Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

Review: Power Rangers (Movie, 2017)   Leave a comment

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Yours truly got the see the movie the morning of its launch March 24, 2017.

To get the 3 biggest things out the way now:

  1.  Amy Jo Johnson (Played the original Pink Ranger) and Jason David Frank (Played the original Green and White Rangers) make a cameo appearance together after the Power Rangers beat Rita Repulsa and Goldar. They’re standing with the crowd of people gathered to take pictures of the Megazord.
  2. Speaking of cameos: Alpha 5 says the iconic “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi!” a few times in the movie, which was the catchphrase of the original Alpha 5 in the 1992 TV series. Rita also says “Make my monster grow!” and laughs maniacally as Goldar makes his appearance.
  3. The post-credit teaser confirms there WILL be a second movie and Tommy Oliver will presumably play a key role then.

 

Speaking of the Green Ranger, remember this?

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In the movie, it’s comfirmed Rita Repulsa was the first Green Ranger. 65 Million Years Ago, Zordon was the first Red Ranger. He and the other Rangers battled Rita Repulsa, who betrayed the team and killed them all. Everyone including Zordon would fall to Rita, who betrayed the other Rangers because of her lust for more power. Using the last of his strength, Zordon seals away the Power Coins just as a blast of power rips Rita’s body apart and hurls her into the sea. The place where this epic battle took place would later be known as Angel Grove (of course).

A huge nod to the TV series only those familiar with the original franchise would have caught: Rita sought the Zeo Crystals (!), which had been hidden somewhere in present-day Angel Grove. At the end of the Mighty Morphin’ storyline, The Rangers were sent back in time to retreive the five Zeo Crystals. They would harness their power to become the Zeo Rangers. In the reimagined storyline, the Zeo Crystals are connected to the Morphing Grid. Whosoever possesses them will gain unimaginable power.

That aside, Rita says something really interesting just before she’s literally slapped into space by the Megazord: “Others will come after me.” While the movie’s plot was a closely guarded secret (props to Saban and Lionsgate for that), there were rumors Lord Zedd might make a cameo appearance. On that note, apparently the plan is to make the Power Rangers movieverse a 6-movie franchise. The right tone was set in this one if you ask me.

Anywho it’s probably fair to say Tommy Oliver will be a prominent character in the second movie (which Lionsgate has apparently already greenlit to happen) which obviously means Elizabeth Banks will reprise the role of Rita Repulsa. Speaking of, she did one hell of a job. All questions about weather or not Banks could pull it off were answered by her performance. She made Rita a twisted character and gave you plenty of reasons why she’s one bad…well, you know.  Remember the clip released last year of her throwing Trini around her bedroom? One of her lines during that encounter was “I’ve killed Rangers before.” This isn’t just in referral to the opening minutes of the movie. I won’t spoil what happens about 15 minutes later but someone kinda kicks the bucket.

…At the end of the day, if you are a fan of the original series I think you can rest easy. Don’t go by objective reviews. See the movie and judge it for yourself. On that note, I give the film a 9/10. Only reason it didn’t get a 10 is because there was no remixed Power Rangers theme music.

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Calls for a Boycott of “The Birth of a Nation” for the second time in almost 200 years   Leave a comment

During the mid-1800s, it was because of the book The Birth of a Nation. This time, it’s the movie based on the book of the same name.

Here’s one of the trailers:

…Easily a must-watch for those who don’t know the story.

The movie hit theaters October 7. The movie, which takes alot of “creative liberties” from what I’ve heard tells the story of the imfamous Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831.

Ignoring all the obvious Hollywood crap–most notably Turner’s wife being raped, which is factually inaccurate–this movie, like Selma (2014) is both historically accurate and relevant to the goings-on of today. In fact, that’s exactly why there have been calls by biggots and racists for the movie to be boycotted. The timing–one month before the next presidential election of course, the Racial Tension in the U.S.–is the reason why. History repeats itself so how the next few years play out shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.

…Isn’t it always something how those who “don’t see what the problem is” are always the ones who want to maintain the status quo?

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The original Nat Turner was a slave who had been allowed to learn to read and write, which was considered a privilage for whites. Turner’s owners allowed him to become literate in the hopes of using him to keep slaves in line as a preacher. The more he searched the scriptures, the more Turner realized the wrongness of slavery in America. For his part in leading the rebellion, Turner was hanged.

What follows are some of his final words:

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For the time, it was rare for black slaves to be educated and if so, only for a specific job they were given. Slaves who worked alongside their masters and handled money or important documents were more likely to learn to read, write and count. Fieldhands were rarely allowed what whites considered forbidden knowledge, let alone breeders: Plantations kept a few slaves separate from the rest of the population just for breeding. Mostly with each other but sometimes with whites who had trouble having kids.

Anyway, back on topic. After the Turner Rebellion in 1831, there was a crackdown in Plantations all over the South. Slaveowners doubled down on keeping slaves from learning how to read or write. In fact, most of the South made it illegal for black slaves to be taught to read and write. 14 years after the Turner Rebellion, John Brown and his sons tried to incite a rebellion against slavery. That failed because the slaves they were counting on to join them were too scared to show up. The U.S. Army quickly put down the rebellion and Brown was hanged.

Of course, the efforts of both Turner and Brown ultimately weren’t for naught: The ratification of the 13th Amendment after the Civil War.

Fast forward to the 1960s: The Civil Rights Moveent. Fast forward again to 2014: Black Lives Matter forms. Just like during the 1800s and during the 1960s, there was stiff resistence to change. Just like both those eras, change WILL happen. It’s simply a matter of time. The REAL question is which side of history will you be on?

I don’t want to digress further than that so I’ll make a separate post on the subject sometime next week.

Space Jam 2 Confirmed!   Leave a comment

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Multiple sources confirmed Monday afternoon it’s a done deal. Lebron James is the only NBA player named so far as being a part of the sequel to the original 1996 movie. Those old enough to remember the time the original movie was made will recall it was made while Michael Jordan was transitioning back to the NBA after playing minor league baseball for two years. This detail was woven into the movie’s plot to help explain why His Airness didn’t have his skills stolen by aliens. The movie finished filming during the 95-96 season.

At the time the movie hit theaters, the Bulls won the NBA Title and set the then all-time NBA record 72 season wins. Anyone who remotely follows sports knows the Golden State Warriors broke the record none thought would even be matched in Jordan’s lifetime last month by winning 73 games in the season. They are also expected to repeat as NBA Champions this year.

What do we know about the sequel so far? Nothing other than it’s happening and the script is now being written. Websites are speculating who else from the NBA will appear in Space Jam 2. The original movie also featured celebrities: Wayne Knight played Jordan’s publicist in the film, Larry Bird (retired by then) and Bill Murray played themselves and Danny Divito voiced the movie’s villain Mr. Swackhammer.

Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bouges had their skills stolen by the Monstars. What you had as a result was a squad of big men with one small guy, which was the favored lineup in the NBA 20 years ago. The game clearly moved away from this: Today, there is a far less emphasis on scoring in the paint and more on range. Several NBA players also made cameo appearances.

Assuming Space Jam 2 uses the first movie as a blueprint for former NBA Players, here’s who I think could make the cut:

  • Kenny “The Jet” Smith: Former player. Currently works as a TNT Anchor. He won 2 NBA Championships with the Houston Rockets during Jordan’s retirement.
  • Shaquille O’Neal: Everyone knows who he is and what he did during his career. Inducted into the Basketball Hall of fame this year. He is also an accomplished actor in his own right, appearing in several films during the 1990s. Currently works as a TNT Anchor. May not be available if the movie’s filming conflicts with his planned Shaq-Fu movie. Fun fact: He makes a brief cameo appearance in the final moment of the original Space Jam.
  • Charles Barkley: Everyone familiar with the NBA knows who he is. Like many NBA stars during the 90s, he was a promising all star who never won a ring. His mouth got him in trouble both as a player and since his playing days ended. He’d insist on being in the film if Shaq and Kenny get a role. Unlike both of them, he played a prominent role in the first film and could make the cut for this reason alone.
  • Tracy McGrady (aka T-Mac): Everyone familiar with the NBA knows who he is. After he retired from basketball, he pulled a Jordan and played Minor League Baseball. He now works as an NBA Analyst for ESPN.
  • Bill Russell: The man with more Rings as a player than Fingers. If you don’t know who he is, something’s wrong with you. He is a living legend whose career as a player and a coach will probably never be matched ever. He’s 82 years old but doesn’t look older than 65. If asked, he’d make time to appear in the movie.

Kenny, Shaq and T-Mac will probably play themselves as analysts in SJ2. They could also do commentary for the game itself–something I felt was missing from the first movie. Charles could do this or have it revealed he’s working with (insert Celebrity here) to prove what happened to him 20 years ago (in the first movie) really happened and is happening again.

They’ll have a huge pool of celebrities and current NBA talent to choose from. I also think it would be a really nice touch to cameo some WNBA players as well. As for current NBA talent, I honestly think they can make anyone look good.

 

Straight Outta Compton and N.W.A. 27 Years Later   Leave a comment

I watched the movie Tuesday afternoon in Boston. The audience was diverse and the theater was packed despite it being a Tuesday afternoon. Not surprising given who it’s about.

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Top: NWA’s Movie Counterparts. Ice Cube’s son plays him in the movie.

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The remaining Members of N.W.A. and Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray and Jason Mitchell, who played the late Eric “Easy-E” Wright (from top-left): Ice Cube, Gray, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Mitchell and MC Ren.

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…Before I begin, I do want to point out Straight Outta Compton is the name of both the movie and the 1988 album by N.W.A. The movie’s nearly two hours long and likely due to time, I noticed certain scenes shown in the movie trailer weren’t in the theatrical release. More on that in a little bit. To those who may be wondering thankfully, the actual music is used. Having ALL of the original members having a part in the movie’s production sure helped of course (LOL).

N.W.A.

Anyone even remotely interested in Rap or Hip Hop knows and if they don’t, SHOULD know that without N.W.A., there would be no Snoop Dogg, Eminem or 50 Cent. There would be no Tupac, Death Row Records, Aftermath Records, Shady Records or Menace II Society. Before there was Bone Thugs N Harmony, there was N.W.A.

They legendary rap group had the balls to speak their minds through their music at the height out the “War on Drugs”. They had the balls to say what everyone was thinking but didn’t have the balls to say. As Ice Cube’s son says as him in the film, their music was a reflection of their reality. 27 years later, the imfamous song Fuck tha Police is heralded as the most controversial track ever recorded. Why?

The track speaks for itself (Lyrics included):

…Unsurprisingly, the track has gained a recent surge in popularity and universal appeal in recent years for obvious reasons. Most folks are familiar with the song Express Yourself, which is actually on the SAME album as Fuck tha Police. The cover track is the first one as well.

Now let’s talk about the movie Straight Outta Compton. As I noted at the top, all of surviving members of N.W.A–Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren–played a part in the movie’s production. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre co-produced the movie. As he said in a recent interview on ESPN, he didn’t give preferential treatment to his son, who plays him in the film. Jason Mitchell plays Easy-E, who died of AIDS in 1995. In the days since the movie’s release this past weekend, Easy-E’s daughter made some comments on Twitter some interpreted as concern over how her father is portrayed in the film. She clarified her statements the same day and announced she’s working on a side project about her father. Mitchell has been tapped to reprise his role as Easy-E in it as well.

Another thing folks have been saying online is how MC Ren and DJ Yella were barely there and that Dre, Easy-E and Ice Cube dominated screen time for the most part. Shouldn’t be a surprise given Dre and ‘Cube co-produced the movie (LOL). Seriously though, the movie was done as a tribute to Easy-E. Ren and Yella know that so it’s all good.

That said, one of Dr. Dre’s ex-girlfriends said Monday his abusive relationships with his girlfriends was conveniently left out of the movie. Those who know about it knows he settled all that a while ago and publicly apologized. Her words were for the majority who may not be aware. Ice Cube got into fistfights with alot of people shortly after he left Ruthless Records but only one was shown in the movie. Like I said two paragraphs ago, Easy-E’s daughter raised concerns about her father’s portrayal in the movie. At the end of the day, Straight Outta Compton is about the rise and fall of the GROUP N.W.A. I’ll get to this later on but since the group broke up–and this is already well-known–Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have gone on to enjoy success since they left the group.

Moving on, the movie is interesting in which there were no cameo appearances by living persons who were around at the time. After Dre left N.W.A., he teamed up with the Suge Knight and formed Death Row Records. Tupac makes a brief appearance (not actually him, mind you) in the booth recording his smash hit Hail Mary. Snoop Dogg (not playing himself) also makes a brief appearance where he

There were a few scenes that were mentioned in the trailer that diffent make it to the theatrical release: in one, Easy-E pulls an AK-47 out of a black duffel bag. A scene with him holding it does make it into the movie. Another scene cut was Dr. Dre talking to his wife in jail after his arrest in Miami. I assume they and others were cut due to time constraints. Hopefully. they will all be included in the Blu-Ray/DVD Release, which I plan to buy when it comes out.

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Now, let me direct your attention to Suge Knight, above. Alot of folks agreed his portrayal in the movie was spot-on: Suge is alot of things he would later go out of his way to try to sweep under the rug. As Dre would find out in the movie when they worked together, Suge is a user, a snake, violent and greedy. What made him especially dangerous was he didn’t have a problem doing his own dirty work. Now that he’s dying in prison from a medical complication, he can’t hurt anyone anymore. As the saying goes, the longest rope has an end.

You can’t talk about the deaths of Easy-E, Tupac and Biggie Smalls and NOT talk about Suge Knight. Why? Because his name comes up as a person of interest in all three deaths. We know Biggie and Pac were shot but Suge was one of the last people to see both of them alive just before they died. We also know Suge later admitted in an interview after Biggie’s death he was the one who instigated the Biggie vs. Tupac beef that lead to both of their deaths. Their murders remain unsolved to this day and by the way, the two didn’t have a problem with each other. They were both victims of the Rap Game.

As for why Suge’s name is mentioned in regards to Easy-E’s death, it’s because it was well-known they didn’t like each other. In the movie there is a scene where Suge Knight and some of his boys jump Easy-E in the studio to force him to cut Dr. Dre from his contract with Ruthless Records, who was unofficially working for Death Row Records at the time.

We know Easy-E died from AIDS but the million-dollar question yet to be answered is how did an otherwise reasonably healthy man get it? Two things about AIDS have changed since 1993: AIDS is no longer a death sentence and sex with an infected person is no longer the most common way it’s spread. That said, there is a theory that’s been growing in popularity since Suge’s arrest that he had Easy-E injected with HIV-positive blood. After all, Easy-E didn’t know he was infected until it was too late. What makes it even more suspicious is Suge Knight’s disrespectful comments about Easy-E’s death after being told of his portrayal in the movie by his attorney. Just makes him look even more guilty if you ask me!

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Left to Right: Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Marshall Mathers aka Eminem aka Slim Shady and Andrew “Dr. Dre” Young.

Switching gears, Dr. Dre is easily the richest former member of N.W.A. and it’s mostly because of the two guys pictured with him above: 50 Cent and Eminem. Dre signed Eminem to Aftermath in the late 90s, turning the Hip Hop world upside down in Eminem’s debut track Forgot about Dre:

…The rest, as they say is history. Even his haters know to gave credit where credit’s due: He knows the game better than anyone else. He’s got the eyes and ears for it.

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Ice Cube, who made his acting debut in the 1991 movie Boyz in the Hood is the most prolific former member of the group. You probably know him from such movies as XXX 2: State of the Union, Are We There Yet?, The Barbershop and Friday. Ride Along 2 will be in theaters September 18 and according to his IMDB page, The Barbershop 3 is coming sometime next year. Ice Cube returned to the recording studio for the first time in over a decade a few years ago for a live show. He’s still got it and he’s come out of retirement as an artist.

Getting back to the movie Straight Outta Compton, they clearly took a page out of Selma’s playbook with the movie release’s timing: Selma, which was released in theaters earlier this year came out just before Eddie Gray’s death in Baltimore. I talked about it in a blog post on the subject. The same can easily be said about Straight Outta Compton with CNN’s coverage of African American men being pulled over by police, usually ending in their deaths.

The movie touches on this as noted in the trailers where members of the group are shook down by police early on. The reason? They just happened to be black men standing outside their home or workplace. This was–and still is–the reality of black young men and it’s the main reason I stayed the fuck off the streets during the 1990s. THAT is one of the main points the Black Lives Matter Movement is raising: We live in a country where one race is assumed guilty even if proven innocent simply because of their skin color.

Oh, that reminds me: For the Los Angeles and Compton premieres of the movie, there was a heavy police presence “as a precaution”. Not long after, this meme showed up on the internet:

Tongue in cheek but sadly relevant: The same week the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter (not saying his name) got what he deserved, there was another mass shooting in Texas in which two people were killed. A third shooting happened at yet another theater in Lafayette the week after but only the gunman was killed (suicide). All three were white. CNN sounded pretty disappointed nothing happened at Straight Outta Compton’s premeires in L.A. and Compton in an interview XD

…Not owning your mistakes doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.

In closing, I give this movie a 10/10 easily. They didn’t outright say it but I think N.W.A. knew they would have to wait before they could do their biopic in their own words on THEIR terms. Owning the music used certainly helped: In other recent biopics based on black artists, they couldn’t use any of their actual music due to how expensive paying for copyright permission would have been. This is why you wanna maintain ownership of your music: Once you sign a contract with a label, it’s no longer yours.

There are many takeaways in the movie, most of which were clearly directed at both those who lived at the time and young people today. The LA Riots after Rodney King’s trial was touched on in the movie. That was a clear nod to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Towards the beginning of the movie, a kid on the bus ‘Cube is riding on throws up a gang sign at two members of the Crips driving next to the bus. The Crips stop the bus with guns drawn and prettymuch tells the kid (and the others) the “Gangsta Life” isn’t something they want to get caught up in. Not unless they wanna end up dead or in prison. This was a pretty important scene given it was a lifestyle alot of kids idolized at the time.

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…Whew, ok I think I covered everything…oh, wait scratch that: As of this writing, Straight Outta Compton’s grossed $60.2 Million at the box office and there is even talk of an Oscar nomination. The same was said about Selma but the movie was subbed when Oscar time came around. This movie getting an Oscar would be both vindication for N.W.A. and the acceptence of rap by the mainstream, which not even Eminem’s 8-Mile got.

Only time will tell.

As a bonus for reading this much, here’s a scene from the movie:

 

 

Annie 2014: Another Snubbed Reboot   Leave a comment

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…And it really is a shame.

I bought the movie via The Playstation Network  on my Playstation 3 over the weekend (in Standard Definition so I could also put it on my Playstation Vita) along with Selma. After watching the movie, I immediately downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes.

As I’m sure folks can guess, the songs they brought from the originals were redone for the 2014 version BUT they are recognizable to those who’ve seen the 1982 version (By the way there was a 1992 remake that had been done to celebrate the movie’s 10th Anniversary but who remembers that one?). The songs that were brought back are:

  • Tomorrow (Obviously)
  • Hard-Knock Life*
  • Maybe
  • I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here
  • You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile
  • Little Girls
  • Easy Street
  • I Don’t Need Anything But You

*Some of you may remember Jay-Z did a remix of this song 20 years ago. They did NOT use that version for this movie.

The rest of the soundtrack from Opportunity to Who Am I? to The City’s Yours fits with the film. Like the 1982 version, the soundtrack shines. When you differentiate the eras each movie is set in–the original is set in 1930s Depression New York While the 2014 version is set in 2014 New York–it becomes much easier to enjoy the 2014 version on its own.

Of course, there are nods to the source material in the 2014 version:

  • At the very beginning of the movie, one of Annie’s classmates with red hair also happens to be named Annie. This Annie played Annie on a recent Broadway production of Annie (see picture below).
  • Annie’s (Played by Quvenzhané Wallis) report at the beginning of ther film is about President Franklyn D. Roosevelt, who makes an appearance in the 1982 version.
  • Grace proposes the tagline “Little Orphan Annie”, which is actually the name of the original comic book series the 1982 version is based on.
  • In the original movie (as well as the comic book series) the Billionaire who adopts Annie is named Warbucks. In the 2014 version it’s WIll Stacks (Played by Jamie Foxx), who made his fortune as head of a cellphone corporation.
  • Annie’s parents dropped her off at an Orphanage/Foster Home in both movies. Also in both cases, Annie’s parents left her with a locket broken in two, leaving her with one half. In the 1982 version it’s revealed Ms. Hennigan had the other half the whole time. In the 2014 version her fake parents conveniently have it. The question is “where did it come from?” It didn’t look like 2014 Hennigan (played by Cameron Diaz) knew it even existed.
  • In the 1982 version,  Annie’s (Played by Aileen Quinn) fake parents are played by Ms. Hennigan’s brother Rooster (played by Tim Curry) and his girlfriend. Guy hires two random people to play the part in the 1982 version.
  • In the 1982 version, Annie and Warbucks take a helicopter from New York to the White House. In the 2014 version, Annie and Stacks take a helicopter ride over Queens and The Bronx.
  • In the 1982 version, Annie’s fake parents take her after she is adopted by Warbucks. In the 2014 version she’s adopted after her fake parents take her.
  • Sandy is a Shepherd in the 1982 version. He’s an Akida in the 2014 version.
  • In the 1982 version, Annie lives in an orphanage with dozens of other girls. In the 2014 version she lives in a Foster home with 4 other girls and goes to school.

And of course in both movies, one mystery is left unsolved: What DID happen to Annie’s parents? In the 2014 version it felt far less plausible her parents couldn’t have been found given Stacks runs the most powerful cellphone company in the world. That and Annie’s last name is Bennett in the movie (she didn’t have one in the 1982 version). Add to that her birth certificate and Social Security Number (both referenced in the movie) that’s more than enough to at least get her parents’ names.

Ah, well. It’s just something I couldn’t ignore.

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Another thing the 2014 version did a great job at was highlighting the fact there are alot of kids in foster care who are not babies. Many are between 10 and 17. All of them are in need of loving families. A moment that stuck out to me was when Annie revealed she doesn’t know how to read. I’ve worked with adults who are functionally illiterate: Unless you put a book in front of them and told them to read a page, you’d never know they couldn’t read.

Of course, the 2014 movie is not without its share of criticism. Some folks felt the 2014 version changed too much from the source material. From making Annie a black girl with an afro (see the above picture for a comparison) to casting Cameron Diaz as Hennigan to the use of Auto Tone in some of the songs (very noticable in Tomorrow and Maybe) to not giving President Obama even a mention in the whole movie. Yes, some folks too issue with that last one because As I mentioned above, FDR appears in the 1982 version.

While I can see diehard fans of the 1982 version dismissing the reboot as “Annie for black young people”, it is so much more than that. No one questions Jamie Foxx’s range as an entertainer. He started as a comedian but then got into acting. Then he picked up music. Most notably, he played Ray Charles in the Bioflick Ray 10 years ago. So yeah he can sing, act and do comedy all at the same time and look good doing it, too.

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Now me, I have no problem with the movie as-is. Like I said earlier, it helps when you don’t keep comparing it to the 1982 version. Like the Robocop reboot, Annie 2014 was made for the current generation. Like the original versions of both films you can always go back and watch them if you want to so…yeah.

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