[REVIEW] ‘Judy & Punch’ or a Not Very Punchy Revenge Story

Back what seems like a million years ago I attended the Sundance Film Festival. While there I heard about a film getting some buzz entitled Judy & Punch. As a lover of costume dramas its premise of a ‘anachronistic take on the origin of Punch and Judy shows’ sounded intriguing and I was disappointed I didn’t get to see it at the festival. Now I have seen it and must own to being disappointed by the film. I didn’t hate it but its script is very uneven.

judy and punch

The first 30 minutes of Judy & Punch are its strength. Watching Mia Wasikowska’s Judy and Damon Herriman’s Punch travel around 17th century England putting on puppet shows is entertaining. The costumes, spectacle and relationship of the couple feels fresh and new. Waikowska does a great job as usual and makes for a compelling empowered woman and Mother doing an unusual job for her time.

Then something happens which I won’t spoil, and the movie becomes a simmering revenge tale with Herriman playing our greedy villain and it’s a lot less interesting. We rarely hear any more dialogue from Wasikowska’s character for the rest of the film as she wins her revenge from her evil husband. I wanted to yell out ‘I liked the earlier Judy best!’. In the desperation to make a feminist film the creators seemed to have abandoned a compelling woman and in her place put a bland archetype.

judy and punch3

That’s not to say the movie is bland, just the character. It’s a strange film with a cool look and aesthetic about it. I didn’t hate watching it. I just resented the turn the script took when I was enjoying the unusual story it started with.

Probably the most impressive aspect of the production in Judy & Punch is how dirty everything looks. Everyone appears like they haven’t had a bath in weeks and even the hair on the horses looks long! The puppet shows are also a ton of fun and very creative. Nevertheless, the tone is too jumbled and the story’s message too heavy-handed and simplistic for me to recommend. They were close to making something really cool but didn’t pull it off. Too bad!

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

frown

Advertisements

Life, Animated Review

life animated4It’s no secret that 2016 has been kind of a sucky year for movies, particularly blockbusters. Sure there have been some exceptions but for the most part they have been meh to very disappointing. Such is not the case for indie films! I have even found 3 documentaries that I have loved already this year and one of those is a little gem called Life, Animated. All of you animation addicts need to see it!!!

Life, Animated is a documentary made by Roger Ross Williams, based on a memoir by Ron Suskind. It chronicles the story of Ron’s son Owen who is diagnosed with severe autism at the age of 3.  We are introduced to Owen at the age of 23 but there is a great deal of home footage that helps give you an idea of Owen as a little boy.

life animatedYou see Owen connects to the world through animated films, particularly Disney animated films. And when I say connects I mean it quite literally.  There is a heartbreaking section where Owen’s parents talk about Owen not being able to speak anything but gibberish for 4 years. Can you imagine not being able to talk to your son for 4 years? Then one day Ron has a breakthrough using an Iago puppet from Aladdin. I was bawling.

life animated3The film uses animation to bring to life segments of the film and it works so well (props to Disney for allowing their catalog to be used in clips and recreated in the animation sequences).

In another instance Owen comes up to his Mother after not speaking for years and says “Walter doesn’t want to grow up like Mowgli and Peter Pan”. They are of course stunned by this and it starts them on a journey of communicating to their son through Disney. He literally has every line from every Disney film memorized!

life animated5It is not an easy road working with Owen but the movie doesn’t do the “look how perfect and inspirational I am”. This feels like a real family (because it is a real family) and they acknowledge challenges and blessings in just the right way. I particularly liked his brother who ironically is named Walt! He is honest about his responsibilities in caring for his brother and what that is like. The Dad, Ron, is also vulnerable and strong and lovely.

life animated6This is not an ‘I am Sam’ type of film where being a special needs person is better or made to inspire us able bodied folks. No, this is just about one family, one person and how animation allowed him to communicate with the world.

life animated2This is perhaps personified most in a recurring animated segment based on a story Owen writes as a child. It’s called the Legend of the Lost Sidekicks. These sections almost reminded me of something Tomm Moore would draw. They were peaceful and gave such insight into the way Owen thinks about life.

Particularly with the current election it is easy to feel discouraged and frustrated, so I am grateful for movies like Life, Animated.  They help me to understand others better and remind me that good will always outweigh the bad. Sometimes the fandom cultures of the internet can make you forget how special this art we call movies is. Owen’s story reminded of that. It reminded me to get more joy out of these crazy toons I watch all the time. It reminded me to be myself and notice the sidekicks more. It reminded me to be grateful for my voice, my words and my family.  It was a great movie!

Overall Grade- A

Here is the trailer if you are interested

Best Indie Films of 2016

Hey guys! Lately I’ve felt a little bit burned out on blockbusters. It just feels like everything has become so polarized, even toxic when it comes to these big movies. Plus, we’ve had a lot of mediocre ones in 2016. So, it was with glee that I spoke with my friend Mark and we decided to do a podcast on independent films!

This has been so great because it encouraged me to see a bunch of independent films I might not have otherwise seen and I am the better for it. We each came with our top 10 lists and discussed them. We had a lot in common but some differences as well. I would love if you gave this podcast a listen and let me know what you think.

What indie films have you seen this year? I don’t want to give away our order but some of the films we mention are Sing Street, Love and Friendship, Everybody Wants Some!, The Witch, April and the Extraordinary World, Only Yesterday, The Invitation, etc.

I think with these independent films you can get back to the true passion behind filmmaking that sometimes gets lost in the big budget properties.  A movie like April and the Extraordinary World for instance can take some risk that Moana isn’t going to be able to take. That makes them really fun to watch.

Check out Mark’s blog at https://fastfilmreviews.com/

And this has turned out to the be the week of podcasts. Yesterday I spoke with my friend Tom about Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan. I would love if you checked that one out.

Also this Saturday I am going to meeting with Abby, Jeremy and Richard about the Prisoner of Azkaban!

I love talking about these films with my friends. If any of you have ideas for podcasts let me know! I’m always up for it.