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Showing posts from November, 2015

Disney Sundays: Fantasia (1940)

People sometimes forget how intrinsically linked art and music are. They’re both forms of expression that can mean anything to the viewer. Literature and film can also be interpreted in multiple ways especially when done right, but there’s always more context, in story and character, not to mention they’re less universal across language and geographical barriers. A lot of great paintings, sculptures, and works of music have little context and thus can convey much sharper contrasts of interpretation from person to person, which in a way is art at its purest intent, something which you think couldn’t be conveyed in film; that is until Walt Disney who recognized the shared traits of music and art decided to coalesce them on film. Fantasia has the most appropriate title. Though it’s not a real word, it has that epic, grand connotation that promises the fantastical and stunning visual extravaganza it soon delivers on. Initially it was released as a theatrical tour playing for a …

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "Heaven Sent"

Being alone in a strange place can be an eerie and uncomfortable thing. In my days as a theatrical tour guide I’d often have to lock up at night, which did mean walking around dark old caves alone. During those routines it’s not unusual to feel there’s a Veil behind you every moment and it’s certainly not a predicament you want to be in for a very long time.                 Yet such is the predicament the Doctor finds himself in. “Heaven Sent” is very fascinating in that the Doctor is just about the only character, and therefore all of the dialogue is him monologuing. Which sounds stale, but it isn’t. There’s such an atmosphere to the episode and smartness in its character and construction (good on you Moffat! And you too director Rachel Talalay) not to mention a sense of unease and dread that never loses momentum or power. The eventual reveals are incredibly good too with the episode actually incorporating an idea I’ve been waiting to see in Doctor Who.                …

Back to the Feature: Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (1987)

When people think of John Hughes, they think of teenage angst, high school social issue films with some comedy thrown in. Specifically, people think of The Breakfast Club and why wouldn’t they? That film captures so authentically the outlook youth have of the world and how their environment influences them, as well as being a great study of characters and an overall tremendous coming-of-age story. But while many would cite this as the greatest in Hughes’ repertoire, I happen to think differently. One of his adult comedies works better not only in its great sense of humour, but its ability to have deeper more meaningful themes and characters, more universal than the ones depicted in The Breakfast Club.                 I’m sort of breaking my rule for Back to the Feature here in that unlike the other films I’ve reviewed for this series, I HAVE seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles before. Not only that, it’s one of my favourite comedies. But when else will I get to discuss it…

Disney Sundays: Pinocchio (1940)

Okay, there may have been dark imagery and situations in Snow White, but Pinocchio is just twisted. What’s scary is it’s not half as twisted as the book it’s based on.                 Oddly enough Pinocchio feels like more of a Grimm Fairy Tale than Snow White does, in that it’s trying to get across a good moral by telling a story that shows the harshest alternative consequences. It’s also a much less traditional story throwing twists and turns and building on each successive conflict with a greater one.                 The story is about a wooden puppet called Pinocchio brought to life by a mysterious Blue Fairy as reward for the good deeds of his craftsman an old childless man called Gepetto who’s been wishing his puppet was a real boy (just go with it, it wasn’t so creepy back then). She appoints an intelligent if meddling vagabond Jiminy Cricket to be Pinocchio’s conscience and promises Pinocchio that he will become a real boy if he proves himself brave, honest, and …

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "Face the Raven"

Well THAT happened!                 In some ways “Face the Raven” is incredibly bold. In other ways it’s pretty formulaic. But in other ways it’s creative. At the same time it meanders. But… Overall it’s good. Not a great episode but enough good stuff in there to make it work. It’s going to be a memorable episode for sure. But before going into spoilers…                 The Doctor and Clara answer a call from Rigsy (the kid who’s the only thing I remember about “Flatline”). A tattoo has appeared on the back of his neck that’s counting down with no idea where it came from. The Doctor after examining it, realizes it’s a life clock counting down to his death. Eventually they are able to pinpoint the location he got it: a hidden alleyway in London leading to a fairly well preserved Victorian community where alien refugees disguised as humans live (coincidental timing or is Doctor Who trying to say something?). They are under the protection of their Mayor who happens to be As…

Calvin and Hobbes: A 30th Anniversary Tribute

On October 18th 1985 a comic strip appeared in a few dozen newspapers across the United States for the first time, featuring a kid telling his dad he’s going to check his tiger trap which he rigged with tuna. His dad uninterested asks “tigers like tuna fish huh?” to which the boy responds, they’ll do anything for a tuna fish sandwich. The last panel cuts to a tiger hanging in a rope saying “we’re kinda stupid that way” while eating the sandwich.
                Thus began the run of the funniest, most heartwarming, artistic, imaginative, smartest, and all round best comic strips, Calvin and Hobbes! Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson is about a boy and his tiger. But it’s also about childhood, imagination, friendship, and the little moments that make life both wonderful and terrible, among other things. This was a strip that was more insightful and more intelligent than it had any right to be. That it also happened to be more consistently funny than just about any other …

Thank You Mr. Watterson

In the world of newspaper comic strips only Charles M. Schulz himself has had more of an influence than Bill Watterson, something asserted more than once in Dear Mr. Watterson the debut documentary of filmmaker Joel Allen Schroeder exploring the career, impact, and legacy of Watterson and his famed creation Calvin and Hobbes.                 Having been born in the early 90’s, I was too young to read Calvin and Hobbes in newspapers (1985-1995) but like many worldwide before and since, I was introduced to the strip through the book collections. Those eighteen collections are now the only sources for ten years of work due to Watterson’s famous refusal to license the strip something else the documentary dives into.                 The film follows Schroeder a massive Calvin and Hobbes fan from Wisconsin exploring the history and impact of Watterson and his strip. He visits Watterson’s hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio where the cartoonists’ inspiration is seen in the geography itself (partic…

Disney Sundays: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: the first animated movie ever, a trailblazer for generations of great cinema. Obviously there’s no problems with it whatsoever. Ehhhh… You know what, to be honest, Snow White generally holds up really well. It demonstrates a skillful timelessness that a lot of effort went in to create. And it’s so basic and pure a fairy tale that it’s pretty immediately endearing even if there are some things to it that don’t hold up today.                 For the few of you who don’t know the story, there’s a prologue at the beginning, but I’ll still reiterate. Snow White is princess of an apparently isolated kingdom. Her wicked stepmother who is Queen keeps her at work as a scullery maid fearful of the threat to her power. Once her Magic Mirror tells her Snow White has usurped her as fairest in the land the Queen plots to murder her. The Huntsman she hires is unable to do so and urges Snow White to flee. Eventually she winds up at a little old house, the home of seven …

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "Sleep No More"

Did you see the last Paranormal Activity movie in October? Isn’t found footage a great gimmick that will never die?                 I was pretty worried when I found out this episode of Doctor Who “Sleep No More” was going to be done as a found footage film. The fact that it was also a monster episode after a poor monster two-parter earlier this series didn’t do anything to alleviate my dread. I thought it would be corny jokes at the expense of the style while not using the style to convey terror, just be the framing device.                 What we actually got though? THIS is how you do a Doctor Who monster story! Not only was it a one-off episode, not only was it properly creepy in its mood and set-up, but it takes full advantage of the found footage gimmick and actually uses it to heighten the fear and as a very smart story device. It adds to the style and the scenes, gives us some variety with new point of view shots (I don’t know if we’ve seen the Doctor’s arrival i…