Pitch Perfect 3: Third Installment an Aca-tastrophe Worth Seeing

2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments, but is overall bad)

Pitch Perfect 3 Poster
Image from https://www.themoviedb.org/

Pitch Perfect 3 is the third installment in the musical comedy series about  a cappella and  the bonds of sisterhood.  If you enjoyed the other two and want one last hurrah with the Bellas, then you should embrace your inner completionist and seek this out.  And, even if you’ve never cared for this series, I would still recommend it purely to watch the film morph from a generic comedy into a ridiculous action film.  No I’m not kidding.

This film sees the Bellas reunite post-graduation to take part in an international USO tour and encountering rival groups Evermoist (yes you read that right) and other unimportant bands, who all use actual instruments!  The goal: to  to impress and open for DJ Khaled (playing himself).  However, things get complicated with the intro of Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) criminal father (John Lithgow sporting a horrid Aussie accent), who essentially forces the movie into a bizarre (yet still enjoyable) direction.  John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks also appear as the sexist announcers, this time following the Bellas around for a documentary.  Because of course they are.

This is a bad movie.  Most of the musical numbers feel forced and aren’t memorable like previous entries.  The comedy is self-mocking, almost as if the film was originally supposed to satirize the formula before being overhauled, and the final 3rd becomes a Rebel Wilson Action Movie.  I don’t know who made this decision, but I would like to personally thank them for doing so.

Pitch Perfect 3 is both a beautiful aca-tastrophe and a passable swan song to fans of the franchise.  The musical sequences should get the toes tapping, but the plot and characters are hilariously thin and the final act was clearly rewritten to get more buts in seats.  It’s time to close the aca-curtains on this series, while it still has a shred of dignity left.

Rated PG-13 for Crude And Sexual Content, Language, And Some Action

These “Guardians” Rescue the Summer Film Season

4 out of 5 stars (one of the best of the year)

Guardians of the Galaxy poster
Image from: https://www.amazon.com/

Marvel has saved the summer once again. They had “X-Men: Days of Future Past” back in May and now, they bring us “Guardians of the Galaxy”, that now-rare superhero movie that doesn’t have a brooding, depressed main character, a grave tone, or a dark score.  Marvel became solemn in the last film in its cinematic universe with “Captain America the Winter Soldier”.  I admire a series that matures with its audience, but that film was too gritty for my liking, an issue I never thought I would have with a Marvel film.  Thankfully, “Guardians of the Galaxy” doesn’t take itself too seriously, giving us a funny, action-packed sci-fi flick that is reminiscent of the original “Star Wars”.  In all honesty, this summer has (with a few exceptions), not been all that great at the movies, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” has swooped in to save us when (nearly) all hope was lost, for me anyway, of there being one more memorable blockbuster of 2014.

The film follows a ragtag group of misfits: Starlord (Chris Pratt giving a surprisingly good performance), Gamora (Zoe Saldana giving the best performance I’ve seen of hers), and Rocket Raccoon (voiced energetically by Bradley Cooper).  Vin Diesel voices Groot with not a trace of normal wooden performances, and Drax (Dave Bautista) as they race to defeat an enemy that wishes to destroy the galaxy.  The dialogue is wickedly clever with laugh-out-loud one-liners throughout.  This is the first Marvel film that I could almost call a comedy as well as a great action film.  The comedic dialogue is much more ingenious than suggested by the previews.`

What separates “Guardians of the Galaxy” from the other Marvel superhero movies is its unique approach to the superhero origin story. While most Marvel films open with narration or a cool action scene, this one opens on possibly the saddest note I’ve ever seen for a Marvel film.  I thought it was a trailer for another movie, but it turned out to be a character setup.  To add to the uniqueness, the characters don’t technically have superpowers, they are just individuals who are gifted in one way or another.  The character relationships are extremely entertaining to watch, especially that of Rocket and Groot.  Rocket is able to translate what Groot is saying even though all we hear is “I am Groot”, similar to Lassie barking at Billy and Billy knowing that some kid is trapped in a well.  Pratt and Saldana have good chemistry, making their interactions equally as enjoyable.  That said, one of the greatest personal joys was watching Glenn Close take a small role very seriously, as if she were in a regular movie.  The same applies to John C. Reilly’s cameos; but he gets more funny lines than she does.

The music in this film is a blast, using 70’s rock tunes throughout the film to set the tone for scenes in just the right way.  I don’t think I’ve tapped my toes in an action movie this much in my entire film reviewing career.  The older crowd (those who grew up in the 70’s) will certainly enjoy this aspect, while some (my mom) might argue that younger viewers will learn what good music is.

The 3D in this movie is actually worth the money, something that surprised me.  Those who read my reviews know my opinion on the use of 3D, and I was very skeptical about it, but nearly every action scene has something pop out at you in an effective way.  For once, the cost of the ticket is worth it for the 3D version, so see it if you can.

The film is not without problems, unfortunately.  The climax scene has characters engaged in both hand-to-hand combat and in space vehicles, a common occurrence in modern sci-fi.  The problem is that the scene feels overly long when in the vehicles (an issue thankfully avoided by the other action scenes in the movie), as if writer/director James Gunn briefly ran out of interesting ideas and just went generic for a few minutes.  Thankfully, the combat is engaging to watch and well-filmed.  Honestly, had the flight sequence been shorter and better-shot, this film would have gotten a four and a half star rating.

There is one other problem, this one more personal.  Marvel has always avoided having a large amount of profanity in their films, choosing instead to get their PG-13 ratings for violence (AKA an element that is required for the film to work).  Marvel films are generally pretty clean when it comes to language, and that is something I have always admired.  Sadly, that trend did not follow in this movie.  This film unexpectedly has the most swearing I’ve heard in a PG-13 Marvel movie, instead of the company’s normally classy handling of that specific area.  I know that they’ve been endlessly advertising this movie on TV for some time now, and that kids love superhero movies, but think carefully before letting young ones see this.  The language is saltier then I felt comfortable hearing with my 9 year old buddy Colin.  I hope this is specific to this franchise (yes, a release date for the sequel has been set for July 2017) and not for future installments of their popular heroes.

Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-fi, Violence and Action, and Some Language

“High School Musical” Graduates to the Big Screen

3 out of 5 stars (average)

High School Musical 3: Senior Year poster
Image from http://www.moviepostershop.com/

Note: Upon rewatching this film, I find it absolutely shocking that I once enjoyed it.  The acting and writing are laughable, (the former especially for Vanessa Hudgens) the music numbers, while well-produced, took me out of the films’ reality, and the self-congratulatory ending is ludicrous.  I would give it 2 out of 5 stars today (has some good moments, but is overall bad).  Despite that, please enjoy this review from my younger, less-experienced self.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, this is the third installment of a big musical franchise about diversity and the power of choices, all set to music.

Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) is East High’s basketball champion for the Wildcats team. He’s got his teammates like Chad (Corbin Bleu) and the support of his girlfriend Gabriella Montez, East High’s genius-hottie who is played by Vanessa  Hudgens. What could be better? But this is Senior Year and that means Troy, Gabriella, Chad and everyone else has to think about where they want to go to college. Troy’s father has already picked out a college for him; his alma mater the University of Albuquerque. Gabriella might go to Stanford University, very far away from Troy.

The new school year starts, and drama teacher Mrs. Darbus (Alyson Reed) announces that this year’s musical shall be about the kids’ final days at East High. Determined to see that this is her show and not the Wildcats, pink queen Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) enlists the help of her dorky brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) and exchange student Tiara Gold (Jemma McKenzie-Brown) to help her hijack the play. Meanwhile, Gabriella gets the gang to do the show, knowing this is the last time they will get to do something together. (How likely is it that the ball-hugging jocks are doing the school musical for the third year in a row?)

“High School Musical 3: Senior Year” is the worst of the HSM trilogy, but it is still good. The songs and dances are fun, but they take up too much of the movie for there to be as good a plot as its prequels. Ryan is still as dorky as ever, and Sharpay can’t seem to understand she will never get Troy’s heart.

I liked the fact that none of the actors were replaced even though they are all about 21-22 years old. The dance numbers a superbly demonstrated and almost every kind of music you can think of is in this film. There are hip hop, slow, rock, and other kinds of music.

Unfortunately, there is too much music in the movie for there to be a good plot, and Mrs. Darbus isn’t as goofy as she was in the last two movies. My friend Virgil went to see this with me (even though he’s never seen the HSM movies) and liked it. My sister Carol went to this film with a group of her friends, and they all screamed with delight (according to my sister) whenever Troy came on the screen. That happens to me whenever I walk in a room. They booed whenever Troy and Gabriella kissed though (sixth graders, yuck!)

Everyone knows about this franchise, so why did Disney take it to the big screen instead of keeping it on TV? The most logical answer in my opinion is, for the $$$$. The question is whether it’s really worth the $3.50 coke and $4.50 popcorn, plus the $6 movie ticket to see this flick. Yeah, I think it’s worth it, especially since my parents paid my way.

Rated G for Good Enough 1 hour, 40 minutes