The Dressmaker Review

dressmakerThere are some movies like The Lego Movie that I don’t understand people disliking and then there are others like The Dressmaker that I totally get. It is a weird movie and in some ways I wonder if only people who see lots of movies like I do will dig it. When you see 15-20 movies a month they do start to feel repetitive. Then you see something that’s totally different and nuts like The Dressmaker and it is kind of exciting.

The Dressmaker is directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and it is an Australian film starring Kate Winslet. It is about a woman named Tilly who returns to her hometown to try and remember the trauma of her youth that caused her to be an outcast. She has been away training to be a tailor and quickly makes her impact on the town with her high end dresses but her past creeps back into her life. There is also love with the hunky Teddy played by Liam Hemsworth.

dressmaker3The Dressmaker is part campy soap opera, part romance, part revenge drama, part uproarious comedy. It has violent moments that shocked me but also times I was really laughing hard. It’s hard to remember a movie that is more tonally dissonant but I think that is intentional. It gives the film a unpredictable feeling. At first I thought it was going to be Chocolat but with fashion (mysterious stranger comes in and teaches town how to live!). But just when I got comfortable something shocking would happen and then I would be taken in a new direction.

And Kate Winslet. Wow…

dressmaker2She is just fantastic in this movie and is so beautiful but also heartfelt when she needs to be. I had no problem with her being with the 15 years younger Hemsworth. I mean after all men are frequently that much older than their female counterparts, and how the romance resolves is extremely surprising. I’ve always been more of a Chris Hemsworth fan but Liam is HOT in this film.

dressmaker5Judy Davis is also fantastic as Tilly’s mother. It’s one of the strongest supporting actresses performances I’ve seen this year.

judy-davis-the-dressmakerHugo Weaving gets some great laughs as a cross dressing cop and I also liked Sarah Snook as a mousy town girl who is transformed by Tilly’s dresses.

And speaking of the dresses…Holy cow are they beautiful! If this film doesn’t get nominated for best costumes than that is a real travesty. It is completely stunning work by Margo Wilson and Marion Boyce. It reminded me of the costumes from My Fair Lady designed by Cecil Beaton. The costumes are so beautiful they have an entire exhibit with them on display in Australia. How often does that happen?

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dressmaker4The Dressmaker won’t be for everyone. Like I said it is very strange and the tone goes all over the place but I kind of dug it. It continually surprised me and all the performances are so campy and fun that it worked. It looks so gorgeous and sometimes it’s nice to see something different.

It’s in general a mild R rating with just a few jarring scenes of violence and a little bit of language.

Overall Grade- B+

Here is the trailer to see if it looks like your cup of tea:

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Queen of Katwe Review (Spoilers)

queen-of-katwe-posterOne of my favorite trends in the house of mouse is their live action sports section. In my opinion, they have made one great inspiring movie after another including Miracle, Million Dollar Arm, The Rookie and most recently McFarland USA which I especially loved.  Some may view these films as trite and cheesy but I love them. They are the only thing keeping Disney small. Oh how I wish they would have a similar small animation department. Their recent entry, Queen of Katwe, cost only $15 million and it is very special.

queen-of-katwe-8I said on twitter about Queen of Katwe “If you like this kind of thing you will love it. If you don’t like this kind of thing, you might still love it”. I don’t know if it is just because it is about chess but if there was ever a sports movie that could please everyone this is it. Sure it hits the predictable ‘inspirational true story’ notes but then it also went places I didn’t expect it to go.

Queen of Katwe tells the true story of Phiona Mutes (Madina Nalwanga) a young Ugandan girl who becomes a chess master. She grows up in the slums of Katwe where she sells corn and other vegetables to make ends-meat rather than going to school. Her mother Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o) is a widow and trying desperately to keep her family together both spiritually and physically.

nullOne day Phiona comes across an after school type group set up by Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) and she starts learning how to play chess. As she grows in her skills she also is taught by Katende’s wife how to read and think for herself. The movie does a good job showing the how hope can be a good and bad thing and how Phiona’s life isn’t anything but peaches and rainbows after her successes in chess.

The slums aren’t sterilized for a Disney audience like you might expect. There is a landfill close and there is a devastating scene where a flood comes through and nearly takes Phiona’s brother away in the water.  There is another scene where Nakku sells her mother’s dress to a skeevy man who propositions her, which I thought was pretty brave for a Disney film. disneys-queen-of-katwe-champion

Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakku is not the perfect mother you might expect from this film. She is scared, gritty and weak at times. There is a brutal scene where her son is in a hospital and she can’t afford to pay the bill so she removes the IV and sneaks him out only to come to their shack and be evicted by the landlord. If that doesn’t pull at your heartstrings you have more self control than I do. It’s not just that these events happen but that I felt for these people. They felt real and whole with flaws. lupita-grabMadina Nalwanga is also excellent as Phiona who goes from shy and awkward to a bit of a diva to completely devastated and back around in the film. There is a devastating scene where she asks David Oyelowo’s Robert Katende if good things are for the city kids because things hadn’t changed and then he tells her about losing his mother. It was really moving stuff! queen-of-katwe

Some will say this film is predictable and by the numbers but at least for me it went places I wasn’t expecting it to go. We learn about Phiona’s sister Night (Taryn Kayze) who is basically with a pimp for the lifestyle perks. Nakku is spiritual but not preachy. She is prideful but also weak, particularly when it comes to Night and Phiona.

There’s a great scene where Nakku thinks her children are being trained to gamble instead of competing in chess. Nyong’o’s ferocity in that scene is awesome. David Oyelow is also tremendous as the chess coach who is real but also ready to give the pep talk.

There is also basically no time spent with the rich kids bullying the Katwe teams. That was very refreshing. Also we get only a brief scene of the ‘jerk governing body embarrassed by the poor team’ like you typically get in these movies (think John Candy ‘they’ve earned the right’ speech in Cool Runnings).  There are also basically no white people in the cast except a couple briefly seen chess competitors. So no white savior storylines this time around.

Director Mira Nair has done a wonderful job taking the inspirational movie formula and creating something special. Go see it. I know you will love it!

Also, I normally hate the ending scroll text in these movies telling you the rest of the story because it takes me out of the movie, but in this case I thought they handled it just right.

Here is the trailer to give you an idea for the film:

Overall Grade- A

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Review

middle-schoolIt might surprise you to hear it but I think the pre-teen demographic is one of the  most underserved at the movies, especially with live action films.  There are lots of films made for younger and lots made for older but rarely is something really made with them in mind. The last good film for that demographic was Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.While today’s film, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, isn’t as good, it has entertaining elements for its target demographic including humor, heart and fun animated sequences.

Based on the novel by James Patterson, Middle School focuses on a kid named Rafe (Griffin Gluck) who is starting at a new school under rule of Principal Dwight (Andy Daly). Rafe has lost a loved one in his life and is grieving, which has caused him to move around from school to school. Principal Dwight makes it clear to Rafe on the first day of class that he is living under a new regime with a strict rulebook. Rafe is a creative kid and finds these rules frustrating and unfair. Principal Dwight is also focused more on standardized testing than on actual learning.middle-school3When Principal Dwight destroys Rafe’s artbook filled with sketches Rafe and a friend seek revenge through a series of pranks that go from silly (dying the principal’s hair brought me back to Home Alone) to creative (a post-it note display is completely impossible for him to do in one night but very pretty). I think kids will get a big kick out of these kind of pranks and the actors pull off the physical comedy well.

middle-school2There was a surprising amount of heart in Middle School particularly with the family grieving over the loss of their loved one. I admit I teared up in a few moments. Lauren Graham is wonderful as usual as Rafe’s mother. I think kids will really be able to relate to what the family is going through which to me make it better than a pure slapstick film.

middle-school6The animation segments are also really cool. I wish there were even a few more of them but they pop off the screen and feel like a doodle come to life. It was a creative touch I didn’t expect from this kind of movie. It kind of reminded me of the claymation in Better Off Dead.

middle-school5Where the movie falters is in a plotline with Rob Riggle- a comedian I have never liked. He plays Rafe’s Mom’s fiance and is named ‘The Bear’ and is animated as an obese bear in several segments. He is right out of any ‘I’m sending these brats to boarding school” (literally) that we’ve seen in a million other movies. There is absolutely no reason to believe Mom and Bear would be together or that she would put up with him and it really dragged the movie down.

The thing is we don’t need another villain at home. Principal Dwight is more than enough to keep things going. If you think about Ferris Beuller’s Day Off his parents are kind of a non-entity and it is better that way. Edward Rooney is more than enough of an antagonist for the film to work. Andy Daly also has enough charm as Principal Dwight that he can stand on his own.

Middle School_CBSFilms_FrankMasi_2015_17411.RAFI also wish it was just a little bit funnier.  There was nothing that made me laugh as hard as the DMV scene in Alexander and the Terrible Day. As it is it feels like the humor you get in a Disney Channel TV show, which isn’t bad just not hilarious.

middle-school7I have a feeling critics will focus too much on the flaws of this film, so it may have a low RT score. Trust me. If you have a child in the target demographic, don’t pay attention to that.  Take them. I really think they will like it. If you don’t than it is probably a pass and maybe catch it on cable or streaming later on.

It could be better but it still was a decent example of this type of formula film. Plus, the heart and creative touches made it an engaging watch.

Overall Grade- B-  (If any of you see it, let me know what you think)

Why I Sell Beauty and the Beast Table Read Clip!

This morning I was greeted by throngs of notifications about the great new exciting clip from the Beauty and the Beast live action film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this movie could be amazing. I hope it is but honestly I’m kind of upset about it right now. I hated the images of Lumiere and Cogsworth- especially Lumiere where you can’t see his face and he’s all rugged looking instead of smooth. He’s a candlestick which limits his expression as it is. We don’t need anything obscuring that expression.

Anyway, so what I was presented with today is a clip from the table reading. I guess I was supposed to be excited like the table read for Star Wars: Force Awakens which had Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and others coming back to Star Wars. Unfortunately this table read not only didn’t excite me, it kind of ticked me off.

Force Awakens had a reason to be made. A large majority of people didn’t like the prequels and felt Star Wars hadn’t been good for a long time. And despite some similarities to previous films Force Awakens was a continuation of the story not a remake. With this Beauty and the Beast I’ve long scratched my head at why this needs to exist? Why when it is already been perfectly executed do we need a remake of the film?

Disney just gave me their answer and it kind of makes me mad…

Bill Condon says “When something is so perfect why get near it? The answer is technology has caught up with the ideas that were introduced in that movie”.

Are you kidding me?

This is basically Disney saying that the 2D animation that made them great isn’t a fully realized version of their great ideas. That they were restricted and now technology has expanded they can finally do their ideas justice.  You know what? Those ideas were done justice. I never watched Beauty and the Beast and thought ‘boy if only they had greater technology this could be executed better.”

The Jungle Book gave us a new version of the Kipling story and the technology worked for that version of the story. If Condon had said “we now have the technology to tell a new take on the ideas” that would have been one thing but for him to say that “technology has caught up with the ideas” it makes me really mad. It says to me Disney sees 2D animation as quaint and old fashioned and technology/CG as a better way to execute the ideas of the past! Urgh!!!

I can’t be the only person in the world that was annoyed by this comment? And the fact Disney would use that quote to sell this movie is really discouraging and shows a lack of respect for the great artistry done in the 1991 film. It was certainly a good enough execution of the ideas to get the first animated Best Picture nomination and it was good enough to entrance millions of viewers.

Howard Ashman wrote and worked on Beauty and the Beast literally on his death bed. It is a masterpiece and a labor of love in every way I can think of. It was good enough to make AFI’s Top 10 Romantic Movies of all times list. Good enough to be many people’s favorite animated film including current CG films.

But I’m glad technology has finally caught up with Disney’s ideas of the past….

angery beast

Pete’s Dragon Review (2016)

pete's dragon 8Of all the Disney remakes the one I was the most primed for was Pete’s Dragon. That might sound odd but I’m only a marginal fan of the original. In my opinion, the best remakes are films that are good but could use improvement. I don’t get very excited for remakes on films like Beauty and the Beast which are perfect. Anyway, that was my initial interest but quickly I realized this film was remake in name only. This might be concerning but then I read from director David Lowery and loved everything I heard.  Then the trailers came out and I really liked what I saw. Here is movie from an indy director with a passion for the project. It is also made for a low budget of $65 million which excites me greatly as I’d like to see Disney make more artistic low budget films.

So all of those factors led me to greatly look forward to Pete’s Dragon. So I went to see it today and I was not disappointed! This is a really special movie. It could probably be called Boy and the Dragon instead of Pete’s Dragon because it doesn’t have much to do with the original. It’s more like ET, Old Yeller, Black Stallion, Sounder or other movies for children about a boy and his dog/creature. These movies were sweet, emotional and helped teach children important life lessons. Such is the case with Pete’s Dragon. It is impeccably made and seems like something from another era.

pete's dragon2The story is pretty simple here and it’s not reinventing the wheel but it executes it so well and with such heart. It’s basically about Pete who is raised in the wild with his dragon Elliot. One day Pete gets discovered by Bryce Dallas Howard’s character and they try to help him. Various characters find out about Elliott and have different responses. It’s got an underlying message of faith and believing in things you don’t see (Elliott can be invisible after all).

The story may be simple but it will tug at your heart strings and make you feel really good.  All the performances are winning and warm- even the villain is understandable in his fear of the unknown. The child actors are particularly outstanding with Oaks Fegley reminding me of Jacob Trembley in Room. Robert Redford is great.  They are all great.

pete's dragon5If Disney is going to do these live action retellings this is the kind I want. I want a small film that is carefully made, not a lazy cash grab like Maleficent. This film does its own thing and tells a type of story I haven’t seen at the cinemas in a long time.

peteDirector David Lowery gives us incredible cinematography and the special effects on Elliott are first rate. It looked as good as anything we saw in The Jungle Book. I personally prefer this film to The Jungle Book because that film dragged when it tried to include songs and moments from the original. This is tight storytelling at its best.  In a lot of ways it reminded me of The Peanuts Movie. It is old fashioned and simple but full of heart. I loved both movies! There’s no attempt to modernize the characters or make them hip or cool. There’s no cell phones or lame attempts at humor. It is just a boy and his dragon just like Peanuts is about a boy and his dog.

Just everything they did I loved. Even the music I loved. I would encourage you to go see it on the big screen. Let Disney know that this is the type of movie they should be making. It is definitely one of my favorite films of the year and one that I can’t wait to show my nieces someday.

Here is my youtube review:  (I’m almost at a 1,000 subscribers on youtube!)

Pete’s Dragon (1977) Review

This week we have Disney’s latest live action remake coming out. It is a very loosely based retelling of the 1977 film Pete’s Dragon. I’m actually looking forward to this remake. The early buzz is great, and I’m excited to see what indie director David Lowery can do. Evidently the working environment was great because Disney has already hired him to work on their Peter Pan remake. He has a passion for the project and if Disney is going to do remakes (which I wish they wouldn’t) I’d like them to pick auteur directors with unique perspectives and ideas.

petes dragon2Since I have never reviewed the original on my blog I thought I would give some of my thoughts. I know for many it is a special film but for me it isn’t one I grew up with or even recall watching as a child. In fact, when I heard they were doing a remake it made a lot of sense to me. In general I prefer remakes to be done of movies that are decent but could be improved rather than masterpieces like Sleeping Beauty. Pete’s Dragon is cute but it’s pretty hokey and doesn’t really impress me that much.

petes dragonThe story of Pete’s Dragon is pretty simple.  It’s about a boy named Pete who has a dragon named Elliot. Elliot is an animated creature and the rest of the movie is in live action. Pete loves Elliot because he is an orphan owned by a horrible family called the Gogans and Elliot is his only friend.

petes dragon6While the Gogans are searching for Pete, they go to a village named Passaamaquoddy and meet a man named Lampie who has a daughter named Nora. Nora’s fiance Paul has been reported lost at sea, so she is naturally very upset.

petes dragon10Then we get our villains Dr Terminus and his stooge Hoagy and they want to use Elliott to make potions and elixirs to make money. They are your typical sniveling over the top silly villains.

petes dragon8The rest of the movie is basically a cat and mouse chase between the villains (Gogans and Terminus/Hoagy) and the good guys (Pete, Elliot, Nora, Lampie and Paul).

Pete’s Dragon is perfectly harmless entertainment. The songs are fine but aside from Candle on the Water forgettable. The performances are all nice.  The animation of Elliot is first rate.  It has its heart in the right place. It’s very sweet enjoyable film. There is a lack of cynicism to the entire enterprise that is very charming.

petes dragon5However, I don’t know if I would say it’s a particularly good movie. The villains, particularly the Gogans, get old very fast. They cross over the hokey line and become out right annoying. Plus, it is strange to have a Disney movie where a character is continually claiming she has the ‘bill of sale’ to a human being. Isn’t that strange?

Dr Terminus and Hoagy are sniveling snarling mustache twirling villains that are fine but don’t do much to inspire me or excite me. Pretty standard rote bad guys.

Like I said, the songs aside from Candle on the Water are nothing special. Let’s put it this way Passamaquoddy isn’t likely to be the next Supercalifragilsticexpialidocious.  This music sorely misses the Sherman Brothers. They could do so much with a song like Brazzle Dazzle Day. As it is it’s meh.

The animation is pretty good on Elliot and he and Pete have a sweet relationship. I also appreciate we don’t get any real backstory on Elliot. He just exists and that’s the way it is.

pete_primaryI certainly would put other live action Disney films like Mary Poppins, Pollyanna, Bednobs and Broomsticks, Parent Trap, 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea, etc far above this.  I even think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (not Disney I know) is much better. They are for the most part more engaging and less syrupy than Pete’s Dragon.

But there is stuff to like here and aside from the Gogans nothing to really offend or annoy me, so it’s not a bad watch.  It’s fine.

Overall Grade- B-

The BFG Review (Spoilers)

bfg2So The BFG came out while I was in Spain but I have been able to catch up and saw it on Monday. And what did I think after I saw it? It was okay but it could have been much better. Like Bridge of Spies last year I left feeling underwhelmed by Steven Spielberg’s latest offering. I will still never understand why Bridge of Spies got nominated for best picture and was on so many top 10 lists. Beats me! To me both films have the same problems. Neither are awful films but they are both kind of boring and forgettable.

The BFG was my 4th most anticipated film of the year so suffice it to say I am very disappointed by this response but this year seems to be the year of the disappointment at the cinema. Oh well! It’s not a total disaster by any means so let’s talk about it.

bfg3Written by Roald Dahl, The BFG, tells the story of a little girl named Sophie who is taken from her bed in an orphanage in the middle of the night by a giant named BFG (Big Friendly Giant). He takes her to Giant Country where he is the only nice giant.  The rest like to eat humans or “beans” as they call them. It turns out that the other giants are bullying (another tolerance message for 2016) the BFG and Sophie will have none of it.  The BFG is kind of like the Sandman and he brings dreams to humans. Sophie and BFG create and execute a plan to involve the Queen of England to capture the Giants and live happily ever after.

Disney's THE BFG is the imaginative story of a young girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and the Big Friendly Giant (Oscar (TM) winner Mark Rylance) who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country   Penelope Wilton is the Queen, Rebecca Hall is Mary and Rafe Spall is Mr. Tibbs. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film is based on the beloved book by Roald Dahl.

The casting is probably the strongest part of The BFG. Little Ruby Barnhill is a revelation as Sophie. She’s not too adorably cute and precocious but is still very charming. She feels like a real little girl.  Also Mark Rylance is warm and natural as The BFG. I also enjoyed seeing Penelope Wilton of Downton Abbey fame as Queen Elizabeth. She gets some much needed laughs especially trying frobscottle, the flatulence inducing soda BFG loves.

In some ways watching The BFG felt a little bit like what a Richard Linklater film would be like if he tried fantasy.  It doesn’t have a strong plot but is mostly about relationships and characters talking. The problem is Linklater is a master of dialogue where let’s be honest that has never been Spielberg’s strength. It takes an hour and a half for anything to really happen in the film.  Most of it is BFG explaining the world to Sophie.

bfg6One thing that confused me is why is BFG the only giant who has a house and a job? He’s the only one that has heard of a snozzcucumber? The giants are never shown going into London to get ‘beans’ as they call it so what do they eat? What do they do all day? It’s like they exist just to bother BFG. They literally sleep right outside his house. Isn’t that odd? They seem horrified when a rainstorm comes in the film but they live outside. Surely they would be used to rain?   I don’t remember in the book, but I thought they went and did things in the city.  Why is BFG the only one who collects dreams?  Who gave him that job? Who told him how to do it? Are there other giants doing it in other cities and towns? You get the idea. There are lots of questions

bfg5The production design is wonderful throughout. I loved the jars of dreams and when BFG and Sophie dive into the dream world it looked magical. This will probably sound like an unflattering comparison but the way the dreams looked kind of reminded me of the fairies in The Black Cauldron. I also liked the labels on all the dreams like ‘I is naked at my wedding’. That was very creative. The motion capture on Mark Rylance as BFG was also excellent. It felt like a real character that actually looked that way- not the pasty look in early motion capture films like Monster House and Polar Express.

bfg 9Spielberg does make an odd choice that I don’t really understand in the narrative. They add a backstory to BFG that is not in the book. In this version BFG had a previous boy that he raised who wore a red jacket. Sophie gets taken to his little room still full of drawings and things. The boy even taught BFG how to read and write. But he was eaten by the Giants.  I don’t see what this adds to the story? I don’t know if this was supposed to create tension but it felt unnecessary to me. Sophie is already threatened by Giants. We don’t need them to be more threatening. Is it supposed to make BFG more sympathetic and wounded? I guess but that never really pays off. It kind of ends up feeling awkward more than poignant.

There is some nice humor particularly towards the end which I enjoyed. The scenes where they are preparing breakfast for BFG was a lot of fun. However, it does seem like a little too late.

bfg11A film that did this story a lot better was last year’s Paddington. It’s about a creature coming to London and meeting ordinary people, with a baddie out to get him. But Paddington is so much sweeter, funnier and has much more story to keep it going. And Paddington’s visuals are equally strong as in the BFG.

One thing Paddington did not have is a score from John Williams. Honestly I think The BFG is one of the best we’ve heard from Williams in a long time. I loved it!

So in the end The BFG is a mixed bag. Great production values, performances, music, with its heart in the right place. It’s not a bad watch it just could have been great and it’s not. The writing isn’t strong enough for how little plot there is, and I was left asking a lot of questions about the giants and the world presented. If the dialogue had grasped me enough I would not have cared about such questions.

I’m bummed because if this had been better it could have been a real catalyst for new stories instead of remakes for Disney.  Oh well. On to Pete’s Dragon, which I don’t care what others say I’m excited for. Ha

I don’t know what grade to give this one because it’s not like I was miserable. It’s passable. I guess I will give it:

Overall Grade- C+

Alice Through the Looking Glass Review

alice-through-the-looking-glass-poster-aliceIf you guys read my response to the Beauty and the Beast trailer you might have an inkling I’m not the biggest fan of these Disney live action remakes. Even the Jungle Book I didn’t like as much as others; although I certainly enjoyed it. The only one I have really LOVED is Cinderella. It’s odd because I’m not normally opposed to remakes on principle but have found the decision making on Disney’s part to be very disappointing.

And unfortunately these bad choices all started with 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s like Disney doesn’t even understand the appeal of their own properties. They certainly don’t understand the appeal of Alice in Wonderland I can tell you that. But to everyone’s confusion the 2010 film made over a billion dollars. It’s so odd because only one person I know really likes it. Alice is kind of like Disney’s version of Transformers- everyone hates it and yet it still made a lot of money?

So it is perhaps no surprise a sequel to such a hit would come. To tell the truth I’m surprised it didn’t come sooner. Many are calling Alice Through the Looking Glass ‘the sequel that nobody wanted’ and after seeing the film I must concur. As bad as the 2010 film is this is even worse.

alice bookTo begin with, don’t let the title fool you.  This movie has almost nothing to do with the Lewis Caroll book Alice Through the Looking Glass. I recently read both Alice books and found them to be delightful. You can read my review here. I actually think the novel has potential as it has a bit more narrative than the first book. Alice ends up in a chess game where she must outwit various players including Humpty Dumpty and the White/Red Queens. This could have been a nice middle-ground between the prophetic narrative of the 2010 film (ugh) and the nonsense of the animated  film but no they abandoned it for some reason. I actually wonder if director James Bobbin and producer Tim Burton have read either of the Alice books…

alice 2No, in this version you have Alice (a bland Mia Wasikowska) who has been a sea captain outwitting all the men around the world (literally…ugh). She ends up returning to Underland to help The Hatter who is heartsick over his dead family. He wants Alice to bring his family back from the dead for him. Quite the request I’d say! And the weird part is the movie assumes this great friendship between the Hatter and Alice which I don’t recall being established in the first movie. My thought was ‘why doesn’t the Hatter get off his butt and go find his family? Why must Alice do it?”. He’s even kind of cranky when she tells him she has no power over death…

alice5It turns out there is a way to help when Alice goes into a clock and literally meets Time (Sacha Baron Cohen). At great peril to all of Underland she steals a chronosphere and goes back in time to undo what hurt the Hatters family.

This all could be good but it is unfortunately very dopey. The worst part is when you find out what kept the White and Red Queen apart you won’t believe it. It’s one of those movie things that a 3 minute conversation could make right and this disagreement caused the war in the first movie. It caused all kinds of misery and all over desserts…I kid you not.

Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass-Wallpaper

The key to a story like this working is the chemistry of the cast and the believability of the world building. Neither of that exists here. I wasn’t a fan of the artistic style of the first film but admit it was a style. This is very generic (although a little brighter).

Johnny Depp is annoying as the Hatter. Anne Hathaway deserves a Razzie award as the White Queen. Helena Bonham Carter shrieks a lot. Alan Rickman literally has 3 lines as Absolem (so disappointed this has to be his final role).  Most of the side characters are marginalized and not heard from and instead we get the dopey relationship drama between the two queens and Alice messing things up.

It’s frustrating because it has all of the pieces to make something good. I would actually love a good Alice in Wonderland movie but instead we get this.

All I can really say for it is that the costumes are well done and it is less violent than the first film, so I guess you can take kids to it. But save your money for Finding Dory. Even Angry Birds is better than this. See Jungle Book again but skip Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Overall Grade- D

Here’s my youtube review. I’d be very grateful if you gave it a watch/thumbs up. I’m nearing 1,000 subscribers and so if you aren’t subscribed I think you will enjoy the content.

Beauty and the Beast Teaser Trailer Response

So today the teaser trailer for Beauty and the Beast came out. My response- it’s fine. I have no problem with it and it looks intriguing. Even with Cinderella and Jungle Book being strong films I am still suspect of these live action remakes but everything I’m hearing about Beauty and the Beast is encouraging.  I’m looking forward to it and this trailer did nothing to damper that enthusiasm.

That said, I hate to be a cold blanket over everyone but the response to this teaser I do not get. Let’s look at it objectively.  We get an image of a castle,  some shots of the inside, we see beasts claws on a painting,  hear Lumiere and Cogsworth briefly talk, see a door being opened and a rose. Aside from the vocals it’s basically just a bunch of set shots.  We love the music but this movie could totally suck and it have all the elements of this teaser trailer. Lots of horrible movies have decent sets and music. I mean Maleficent had decent sets to look at and look what we got with that film…

I guess I don’t really get why people are so excited about this trailer? It’s fine. It basically announces the film and that’s what it is supposed to do. But on twitter and at rotoscopers.com they are really going nuts about it.  Some quotes:

“Oh my goodness, when they showed the ballroom with the beautiful prologue music playing I was welling up!”

“CRYING! Singing and crying…”

“This looks absolutely gorgeous. The music made me so nostalgic”

“Oh come on… I can’t be the only one who got chills and audibly squealed.”

Now I remind you Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney film. So why am I not so excited by the teaser (again I don’t hate the teaser. I’m just not crying with excitement)? Well, I’m not really sure.

When I think back to the Star Wars teaser when we first saw the Millennium Falcon and Harrison Ford said “Chewie, we’re home” and how thrilled I was. Why was I super excited?  Because Star Wars had been in my opinion nearly ruined by the prequels. I know many like those films, but I hated them and so I was anxious for Star Wars to be redeemed. I wanted some hint they were going to be doing it right.

I have no such need for Beauty and the Beast. It was done about as perfectly as you can do a film (there are no perfect movies). I want the movie to be good but I am not nearly as anxious for it save the franchise I love. How do you improve upon what was already perfect?  I had been waiting for a good Star Wars movie for 17 years. Disney, on the other hand, if they never made another live action remake I would have no problem with that.

Anyway, people will probably walk away from this wondering why Rachel can’t just have fun with the teaser. I did. It’s fine. I like it but again it’s a bunch of shots of the set with music. I don’t get all the jubilant response but if you loved it let me know why.