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REVIEW – Beauty and the Beast (2017)

March 21, 2017 1 comment
Directed by: Bill Condon
Produced by: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Screenplay by: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Edited by: Virginia Katz
Cinematography by: Tobias Schliessler
Music by: Alan Menken
Songs by: Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Tim Rice
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Nathan Mack
Based on the 1991 film Beauty and the Beast and the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Year: 2017

 

It’s hard to take a movie like Beauty and the Beast and review it on its own terms. It would be easy to compare this film to Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho, which infamously almost exactly remade the original film, save for a few stylistic choices, color cinematography, a new cast, and the fact that the film was absolute crap. I’ve heard some compare this film, however, to a new cast simply taking over what is essentially a theatrically released play, which is certainly a nice and valid sentiment. The problem with that, however, is this doesn’t excuse the fact that this 2017 edition is still ultimately inferior to the otherwise identical original. Read more…

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REVIEW – The Iron Giant

November 16, 2016 Leave a comment
The Iron Giant.jpgDirected by: Brad Bird
Produced by: Allison Abbate, Des McAnuff
Screenplay by: Tim McCanlies
Story by: Brad Bird
Edited by: Darren T. Holmes
Cinematography by: Steven Wilzbach
Music by: Michael Kamen
Starring: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney, Vin Diesel, James Gammon, M. Emmet Walsh, Cloris Leachman
Based on the novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
Year: 1999

 

Disney may have reigned at the box office in the 1990s, but by the end of the decade, the quality of their non-Pixar-produced films was undoubtedly beginning to slip, and so it’s no real wonder that other studios – particularly DreamWorks – were taking notice and trying to take a bite out of their share of the box office. Despite having the backing of a major studio behind it, however, Warner Bros. Animation struggled to find its footing with theatrical releases during this era. Space Jam, the studio’s first in-house feature film production, was a considerable success, but it relied upon familiar Looney Tunes characters and Michael Jordan (and an already existing and popular advertising campaign for shoes that already merged the two brands) to basically have the film market itself. Later films wouldn’t be able to use that crutch, however, and anemic advertising strategies for films like Quest for Camelot, Osmosis Jones, and even Looney Tunes: Back in Action – which no longer had the brand popularity and the basketball star to rely upon – did little to drum up ticket sales, and none of the films achieved the critical acclaim to even make them legit cult classics. There was, of course, one film released in between all this, however, that, despite the botched advertising (some of which, for some reason, used Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane”) and underperformance, did manage to eventually make a name for itself not just as a cult classic, but as truly one of the most underappreciated animated film classics. Read more…

REVIEW – Beauty and the Beast (1991)

September 24, 2016 3 comments
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 – 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…

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…

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…

THEATRICAL REVIEW: The Jungle Book 3D (2016)

April 19, 2016 1 comment
The Jungle Book (2016)Directed by: Jon Favreau
Produced by: Jon Favreau, Brigham Taylor
Screenplay by: Justin Marks
Edited by: Mark Livolsi
Cinematography by: Bill Pope
Music by: John Debney
Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling
Based on the 1967 animated Disney feature and the book by Rudyard Kipling
Year: 2016

 

Okay, how does this work again? It’s been a while since I last wrote a review! Forgive me if I am rusty. Hooray for job searching…

I wasn’t particularly interested in the latest adaptation of The Jungle Book. Let alone that this one was based on what I consider to be one of Disney’s lesser classic films, it was also because it was another in a line of live action films that Disney seems bent on doing to more and more of its older animated movies, which had so far managed to miss with 2 out of the 3 most recent unnecessary cash-ins – Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent were absolutely painful. However, with the positive reviews coming in and the fact that I actually genuinely loved their most recent film, Cinderella (also based on what I believe to be a lesser classic), I did decide to spend an early Friday respite from the last fleeting bits of work I have left over the next few weeks by checking out the 3D matinee. Read more…

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