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Showing posts from December, 2015

Disney Sundays: The Three Caballeros (1944)

After Saludos Amigos went over surprisingly well, a follow-up was made. The Three Caballeros keeps some focus on Latin America but also delves into Hispanic and Mexican culture. Though unlike its’ predecessor, this film focuses on the characters, the music and comedy more than the cultural appreciation. This results in the film being funnier and more entertaining in some places, where in others …it shows us cactuses turning into awkwardly dancing women? Unlike Saludos Amigos, this film actually has a framing device. It’s Donald Duck’s birthday and he’s opening presents from his friends in Latin America. First is a film reel through which we watch a couple shorts similar to the segments of the last film. One’s a pretty cute story about a penguin called Pablo who wants to leave the Antarctic for the warm tropics of the Galapagos. He tries many times before successfully shipping off and sailing around the southern coasts of South America. It’s pretty nicely animated, has some lovely looki…

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "The Husbands of River Song"

Anyone who gets into a conversation with me about Doctor Who will at some point discover that I hate River Song. I’m not going to rant about it here, but suffice it to say I think Steven Moffatt took a promising one-time character and turned her into one of the most insufferable, one-note scene-hoggers I’ve ever seen on television. I know I’m in a minority and I’ve got nothing against Alex Kingston, but the idea that someone like her is this close to the Doctor depresses me and every episode with her I know isn’t going to be enjoyable. “The Name of the Doctor” seemed to put an end to her character arc, tying up loose ends and giving her fans some fitting closure. But as Moffatt proved in “Hell Bent” he doesn’t mind beating a dead horse.                 And thus we sadly see the return of River in “The Husbands of River Song” (god I hate how her name has to take up the title!). The Doctor arrives on some human planet in the future called Mendorax Dellora where he is call…

Disney Sundays: Saludos Amigos (1942)

It’s necessary to give some context before diving into these next six films. Disney gave a lot of money to the war effort once America entered and so the budget for features was severely reduced. They had to make concessions after all for many animators fighting overseas, and so they could produce those wonderful propaganda films where Donald Duck fights Hitler and so forth. So during this period and in the immediate post-war years (due to the length it takes to produce an animated film), Disney’s releases consisted of ‘package films’ –collections of shorts or segments with a smaller budget and generally less story. The first couple of these had specific geo-political aims, a few of them incorporated a lot of musical segments in a manner similar to Fantasia, and some even included live-action content.                 With that said, Saludos Amigos is the first of them and a pretty clear propaganda film to promote tourism to South America and keep South American nations …

The Force is Strong With this One

I’m going to start off a little controversially by saying Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t need to exist. Return of the Jedi ended the story of Star Wars on a very satisfying note that not even the prequels could diminish. Until 2012 it didn’t look like we’d be getting any more Star Wars and that was fine. That original trilogy had already proven its timelessness and its status as one of the great motion picture sagas. Bearing that in mind, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is very welcome. J.J. Abrams you may know as the director of the recent Star Trek films, but Star Wars is much more his comfort zone. And he really is able to capture the tone and emotional resonance of Star Wars while also letting it feel fresh and new. It’s a great balance of old and new, and I think it really succeeds. This is clearly a Star Wars film and a J.J. Abrams film. However it is not without its missteps. Though a far cry from the unfortunate prequels, it isn’t quite on par with the original trilogy. Thirt…

Back to the Feature: Scrooge (1970)

Oliver! by Lionel Bart is a pretty fun show. It’s not necessarily good, but has some entertaining songs and relates adequately but certainly not exceptionally a Dickens classic. It was a big risk to make a musical of such a revered work of literature but it paid off in 1968. The very next year, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It makes sense that some studios would want to try to adapt other popular works of literature and hey, even other Dickens novels into musicals. This must have been the thinking behind 1970’s Scrooge, a musical based on A Christmas Carol which is a lovely little disaster.                 First off, the idea to do a musical based on A Christmas Carol isn’t a good idea to begin with. The only attempt that actually works is A Muppet Christmas Carol and that’s because not only are the songs pretty well written and well placed but they service the surprisingly close to the book story and the general tone of the Muppets themselves and their variety show format…

A Whale of a Tale

Ron Howard’s films are generally hit or miss. For every Apollo 13 there’s a How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But what I’ve always admired about his projects is how he always tries to do something new, he ever gets stuck in a particular type of film or style. Keeping to that, In the Heart of the Sea is unlike any other film he’s made.                 The film tells the true story of the loss of the whaling vessel Essex in 1820. Told in flashback by Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) to Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) researching for his novel Moby-Dick, we’re introduced to Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) an experienced whaler who’s risen to the officer class despite a poor background based on his skill alone. He’s first mate to Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker) a sterner, more removed man with a family name. Nickerson himself (Tom Holland) is the ship’s fourteen year old cabin boy. Months after setting out from Nantucket, they encounter a massive whale who destroys the ship and f…

Disney Sundays: Bambi (1942)

The term “Disney Magic” carries with it a definition of unique charm, innocence, and raw emotion. It’s something entirely its own, not mere movie magic, and Disney’s ability to create this sensation is remarkable. And nowhere do I get a truer sense of Disney Magic than in Bambi. It’s not a fairy tale film, it’s not particularly funny or its songs instantly memorable, and is in fact sadly forgotten by many, but Bambi to me feels the closest to Disney perfection.                 The story centres on Bambi, a fawn born in some great serene and peaceful forest who grows up experiencing many of the significant milestones in childhood as the seasons change. However he is kept at a distance from his father the Great Prince of the Forest respected for his wisdom and bravery. Throughout he makes friends, experiences puppy love, and learns about the world and his role in it from his watchful and caring mother. Eventually we see him grown up and forced into the responsibility of his…

The Five Best (and Worst) Movie Scrooges

During the Christmas season it’s routine to revisit holiday classics. For me there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. I love A Christmas Carol! It’s not only my favourite book, but my favourite work of fiction of any kind. I know it back and forth and every year re-read it at least a couple times to adapt to the holiday spirit. As something of a Christmas Carol purist therefore you may think I’d be opposed to any of the many adaptations done of it over the years, adaptations that by their very design have to change things. And though I think there never will be an adaptation of the story that will even come close to surpassing the book, there are a number of film versions I do like. There’d have to be, being so many of them. The key to their success often depends on their portrayal of the protagonist. Ebenezer Scrooge is a remarkable character and has been interpreted in a wide number of ways over the years, and so this year keeping in the season, I’ve decided to co…

Disney Sundays: Dumbo (1941)

If you were to ask: what’s a classic example of an animated movie that’s not that good but not bad, merely cute and harmless, Dumbo is probably that movie. It’s neither as visually brilliant nor ambitious as Disney’s previous three films, but its earnest enough and uplifting enough to overcome most of its flaws.                 Dumbo a circus elephant actually called Jumbo Jr., is delivered to his mother (it’s the father missing from this Disney story) by the stork and while initially seen by the other elephants as cute, when he reveals his enormous ears he becomes an outcast. Nicknamed “Dumbo” and continually mocked by the other elephants and circus performers alike, he finds a friend in Timothy Q. Mouse who decides to help Dumbo realize his potential and reunite with his mother, who’s been locked away for a violent reaction to people jeering at her son.                 Story-wise Dumbo is very simple. In fact a lot of the movie can be characterized as simple, including …

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "Hell Bent"

Last week I mentioned how I would have been completely satisfied if the stellar “Heaven Sent” had been the series finale. Nonetheless this week we end the series with “Hell Bent” and I have to say I still would have preferred the former.                 One of the things I never really liked about Clara was how much she was built up as one of the most important figures in the universe of the show which compared to how she acted and what we saw of her never felt right. Hell, at times it was insulting! Who does this person think she is? Why is she supposed to be better than the greatest companions of the past fifty years? It was a characteristic that really made me revile Clara for a while. Last series however, we began to see her as an ordinary human with more of a consistent personality, and life outside of and non-dependant on the Doctor. It wasn’t great, but it was an improvement and I found myself tolerating her much more fairly. Which is why certain parts of this ep…