Everyone knows I am the Queen of Christmas. In fact, even though it is barely the first week of November I have already watched 2 dozen new Christmas movies. You can find my thoughts on all of these films over at The Hallmarkies Podcast where we cover all things Christmas!
The only problem with this podcast is I don’t have much time to watch the classic Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. There just isn’t enough time in the day to watch everything I want to.
However, one program I always make time for is the Peanuts Holiday Specials– particularly A Charlie Brown Christmas. Not only is this short animated, which gives it an edge in my book, but it’s quite possibly the perfect treatise on the value of Christmas. Poor Charlie Brown worries about the commercialization of Christmas and what changes his mind? Well, finding a little tree that only he believes in and Linus reciting Luke 2 from the Bible. It doesn’t get much better than that if you ask me.
Recently it was announced the specials would not be airing on ABC for the first time since their creation in 1965. Instead you have to see them on the streaming service Apple+. While they are offering them for free for anyone who wants to view them, I can’t help but feeling this is a loss for all of us Christmas movie fans.
Hearing Linus recite Luke 2 is one of the last remaining vestiges of faith left on network television. It was an event every year that brought us together to celebrate Christ and His birth. Now everyone will be watching in their own time and space, which is great, but particularly in 2020 I am lonesome for shared experiences of faith. If we can’t go to church surely they could have left us Linus and Luke 2?
Hopefully we can still gather with our family and friends and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas together this holiday season. It may not be a world-wide broadcast but at least it will be a gathering sharing the importance of the season. I’m up for it and I hope you will be too!
What do you think? Is the loss of the Peanuts Specials to Apple+ a loss or just a sign of the times? Let me know in the comments section
Hey guys! As many of you know who follow my channel or other social media, I’ve had quite the last week! It’s ironic because at the beginning of March I wrote a piece on my other blog chronicling my life experience becoming a film critic. It had always been a dream of mine and it seemed as if I had achieved that dream through lots of hard work and dedication. However, little did I know the final baptism into the church of criticism hadn’t occurred yet. And when it did occur, boy did I need to say my prayers and hold on for dear life…(It’s also ironic I had just days before written a post about how much Wonder Woman meant to me)
Last Saturday I went with my brother to the early release of the new DC Superhero movie Shazam. They have been a hit (Wonder Woman) or miss (Suicide Squad) studio for me but I was pretty excited for Shazam. The trailers had been charming and I love Zachary Levi (Flynn Rider! Plus he spoke at SLC FanX last year and was delightful). The movie has charming elements and many people seem to be enjoying it, critics included, which is fantastic.
Unfortunately I did not enjoy it despite it having some fun moments. I felt the movie didn’t do a good job controlling its tone making the experience kind of jarring. One minute it would be very silly and the next very violent. Neither is a problem but a film to be a success has to move from one scene effortlessly or it is problematic. Since seeing it I’ve wondered if this style just isn’t my taste as I hated Once Upon a Deadpool, which tries similar shifts in tone.
Regardless, tone is important, and I didn’t feel like Shazam did a good job with it, so I gave it a rotten score on rottentomatoes.com. Unfortunately, my review was one of only 3 rotten scores, and the only female critic, bringing its score down from a 95 to a 93. Some fans saw this and listened to my review and responded in a constructive negative fashion and others let’s just say did not…
(forgive some language I don’t normally use on my blog in this next section)
At first this seemed like a fairly routine unpopular opinion post but because of the rottentomatoes element things escalated. I learned quickly the good advice in Ralph Breaks the Internet of NEVER READ THE COMMENTS! I was still working on small channel mode with lots of comment interaction, and I’ve learned with rottentomatoes I need to upgrade to big channel mode even if my numbers dont necessarily justify that.
Later Saturday night things began to escalate when certain youtube channels began telling their listeners to pounce on me. Same thing with certain twitter feeds. I have been writing content for over 10 years and thought I had very thick skin before this experience, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for being 1 out of 3 rotten reviews on a franchise film like this. That night I got my first death threat which was a recording (found out later it was an old recording forwarded to me). It said they were going to ‘find out where I lived and beat the f*** out of me’. I reported all accounts involved to twitter and had my friends do the same (as well as calling the police).
Then my brother came over and tried to help me calm down. He took my phone away from me for a few hours, we watched a Hallmark movie and I finally was able to get some sleep after going 48 hours without any. I thought things were fine, and I’d faced the worst of it (the movie hasn’t even come out yet so I’m expecting a new onslaught when it does). Unfortunately that was just the warm-up.
The next day I saw Disney’s new adaptation of Dumbo. I walked into the theater almost hoping I’d hate it because that might prove to all these guys that I am objective. Sadly (or happily!) I enjoyed it and despite some problems thought it was sweet). But when I came back into my car I saw a group called F*** Marveltards had shared my post asking their readers to attack me so that I would never be able to review another DC movie on rottentomatoes (these groups are such scum):
Not surprisingly about 15 minutes later I received this message to my Rachel’s Reviews messenger:
Obviously I was very upset by this message. Even though I figured it was mostly bark with no bite it was still scary. I called the police again and reported it to facebook (who were very unhelpful btw). My friend critic Alonso Duralde told me the female critics often receive the most toxic of all the toxic fandoms as they are viewed as invading their masculine space (need I remind you of the comment on women participating in nerd behaviors I got over the Ghostbusters remake…)
Some told me to just block and ignore this behavior as it is ‘part of the cost of being a woman on social media’ but that didn’t feel right to me. Plus, I didn’t want to be seen as some kind of weak, whimpering woman. So I posted the remark on twitter and said “if anyone is excusing this behavior STOP” This brought a wave of support from all over the twittersphere and beyond I am truly grateful for. Every single tweet/message/comment of encouragement I have received was read and meant a great deal.
I am also grateful for the folks on youtube (got a death threat there as well but we think it might be from the same guy) who became my warriors in the comments section, doing my dirty work for me at a very difficult time. It also meant a lot to me that rottentomatoes was completely supportive during the entire experience. The people tried to cherry pick tweets out of context from years ago claiming I was racist, homophobic or sexist. They were trying to make rottentomatoes change their mind and be rid of me as a critic. Far from it, they could not have been more supportive (I’m also thankful to all of my gay friends who didn’t pay any attention to that smear campaign).
The men who run the screenings here in Utah have also been wonderful. They have agreed to make sure I have a +1 at all screenings or they will provide an escort to my car if that isn’t possible. One has even been on the phone with Warner Bros explaining the situation that me and other critics go through. I am hopeful I can use this experience to speak out against cyberbullying and help champion my fellow critics to be strong in these type of horrible experiences.
Facebook I can’t give such a strong endorsement. To begin with their reporting system was flawed because the name listed on the message was not the name listed on the account. I couldn’t see the actual account so when I went to report it the form didn’t work because I didn’t know the name. Once I found the name they tried to claim there was no direct threat of personal harm. I’m thinking, he threatened to gun me down at my next screening. How is that not a direct threat?’ Then once I had chewed their ear out about that they said that messenger is only for chatting with close friends and family. This really ticked me off because it was to my Rachel’s Reviews messenger not my personal messenger!
Anyway, facebook was pretty worthless but they did give him a talking too and that inspired this ‘apology’ from this person. Of course, I didn’t respond to any of his messages but he seems to forget that forgiveness does not prevent consequences from occurring. I just wish facebook would do something against groups that inspired him to act so foolishly.
Some might be quick to brush off such behavior as ‘signs of the times’ or whatever but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I shared with the world what I was experiencing. It not only gave me an opportunity to be built up by so many wonderful humans but it also hopefully will lead to a discussion about the way we treat people who feel differently than we do. Is our first response to lash out and hide behind the anonymity of computer screens to say horrible things? Or do we try to listen to what others are saying to see their point of view? Even if we disagree strongly, death threats and violence are never the answer!
Coming out of this experience I feel stronger than ever and ready to keep pursuing my dream. I am sure this won’t be the first death threat I will get but if it isn’t I’m prepared. I’m safe and have implemented steps to keep me safe in the future. I’ve learned what kind of engagement is helpful for this level of my career, and I’ve seen that the vast majority of souls support and love me.
To moving forward and speaking out against cyberbullying and its attempt to stop us from sharing our viewpoint with the world!
I talk about the experience here in my Dumbo review:
With the release of Captain Marvel the inevitable comparisons to Wonder Woman are being made (even by myself). Some people like Captain Marvel better. Some people like Wonder Woman better. Some people don’t like either movie. That’s all fine and dandy but even with people who prefer Wonder Woman, I feel they never quite capture why the movie is so special to me. Patty Jenkins crafted a film I have a deep spiritual connection with and every time I watch it I ugly cry. It’s not just a superhero film but a movie that explains God’s love for all of us mortals, and I love it for that.
In the beginning of Wonder Woman we get an introduction to the Gods of the DC Universe and the origin story for the Amazonian women of Themyscira. In this world Ares becomes jealous of humans because of their love for the other Gods and the choices they get to make. In his rage he fights all the other Gods and defeats all but Zeus. As his last act Zeus creates a weapon that can defeat Ares called the Godkiller. This weapon is Diana or Wonder Woman.
Much like Mary protected Jesus as a child, Hippolyta tries to protect Diana from her role. Antiope, Diana’s aunt, takes the opposite view and feels her fight with Ares is inevitable and she must be ready. Eventually Hippolyta relents and Diana’s training begins. When Steve Trevor arrives we see that Hippolyta’s worries for her daughter do not stop with her fighting Ares (like Antiope feels). Hippolyta knows evil does not end with Ares and that her daughter’s pure heart is going to be broken by man. She even says so as she tearfully says goodbye to her daughter. Innocence will be gone to the horrors of war and that is a tragedy.
In my religion we believe there was a war in heaven that is similar to this dynamic. Satan wanted to control mankind and Jesus wanted to give them choices and be a Savior for them. God chose the side of agency and a third of His children rebelled and sided with Satan or Lucifer. In many ways, Ares can be compared to Satan and he has a similar power to tempt and try the people on earth. However, just as we see in Wonder Woman, the humans still are accountable for their choices. Satan/Ares may tempt but it is in the end our choice to be unkind and hurt our fellow humans.
Throughout the first 2 acts of Wonder Woman we see the purity of Diana. Her joy at seeing a baby. Her love for those she comes in contact with and her righteous anger at generals who speak casually of human life. This is the behavior of a God of hope and love. Even her dramatic scene where she fights at No-Man’s Land is an innocent act that everyone is telling her is crazy. She thinks in black and white and where there is pain, and she can do something, she goes and fights for what is right.
This works so well partly because of Gal Gadot’s luminous and warm performance in the role. She is a former soldier so she can pull off the kick-butt action, but I grew attached to her in the quiet moments where she dances with Steve or sings with Charlie. She captures for me all that is good and kind, which is a huge contrast to the horrors of World War 1- quite possibly the most gruesome war ever fought.
So then we get to the much maligned 3rd act. I get the CGI could be better but to me that is like listening to a stunning sermon and complaining that the pews aren’t attractive. I feel like it is missing the whole point. Diana finally finds Ares, and she 100% believes killing him will end the war. However, Ares tells her that he is not responsible for such evils. He has given temptations and subtly given inspiration but it is humans who fall prey to hate and bigotry all on their own.
As the Godkiller she still fights Ares while Steve sacrifices himself to destroy the weapons. At the same time Diana is learning that mankind is both weak and strong. That we can cause all of this suffering (of again the most gruesome war ever) and yet we can sacrifice everything for each other. That is mostly devastating but there is a ray of hope.
In my faith, there is a story where Enoch has a vision in which he see’s God crying. He asks God “How is it that the heavens weep and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?” and God responds “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge; and in the Garden of Eden, I gave unto man his agency. And unto thy brethren have I said…that they should love one another…but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood…Wherefore, should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 7: 31-37)
I can hear some of you saying ‘whoa Rachel. It’s just a stupid comic book movie.’ Not to me it’s not. Wonder Woman chooses to love and serve humans despite seeing their hatred and the horrors of war because she also saw their goodness in Steve. So much hate can be undone by the love of a couple and the selfless sacrifice of individuals. I think that’s a beautiful thing. It’s as close to capturing why God loves us as I’ve ever seen in a film and even just typing about it I get emotional. It may not have that meaning for anyone else, but I don’t really care. It’s very powerful to me and the more I think about it the more I love it. It’s a movie that transcends genres and is something I treasure.
I’m honestly kind of nervous about the sequel because this original is so special for me. I’m particularly nervous about Steve being in the movie because his sacrifice is what makes the original movie work.
Normally I don’t recite scripture and such on this blog, so I hope you don’t mind it in this one case. I just really wanted to explain why Wonder Woman continues to have such power in my life and be such a favorite. If you understand what I’m trying to say I would love to hear your insight. Or perhaps share a movie that has moved you spiritually. Perhaps it’s something others don’t pick up on? I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for indulging me and hooray for great movies! (And hey if you’d like more posts like this let me know!)
One of the most impactful moments of my movie-going life occurred when I was 12 years old and saw a little movie called Jurassic Park. I loved it so much I saw it again, and again until I had seen it 7 times in the theater. My young brain was completely caught up in the magic of the great storytelling. I had never seen images like the dinosaurs on the screen. I had never felt such fear, awe, majesty and excitement. It was exhilarating! Even now years later, Jurassic Park still holds up as quite possibly the greatest blockbuster entertainment ever made.
Having loved the first one so much you can imagine my excitement when they announced a sequel and Steven Spielberg would be directing again! This was thrilling! And then I went to the theater and had my first real disappointment. It was cluttered, boring and thoroughly lame.
The rest of the sequels have continued the trend of the Lost World and been very disappointing. The most recent example is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I liked it a little bit better than Jurassic World because the director J.A. Bayona is talented enough to put together some engaging set pieces. However, some plot choices were idiotic and much of the movie the dinosaurs are in cages because that makes sense…
So it begs the question- what would I do to make a better Jurassic movie or is it just a hopeless endeavor? Do you have to get so convoluted trying to get people back to the dinosaurs that it just doesn’t work any more? Well, like I have saved Superman, Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton I have a proposal to what I think would fix Jurassic Park (BTW the hints at Jurassic World 3 left in Fallen Kingdom sound completely awful so this is strictly a fantasy pitch).
My main premise is to take the idea of the Jurassic Park 3 but actually execute it well. You start out with a cruise ship that is shipwrecked onto the Isla Nublar. They have no way of reaching anyone and nothing to do but to try and survive until another ship comes.
Do not have any of the original characters but create new characters that have compelling backstories about why they came on the cruise. You could have a mixture of workers, elites, young singles looking for love etc. You can cast charismatic actors that are fun together and of course you need to have some people who are jerks that can be eaten by the dinosaurs LOL.
Naturally you are going to want to have lots of dinosaur action and antics but don’t forget to have moments of awe and wonder as well. One big mistake in Jurassic World was killing off all the herbivores so there was no moments to stop and breathe. In Jurassic Park we get a lovely little break where Lexi, Tim and Dr Grant get to pet a brachiosaurus. As an audience we need this moment both as a breather for the characters but to make the dangerous dinosaur moments more chilling and real.
I would also make it a priority in my movie to create real characters that have meaningful conversations. Sure the dinosaurs are great in Jurassic Park but so are the characters. One of the best moments in the film is when Dr Sattler and John Hammond are eating ice cream and Ellie calls Hammond out on his BS. He is waxing on about his dreams (letting us get to know him) and she basically dope slaps him and says “all that matters is the people that we love”. We learn so much about these characters in one quick scene of dialogue and so we care about them when they face all the action and tension.
The thing I like about this shipwreck idea is that it wouldn’t require some convoluted reason for them going back to the island and it wouldn’t necessitate some ridiculous excuse for mutant or militarized dinosaurs. It’s just people on an island with dinosaurs trying to survive. That’s enough. That’s all you need. These other sequels have just gotten too stupid for my liking and I can’t deal with it. Jurassic Park was smart! It can be done.
Of course some of the characters would fall to the dinosaurs but eventually a ship would come or they would find some way to signal from the old Park headquarters and be rescued. And as they are being rescued the T-rex would be coming towards them but they zoom away just in time. This would be exciting and a thrilling moment for all involved. Don’t worry about setting things up for a sequel or starting a cinematic universe. Just make a fun monster movie with a good script and it will make tons of money. I know I would LOVE it!
So there you have it. That’s my idea for a Jurassic Park movie. I think almost anyone will agree my idea is at least better than whatever ridiculous nonsense they have planned for Jurassic World 3.
Sigh…What could have been.
How would you save Jurassic Park? And what do you think of my idea? Let me know in the comments section
Recently I put 2 movies in my bottom 10 of the year that other people seemed to enjoy- Glass Castle and Dark Tower. Since doing so I heard from a number of people say something to the effect of “how can you have The Emoji Movie ahead of them”. My rankings move and flow so they may end up above Emoji but placing them below it is completely valid. I also have Lady Macbeth in my bottom 10 which I’ve gotten some flack for. Thing is there are a lot of ways a movie can be bad. A movie can be offensive, lazily made, boring, poorly written or acted to name a few reasons.
Recently a critic I follow did a video criticizing Jeremy Jahns for liking Suicide Squad but disliking Dunkirk. I don’t agree with Jeremy on either film but the argument is complete nonsense. He says in the video that if the character development in Dunkirk is a problem for Jeremy than maybe he’d like character explanation like in Suicide Squad. The two films are completely different in totally separate genres and can’t be compared. What works for a person in a comic book movie is not going to work for a gritty war movie. It’s ridiculous. Implying that the same exact criteria makes a good movie for all genres is nonsensical and I’m sure he knows that. It’s just a quick way to take a cheap shot at someone with a different opinion. I’m sure he has reviews you could say “how could you like ….but dislike…”
Someone might say to me ‘how could you give a higher grade to a Smurfs movie than Lady Macbeth? The two movies are completely different for different audiences. Smurfs Lost Village has flaws but it is beautifully animated and had some nice heart to it. I think it is worthy of my B-. Lady Macbeth looks pretty but there is no chemistry which is essential in this type of gothic romance. It’s like having Wuthering Heights with no chemistry or connection between Heathcliff and Catherine. That would be awful. Because they have no chemistry their choices are increasingly idiotic, which then makes the thriller part of the movie not very thrilling. Smurfs mostly succeeds at being what it is trying to be where Lady Macbeth in my opinion doesn’t.
Same is true with Glass Castle and Me Before You. Both movies are trying to be inspirational stories with hashtags like #liveboldly but the way they tell their stories ends up offending me rather than inspiring. It’s not like I am going to say ‘well your movie greatly offended me but the acting was good so I forgive it.” That makes no sense.
Let me go over my bottom 10 from 2016 and explain to you the various reasons they stunk for me
10. Mothers Day- Terrible unfunny script that doesn’t celebrate Mothers or Motherhood
9. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2- the worst kind of sequel. Thinks let’s do everything from original but twice as big
8. Nine Lives- can laugh at how bad it is but still poorly made and he’s not a bad Dad and doesn’t deserve to be turned into a cat.
7. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- one scene of exposition after another creating a real snoozefest.
6. Alice Through the Looking Glass- same as Miss Peregrine’s but more annoying.
5. Me Before You- morally offensive film that thinks manic pixie dream girl can fix all of life’s problems
4. Batman: the Killing Joke- a movie that believes a woman is a tool for the screenwriters to victimize and animation sucks
3. Warcraft- some neat special effects can’t save a movie that was so confusing my head hurts just thinking about it
2. Norm of the North- incompetently made in every facet. Animation, voice acting, comedy, story, villain all are awful.
1 Do Over- an excuse for Adam Sandler and buddies to go on vacation. Racist, sexist, homophobic all in one.
So do you get the idea? You can dislike movies for lots of reasons and just because a movie is well made doesn’t mean it can’t suck and be on my worst of the year list. It’s my list and I decide what I do or do not like.
As I mentioned at the end of my Ghost in the Shell review I am starting a new feature on my blog reviews. Instead of just giving a grade I am going to give each film a smile or frown. I’ve realized that grades mean different things to different people so this will be a simple way of saying good or bad- kind of like the old thumbs up or down from Siskel and Ebert. Then I will give my grade so you will know how strong a smile/frown it is.
I have a bit of a bone to pick with movies today! That’s right I’m just going to say it-
WHERE HAVE THE MOVIES FOR KIDS GONE?
I’m not talking about movies you can take kids too. I’m talking about movies that are designed with kids in mind, specific for their intellect and to inspire their creativity. These are such a rarity that most families have consented to taking their kids to more mature films or not seeing movies at all.
The most obvious case of this problem is in superhero movies. Gone are the days when a child could play superman, batman or spider-man and then live those stories at the movies. These days Superman is murdered,Batman is a killer who sleeps with Batgirl and we will see what Spider-man is but it won’t be PG. I can tell you that much. I get that the new thing is R rated superhero movies and that’s fine. But I wish the other end of the spectrum was also having time and thought put into superhero movies for them. The latest Ghostbusters movie tried to do that a little bit but it was ran out of town on a rail.
What really made me think about this is the recent Power Rangers Movie. I enjoyed it and gave it a positive review but if ever there is a franchise which should be for kids you’d think it would be Power Rangers. However, the new movie earns its PG-13 rating with crude humor, violence, adult themes and a skimpy bikini. Why was this necessary? I get we need to update film to a modern audience but why does always mean excluding children?
The Transformers movies are another example of a franchise which should appeal to kids but fails spectacularly in doing so. It’s about freakin toys and yet it is loaded with gratuitous shots of women and mind numbing visual destruction.
In animation we see this trend all the time. In a desperate attempt to entertain parents studios often throw in adults only jokes or content and I hate that so much. For example, in The Minions movie we get an extended sequence with a Minion wearing a thong and having a threesome of sorts with fire hydrants in a spa. Why is that necessary?
And I’m not saying movies for children can’t be dark. My cousin was just telling me that her 3 year old daughter loves Song of the Sea– a movie about a boy mourning his dead Mother. She loves it! I’ve known many kids that love deep movies like Bambi,Wall-e or Dumbo much more than their adult parents. It’s all about balance and creating compelling characters/worlds. I feel the recent Beauty and the Beast sucked a lot of the joy out of the film by having the household objects be responsible for the curse and them dying and all. It’s hard to enjoy Be Our Guest and songs like that as much when this gloom is hanging over the proceedings. I need the humor and happy scenes to balance out the darkness
The only family film from a major studio to my knowledge getting a G rating this year is Disneynature’s Born in China. Everything else is PG or PG-13. Granted the MPAA has made it extremely difficult to get a G rating because of what they call “mild thematic elements” but still so few even come close. It’s very frustrating. The Peanuts Movie is a lone example I can think of recently that got the G rating.
It’s not even about ratings but the quest for the family film hurts movies because no movie can be everything to every audience. Some movies should be made for children. Why is that such a foreign concept?
Dreamwork’s Home is another example of a movie that awkwardly smashes together themes for adults and children creating a very unpleasant experience. If they had just focused on making a cute alien movie for kids it would have been SO much better. The Angry Birds Movie would also have been much better if they had abandoned the crass adult humor and just stuck with a cute movie for kids.
I’m not even a parent but I would way rather watch something like Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh that is carefully made for children than most movies which try to please the entire family.
Lately I’ve been wondering about something in regards to my reviews. Now I do two types of reviews. I review previously released films that usually I have time to stew on and ponder. Many times it is a rewatch and there is no sense that I have to rush to get the review out. We saw this with my Disney Canon Series, Pixar reviews or Scrooge Month.
However, there are the reviews to new releases. These I try to get to you as soon as I can so you have some guidance on what to see and not see. The problem with this is I’m not able to ponder about the films as much as I do on the films that aren’t new releases. It’s more of a gut reaction, which is a valid response but not always the most comprehensive of what becomes my true feelings on a film. Some films I give a mildly bad review to like Minions or Independence Day Resurgence but then the more I think about it the more annoyed I get or the more forgettable it feels. I knew they were bad but they become more bad the more I have time to stew on it.
The same goes for certain good films. I respond positively to them but the more I rewatch and see them the more I love them. This year Only Yesterday was that way. I gave it a B+ I believe but the more I have seen it the more charmed I am by it and the flaws become easy to forgive. My initial review is still valid and it’s not inaccurate of my feelings, it’s just I’ve noticed more good things and been able to ignore the problems. Mad Max Fury Road is another one the more I watched and thought about the more I loved it.
What really got me thinking about this is Trolls. I gave Trolls a C in my review. I felt it was very hit and miss and I think that is a correct diagnosis. However, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m bothered by certain aspects of the film. Particularly the messaging and what it says about happiness.
I admit part of these new ideas have come from conversations with others who’ve seen the film and some of my fellow youtubers/bloggers reviews. For example, Jim Gisriel makes some great points about how some of the ideas are actually dangerous.
A friend brought up to me that Inside Out is about accepting all emotions and that all feelings are vital to finding joy. Whereas, Trolls is about how happiness exists and is the only correct response to life. There is no sense of the trolls learning from the Bergens about how to be angry, upset, sad etc. It is a My Fair Lady type experiment to teach the bergens how to be happy.
That is alarming.
Angry Birds is even worse where anger is actually the solution to the birds problems and the happy birds are stupid and naive. They literally have to take lessons from Red on how to be more angry….
Zootopia, on the other hand, still holds up as a powerful fable with amazing animation, humor and characters. It’s a richer experience each time I watch it.
This is a problem.
The more I think about these messages the more bothered I am. I don’t know. Is it overthinking the films too much? Should I just go with my initial gut reaction? Should I write up a new review when I have these new revelations or be happy with the initial thoughts?
What do you think? Have you ever experienced this change in your views of a movie or are you pretty consistent?
Earlier this year I did posts on how to fix Superman and Alice in Wonderland. Now I am taking on a great visionary like Tim Burton. In my opinion aside from his animated films he hasn’t made a good movie since Sweeney Todd in 2007. I’m sure he is rolling in his money somewhere but if anyone were to ask my advice here’s what I would say.
1. STOP ADAPTING THINGS!– Tim Burton comes from an animation background and his animated films (both producer and director) have still remained great. What’s unique about them? They are original properties! They come from Tim Burton’s brain!
Let’s look at his track record with adaptations:
Planet of the Apes- clunky, awkward, boring, and aside from Rick Baker makeup Tim Burton’s visual style nowhere to be found.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- they replace all the whimsy of the Gene Wilder classic with a Michael Jackson version of Wonka. I hated this film so much in the theater.
Alice in Wonderland- long, boring adaptation that trades in the Wonderland nonsense for a prophecy and chosen one with a apocalyptic battle scene and Crispin Glover being creepy, Helena Bonham Carter screaming
Dark Shadows- based off of cult TV show feels like each performer is in a different movie. The tone is all over the place. I didn’t laugh once.
2. Animate Again– I don’t know how good Burton’s relationship with Disney is after Frankenweenie but I’m sure he can find a studio to work with again. In my opinion Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride are by far the best thing he has done since Ed Wood.
You could say that’s just because I am an animation addict and that would be true but Tim Burton started in animation and some of his most personal projects have been in that medium. His short Vincent feels practically autobiographical.
The other thing is animation takes time. A live action film can be filmed in as short as a month. Animation is multiple years process and I think Burton needs that to refine his scripts and make sure they are more than style over substance.
I’m not saying never do live action again but let’s get the Burton mojo back with animation. I’m sure Laika would work with him again and that would be awesome.
3. Collaborate- In my opinion Tim Burton’s best movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, isn’t actually directed by him. It is directed by Henry Selick. Sometimes I wonder if Tim Burton and Zack Snyder both need collaborators.
They are both visionary storytellers. There’s no doubt about it but left to their own devices the stories are muddled and boring.
I don’t have any proof but I’ve got to imagine in the early days of Burton he was reigned in a lot more than he is now. At the very least I know Ed Wood was a very collaborative effort between writers Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, director Tim Burton and producer Denise Di Novi.
Working with his muses such as Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (who has evidently been replaced by Eva Green) you would think would invite collaboration but it does not appear to be the case. Perhaps you get too comfortable and that leads to uninspired work.
Animation is a very collaborative medium so it is no surprise his best work has been there.
4. NO CG- Now I don’t really mean no CG, but I think CG has kind of ruined Tim Burton. I can only imagine how much cooler his Alice in Wonderland would have been if he had to literally create the world.
If you think about Edward Scissorhands, Burton created an entire world. Just as an example, his version of suburbia in Edward Scissorhands is full of color and makes a statement about the life just in the color of the paint and the way the castle floats above the small houses.
In his recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children the suburb is just normal houses that look like any other houses.
The one part I liked in Miss Peregrine’s was the skeleton scene which is made to look like stop motion! It was like a little peak at what might have been.
5. REMEMBER THE EMOTION– Most of Tim Burton’s early films work (for me at least) not because of visual splendor but because I am emotionally attached to the characters. Big Eyes is the only one of his recent live action films I have connected with on that level (I so wish Christoph Waltz hadn’t ruined that movie with his overacting). Sweeney Todd has it because of the Sondheim music but other than that Tim Burton has had one flat protagonist after another.
Ed Wood is a great movie because we care about Ed making his horrible movies. He is so happy doing what he is doing and that makes you root for him. Edward Scissorhands is heartbreaking. Jack Skellington is likable despite stealing christmas. Frankenweenie breaks your heart in two and I’m not even a pet owner. The list goes on.
Even a silly movie like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure you laugh but actually care a little bit about him finding that darn bike. I’m not the biggest fan of Burton’s Batman films but particularly Batman Returns has a lot of emotion in it. I mean Penguin’s story is a complete tragedy. I wish we could get a tenth of the emotion from Penguins funeral with the birds walking him into the water in films like Alice in Wonderland or Dark Shadows.
And you don’t have to make the character have Daddy issues to get emotion. Just have a character experiencing something that matters to them. Put on that Danny Elfman score and you’ve got my attention! Corpse Bride gets emotion out of me in Victor playing a piece of classical music. It’s a moment of human connection. That’s all it takes.
I really do think that Tim Burton is a talented man, a genius when he is on his game. I LOVE Corpse Bride. I LOVE Ed Wood. I LOVE Edward Scissorhands. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is genius. I thought Sweeney Todd was terrific. Frankenweenie made me bawl my eyes out. I want to like a new movie from him so badly!
So, that’s my opinion on that. You are welcome Mr Burton for the free advice 😉