Tag: disney

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Making a Star Wars movie in 2018 is fraught with dangers. Lurking within the dangerous fog that surrounds the only safe path are fans who have invested in personal visions of the universe based on recently de-canonized stories, critics eager to espouse opinions about franchise fatigue, and just when you think you’ve made it out with your precious cargo, here come journalists ready to pounce upon any reports of troubles on the set or changes in filmmakers. It’s almost impossible to avoid all of these traps and hungry monsters, and the worst thing is that there’s really no way of knowing when one will pop up. Did you hire directors whose trademark is their sense of spontaneity to make your movie that has to slot precisely into a rigid canon, then fire them when you realized that they weren’t going to button up and act right? Oops, there’s 6 months of bad news stories. Did you think it would be a good idea to focus a little on a prop that had accidentally become important after previous filmmakers cut the justifying scene from three movies ago? Well, now you’re scrambling to make up for a horrible movie that everybody hated (one that’s actually the best in the franchise), so now they’re going to hate your movie too. Is your film in part a prequel and in part a set-up for further untold stories? That’s not good storytelling, it’s just an excuse to be money-grubbing hacks. What’s a moviegoer to do?

Top 100 Films: The _2’s

The penultimate segment of the list! A lot of physical films this time around. Only two were released after the year I was born, though only two are in black and white. Many of the films take place in only a few locations. Also, they’re all great.

92. The Wrestler (2008)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei

And now, I’m an old broken down piece of meat… and I’m alone. And I deserve to be alone. I just don’t want you to hate me.

That this film and Black Swan were once the same script makes total sense. Both examine how the body suffers from performance and willpower. The Wrestler is more grounded and heartfelt, though not sentimentally so. Rourke and Tomei give great, real performances and Aronofsky keeps everything immediate.

82. Days of Heaven (1978)

Directed by Terrence Malick. Starring Richard Gere and Brooke Adams

Nobody’s perfect. There was never a perfect person around. You just have half-angel and half-devil in you.

Malick loves him some voice-over and pretty pictures. This tale of depression-era farming and a simmering romance is beautifully shot and told. The locust scene is spectacular filmmaking.

72. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Directed by Charles Crichton. Starring John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis

Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself.” And the London Underground is not a political movement.

One of the smartest movies I’ve seen, A Fish Called Wanda is a hilariously absurd film that manages to get some real emotion in while crushing dogs under pianos. Kevin Kline won an Oscar for his performance as the monumentally stupid and confident Otto and he deserved it.

62. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Directed by Elia Kazan. Starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando

I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don’t tell truths. I tell what ought to be truth.

The key word for this movie is heat. There’s the obvious and overwhelming sense of heat in terms of temperature but the real heat comes from the characters. There’s something boiling under everybody’s surface and as the film goes on it gets closer and closer to exploding. Kazan cleverly changes the room where the majority of the film takes place to get more and more claustrophobic as the movie progresses.

52. 7th Heaven (1927)

Directed by Frank Borzage. Starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell

Chico… Diane… Heaven.

Though I don’t like it as much as Lucky Star, 7th Heaven is another fantastic film pairing Gaynor and Farrell under the direction of Borzage. There’s a lot about levels and rising and falling, along with some terrific romance and Borzage’s typical miraculous ending.

42. Die Hard (1988)

Directed by John McTiernan. Starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman

“And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” Benefits of a classical education.

Yes, for those of you that didn’t know, my blog name is a quote from Die Hard. It’s the best of the 80’s and 90’s action films, mostly because of Willis and Rickman and their superb bantering. Die Hard is a movie that will never age.

32. North by Northwest (1959)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint

No. No. Mother, I have not been drinking. No. No. these two men, they poured a whole bottle of bourbon into me. No, they didn’t give me a chaser.

Cary Grant is one of the best people ever. This is scientifically proven. Here he gets to be caught up in a smuggling plot and a delightfully devious romance. When I finished watching it I remarked that it felt very modern and retro at the same time. I could see Steven Soderbergh doing a remake like he did the Ocean’s movies. But they wouldn’t have Cary Grant and that would be a travesty.

22. Fantasia (1940)

And then we hear the “Ave Maria”, with its message of the triumph of hope and life over the powers of despair and death.

Fantasia was supposed to be the beginning of a continued experiment where Disney would create a visual accompaniment to a work of classical music every year and put it on the front end of their flagship releases. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. Fantastia is a fantastic work of art in its own right, though. Each piece works for me and the animation is beautiful and compelling. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 60 years for another sequel.

12. Jaws (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss

Martin, it’s all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, “Huh? What?” You yell shark, we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.

If you haven’t seen Jaws I don’t know what you’re doing reading this list. The original summer blockbuster, it has a lot more depth than most of the crap we get during the summer now. It is superbly directed and the acting is just great. Where is the Quint speech about the Indianapolis in Transformers or the restraint about showing the bad guy in the later Pirates films? Yeah, the shark they built didn’t work so Spielberg couldn’t show it but the way he handled that technical glitch created one of the most terrifying monsters in cinema history.

2. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Ivana Baquero and Sergi López

The moon will be full in three days. Your spirit shall forever remain among the humans. You shall age like them, you shall die like them, and all memory of you shall fade in time. And we’ll vanish along with it. You will never see us again.

More of a war drama than a fairy tale, Pan’s Labyrinth subverts expectations at every moment. The real world horror is worse than any fantasy could be, thanks to an all-time great performance by Sergi López as the evil step-father and fascist general. Whether the fantasy world exists outside of Ofelia’s head isn’t important because it is entirely her story and it is real for her. Another film where I wouldn’t change a thing.

The other parts of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section

Movie Review: Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Winnie the Pooh (2011) – directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall

I never read the Winnie the Pooh books as a kid. There’s no rhyme or reason for my neglect, I just didn’t read them. Last year, though, I finally read the first book in the series simply titled Winnie-the-Pooh and I fell in love with it. There’s something about the lightness, the emphasis on language, and the characters that makes for a truly wonderful reading experience. It is the definition of delightful. But would that translate to the modern cinema where the bombast of Transformers 3 and Harry Potter 7.2 rule the day? The answer, gladly, gloriously, is yes.
Nothing of any real consequence happens in Winnie the Pooh. We find the titular Bear of Very Little Brain waking up and listening to his grumbly tummy. This Pooh needs some Hunny. So he sets off to find some. Along the way he finds his sad friend Eeyore (voiced marvelously by Bud Luckey, recently Chuckles the clown in Toy Story 3) who has lost his tale. The rest of the film follows Pooh and his friends as they first try to replace Eeyore’s tail and then try to rescue Christopher Robin (their best friend and the boy who makes everything happen) from the great and terrible Backson. Most of the film, though, just allows us to spend some time with the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood. And what a time it is. The songs are simply charming, including the best scene of the film: Owl’s explanation of all the hideous things that Backsons do, like sneaking into your library and scribbling in your books and putting holes in your socks and steal your youth, all illustrated in the style of chalk on blackboard. Owl is played by Craig Ferguson and he’s the standout actor in the film, filling the boastful bird with such pomposity and silliness that you can’t help but love him.
Really everything about this movie works. The writing is filled with the same love of words and language that permeates the books (I will never not love the device of the characters interacting with the words that are telling the story they are taking part in) and the narrator (John Cleese, another bit of brilliant casting) lovingly pushes Pooh along his small journey. I just used the word “love” three times in one sentence. Can you tell that I enjoyed this film? There’s a part when all of our friends are trapped down a pit except for the not-so-brave Piglet who doesn’t know how to tie a knot which leads to the best rapid-fire dialogue since His Girl Friday. Yes, parts of the film live up to the great screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s. Winnie the Pooh doesn’t have a whole bunch to say. Pooh learns a bit of a lesson by the end, but only just. And I doubt it will spark the kinds of deep conversations that a film like The Tree of Life does. It will, however, hold the honor of being my favorite film of 2011, kicking that movie with the dinosaurs and coming of age in the 50s down a peg. There’s a lot to be said for a film that exists solely to delight us. It will instill a lasting sense of happiness in anybody that watches it. Winnie the Pooh is a force for good, spreading cheer and wonder wherever it goes.
P.S. The music in the film is also great. Zooey Deschanel provides a new version of the theme song and a couple other tracks and Henry Jackman’s score fits the world perfectly. It’s obvious that, with Deschanel’s involvement and the trailer featuring Somewhere Only We Know by Keane, Disney wants people older than 5 to watch this film. I’m a 23 year old male that loves Winnie the Pooh and I hope that everybody would be as open to such a magical film.