so blindingly obvious.

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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

Money Monster Review

Money Monster

I saw Money Monster with my wife the other week and we both enjoyed it quite a bit.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the host of a financial show called Mad Money. Julia Roberts plays his director, Patty.

All seems like it’ll be just another normal day for the show until an armed gunman, played by Jack O’Connell, comes onto the show and threatens to shoot Lee if he doesn’t do what he says.

The gunman pulls out a suicide vest and straps Lee into it. The vest is wirelessly connected to a deadman switch that the gunman, named Kyle, holds in his hand. If Kyle lets go of the switch then the bomb goes off.

While arguing and threatening Kyle explains that he invested his entire savings into a stock named IBIS that Lee previously recommended. The stock has now tanked due to some unknown error.

Lee and Patty work to keep everyone in the studio alive until the police can deal with the situation. Eventually they come to
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Deadpool Movie Review

Deadpool

I saw Deadpool with one of my friends and the movie delivered exactly what it promised, violence, action, raw sexuality, crude jokes, and fourth-wall breaking comedy. The movie did everything it needed to capture Deadpool’s appeal.

If you’ve read the Deadpool comics I’m fairly certain you’ll enjoy the movie. Sure the origin story is different and a few parts of Deadpool’s personality aren’t fully realized, but it’s what you’ve wanted. Go see it!

For those of you who don’t know much about Marvel’s “superhero” Deapool, let me fill you in!

You notice how I put superhero in quotation marks there? I did it for a good reason. Deadpool isn’t always a heroic character. Sometimes he saves New York from aliens. Other times he might try to steal some weapons-grade explosives from the superhero police, SHIELD, because he wants to know what it tastes like (Just an example, I don’t think there’s a comic about this).

Deadpool is a violent, perverted mercenary who got cancer. He got injected with some stuff that made him heal super fast, but his cancer is still there. The cancer grows and makes his entire body look super ugly.

Deadpool has a soft side as well. He loves to help children with whatever problems they have, intimidating bullies, finding lost cats, listening to their problems. However Deadpool can help a child you can guarantee that he’ll be doing it.

All of that aside, Deadpool is probably best known for being a fourth wall aware character. He knows he’s a comic book character and he talks to himself about it all the time.

He makes pop culture jokes that the other characters never understand, he occasionally dresses up as Batman who is from another superhero universe, he frequently addresses the audience to ask how they’re enjoying the story, etc.

The movie has all of this to varying degrees. The plot? Honestly, who cares. Deadpool wants to fight people. He says some jokes, there’s some cool action sequences. It’s good.

I’ve read that a few people were confused about this movie, so let me clarify one thing. Deadpool has an R rating for a reason. There’s sex, there’s violence, there’s cruelty and dismemberments, there’s foul language. Pretty much everything that could up the rating of a film is present in this one. It’s all great, but it’s all for adults.

-GoCorral

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa

If you’re into comedies where most of the jokes are attacks on Zac Efron’s masculinity then Dirty Grandpa is the movie for you.

Quick plot rundown, Efron plays Jason who has to escort his grandpa Dick, played by Robert De Niro, to a vacation in Florida.

Jason is a lawyer about to be married to his trophy wife fiancee, Meredith. Dick’s wife just died after a decade long fight with cancer.

The one thing on Dick’s mind after being faithful to his wife through ten years of serious illness is, you guessed it, having sex. (Really subtle naming of that character…)

Jason is forced into a wingman position as his grandpa tries to get in bed with a college girl.

Along the way Jason realizes his fiancee is a horrible person and he rediscovers his love of photography.

So the plot is pretty much what you’d expect if you saw the trailer. Shockingly the plot follows Campbell’s Hero’s Journey almost exactly but the doesn’t save the movie from the abyss it falls into.

What about the basic ingredients of comedy? The jokes and the laughs?

There isn’t much.

There are a lot of insults lobbed at Jason as he is the straight man. Most of those fall flat.

Dick’s physical abuse of Jason becomes a running joke. Why the writers thought that was funny enough to make a repeated joke, I don’t know. There’s no slapstick to it. It’s just a grandfather attacking his grandson because he thinks it’s funny.

The funniest moments centered on the unashamed lust shared between Dick and the college girl, Lenore, played by Aubrey Plaza. Everything else was pretty much just vulgarity masquerading as humor.

When I don’t like a movie I try to think who would like it. That’s a hard task with Dirty Grandpa. I’m a fan of South Park which is about as vulgar as it gets and I still hated this movie.

So should you see it? Absolutely not. Too much disgusting nudity, not enough real jokes, and stilted character development makes this one of the worst movies I’ve seen. If you’re going to the theaters see something else instead.

-GoCorral

The Choice Movie Review

The Choice

My wife picked Nicholas Spark’s latest movie adaption, The Choice, for us to see. She’d heard it was like the new Notebook which we both liked.

The Choice can best be described as two movies glued together. Let’s dive into it!

Travis, played by Ted Cruz lookalike Benjamin Walker, is a womanizing veterinarian who has a semi-steady girlfriend.

Gabby, played by Teresa “looks like a heroin addict” Palmer, is training to be a doctor and is dating one of her superiors at the hospital, Ryan.

Gabby moves next to Travis and they soon realize they are a terrible fit for each other and that Gabby will never sleep with Travis.

Of course Travis can’t have that! He slowly seduces her. They break up and get together. Yadah yadah, typical romance movie stuff.

Now normally the movie would end there, with the happy couple’s wedding.

The Choice is no ordinary movie though!

Fast forward seven years and Gabby is in a coma due to a car accident.

The movie does not spring this on you suddenly. The first scene was actually Travis entering the hospital with flowers and everything else was a flashback.

Travis has to make the titular Choice, keep Gabby alive in the hope that she will return to him and their two children or remove life support?

I won’t spoil his choice or the results/consequences. The end had many tear jerking moments and that’s all you need to know.

The second part of the movie is great and I’d definitely recommend it. As for the first part…

The first half of the movie suffered from the disease of “all these characters are jerks.”

Everyone had some sort of adolescent sexist agenda. Travis is a lady killer. Gabby distrusts all men. Travis’s sister thinks that because Travis and Gabby are opposites that they will obviously get together.

The minor characters get included in the sexist mess as well. Travis’s friends wives say, “Men have more fun if they feel like they’re getting away with something.”

Additionally, the characters have zero problems in their lives except what I already outlined.

As another review I read states, “in the Nicholas Sparks universe, everyone is beautiful and successful.”

While this let’s the audience focus on the plot it did seem odd to me. For example, Travis encounters no racism when he hangs out with his black friends in Carolina. The Confederate flag is also mysteriously absent from landscape shots of the harbor.

I think that would’ve made an interesting sideplot but I understand why it wasn’t included. The movie is about Travis and Gabby, not Travis and his friends. There might’ve even been a conscious choice to leave our racism with the notion that if racism is absent in media then it could eventually vanish in real life.

Regardless of intentions, all these elements disrupted my suspension of disbelief during the film. I kept thinking, “That doesn’t make sense, why isn’t that there?” or “Oh God, another sexist/patronizing speech.”

Adding to that, Walker looks 40 years old in The Choice while Palmer looks 20. This isn’t accidental. The characters they play are actually 10-15 years apart in age. It adds this whole other creepy element of cradle robbing to the film.

Despite all that I’d still recommend the film for its stellar second half. My gripes disappear there and I can wholeheartedly recommend the movie for a Valentine’s Day date with your significant other.

-GoCorral

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review [SPOILERS]

Star Wars Force Awakens

I finally saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m not going to shy away from spoilers in my review, so stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie and want to keep it a surprise.

The movie was good and I’m excited for where the new Star Wars movies are going.

The new characters were interesting. Including the old characters meant there were a few too many important people in the movie but I managed to keep up with it.

The new villain, Kylo Ren, was awesome. Just as menacing as Darth Vader while embracing the anger part of the dark side. When Kylo Ren gets angry he ignites his lightsaber and just lays into whatever is around him. Excellent characterization.

The plot was… familiar but there’s nothing wrong with that. Star Wars 1, 4, and 6 all had the same damn plot. Why shouldn’t 7 as well?

And while I enjoyed the movie a lot, it was still a let down.

I’m a big fan of Star Wars, both original, prequel, and expanded universe, so inevitably the movie was going to be a let down in one way or another.

There were two specific things the movie did not do that I wanted it to do.

The first thing is a little complicated. You see, the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, was based off a Japanese movie called The Hidden Fortress.

The Hidden Fortress is a story of two poor soldiers who get caught up in a war when they find a chest of gold belonging to the “rebels.”

They team up with a general to transport the gold and the warrior princess to whom the gold belongs to a faraway castle.

The whole movie is about seeing war through the eyes of the low, the two poor soldiers.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is the general in A New Hope, Leia is the princess, the gold is the Death Star plans, and the two poor soldiers? Are they Luke and Han?

NO! The poor soldiers from The Hidden Fortress are R2-D2 and C-3PO in Star Wars!

The whole Star Wars series has been told in some way from the point of view of the two droids. They experience all the action in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. They start off the action in Return of the Jedi by going into Jabba’s palace alone. We see their origins in A Phantom Menace and how they got to be part of the Rebel Alliance in Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith.

But is the story of The Force Awakens told from the R2-D2 and C-3PO’s point of view? Nope. They are thankfully still in the movie, but their role of in the movie has been taken over by BB-8.

The idea still plays out the same way with BB-8, but it disappointed me that the original droids will no longer be the focus.

And I get why Disney made that choice. R2-D2 looks clunky and old now and C-3PO was always supposed to be lame. BB-8 has a cool design and his character is active and energetic. There were tons of BB-8 toys sold even before the movie came out, making it a smart financial move on Disney’s part to introduce the new character. More merchandising!

The second thing that upset me about the new movie was that Luke Skywalker wasn’t really in it.

Sure he has a cameo at the end, but he doesn’t have a single line.

Everything I’d heard about the new series of Star Wars movies indicated that they would be about Luke passing the torch to the next generation of Jedi. While the new characters want to find him for that reason, that plotline just didn’t move forward in this movie.

From an impartial perspective the movie didn’t suffer from Luke’s absence. The whole plot was structured around him not being there and thus it worked fine without him, BUT I STILL FELT LIKE HE SHOULD’VE BEEN THERE!

Another minor problem, the whole Force Awakens thing was never explained. The idea was introduced in the first trailer but it only shows up in the movie as a single line from one of the villains. The way the trailer is, I thought the whole movie would be about “The Awakening.”

Regardless of the movie’s faults, I still enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to the next ones.

If you’re still unsure if you should see the movie, I definitely recommend it for Star Wars fans. The Force Awakens is also a good introduction for those who are new to the series.

-GoCorral

Sisters Movie Review

Sisters

The other day I saw Sisters, the comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

I’ve heard that Fey and Poehler are good friends and that definitely helped with their chemistry in Sisters.

Fey and Poehler produced the movie and given how the movie played out it seemed very much to be a movie they had chosen because it needed a pair of leading ladies.

The two sisters are opposites. Fey plays Kate, a mother of a college-aged daughter and a hair stylist who is constantly getting fired for her attitude. Poehler plays Maura, a goody two-shoes character who is financially successful but still has trouble talking to men. Both women are in their forties.

The parents of the titular Sisters move out of their old home into a retirement community. They call their daughters and ask them to come clean out their rooms before the sale of the home closes.

Kate and Maura are upset that the house representing their childhood is being sold.

As a way of saying goodbye to that part of their lives and moving on into the future they decide to throw one last house party.

They invite all their friends from high school who are still in the area.

From there the movie is fairly predictable. Crazy hijinks ensue. Drugs are involved. The cops are called. The party gets more and more out of control. By the end the house is absolutely wrecked.

While there were some good parts I did not like the movie as a whole.

Comedies don’t always make me laugh when I watch them alone, but in a room full of people I expect to laugh a lot.

I did not laugh much during Sisters and neither did the other people in the theater. The jokes just weren’t good enough.

Sisters also offered a weak subplot of Kate and Maura working out the personality problems they’d taken from childhood to adulthood. This plotline didn’t really move forward until the final few minutes of the movie. It served as a vehicle for the jokes, which is fine in most comedies, but not in ones that aren’t funny.

It’s possible that I just missed the jokes because they were directed at people in their forties like the characters in the movie; however, there were a few middle-aged people in the theater and they weren’t laughing either.

Maybe the movie would be funnier to people who are fans of Fey and Poehler, but that’s not me. I dislike their past work.

Ultimately, I can’t really recommend seeing Sisters. A comedy that isn’t hilarious just isn’t worth watching.

-GoCorral

The Martian Movie Review

The-Martian-movie-poster

I tried to go see The Martian a week after it opened but it was sold out. I went home and watched Time Lapse instead.

I have since been able to see it. I was squished into the corner seats of a full theater, but I got to see it!

As you’ve probably already guessed, a movie that continues to sell out show times two weeks after they’ve opened are probably worth a look.

In The Martian, Mark Watney is trapped on Mars. He went there with five other astronauts to do astronaut stuff. Due to a storm the team needed to do an emergency evacuation while on the red planet. Mark was hit by some debris, blown away, and his biomonitor goes black. The team presumes he is dead and rockets off the planet, leaving Mark behind.

Mark awakes with a broken biomonitor and a suit leaking oxygen into Mars’ thin atmosphere.

The rest of the movie is two parallel storylines. On Mars, Mark struggles to survive on a planet that is essentially unihabitable. He deals with getting oxygen, water, food, and a radio up and running to contact Earth.

On Earth, NASA realizes that Mark is still alive and they come up with several plans to rescue him (one of which succeeds, surprise!).

The movie is all about how space exploration works and the dangers associated with it. Everything has to be just right to get to Mars. Everything has to be just right once you’re there. As Mark says, “Without the water reclaimer, I die of thirst. Without the oxygen reclaimer, I suffocate. Without food, I slowly starve to death. And without shelter from the atmosphere, I’d just sort of implode and die.”

The movie is all about how Mark prevents those things from happening; but, of course, things break over time. That’s why NASA has to rush to save him.

The movie contains many technical aspects about space and planetary eporation. I only felt lost when Mark described how to turn hydrazine fuel into water.

I think that’s a big part of why the movie is so successful. It’s able to describe how space travel to Mars would work in an easily understood manner.

A lot of people are focused on landing a human being on Mars as the next big space mission, with projects like Mars One in the works. That interest also contributed to the film’s success.

Plus, Matt Damon is just on point throughout the movie.

I picked up the novel written by Andy Weir that the movie is based off of. The writing style is technical and gets into Mark Watney’s flow of consciousness. The plot of getting a supplies and a rocket to Mark takes a backseat in the book which also leads to little character interaction. Just Mark against Mars.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far Weir’s writing has reminded me of CS Forester. If you liked the Hornblower series, The Martian might be the right book for you.

If you liked the movie… I think the movie is better so far. It removes very little from the book, but adds a lot of emotion and feeling that can’t be captured well in written prose. I am still enjoying reading the book, but I’m not sure if everyone else would like it as much as I am.

As for seeing the movie, I’d recommend that to everyone. I would’ve loved to see this as a kid imagining being an astronaut. And The Martian makes all the principles behind space travel simple enough that I think everyone, incuding five year-old GoCorral, can learn something.

-GoCorral