Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2016

Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Resurrection"

The popular idea of Frankenstein’s monster is that of a tall lumbering, intimidating and threatening but also pitiful creature. With bolts sticking out of his neck. And that version of the monster cemented in pop culture by the great Boris Karloff is a good character, and his and director James Whale’s interpretation of Mary Shelley’s novel is certainly very fascinating, but it’s not quite true to the original source. That creature was well-spoken, intelligent, lamenting, often poetic, but capable of great violence, becoming the fearful monster the world saw him as; very much like Rory Kinnear’s Caliban, formally introduced in this episode of Penny Dreadful.
          “Resurrection” is mostly concerned with this story exploring a bit more of Frankenstein’s character and to a greater degree, the origin of his first creation Caliban. And I don’t mind too much the detour from the main season plot, especially considering we do get some of that by episode’s end when the team go …

Back to the Feature: BUtterfield 8 (1960)

There’s a very interesting reputation surrounding the 1960 movie BUtterfield 8. The timing of its release combined with the nature of the subject matter couldn’t have been worse for its star Elizabeth Taylor who hated the film. Which is ironic seeing as it won her her very first Academy Award. Because of this, I’ve been curious about this film for some time, and I’ve discovered that while Taylor’s sour opinion of it may be personal, there is sufficient reason behind it.
          First to acknowledge the unusual title, “BUtterfield 8” derives from the telephone exchange name for wealthy Upper East Side Manhattan residences. The capitalized letters are in reference to the old telephone dials, and many times in the film Taylor’s Gloria Wandrous asks the operator to redirect her to that line.
          The film opens with Gloria awakening in a rich Manhattan apartment after a one-night stand and is offended to find he’s left her a cheque for $250. Rather than take the cheque s…

Game of Thrones Review: "The Red Woman"

Joining a show in the sixth season of it’s run is generally not a good idea. Sometimes you can without trouble, particularly when it comes to comedy. Both M*A*S*H and Cheers reinvented themselves in their sixth seasons, allowing them to endure for a further five years. But dramas have long established story arcs, characters, and conflicts, and none more changing and alienating than Game of Thrones.
          I can’t imagine anyone starting Game of Thrones with “The Red Woman”. At this stage the show is unrecognisable from where it first started, not only because most of the main cast of that first season are gone, but the world’s been invariably changed by shifting political powers and war. As such for a few seasons now, the first episode has needed to establish how things are and where characters stand while dropping a few hints at where they’re going. Unlike say “The North Remembers”, season two’s opener, “The Red Woman” doesn’t start with a bang. But it does an okay job …

Disney Sundays: The Fox and the Hound (1981)

There were actually some interesting behind-the-scenes developments concerning The Fox and the Hound at Disney. It was meant to be a starting point for a new breed of young animators at the studio including the likes of John Lasseter, Ron Clements & John Musker, Henry Selick, Tim Burton, and Brad Bird. But it also faced severe production problems when Don Bluth and a bunch of other animators left the studio to form their own ...and to go on to make the best animated films of the 1980’s! Did that mass exodus and conflict of visions between old and new generations effect the final product?
          Well it might have resulted in The Fox and the Hound being one of the more depressing Disney films. It’s pretty melodramatic and there are almost no laughs to be had, making for a bit of a downer to watch. But it does get across some poignant ideas and important if harsh life lessons. Like The Rescuers before it, there are some dark elements to this film, especially in the sec…

Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Séance"

Well that was quite the embarrassing dinner party for Sir Malcolm.
          “Séance” is Penny Dreadful’s second episode and it may not have the action of the first, but does a great job of introducing new characters, developing old ones and when there’s time, advance the story. It has a couple really impressive scenes, including a particularly shocking and graphic twist at the end, which I think not only make up for the distinct lack of vampires or scares, but also makes it a more compelling episode than the first.
          After another woman is (seemingly) inconsequently murdered in the opening, Chandler is introduced to a disease ridden prostitute Brona Croft who later meets and has sex with none other than Dorian Gray. Gray as it happens is also attending a party of Ferdinand Lyle’s where he along with Vanessa and Sir Malcolm take part in a séance. Meanwhile Frankenstein teaches his new creation named Proteus (I’m sure there’s a meaning behind that name but I haven’t…

The Barest of Necessities

Any classic Disney fan would be a little apprehensive about this year’s live-action version of The Jungle Book. None of the other Disney remakes have been good and these properties were very important parts of our childhood. But Rudyard Kipling’s book has so much to it that’s never been seen on film before, so there’s ample opportunity to make a great movie out of it -oh right, they’re just doing the Disney movie again.
          The story is about a boy or “man-cub” called Mowgli who is raised by wolves in the Indian Jungle. When the man-hating tiger Shere Khan shows up, it’s decided Mowgli must be returned to the humans by his guardian Bagheera the panther. But along the way he encounters many other jungle creatures intent on keeping him there for their own gain, with the exception of a laid-back sloth bear called Baloo who teaches him the bare necessities of living in the jungle.
          The biggest problem with this movie is that it takes itself very seriously. Which …

Disney Sundays: The Rescuers (1977)

I think everyone’s got one Disney movie which most people view as just mediocre or okay, but for some reason they personally really love. A Disney movie they think is underrated or under-appreciated despite having some noticeable flaws and not the traditional Disney magic. A number of people no doubt have a movie like this, and for me, it’s probably The Rescuers.
          By no means is it one of Disney’s greatest films, but I think a lot of people sadly forget about The Rescuers, an inventive and adventurous Disney movie from 1977. It was a pretty important film for Disney too, being their highest grossing  movie to that date and the studio’s only major success between the death of Disney and the Disney Renaissance (thus why it earned a sequel thirteen years later). And you can see why, even if it’s not one of your favourites, purely out of how much an improvement it is over what came in the decade before.
          The story based on a series of childrens' novels by…

Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Night Work"

“Night Work” is the first episode of Penny Dreadful and it definitely gets off to a good start. It doesn’t introduce all of its characters or establish its world impeccably, but it sets up the premise as well as what looks like the arc of this season and its tone terrifically. It seems to know its audience and drops the literary connections very strategically. That in addition to some good action sequences, suspense, and great performances make it stand out. As far as pilots go, it doesn’t quite grip me the way something like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire did, but certainly leaves me curious as to what’s to come.
          Despite the various periods its characters originate from, the series seems centred in the late Victorian period (judging by a Jack the Ripper reference, about the 1890s) which is better suited for the gritty, dark, and dirty English atmosphere. After a classy opening of a woman being abducted while taking a shit, we’re introduced to the mysterious …

Penny Dreadful Reviews!

Victorian and Gothic literature has produced some of the most fascinating and well-known characters in all of fiction. Some are classics of monster media like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster, but there are other greats like Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde) and of course Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. They’re all very compelling in their own stories, imagine if they were to meet and interact.
          When I was a kid I read novels especially from this era as opposed to something more typical like comic books. And so, something like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was MY Avengers. I never got around to reading it then, but the idea of a bunch of my favourite literary characters coming together as a kind of superhero team was incredibly alluring. Even though their movie was shit, I’m very excited for the upcoming reboot. But it’s come to my attention there’…

Disney Sundays: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

When I was seven years old, my family moved from the East Coast of Canada to Winnipeg. On my first trip to the zoo there I was excited to discover that the city was the home of the bear who inspired Winnie the Pooh. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Winnipeg or “Winnie” was a young black bear smuggled into England by Canadian soldiers during the First World War and quickly became a celebrity of the London zoo, inspiring author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin. Discovering the history this early childhood icon of mine had with my new city was something I became proud of. 
          Of course I wasn’t the only kid who loved Winnie the Pooh. Ever since Disney made those shorts based on Milne’s stories starting in the late 1960s, he and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood have become Disney staples. For me and many other children, it was among the very first Disney properties we became familiar with. But why? What is it that’s given Winnie the Pooh such staying power…

A Little Apprehension for Rogue One

Did you know there’s another Star Wars movie coming out this year? If not, you do now. But if you’re getting excited to see Luke finish what he was about to say before J.J. Abrams’ end credit rudely cut him off, you still have to wait for that. This film has supposedly nothing to do with The Force Awakens.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (the subtitle is really dorky but some would say that makes it ideal for a Star Wars movie) is what happens when you extract a premise from one line in the original film’s opening crawl. Namely the part about “Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR”. This new movie is going to follow the exploits of the Star Wars universe’s equivalent of SEAL Team Six as they navigate war zones to find the plans for the Death Star which will subsequently lead to the destruction of the Imperial super-station in the 1977 film. The recently released trailer shows the recruitment of Felicity Jones into the Rebel Al…

Disney Sundays: Robin Hood (1973)

I was first introduced to the legend of Robin Hood as a kid when my dad showed me The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn. It’s the first old movie (apart from The Wizard of Oz -also from 1939) that I remember seeing and enjoying despite it being clearly an old movie, and it forever influenced my idea of the medieval hero. And though it’s romanticized (as the story itself is) and in some places corny, no cinematic version of the famed character has yet been quite as good.
          This was also the film that Disney had to contend with when they made their own interpretation of Robin Hood in 1973. And perhaps knowing this, they made a version starring animals that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Which is both a good and bad thing. There’s a possibility to have different interpretations of characters and the story, but also a possibility both will be bland in the over-the-top cartoon-y tone. 
          The story just as you remember, is about Robin Hood, the ou…