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Movie Review: ‘Sing’ Hits High Note for Cuteness But Falls Flat on Story



I came into Sing fully expecting another padded out production from Illumination Entertainment, the studio that’s been coasting on minions babbling and pets being silly. Indeed, Sing is setup to be of similar quality in how it takes the old premise of “Let’s Put on a Show” and uses it as an excuse for anthropomorphic animals to sing popular songs. The screen becomes so crowded with varied animal characters and heaps of licensed music that it’s a wonder anyone can breathe in this picture. And damned if Illumination hasn’t done it again, frustrating me with their direction that is always charming and heavily flawed. Why must you ONLY be cute, Sing?

The movie begins by quickly introducing all our key players as the camera whips around the city, rarely leaving us a moment to get to know any of them too well. Moss, an always chipper koala voiced with surprising pep by Matthew McConaughey, is struggling to keep his theater afloat and concocts a plan for a singing competition to get the public interested in the theater again. While his elderly gecko of an assistant drums up preparations, we’re then introduced to a gorilla (Taron Egerton) that aspires to use his voice more than his muscle for his dad’s gang of criminals.

sing-pigA mother pig (Reese Witherspoon) wants to let her voice shine once more from outside her noisy home. A porcupine (Scarlett Johansson) seeks a chance to make herself known as an original guitarist. A shy elephant (Tori Kelly) wants to unleash her vocals, but must overcome her fearful stage fright. A sleazy mouse (Seth MacFarlane) of a singer/saxophone player desires a chance at riches. Don’t bother questioning how Moss formed the idea for a singing competition or what the pig mom might have done in the past. That’ll take up too much time. There’s a show to be staged!

For the first two acts, the movie is mostly a balancing act of trying to make sure every character has something to do. And, to it’s credit, it’s a bit impressive that all these plots don’t fall off as the story becomes progressively more busy. In the rush to keep all these plates in the air, however, much character is lost in the race to the inevitable song and dance show.

I wanted to feel for Moss as a theater-loving koala that wants to do good by his dad and right by an aged actress he’s idolized since his youth. But he’s far too chipper to be unique and not scummy enough to enjoy as the dishonest ditcher who sneaks out the back and steals power from nextdoor. In trying to be both a hopeless huckster and starry-eyed dreamer, he never fills out either role and ends up in this odd purgatory of a likable character without personality.

Sing relies more on its music than its script which may have been the wise choice. When characters are not performing on stage, their drama doesn’t feel as heavy as it should. The gorilla Johnny has an amazing cockney singing voice from the talented Egerton, but he doesn’t appear as deeply conflicted about his desire to move away from a life of crime, seen more as a job he neglects rather than being a moral question.

That may be too heavy for such a light and fluffy animated feature, but I wish the movie wouldn’t take so many of these easy shortcuts. The pig character Rosita (Witherspoon) is able to attend rehearsals and get around having a babysitter for her kids by turning her home into a mom-compliant operating system overnight. She apparently has a major in engineering, but only for this one scene so the music can continue.

But why am I complaining about this plot when the main drive behind Sing is the music? And, yes, the musical numbers are stellar sequences of various characters singing all manner of melody, from piano solos to pop duos. It’s easy enough to see why so many licensed musical numbers are lobbed at the audience in a span of five minutes. I’ll admit I did fall for some of the charms of this ragtag group of entertainers shooting for the stars. I just wish I didn’t have to endure an awkward fart joke or a flooding theater set piece to get to that point.

One aspect of Illumination that never fails to amaze me is the voice direction. It wasn’t a huge surprise that Seth Macfarlane was voicing the Sinatra-singing rodent as he has the pipes for such a character, but I still found myself asking if that was really his voice considering his tone and delivery. I also forgot at times that Matthew McConaughey was voicing Moss, but after hearing his performance in Kubo and the Two Strings, I found myself longing for his more casual of voices echoing Dazed and Confused. He blends far too well into the scenery for being the protagonist.

Another element I slightly applauded was how tamed the studio was with their mascots. There are two recurring mascots in the form of a Japanese dog group that can’t stop singing and a swarm of squids that can change color to form a colorful lightshow for the stage. Unlike Illumination’s Despicable Me series, the movie never veers off into little shorts with these characters, possibly because there are already too many characters on screen. Perhaps the overnumerousness of this script may have worked for the benefit of not annoying parents to death with one repeating gag.

Sing has plenty of song, spirit and energy to be an admirable animated film, but not much character to become highly invested in the 9+ players. I suppose credit should be given for being one of the few animated films to cut out the middle-man and skate quickly towards the song and dance finale Illumination so desperately wants to barrel towards.

The musical sequences are enjoyable for their visuals and melodies and will most likely be enough to keep the kids and their parents entertained. So enjoyable that they may forget how manically paced this movie is as an excuse to animate singing and dancing animals. You can get those in any animated movie – Sing has the slight advantage of featuring the latest hits by the biggest voices.

Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.

Box Office

“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office



It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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Box Office

“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back



With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Movie News

Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure



Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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