When news broke of this cinematic venture, it was hard not to be curious – a whole film secretly shot in Disneyland? A sci-fi horror film? This had my creepypasta meeter just spinning. After much controversy, this little number finally made it’s way onto Netflix. So how’d it fare? Hush now, synopsis first.
On the last day of the White family’s Disney vacation, Jim (Roy Abramsohn) is told that he’s been fired. Despite this news, he does his best to keep a happy face for his family. Little did he know that this day would get much, much weirder: what began as a wholesome family trip became a torrent of sex, lies and possessed animatronics. The White family’s facade comes tumbling down in a venture that is not only the end of innocence, but the dissolution of sanity.
This was a movie was really just a hot mess of ideas: sci-fi, infidelity, loss of innocence – it all sounds good on paper, especially with a background as wholesome as Disney World. Personally, I love this kind of stuff. And there’s a definite appeal of something that’s gone through this amount of red tape and altercation.
I think that what first put me off was how incredibly unlikeable the protagonist was. Granted there are two sides to every relationship (and the portrayal of the wife really wasn’t helping), but the way he was ogling the jailbait (and every other woman) to the point of neglecting his children really wasn’t making me care if this man lives or dies by whatever horrible means.
The ending was also, er, problematic. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it, but it left something to be desired. Or maybe the last bit just went over my head.
As mentioned, I love the idea of Disney world as a horror backdrop, especially because they didn’t take the zombie route. Not to mention the concept of false memories crossed with temptation – it’s perfect! The sci-fi tangent was without a doubt my favorite. Really, I kind of wish the movie was more like it’s inspiration.
Though I was left with a lingering unease (good thing), that does not help the incoherent cluster that we’re left with. Maybe if they only stuck with the science fiction and developed that more, the story would flow a little easier. Or if they did a Pleasure Island route, that would be pretty cool too. But that’s just, like my opinion, or whatever.
Maybe I’m just whining too much. Escape from Tomorrow definitely sticks with you, and there’s a certain charm to the guerrilla aesthetic. In the end, it comes off as a moderately-budgeted student film, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If anything, I say it’s worth checking out.
Despite being one of my favorite childhood movies, there was a lot I didn’t know about Mary Poppins. For instance, it took over 20 years to convince author P.L. Travers to sell the rights – I had no idea! Fortunately, I read a bit about Travers and Poppins before seeing this saccharine er, “treat.” For my sake, let’s pretend that this wasn’t based on the true story of author P.L. Travers, because from what I’ve read about the real lady, a lot of stuff in the movie didn’t happen. Though admittedly, there are some applaudable attempts at homages – Travers not walking out of the premiere but still crying about the animation, for example. Other bits, such as the nanny and Ralph (Paul Giamatti) – though sweeter than a sugar-coated cotton candy teddy bear – appear to be entirely fictional. This aside, let’s get to the real nitty gritty of Saving Mr. Banks.
When we meet Travers (Emma Thompson), she is pondering about how cherry blossoms look like clams on sticks – a shining light that there’s still some whimsy in this crone. This light is immediately snuffed by scowls and furrowed brows as soon as we learn she is off to Los Angeles to discuss the film rights for the adaptation of Mary Poppins with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) himself, who she is certain will turn her beloved nanny into an animated clown.
In fact, the only evidence we have of her ever experiencing happiness is by means of flashbacks – days of old in Queensland, spending time with her father (Colin Farrell). As these memories reemerge, they grow increasingly darker, and thus we learn why she desires complete control over this project – yearning for redemption for her father as well as herself in the process of immortalizing his memory. So it would seem, anyway.
Despite having such a talented ensemble, everyone seems like they’re trying too hard, maybe with the exception of Colin Farrell. As well as Schwartzman and Novak – I’d watch a movie on the Sherman Bros. Hanks and Giamatti milk that eye-twinkle for all its worth, while Thompson acts like a child who refuses to smile at a joke. Perhaps if she wasn’t so rigid from the get-go, we could get a better grasp at the fact that she’s a human being, not a horrible snow queen with a heart of gold. (Didn’t they just make that movie?)
Sorry to get back to the biographical falsehood, but shame on them for being too busy making Travers a curmudgeon instead of acknowledging that from her childhood spurred a life of many other stories as well as relationships, including an adoption – wait a second, Disney hasn’t featured an LGBT character yet, have they? Of course, I’m sure if they had incorporated that aspect of Travers’ life, there’d be controversy over the fact that not only was this character terribly one-dimensional, but they also had to make the bisexual as cold and bitter toward’s a famously benign man’s advancements as possible. Alas, this is Disney making a Disney movie about Disney and the importance of remembering the good parts of childhood and the power of nostalgia.
Wouldn’t you know it, somehow this film still manages to tug at your heartstrings, just a little bit. That’s probably because it hits you with every sentimental sucker-punch imaginable: loved Mary Poppins or even some of the songs? BAM Childhood far from perfect? POW Have you grown old and nostalgic? BIFF Are there things left unsaid to your family? KABLAM Mix that with a Sherman-fueled Thomas Newman score and some lovely camerawork and you have yourself a rather uninspired sapfest.
Final Grade: C+
Ah yes! I finally got some time to go out and see something new! At first glimpse of Oz I’ll admit I was fascinated, but then when I witnessed Zach Braff’s voice coming out of an animated monkey, I sighed as heavy sigh of lost dreams – but really how did this fantasy epic fare? Not that great. Sorry, but I can’t properly dissect this one without a few spoilers.
We open up with Ye Olde Time Kansas, circa 1905 – even though I really don’t think we needed that date there, but whatever. Also, a simple black and white filter does not due the concept justice – why not film with slightly lower quality equipment? Why can’t you help us believe this is older without telling us? Anyway, I’m nit-picking.
We meet Oscar, or “Oz,” your womanizing charlatan of a circus performer, on the run from a pissed-off muscle-man. In his magic indestructible hot air balloon he is whisked off into the wonderful world of Oz, where his arrival had been foretold by the former king. There he meets three magical witch sisters, Theadora (Rachel Weisz, who’s obviously the bad one), Evanora (Mila Kunis, neutral until scorned by Oz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams – gee, now what’s her alignment again?)
Naturally Oz’s adventures follow what has now become the traditional Oz norm – healing a girl he couldn’t help in Kansas, realizing the importance of friends, all that good stuff. So with this magic and whimsy we’re forgetting one important thing: Oz is a terrible human being. Which is funny, because given the ending of the original we forget that Toto was totally supposed to get put down, either that or it’s assumed that Elmira Gulch died in the twister – so we forget all the bad things if we’re given one really good thing.
Sure sure, in the end he does right by defending the good people of Oz against the wickeds, but he also lied to them, using his circus tricks. And according to Glinda, that’s totally okay, as long as they have hope and something to believe in. What kind of message are they trying to teach us here? It’s okay to lie to people as long as your intentions are good? There was so much room for character development, but I really can’t help to believe that Oz was still in it for the glory, not the good – and I guess that does come full circle with the original film, being that Dorothy calls him out on being a jerk, but there’s so much room for improvement. (Also, where were the ruby slippers? If you’re going to have tie-ins and references but not the slippers, why bother?)
Oz wasn’t that bad, though – aesthetically this film was fairly impressive, though I think a mix of some actual critters would have been appreciated, but perhaps that’s just me. I know it’s supposed to be a dream world of magic, but if it only looked organic, then it would have been spot on. Which reminds me, let’s talk about the makeup.
I guess it’s an unspoken rule that in a green-screen world there is little room for makeup application, which is to say there wasn’t much in this movie – not that it really needed it, but I think they should of focused more where it counted. Specifically, I’m talking about our wicked witch, Theadora.
You see those eyebrows? They never move. In fact, the only thing that moves on her face freely is her mouth. I know they were trying to make her look as malicious as possible, but those painted eyebrows just look like a bad face-lift. She doesn’t look scary, she looks goofy. Again, so much potential here and completely anticlimactic.
Oz the Great and Powerful should have been much better than it was. There were some neat ideas here and there and a bit of originality, but in the end, this trick falls flat. Ignore the man behind the curtain folks, he’s really not that interesting.
Final Grade: C+
After the death of his dog Sparky, an inventive young boy named Victor Frankenstein is inspired by his science teacher to bring him back to life with the power of electricity. His experiment is a success, but Sparky’s presence is unsettling the quiet life of New Holland’s suburbs and opens a can of worms in a competition amongst Victor’s classmates. Frankenweenie was originally a live-action short Burton made in 1984. I was excited to hear that he was in-charge of a stop-motion remake, though nervous about exactly how he was going to flesh it out and what Disney was going to do once they got their mitts on the production. As a result, well, sorry folks but there are going to be some spoilers.
I loved how this movie referenced classic horror films – sure the references weren’t at all subtle but I just love how they were engrained into this weird little world Burton created. For instance, that scene where the parents are watching Christopher Lee’s Dracula in their quiet little suburban home, that moment feels like pure nostalgia to me – I can’t really explain it. And of course the animation looks fantastic and everything – on the surface this film is just pure fun and plain adorable.
Here comes the big fat however: I really just wish that they didn’t go with every convention for these types of weird kid movies. Only this time all the kids were weird in their own ways, so I guess that leaves a little food for thought. Regardless, we still get all the stuff about embracing differences and listening to our children and blah blah blah. At first I thought ParaNorman topped this idea off for good, but when Mr. Frankenstein (long time no see, Martin Short) just says, “Sometimes adults don’t know what they’re talking about,” I think that just totally hit the nail on the head. I mean I appreciate these messages, but they just get so draining after awhile.
I also still have mixed feelings about the character of Toshiaki – the character’s a complete stereotype but also voiced by a Japanese person, and I guess he was never made fun of other than his really thick accent. At the same time he was also villainous and provided the Godzilla element. I’m not sure if this is referential humor or kind of insensitive. It’s not like this would be the first time Disney’s done something like this.
On the other hand, I thought it was interesting how this film handled the explanation for the other kids’ experiments. By focusing on the intent of the creation as opposed to the logic behind the results is something really refreshing. After all, if something isn’t done with noble intent the results are well, monstrous. There really was no sense to the happenings with the lightning, but I think that relates back to the sort of mysticism of this movie’s universe. There’s a thunderstorm every night and there’s no explanation why. Was it the miners or the graveyard? We’ll just never know.
Frankenweenie is pure Burton fun just in time for Halloween. It may lack depth but it still carries a genuine warmth, which is greatly appreciated.
Final Grade: A-
Brave is probably the most refreshing Disney film I’ve seen in a while, and it’s definitely another to add to the grand list of Pixar gems. I appreciated that Pixar seemed to go all-out for breaking traditions with this one, after all it’s the first Pixar film with a female protagonist and also their first period-film. At first I was a little leery, being afraid that there would be a cruel turn and making Brave an obnoxious girl-power film, especially with the rise about the corset-lacing scene.
Fortunately, there was nothing to really worry about. Merida’s journey of self-discovery and defiance beautifully captures the emotional turmoil of growing up and the eventual acceptance (or compromise) that comes with it. At the same time, there is also a story of family and empathy that isn’t entirely shoved down our throats.
If I had to nit-pick, I think my only real complaint was that even though the story mainly focused on the relationship between Merida and her mother, I really wish that there could have been more on the dynamics between her brothers and father. Granted Fergus is a typical sort of dad, not to mention the chemistry between him and Elinor is absolutely adorable (yay Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson!), but I would have loved to see some more character traits in the triplets, who were simply adorable little plot devices.
Other than that, I really can’t complain. The remaining characters were great (I especially enjoyed the different clans), the animation was gorgeous, and it’s a fairly solid story. Also, stick around after the credits to see a plot hole disappear.
Final Grade: A
On Stranger Tides was indeed a promising sequel – especially after those involved admitted they themselves were confused by the chaos of the previous two films, this seemed to stand a chance. Though my first seven words may seem a little daunting and you may wish to turn away, hold your horses there buddy, I‘ve got a bit to talk about. Because I think the Pirates films are to the point of listing pros and cons, I will do so in this case (and personally, I’m feeling rather lazy at the moment). So let’s get down to brass tacks (warning, below there be spoilers):
The members of the original cast which they decided to keep, I loved. Okay, Capt. Jack doesn’t change much, but I was a fan of the return and increased badassery of Capt. Barbossa, and felt that he had almost become some sort of man-hunting Ahab (now that I think of it, since both Moby Dick and Blackbeard are depicted as nothing but pure evil, I’m not too far off). On another note, I’ll admit that I was one who was absolutely thrilled that Kiera and Orlando wasn’t going to show up in this one (finally Bruckheimer delivered me from their garishness). Oh hey Keith, nice seeing you again.
Without that Knightley girl in the way it was about time they gave Jack Angelica, a decent counterpart. At first I was a little hazy about Penelope Cruz, but I kinda came to like her: she had personality and motive, though a tad one-note sometimes she was still a refreshing face.
Blackbeard/Queen Anne’s Revenge
Holy crap Blackbeard. This guy. I think my favorite aspect of the character is that he is more of a legend than a man, if that makes any sense: when we first meet him, his crew is hushed, and he walks through a cloud of smoke, presumably from his smoldering beard; revealed is an ever-the-rough-hewed Ian McShane (awesome choice there), speaking few words but carrying a great presence. Though he does go to do a few cool things, I think there needed to be more ruthlessness – at the same time we kind of caught him during a transitional period, so…well…sucks to be us I guess.
I’m not sure if this is a cop-out or not, but I think the better part of Blackbeard was his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. He controls this thing, like it’s nothing…well, thanks to magic or something- that was never explained, really. But whatever, two words: FIRE CANNON. And his head crew’s made up of zombies. Not bad.
Hate me if you must, but I’m a fan of this more mythological approach with the story – they’ve already had curses and skellingtons and stuff, why not the Fountain of Youth and mermaids to boot? I’d still like to know why the boat was all supernatural, but whatever, the mermaids were cool. (They fricken took down a ship!)
Alright, I give props for including the Spaniards and their pursuit of the Fountain as well – neat little tidbit. But! Most of the stuff involving them was just kinda tossed in the mix almost irresponsibly: the movie starts and nearly ends with them, and nonchalantly reminds us that they’re still around without really posing an actual threat. I’ll get to King George in a sec.
I was so confused by the amount of spirituality thrust into this movie. First there’s the good missionary, Philip Swift (newcomer Sam Clafin), who preaches for the goodness of all and salvation of lost souls – and then there’s Angelica, constantly worried for the salvation of Blackbeard. Why is this important? There are vague connections to Angelica’s life in the convent…and Blackbeard is also seeking an escape from death – so okay, that’s understandable but overall unnecessary for the story. What’s with Philip then? He doesn’t contribute much to the Angelica/Blackbeard relationship other than protest every once in a while – more on him in a bit. But then the movie flips it around when the Spaniards want to destroy the Fountain in the name of God. Wat? Is Disney actually making a statement exposing the duality of Christianity/Catholicism? I don’t get it – who are we rooting for? What is best for man – eternal life or a righteous death? Why am I pondering this during a Pirates movie?
By “Secondary Characters” I am specifically referring to Philip and his scaly love interest, Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). Personally, I feel that we do not get enough time for any real romantic connection with this one. We go from him caring for her well-being, solely because she is “one of God’s creatures,” and I guess because they’re both pretty they must have an instant relationship. This slopped together romance wasn’t only unbelievable, but also entirely unnecessary. I really don’t think the story would be any different without them – the writers would just have to come up with a more creative way to get a mermaid’s tears (even though I did think what they used was fairly clever, I’d still like to see what else they could do). And then after all we get, we’re probably never going to see them again – but I guess I shouldn’t speak to soon.
Camp and Gimmicks
Probably since the unveiling of Capt. Jack onward marks the turn for the campy (mind you this is probably less than five minutes in…and sadly expected for one of these movies), namely when he meets King George (Richard Griffiths). This scene was way too overdone, which of course lead to a wonderful fluff-filled escape, but seriously, that thumbs-up was waaaaay too much. If it wasn’t for that, there may have been the right amount of fluff. Then later there’s just all sorts of pointless bickering and re-hashed jokes of sorts – again, I guess that’s kind of expected now. And of course there are gimmicky lines here and there, but I will credit this one for a decent selection of child-friendly innuendo. What an oxymoron.
Plot-holes and Poor Writing
Aye carumba, what were they thinking? Things I do not understand:
1. How did Syrena know where the chalices went and why did she bother giving them to Jack at that very moment?
2. Why did Jack maroon Angelica and why did she stay? She could’ve easily gotten into his boat?
3. Wait, how did Blackbeard get all mystical and shrink the ships again? (That was kinda neat though.)
4. Why did the hype put so much emphasis on the zombies? There was a serious lack of undead.
5. How was Philip granted life with Syrena? Why was it not explained? What is this sorcery!? Oh yeah, it’s because the plot said so.
6. Lastly, with the voodoo doll at the end, I call serious bullshit.
Despite the above, I do not feel as if all is lost. I mean, this was a decent movie, and pretty entertaining. On Stranger Tides is a vast improvement from the last couple…but still left room for more.
Final Grade: C-
There hasn’t been such a heated bestiality debate since Bella and Jacob.
Truth be told, I’m not sure how many people of my generation saw the original Tron (1982), and quite frankly, I can’t blame them. Tron is/was very strange, and didn’t make much sense. Introducing the idea that programs can be personified is extraordinarily absurd for such a tech-savvy generation. But Disney had the brass cahonies to make a sequel, and I think that’s only because they knew they could, despite all logic.
Here we are given Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), techie wiz-kid and son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). After having been missing for 20 years, Flynn’s company ENCOM is now taken over in part by Flynn’s old partner Alan (same actor Bruce Boxleitner, who is also Tron in this and the original – I had no idea) and his rival’s son, Edward Dillinger (holy crap, Cillian Murphy – how’s it going?); in the meantime, Sam pays visit to the corporation every year to pull elaborate pranks…just because of angst I guess. Long story short, Sam discovers The Grid – our old friends Tron and Clu (a de-aged Jeff Bridges) are terribly corrupted and wish to take over the real world, “isomorphic algorithms” (ISOs) are the link between human genetics and technology (…I think…) and Kevin is now some sort of existentialist exiled genius. Neat.
So right away, I’m going to forget about the ISO thing merely because of Tron logic. But *spoiler alert from here on in* how was Clu’s emergence into the real world going to work? The portal was how Sam and Kevin, real people, “users” got in, so what would happen if a program did that? I know there was a thing that he could only go through with Kevin’s data-disc, but I don’t think that copies genetic material or anything, so would he still be a program? And because The Grid is a world containing programs, can’t the “corrupted files” (I mean, the thing makes a whole corrupted army) go out and terrorize servers everywhere with viruses and such? Or is The Grid really so contained that creating a portal is the only way to branch out? Maybe that’s it…jeeze Inception didn’t make me think this much. Okay, if you’re going to create this Tron world, please do a better job at explaining this stuff.
But I’m not just here to bitch and moan- there were actually a lot of things about this movie that I really enjoyed, for instance, I like how these programs have a kind of personality based around their programmers (I’d love to meet the guy who came up with Castor/Zuse), but still stick to what they’re made for – which explains why Clu has this Romantic system, complete with Coliseum: while building this “perfect” society, he still wants to be entertained with his games, much like Kevin. The action’s great, as are the visuals (I’m so glad they didn’t use the weird lighting from the first one), and the score is absolutely amazing – thank you, Daft Punk! (Though there were some times where it reminded me a little too much of Inception…hm.)
There’s still just another thing that bothers me: what’s up with Sam? He’s so terribly one-dimensional, there’s really not much to him. Is he pranking his company to get back at his dad for leaving, or does he want them to kiss his ass? If he’s that smart, why doesn’t he suck it up and take over? Was this explained, or was I too distracted? I know he feels some sort of resentment and whines about his dad…but nothing else is really that memorable – it’s like we’re given a start to a solid plot, but then shiny things are flashed at us forever and then nothing’s resolved – he just speeds into the morning with Quorra and manages not to get bugs in their eyes or teeth – it’s incredible! I guess that “change the world” stuff is coming in the alleged sequel.
In the end, Tron: Legacy is full of gorgeous style and incredibly entertaining, but unfortunately lacks, in my opinion, crucial substance.
Final Grade: B-
Alice Kingsley is a 19-year-old girl who is more or less of a dreamer. Bored with the contemporary views of Victorian London, she has always thought of at least six impossible things before breakfast. Now at one of the most crucial moments in her life, she once again finds herself following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and into the tyrannical clutches of the Red Queen, who has viciously taken over since Alice’s departure 13 years prior.
Visually, this film is spectacular. Burton knew how to use the 3D and used it well. And Colleen Atwood will always exceed expectations as far as costumes go. There, that is out of the way – now to a more pressing matter, the characters.
What I liked most about the characters is that they are better-rounded: they now have names and motivations for their actions, which will be played out further – and amazingly enough, the characterizations are still extraordinarily true to the book (more of the poem Jabberwocky), if not exaggerations. But now we know about why the Red Queen is the Queen of Hearts, and why the Hatter’s so mad – they have depth now! However, I felt that some characters, such as the Tweedles (Little Britain’s Matt Lucas) and the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse), should’ve been on camera far more often.
And speaking of the Hatter, or Tarrant Hightopp, he seems to be on everyone’s mind. Depp portrays the Hatter as seemingly a bipolar cross between Vincent Price and Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons, channeled through a mood ring, wrapped in the visage of Elijah Wood on crack. Personally, I think this role was overplayed – not so much in the acting sense (I mean, come on, he’s literally mad, what did you expect?), but I don’t really know why he became such a major character, even more so than the remarkably charming Cheshire Cat, Chessure (ooooh Stephen Fry, you complete me). Could this be another marketing ploy from Disney? – Using Johnny as their profit puppet? You sicken me. Also, the relationship between Hatter and Alice is almost baffling – it’s cute, like brother and sister, but grows more awkward if anything – screenwriter Linda Woolverton (Mulan, The Lion King), what were you thinking?
And while I am writing to you, Woolverton, why is Alice so bland? (I do not blame Mia Wasikowska for this portrayal whatsoever – she appears to be a very competent actress.) I mean, I know she’s still figuring out who she is, but why present her with such apathy? Oh, and that Fuderwhack, that was so random…but the only reason I’m not completely turned off is because it’s Wonderland (well, “Underland”), and anything can happen…but that was still so ridiculous…alas my mind is torn.
However, I am fond of the notion that Absolum, the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman…yum) did become an important character, because lately he’s just been perceived as that caterpillar who is stoned out of his mind – but in this, he is more of a guiding light than that Cat ever was. And on a more separate note, I am particularly glad to see a new bunch of actors in Burton’s troupe (Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, Lucas, Fry, Michael Sheen), and I really hope to see them in some of his future endeavors.
So on the whole, though this film is definitely aimed at the tween set (…fuderwhacking…dear Lord…), Burton gives us a story that will still please fans of the book, while offering more depth to these characters. And as colorful as it is, the film is still exceptionally dark (the tiny Alice hopping across the moat on the severed heads was a particularly nice touch) – but then again, so was the original story. If only Woolverton hadn’t botched things up…fracking Disney…..
Final Grade: B
“Ten points from Gryffindor!”
Yeh know, I really had some hope here. I thought, with the addition of their traditional animators and an untouched tale, Disney could bring back their old-school vibe that was lost after a franchise of crappy live-action films, most of which featured their own attractions or talking animals. Don’t get me wrong, some of these films are pretty decent, but they simply don’t match the caliber of the original films that created their family-friendly legacy. Oh the excitement of nostalgia!
Fail Disney, epic fail. The movie was cheesy and 100% predictable. The only tolerable bit was the villain, a voodoo priest named Dr. Facilier (Keith David), and he was one badass MF. Other than that, it’s some unmemorable tunes, talking animals, and butt jokes. And then they play out the climax like this was a serious Disney film, like it was The Lion King or something. *Spoiler alert* I mean really, do they really expect me to mourn the death of a Cajun firefly who makes butt jokes?
But at least I can give Disney some credit for giving us a well-animated story about a heroine who actually works hard for what she wants in life…not unlike Mulan. Wow, that even had the thing about her dad in that…so much for originality. They also payed a little homage to The Lion King, with the fireflies in the sky and all that. Jeezus.
Final Grade: C-
I believe Tiana has the right idea about this one.