Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

pitch perfect 3 poster

Three years after graduating from Barden University, the former Bellas – the all-female, champion acapella group – are finding the real world less than perfect. Realising how exciting the prospect of a reunion is, they get themselves on a USO tour to entertain US troops abroad (although we’re talking Spain, Italy, and France, for some reason – I’d expected, y’know, warzones?). And just because there HAS to be a competition (a bit of an in-joke in the movie), the headlining DJ Khaled will be picking his favourite from the tour performers to open for his own act.

But can the Bellas compete against actual bands with actual instruments? Will Aubrey ever get her dad to a performance? What about Fat Amy’s dad and his shady past (not to mention very dodgy accent!)?

The reviews for PP3 were less than glowing, but I love the original movie – it’s one of my go-to feel-good movies. The sequel was a bit missable, imo, and I found the new ‘Legacy’ character annoying (also an in-joke on screen here), so my own expectations for part 3 were pretty low.

Thankfully, I was proved wrong: this is a lot of daft fun! There’s a slightly different vibe going on as the group have grown up – okay, still 90% singing, but instead of romance and struggling to find jobs, we get a ‘success at college isn’t life success’ message – just before the stakes are turned up to involve kidnapping, armed combat, and explosions! ūüôā

So yes, very silly, but I really enjoyed it. I think it’s better than the middle instalment, if not quite hitting the sheer joy of the original. There’s also a bit of a finality to the tone here, which adds an unexpected tiny dash of poignancy – or, it’s just out and out slapstick, take your pick! ūüôā

Released: 20th December 2017
Viewed: 13th January 2018
Running time: 93 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 6.5/10


The Greatest Showman (2017)

greatest showman poster

There’s nothing like a rousing, feel-good musical to kick off a year’s cinema – and this is absolutely that!

It’s perhaps a little odd, given the subject matter: the real PT Barnum was a lot less ‘nice’ than portrayed here. While that might kick up some controversy, I say: keep in mind that this is fiction, a story to entertain and uplift, and don’t take it as truth just because of the inspiration.

That said, the basic facts are all real enough, if much mixed up in timelines and intentions. ‘Inventor’ of showbusiness, Phineas Taylor Barnum, did indeed start a circus of ‘freaks’, and he did finance a tour for a singer he had never actually heard sing. The rest perhaps owes more to providing a fulfilling story than reality, but hey: this is showbusiness!

Hugh Jackman might be best known for playing Wolverine, but his heart clearly lies on the stage, belting his lungs out (see also:¬†Les Miserables (2012) and¬†Oklahoma! (1999)). He was made for this role, really, and I thought he shone in it. The rest of the cast also seems – thankfully! – picked for strong singing abilities: no Pierce Brosnan moments here ūüėČ

Ah, the music! The bulk of the movie is spoken, with regular show song moments. The song used in the trailer,¬†This is Me, has been stuck in my head for absolutely months. It’s a belter of a tune, and a perfect summing up of the core message: that those marginalised by society can and should stand up for themselves. While that was the standout track for me, several other songs were close and only a couple were a little unmemorable.

Overall, I absolutely loved this film. It absolutely shines with heart, and is possibly the best musical we’ve been treated to in years, avoiding the pitfalls of so many others: it’s more feel-good (if a little more predictable) than¬†La La Land, better performed than¬†Mamma Mia!, and the story works perfectly, unlike¬†Into the Woods. So, finally – look out, here it comes! ūüôā

Released: 26th December 2017
Viewed: 2nd January 2018
Running time: 105 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 9/10

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

A bookish young woman is captured by an enchanted prince. Only love can break the spell that transformed him into a beast – and his servants into various household objects. A tale as old as time, the song says – and sure enough, here we’ve got a pretty straight retelling of the 1991 Disney animation, although this time with real actors.

To be honest, while I do think this was a good updating – a few story elements are brushed up a little, and Belle is a bit more feisty – and I’m aware of quite a few people really loving it, if anything I was just a tad disappointed. Then again, I wasn’t quite the right age to totally adore the original either, so maybe that’s a factor.

The first issue I had is the cast. Emma Watson isn’t a favourite of mine anyway, and I’m not the only one who found her surprisingly wooden in this. So many times the expression on her face was disgust instead of fear, or fear instead something more complex. And while she has a sweet enough singing voice, it really lacks any oomph necessary for this role, and the technical shenanigans to get ’round that become a little too obvious.

It doesn’t help that her co-star is a CGI monstrosity, and I don’t mean that in a particularly good way. With modern tech, I think I’ve just come to expect something… better. Likewise with the supporting cast, all voiced well enough by the likes of Sir Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, and Ewan McGregor,¬†but I just felt the CGI lacked a bit of charm at times, or just couldn’t sit entirely comfortably in a ‘live’ setting.

The only cast member I did wholly like was Luke Evans as Gaston – he looked made for the role, and has quite the set of lungs on him! Of course, when you’re left only really liking the baddie of the piece… urm…! o_O

Which is a lot of complaining for a movie I’m about to rate 7/10, and to be honest it wasn’t all that bad – just, as I said, a little disappointing for me. On the plus side, it looks lovely, and the filmmakers took the wise choice to add to the familiar songs, rather than start over, so there was a lot of toe tapping smiles. If the story felt a little bloated in the expansion for me, I’ll bow out gracefully¬†as not exactly being the target audience – new, or nostalgia-led.

If you do enjoy this, you might be pleased to know that live-action remakes are being talked about for all sorts of other Disney classics, including Aladdin, Dumbo, and The Lion King! (you can read more on¬†Cineworld‘s blog).

Released: 17th March
Viewed: 25th March 2017
Running time: 129 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 7/10

La La Land (2016)

There is so much buzz around about this movie that of course I had to see it for myself – and to be honest, I thought it was just ‘okay’.

Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a struggling musician and jazz nut.¬†As their lives start to¬†intersect,¬†how will their relationship interact with¬†chasing their respective dreams? And more to the point, how will the film makers add in the song and dance routines? ūüôā

The opening is full-on musical: everyone¬†– wearing primary colours, of course!¬†– getting out of their cars in a traffic jam to do a perfectly choreographed ‘spontaneous’ routine. It was cheesy as anything – and I had such a huge smile on my face. Things continue like that for a little while,¬†interspersed with a more normally played-out plot line, but then the musicality ebbs as the drama increases.

While this disappointed me, it actually pleased one of my viewing companions, relieved¬†to lose the cheese factor. So, tastes do of course vary! But my preference was definitely for the kitch, the reminders of the golden age of musicals such as¬†Singing in the Rain.¬†I guess¬†the slow veer into a more modern ‘realism’ was half the point though, given how it’s reflected in the plot line of Seb’s quest to ‘save jazz’.

Overall, it’s not that I didn’t like this film – because I did, quite a lot – but it sort of failed to live up to expectations for me, built both from the hype and the opening tone before it all changes a bit. True, it makes for a more mature film than I’d expect from Hollywood or the musical genre, but while it is very clearly a much, MUCH better movie than the likes of, say,¬†Mamma Mia, for me it lost some of the fun that would make¬†me watch it over and over.

Released: 12th January 2017
Viewed: 13th January 2017
Running time: 128 minutes
Rated: 12A (for a little bit of swearing)

My rating: 8/10 – it’s good, but possibly not worth ALL the hype!