Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald Review

 

This week I had the chance to see the latest film in the Harry Potter universe- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and I immediately put up my review on youtube (please subscribe). I was pretty harsh in my initial thoughts but as I have had 2 days to think about it, I don’t think I was harsh enough. I walked out of the theater exhausted and completely baffled. My assumption at the time is this movie must be made for people more aware of the lore than I am, so they will like it. However, I have talked with many hard core fans who are bitterly disappointed, which makes me come to the conclusion that it is just a colossal misfire.

I was not a big fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film but it had some positive traits. I liked Queenie and Jacob’s relationship and story, and some of the setting/new lore was fun and whimsical. My main problems with it was Newt as a protagonist (would have made a better side character), Newt’s mumbling was hard to understand, the tone was all over the place and the final reveal was very underwhelming. That said, this new film makes the first film seem like a masterpiece! (Also I remember being so bored watching Harry Potter Deathly Hallows pt 1. Little did I know how good I had it. I at least understood that one)
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It’s hard for me to tell you all that is wrong with the movie because I was so confused the entire time that my brain hurt. There are so many characters each with their own plots making the story impossible to follow. It kind of reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, which left me with a similar sense of exhaustion.

The original Harry Potter book and movies were  mysteries in the world of magic. Harry was presented with a problem that they had to follow the clues and find the solution for. As they searched their characters grew and the many side characters made the experience rewarding. Despite them being in a series each entry had a sense of of its own story and identity. Not so here.

To begin with, the good parts of the original film are immediately done away with. All 4 of the main characters are divided up and what they do with Queenie and Jacob doesn’t make sense and is underserved at best. Instead of being charming, Queenie was nonsensical and Jacob was just watching stuff happen. They also immediately leave America so what was the point of setting up all that lore and unique identity for American wizardry?

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Then we get to meet Jude Law as Dumbledore, and he does a good job but it didn’t feel like the Hogwarts we know and love. Why is Dumbledore wearing muggles clothing? What is going on? The advertising would have you believe this Dumbledore is a major part of the movie but they cut away from him so much it is at best an ensemble role.

Zoe Kravitz plays Leta Lestrange and we jump around from seeing her as a child and then an adult and back again. Maybe we will get some reveal in the next movie that will clarify things, but I was completely lost by her character. Then we had Tina, Nagini (which don’t get me started on her weird undercooked storyline), Krall, Nagel, Professor McGonagall shows up for no reason, Nicolas Flamel, Newt’s brother is a major character, Credence is a major character that made no sense. The list goes on and on. I haven’t been this baffled by a fantasy film since Warcraft. It’s true…

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And then we have Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. I was nervous about his performance because him in white face in fantasy films has gotten so boring. In fairness, he is fine with what is given him but what on earth is he talking about all the time? They are obviously trying to set him up as some kind of Hitler type character but they show scenes from the muggles, which they never do in Harry Potter. His speeches were incoherent gibberish and then I was never clear is he using magic to control people or are they acting under their own agency when drawn to him?

The ads keep telling fans to #ProtecttheSecrets. I legitimately have NO IDEA what secrets we are supposed to be keeping. There is a reveal at the end that I guess is a big deal but it made no sense and the more I thought about it the more it irritated me. I guess it is a secret but it’s a nonsensical secret so no loss there?

In recent years JK Rowling has begun to George Lucas herself. She finished her saga on just the right note and then she started Pottermore and it was all downhill from there. Instead of leaving her world for her readers to imagine and play with she made an alteration here or there. She caved to fans and answered questions that didn’t need to be answered. With each reveal some of the mystery was taken away and the magic lost.

Then the first film came out and she didn’t have a screenwriter to edit her down and it was a bit of a mess. Then she gave her permission to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be included as canon and it was very messy. Finally we get this and the universe is seriously damaged. My Potterhead friend was very upset about it, and I feel for her. It’s something we Star Wars fans have dealt with twice now and it is very disappointing.

I know it is technically the creators right to add to their creation as much as they want, but I so wish they wouldn’t. I don’t know if it is greed or a perfectionism that pushes them to make changes but it really hurts the wonder and appeal of the world they have so carefully created. They might think they are helping their fans by providing new content but they are truly breaking their hearts. I know they won’t stop but they should. Sigh…

Some may like spending 2 hours and 13 minutes in this mass of confusion and plotlines and that’s fine. For me, I’m struggling to find a reason to not include Crimes of Grindelwald in my worst of the year list. I still find Newt hard to understand so I don’t even have that to pluck it up like I do with other franchises (Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom or The Meg for example).

It’s just terrible and I’m sad. The end.

Also this is not a movie for children. Take the PG-13 seriously.

frown

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review (Spoiler Free)

fantastic-beasts42016 will forever go down as the year of the disappointing blockbuster. Out of the dozens of blockbusters I’ve seen only 5 I would classify as  great films. The discouraging thing is so many films have had such potential. Indeed, they have such potential that I buy into the hype and go into the film expecting something great only to be disappointed when leaving.

Well, my friends, you can add another film to this list.  The newest spin-off in the Harry Potter world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, isn’t awful by any means but it is very disappointing.

I should state outright I am not a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I am more of a casual fan but I have recently done my rewatch of the Harry Potter movies over on my channel and I was reminded that they are a bit of a mixed bag. None of them are awful either but I’d say 4 are successful and 4 really are not. You can listen to our podcasts here.

Fantastic Beasts is particularly disappointing because this was the chance to see JK Rowling write a screenplay without any fear of loyalty to a book or other source material. She could just unleash her creativity on the screen, but it ends up being a mostly frustrating experience.

But there are some good things about the film that give it a mild recommendation.

Good Things-

There are two plotlines in Fantastic Beasts. The first involves Newt Schamander (Eddie Redmayne) getting his suitcase switched with a non-magician (muggle in Britain no-maj in US) man named Jacob. Unfortunately Jacob unleashes some of Newt’s magical creatures onto the city of New York and they have to hunt them down.

This search is a lot of fun and it was surprisingly slapsticky. There has always been some humor in the Harry Potter movies but this was long segments of people falling into mud or getting into other shenanigans with the magical creatures. My friend laughed a lot more than I did but it was pleasant entertainment.

fantastic-beats6I also really liked Jacob and a woman named Queenie played by Alison Sudol. I almost wish the movie had been about the two of them instead of Newt. She lit up the screen whenever she was on it and her ability to read minds was charming and funny.

The music by James Newton Howard was fantastic, capturing the 1920’s speak-easy feel as well as the exquisite costumes by always reliable Colleen Atwood. The beasts were also adorable especially a creature called a niffler. They will probably sell a lot of toys of him at Universal Studios. fantastic-beasts5

I was also never really bored so it’s a harmless film about magic that I suppose hard core fans will love. I wasn’t offended or bored out of mind by exposition like in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

fantastic-beasts3Bad Things-

When I first got out of the theater and did an initial thoughts youtube review where I gave it a B- but now that I’ve thought it over I am going lower because there really are a lot of problems.

The first big issue is with the tone. Like I said, they try way too hard to be funny and then combine that humor with some really dark story-lines I won’t spoil. The sort of B story-line involving Ezra Miller as an orphan named Credence Barebone and his head ‘mother’ played by Samantha Morton is unsettling to say the least. It didn’t gel together very well.

There also wasn’t a clear focus like you had in the Harry Potter movies, which even when unsuccessful were still about Harry and Voldemort growing in strength and their eventual meeting. Evidently there are going to be 4 more movies and I really have no idea where the story is going or what the focus on the series is going to be. This film was half spent playing hide and seek with magical creatures for laughs and the other half fighting a dark demon in New York. Where do you go from here? I really don’t like the Hobbit movies but at least the first Hobbit film was a clear start to a journey and series.

Also, the other big problem I had is in the acting choices made throughout the film. Eddie Redmayne in particular mumbled most of his dialogue to the point where I was constantly leaning over to my friend asking her “what did he just say?” Some other actors were laying on the New York accent very thickly and it made them difficult to understand.

A lot of the actors like Colin Farrell are underused. Academy award winner Jon Voight is in like 2 scenes and Ron Perlman is briefly seen. I guess they could appear more in future installments but it’s odd when you have such well known actors in small roles. I guess they will clear things up in future installments but I found myself confused particularly on the B more scary story-line

porpentina-tina-goldsteinIn the end, it’s not a horrible movie but I did walk away feeling disappointed. There is fun to be had with the magical beasts and characters like Queenie but it’s hard to endorse a movie when I can’t understand the lead character most of the time.

The tonal problems and lack of overall compelling story are also hard to ignore. Like I said, in my youtube review I gave it a B- but today I am going with a lower grade.

Overall Grade- C+

Also, I don’t think this movie is going to appeal to kids much. I think they will find it kind of boring. Both my friend and I agreed on that leaving the theater. But see it for yourself and decide.

Month of Previously Released in Theater

previously-releasedYou might have noticed a lack of reviews on this blog for new movies in October. Well, there is a simple reason for that: I haven’t seen many. The only new movies I’ve seen at the theater have been Deep Water Horizon, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader and The Dressmaker, which I both enjoyed very much.  I also saw Miss Hokusai and Long Way North on dvd screener but that’s it for new releases. On Netflix I saw The 13th which is an amazing documentary.

The reason I’ve been so sparse at the theater is two-fold. First, there haven’t been many movies I’ve been interested in seeing. I didn’t want to see Girl on the Train because I didn’t like the novel.

And then Jack Reacher: Never Go Back despite having a horrificly awful title I didn’t see because I didn’t see the first Jack Reacher because of the violence. This was a definite skip. Inferno is the same way. I haven’t seen either of the 2 previous films so I will pass. The Oujia movie isn’t my cup of tea and The Accountant was evidently pretty boring and violent.

However, the other reason I haven’t seen new releases (I’ve debated about seeing Birth of a Nation and a few others) is because this has been the month of seeing previously released movies in the theater!

I ended up seeing 10 movies that had previously been released. 5 of them are Harry Potter movies I saw on the IMAX during a 2 day marathon. 3 are classics I am seeing as part of the my local theaters Classic Film Series. And then 2 were just for fun.

I thought it would be fun to go over all 10 and give you my quick thoughts.

Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban-

So I’ve been rewatching these Harry Potter movies for a podcast I’ve been doing with my friends getting ready for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them. Unfortunately I haven’t found them as compelling on the rewatch as I expected. They are all drawn out and I find myself getting bored. However, one of the best of the group is Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban. It is without a doubt the best made film of the series with beautiful cinematography and a darker sensibility than the Chris Columbus films (which are BORING!). It actually didn’t end up being my favorite on the rewatch but it is strong film. The kids take a definite step up in acting over the first 2 films as well.

Overall Grade- A

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

A movie that is better for moments than the end product. Instead of being boring like most of the films it has the opposite problem. It feels rushed and there are definitely the most plotholes in this entry in the series. Still, when it does work it really works. I love the ball and Hermione’s Cinderella moment and I the stand off with Voldermort in the maze is emotional and gripping.

Overall Grade- B-

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

My new favorite of the series. I know that is unusual but this is the leanest storytelling in my opinion. Also instead of just talking about a villain this entry actually has one (2 if you count Voldermort). Umbridge is so great as played by Imelda Staunton. This entry actually improves upon the book which spends way too much time with an emo grumpy Harry. Dumbledore’s Army is fantastic with Harry learning to be a teacher not just a wizard. And the ending with Sirius is emotional and really works. I also love the room with the prophecies and some of the other visual effects/production design. Plus, we get the introduction of Luna who is my favorite HP character

Overall Grade- A+

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

I must say it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered it being. I hated part 1 in the theater and found it super boring but it’s still pretty bad. This is the first one where I felt they were trying to rope in the YA Twilight crowd. The beginning is pretty good and the end with Dobby’s sacrifice moves me but for the most part it isn’t my cup of tea. All that drama in the tent and the weak attempt to make a love triangle happen doesn’t work. And the naked scene I found completely unnecessary and unseemly.

Overall Grade- C-

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

It’s true it is very different from the book but I think that partly comes from them splitting it up, which I still think was a terrible idea. Nevertheless, I like this movie. I think it ends the series in a very satisfying way. I like that all the minor characters are given their moments to shine. I like seeing Harry defeat Voldermort by being a better man and human being. There’s something so pure about that rather than him defeating him with valor or a warrior’s spirit. We definitely get some very sad parts, which feel earned but it is also fun. I love when Harry is in the spirit world and gets the chance to talk to Dumbledore and decide what to do with his life.

Overall Grade- A

Lawrence of Arabia

I had long heard about this movie but never seen it and holy cow! I LOVED it!  This movie has some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen in a movie. Lawrence is an enigma and is not the perfect hero I expected. Of course it looks gorgeous and is well made but I was surprised how invested I felt. It drew me in and earns it’s 3.5 hour running time. Every aspect of the film is superb

Overall Grade- A+

Sound of Music

I mean where do I begin on this masterpiece? I LOVE this movie so much I never realized it was over 3 hours. That’s how absorbed I get. It is one of the best stage adaptations because I actually think it improves upon the source material in every way. The casting is perfection with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer having amazing chemistry together. I love all the songs from Rogers and Hammerstein, and the cinematography throughout Austria is beautiful. In my mind just about a perfect movie

Overall Grade- A+

Gone with the Wind

I have a complicated relationship with Gone with the Wind. It is my Grandma’s favorite movie of all time, so I have happy memories of watching it with her.  There is no doubt the epic nature of the movie. The sets, costumes, production design are some of the best ever. I also enjoy the melodrama of it all. It’s like watching a soap opera but with the best production values you could imagine. On the other hand, the magnolia version of the south makes me uncomfortable. Slave holders are the heroes who have been horribly treated by those darn yankees…The depiction of the slaves is cringe inducing and the marital rape towards the end isn’t right. So, I enjoy watching it but I acknowledge all those flaws. It was neat to see it on the big screen.

Overall Grade- B

Young Frankenstein

This was the first time I saw the iconic Gene Wilder film Young Frankenstein. It’s pretty hilarious about Frankenstein’s grandson trying to disprove his grandfather’s theories. The cast is above reproach- so funny. I particularly liked Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn. They are two of the funniest ladies ever. The black and white photography elevates it above a spoof movie. It’s very well done.

Overall Grade- A

The Shining-

One of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen because it dares to leave questions unanswered. This makes the film a puzzle you can come to again and again. It was great seeing it on the big screen and trying to notice how the small details fit together.  While it is bloody, most of the scares are psychological horror rather than gore. It’s about a man unraveling due to cabin fever but is it so much more than that? I think so!  Stanley Kubrick is at top of his game with the cinematography, production design and everything else. I also love the child actor Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson is of course amazing. He’s funny yet terrifying at the same time.

Overall Grade- A+

So there you have it! My thoughts on all 10 movies and my grades. Let me know what you think about these movies in the comments section. Hopefully November will have more new releases I can watch!

Talking Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets

Quick post today.  Just wanted to share with you guys my friends and my discussion on the 2nd Harry Potter movie- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’m battling a bit of an illness but I think it came across pretty well. What do you think of this movie? I found it was more stale than I remembered it. Hopefully the next one will be stronger as it was always my favorite. I would love your feedback.

Lots of Trailer Reviews

This week has been the week of trailers! I’m glad I stopped reviewing trailers on my youtube channel because I wouldn’t have been able to keep up.  They are hard to do videos on because they are unpredictable and cut into work time. Also I don’t know how insightful I really am when it comes to trailers.  I feel like I either love them or hate them and that’s about it.

I did write up my review of the Rogue One trailer last week and will be reviewing Angry Birds and Secret Life of Pets on my animated news video later today.

However, there were a bunch of other big trailers and let’s talk about them.

1.Suicide Squad.

I thought it was a good trailer. I particularly like Will Smith seeming like the old Will Smith we knew and loved. I want him to come back to us after disasters like After Earth (and no more of his son!). The Joker looks really intense and I’m curious to see how Batman is going to be involved.  Overall I’m intrigued and don’t pay attention to the reshoots story. It turns out it is a whole lot of nothing.

2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I’m really excited for this trailer! At first when I heard about the film I didn’t know if it would be nothing but a guy playing hide and seek looking for magical creatures.  This looks like an actual story. I liked the humor in the trailer and was surprised to hear mention of Dumbledore as I didn’t think that he was so old. It’s going to be interesting to have a story more set in the muggle world and I liked little touches like the Muggle Approved luggage switch. It should be a fun little movie.

3. TMNT 2

After a very promising Super Bowl trailer this did nothing for me. The humor and the action looks right out of Michael Bay’s playbook and the plot with the purple ooze looks lame. And sort of weird to show us Krang in the Super Bowl trailer and nothing here?

4. Sing Street

I wasn’t aware of this film and now am very excited about it. It is by the director of Once, John Carney, and looks like a combination of School of Rock and About a Boy. I wasn’t super into his Begin Again because it was too much of a copycat of Once but this looks different and sweet.

5. Dr Strange

This trailer was great! I’m so intrigued about this superhero Dr Strange. It looks like something really different for Marvel and of course I love Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Strange! Tilda Swinton looks awesome and I love the Inception-like visuals with cities folding up and that one shot that looked like a kaleidoscope. This is a perfect trailer because it intrigues me without giving away anything.

So that’s my thoughts on all the trailers. I will have my thoughts on the animated trailers later today and will have my review of The Jungle Book up tomorrow!

Talking Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Hi friends!  Yesterday proved to be a busy day for me!  I filmed and edited 8 videos for this week and participated in a podcast style video discussion. It is the first in a monthly series we are doing leading up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in November. Each month my friends Abby, Jeremy and Richard will join me to talk about one of the Harry Potter films.

As this is the first month we naturally are talking about the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone for UK). This is similar to what Jeremy, Abby and I did for our Star Wars series but this time we are joined by Richard who is a blogging friend of mine. He has been doing a detailed chapter by chapter review of the Harry Potter books on his blog so I had to include him. It was so neat to finally talk to him after reading his blog/tweets for years.

It was my first time leading a discussion with 4 people so I was a little nervous about that.  Plus, I am no Harry Potter expert but I think it turned out pretty well. I am looking forward to the next videos where hopefully I will continue to improve and so grateful to Abby, Jeremy and Richard for making time out of their Saturdays to do this with me. It really was a lot of fun.

Anyway, as far as the movie itself it’s charming in many ways but in all honesty it didn’t hold up as well as I remembered.  I understand Chris Columbus was trying to stay as true to the book but this movie should not be 2.5 hours long.  Especially in the quidditch sections I found myself getting pretty bored.

Also Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were in their first movie with this film…and it shows. I hate to say it. They are passable I guess as child actors but you can tell they aren’t like a Jacob Tremblay in Room.  It looks a little amateurish.

All that said, the introduction to Hogwarts and the magic world is very charming and fun. The British greats in the adult cast are all wonderful especially Alan Rickman as Snape.  The sets and settings feel immersive and fun and the music by John Williams as expected is perfect.

So it’s not a bad film just a little more boring than I remembered.

Overall Grade- B-

What do you think of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and what do you think of our discussion?  Thanks!

Movie Fan Theories

So I have to admit I get a kick out of fan theories.  Most of them are nonsense but I think they are funny. I find it amusing how the good theorists can weave themes and characters together to create compelling arguments.

Of course most of us know the Pixar Theory. Basically it is a theory that all of the Pixar films are connected from Toy Story all the way to The Good Dinosaur.  Here is how The Good Dinosaur fits into the theory

(Warning all of these videos I am posting have spoilers so if you haven’t seen the films beware!):

This Inside Out theory I thought was pretty good.  Is Riley adopted?

There are also a lot of fun fan theories for Disney.  This one about Elsa and Rapunzel being sisters is very solid and fun.

This one about Beauty and the Beast is great!

 

Harry Potter has a lot of fun one’s.  Here is one that JK Rowling liked and said fits!

There is also a theory that Harry might not be the Chosen One after all

I also liked this one that merges Star Wars and Harry Potter- Is Kilo Ren Snape?

Here’s a fun one that supposes is the Joker in Batman v Superman Jason Todd not the Joker we see in other films?

This was pretty clever about James Bond.  Is it just a code name?

In the world of Star Wars we have many fan theories and this one was legendary.  Jar Jar is a Sith Lord!

Here is one I love debating who is Rey’s father?

Anyway, there are a ton of fun fan theories.  What are some you like? Do you enjoy watching them?

Song of the Sea Review

song of the sea4

I have been hunting down the hidden animated gems from 2014.  Today is probably the most prominent hidden gem as it has an Oscar nomination: The Song of the Sea.  It is from Cartoon Saloon and distributed by Gkids Films directed and written by Tomm Moore.  It is the same team who made the lovely Oscar nominated Secret of the Kells in 2009.  As wonderful as Kells is I think Song of the Sea is even better.

I can’t remember the last time I cried so much in a movie and in a good way.  In a ‘I love these characters and I’m involved in the story’ kind of way. It is the 3rd animated film in 2014 to deal with subjects of death, grief and loss in a mature and beautiful way.  I was really moved by it and wish more people would see it.

There will be some spoilers but I will try to keep it to a minimum.

song of the seaThe main story is about a family that lives on a small island running a lighthouse.  At the opening little boy Ben loses his mother to childbirth with his sister Saoirse.  We then quickly move up and find out she is an odd child who at 6 has never learned to talk.  Ben resents his sister and he constantly carries around his mother’s book of Celtic legends.

song of the sea6

The stories focus on a myth called the selkie which if you’ve ever seen The Secret of the Roan Inish it is the basis for that movie as well.  The selkies live as both seals and humans and they have a power which animates everything including other magic like fairies.

The characters then go on a journey where they face peril, meet an Owl witch, some more friendly fairies and learn much more about Saoirse, Ben and their Mother. (I really don’t want to give much else away).

song of the sea3As you can tell from the photos on this post the animation is gorgeous. It flows and never makes the easy choice.  Everything has the feel of a wave because that is the power of the selkie myth.

song of the sea7There is a scene where Ben must say goodbye to his Mother and just writing about it now makes me tear up.  It really moved me.  The only thing I can think to relate it too is in Harry Potter when Harry has to stop looking in the Mirror of Erised and has to say goodbye to his parents.  It’s that kind of emotion.

song of the sea10
The Mother in the story

In front of me at the theater there were two little girls maybe 4 and 6. They were very chatty but it was kind of interesting to hear their reactions.  It definitely scared both of them at certain points and they were pretty upset.  Song of the Sea also has some jump scares and very tense moments that build.  They were asking their Mother if so and so character was going to be ok, very worried.  That’s really the only downside to Song of the Sea is it is pretty sad and scary in spots.  Characters go a lot of the movie heads hanging down in mourning.

This would not be the movie to put on for the kids birthday party or for a lively sleepover.  However, it would be good for a Sunday night movie viewing where there is time to discuss more challenging concepts with kids and get their thoughts. Save comedies like Lego Movie, Penguins of Madegascar or Spongebob for the parties and use Song of the Sea for a quieter softer parenting moment.

fairies song of the seaIf you can get out to the theaters and see it I would implore you to go.  Support hand drawn and smaller animation at the box office.  Movies like Song of the Sea deserve a wider audience.  I would love if we could get out of having a 2 system animation world and embrace lots of different studios and ideas.  That would be amazing!

I loved it.  I was really moved by it.  It made me cry and laugh on occasion. It’s sad but it is not a downer.  It is so hopeful and peaceful even in the sad moments that you don’t feel manipulated with your tears.

It was stunningly beautiful and even though I got lost from time to time in the Celtic lore it didn’t really matter because I knew enough of what was going on to root for our heroes.  The voicecast is also good with David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan and Lucy O’Connell.

song of the sea5

I just wish more people would see it.  I went into Song of the Sea wondering if it was worthy of the nomination over Lego Movie (which I loved).  They are so different but yes Song of the Sea deserved it over Lego (Boxtrolls which I also loved should have been left off).  Song of the Sea is one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen.  Yep.  I will use that hyperbole.  I loved it!

The music by Bruno Coulais and Kiia is pitch perfect.  Like I said the only thing to really consider is if it might be too sad for very young children and when is the best time for a more thoughtful picture for our kids.  I bet they will love it too!  I think it is better than Princess Kaguya in both artistry and story and that’s saying a lot.

Overall Grade- A+

My youtube review.  Got emotional talking about it.

Consider the Audience

As I’ve been watching all these Disney movies a thought has struck me which I want to present to all of you.  When is a movie just not made for me? What responsibility does a movie have to please a general audience verses a niche group?

On first glance it seems like there are movies that entertain every demographic.  Pixar films are often brought up.  However, even their movies have typically pleased some audiences more than others.  For instance, Toy Story 3 was universally praised by critics and most audiences, but my nieces found the ending with the incinerator to be too upsetting. They didn’t like it at all.

Toy_Story_3_incinerator_scene_screenshotSo should they have taken the incinerator scene out because it upset my nieces?  Well, that depends who they are  making a movie for? As my nieces were a secondary audience, not the primary the scene stays and is actually a very profound, tense and exciting moment for most viewers.

This invites lots of interesting questions.  In fact, my thoughts are very scattered on the topic and I’m struggling to focus them in a coherent way.

Here’s some points to consider:

Small audiences need and deserve stories for them.

barbie movies

Let’s face it.  We live in a world where movies are the predominant storytelling device of our age.  More so than books and I still think more so than TV, especially for children.  So imagine how difficult is to be say 3 or 4 and hear about all the exciting movies your brothers and sisters get to see.  Things like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings that are not appropriate for your age group.   Even most Disney movies are not made for the smallest kids.

Tinker-Bell-Movie-Three-Pack

That’s what makes it nice when movies are made for these toddler to preschool age audience.  For example, the Barbie movies, Tinker Bell movies are made for girls 3-7 and for that demographic they are made very well.  I haven’t seen all of them but the one’s I have were engaging and very well done.  Now a 50 year old movie critic could tear them apart but they aren’t made for him, so who cares?  (I’d give boy examples but I only have nieces so don’t know any). I think it is great girls have their own franchises and films to get excited about and learn from.  That’s great!

An even more narrow audience for movies is the toddler age.  Part of this is because 1-3 aged children can’t sit for the length of a movie.  This is one reason I loved the 2011 Winnie the Pooh movie.  I don’t want to give away my review but it is a rare Hollywood movie made for very small children.  First of all, it is extremely short.  It has simple ideas and plot but lovingly told.  Even the other Winnie the Pooh movies I have seen are too scary and usually too long for toddlers. It uses repetition and is friendly and happy, which toddlers love.  The music is hummable and sweet.

I can’t even think of other movies for toddlers, which are even made, and even fewer that are made well (Curious George movie was a good one that gets a lot of flack from those outside its intended audience).  Most entertainment for toddlers is television (and I don’t think toddlers should spend much time in front of the TV if any but most parents need a moment or two for a break.  Let’s be honest!).   Should these shows worry about being entertaining to teenage boys or 2o year old college students?  No.  That’s not their audience!

toddlersAnother example of a narrow audience is religious films . With the affordability of digital film-making, movies can be made for a smaller audience and still be profitable.  This gives us movies like the evangelical films of Kirk Cameron or the Mormon films made for my faith.

mormonShould someone making a Mormon film worry about pleasing an Evangelical or an Atheist?  No, that isn’t their audience.  Any movie who tried to make all religious groups happy would have a tall order.  It could be done with good writing but there is something nice about having a movie made, telling a story just from my religious perspective.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Now is an audience an excuse to making a bad film? No. If anything you should put more effort into telling a story for your smaller audience.  It should be even better than the average Hollywood schlock because you have a more narrow window of people to appeal too.  That’s why I hate when people say ‘it’s for kids’ as if that somehow means it is stupid.  The best kids movies inspire their creativity and imagination.  The best Mormon films make me want to be a better person (and I’ll be honest I’m not the biggest fan of most of them).

It angers me when I can tell filmmakers of any genre are being lazy.  Your audience, no matter how narrow, deserve a good effort.  (For the record, I feel the same way about Michael Bay movies.  His audiences deserve more of an effort to make a good film).   I should be able to walk away from a movie and say ‘well, that didn’t work for me but I can see who they were trying to reach and how some could enjoy it’.

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Another problem we can have is when a movie doesn’t understand its audience.

Hunchback of Notre Dame is a perfect example.  Even its defenders usually admit it is a mature film not for small children.  But the studio still wanted it to be for small children and their families so they threw in kidlike violence and humor which ruined the movie.  It’s way too dark for these kids and the immature moments are off-putting for adults.  It makes it a tonal mess and a frustrating experience.  If they had just said ‘you know what . This movie is for adults’ like Pans Labyrinth or even the later Harry Potter films it would have been a favorite of mine.  As it is I just can’t endorse it.   Trying to appeal to the wrong audience, or too many audiences, ruined the film.

We can also have films who have a main and secondary audience.  This is what Pixar does well.  Children are the primary audience with parents being the secondary.  This makes sense since both are usually at the theater watching (a lot of the age specific films I listed above are direct to DVD which is probably the best way to appeal to some audiences). What I personally hate is when the secondary audience sullies the primary, or takes over the tone and feel of the film.  This was my issue with the Shrek movies . Instead of a few jokes, the innuendo is so strong the films feel vulgar to me.  I honestly hate them.

So, the priority is making a good movie but in order for that to happen filmmakers must ask themselves ‘who is my audience?’  and we as filmgoers need to be willing to say ‘this just isn’t made for me’.  It’s not bad for a film to be made for toddlers or any other demographic.  That is very good because they can participate with us in this great storytelling device of the movies.

All audiences deserve quality and to have movies made for them to enjoy.