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Showing posts from August, 2016

Back to the Feature: Hamlet (1948)

I’m feeling in the mood for something Shakespeare. This’ll do. 
          Often considered the definitive cinematic Shakespearean adaptation, 1948’s Hamlet, directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier was a huge deal even when it came out. It’s the only Shakespeare movie that ever won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Olivier himself won a statue for his performance. Since then though there have been a bunch of other filmed versions of the classic tragedy, some good like Kenneth Branaghs’, some bad like Mel Gibsons’.
          This version is definitely closer to the great end of the spectrum. Though I don’t know if I like it as much as the Branagh film, it’s about as good as the RSC’s 2009 version with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. This is one of the seemingly few versions of Hamlet actually set in the period it was written for. But this film used that setting as an advantage, creating pretty believable medieval sets and the ever cloudy skies gave the atmospher…

Disney Sundays: Lilo & Stitch (2002)

You know, there’s something to be said for animated movies with small, simple coming-of-age stories that are still tremendously meaningful. Movies like Winnie the Pooh, Wolf Children, My Neighbour Totoro and a crap-ton of other Studio Ghibli films. They resonate with us for reasons we can’t quite understand -relatable characters or conflict? Atmosphere or tone? Music? Whatever it is, it’s great at sucking us in. These kind of films are very sweet and endearing despite their simplistic set-ups; and they’re the films I’m reminded of when I watch Disney’s Lilo & Stitch.
          Don’t get me wrong, this movie has plenty of big things going on, with the alien hunt and a bunch of Stitch’s mishaps to name a few. But the stakes aren’t world-impacting, and these characteristics really aren’t important. As is often reiterated in the film, it’s primary theme is family, and Lilo & Stitch relates this with such focus and heart that it makes the film both classically Disney (the …

Todd Phillips Gets Real in War Dogs

War Dogs was not the movie I expected from someone like Todd Phillips. It’s a much less overtly comedic film than was advertised, in fact it’s often quite serious. Which is a really interesting shift from the guy who directed The Hangover
          The somewhat-true story follows David Packouz (Miles Teller) a 20-something massage therapist in L.A. who when his wife reveals she’s pregnant, joins up with his old friend from middle school Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) to become international arms dealers for the U.S. forces in Iraq. At first acting within the law, as they grow their business and land more and more high-paying deals they begin to resort to highly criminal activities.
          The story plays out like a lot of these true story movies about people making their fortunes through corrupt or criminal means. Films like The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short, and of course as referenced a number of times in this film, Scarface. And so it comes with a lot of the trappings of t…

Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Glorious Horrors"

“Glorious Horrors”. There’s a name that can describe ideally this entire series. Also, it’s about time we had a bloodbath on this show!
          Now this is a really eventful episode, as storylines and characters begin to intersect, tensions are raised, relationships furthered, and we get a very classically terrifying night for Vanessa as well as Sembene. This episode poses new threats, and has a number of memorable well-executed moments that I think makes it the best of the season so far.
          It’s the morning after for most of our characters. Dorian and Angelique are particularly pleased and Dorian in fact decides to throw a coming out ball for her, inviting all his friends including the main cast (and I like how he notes Vanessa won’t address him by his first name after their last experience together). Vanessa asks Chandler to be her date but he’s unable to. Chandler has his own problems, like meeting the man he injured who’s still adamant to bring him back to Ameri…

Kubo Hits All the Right Notes

Laika animation is one of the last vestiges of really original creative filmmaking in North America. At least when it comes to animation. They’ve made incredible movies like Coraline and ParaNorman, and their latest film, Kubo and the Two Strings, a samurai-fantasy adventure may be their greatest spectacle so far!
          Kubo (Art Parkinson) lost his eye as an infant in a magical conflict, but his father, a great warrior was able to save him and his mother who were then forced into hiding. A decade later his mother is still traumatized by the event and is losing her memory. Kubo spends his days in a local village telling stories using his magical shamisen that brings origami to life. But when he stays out after sunset one night, evil spectres come to take his other eye. He escapes only through his mother’s intervention; and in order to protect himself against these enemies, embarks on a quest to find his father’s magical armour, guided by Monkey (Charlize Theron) his moth…

Disney Sundays: Atlantis:The Lost Empire (2001)

When I was a kid I couldn’t get enough of the classic adventure stories. Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, King Solomon’s Mines, etc. More than almost anything else, they really provoked my imagination and love of stories. So I was super excited when Atlantis: The Lost Empire promised to be Disney’s take on a Jules Verne calibre action-adventure story. Here was a Disney movie tailor-made for me. I saw it once, liked it, and that was it. It was a box office failure, being like its two Disney predecessors very different from what audiences were used to. Was it deserving of its lack of attention?
          Set in 1914, Milo Thatch is a young linguist cartographer working in a menial job at the Smithsonian with a particular obsession with the legendary lost city of Atlantis. But, his expedition proposals have been repeatedly shot down, until a millionaire explorer who was friends with Milo’s grandfather, reveals he’s found the jour…

Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Above the Vaulted Sky"

After last episode’s home invasion, “Above the Vaulted Sky” proves to be strangely a worthy follow-up, despite the lack of action and pacing matching its predecessor. This episode is much more concerned with character relationships. The way these relationships feed into each other though shows how integral they are to the overall story and where it’s heading. There are plenty of great moments that range from sweet to uncomfortable (admittedly more of the latter than the former).
          The team decide their next move after the attack is to better defend their home. Vanessa realizes the witches are making a “fetish” of her. Chandler uses a Native American genocide analogy concluding they must “defend their cliff.” Caliban actually meets Lily and tries to have a conversation with her, but she doesn’t seem at all interested in him and is in fact put off (a much more subtle reaction than in Bride of Frankenstein). Later, Frankenstein takes her to tea with Vanessa passing her o…

The Return of the R Rating

When Deadpool came out earlier this year, it set box office records as the highest grossing R-rated movie. Which is a big deal considering an R-rating divides audiences like no other. Some see it as a marker of gratuitous content: explicit violence, sex, or language that’s meant merely to exclude young audiences. Or at least young audiences unaccompanied by an adult. Because of this, R-rated movies generally don’t pull in big numbers. Occasionally there will be an exception like Passion of the Christ or The Hangover. Even Seth MacFarlane’s comedy Ted managed to do pretty well. But Deadpool was neither a bloody tragedy nor a raunchy comedy (in a way it was a bit of both). What it had going for it was the fact that it was a superhero movie coming out during a golden age of the genre where most of its competition had more liberal ratings. And despite that, it was a hit! And with the recent release of the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg comedy Sausage Party, it seems that movie is tryi…

Is Sausage Party an Ample Feast?

So if ever there was a movie to make you self-conscious about eating…
          When I saw the credits at the end of Sausage Party I was astonished at the calibre of talent behind this film. One of the directors, Conrad Vernon is an established name at DreamWorks, having been a director of Shrek 2 and Madagascar 3! Additionally, the score and musical number were composed by THE Alan Menken! Here both are involved in a project that’s lampooning their previous work. And being rated R, there’s no holds barred, so that kind of confidence bodes well.
          Set in a supermarket where anthropomorphic food and utilities dream of being taken to the “Great Beyond” by human shoppers, a hot dog called Frank (Seth Rogen) and his bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig) are separated from their packs. Hearing a rumour that the “Great Beyond” isn’t what they’ve been led to believe, Frank sets out to find out what really happens when food is taken home. His friends and numerous other foods …

Disney Sundays: The Emperor's New Groove (2000)

In the first few years following the Disney Renaissance, I admire how much the studio was trying to do something different. It’s as if they were gambling every time on the next Aladdin or The Lion King, but turned it up to ten. Dinosaur was their first foray into CG, next week’s was their attempt at  a classic action-adventure, and The Emperor’s New Groove was a buddy comedy. Disney does a buddy comedy! Unless it’s Roger Rabbit (which was also quite dramatic), that shouldn’t work! The Emperor’s New Groove kinda does in some places, but in others it doesn’t.
          Kuzco, the teenage Emperor of an Inca kingdom wants to build a new summer palace on the top of a hill that’s home to a peasant called Pacha. At the same time he’s fired his senior advisor Yzma who also happens to be a mad scientist, and as revenge she tries to poison him. However because of a mix-up, Kuzco is given an elixir that transforms him into a llama instead. While trying to dispose of him, Yzma’s henchman…

Penny Dreadful Reviews: "Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places"

So after last episode, “Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places” catches us up with the story again and while some storylines move at a slower pace, the episode on a whole certainly leaves us eager to see what happens next. It looks like Evelyn now has finalized control over Vanessa, so how will that play out?
          Vanessa tries to distract herself from the gloom hanging over her by helping Frankenstein buy clothes for his “visiting cousin”. That relationship continues to grow weirder as Lily is made to be more ladylike and Caliban remains absent for her development. Also Hecate tries to get closer to Chandler by romancing him but he knowing his father’s been looking for him, won’t fall for it. And in the end the manor is suddenly under siege as Evelyn’s minions come for the last thing they need to complete the voodoo puppet -a lock of Vanessa’s hair.
          There are a few brief scenes focussed on minor plot points such as the disfigured Pinkerton agent still being interroga…

Suicide Squad Lives Up to its Title

When director David Ayer was first announcing Suicide Squad he noted in comparison to Marvel that DC has the better villains. Which is true. The Batman Rogues Gallery alone consists of half the most memorable greats in the genre. A few of them even appear in this movie about a team of villains forced to work together to bring down a greater evil. Which sounds awesome. What could go wrong?
          Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) as a solution to alien or terrorist threats, assembles a team of dangerous super-criminals who if they don’t die on missions and succeed, will be given an alleviated sentence. This team includes hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), crazed former therapist Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Australian master-thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and the reptilian Killer Croc (Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje) among others. They are led on their first mission by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamen) who has a personal connection that may endanger it.
          It’s important to know th…