High School Musical (2006) – Exploring the Past

TL;DR – Much more serviceable than I was expecting, but with some very odd narrative and production choices that hold it back 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is an end credit scene

Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ subscription that viewed this movie.

Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens has some Karaoke

High School Musical Review

When it comes to cinema, we all have our blind spots. Whether that is films, we just have not been able to see or films that we presumed to be not great and never gave a chance. For me, one of those films is the one we will explore today. When it first came out, I was a touch older than the demographic it was looking at, while I also ran youth events for people who were 100% its target demographic, which gave me a very skewered view of the film. But now that I am older and wiser, it is time to take a look back and explore the film on its own merits.

So to set the scene, it is New Year’s Eve at a ski lodge, and while Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) would rather be playing basketball and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) would rather be reading a book, their parents independently suggest that they go to the young people’s party. They had never met before, but that did not stop them from getting lumped together in a surprise karaoke duet. While they exchanged numbers, they never saw each other again until on the first day back at East High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when Troy discovers that Gabriella has transferred to his school and that there is a new musical about to audition.

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Cyrano – Movie Review

TL;DR – While there are some hard turns throughout this film, it is a true delight when it soars.    

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

Cyrano. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Cyrano Review

For me personally, I don’t need a film to be perfect. It can be filled with flaws, but as long as it still reaches me emotionally, that is fine. That emotion can be joy, sadness, wonder, or even anger. Today we look at just such a film that enraptured me in places and frustrated me in others.

So to set the scene, we open in France, which has been at war for an age. Roxanne (Haley Bennett) is getting ready to be taken to the theatre by De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), a man she does not love, but he paid for the tickets. The theatre was a joy right up until a voice calls out from the shadows decrying the leading actor. The voice head of The Guards and childhood friend of Roxanne, Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage). Cyrano is profoundly in love with Roxanne but has never declared his intentions. Later that night, Roxanne’s attendant Marie (Monica Dolan) invites Cyrano to a private meeting with Roxanne. Cyrano is ecstatic, but this is short-lived when she asks him to look out for her love Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Christian doesn’t know how to confess his love for Roxanne, so Cyrano makes a deal. He will write romantic prose for Roxanne but under the name of Christian.   

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Encanto – Movie Review

TL;DR – This visually stunning film is held back by unneeded musical moments that feel more like filler than integral.     

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ subscription that viewed this movie.

Encanto. Image Credit: Disney.

Encanto Review

Animation is a medium that, when used to its best, can radically transform your experience of a story, but which is usually related to being a lower form of filmmaking. Today we look at a film that uses the strengths of animation but then also feels like the medium held it back from its true potential.   

 So to set the scene, 50-years before the start of the film, the Madrigal family and their community were on the run from enemies, and just when they were surrounded, and all was lost, magic happened. A magic candle created a sanctuary for the community and a sentient house and gave the family magical powers. This continued from Abuela Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) to her daughters and grandchildren. However, when it was Mirabel’s (Noemi Josefina Flores) turn, there was no magic power for her. Now grown up, Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) works to prove herself for the family as her cousin Camilo (Rhenzy Feliz) prepares to find his magical power. However, while things go well, cracks start appearing in the house, and soon all the magic is trouble.       

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Dear Evan Hansen – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film with equal parts frustrating and problematic, but when the emotions hit, you can’t help but be caught up with it.     

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film

Warning – Deals with themes regarding suicide

Dear Evan Hansen. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Dear Evan Hansen Review

Dear Evan Hansen is one of those films you have never heard of before or a film you have been listening to on repeat for years. For me, my first introduction to the film came from that first trailer that dropped this year, and that was a lot. But I go into this without the legacy of the musical to either help or hinder my experience with the film. However, now that I have seen the movie, well, ‘a lot’ was an understatement.

So to set the scene, Evan (Ben Platt) is struggling because he is about to start high school back after a long, difficult summer, and social interactions were not easy for him before. On the instructions of his psychiatrist, Evan starts writing letters to himself. However, when Evan goes to print one of the letters out at school, one of the troublemakers in the school Connor (Colton Ryan), intercepts it and takes it with him. Evan is expecting the worst but is surprised that Connor does not plaster it all over the internet. The reason becomes apparent when Connor’s parents Cynthia (Amy Adams) and Larry (Danny Pino), ask to speak to him. For Connor had taken his own life, but they had found Evan’s note. The only problem is that they think Connor was the one to write it.  

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In the Heights – Movie Review

TL;DR –  It captivates you in the first moments and never lets you go until the very end.   

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There may be a post-credit scene

Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.

In the Heights. Image Credit: Warner Brothers.

In the Heights Review

If there is one genre that has kind of disappeared from movie screens, it is the musical. Looking back, the last proper musical I saw on the big screen was The Greatest Showman. But something is exciting about being in a room full of people as the music and emotions wash over you. That moment when a song hits all the right notes, and you feel that emotion in your soul.  Today, I get to add another entry onto this list with the sheer delight that is In the Heights.

So to set the scene, we open with Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos) sitting on a beach telling a bunch of kids the story of the land of Washington Heights in the far off city of Nueva York. Here we see Usnavi go about his day, looking after his Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), opening up his bodega with his cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), and striking out with Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) while Sonny and his best friend Benny (Corey Hawkins) watch on. But something is happening on the street today, Kevin Rosario’s (Jimmy Smits) daughter Nina (Leslie Grace) is coming back from Stanford, and everyone is ready for the celebration.

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The High Note – Movie Review

TL;DR – A completely charming film from start to finish    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

The High Note. image Credit: Universal.

Review

Films about the music industry are tricky to pull off because they demand you have genuine emotion in a world of fake glitz and glamour. Indeed the best films in this genre either focus on a newcomer trying to break in or pulling back the curtain to reveal the reality of the industry. Today we look at a film that has elements of that outside story, but it takes a risk by centring it on the heart of the industry with all its glitz, glamour, and biases.

So to set the scene, Mags/Maggie/Margret (Dakota Johnson) works as a personal assistant to the great Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross). Grace was a musical icon in her day, but these days she spends her time touring and releasing ‘best of’ albums. Maggie has been her PA for three years, but she wants to take her carrier to the next level and has secretly been remixing Grace’s new live album in her free time. This comes to a head when Grace’s manager Jack Robertson (Ice Cube) finally convinces Grace to get someone to produce the album and Maggie has to decide if she is going to stay quiet or speak up and take her chance.

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Movie Review – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

TL;DR – It tries to aim for that Eurovision absurdity, but Fire Sage mostly missed the target.     

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Awards

Nominated: Exquisite Musical Score

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

I bloody love Eurovision, the songs, the silliness, the absurdity, you know that moment when you are looking and wondering what the heck you are watching. It is a sceptical from start to finish, but it has been made clear on multiple occasions that America just doesn’t get Eurovision, looking at you JT. So when I heard they were making a Eurovision move … I was concerned, to say the least, and now that I have seen it that was not an entirely unfounded position.    

So to set the scene, we open in Husavik, Iceland on April 6th, 1974, a boy is sitting down missing his mother, with nothing cutting through his sadness until he heard ABBA’s entry into Eurovision. It was a moment of revelation, and at that moment, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. In the present day, Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrid (Rachel McAdams) have not let go of that dream even if his father Erik (Pierce Brosnan) thinks Lars is an abject disappointment. Well, their dream comes true when their song is picked for the Icelandic song contest, the winner will represent Iceland in Eurovision. The only problem is they were chosen by random to pad out the twelve places because everyone assumes that Katiana (Demi Lovato) will win. I mean, it would take all the contestants dying in a fiery conflagration to change that.                              

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Movie Review – Kaake Da Viyah

TL;DR – A really interesting scenario with some memorable performances, but it could have been streamlined a bit and it could have dialled the zany back a bit.

 Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Kaake Da Viyah. Image Credit: Yogmaya Productions.

Review

If there is one genre that I always find interesting, it is the family politics of conflicting generations. There is that divide between tradition and the future, people taking sides, and in the case of Indian cinema a good song or two. Well, today we get to look at a film that is just that as three generations try to use marriage to outmanoeuvre the rest.

So to set the scene, Navi (Jordan Sandhu) is studying and spending as much time away for home as possible because he has found his one true love Mahi (Prabh Grewal). That is because at home his mother Tej (Priti Sapru) and his grandmother Bebe (Nirmal Rishi) are constantly fighting. As Bebe never forgave that her son married Tej without her blessing. He wants to marry Mahi, but he is not sure how to break it to both of them, well the one day he finally finds the courage disaster strikes when he discovers that both his mother and grandmother have found wives for him and they are not Mahi.

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Movie Review – Rocketman

TL;DR – It is a film of great character moments, wonderful music, and an interesting story of someone going from low to high to low and then back again. 

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Rocketman. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Review


It looks like it is going to be the decade of cinematic superheroes and also of the musical biopic. Especially a musical biopic of a seminal rock superstar from England that took the globe by storm only to discover a world full of drugs and dodgy management. Given they have been so far Oscar gold and have made bank at the box office we are sure to get a couple of these and today we look at one that is taking the standard biopic and twisting it up.

So to set the scene, we open with Elton John (Taron Egerton) exploding through a door in full orange sequined devil glory. You expect him to be doing a grand entrance into a stadium, but instead we soon find out that he is at group theory session when the first question was asked “what was your childhood like?” and we drop through the floor back to the 1950s when a young Reggie (Matthew Illesley) lived with his mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard), grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones) and occasionally his father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) when he comes back from the army. Elton says he had a happy childhood, but we soon find out there is a difference between what Elton says and reality.

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Movie Review – Stuck

TL;DR – When it gets to the emotional core of music Stuck has some real emotional weight, but it has issues getting between those moments.       

Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Stuck. Image Credit: MJW Films.

Review

There are many things that can make a bad day and I can tell you that being stuck in a train carriage with a bunch of strangers for an indeterminate amount of time would be very high on that list. With this in mind, I was captivated with the idea of setting a musical in that setting and where you could go with the pressures and opportunity of keeping everyone in that one space. What we get in the final film is a story with two halves, however, unfortunately, they don’t quite work together.

So to set the scene, it is a day in New York and disconnected strangers are running around in their day trying to get from one place to another. You have Lloyd (Giancarlo Esposito) a homeless gentleman who is getting ready for the day in the actual train carriage. Alica (Arden Cho) a dancer trying to get home and avoid her stalker Ramon (Omar Chaparro), Caleb (Gerard Canonico) who is running between his many jobs, then Eve (Ashanti) and Sue (Amy Madigan) who are just trying to get home on a difficult day. Fate is a precarious thing at times, and this day as they board the train everything grinds to a halt as a police incident closes the train lines trapping the train in-between stations, and as the carriages are locked there is the realisation that they are trapped and the only thing you can do is sing.

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