REVIEW – Beauty and the Beast (1991)

September 24, 2016 Leave a comment
beauty-and-the-beast-1991Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Produced by: Don Hahn
Screenplay by: Linda Woolverton
Story by: Roger Allers, Brenda Chapman, Chris Sanders, Burny Mattinson, Kevin Harkey, Brian Pimental, Bruce Woodside, Joe Ranft, Tom Ellery, Kelly Asbury, Robert Lence
Edited by: John Carnochan
Music by: Alan Menken, Howard Ashman
Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Michael Pierce, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti, Hal Smith, Jo Anne Worley, Mary Kay Bergman, Kath Soucie, Tony Jay, Frank Welker
Based on the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Year: 1991

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs may have been Disney’s (and the world’s, for that matter) first animated feature film, but, for many people (including myself), its recognition as still being their best has long since been overthrown by Beauty and the Beast, a film that was so well regarded that it also became the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and the first film, period, to have three songs simultaneously nominated for Best Original Song. When you know the production history, it’s also apparent how much of a miracle it was that the film turned out so well, too. Originally planned as a non-musical, the original concept was thrown out after the success of The Little Mermaid (the film that reignited Disney’s animated feature division and pretty much audience’s interest in animated films and musicals worldwide). This change saw both the original director depart the project and the hiring of first time directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise to take his place, and then the writing and recording of songs to fit the new format – songs written by Howard Ashman, who had also just found out that he was dying from complications caused by AIDS. Sadly, Ashman died eight months before the film’s release, but, at the very least, it was knowing the film he had worked so hard on was being well-received at early screenings, even in its incomplete state. The film would go on to become a massive success and would even become the first animated feature Disney would adapt into a Broadway production – one that was itself nominated for multiple Tonys (albeit, in spite of critical reviews at the time being somewhat apprehensive towards the unprecedented production) – and an upcoming live-action remake, which, if it’s closer to Cinderella than it is Maleficent, should be quite a decent film in its own right. Read more…

REVIEW – Star Trek: The Motion Picture

September 17, 2016 Leave a comment
Star Trek The Motion Picture.jpgDirected by: Robert Wise
Produced by: Gene Roddenberry
Screenplay by: Harold Livingston
Story by: Alan Dean Foster
Edited by: Todd C. Ramsay
Cinematography by: Richard H. Kline
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Persis Khambatta, Stephen Collins, Majel Barrett, Grace Lee Whitney
Based on the TV series created by Gene Roddenberry
Year: 1979

 

As some of you may know already, September 8, 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the first ever episode of Star Trek airing on NBC. The show ran for a total of three seasons before being cancelled in 1969. Apart from a brief animated series that ran from 1973 – 1974, fans of the show for the next decade would have to settle for reading rumors of a new series titled Star Trek: Phase II. However, by the late 70s, and in the wake of the financial and critical success of sci-fi films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars, Paramount Pictures began to rethink their plans and ultimately decided to ditch the riskier, long term commitment that was the Phase II series and, instead repurpose its assets for a film – one that would feature the return of the original series cast to their respective roles rather than set up a new crew. As a result, a whole ten years after the cancellation of the original series, and despite a troubled and rushed production schedule that required both on-set rewrites and a postproduction that lasted until mere days before the film’s debut, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was finally released to theatres… and, yeah… it didn’t do nearly as well as the studio had hoped it would. (Kinda sounds familiar, huh?) Read more…

REVIEW – April and the Extraordinary World [Avril et le Monde truqué]

September 10, 2016 Leave a comment
April and the Extraordinary WorldDirected by: Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci
Produced by: Michel Dutheil, Franck Elkinci, Marc Jousset
Screenplay by: Franck Ekinci, Benjamin Legrand
Edited by: Nazim Meslem
Music by: Valentin Hadjadj
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Philippe Katerine, Jean Rochefort, Olivier Gourmet, Marc-André Grondin, Bouli Lanners, Anne Coesens, Benoît Brière, Macha Grenon | English: Angela Galuppo, Tony Hale, Tony Robinow, Mark Camacho, Tod Fennell, Paul Giamatti, Susan Sarandon, J.K. Simmons
Inspired by the work of Jacques Tardi
Year: 2015 (France/Belgium), 2016 (U.S.)

 

Just when it seemed like steampunk had died, along comes April and the Extraordinary World to potentially reignite interest in the once unavoidable not-quite-underground subgenre. A French/Belgian/Canadian coproduction featuring a world guided and inspired by renowned French comic artist Jacques Tardi, Avril et le Monde truqué (as it is known in its native language) is a film that’s a throwback to a great number of things: the sci-fi of Jules Verne, the grand adventure of Tintin (as well as sporting a similar ligne claire art style), that period of time in the 2000s and early 2010s when steampunk was seemingly the new black, and also the bygone days when science was universally understood in terms of all the positive changes it could provide the world, rather than obsessing about how it could potentially destroy us all, regardless of benign or malicious intent. That last point, in particular – the responsibility of science as a force for good in this world and for humanity – is primary focus. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW – Don’t Breathe (2016)

September 2, 2016 Leave a comment
Don't BreatheDirected by: Fede Alvarez
Produced by: Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, Fede Alvarez
Written by: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Edited by: Eric L. Beason, Louise Ford, Gardner Gould
Cinematography by: Pedro Luque
Music by: Roque Baños
Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang
Year: 2016

 

Isn’t it nice to see horror movies that succeed both financially and critically? It wasn’t too long ago that the biggest horror movies given wide release were mostly sequels, remakes, and cash-ins on trends. I mean, we’re seeing that still, sure – that’s just part of how the movie industry works in general – but, specifically in regards to the horror genre, it’s not nearly to the degree from back when the Saw flicks were an annual tradition. Don’t Breathe, the latest surprise critical darling, is currently sitting at the top of the box office in its first week and is also maintaining an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – not just a good approval rating for a horror movie, but any movie in general. And while it doesn’t reach the same heights as films like The Babadook and It Follows in terms of vision, style, and execution, I was still incredibly pleased to find that not only were the positive reviews well deserved, my own expectations based on the trailers and word of mouth were exceeded. Read more…

REVIEW: Looney Tunes: Back in Action

August 27, 2016 Leave a comment
Looney Tunes: Back in ActionDirected by: Joe Dante
Produced by: Paula Weinstein, Bernie Goldman
Screenplay by: Larry Doyle
Story by: Larry Doyle, John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Edited by: Rick Finney, Marshall Harvey
Cinematography by: Dean Cundey
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith, John Debney (additional music)
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Joe Alaskey, Jeff Bennet, Steve Martin, Timothy Dalton, Bob Bergen, June Foray, Heather Locklear, Joan Cusack Eric Goldberg, Billy West, Bill Goldberg
Year: 2003

 

I few months ago, I trialed the PlayStation Vue service. It was pretty nifty, but it wasn’t really worth paying for, since it was still essentially cable and, thus, provided very little content that I actually wanted to watch outside of the services I already subscribed to. However, in checking out the goings on at Cartoon Network, I encountered a little show I had no idea existed: Wabbit, a modern day reimagining of the Looney Tunes brand more in line with modern kids’ comedic sensibilities. It was… fine. I didn’t care much for it, but I understood what it was trying to do. But it just… it wasn’t the same. Randomness and deadpan statements of the wacky events happening seemingly replaced wit and expert timing. A quick search on YouTube right now will turn up videos like one in which Bugs helps save a dimwitted Big Foot who calls him “lady” all the time, or Yosemite Sam running Bugs over in a car from texting and driving, and then Bugs getting the best of him because he wants the latest greatest new phone with all the ridiculous gadgets. Not itself an inherently bad premise, but the jokes really only seem to be the tired “What’s the deal with cellphones?” type jokes before Sam’s new phone just randomly vibrates him out a window. Eh. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW: Suicide Squad

August 11, 2016 Leave a comment
Suicide SquadDirected by: David Ayer
Produced by: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
Written by: David Ayer
Edited by: John Gilroy
Cinematography by: Roman Vasyanov
Music by: Steven Price
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Adam Beach, Jared Leto, Ben Affleck
Based on characters from DC Comics
Year: 2016

 

Well, DC, at least you’re making money off this one (so far…?).

Don’t get me wrong – Suicide Squad is nowhere near the overlong, overstuffed disaster that Batman v Superman was. That movie was crammed with events, aggressively downbeat, and was edited to the point of absolutely no breathing room in its theatrical cut. (I still haven’t seen the extended cut.) Suicide Squad, by comparison, is lean, surprisingly fun, and – most importantly – its story is coherent. Why, then, the disappointment? Read more…

REVIEW: Wizards

August 5, 2016 Leave a comment
WizardsDirected by: Ralph Bakshi
Produced by: Ralph Bakshi
Written by: Ralph Bakshi
Edited by: Donald W. Ernst
Music by: Andrew Belling
Starring: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers, James Connell, Susan Tyrrell, Mark Hamill
Year: 1977

 

I’ve only seen a few films of Ralph Bakshi – Cool World, Fritz the Cat, and now this movie – but there was a time when his works were always in the back of my mind whenever the subject of animation history came up. Ever since I was a kid, in fact, which is funny since almost none of his work is remotely child-friendly, except for perhaps his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. As a nerdy kid who studied almost anything that piqued my interest (but especially movies and video games), reading about Bakshi’s subversive, gritty, adult, and oftentimes controversial works always fascinated me. Revered as, if anything, noteworthy departures from the traditionally family fluff that, even today, is usually thought of as the default mode for animation in America, his stuff always stood out as almost mythical or even forbidden to my adolescent mind. I’d see references to it in stuff like The Simpsons and recognize the reference for what it was, but apart from maybe a few clips here and there, Bakshi’s animated films seemed to be spoken of in terms normally reserved for “banned” films like Song of the South and the infamous Censored Eleven – eleven Warner Bros. animated shorts that have been withheld from distribution due to their controversial, racially insensitive material. (I wasn’t far off in that regard, in retrospect, either.) Read more…

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