Posts Tagged ‘reese witherspoon’

sing movie

Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) is a koala bear music promotor who fell in love with live musical shows at a very young age.  Buster’s father worked very hard to buy Buster a theater, and now the theater has fallen into disrepair.  Buster has an idea, to put on a live musical competition and offer 1,000 dollars as the prize money to the winner.  But his secretary, Miss Crawley, (Garth Jennings) an elderly glass-eyed lizard misprints the fliers for the show and offers 100,000 dollars for the prize without Buster’s knowledge.  All the finalists have talent, but they also have issues.  Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) is a pig songstress with 25 piglet children and an overworked husband.  Mike (Seth McFarland)  is a mouse with the voice of Frank Sinatra, who also has a gambling problem.  He’s being chased by bear gangsters.  Ash (Scarlet Johansson) is a porcupine teenage rock guitarist, whose boyfriend is cheating on her.  Johnny (Taron Edgerton) is a gorilla with a beautiful voice, but he’s part of a gang, headed up by his dad, Big Daddy, (Peter Serafinowicz) the gang robs banks, and has one last big job coming.  Meena is an elephant with a powerful voice, who is too shy to sing.

Buster has a bigger problem, he doesn’t have the prize money, but he has an idea, impress Nana Noodleman, (Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson) grandmother of his assistant, Eddie, (John C. Reilly) and Buster can have the prize money for the concert to save the theater.  So Buster makes some ill-advised repairs to the theater to impress Nana, does Buster’s plan work?  Do the performers overcome their problems in order to perform?

Sing is a movie with a lot of promise, but the script has its fair share of issues with negative racial and ethnic stereotypes   When one of the main characters is a gorilla, and a gang member, that’s got a lot of negative racial baggage attached to it.  Also the relentlessly happy Japanese J-pop group is also a stereotype, also why is the elderly secretary portrayed as a screw-up always searching for her glass eye?  Is it ok to teach kids ageism also?  Despite these stumbles, the theme of music helping people rise above their particular circumstance is a good one.  Music is the perfect vehicle to illustrate this theme because a good song can lift people emotionally, spiritually and even physically if the song is done well enough.  Great acting by all the leads, and great singing by the lead actors makes this movie better than its script.

Matthew McConaughey loses most of his Texas twang for this role and makes Buster a multi-dimensional character.  Buster loves music, he loves the theater, because the theater is symbolic of his love of music and his love of his father.  So it’s a complex performance, and McConaughey pulls it off. Thankfully, he doesn’t sing. Reese Witherspoon also does an outstanding job as a haggard wife and mother who finds a release in singing and she does do her own singing, as she did in I Walk The Line, and she has a great voice.  Her acting skills also make the overworked mom who nonetheless loves her kids convincing. Scarlet Johansson plays a rebellious teen guitarist, who has to cope with a cheating boyfriend. Johansson also has a good singing voice, and amply conveys the pain of being cheated on.  Taron Edgerton is torn between his love of singing and his love for his criminal father, and illustrates the anguish well.  Who knew he had such a good voice? Not me. Seth McFarland hams it up as the Sinatra sound alike mouse, but his voice is better than his acting.

The animation in this movie is beautiful, the first scene of the original theater is so true to life that the viewers will believe that he or she is going into a real theater.  The pacing is good, the director, Gareth Jennings is also the writer.  I would say he gets good performances from the cast, but this is an all-star cast, but this cast doesn’t need any director to shape their performances.

Sing: A few sour notes can’t spoil this film.

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Movie Review: Wild (2014)

Posted: October 3, 2015 in Drama
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WILD

Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) is a young woman with a myriad of problems.  She just got a divorce, she was unfaithful to her husband with a number of men, she was pregnant with a child, and she didn’t know who the father was, she has a heroin addiction, and her mother, Bobbi, (Laura Dern) is dying of cancer.  Instead of caving under the weight of those problems, Cheryl decides she is going to hike the 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. Does she complete her journey and exorcise the demons that have plagued her life thus far?

I did not like Wild at all.  I know it’s supposed to be uplifting to see this woman attempting an impossible goal like this, but it wasn’t, her whole life just seemed like one depressing event after another.  Forgive me if I don’t root for a woman with a heroin habit, who sleeps around to feed that habit, and whose mother is dying of cancer.  This is an unrelentingly depressing movie, and Cheryl’s idea of redemption is walking 1,100 miles looking like a hobo, finding shady men along the way who either want to sleep with her or rape her.  I stopped caring about Cheryl Strayed very early on.

Other than a passing resemblance to Cheryl Strayed, there is nothing to really recommend Reese Witherspoon for this role.  She has a small, tinny, voice that can be grating on repeated viewings. The only role she really immersed herself in was when she played June Carter Cash in Walk The Line, but there is no such immersion here, so the performance is not that good.  Laura Dern pays a woman who’s dying of cancer, abused by her husband, and yet inexplicably cheery. All the male characters are transitory types, so no actors really get a chance to do much.

The direction is annoying, the story is not told in a completely linear way, whenever Strayed has a memory, there are flashes of a flashback, and these quick flashbacks interrupt any flow the story has, and doesn’t really provide any backstory.  The story is too long, and the pacing is slow, and the director gets no good performances from the two leads, Witherspoon, or Dern.

Wild:  Pretty tame.

THE GOOD LIE

Bothers Mamere (Peterdeng Mongok, Arnold Oceng) Jeremiah  (Thon Kueth, Gar Duany) Paul (Deng Ajuet, Emmanuel Jal) and sister Abital (Keji Jale, Kueth Weil) walk over 700 miles to a refugee camp in Kenya to escape a civil war in South Sudan. They lose one brother, Daniel (Kon Akoue Aouk) to disease after reaching the camp, and another brother, Theo (Okwar Jale) is shot on the way to the camp.  The family stays in the camp for 13 years, and then qualifies to fly to the U.S.  More heartache awaits the brothers at airport as they are told they are going to Kansas City, while sister Abital goes to Boston to live with a sponsor family.

A young woman named Carrie (Reese Witherspoon) is tasked with getting the brothers jobs, and she succeeds.  Jeremiah gets a job at a supermarket, Paul gets a job in a factory, and Mamere goes back to school.  Mamere is haunted by the death of Theo, and Paul blames Mamere  for the shooting that cost Theo his life and refuses to follow his leadership.  Then, out of the blue, a rumor comes to Mamere’s attention that Theo might be alive, does Mamere try to find Theo?  Do the brothers find their sister Abital? Do Mamere and Paul reconcile their strained relationship?

This is an emotionally charged film about refugees willing to risk their lives to simply live a peaceful life.  The story is well told, and surprisingly comedic and free of treacle. The writers wisely focus on four members of one family from Sudan, and that personalizes the civil war in Sudan, and the refugee crisis that followed.  The ending is even better than I expected and the whole movie is thought provoking and sad at the same time.

The acting is incredible, especially by the African actors.  3 of the 4 lead actors are Sudanese, so the movie gets extra credit for authenticity.  They all handled the humorous and serious scenes with equal skill. Gar Duany really stands out as Jeremiah but all three male leads, and the female lead is appealing. Reese   Witherspoon essentially plays the same pushy character she played in Legally Blonde, but it works here, and her story is not the emotional center of the movie.

The direction is good.  After a slow pace during the first half hour,  the pace really picks up when the Sudanese come to America.  The director is French Canadian, and gets really good performances from all the actors, especially the African actors, kids and adults alike, it’s often hard to get good performances from children.

The Good Lie:  Truth Telling in movie form.

Mud

Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland)  are both 14 year olds who live on the river in a small Arkansas town.  They find a nearly deserted island with a boat stuck in a tree.  They find a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) living on the boat.  He’s down on his luck, and he says he’s waiting for a woman named Juniper(Reese Witherspoon to come get him off the island.  Ellis is taken by Mud and starts bringing him food from town.  While in town, Ellis sees Juniper, and tells Mud about it.  Mud asks Ellis and Neckbone to take a note to Juniper and help him fix up the boat.  On a drive with his mother, Mary Lee, (Sarah Paulson) Ellis learns some things about Mud that don’t necessarily jibe with Mud’s heroic description of himself.  Does Ellis deliver the note to Juniper?  Do he and Neckbone help Mud fix up the boat, despite what Ellis now knows about him?

Mud is simply a great movie.  It’s a movie about love, and how far people are willing to go for the love of another person.  Like love, the movie is both complex and simple at the same time.  It’s part coming of age film, part Huck Finn riverboat adventure, and it really is worth a viewing.  It tries to draw a parallel between Mud’s love life and Ellis’ burgeoning love life, but that is probably the weakest part of the movie.  Here’s what I really like about Mud, this is a movie populated with blue collar Southern people and not a stereotypical character in the bunch.  These are hard-working honest people who love their families, and work hard to keep them together, and that kind of honesty is hard to find in Hollywood movies today.  The ending is disappointing, and the overall length is a tad long, but that aside, this is an excellent film.

The acting is superb.  McConaughey reaffirmed my faith in his acting abilities, it’s been a long time since he did Amistad, and A Time To Kill, this easily rivals his best work. It’s an understated yet commanding performance, and it’s a pleasure to see that he’s still capable of such a performance.  Reese Witherspoon also gives a strong performance in a comeback of sorts, it’s been 8 years since her Oscar winning performance in Walk the Line.  Sheridan and Lofland are very convincing as adolescents finding out about life the hard way.  Sarah Paulson gives another strong performance as a conflicted mother, torn between her happiness and that of her family.  Paulson was a standout in 12 Years A Slave.  Sam Shepard throws in an excellent performance as Mud’s confidante.  The good performances abound in this film.

I must mention the writing in this movie, because it maintains a good balance between love story, and suspenseful drama.  He also directed this film, and wrote and directed the suspense thriller Take Shelter.

Mud:  A mudder of a movie.