‘Ghostbusters’ to return to theaters in advance of Blu-Ray release

Who you gonna call?

Hero Complex - movies, comics, pop culture - Los Angeles Times

Bill Murray, left, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis in "Ghostbusters." (Columbia Pictures) Bill Murray, left, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis in “Ghostbusters.” (Columbia Pictures)

Fire up your proton packs, “Ghostbusters” fans: The beloved 1984 comedy classic is set to hit theaters once more.

To celebrate the three decades since Venkman, Stanz, Spengler and Zeddemore toppled the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Sony Pictures will re-release the film in more than 700 locations in the United States and Canada for a limited engagement starting Aug. 29, the studio announced Thursday.

The film has been restored and remastered in 4K for the release.

“Ghostbusters” starred Bill Murray in one of his most iconic roles, playing the charming, wise-cracking Peter Venkman, who, along with fellow parapsychologists Ray Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), find themselves protecting the city of New York from supernatural mayhem. Business grows so brisk, they’re even forced to recruit a fourth member of the team, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson).

The movie…

View original post 185 more words

Advertisements

A Meme A Minute: Luigi’s Death Stare

A guide to Mario Kart everything, for newbies:

Right. On we go.

Hey, Nintendo? Can we talk for a minute?

What is this?

http://www.omega-level.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/rocked-her-ass.png
http://www.omega-level.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/rocked-her-ass.png

 

No, really. What is this?

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article9469367.ece/alternates/w620/luigi.JPG
http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article9469367.ece/alternates/w620/luigi.JPG

 

Why?…Just…why?

I haven’t even played the game yet, but this image appeared all over my feed. The weirdly intense look of a man with some serious passive-aggressive anger issues, probably the result of his resentment to his brother and overall franchise carrier, Mario. Everyone always loved the red plumber better…

Soon, I’m worried he’s going to pull a Cersei Lannister and arrange a nice little “accident” for his beloved bro. Or anyone else, for that matter.

https://twitter.com/mario9j/status/474343918319202304/photo/1
https://twitter.com/mario9j/status/474343918319202304/photo/1

This man does not look well.

But yes. I believe my first reaction was like most other people’s’: a laugh, quickly followed by a bemused, “What?”

Hooray for instant replay!

This is the next big meme gone viral: Luigi’s Death Stare, courtesy of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U.

According to Know Your Meme, this little gem blew up at the tail end of last month, when someone by the username CZbwoi slowed down the footage of one race, adding in an old rap song from way back in 2005.

And now this is everywhere. People are doing their own versions, capturing new footage of the green, eyeing monster as he wreaks havoc on countless new victims. Folks are putting together their own video compilations and gifs, and drawing increasingly terrifying fan art.

http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/000/768/116/d1a.png
http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/000/768/116/d1a.png
http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/000/768/129/ab8.png
http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/000/768/129/ab8.png
http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--gt87ImdG--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/p5onht9mlgdkj0yvnjao.jpg
http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–gt87ImdG–/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/p5onht9mlgdkj0yvnjao.jpg
http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/000/768/127/05d.png
http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/000/768/127/05d.png
http://i1.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/000/767/981/3ba.png
http://i1.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/000/767/981/3ba.png

 

I think the last one is my favorite 🙂

It is pretty funny and surreal, but as far as death stares go, I think the Disney villains have him beat. Especially this famous one:

Cinderella-Lady-Tremaine

Regardless, it adds something to the game for the people taking turns, eagerly waiting on the side lines til they can get behind the wheel and dish out some vengeance. Hopefully it won’t distract the players too much, because this is the kind of game that likes to mess you up right in your moment of glory, even if you are paying close attention.

And that’s just before any of your friends come over. It’s a free for all that can become anybody’s game in the span of seconds. Literally.

So just watch the replays. Don’t squint and try to catch this one full speed, or you’ll find yourself shelled in no time.

But back to the meme itself, Luigi’s eyes are creepy. He’ll probably get a new creepypasta out of that one day. Hopefully, he won’t ever look out through the screen and into your soul.

An odd, probably unintentional little feature that Nintendo can monetize in future endeavors. Accidental hilariousness, or genus foresight?

You be the judge!

As usual, no images belong to me. Put together by other people, content overall belonging to Nintendo, except for the stepmother pic. That belongs to Disney.

Find the links by the pictures for the original sources. All credit for fan art due to their original creators. 

Kids’ T.V. vs. Family T.V.

This is going to be an amendment to some of my previous posts, as well as a look at some of the differences between the categories, some more subtle than others.

I’m not the Lorax. I don’t speak for trees.

Well, I do, but not this time around.

lorax

I’ve been throwing around the term “kids’ movies” a lot lately, despite addressing many “grown up” themes and elements in those movies. Kids’ films can have adult aspects, just as adult films can have childish aspects, but I feel that the better term I could have chosen was “family movies,” because the whole family can find things to enjoy about them.

These are the movies that truly transcend age gaps, and sometimes, that means that family members can watch them on their own, without the kids.

And yet, an obnoxious stigma persists, particularly with things like 2D and hand drawn animations.

I’ve said this before, and it probably won’t be the last time here. I don’t have any patience for adults who regard animation and cartoons as “strictly-for-kids” fare, something that is beneath them (and, sometimes they believe, should be beneath other adults as well). It seems as if, to them, animation cannot be considered art in any capacity; that the medium has nothing of value to offer after you’ve passed a certain age. This attitude sometimes extends into live action as well, in family movies, kids’ movies, family t.v. shows, and kids’ t.v. shows.

Part of this is probably due to the generational gap, which strains and influences many changing opinions. But for others, it’s a condescending attitude, and even hypocritical for some.

“I only watch big boy movies! Like those based on comic books!”

giphy

I also don’t like when people treat video games like they are strictly poisonous and have no value, but that’s a topic for another day.

Now, this is not to be confused with people who just don’t care for the styles and genres. It is possible to dislike something, or find it just not your taste, but still acknowledge that it entertains others and does some good in the world.

But just hating to hate, or hating because it doesn’t specifically appeal to you, is arrogant and obnoxious. It’s still a reason, I guess, just a very stupid one.

And let’s face it: some of us still watch things we watched when we were kids.

Look at the popularity of people like the Nostalgia Critic and Nostalgia Chick; they make a living off of talking about movies and t.v. shows from the 80’s, 90’s, and onward, mixing in some comedy and historical and pop-cultural context.

Some of it is as good as we remember, and a lot of it isn’t. Hell, a few gems here and there are even better than we remember. But in the interest of bettering things for future generations of kids and their families, as well as demanding decent quality for ourselves and the current generation, it’s good to look at the media and their accompanying trends, tropes, clichés, character archetypes, etc. See what went right, what went wrong, and why. Sometimes “Dear God, why?!”

Let’s not get into gender stuff here, or move too far away from Western entertainment. Those can come later. For now, let’s just look at the age factor, and the divide.

Not everything gets nostalgic credibility and protection. After all, new stuff comes out all the time, and it has to have value too. Some things that adults and young adults watch probably deserve a laugh or a suspicious glance from their peers, but saying that you watch The Powerpuff Girls or Dexter’s Laboratory is not the same as saying you watch Ni Hao Kai-lan.

Kid Friendly Scale

 

Forgive the omission of Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Adventure Time and many notable others. Also, don’t take this as an objective or subjective ranking of any of these shows.  (Looking at it again, I might have put Pixar between Looney Tunes and MLP/Spongebob) This is a basic scale of maturity, for our convenience.

Things to the left on the graph are the shows and movies that adults are less hesitant or embarrassed to admit that they watch. Regardless of the target audience, these media do little to no talking down to their viewers. They also tend to be less “cheesy,” kid pandering, and in some cases, (again, I’ll talk about this later) less specifically gendered. These shows have messages and morals, their own persuasive elements, but they tend to be less obvious, or “spelled out.”

To the right, we have shows and movies that pander more to kids’ interests, as well as their (typically) lower emotional and intellectual maturity. A lot of these tend to be educationally focused, whether the kids are learning to count and spell, to speak a new language, or learn valuable life lessons. To balance the less extreme right, these media often contain subtle references that would sail far over the heads of the children, but any parents or guardians who may be watching with them (perhaps against their will) would recognize and even chuckle at. Both the extreme and less extreme right typically have explicitly stated morals or messages to teach the audience, and they tend to have less complex (but happy and still colorful) characters.

When I say “pandering,” I’m not trying to imply that pandering is bad and should never be done. It shouldn’t be done when it is cheap and lazy and constantly used; if it is the only thing interesting or redeeming about the movie or show. That is when it can be bad.

When it comes to the extreme right, I see adults watching those more ironically, or to reminisce about things they watched when they were very little.

Once, as a college student, I was taking a class in media, when my professor made a joke, scoffing at Spongebob Squarepants.

For those who don’t know, that goofy yellow kitchen sea-sponge had (and to some extent, still has) a significant population of adult fans. People with and without kids. I used to be a part of it myself.

Why? Because of the unique and colorful characters, hilarious and outlandish scenarios, and, most notably, the humor. It had a touch of well-written, mean-spiritedness at times, but also some very clever visual puns, regular puns, references, and subtly-framed adult jokes. Everything had a point (even if it was only for one moment), and it was well executed for the most part.

I even watched a few old episodes with a certain adult I know, who wishes to remain anonymous. This person told me that they actually sort of “got it,” but if I ever told anyone that, they would deny it. 🙂

Anyway, I actually stuck my neck out a bit in this class and said that it had humor and potential once. Once, long ago, before people like Derek Drymon, Sean Charmatz, “Mr. Lawrence,” Zeus Cervas, and yes, even the once great Aaron Springer beat this series like a dead horse, drained all likability from the characters, and even made numerous, morally reprehensible episodes that stink like prime time feces.

See “The Splinter,” “Stuck in the Wringer,” “Squidbaby,” and “A Pal for Gary,” for reference. And that’s just to name a few.

Some other guy in class, of course, scoffed at that and the class laughed.

Yeah, the show is pretty bad nowadays, but it didn’t use to be. That’s part of what’s so sad about it. It went the way of The Simpsons and still refuses to die.

The.Simpsons.S21E10.Once_.Upon_.a.Time_.in_.Springfield

Let’s bring up another show with a unique fan base: My Little Pony.

If you refer back to the graph above, you will notice that I’ve put two separate My Little Pony series up there, and on different sections of the right (one of which is paired with Mr. Squarepants). Why would I do something like that?

While the shows have always been a glossy, colorful, toy-selling vehicle for Hasbro, the new series has a couple of interesting features that distinguish it from older series, such as the nightmarishly bland “Generation 3.” These have also brought in a large population of adult fans, men and women averaging ages 15-30!

The first episode (technically a two-parter) was written (and the series was developed for television) by Lauren Faust. Just take a look at some of the work she has done as a writer and animator; a lot of it is for shows and movies that are nostalgic and fondly regarded, such as The Powerpuff Girls and Codename: Kids Next Door. Also of note are the voice actors, two major ones being Tara Strong and John de Lancie, who are both loved by fans young, new, and old, for their onscreen and offscreen personalities.

You can find Tara’s twitter here. if you’re interested.

The animation is colorful and employs the use of Adobe Flash, and the effort put into it shines through more often than not. Songs are kid friendly, of course, but thoughtfully written, beautifully scored, and (usually) given good animation sequences to match. Most notable to adult fans (referred to as “bronies” and “pegasisters”) and parents, I think, are the characters. Most of them are female, but they don’t just gush about fashion or moon over boys 24/7. Two of the ponies are successful business owners, they go on grand adventures, they engage in cartoonish sitcoms, they act like real people you know and are friends with. The ponies have siblings and other family relationships that are decently realistic, good but sometimes strained, and no one has to be specifically in the wrong or the “antagonist” in a lot of cases.

This stands in contrast to the ponies of older generations, who lived in bland and sugary worlds devoid of conflict, with vapid, brainless characters only distinguished by flank tattoos and color schemes.

^For those without the time, patience, or stomach to watch the whole thing, the most interesting thing in this review above is probably right at the end (at about 10:19), when he mentions that most of these episodes were written by men. But, as I’ve said, gender stuff is for a whole other day.

Many people are weirded out by these older fans and their interest in something that was written with little girls in mind. There will always be perverts and creepers out there, after all, and this is just so different from the norm.

Simpsons-Angry-Mob

Lauren Faust and the other creative team weren’t sure what to make of it at first, but they’ve come to accept and embrace the new fans, even going so far as to name background characters what the fans have suggested.

If you aren’t new to this phenomenon, and you’ve heard the excuse, “I like it because of the story,” that really does seem like the adult fan consensus. They like the nostalgic references and feel of the show; the likable, dynamic characters; and the show’s trend towards avoiding, subverting, and inverting  common tropes and stereotypes. Not just in media aimed at children, but a lot of media. Things that are simple and like to quietly reinforce the status quo, knowingly or not, for better or worse.

These episodes have made references to a variety of adult things, like the A Team, Dracula, and even Train Spotting. I’m not kidding about that last one. Look up the episode Baby Cakes and go to the last 5-10 minute. It’s brief, but it’s there.

On top of all this, adult fans argue that the messages about friendship, while sometimes basic, obvious, and worded oddly, are often forgotten by kids and adults alike today. Particularly adults. “Bronies” and “Pegasisters” admire the themes of tolerance, acceptance, and coexistence, and encourage each other (and their non-pony peers) to take those lessons to heart. Remember and make use of them, even when people think they’re too old or too good for them. Because sometimes, even adults need reminding.

Sometimes even simple messages have great power and meaning in people’s’ lives. And sometimes, people can be so focused on a colorful drawing or cheese, girly music, that they don’t notice the value under the surface.

Bugs Bunny doesn’t just beat people up. He outwits them. He and his buddies joke and satirize, and reference Groucho Marx. That’s so cool, and so much more than slapstick, violence, and mean-spiritedness just for its own sake.

I’m not arguing that people should reconsider their opinions on things like Dora the Explorer, Nihao Kai-lan, Lazy Town, and a lot of the 6 and younger shows. They’re really just meant to educate on basic levels anyway. Those are the ones I find are best to be outgrown, thought of only in the fond innocence of childhood memories.

I am a lorax, and I speak for The Powerpuff Girls. I speak for Friendship is Magic, Gravity Falls, Looney Tunes, Daria, Batman the Animated Series, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, even Spongebob Squarepants, if only for what he once was. I speak for the Disney, the Dreamworks, and more.

I speak for these t.v. shows and movies, for they have no tongues themselves. I know some others speak with me, but we need more. The kids’ movies  genre isn’t just a dumping ground/easy money printer; like animation in general, it takes time, effort, and care. There is value there, if you care to look. Fun, escapism, and sometimes a genuinely human experience.

And, sadly, there is a lot of junk. Some of it is truly bad, even damaging, and when not caught or explained by parents, it is left to sink into kiddies’ brains and fester, as they struggle to understand how the world works and how it will treat them when they grow up.

Whether the content is good or bad, it deserves to be questioned. Some media deserve more credit and respect than they receive.

 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”

~Theodor Seuss Geisel, The Lorax

 

*Pictures belong to their respective owners. Fox, Hasbro, etc. I drew the Lorax drawing at the start and constructed the graph, but the images and logos in it do not belong to me.

 

Maleficent (2014): An Indepth Review

Special props to Alamo Drafthouse for displaying a respect and love of movies I have seldom seen in other theaters. Please check them out and support their venues, if you can 🙂

Before I get into the new movie, let me just say that the original voice actress, Eleanor Audley, really made the character of Maleficent for me.

She was smooth, cool, calculating, menacing, and she could turn to any emotion she needed on a dime. Her laugh was a chilling wonder to my ears. If I had to give a rough estimate, 40% of her is the character design, 20% is the music, and the remaining 40% was Audley.

Again, for me personally.

Ever since Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, whenever I’ve seen this delightful, demonic dame in anything else (predominantly Kingdom Hearts), all I’ve heard is people doing their best Audley impressions. And, while Susanne Blakslee continues to do the best that she can, I am never completely satisfied. It’s one of the few times I’m hopelessly stubborn, and nothing will help fix it.

What Kingdom Hearts 2 did to Maleficent’s dignity probably didn’t help, but I digress…

photo

So when I saw the casting choices for this movie, I got excited. I really wanted Angelina Jolie to make the character her own, and not just do her best shot at copy-pasting the old identity. It wasn’t just Maleficent anymore, after all. It was her Wicked-esque counterpart, capable, perhaps, of some level of good, and garnering some level of empathy from the audience. There was plenty of room for growth and character development, even for self-proclaimed “Mistress of All Evil.”

I had sort of high hopes for it, but went in as blind as I possibly could for the most natural reaction.

Having just returned from seeing the movie with my mom, still garbed in my Maleficent shirt (courtesy of Hot Topic), I’m eager to talk about what I’ve seen.

*Warning: Spoilers below this point. Skip to the bottom for overall rating

Also, this is not a straight up comparison of the two stories. I’m treating Maleficent as a separate thing from Sleeping Beauty, because that’s how it’s supposed to be anyway. That way, I’ll be guaranteed to nitpick less than I did with Cinderella 3.

The Plot + First Impressions

The story begins by pitting two worlds against one another; the one of the fairies and magical creatures (The Moors), and that of the humans, which for the purposes of this movie we will regard as just one kingdom. The humans don’t seem too concerned with the dealings of other humans anyway, but rather with the powerful and potentially dangerous fairy folk.

Maleficent, who I half expected would adopt the name later and begin with something more pleasant (because it sounds evil right from the start), is a young fairy with horns and big half-eagle, half-dragon wings. She is young, but appears to be the head of her realm, and, at least later, its primary protector.

One day, she finds a boy stealing a gem from a pool near the edge of the realm, and spares him. The two become fast friends and, as time goes on, “something more.”

Two things here:

1) The child actors for both young Maleficent and young Stephan aren’t anything special. I’m not sure if they just aren’t acting well, or if the script doesn’t give them much to work with. Their characters both have one note, which is to prepare the audience for the coming tragedy where they will be forced to part and become enemies. There is nothing wrong with simplicity, but their story together was rushed, and suffered for it by being not very compelling or interesting.

2) Here is where I rolled my eyes in the theatre. Yet another “woman becomes evil because men” plot. Didn’t we see this already in Oz the Great and Powerful last year? And a bunch of other movies before? Do women ever do anything without being compelled to by a man or his actions towards them?

That said, it’s decently done, aside from the aforementioned rushed start.

Stephan burned her by accident during their first meeting. He wore a ring made of iron, which is the only thing that hurts fairies. Not quite sure how that works, but okay. Maleficent was very moved when she told him about it and he immediately threw the ring away, not wanting to hurt his new friend.

But Stephan stops coming around. Right after he sort of kissed her and claimed it was true love (it was kind of on screen, but dark enough to maybe qualify as offscreen too. Meh).

Untitled

Years later, Maleficent fends off an attack from the humans and their king, mortally wounding him in the process. She might have meant to kill him, but whether she did or not, a piece of iron on the king’s armor burned her, leading her to conclude that Stephan betrayed her and her kins’ only weakness to the other humans.

Back with said humans, King Henry is dying. He hesitates to name his successor, but angrily urges his men to avenge him.

Stephan, who has been swayed by greed and lust for power, goes back to Maleficent, seemingly trying to make peace with her. He essentially ruffies her so he can kill her easily, but in the midst of that crucial moment, he just can’t do it. So he does the next best thing.

Maleficent wakes the next day to find that her wings have been cut off. Stephan takes them back to the king, claims that he killed Maleficent, and King Henry gives him his daughter and the kingdom on the spot.

Maleficent responds accordingly.

So the fairy kingdom has sort of become her “Forbidden Mountain” from the original movie. The menace of it is a bit underwhelming, but then, she does pretty much leave the rest of the fairies alone.

My question here is: do they fear her because she’s making things all dark and scary? Or is it because all fairies have wings, and now that hers are gone, “shun the weirdo!”

Maleficent gets a sidekick in the form of a raven named Diaval, who she changes into a human to scare off the man who was about to beat him to death. He swears loyalty, to change as she requires and to be her “wings.”

Some time passes, and King Stephan and his still nameless queen (it was almost as laughable as her treatment in the original) have a baby. Three fairies, who hope to foster peace between their people and the humans, come to give the child magical blessings.

Maleficent comes in and screws things up for everyone.

Things to note here:

1) Being so wary and distrustful of magical creatures as he and his people are, I’m surprised Stephan let the fairies in at all.

2) How were the fairies planning to deal with Maleficent if Stephan accepted? She appears to be the only real thing standing between the peace of the two races…besides, you know, the insatiable greed and dominance of man.

3) What was the point of the third fairy’s gift being cut off in this version? Maleficent creates the condition by which the curse can be broken, though she does it with mocking irony, twisting in the knife that was the “lie” Stephan fed her as a girl. We never find out what the third gift was, and the fairy didn’t even use it to alleviate the spell afterward. So why?

4) Either Stephan had to do some serious trading and importing, or the kingdom must have undergone a serious shortage, with all those spinning wheels burned and locked away.

Anyway…

Maleficent quotes the dialogue from the original, almost word for word, until she’s almost finished casting the curse. Then she taunts King Stephan, making him beg in the sight of his entire kingdom, and curses Aurora anyway.

From here, the story takes an interesting turn.

The fairies, who are for some reason renamed despite almost all of the other major characters retaining their original names, take Aurora to the cottage in the forest. Where Maleficent finds them immediately.

picard-facepalm

The fairies, who were once inept at many things without the use of their magic (but at least didn’t neglect Aurora and almost let her kill herself), are horrible caretakers. Which makes sense, seeing as they’re now a size they aren’t used to, have never cared for infants before, and bicker just as much as their Sleeping Beauty counterparts.

This bickering was funny at times, but nowhere near as funny or endearing as Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather. These new fairies had a lot less personality; just plot props of basic idiocy, bumbling, and slapstick. Not necessarily a bad thing, though.

Maleficent and Diaval, instead of killing, tormenting, or even messing with Aurora, keep her safe and even play with her a little.

Huh…

I was expecting the good-girl-gone-bad backstory, but truthfully, I wasn’t sure how far it would extend into the rest of the movie.

Maleficent, while trying to remain snarky and detached, protects the girl, slowly growing affection for her as time goes on. She does mess with the fairies, though, which is funny. Especially since one of them is played by Dolores Umbridge.

Kill it with fire!
Kill it with fire!

While this happens, Maleficent builds a giant thorny wall (similar to the “forest of thorns” she sets against Philip in the original), keeping her realm separate from Stephan’s. The king, now going mad with fear and desperation, sets his iron workers to the task of building devices he can use to bring the wicked fairy down.

Aurora grows into a 15-year-old, as you do, when Maleficent reveals herself. Maleficent takes her to the Moors, curious to see how she will react, and watches her mingle and play with the other fairy folk within. The two grow closer than ever, and Maleficent worries about the curse she placed, even going so far as to try to undo it one night while Aurora sleeps…

in time!

Sadly, the curse is stronger than her, and she can’t remove it.

Aurora asks to go and live with Maleficent forever in the Moors, and she happily accepts. On the way home, Aurora meets Prince Philip, from the Kingdom of Who Cares, who is off to see Stephan for I forget why (which is basically a footnote in the movie. Though it does have a reason). She asks to see him again sometime, and he says sure.

Could zis be love, perhaps?

Diaval mentions to Maleficent that this boy might be the key to freeing Aurora of the curse, but the fairy rebuffs him, saying that “true love’s kiss” does not exist.

When Aurora gets home, the useless fairies spill the beans. She quickly deduces who the caster of the curse is, and we have a classic 3rd act misunderstanding that separates her from Maleficent. I hate that trope and how often it’s used, especially in kids’ movies, but it’s not too egregious here.

It’s short, but manages to keep some of its potency.

While Maleficent knocks Philip out and rides to the castle with him (rather than trying to explain why a suspicious lady with horns is being friendly with him), King Stephan is preparing for her coming. Aurora comes in, and Stephan barely acknowledges her with a kind word or two, before locking her in her room until everything is over. The spell then calls to Aurora, leading her to the room where the spinning wheels were burned and magicking up a brand new one for her convenience.

Maleficent feels it as the spell enacts, but she is more determined than ever to get Philip there so he can try his kiss on her.

Surprise, surprise. Philip’s kiss doesn’t work!

Again!
Again!

Oh, Disney. You and you’re predictable unpredictability…

In the same vein as Frozen, Disney is determined to teach the kiddies that true love isn’t just a spouse/significant other thing. If you detect some sarcasm here, it is not me saying that it’s a bad message in any way. Just a trend I predict will keep on happening in as many ways as Disney can figure out.

Maleficent developed a sort of motherly affection for Aurora throughout the years, and she realized that she was hurting an innocent person, when she had only intended to wound the man who had wounded her. Her rage and hatred clouded her judgment and took hold of her, but it could not change the person she really was.

Maleficent kisses Aurora (on the forehead, lest you think what I thought for a split second in the theatre), which wakes her. Together, they leave to live in the Moors together, Aurora feeling no connection to a home and a father she never knew anyway.

Stephan intervenes, trapping Maleficent in a net of iron. As she severely weakens from her burns, she set Diaval on the soldiers, turning her confidant into a dragon.

Yay! Kind of random and it felt last-minute, but I’ll take it! Fight! Fight! Fight!

Aurora escapes into another room to avoid the fire and carnage, and she comes across Maleficent’s old wings, strung up like a trophy on Stephan’s wall. She frees them, and they fuse back onto their owner, giving her back strength and power.

She and Stephan fight a bit before she subdues him, giving him the oft-used “it’s over” line, before turning away.

Little did she know that the only way to stamp out a threat is to kill it. Don’t leave your enemies alive to plot and scheme or, worse, assume they’ll “reform.”

Stephan tries to kill her, they plummet to the ground together, and Maleficent throws him off at nearly the last second.

Yet another Disney villain(?) goes to gravity.

R.I.P.

Maleficent steps down as Queen of the Moors and hands that title over to Aurora, basically uniting the two lands and making things bright and sunshiny again. With her wings back, she is free to fly again too.

And the elderly narrator was Aurora.

The End!

Pros, Cons, and Other Details

Angelina Jolie plays Maleficent very well, neither trying to be exactly like the original character nor straying too far from what made her awesome to begin with…well, except when she’s being “good.”

She brought some charm and class with her accent alone, adding in some freaky-contact eye rolling, widening, and creepy smiles for extra fun. Her enjoyment of the role definitely shines through.

Really, my only complaints with the acting are with the children, minus Aurora because none of her actresses got enough lines to really emote or convey much besides child-like wonder and whimsy. Or, when she’s a baby, pooping and crying. I’m torn about whether it is the fault of the kids or the director, but kids have more of an excuse by the very nature of them being kids.

It wasn’t a terribly big deal, but it did make the already short backstory a lot less strong than it could have been.

Some plot elements are vague, but they aren’t too distracting most of the time.

The music is very nice; the score was done by James Newton Howard, who most recently gave us the score for Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It’s epic, whimsical, and fantastical, at times reminding me of the Sleeping Beauty score, particularly in “ooh, Maleficent’s evil” songs.

The album can be found on iTunes and other streaming places. I definitely recommend “Maleficent Suite” and “Maleficent Flies.”

The story feels very small, somehow even smaller than the original, but that isn’t bad or even an odd thing. The story is meant to be a reimagining with a specific POV on the villain, who is not really a villain but a victim of cruel fate and circumstance. Wicked has begun a trend of stories, most recently and notably Frozen, where the supposed villainess is not what she seems, and a bunch of coincidental misunderstandings put her at odds with the other good people.

Maleficent does become genuinely evil for a portion of this movie, as she does cruel and hurtful things to deserving and undeserving people, but it’s very short-lived. She’s only a villain for maybe five minutes, before receding back into more of an anti-hero role. She’s funny, and we cheered for her plenty of times, Mom and I. Some of that was the novelty of her playing sarcastic babysitter to Aurora, but she did get some funny lines, and seemed neither too crotchety nor too loose and whimsical.

She does have some reputation to uphold, you know.

We get to see some powers, which are totally awesome. But I get the feeling that people will call it fan-pandering. I didn’t mind so much because: hey, powers. This movie would have been just a lot of talking otherwise.

The effects are really good; well-blended. They look pretty standard decent CG. If you’ve seen any movie in the last few years, these effects are right on par. I’m curious to see how much further CG can go, because these days it feels like it’s just spinning its wheels (haha, pun), not getting much better but not worse either, unless it’s a crap movie.

I think it was a wise decision to not make Jolie’s skin green. As we saw in Oz the Great and Powerful, it might make you look more silly than threatening.

Some elements from the original story seemed to be tossed aside for no better reason than “we couldn’t find time/a way to work it in,” but that’s adaptation in a nutshell.

For Parents

You can bring your kids to this one; there were certainly kids in my theatre, oohing and awing at the effects. Be warned though: there is some nightmare fodder here. The main one that stood out to me was wolf Diaval, but just look at the star of the film. Maleficent. Mistress of All Evil.

Nuff said
Nuff said

You’ll definitely want to accompany your younger, more easily spooked offspring. I wasn’t scared of Maleficent as a kid (barring that one scene ^), but I knew a lot of kids who were.

Just a suggestion.

Final Thoughts

As I left the theatre with my mom, we were discussing Angelina Jolie’s recent surgeries.

Upon discovering that she had a gene that would increase her odds of breast cancer, the very same cancer that her mother had died of, she decided to remove her breasts, and later her ovaries.

We wondered together whether or not agreeing to star in this movie was a sort of symbolic speech; if she sympathized with the characterization of Maleficent, whose wings (her initial source of power and identifying feature as one of the fairy folk) were taken from her. Could she be speaking to our American culture on some level, (where big breasts, big hips, and fertility are still regarded by many as the defining characteristics of “womanhood,”) reclaiming and reaffirming her own identity?

In terms of this movie specifically, who knows?

As to my rating of the film overall, it was decent. I had much fun watching it.

I get the sense that plenty will call it underwhelming, an insult to the original character, yada yada yada. Others will say it was fan-pandering. “You want powers? Here! You want dragon? Here you go!”

It was a fun movie-going experience, and an interesting attempt to add a character outside of “mwahahahahahahahahahaha!”

To paraphrase the almighty Nostalgic Critic, new adaptations and reimaginings, however awful they might be, can’t take away value or hype from the original. Even if this new Maleficent isn’t as cool or wicked, it doesn’t change the fact that Sleeping Beauty made her one of the top Disney villains ever.

I’d say definitely check out Maleficent (2014) before you condemn it. It’s a nice mix of Disney, classic fairytale, and gritty reboot, all in one.

*Images/Video that do not belong to Disney are: Anchorman, M. Night Shyamalan, Harry Potter, Spongebob, and Star Trek. Nothing is mine, as usual, though I did take the picture of the movie poster 🙂

Godzilla: An Honest Review

Directed By: Gareth Edwards

Written By: Max Borenstein.

Starring: Aaron Taylor Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, and Bryan Cranston.

Godzilla is back! It has been a decade after the Japanese release of Toho’s Godzilla: Final Wars, and it has been 16 years since the last, god awful, American release, Godzilla by director Roland Emmerich.

southparklol

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Godzilla franchise, I’m going to run you through the basics. Godzilla, or “Gojira” in Japanese, is a giant dinosaur which rises from the ocean to fight other monsters. Within the Japanese films, Godzilla’s exact origins vary, but he is generally depicted as an enormous, violent, prehistoric sea monster, awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation.

His size (which changes from film to film for the sake of artistic license) is generally around, oh let’s say, 500 feet tall. Believable? Not really. But who cares! It’s giant monsters fighting each other!

Godzilla’s signature weapon is its “atomic breath,” which is a nuclear blast that it generates inside its body and unleashes from its jaws in the form of a blue radioactive heat ray.

After Legendary Pictures formally announced this project in March 2010, after the acquisition of the rights from Toho Studios, this legendary monster was put back in action; directed by Gareth Edward and is a co-production with Warner Bros.

This film had a lot of hype. I was very excited for Godzilla’s return to the big screen, definitely listing it as 1 of my top 10 most anticipated films this year. I wanted to see the king of monsters make an epic return and break into the mainstream for western audiences.

The trailers for the movie were awesome, they promised us action and an interesting story. So did it live up to the hype?

Yes and no.

*Spoilers ahead*

This article contains not just some spoilers, but all the spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie and you want to see it for yourself, stop reading here!

Opening Credits

In case you’re interested in something that’s usually so mundane and throw-away….

The film’s opening establishes the origin story of Godzilla, showing videos of the nuclear explosion that caused the radioactive exposure in the ocean and the covered-up redacted statements that wrapped around the credits.

The whole opening sequence is well made, but perhaps lost on new people who might not know or for the people, like me, who might not be paying attention THAT closely to the credits. Luckily, there is a transcription of the whole thing on Badassdigest.com.

Plot

In 1999, scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) are called to a quarry in the Philippines where a colossal skeleton and two egg-shaped pods have been discovered. One of the pods was dormant and the other one, having hatched, has escaped to the sea.

The screen cuts focus to Janjira, Japan (just outside of Tokyo), the local giant nuclear plant starts experiencing seismic activity. Plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) sends his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) and a team into the core to look for damage.

As the team makes its inspection deep within the facility, an explosion occurs, threatening to release radiation to the outside. Joe goes down to manually ensure that the door stays open for Sandra and her team. However, the radiation was too quick for Sandra and the team, and Joe had no choice but to close the door, leaving the team unable to escape. The plant collapses into ruin, leaving Joe and Ford, his son, mother and wife-less all within the first few minutes of the film.

Untitled

The disaster, attributed to a catastrophic earthquake, results in the evacuation and quarantine of the Janjira area and the main cause for the events to follow.

Alright! The movie starts out with a good backstory. The monster that hatched was kept a mystery, adding suspense; Bryan Cranston had an absolutely brilliant performance; and the pacing of the plot was good. Oh, I am so ready for what comes next!

Fifteen years later, we jump POV focus from Joe Brody to his son Ford Brody(Aaron Taylor-Johnson)…

Oh god dammit… A POV switch?

Anyway, he is an explosive ordnance disposal officer (we all know that he’s going to have to stop a bomb later) in the United States Navy, living in San Francisco with his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and son.

His wife and son have no significance other than to add additional drama to the film. Just expressive plot props.

I can’t even remember their names without looking it up first (it’s Elle and Sam, by the way). It’s a real shame too, because Elizabeth Olsen’s talents are half-starved in this film.

Anyway, after the movie establishes that Ford has live bait for the monsters to later threaten, Ford finds out that Joe is arrested for trespassing in the quarantined area. Ford then travels to Japan to bail him out of jail. Joe, hell-bent on discovering the true cause of the catastrophe, convinces his son to accompany him to Janjira for his mother’s sake.

Once in the quarantined area, they discover no signs of radiation, despite the warning that authorities had claimed. They decide to visit their old home to retrieve floppy disks that would assist in Joe’s quest to expose the cover-up. They also notice the power plant in the distance with its lights on, believing that the plant is being rebuilt. Once they recover this information, they are promptly arrested by local security and are then taken to the facility within the power plant’s ruins, built to contain a massive chrysalis, which is being studied by Serizawa and Graham.

So let me get this straight. The first time Joe was in the quarantined area, he was arrested and put into prison. Second time…meh. It will give him a pass directly to where the next plot point will be.

The aforementioned chrysalis, which contains the monster that destroyed the plant, soon hatches and unleashes a colossal winged creature, named MUTO or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, which devastates the facility and flies off. Joe is critically wounded in the chaos, and eventually dies from his injuries.

Yeah, I know Bryan Cranston. I'm sad too.
Yeah, I know Bryan Cranston. I’m sad too…

Serizawa, Graham and Ford join a US Navy team to track the monster, using the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CVN-88) as a base of operations. As the earth’s radiation subsided, it moved underground and put itself in a cryptobiotic state. Godzilla, a much larger animal that was awoken during a deep-sea expedition in 1954, in turn, is hunting it. Its existence has been continually covered up following numerous failures to kill it with nuclear weapons. Ford reveals that his father had tracked a form of echolocation from the Janjira area, which leads the team to believe the MUTO was communicating with something else. Something that wasn’t Godzilla.

A U.S. Army Special Forces team in Hawaii finds the wreckage of a Russian nuclear submarine in the forest northwest of Diamond Head, outside of Honolulu, and finds the MUTO feeding on its reactor. The military attacks the MUTO and a battle ensues at Honolulu International Airport. Godzilla arrives from the ocean, causing a catastrophic tsunami that devastates Waikiki. The MUTO later flees by air.

The second MUTO pod, which was brought from the Philippines to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, then hatches. The much larger, wingless female destroys Las Vegas before heading west, and Serizawa concludes that the two creatures will meet to breed. There enters Godzilla’s main purpose as Alpha Predator…

c84

Let them fight

A train is loaded with two warheads to take to San Francisco, but it is intercepted and destroyed by the female MUTO, which eats one of the warheads. The other warhead is taken by helicopter to San Francisco, where it is put on a boat and armed. The MUTOs, however, steal the warhead and the female MUTO constructs a nest around it in downtown San Francisco, threatening the lives of millions.

Warhead

At this time, citizens in San Francisco are being evacuated on school buses. Elle leaves Sam with a trusted friend while she stays behind to help around in the hospital. The buses then make their way out of the city through the Golden Gate Bridge, where it is blocked off and is surrounded by the military. Godzilla resurfaces near the bridge.

Speaking of which, why did he spare the ship with Ishiro and the Admiral but plow over the other two ships?

The NAVY opens fire in an attempt to prevent him from entering the city, despite the protests of the soldiers on the bridge due to the presence of civilians. The commotion caused by both the military and Godzilla results in the destruction of the bridge.

OF COURSE!
OF COURSE!

And somehow Sam’s bus escapes the carnage….

Alright, so Godzilla is making his way toward the MUTO! Finally we get to see some monster fighting monster action that the franchise is-

A cut to the soldiers… *Sigh*

Well, while the MUTOs are distracted by Godzilla, Ford and a team of soldiers enter the nest via halo jump to try to disarm the warhead.

But hey, the MUTO uses EMP to disable electronics, right? With the MUTO right there, how the hell were the soldiers able to have a digital GPS guide them to where the nuke was hiding?

th

All logic aside, they find the warhead and discover it has suffered significant damage, being that there is now a nest of MUTO eggs attached to the nuke and are unable to disarm it. So they plan to take it out to sea and let it detonate.

Ford decides to use a fuel truck to incinerate the nest, which distracts the female MUTO from the fight, leaving just the male to fight Godzilla. Godzilla then impales the male MUTO into a skyscraper, killing it, though the collapsing structure engulfs Godzilla as well. Ford arrives at the docks and manages to get to the warhead boat, with the enraged female MUTO in pursuit.

As the MUTO bears down on Ford, Godzilla attacks the female by firing his atomic breath down her throat, decapitating her. Ford then gets the boat out to sea and is saved by a rescue team just before the warhead detonates. Meanwhile, Godzilla collapses from exhaustion on the shoreline.

In the aftermath, Ford is reunited with his wife and son. Godzilla unexpectedly awakens and returns to the ocean, hailed as the “King of the Monsters” and “The City’s Saviour” by the media.

Overall

Gareth Edward’s “Godzilla” (2014) is a good movie, but it has some glaring flaws in it that drags the film down.

1. CGI and Design of Monsters

TNJAoIK
See the resemblance?

Okay, so sure, the monsters differ in color, head, there are two extra appendages and the MUTO has the power of flight. But where is the originality in this monster?

In the early to mid 1960’s Toho’s special effects team cranked out designs for Mothra (1961) , Godzilla in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Manda from Atragon (1963), Dagora (1964), Baragon (1965) from Frankenstein Conquers the World, Sanda and Gaira (1966) to name a few. And these weren’t even made on computers, rather they were rendered as pencil sketches by none other than Eiji Tsuburaya. His monsters were completely original and had character. You know, as much as a giant monster fighting other giant monsters can have character.

It just disappoints me that we have all this incredible technology that can produce and animate things quickly, and the best we can come up with is a rehash of the Cloverfield Monster. Oh please.

I mean sure, not every monster is going to have originality in design, and maybe not have original powers too. Some of Toho’s designs had outside influences.

But the difference is they created value by staying constistant and making it their own. Toho invented new and unique elements and ideas, and made it feel special throughout the entire film. In Godzilla 2014, the EMP blast could have been a unique idea if had it not have been comprised when the plot needed it to be.

Also, at times the CGI had to be in a dark backdrop in order to make the monsters seem more realistic, but this make the fight scenes a little bit hard to see.

2. Balance of Human Sentiment and Monster Action

The movie creates the just right amount of tension for their characters, but more often than not it focuses too much on details that are really not necessary to the plot of the movie. Human sentiments took up center stage, while news reports hardly ever focused on Godzilla’s massive save, even after he was proven innocent.

The whole segment with the Japanese child getting separated from his parents was unwanted and uninteresting. That time could have been devoted to better action sequences or Godzilla doing something other than swim next to the Navy. Was there not something more interesting he could do, rather than cruise with ships?

And for some very frustrating reason, the camera always cut away to some rather irrelevant human action after giving the audience a sneak peak of Godzilla. It’s understandable to introduce the monster in this way – it is senseless, however, to continue in this pattern throughout the movie.

Also, for fans of the series, we all know what Godzilla looks like. Hell, even some non-fans do. There is a bit less suspense on a monster that has already been seen, even from adaptation to adaptation.

It also sends the audience into fits of frustration. The only question on my mind after an hour and a half of the movie, was: when the hell are we going to see Godzilla? This is supposed to be an action movie, right?

Godzilla’s two moments of glory were when he bit the face off the male MUTO and later ripped the female one apart. I wanted more of a fight between the creatures, as opposed to the prolonged military action we got to witness. It was all pretty standard stuff really.

Final Thoughts

For all my bitching about the flaws of this film, I don’t deny that there are good moments in the movie and some good potential for the franchise itself.

It made an estimated $93 million in the US and $103 million internationally during its debut, towering over Universal Pictures “Neighbors” and taking its places in the No. 1 spot. And from this revenue and success in the first weekend of its release, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures have announced a sequel.

So, the film accomplished its main goal and that was to introduce this legendary beast to western audience allowing for potential growth. I will definitely be watching the new Godzilla sequel when it comes out.

7 out of 10

The Little Sequel that Could: Cinderella 3

Go Cindy, go!
Go Cindy, go!

Avid Disney fans of the 90’s and early 2000’s will remember, and probably visibly cringe at, the sudden onslaught of direct-to-video sequels that Disney Toon Studios (once Disney Movietoons) unleashed upon the market. Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Fox and the Hound, Pocahontas; hell, even Bambi.

thScarOven

And, as you’ve probably guessed, these were not made because the studio wanted to give thoughtful, interesting continuations of some of our favorite stories and characters, and certainly not to improve what had already worked for them.

No, these were made because:

dollar_sign_eyes_sticker-ra34da77665d243eea60412a5dc1a3aed_v9waf_8byvr_512

Quality is scarce in most of them. Voice actors change or sound like they’re phoning it in, the music is limited and half-hearted, the audio quality is bad or average, and the animation is less vibrant and lively, with more lines. Like a cartoon show you’d see on t.v.

All of these factors are, of course, in comparison to the original films.

Allow me to quote the notable critic and online personality, Nostalgia Chick, as I believe she put it best:

“…sometimes you have to ask yourself: why do these things exist? Are they the product of a creative spark somewhere? Or are they a studio mandate farmed out to a third-rate production house?”

“As they were made by television people with television assets and budgets, they look like T.V. shows. They are paced like T.V. shows. They have the stakes of a T.V. episode.”

“…a quick cash-in made for stupid children who need to be babysat by Uncle Television for an hour…”

~Top Ten Worst Disney Sequels review

She goes on to outline the usual set up for a Disney sequel. It’s either a prequel, midquel, three-part obvious television show pilot, or sequel, and most of them involve the children of the main characters from the old movie learning the same lesson their parents did last time around, or someone “from movie 1 finding a love interest.” They are glorified fan fictions with budgets, except that these are written by the canon creators.

For those unfamiliar with the terms:

Canon is the material accepted as part of the story in an individual fictional universe.

Fanon, or Fandom, is what the fans come up with (their interpretations, theories, pairings, etc.)

As a child, I saw about half of these “films”. I was too young to understand why the overall quality was so bad, but old enough to be able to notice continuity errors, voice changes, and, in general, a lot less epicness all around. The only sequels I could stand to watch, for the longest time, were Lion King 2 and Pocahontas 2, and while I have some fond memories of them and wouldn’t say they are “that bad,” I wouldn’t call them good, terribly memorable, or having any high aspirations either.

Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time, however…

On a friend’s recommendation, and the above mentioned critic’s follow-up review (Top Five Least Awful Disney Sequels, I sat down and watched this film the other day. I was surprised by its (relatively) decent quality, and it’s aspirations.

Yes. I would go so far as to say this movie aspires to do something useful, which is to give the bland-as-bread Cinderella and the other by-the-numbers good and evil characters some desperately needed development. Even Prince Charming!

Also, Cindy gets stuff to do, and has to work to keep her happily ever after, which is unique and refreshing to many, who regarded her as boring and passive in her original movie.

But how can that be, you ask?

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Cinderella and Prince Whats-His-Name have been married a whole year, and have apparently never had a single argument the whole time, because everything is “perfectly perfect.”

No, I have not watched Cinderella 2, nor will I. From what I’ve heard, 3 doesn’t care much about the continuity of 2 anyway.

The fairy godmother (who’s back for some reason, bumming around the castle I guess) and mouse and bird friends are preparing a big anniversary dinner, while the stepmother still lives in that dilapidated old manor. Lady Tremaine (yes, the stepmother has a name, but the prince doesn’t) now makes her daughters do the chores.

1d18b871dabd9337ba36f13d41a9c1f7ccbc16960f3440b079cb2c5436cc773d

That is, if Cinderella were a normal person and not a Christian archetype of goodness, kindness, and patience. I think after what she’s been through, she has a right to gloat a little. And after the events of this movie unfold, you’ll see the full extent of her unrealistic forgiveness.

The anniversary party is happening about a mile from Cindy’s old house, and Anastasia catches sight of the couple riding by and decides to follow them.

Two things to note here:

1) Anastasia is now a sweet, clumsy, quirky, misled girl, who is going to be unwittingly used by her mother to keep the plot going.

Cinderella III Anastasia and the slipper

I’m all for giving her a personality and not painting her as “just evil,” as Disney has done with villains in the past, but this does create a humorous contrast to the chick in the first movie that was just as nasty as her sister, Drizella, and viciously abused Cinderella with her for many years. Need we forget that lovely dress-tearing scene?

Stepsisters Tearing Dress_thumb[9]

Maybe she was just sweetly misled there too. Who knows?

Nature vs. nurture again…

2) All of this opening and introduction of the characters is taking place via the most cheesy, ear-bleedingly awful musical number. I won’t say it’s the worst of the bunch (there are only about 3 songs, and the rest is background music), because that honor goes to “At the Ball,” sung later by the comic relief mice. I won’t subject you to that one.

tumblr_inline_n03brbHXPD1r9490o

Mary Poppins can pull off “practically perfect in every way,” but on Cinderella, it’s just obnoxious.

The only mildly interesting part of the song is the contrast in score when Cindy and the step sisters sing, but you’ll probably be distracted by the purposely awful singing of the latter. Anastasia sounds like she has a nice voice just itching to get out sometimes, but because she’s a villain-turned-anti-hero, I’m guessing the director told the voice actress to be less graceful and more comedic. Keep up that nasal, Tress!

Anyway…

Cinderella3_0130

Shenanigans happen. The fairy godmother loses her wand, which conveniently lands in front of Anastasia after everything from the first movie was exposited to her, and it then ends up in the hands of Lady Tremaine. The fairy godmother is put out of commission, and the stepmother turns back time and alters things so that Anastasia is set to marry the prince. For extra insurance, she makes sure he’s totally cool with it.

Cinderella looks on like a kicked puppy (something she does on and off as she and her hopes ride the emotional roller coaster that is this movie’s plot), then sings a song that totally doesn’t rip off the opening to The Sound of Music and “Belle”‘s reprise from Beauty and the Beast at the end.

This is like if Belle, halfway through her song, did a complete 180.

“Do I want a man or adventure, or both? I’m so confused!”

But good for her, realizing that having dreams means you have to actually work for them. Take steps and all that jazz.

She marches off to the castle, sidekicks in tow, to defy fate and go get her man.

Yay Feminism!
Yay Feminism!

If I may pause here to mention some more things:

1) The comedy is all over the place. Sometimes it’s funny, with Drizella being the snarky bridge between the cold, quiet, poised stepmother and the clumsy, tactless, thoughtless Anastasia, but most of the time the writers are trying way too hard. It feels heavy-handed and way too purposeful.

The scenes where the mice try to be funny are just painful. It’s colorful, shiny kid-pandering at its finest.

2) The continuity is all over the place, as you might have guessed, but to be fair, it probably wouldn’t bother most people.

It bothers me because Disney is trying to tell me this is Cinderella, but they don’t even remember their first film or care about the little details enough to try to convince me. They think that all I, or anyone, need to see is Cindy, and I’ll think, “Oh, it’s Cinderella. Okay!”

In the words of Nostalgia Chick yet again, “Brand. Name. Recognition!”

These things undermine some otherwise poignant, witty moments, like when the King is criticizing his son for how he’s chosen to determine his bride:

King: “Those aren’t reasons! Breeding, refinement! These are reasons to marry someone! Not their choice in transparent footwear!…You think there’s only one woman in the whole kingdom who wears a size 4 and 1/2?”

Prince: “It’s all I have to go on, here.”

Now, this seems pretty funny. They’re poking fun at themselves and winking at the audience. Cool.

May I direct your attention to this little clip?:

Yeah…so…The king is getting all up in the prince’s business over a plan that he basically came up with. He used the prince’s wording to trap him into marrying someone. Anyone. “That’s his problem.”

The original king didn’t care about breeding and refinement. He just wanted grandkids before he croaked. And since “every eligible maiden (was) to attend,” class must not have been that huge of a factor. Or love, for that matter.

Incidentally, the king and grand duke are probably the funniest things about Cinderella.

Here are a few other nitpicks:

  • Lady Tremaine doesn’t react when her cat is turned into a hybrid duck/cat thing by magic, but she does realize the potential of the wand when it turns the fairy godmother to stone. Delayed reaction maybe?

 

  • Anastasia is almost perfectly content trampling on Cinderella’s happiness from the get go, but only realizes later that she was hurting people, and herself, by trying to force the prince to love her. I know she is dense, but she must have her brain completely shut off if we’re supposed to believe she’s really a nice person. Even as she starts questioning herself and her choices later on.

 

  • Lady Tremaine takes them back in time to when the grand duke first arrived at the manor, then shows Cinderella locked in her room and the mice bringing her the key before the duke even comes inside. The mice only got the key in the original movie once the duke was there and his servant was reading off a ridiculously long proclamation. Also, Cindy is apparently so confused as the duke is wheeling away Anastasia, that she talks to the stepmother as though the woman hadn’t just figured out that she was the girl from the ball and purposefully locked her in her room.  And Cinderella saw this.

 

  • Cinderella doesn’t sing like her 50’s voice actress at all. This is really petty and a personal problem, I know, but it’s my review. Cindy had a lovely voice and singing style before, and now she just sounds nice in a very generic sort of way.

 

Cinderella gets caught and banished by the stepmother, but the prince, alerted by the mice and somewhat able to see past the spell by…having touched Cindy’s hand, goes after her.

More on the hand thing later.

Okay, that whole scene was pretty funny.

(Note: Sorry the clip is limited. The king thought he was crazy because the prince off-handedly mentioned talking mice and blue birds telling him he was marrying the wrong girl. Yet more chuckling at the first film’s ludicrous elements)

The prince saves Cindy just in the nick of time (proving to us and his horse that he is utterly suicidal). The stepmother and her daughters flee, the wedding is on with the right girl this time. Looks like things will go back to normal…

but-wait-theres-more

Lady Tremaine appears again, this time magically disguising Anastasia as Cinderella. Anastasia seems more unsure than usual, but goes along with it because she’s cowed, desperate, and has no self-respect whatsoever.

in time!
in time!

That was delightfully creepy and ironic. I approve!

Note here that Cindy has been sent off to her death, and Anastasia has nothing to say on the matter at all. Her motivations and hatred or care for Cinderella are very vague.

In an even more ironic and satisfying twist, Cinderella essentially saves herself from certain death! You’ll have to see this one for yourself to believe it, but it’s true! One of Disney’s most passive princesses had a shining moment of awesome action!

…Okay, the mice do help her a bit. But they are in the same boat as she was (careening towards certain doom), and it is still an awesome scene that is worth the 5 or so minutes it would take you to check it out.

And hey, at least she didn’t need a prince.

So Cindy goes back to stop the wedding, but not before Anastasia decides that she wants real love and stops it herself via the rarely played card, “I don’t.”

Huh. Usually, we get, “I object!”

I approve of this too. Shake up the old clichés a bit, I say!

The ending is a bit quick, anti-climactic, and repetitive (a spell bounces off a reflective surface for the third or fourth time, hitting the caster in the face), but Cinderella and Princey get married, too busy making googly eyes to notice the fairy godmother’s offer to return them to their full year of peace and marital bliss from the beginning of the film. I guess it doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things anyway, but I think it at least deserved a scrap of thought on their part.

GET A ROOM, YOU TWO!
GET A ROOM, YOU TWO!

Anastasia, who has been talking to the now true-lovey-dovey king on and off throughout the movie, decides to find her true love elsewhere, which is hastily pushed into the credits with broken continuity from Cinderella 2. 

Hooray for no loose ends
Hooray for no loose ends

Sometimes, I got the vibe that she would end up with the king in the end. Can’t imagine why.

mqdefault

After all this nitpicking and grumbling about the flaws of the film, I still have plenty of respect for it. Unlike other Disney sequels, it wasn’t boring or terribly contrived. The stakes were high, I daresay even higher than the first film. The movie was decently enjoyable to watch, even with the (at times) cringe-inducing comedy.

Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time was trying to give us a thoughtful addition to the classic story, some self-referential humor and parody, and Cindy and her man getting some personality, something to like about them besides just “they seem nice, I guess.” The writers made mistakes here and there, some glaring and some small, but they were clearly trying harder here than they had in some of the other sequels. I firmly believe that this deserved a theatrical release a lot more than Peter Pan 2 did.

The biggest problems have to do with the jumbled messages. Love is something you have to find and work for, it’s one of the most powerful forces on earth. I agree, but the whole “when our hands touched, I knew” sentiment feels like just another “true love’s kiss.” They swapped one superficiality for another, and tried to call it deeper.

It undermines the message even more that the prince is never named once in this film, by Cindy or anyone else. And besides sword fighting and horse riding (if you stretch a little), does he have any hobbies?

I’m sure some people do feel “fireworks” during a first kiss, or feel that their partner’s “hand fits perfectly in theirs,” but Cindy and the prince still aren’t really getting to know each other. Even the king and his klutzy queen, who we never see and who also touched hands and knew it was meant to be from the start, feel like a stronger, more real couple than our two mains.

Yay Feminism!
Yay Feminism!

That said, I never really had a problem with Cinderella’s passivity. I like the look and sound and feel of Cinderella a lot more than I like the titular character or her husband-to-be. Also, Eleanor Audley voiced the original stepmother, making her sound despicable even when she wast doing much. I just brought it up because I know that a lot of people, particularly feminists, have a problem with her attitude (or lack thereof), and like to totally ignore the fact that this film came out in the 50’s. The 1950’s, which was totally the golden age of social progressive thinking.

Emma-Stone-Yes-Nod-In-Crazy-Stupid-Love-Gif

You will find yourself caring about Cindy in this movie, however interesting or deep you personally find her or her man. You know, in that kicked puppy sort of way. She’s always been a nice person, and her happily-ever-after after a life of chores and verbal abuse is snatched away from her.

It’s a little more earned than in Cinderella, and she’s fighting for what she wants the whole movie.

So Cinderella 3 is a mixed bag.

Is it great?

Not really.

Does it succeed at what it’s trying to do?

Again, not really.

Is it worth checking out?

Oh, definitely. Take what I’ve said and your own track record with Disney sequels with a grain of salt, and you might find a small, murky diamond in a sea of rough.

*As usual, no photos, gifs, or video clips belong to me! Disney’s Cinderella, her characters, and sequels belong to…well, Disney. 

Mary and Max: An Underrated Classic

This film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as the second titular character. There. Semi-relevant!

Other fun fact: It also came out the same year as Coraline, at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Mary and Max is the story of two people living on opposite ends of the world in the 1970’s, whose lives are confusing, bleak, and lonely.

Mary D. Dinkle is a little girl living with her family in Australia. Her mother is the local lush with a penchant for verbal abuse and kleptomania; her father seems passive, assembles tea bags and stuffs dead birds he finds on the freeway as a hobby; and Mary herself is constantly teased for her poo-shaped birthmark and her poor, trailer trash background.

Max J. Horowitz is an obese, atheist 44-year-old with Aspergers Syndrome. He converted from Judaism, but still wears his yamaka to keep his “brain warm,” and lives in an apartment in New York City with a plethora of different pets. He finds most people confusing, from their facial expressions to their motives, and strives to keep his life simple and “symmetrical,” which keeps him calm and content. When his fellow New Yorkers don’t find something objectionable, threatening, or noteworthy about him, they ignore him.

These two meet when Mary decides to pick an American penpal at random from the phonebook, and despite the distance and completely separate lives, they quickly bond over The Noblets, their favorite cartoon show; a love of chocolate; and the knowledge they are both social outcasts in desperate want of a friend.

Their differences in ages, shapes, sizes, genders, etc. don’t matter. They speak only via mail, and know only what the other person shares with them. But their friendship is just as close and nourishing as if they lived just up the street from one another.

06142010_MaryMax1MaryandMax5_0max-and-mary4

The thing that really stands out about the film is the use of claymation. Disregarding the very bleak and limited color scheme, you’d probably think this is a kids’ movie. It’s not, but feel free to think what you want. It will take joy in playing with your expectations.

The clay often gives the characters very over-exaggerated, ugly looks,

Maxcolors

with the exception of Mary (first pic of the bunch above, on the left), who, at worst, looks plump, nerdy, and shy. This effect leaves the world feeling gritty and pecessmistic; real, in a way, alive but still obviously cartoony. Facial expressions are over-the-top, but tell the audience right away exactly what the character is feeling (even Max sometimes). It’s a very odd combination, but that’s one of the reasons I love the movie so much.

Most of the film is done in mime, with narration and dialogue seeming separate from the characters. This reminds me most of Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which also relied on cartoony expressions and antics to carry the story further. In that case, it was needed to break up some of the more “flowery,” straight-from-the-book narration for kids, and provide a humorous contrast. Here, it compliments the narration and goes beyond its limits to show more depth of character and emotion.

The story is downright unpleasant at times, as many realistic and depressing things happen to Mary, Max, and the important people in their lives. I won’t spoil them here, but if you are interested in this movie at all, be prepared for sensitive and unpleasant topics. And at no point does anyone step out into the land of Oz, changing the scenery into glorious Technicolor. Get used to seeing brown, grey, and red.

The movie has its moments of humor as well, mostly when the two main characters have childish ideas of, or nonchalant attitudes towards, something that is strange or horrible. Along those lines, Mary and Max will recite things that they have heard like small children whose parents or older siblings just swore in front of them for the first time.

These are the kind of laughs that get startled out of you. It’s black comedy, which is an acquired taste for some.

Despite its grim situations and attitudes, like the main characters, the movie often has a certain child-like optimism to it as well. Themes of death, othering, and bullying are accompanied by themes of friendship, hope, and forgiveness, which can be just as strongly-felt. The characters transcend beyond stereotypes like the “aspie” or the generic bullied kid with their unique hobbies, views, and reactions. There are many bullied little girls out there (I was one once), but I think you’ll find that there is only one Mary Daisy Dinkle.

Mary And Max_avi_000731040

The music is simple and minimalist, comprised of different pieces, such as: “Perpetuum Mobile” (Penguin Cafe Orchestra), “A Swinging Safari” (Bert Kaempfert), and “Russian Rag” (Elena Kats-Chernin). It’s repetitive, often functioning as leimotif for different moods, locations, and characters. I think it sets the mood, and even accents it, well at times.

One uber-specific aspect of this film that I’d like to praise is the symbolism of Max’s typewriter. He writes all of his letters with it, while Mary’s early notes are all hand-written and misspelled, and we can clearly see that the “m” key is smack-dab in the middle of his typewriter. In essence, Mary quickly becomes the center of Max’s otherwise lonely world.

27062517_

When a misunderstanding puts the two at odds, Max, in a fit of rage, rips out the “m” key and sends it to Mary in a parcel. This tells her that he doesn’t want to speak with her anymore, without any written words to literally spell it out. Later, Max tries to type a letter to the mayor, but he slowly realizes that, despite typing as he normally does, all of his “m’s” are missing. Then he runs out of ink completely. He purchases more, but that doesn’t change the fact that words containing “m” are out of his reach. He couldn’t even type his own name, unless he bought a new key, which he doesn’t.

Without the “m” key, he loses his very ability to communicate. With Mary, or anyone else. Friendship helped him cope with the confusion and stress of life, and he realizes how much he needs it only when it’s gone. He concludes this all on his own, while Mary realizes that she also took their bond for granted, and feels exceedingly guilty.

Nothing is worth giving up your great, meaningful connections. At least, nothing trivial, or coming from unaddressed miscommunications.

Even disregarding the two distant, global settings, America and Australia, this film goes out of its way to give you a genuine, universal human experience. Mary and Max acknowledges that life is different for everybody; some people have it easier, and some have it harder. But whoever you are, you need at least one friend, and you need to come to grips with your own flaws and hiccups.

*Pictures and video are the property of Icon Entertainment International

 

 

Advertisements

Movies, media, and what make them MASSIVE.