Film Review: Dumbo (dir by Tim Burton)


Tim Burton’s remake of Dumbo actually wasn’t that bad.

I know!  I’m as shocked as anyone.  Usually, I’m against remakes on general principle and I’m certainly not a fan of the current trend of doing live-action versions of classic animated films.  (There’s a reason why I haven’t seen the new The Lion King.)  Dumbo is one of my favorites of the old Disney films, one that’s always brought tears to my mismatched eyes so I was naturally predisposed to be critical of the remake.  Add to that, I’m not particularly a huge fan of Tim Burton, a director who too often seems to be coasting on his reputation for being a visionary as opposed to actually being one.

And yet, I have to admit that I enjoyed this new version of Dumbo.  To call it a remake is actually a mistake.  It’s a reimagining, as I suppose any live action remake of an animated film about a flying elephant, a talking mouse, and a group of sarcastic crows would have to be.  So, the crows are gone, which is understandable as I doubt you could get away with a bird named “Jim Crow” today.  And sadly, Timothy the Mouse is gone.  He’s been replaced by several human characters, including Colin Farrell as a one-armed, former equestrian, Eva Green as a French trapeze artist, and Danny DeVito as the rough-around-the-edges but good-hearted ringmaster.  However, Dumbo’s still present and he’s still got the big ears.  He can still fly, as long as he’s holding a feather.

Dumbo’s only a CGI elephant but he’s still adorable.  Of course, I should be honest that I’ve always loved elephants.  I even rode one at Scarborough Fair once!  It was like a totally bumpy and somewhat uncomfortable ride but, at the same time, it was also totally cool because I was on top of an elephant!  The other thing I love about elephants is that elephants form real families.  They love each other.  They look out for each other.  They mourn their dead, which is one of many reasons why ivory poachers are some of the worst people in the world.  Elephants may not fly but there’s a sweetness to them that makes the story of Dumbo and his mother extra poignant, regardless of whether it’s animated, CGI, or live-action.  Anyway, the remake’s version of Dumbo is absolutely lovable, from the minute he reveals his ears to the triumphant moment when he soars through the circus tent.

As a director, Tim Burton has always struggled with pacing.  Watching his films, you always dread the inevitable moment when he gets distracted by a red herring or a superfluous storyline because you know that, once it happens, the entire film is going to go off the rails.  Dumbo starts out slowly and it seems like forever before the baby elephant actually shows up.  Fortunately, once Dumbo does show up, Burton’s direction becomes much more focused.  The story stops meandering and, for once, Burton actually manages to maintain some sense of narrative momentum.

Visually, the film’s a feast for the eyes.  Even though it’s a live-action film, the sets and the costumes are all flamboyantly and colorfully over-the-top, giving the film the feeling of being a child’s imagination come to life.  I mean, when you’re making a film about a flying elephant, there’s no point in trying to go for gritty realism.  While the film does mention some real-world tragedies — Farrell lost his arm in World War I and his wife to Spanish Flu — Burton plays up the fantasy elements of the story.  He’s helped by Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton who both give cartoonishly broad performances.  Fortunately, they’re both good enough actors that they can get away with it.

So, the live-action reimagining of Dumbo is not that bad.  It has its slow spots and it really can’t match the emotional power of the original animated version.  But, with all that taken into consideration, it’s still an undeniably entertaining two hours.

Here’s The Trailer For Steve McQueen’s Widows!


Widows is one of those films that I’ve been looking forward to seeing since I first read about it.  Based on a BBC miniseries and featuring an amazingly talented cast, Widows is also director Steve McQueen’s first film since the Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave.

The film deals with four women whose husbands are all killed during a failed heist.  The widows, under the leadership of Viola Davis, join together to pull off the heist themselves.  That may not sound like a typical Oscar movie but Widows has got tremendous buzz.  Plus, you’ve got a cast that’s full of past Oscar nominees and winners (Viola Davis, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Liam Neeson) and actors who seem to be destined to be nominated some day (Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, Andre Holland, Carrie Coon, Garrett Dillahunt).  All in all, there’s a lot of reasons to get excited for this one!

Here’s the trailer:

The Austin Film Critics Association Has Announced Their Nominations!


moonlightThe Austin Film Critics Association announced their nominees for the best of 2016 earlier today!  So, let’s see what my fellow Texans selected:

Best Film:

Best Director:

Best Actor:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Colin Farrell, The Lobster
  • Denzel Washington, Fences
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Best Actress:

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  • Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Ruth Negga, Loving

Best Supporting Actor:

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
  • Min-hee Kim, The Handmaiden
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay:

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Park Chan-wook, Jeong Seo-kyeong, The Handmaiden
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Whit Stillman, Love & Friendship

Best Cinematography:

Best Score:

Best Foreign-Language Film:

  • The Brand New Testament
  • Elle
  • The Handmaiden
  • Things to Come
  • Toni Erdmann

Best Documentary:

  • 13th
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • Tower
  • Weiner

Best Animated Film:

Best First Film:

  • The Birth of a Nation
  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • Krisha
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The Witch

The Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award:

Best Austin Film:

  • Loving (dir. Jeff Nichols)
  • Midnight Special (dir. Jeff Nichols)
  • Slash (dir. Clay Liford)
  • Tower (dir. Keith Maitland)
  • Transpecos (dir. Greg Kwedar)

la-la-land-full-poster-image-691x1024

Here Are The 74th Annual Golden Globe Nominations!


Oscar season continued today with even more precursors announcing their picks for the best of 2016!  Perhaps most importantly, the 74th Annual Golden Globe nominations were announced today!  Even though they rarely match up 100%, the Golden Globe nominations are considered to be one of the best precursors for what will be nominated for an Oscar in January.

So, should Silence be worried?  Martin Scorsese’s latest acclaimed film was totally snubbed by the Golden Globes.  That could be an ominous sign for a film that everyone seems to respect but which is still going to be a far harder sell at the box office than either The Wolf of Wall Street or Hugo.

But again, it’s never an exact match between the Globes and the Oscars and the Academy can nominate up to ten films for best picture.  Though it would certainly be interesting (and kinda neat) if it happened, I somehow doubt that the Academy is going nominate Deadpool over Silence.

(For that matter, I doubt Simon Helberg is going to pick up an Oscar nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins.  Just a feeling…)

Below are the Golden Globe film nominations!

(For the TV nominations, why not check out the list over at Awards Watch?)

MOTION PICTURES

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
20th Century Women
Deadpool
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Sing Street

Best Motion Picture – Animated
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
Sing
Zootopia

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
Divines (France)
Elle (France)
Neruda (Chile)
The Salesman (Iran)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Amy Adams, Arrival
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Jonah Hill, War Dogs
Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins
Dev Patel, Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Best Director – Motion Picture
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Arrival
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Gold,” Gold
“City of Stars,” La La Land
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
“Faith,” Sing
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls

Moana

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #104: Phone Booth (dir by Joel Schumacher)


Phone_Booth_movie (1)

First released in 2003, Phone Booth is a good film.

Now, I know that you’re probably thinking, “Okay, that’s good, Lisa.  There were a lot of good films released in 2003.  I can’t think of any off the top of my head but let me go look on Wikipedia and I’m sure I can come back with a few dozen good films and…”

Well, before you go over to Wikipedia and do a search on 2003 in film (and I even included a direct link to make it easy for you because I like to be helpful), allow me to point something else out about Phone Booth.

Phone Booth is not only a good film but it’s a good film that was directed by Joel Schumacher!

That’s right!  There are several online film critics who will tell you that Joel Schumacher is one of the worst directors of all time and, to be honest, there’s actually a pretty good argument that can be made in support of that.  However, Schumacher did direct both The Lost Boys and Phone Booth.  So, he’s directed at least two good films and that’s two more than Uwe Boll.

In Phone Booth, Colin Farrell plays Stu, a slick publicist who has both a wife named Kelly (Radha Mitchell) and a girlfriend named Pam (Katie Holmes).  When Stu steps into the last remaining phone booth in New York City in order to call his girlfriend, he’s shocked when a pizza deliveryman shows up and attempts to give him a pizza.  No sooner has he gotten rid of the pizzaman (and, seriously, who turns down free pizza?), the phone rings.  Stu answers and is told by an unseen sniper (voice by Kiefer Sutherland) that, if he leaves the phone booth, he will be shot.  The sniper goes on to order Stu to tell the truth to both Kelly and Pam or to risk being shot as a consequence.

While all of this is going on, a group of prostitutes demand that Stu get out of the booth and let them use the phone.  When Stu refuses, their pimp approaches the booth and is promptly gunned down by the sniper.  Soon, under the assumption that Stu has a weapon, the police — led by Forest Whitaker — have surrounded the booth and are demanding that Stu step out.  The sniper, however, reminds Stu that he’ll be shot if he leaves the booth.

As a crowd of onlookers (including Pam and Kelly), police, and reporters surround the booth, Stu finds himself literally with no escape…

Telling the story in real time and keeping the film largely focused on Stu’s increasing desperation, Schumacher actually does a pretty good job with Phone Booth.  Colin Farrell gives a great performance, making Stu into a character who you like despite yourself.  While Kiefer Sutherland never appears onscreen, his sexy growl of a voice works wonders and he even manages to sell the point where his character starts to maniacally laugh.  Reportedly, screenwriter Larry Cohen came up with the idea for Phone Booth way back in the 1960s.  It took nearly 40 years for the film to be made but Schumacher, Farrell, and Sutherland made it more than worth the wait.

A Late Film Review: Winter’s Tale (dir by Akiva Goldsman)


Winter's_tale_(film)

I liked Winter’s Tale.

And I don’t care what anybody else says!

And that’s a good thing too because, critically, Winter’s Tale has been one of the most maligned movies of 2014.  It came out on Valentine’s Day, at the same time as Endless Love.  And the critics absolutely hated it!  For a while there, the online film community was taking bets on which one of the two Valentine’s Day releases would end up with the lowest score on Rotten Tomatoes.  And, though it was a close race, Winter’s Tale actually ended up with the lower score, coming in at 13% as opposed to Endless Love‘s 15%.

That’s right — according to most mainstream film critics, Winter’s Tale was actually worse than Endless Love.

Well, those critics were wrong.  That’s how I felt when I first saw Winter’s Tale and, after watching it a second time on HBO, that’s still how I feel.  Winter’s Tale is not a bad movie!

(Incidentally, Winter’s Tale has a 6.2 rating over at the imdb, which would seem to indicate that I’m not the only person who knows better than Peter Travers.)

Admittedly, the plot of Winter’s Tale does not make much logical sense but that’s kind of the point.  It’s a tale and tales are not about being realistic.  Tales are about emotion and the whole point of listening to or telling a tale is to inspire feelings. To truly appreciate Winter’s Tale, you have to understand that this is a fairy tale that happens to be set in the most mythical of American cities, New York.

Opening in 1895 and ending in 2014, Winter’s Tale tells the story of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell).  When Peter was an infant, his immigrant parents were refused entry into Manhattan because they both had tuberculosis.  So, they put Peter in a toy boat and dropped him into ocean and watched as the boat slowly floated towards America.

Jump forward 21 years and Peter has grown up to be a thief, working for a gangster named Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe).  What few people know is that Pearly is actually a demon who regularly visits his boss, Luicfer (played by Will “Yes, that Will Smith” Smith).  Pearly is immortal as long as he stays in New York City.

When Peter decides that he wants to leave Pearly’s gang, Pearly orders that Peter be killed.  However, while fleeing from the rest of the gang, Peter is rescued by a flying white horse.  While Peter’s first instinct is to fly the horse out of New York and spend the winter in Florida, he instead decides to rob one more mansion.  (It helps that the horse literally takes him to the mansion.)

While robbing the mansion, Peter meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a passionate and talented pianist who is dying of tuberculosis.  In what is literally a case of love at first sight, Peter forgets about robbing the mansion and instead has a cup of tea with Beverly.  They discuss their lives and Beverly tells Peter that everyone has a miracle inside of them and that everyone becomes a star after dying.

Soon, Peter and Beverly are a couple and Peter even manages to win over Beverly’s suspicious father, Isaac (William Hurt).  Peter and Beverly spend the winter at her family’s summer home.  Peter believes that his miracle is to save Beverly.  Meanwhile, an angry Pearly waits for his chance to get revenge…

Now, I will admit that there are some obvious flaws with Winter’s Tale.  Russell Crowe goes totally overboard, with his accent wildly going from Australian to New Yorkish to Scottish and back again.  Meanwhile, Will Smith is not necessarily a bad choice to play the devil and he actually gives a pretty good performance but it doesn’t chance the fact that, whenever he’s on screen, all you can think about is that he’s Will Smith and he’s playing the devil.

But, honestly, who cares?  This is an amazingly romantic film and Farrell and Findlay have a lot of chemistry.  When you see them together, you have no doubt that Peter and Beverly are meant to be together.  You care about them as a characters, even if you don’t always understand everything that’s happening around them.  Their love feels real and, when it comes to telling a love story, isn’t that the most important thing?

(Add to that, does any actor fall in love as convincingly as Colin Farrell?)

And the film itself is gorgeous!  From the costumes to the set design to Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography, the film is just beautiful to look at.  Undoubtedly, cynics would argue that the film is almost too glossy in its appearance but Winter’s Tale is not a film for cynics.  It’s a film for romantics.

So, yes,  I did like Winter’s Tale and I am not ashamed to admit it.

Trailer: Total Recall (Official)


Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 scifi classic, Total Recall, remains one of Arnold Schwarzenneger’s better films. The film was an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novellete, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, and in 2012 it will once again go up on the big-screen as a Len Wiseman remake.

Wiseman’s film looks to take the basic premise of Dick’s novellete and some of the changes made for the Verhoeven production. What looks to have been changed in this upcoming remake is the absence of Mars as the backdrop for the character Douglas Quaid who believes he is actually a secret agent working to free Mars from the tyrannical rule of one Cohagen. This time around the setting is instead a dystopian future Earth where the planet has been split into two super-factions the rule planet. There’s Euroamerica which combines the North American and European Union into one sovereign entity and it’s rival in New Shanghai which puts together the economic powerhouses of China and the nations of South East Asia.

It is in this new backdrop that Colin Farrell’s Quaid must run from the forces of Cohaagen (played by Bryan Cranston) and help the freedom fighters trying to change things for the better. The trailer itself shows less of the cheesy look of the Verhoeven film and instead goes for a much slicker art design that some people have called the Mass Effect-look. I must admit that the fully-armored forces chasing after Quaid look like Blue Suns mercenaries from that BioWare scifi rpg.

I will say that the trailer does a great job in referencing similar scenes and sequences from the original Verhoeven film while adding in new touches to give the film it’s very own unique look. For one of this summer season’s last films before fall season begins this one looks like a must-see.

Total Recall is set for an August 3, 2012 release date.