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Showing posts from March, 2017

Back to the Feature: Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)

I’m still in a musical mood after the hubbub surrounding La La Land last month, and also since I still miss Mary Tyler Moore, I decided to finally get around to watching Thoroughly Modern Millie, one of the lesser remembered Julie Andrews films …and for good reason. It’s not horrible and there are more than a couple funny scenes, but it’s a very awkward movie, even for a ‘60s musical, and is layered with very mixed messages.
          Millie Dillmount (Julie Andrews) is a young woman in the early 1920s spurned on by womens’ suffrage to find a job for a rich businessman and subsequently marry him for his money, a notion considered unthinkable in the previous decades. On her mission to woo one Trevor Graydon (John Gavin), she befriends an aspiring actress Miss Dorothy Brown (Mary Tyler Moore) and a flailing but charismatic salesman called Jimmy Smith (James Fox), the latter of whom she finds herself falling for in spite of his economic place.
          This film was directed by …

Power Rangers Manages to Surprise

I missed the boat on Mighty Morphing Power Rangers by a few years as a kid. Subsequent series were on during my childhood and I certainly knew other kids who liked them, but it never caught my interest. Maybe because it looked silly and cheap, having the effects budget of a classic era Doctor Who episode. So I had no investment before this movie and little knowledge of anything about the Power Rangers series.
          Luckily, Power Rangers directed by Dean Israelite, accommodates that. Set in the town of Angel Grove it follows five troubled teenagers: Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberley (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Trini (Becky G), and Zach (Ludi Lin) who find in an abandoned mine, five alien coins. After discovering they seem to now have superpowers, they excavate further until they reach an alien ship where the consciousness of an ancient warrior called Zordon (Bryan Cranston) informs them they are destined to become the Power Rangers and save their town from the mach…

Nostalgic Filmmaking

Some may have noticed the recent Beauty and the Beast remake was marketed less towards a demographic of children, than one of young adults. Even its earliest teasers didn’t say anything about the plot, they relied mostly on the viewer being familiar with the product. From the opening musical cue to the rose imagery and the invitational caption “Be Our Guest” it was clearly from the get-go aiming for an audience of adults who remembered the Disney classic from their childhoods. A lot of subsequent advertising was based around the novelty of seeing clips and songs you’ve seen before now re-enacted in live-action.
          As we eventually saw, that was pretty indicative of the film itself. But though Beauty and the Beast may be the worst recent offender, it’s not alone. In the month of March we’ve been treated to nostalgia for X-Men (Logan), King Kong (Kong: Skull Island), and Power Rangers. This ties into the fact there’s less originality in films, certainly in mainstream rel…

Watership Down: A Deep Forgotten Classic

When talking about adult animation, people will either point to one of two types of movies: the sometimes gratuitous shock value and social satire of filmmakers like Ralph Bakshi, or Trey Parker & Matt Stone; or the adult subject matter and emotional intensity found a lot in animes like Grave of the Fireflies and Akira. Martin Rosen’s Watership Down, adapted from the famous book by Richard Adams, doesn’t really fall into either of these categories.
          On the surface Watership Down seems to be a fairly innocent kids fantasy about rabbits trying to find a new home. However watching the film, it’s abundantly clear there are greater themes being related and a bitter realism to the world around the characters -one that’s quite different from the world they exist in.
          Richard Adams’ rabbits have a rich mythology and religion, where essentially they were punished by the god Frith for the arrogance of their prince long ago by being given numerous predators. Their o…

Ever Just the Same, Never a Surprise

Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast isn’t merely a classic of animation, but one of the all-time greats of cinema. It’s superbly-told story, rich and timeless characters, perfect music and songs, and breathtakingly beautiful animation which makes it one of the best looking movies, are among the reasons it holds the distinction of being the first animated film nominated for Best Picture. It’s arguably the reason there’s a Best Animated Film category now. And so it takes some bravery and a degree of hubris to remake it. 
          Going into this movie I wasn’t very confident, as this undertaking is almost a no-win scenario: change too much and it stands to diminish a beloved story, play it too safe and it’s just a pointless retread that takes no risks. But somewhere between those cases there must exist an ideal compromise that both honours the spirit and style of the original while also being unique on its own merits. This movie doesn’t find it.
          If you’ve seen the anim…

Viet Kong

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts clearly took a look at previous iterations of King Kong and figured they were alright, but could use a heavy dose of Oliver Stone. Kong: Skull Island is the latest reboot of the famous monster movie franchise, and for good or bad it’s unlike any other King Kong movie.
          In 1973, an eccentric government agent (John Goodman) organizes a geological expedition to the uncharted Skull Island. With a military squad led by a jaded Vietnam vet (Samuel L. Jackson), a British tracker (Tom Hiddleston), and a photojournalist (Brie Larson), they make their way to the island where they run afoul of the islands’ monsters and specifically, its behemoth ape King. 
          This movie isn’t an adaptation of the classic Kong story or a remake the way Peter Jackson’s 2005 film was. It’s entirely focussed on Skull Island and the attempts of the humans to survive, never going to New York or the Empire State Building. The direction of the story has to change as w…

A Worthy Horror Film and Social Satire

The plot to Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, sounds like a Key & Peele sketch. It would fit perfectly in their wheelhouse to turn a black man meeting his white girlfriends’ family into a funny horror Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner spoof. But the thing is, Get Out is actually a genuine horror movie, and a pretty good one at that.
          Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is preparing to go to the country with his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to meet her parents after four months dating. Her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) seem subtly passive aggressive and overcompensating in their niceness towards Chris. He’s also disturbed by how the few black people in the area are incredibly reserved and abnormal in their behaviour. This and a series of suspicious occurrences soon convince Chris that he is in severe danger.
          For a debut film, this is a great first effort for Jordan Peele who though his roots may be in comedy, he defi…

Why Princess Mononoke is the Best Environmental Film

Environmental messages have been appearing in movies for decades, but rarely do they succeed. This is because a lot of these movies take on simplistic stances and convey an albeit good-intentioned message with such a blatant lack of nuance that it becomes incredibly irritating. Thus films like FernGully, On Deadly Ground, Pocahontas, The Lorax (2012), and Avatar are pretty grating to sit through (though in fairness each of those films have a number of other problems). With so many failures, is there a film that imparts a good and intelligent conservationist message?
          As you might have guessed by the title, yes. Twenty years ago it came in the form of Hayao Miyazaki’s mystical epic, Princess Mononoke. This is a film that’s already visually marvellous, expertly told, and brimming with relatable memorable characters. The story is about a warrior in ancient Japan who while seeking a cure for a terminal injury becomes involved in the war between an industrial town, the sp…

A Magnificent Send-Off for Logan

Hugh Jackman has been Wolverine for seventeen years. He’s been a superhero long before the modern superhero phenomenon and in nearly two decades has been a staple of the X-Men franchise, appearing in all eight movies preceding this one. Logan, directed by James Mangold is his final appearance as the character. Thus it’s important he go out on a high note.
          Essentially the movie Logan is Children of Men with superheroes. Luckily, Children of Men is one of my favourite movies, and Logan I liked a lot as well.
          The year is 2029 and mutants are on the verge of extinction due to deterioration of the mutant gene. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is working as a limousine driver in New Mexico, while also caring for a frail unstable Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), housed in an abandoned plant across the border. When he crosses paths with a young Latina girl called Laura (Dafne Keen) who has similar powers to his, he and Charles attempt to transport her to North Dakota and the …