FlixChatter Review – CATS (2019)

Directed by: Tom Hooper
Screenplay by: Lee Hall, Tom Hooper

Most people who know me probably think I’m a huge Cats fan; I’m a choir nerd and a crazy cat lady (my Instagram account is mostly pictures of my boyfriend’s three adorable kitties), so a musical that combines two of my loves sounds tailor-made for me. Honestly, though, I never really got into it. I saw it at the Orpheum during an anniversary tour, and while I appreciated the beautiful music, clever choreography, and elaborate costumes, I had trouble connecting with the story- unsurprising, considering it’s based on a collection of T.S. Eliot poems. When I heard the musical was being adapted into a movie, though, I figured I would give it another shot.

Cats is about a group of alleycats called the Jellicle Cats (no, I STILL don’t know what Jellicle Cats are; based on the songs, it sounds like they’re basically just normal cats but some of them are maybe magic?) preparing for the Jellicle Ball, an event where their leader, Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) chooses one cat to ascend to the “Heavyside Layer,” basically a cat heaven where they will be reborn into a better life. The cats each perform for Old Deuteronomy in order to convince her to choose them. However, a nefarious cat named Macavity (Idris Elba) is also trying to be chosen, and is doing his best to get rid of his competition.

Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way: the uncanny valley CGI character design. It’s not quite as bad as I was expecting-at least close up. The CGI fur is very realistic-looking, and it seems to be combined with practical costuming and makeup in some cases. That said, the full body shots looked so much creepier, and I am still super weirded out by how aggressively human the faces look. They put so much detail into the bodies, but the faces are mostly left as is, save for some CGI whiskers and occasional tufts of fur. Couldn’t they have done something with makeup or prosthetics? As it is, all I could think of was that scene in What We Do in the Shadows where Jemaine Clements’s character tries to turn into a cat.

Besides the unsettling character design, the movie is mostly pretty to look at. The production design is beautiful, and the choreography is impressive (if not necessarily well-shot); mainly casting professional ballet dancers was one of the best things they could have done for the movie. Some of the “cat-like” movements are a little uncomfortable, though. There’s this weird sexual energy about it, which for some stories or musicals is totally fine, and I know the stage show has a similar vibe, but knowing that it’s about literal cats makes it kind of awkward.

The other big topic I obviously have to comment on is the music. Overall, it’s decent; the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic hasn’t endured as long as it has for nothing. Several of the songs are fun, catchy, and in some instances, haunting. I liked the ensemble numbers, although the orchestration sometimes drowns out the vocals in some parts. Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella  obviously sounds fantastic in the best-known number, “Memory.” Jason Derulo gives a solid performance as the flirty and energetic Rumtumtugger; his diction suffers a little because he’s trying to sing with a Cockney accent, but I still really enjoyed his voice. Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat is especially delightful; he has such a clear, bright, strong tone.

Taylor Swift’s Bombalurina only has one song, Macavity, and it’s…fine. She was obviously a stunt cast, because they gave her a song that’s not that vocally taxing. The song itself has this sultry vibe that Taylor’s breathy voice sort of works for, although it some parts it sounds more breathless than breathy, and I really would have loved to hear some more power behind the chorus. My biggest issue with the music was the shoehorned in Oscar-bait song, Beautiful Ghosts. It was written by Swift and Webber, but it definitely sounds more like the pop star’s song than the Broadway composer’s and doesn’t really fit the rest of the show’s tone. Worse still, it comes immediately after Grizabella’s first snippet of “Memory,” and having this slightly pretty but underwhelming song follow it dampens the effect of that moment.

The rest of the cast quality is pretty mixed. Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy and Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre cat are amazing actors in general and could make reciting the phone book sound good, so they do well with what they’re given. Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots and James Corden as Bustopher Jones are pretty groan-worthy; they’re the comedic relief, but they have way too much addded dialogue that’s basically just the individual actors’ brands of humor, and it doesn’t mesh with the rest of the movie. Idris Elba tries so hard, and he’s clearly giving it his all, but his character has been rewritten from a mysterious and malevolent presence to a cartoon villain, so there’s not much to salvage there. Lastly, newcomer Francesca Hayward as the abandoned kitten Victoria is, again, fine. She’s primarily a dancer, so her acting and singing aren’t spectacular, but she does okay with what she’s given. Her role in the movie is mostly as an analogue for the audience-someone for the other cats to explain the plot to- so there’s not much needed from her acting-wise.

This movie isn’t great. It’s not even so bad it’s good, which would at least be fun. Honestly, the source material just doesn’t lend itself to being adapted to a movie. Even with the added dialogue explaining the weird plot, the lyrics are still pretty bonkers and the anthropomorphized felines writhing around is uncomfortable, and  and while that might work on stage, it just doesn’t in film. Even if the character design hadn’t been terrifying CGI and the cast had been stronger, I don’t think anything could salvage Cats as a movie.

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Have you seen CATS? Let us know what you think!

Everybody’s Chattin’ & the most fantabulous Superbowl Commercial ever!

EverybodysChattin

Welcome to the first 2014 edition of Everybody’s Chattin’! In case some of you noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve done this post. No fret though, I still plan on doing this community-building post on a regular basis. It’ll be a bi-monthly thing from now on and it’ll be posted sometime in the middle of the week.

This edition’s all about lists and blogathons, so here we go:

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James has recently seen all of the Oscar nominees for Best Documentary, and he went on to listing which one should have been nominated and which one should win the award. Check out his reviews for each of the nominees from that post.

Top5LeadActress

Keith‘s Weekly Phenomenal 5 has been taken over Top 5 lists of best performances from the 2013 movie year. This past week he posted his picks for Top 5 Performances of 2013 Leading Actress

I LOVE minimalist movie posters and Chris recently showcased some really awesome ones by designer Olly Moss.

If you love lists but you’re not following Dan Stephens‘ Top Films Blog, well then better get on that pronto! His latest list shines a spotlight on a British living legend. Yep, check out his Top 10 Michael Caine Films.

Speaking of Top 10, since it’s January, it’s still not too late to post your Top 10 Films of 2013. Eric did just that so check out which movies made his Top 10 list.

Now on to the blogathons:

LifeLoveMoviesIf you haven’t already, do join Nostra’s latest Blogathon LIFE, LOVE AND THE MOVIES

Another fun blogathon you should take part in is Lights Camera Reaction’s RECAST-ATHON

Check out some of the Recast-athon participants’ posts: Sati @ Cinematic Corner and Andina @ Inspired Ground

Superbowl2014

Ok, so it’s the Superbowl this weekend. If you’re anything like me, then you probably didn’t know about it until all those ads started popping up on social media. I don’t know yet if I’ll watch it but if I did, it’ll be for the ads and trailers!

The two new trailers I’m anticipating are Captain America and X-Men: Days of Future Past. The first two trailers had me salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. There are rumors we may see a trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy but I’m really not hugely anticipating that one at this point. There might also be a trailer for David Fincher’s Gone Girl which sounds like a great mystery thriller.

As far as the commercials go, boy it’ll be tough to top this Rendezvous Jaguar ad with the three fantabulous Brits known for playing villains.

BritishVillainsJaguarAd

Oh yes, it’s good to be bad

I’ve already seen some pics of Tom Hiddleston on Tumblr but you should’ve seen my reaction when I first saw the whole ad. I was jumping up and down like a crazy person and grinning ear to ear. Who cares about football, I wish they’d just make a movie with Ben Kingsley, Mark Strong and one of my current crush Tom Hiddleston prancing around in their Jaguar F-Type Coupe. I might’ve subbed Kingsley with the ultimate British villain Alan Rickman though.

Creativity Online has a nice article on the making of the spot, which was apparently directed by Tom Hooper (who won an Oscar for The King’s Speech) and the score was done by Alexander Desplat, a six-time Oscar nominee) who’s Hooper’s involvement probably made it easier to persuade film stars such as Kingsley, Hiddleston and Strong to commit to the project. Check out the making of the ad below:



Talk about the ultimate show stealer!


So are you gonna watch the Superbowl… at least for the ads? 😀

Featurette Spotlight: Les Misérables … Can’t get ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ out of my head!

One thing for sure, there won’t be a lack of awesome films this December. There are a few I’m giddily anticipating, Gerry Butler’s soccer comedy Playing for Keeps and of course, The Hobbit!! I’m not posting the second trailer as right now I’m already sold on it long ago anyway, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s on Terrence’s Trailer Time Thursday post.

Now, I had been curious about Les Misérables, and the first trailer has certainly sold me. This new featurettes shows just another reason why this movie quickly shoots up to be my most-anticipated musicals ever!! It’s not enough that Tom Hooper has assembled a brilliant cast that seems to fit the roles, he’s also got this shrewd technique of having all the actors sing the songs LIVE on set! Check it out:

I LOVE this kind of featurette as you get a glimpse into the actors’ and filmmakers’ head and the challenges they face in portraying their roles. I’m a sucker for all the behind-the-scenes stuff that go on before the final piece is presented, and to me, for a story that’s already so well-know, the magic is not lost. I that high level of authenticity in the way the actors perform the song.

I could easily title this post ‘the year I’m warming up to Anne Hathaway‘ as I have been quite impressed with her lately, first with her performance in The Dark Knight Rises as Selina, and now this. Even before seeing the final film, she seemed to have worked her super hard on this film and obviously she’s got a great set of pipes for all that singing. The crucial part is the emotional resonance, as without that this film wouldn’t have made a dent. On that note, I think Anne pulled it off as I truly feel for Fantine’s well, misery. There’s something authentic about her portrayal that the words of the song I’ve heard over and over again somehow feels fresh and oh so heart-wrenching!! I’m a crier by nature but for the life of me I can’t stop my tears from falling even just hearing a few notes of this song!! I definitely will be packing a BOX of tissue going to the movies on Christmas day. I Dreamed A Dream has been stuck in my head since yesterday, and every few minutes I find myself humming it, just ask my poor husband, ahah!

Now, I realize you can’t compare the two stories but since both are costume dramas, I just want to say that Keira Knightley’s attempt to evoke her marital despair in Anna Karenina fails to elicit even the slightest pity from me.

Nothing much to say about the two main male cast: Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, both certainly have the charisma and showmanship to carry off the roles of Valjean and Javert, respectively. I can’t wait to see these two hunky Aussies to square off against each other, in tunes no less!

I’m also excited to see Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier, and Eddie Redmayne in the second movie I’ll see him in. He was quite good in My Week With Marilyn. Now, since I haven’t seen Victor Hugo’s stage adaptation before, this will be my first introduction to one of the most celebrated musicals of all time. Can’t wait!!


Are you excited for this one folks?