You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!

The Jazz Singer has aged gracefully and horribly at the same time. Gracefully, because it was the very first motion picture to incorporate synchronized sound into the production. Horribly, because of its extended use of blackface. I always wanted to see The Jazz Singer for its historical significance. Even though 1927 was a different time with a lot of outdated material. Vitaphone was a positive cinematic advancement that made sound possible in Hollywood. Something I learned while watching Singin’ in the Rain. Although The Jazz Singer is remembered as a talkie, a majority of the movie remains silent. Al Jolson was a major star at the time who wanted his voice to be heard. 

So Jolson plays an aspiring singer who wants to make it in show business. All of his songs can be heard, but it’s the first spoken words in film that sent 1920’s audiences into a frenzy. The line is appropriately, “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” Although The Jazz Singer won an Honorary Oscar at the 1st Academy Awards, it wasn’t nominated for Outstanding Picture due to its use of sound. In the movie, Jakie Rabinowitz is a young Jewish boy who shames his devout cantor father with his love of jazz music. If that sounds similar to the Simpsons episode “Like Father, Like Clown,” that’s what they were parodying. Though The Jazz Singer was parodied early on in the classic 1936 Merrie Melodies short I Love to Singa starring Owl Jolson.

Similar to those stories, Jakie is forced to leave his home and his loving mother in order to follow his dreams. He changes his name to Jack Robin and becomes a successful jazz singer thanks to the help of dancer Mary Dale. The film deals with Jack’s struggle with choosing between faith and fame. Jack singing to his mother should be a beautiful moment, but it’s tainted by his use of blackface makeup. There’s no way to remove the scenes, because they’re too crucial to the climax. Although Jolson might have appreciated black music back in the day, the scenes are racist and uncomfortable no matter how you look at it. Especially since the final song is called “My Mammy.” Nevertheless, The Jazz Singer was a major accomplishment that brought the Silent Era to an end.

The Jazz Singer

Jack sings for his mother

I Am for Making Friends

Ron’s Gone Wrong got it right. The moment I saw the trailer for Ron’s Gone Wrong, I thought it was a rip-off of The Mitchells vs. the Machines. I know that’s impossible, but they are very similar. Both are computer animated 2021 movies about the dangers of technology and social media obsession. It can’t be a coincidence that Olivia Colman also happens to voice a character in both films. Even the young black tech creator is basically the same. The difference is B-bots. B-bots are sleek spherical smartphones that make friends for kids and have no plans of overthrowing humanity. The villain is actually an evil corporate businessman trying to cover up a glitch in the system.

While The Mitchells vs. the Machines won me over immediately, I was a little more hesitant of Ron’s Gone Wrong. It’s technically a Disney movie, since 20th Century Studios made it with a new animation studio called Locksmith Animation. Although it looked harmless, I wasn’t sure about the crude animation reminiscent of Arthur Christmas. Ron’s Gone Wrong is similar to other “boy and his robot” movies, but its message is universal. Barney is a socially awkward rock loving middle schooler voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer at the height of his fame. He’s the only kid without a B-bot, but all that changes when his old fashioned father and cooky grandmother from the old country get him one for his birthday.

Ron is a typical defective robot voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Ron’s Gone Wrong is immediately funny the moment he’s on screen. What makes Ron stand out are his computing errors, violent tendencies, and ability to buy alcohol. Surprisingly adult for a kids movie. Barney learns to appreciate Ron’s differences and they eventually grow together as friends. Even Ron’s vlogger crush Savannah and prankster bully Rich learn the value of friendship. Ron’s Gone Wrong doesn’t shy away from the dangers to technology, but there’s a good compromise in the end.

Ron's Gone Wrong

Barney hangs out with Ron


The Mitchells vs. the Machines is your typical family road trip that happens to include a robot apocalypse. Sony Animation is still very hit or miss, but The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a hit that deserves way more attention. It’s got Gravity Falls writer Mike Rianda as the director, The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller as producers, an all-star comedic cast, and the unique animation of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The latter was apparent the moment I saw the first trailer with the painfully generic title Connected.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a much better title that reflects the film’s creativity. I knew Into the Spider-Verse would inspire similar animated movies, but the comic book style only works for superhero movies. So the animation is more so inspired by internet memes, doodles, pop art, and even a little live action. It’s another heavily detailed work of art that should’ve been on the big screen. Unfortunately, the Pandemic led to its eventual release on Netflix…

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

The Mitchells drive away from the robot apocalypse

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a perfect combination of original and familiar that feels like it was made especially for me. And not just cause it features songs from random YouTube videos of the 2000’s like “Nyan Cat” or “Numa Numa.” Like me and my family, the Mitchells are weird and quirky. Katie is a college bound teenager who loves niche movies, making funny videos, and wants to go to film school. Abbi Jacobson is similar to her Disenchantment character Princess Bean since both her and Katie are ambiguously queer.

I’m glad the movie doesn’t call attention to it, because the theme can be interpreted multiple ways. Katie and her dad begin to drift apart due to her unusual interests. Rick is her father who hates technology and loves nature. Danny McBride is funny, but he has a lot of range in the more emotional scenes. The movie is mostly about their relationship, but the rest of the family helps them open up. Linda is a supportive mother who encourages everyone with gold stars. I already know what to expect from Maya Rudolph. Linda is also jealous of her seemingly perfect neighbors voiced by real life married couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.

Aaron is an awkward kid with an obsessive love of dinosaurs. My only nitpick is Aaron’s distracting grown up voice provided by the director himself. Aside from the strong bound he has with his older sister, Aaron also develops a back and forth crush on their neighbors daughter who also loves dinosaurs. Monchi is the weird cross eyed dog who completes the Mitchell family. Unlike most animated movies, Monchi is voiced by the real life Doug the Pug. The road trip is supposed to strengthen the families relationship, but a robot uprising seems to come out of nowhere. Eric André voices your typical hip young tech company owner responsible for a device that everybody owns.

PAL is like Siri or Alexa if she turned on mankind. Olivia Colman has the right kind of trusting British voice for the AI. PAL Max robots are like giant smartphones with a sleek design and the ability to trap people in a force field. The Mitchells are humanity’s last hope as they avoid detection in their broken down station wagon while searching for a kill code. The action is a lot of fun, but the comedy is literally laugh out loud hilarious. Abrupt cutaway gags are hysterical and jokes about tech obsession are both funny and relatable.

There’s also a particularly humorous scene involving feral Furby’s. The funniest characters are a couple of malfunctioning PAL Max robots named Eric and Deborahbot 5000 who side with the Mitchells. Though the movie is longer than most animated movies, it’s all worth it to bring the Mitchells together in the end. The Mitchells vs. the Machines should’ve won Best Animated Feature, but the Academy Awards are still fixated on Disney. Luckily Sony managed to sweep most other major award shows. The Mitchells vs. the Machines is weird in the best possible way.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines 2

The Mitchells walk away from an explosion

My Lord and Savior

King of Kings is an epic worthy of praise. Happy Easter everyone! After The Ten Commandments, MGM searched for their next Biblical epic. The story of Jesus Christ will forever be the greatest story ever told. And I’m not just saying that as a Christian. There have been so many portrayals of Jesus, but they weren’t as common in major Hollywood productions. Save for a few silent films, Jesus was mostly kept off camera à la Ben-Hur. King of Kings put Jesus front and center with future Star Trek actor Jeffrey Hunter in the role. My parents often referred to him as the “pretty” Jesus, because of his piercing blue eyes and long flowing hair.

Nevertheless, Hunter is strongly dedicated to playing the messiah in the most respectful way possible. King of Kings begins with the end of the Old Testament, but mostly covers the first four books of the Holy Bible. We witness the birth of Christ, Jesus preaching the Gospel, performing miracles, the Sermon on the Mount, gathering his disciples, the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven. Although King of Kings is nearly 3 hours long, it helps that I know the story by heart. Even the script is an almost word for word translation of the King James Bible. I was mostly curious to see an older interpretation of Biblical events. All told with a glorious large scale and a prominent cast that I wasn’t too familiar with.

With the exception of Orson Welles as the narrator or a young Rip Torn as Judas. Jesus is the main character, but all other important figures are given just as much attention. Including Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and Barabbas. As well as Romans like King Herod, Pontius Pilate, Lucius of Cyrene, and Salome. I knew even a tame version of the crucifixion would make me emotional, but I didn’t officially weep until Jesus forgave the thief on the cross. Mary Magdalene finding my risen savior made me cry as well. King of Kings was a blessing to watch.

King of Kings

Jesus faces judgement

The Adventures of Lovemore and Dash

The Lost City is basically Galaxy Quest if it were set in a jungle. The movie was only brought to my attention after I saw a trailer in theaters. It made me laugh, so I figured I’d go see it. Although I could’ve waited to see it on DVD or streaming, I miss those pre-pandemic days where I could see something brainless without thinking about it. Even the title The Lost City doesn’t try harder than it has to.

Loretta Sage is a disillusioned romantic adventure novelist who wants The Lost City of D to be her final book. Alan is her book’s hunky yet dimwitted cover model with a secret crush on her. When Loretta is kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire believing her book to be real, it’s up to Alan to rescue her. Imagine Anne Rice and Fabio if they were trapped in the jungle together. Sandra Bullock in a purple sequin suit is just as funny and attractive as she was in her younger days. I’m glad she hasn’t been cast aside like so many aging actresses.

Though she is significantly older than Channing Tatum, they both bring the same amount of energy to their respective roles. Daniel Radcliffe is younger than both, but I still buy him as the villainous billionaire. Loretta and Alan’s adventure is pretty basic and straightforward. Just to kill time, Da’Vine Joy Randolph has a subplot as Loretta’s publicist trying to find them. Not every joke lands, but Brad Pitt’s cameo as a stereotypical action hero is hilarious. The Lost City looks and sounds generic, but it’s actually sweeter after difficulty.

The Lost City

Loretta and Alan trek through the jungle

Come on, Vámonos! Everybody, Let’s go!

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is better than it had any right to be. As a 5 year old kindergarten who loved all things Nickelodeon, Dora the Explorer was difficult to ignore growing up. Luckily I was still watching Nick Jr. at the time. Aside from Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer was one of the most iconic Nick shows for little kids. It taught children basic Spanish and how to be adventurous. Never in a million years did I think it deserved a live action movie. CollegeHumor actually turned the idea of a grown up Dora starring Ariel Winter into a joke 8 years before the official movie was released (see that trailer here). It only got weirder when Michael Bay’s name was attached to the project.

Thankfully he was never involved, but hispanic actress Isabela Merced was cast as the titular explorer 2 years after her forgettable role in Transformers: The Last Knight. Although a 16 year old Dora attending high school felt wrong, Merced manages to capture her youthful optimism. At least the opening honors the show by playing the infectious theme song. It’s the only time we see a 6 year old Dora, her 8 year old cousin Diego, Backpack, and the Map in live action. Dora’s adventures are all in her imagination, but Boots is still a blue CGI monkey and Swiper is still a talking CGI fox. Both characters have the unlikely voices of Danny Trejo and Benicio del Toro respectively. Other animal characters from the cartoon can only be found in an unexpected animated hallucination sequence.

The mostly original cast of characters aren’t entirely unwelcome. Well known hispanic actors like Michael Peña and Eva Longoria play Dora’s explorer parents. When they’re kidnapped, Dora explores a path to the lost Inca city of gold. She’s joined by a grown up Diego from the series Go, Diego, Go! that I never watched. Plus two additional high schoolers who are only there to point out how crazy everything is. Eugenio Derbez plays their adult guide who not so surprisingly turns out to be the villain. I’m not always found of self-aware cartoon adaptations, but jokes about Dora talking directly to the audience are hilarious. Dora and the Lost City of Gold could’ve been a made-for-TV original movie, but it was bueno enough to enjoy on the big screen.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Dora goes exploring

The Secret of the Unicorn

The Adventures of Tintin is Indiana Jones for kids. Tintin is a young journalist and globetrotting adventurer created in 1929 by Belgium cartoonist Hergé. His adventures took him all around the world, but many of his older stories are extremely dated. For decades Tintin stayed relevant with a series of European comic books, radio shows, cartoons, video games, and feature films both live-action and animated. Although I’m American, I knew about Tintin for many years. Mostly thanks to references made on The Simpsons and Arthur. So a major Hollywood motion picture didn’t surprise me too much. What is surprising is the impressive amount of talent connected to the movie. Hergé believed Steven Spielberg was the perfect director for a faithful Tintin movie after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark. It took several decades of development, but Spielberg finally honored his dying wish.

I’m not sure he was expecting a computer animated motion capture film shot in 3D. Which technically makes The Adventures of Tintin the only animated Spielberg movie. Although mo-cap directors James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis visited the set, it was actually producer Peter Jackson who made the suggestion. That way the movie could somewhat creepily recreate Hergé’s artwork with photorealistic animation. Most comic characters are present including Tintin, his faithful dog Snowy, their crusty companion Captain Haddock, and bumbling police duo Thomson and Thompson. The latter two were voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost since Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish wrote the film. Jamie Bell already proved himself to Jackson after appearing in King Kong. Andy Serkis was already a mo-cap expert, but now he had a chance to be funny. Snowy is entirely CGI and doesn’t speak since it would’ve been too distracting.

Although Tintin is a PG rated Nickelodeon movie, they aren’t above intense gun-toting action or Haddock’s comedic drunkenness. The plot draws heavily from the comic The Secret of the Unicorn. An adventure where Tintin meets Haddock and they both search for a lost ship connected to Haddock’s ancestor. Daniel Craig plays the British villain who constantly pursues the heroes. They face great dangers by plane, by boat, and by motorcycle. A motorcycle chase is particularly thrilling since it’s animated to look like one take. Unlike most adventure films, the treasure isn’t exactly found by the end. A sequel directed by Peter Jackson has been talked about for a long time, but nothing has come of it. Tintin was just a moderate success that only managed to win the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature. Shockingly, the only Oscar nomination it got was Best Original Score. Rango (another 2011 Nickelodeon movie) ironically won Best Animated Feature in its place. The Adventures of Tintin is a perfectly fine adventure that needed more name recognition.

The Adventures of Tintin

Tintin and Snowy read about the Unicorn

A Fresh Face

Baby Boy is director John Singleton’s transitional period between the hood and Hollywood. Since it was sandwiched between his hard R Shaft remake and action sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious. Baby Boy wasn’t on my radar until two of my favorite co-workers brought it to my attention. Although it’s rougher than I’m used to, I did end up liking Baby Boy for what it is. It’s tough, but it can be funny when it wants to be. The title refers to the young black Jody Summers being compared to a baby who refuses to grow up.

Despite having 2 kids by 2 different baby mamas, Jody continues to fool around while living with his mama. His only ambition is fixing bikes and selling women’s clothes. Despite his lifestyle, Jody at least tries to be better than what society expects him to be. Although the role was made for Tupac, he died before he had the chance to play Jody. So Baby Boy ended up being Tyrese Gibson’s debut performance. It’s arguably his best performance alongside Taraji P. Henson who also got the role early in her career.

Jody is molded by the people in his life. Peanut doesn’t have much of a role, but he truly loves Yvette. His mama gives good advice, but Ving Rhames plays a complicated potential father figure. Omar Gooding doesn’t quite live up to his brother, but Sweetpea is a memorable best friend. Snoop Dogg is particularly unlikable as Yvette’s ex-con ex-boyfriend. It’s not as hard-hitting as Boyz n the Hood, but Baby Boy is a hood film with something to say.

Baby Boy

Jody and Yvette fight

Leader of the Pack

Cry-Baby is director John Waters’ answer to the success of Hairspray. Turns out going a more family friendly route was a good idea. Cry-Baby is somewhere in the middle with a mostly tame PG-13 rating. It’s probably the only other John Waters movie I’m willing to see. The only disgusting part is a particularly graphic french kissing session. Cry-Baby is just as campy as Hairspray with another Baltimore set story taking place in a bygone era. Except this time it’s the counterculture from the 1950’s. Cry-Baby is a post-Grease musical love story between a juvenile delinquent and a good girl.

“Cry-Baby” Walker is a sensitive “drape” who charms girls with a single tear. Allison is a “square” yearning to shed her perfect image. They’re a passionate couple who turn the whole town upside down. Amy Locane is hot, but it’s Johnny Depp who embraced his heartthrob status before going the opposite route with Edward Scissorhands released the same year. The rest of the motley cast is full of John Waters mainstays like Ricki Lake, counterculture icons like Iggy Pop, controversial former pornstar Traci Lords, and even a cameo from Willem Dafoe.

All of the “drapes” standout, but it’s the aptly named Hatchet-Face who makes the strongest impression. Newcomer Kim McGuire fills the role that Divine would’ve had had he not passed away. Cry-Baby is a strange film that ends up being funny, because it takes itself so seriously. The 50’s inspired songs are so good that they inspired another musical adaptation. Cry-Baby is a cult hit for those weird enough to understand it.


Allison talks to Cry-Baby and his Drapes

Stay Gold Ponyboy

The Outsiders may be the most crucial teen movie ever made. It’s responsible for launching the careers of C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, and even Tom Cruise. So many young future stars getting their start in the same movie. It led to the creation of the Brat Pack which lasted throughout the 80’s. I love teen movies, but my history with The Outsiders is a little complicated. The Outsiders is based on a 1967 novel by S. E. Hinton. She wrote the coming-of-age book when she was in high school. I ended up reading The Outsiders in middle school and we watched the movie in class, but I have a scattered memory of it.

Acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola isn’t known for angsty teen dramas, but he was inspired to adapt the book after students recommended him for the job. The Outsiders is certainly different with a shorter runtime than most Coppola films. Hinton worked closely with Coppola and the actors in order to stay faithful to the story. As the title suggests, the greasers are a group of outsiders living in 1965 Oklahoma. Most of them have nicknames, but all of them are at odds with the high class socs. Dally is the toughest greaser who flirts with danger and redheaded socs girl Cherry Valance.

Ponyboy and Johnny are the most sensitive greasers who come from the roughest families. Ponyboy lives with his brothers Darry and Sodapop and Johnny lives with his abusive parents. Reality strikes when a fatal stabbing forces them to go on the run. The Outsiders is all about those who continue down a dangerous path and those who strive to be better. Dally, Johnny, and Ponyboy are labeled heroes after saving kids from a burning building, but it ends tragically for two of them. All you can do is “Stay Gold” and make life worth living. The Outsiders set the standard for many teen movies to come.

The Outsiders

Dally (center) helps out Johnny (left) and Ponyboy (right)