Short Film Saturday- Aquarela do Brasil (Watercolor of Brazil)

I was reminded of this one in an email from my grandfather.

As many of you know Walt Disney was quite fond of South America, Brazil in particular. Some of the studio’s best, but not necessarily most celebrated works, were about South America like the short vignettes that comprised the features Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros. While they were in many cases pedagogical and didactic they were also entertaining and brilliant introductions to Latin cultures that in many cases highlighted the hallmarks of Disney’s Golden Age on of them being their inventive, mutative animated montage that brings one of the greatest Brazilian songs ever written vibrantly to life.

Enjoy!

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Review- John Carter

Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins in John Carter (Disney)

I was likely one of very few people who was actually very eager to see this film, however, this is not the place to discuss the marketing missteps of this film that will likely land it the dubious distinction of being one of the biggest flops of all time. However, it does bear mentioning that flops are usually measured in financial terms alone but this film I found to be very good and it deserved a better marketing campaign and more of an audience than it did end up getting in its opening weeks.

The film does take its time to build and thus pushes its running time over the two hour mark but it’s all time well spent. The beginning shows where Carter is and how he is a man who given the chance would turn his back not just on the norms of the world at present but the world in general. There are some beautiful cuts to illustrate his defiance and it is not the only element of his character and the plot that is being established and layered at the start.

The film does have a lot of extra-terrestrial political intrigue and to an extent transcendental politics that are involved and the balancing act that these elements have to engage in with the visceral, relatable parameters of the story are not handled perfectly but with any aspect that is introduced in this film that makes the balance more precarious is also making the story a bit more intriguing and involved, which is a good thing because without them I admit it would’ve been a bit milquetoast but there’s enough going on that it stays interesting and somewhat unique. Is there an element of pulp fiction to this tale? Absolutely but pulp fiction can be some of the most enjoyable stories you’re likely to find.

Aside from the political intrigue there’s also a certain duality introduced that separates this film. To say more would be to divulge too much but it is very effective and adds an additional element to the story that really lends it some much needed gravitas at the moment where it truly needs it.

Why it’s a necessity is because the story at that point had reached a point where John and Dejah’s conflict had passed its boiling point and, in fact, was running out of steam so that added to it. Regardless of the minimal script issues Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins do very well. They are equally impressive and in my frame of reference had different tasks whereas Lynn Collins I was not very familiar with at all I knew Kitcsch from Friday Night Lights and here had to watch him play an older, jaded character and it was convincing. Daryl Sabara’s participation in this film while small in screen-time is significant in his interpretation as a young man who’ll readily listen to his uncle’s tales.

The trifecta in separating this story from other space operas is it conclusion. It was a built to and alluded to finale but it did catch me slightly off guard but it was also clear enough such that it clicked right away. It made sense and is a great little twist that made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.

The effects work was very good, it rarely was in your face and included very deft creation of vistas and creatures. I cannot comment on the 3D work since I did not watch it as such simply because of showtime options.

I personally left the film wanting the sequel that the box office receipts seem to indicate will never come which is a shame but it does not alter my opinion of this film. It’s a very good one that deserves a shot.

8/10

Theme Parks and Alternative Film Forms

Disney Hollywood Studios' Fantasmic

When going on a vacation to the Disney Parks there is less time to take in movies, Disney or otherwise, however, that does not mean there isn’t fodder to sate your cinematic thirsts while there. Here are some of the sights I saw that met that requirement.

The Magic Kingdom


Mickey’s PhilharMagic

3D is a theme at many of these cinematic attractions, I stumbled upon this attraction with little knowledge of what it was but I absolutely loved it. It’s a great mix of new and old of Disney and music and it’s brilliant.

Epcot

Disney 360 presentations is the preferred mode of conveying the aural-visual message crafted by each nation’s tourism board that so chooses to have a film in the park.

With the 360 the name is very indicative: there are projectors and screens above you that surround you on all sides. At times the visual you get is panoramic at others these screens show different imagery, which encourage you to turn yourself about such that you don’t sit to watch said film but rather stand in rows with a bar to lean on should you need it. I certainly tried to take in as much as I could here. The countries in Epcot with 360 films are China, Canada and France.

The only country offering a tourism film not in 360 is Norway whose 5 minute short is added on to the end of their water ride. Ironically, it’s also my favorite of the films because it’s the most artistic and least hey-this-was-commissioned-by-the-tourism-board film of the bunch.

Yet this isn’t the only place Epcot incorporate moving imagery. In Mexico there’s the Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros (Panchito, Jose Carioca and Donald Duck) where in they appear animated on screens many times, in all directions during your boat ride which is a great way to get a chuckle and cool off.

Disney Hollywood Studios

Star Tours

Is clearly one of the more popular attractions at the park being a Star Wars flight simulator. The imagery is great and there’s little actual motion needed to suggest the movements.

Another example of this if you’re really park-hopping can be found at Universal in the Spider-Man ride.

Muppet-Vision 3D

Is a great little show with jumping out at you 3D imagery mixed with live performers (i.e. Muppets) in a wonderful theater which is built to replicate the Muppets’ performance space.

Fantasmic

Is the night-time spectacular that closes the park. It features one of the largest conglomerations of characters you’re likely to find and features many images both old and new projected onto a wall created by water jets.

There are also live-action shows like some stunt demonstration shows Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Lights, Motors, Action; a great car stunt demonstration show.

Then in this more film-centric park there are more literal films and exhibits like Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream and The Magic of Disney Animation.

This is all just based on what I saw while I was at the park, there were a few things I missed that likely qualify. Ultimately, yes, it is a getaway but that’s not to say there aren’t alternate film forms that can be observed and admired both here and at other parks. Be on the lookout for them.

Mini-Review Round-Up March 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings. Theatrical releases, regardless of how they are seen whether in an auditorium or on VOD, will get full reviews.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

The Snowtown Murders

Lucas Pittaway and Bob Adriaens in The Snowtown Murders (IFC Films)

Note: Potential spoiler below. The ending is discussed but not in detail.

Next to nothing in this film works, that’s just the sad fact. I will discuss them with as much brevity as humanly possible and brevity would’ve helped this film. Typically when I’m discussing pace it refers to certain scenes and shots being truncated and rendered more quickly to allow the totality of the film to flow better in this film the first issue you have is that there are scenes of little to no narrative necessity or consequence that not only are allowed to occur but at times repeat themselves (see the bull sessions about stomping out pedophiles).

Characters are very poorly introduced and the population of the tale is too large. Some of the struggles of this film can be attributed to attempting to remain true to the real-life story upon which its based but not excused. A huge cadre combined with indirectly acquired information and at times implied incidents is not an easy road map to success. The protagonist in the tale is a bit too passive such that it would’ve almost been better told from a different perspective especially since it became clear who the perpetrator would be though the film took a while to formally announce it. The score designed to be grating ends up being just annoying. The film also seems to show where it ought not and have restraint where it ought not. This tact adds importance to the MacGuffin and exacerbates the delusional vigilante angle that’s really just a cover for psychosis. Granted that’s important to convey but once demonstrated that needn’t be reinforced.

The film despite all its massive flaws still keeps on a decent trajectory in terms of narrative build but then meanders irrevocably when it should be building towards some sort of concrete conclusion but instead decides it’s shown us enough horrors such that it’s decided enough is enough and rather than finding an artistic way to convey the deserved downfall of these people they’ll just give us the information in cards. This is information I could’ve acquired in a web search but I’d have preferred to have seen it now that my time’s already been wasted. Finish the job! Give me the epilogue visually. It’s not quite the slap in the face that the end of The Devil Inside is but considering the start this one had the totality may have been worse.

Furthermore, as if that wasn’t bad enough, I really needed convincing in this film and I didn’t get anything to sway me. I thought of This is England while watching this film which has perhaps an even more vile ‘charismatic antagonist’ but both in writing and performance is far more believable as someone who would be followed perhaps even against one’s will. It seems that things occur and are shown here just because they actually happened and no thought was given to narrative propriety and almost seems deliberately sensationalistic at times and never interesting.

2/10

Amador

Magaly Solier and Celso Bugallo in Amador (Film Movement)

In last month’s post I wrote at length about the Film Movement Film of the Month Club so you can read that to get more insight on it. This film as opposed to the prior I have no ambivalence about whatsoever it is absolutely beautiful and brilliant, there’s an effortless grace and artistry to it all that permeates every frame. There are some astoundingly good cuts in thematic terms and a visual language throughout. Themes weave in and out of the story and never really leave, they illuminate a small truth that is part of a larger whole. All this aside with a perfect ending would be enough but then you have the performance of Magaly Solier. It is the first great performance by a female lead that I saw all year, it is captivating, layered and nuanced. Both in her expression and delivery she carries the film. A film which would’ve been good without all its craft is lifted to greatness by it. The premise is simple; a woman in need of work is hired to take care of a bedridden, dying old man. He dies as does her source of income, with the family away she tries to maintain the illusion that he’s alive. It’s a story that’s also a little more light and humorous than one might expect. There’s drama to be sure but it’s not as dour as all that. It truly is a great film and likely to be amongst my favorites of the year.

10/10

The Announcement

Magic Johnson (ESPN Films)

Last year there was a rash of ESPN films such that they all kind of canceled each other out in my year end awards, though they are usually very good. Now they are more sporadic and this one gets to standout. While I admit that these docs where I experienced the event as a spectator spark my interest more this one is more important and more meaningful than that bit of trivia. I, like America, was in the infancy of my understanding what HIV and AIDS were when Magic Johnson announced he was positive. Being a well-reared child I never fell into any erroneous or ignorant notions about how it spread but I still really understood little. This documentary frames the backdrop to Johnson’s announcement very well, and leaves it as a backdrop. It, surprisingly to me, involves Johnson as narrator and main interview subject. He is as candid as he needs to be and makes important points about how we must remain vigilant about prevention. I learned or was reminded of much and I was more moved by this film than any in the series so far. It is well worth watching.

10/10

Dine-In Movies an Introduction and Review

My view of the adjacent row at the AMC 24 in Orland, FL

While I was in Orlando I wanted to try and take advantage of as many things as I possibly could. Seeing as this trip was very Disney-centric and I hadn’t been in eons (there were only two parks when I went) I wanted to try and take advantage of everything that park had to offer.

One thing I wanted to find out more about was Downtown Disney, which seemed on my knowledge to be Disney’s answer to CityWalk at the Universal Parks. To a large extent I was right and I discovered that there at Downtown Disney there was an AMC 24, which I was likely to attend regardless, however, what was surprising and unique about this one is that four screens were siphoned off to a separate section of the theater and offer a dine-in experience.

Eating and the movies have been linked since the very beginning but never had I heard of such a literal take. I was so intrigued I had to try it. To be honest I was surprised once I was introduced to the notion why it isn’t more prevalent as concessions are where exhibitors make most of their money. Yes, I was are of places like the Alamo Drafthouse but it’s not set-up like this.

Sadly, we were getting informed very late and deciding on the fly so it was a rushed arrival and film choice was limited at that time of night but it needed trying.

Essentially you book your seat (much like in a restaurant or in a theatre where they have reserved seating) and there is a bar-table across your row. There’s salt and pepper already there, ketchup, cutlery and a napkin. The seat is incredibly comfortable like the finest stadium seating has to offer. An added bonus is that there’s a footrest underneath to improve the reclining experience.

What I had was a fruit salad, which was rather fresh and big (it’s easy to do but doesn’t often happen with fruit salad), an order of French fries (generous portions and above average in quality) and cake lollipops for dessert (a first so I have no frame of reference but the cake was incredibly moist and the coating delectable). The soda sizes, since it’s a movie theatre whose large is a tub-o-soda, are also plentiful and I believe refills are free. The wine list is rather good considering the kind of joint it is, however, what must be taken into account are pricing (it’ll add to your per-head total) and do you want to drink during said film, usually my answer to that is no.

I might suggest you do two courses if you’re watching your spending, as it was a vacation it wasn’t as much of a concern. I have a tendency to love the first row, which had my party nicely isolated from the crowd but it did make viewing/eating more challenging. You are accustomed to a box and a soda in an armrest when you factor in utensils and plates there are more machinations that divert your eyes. However, it was a very pleasurable experience overall, regardless. It’s one I’d recommend anyone try once and that I’d like to try anew.

For information such as menu and locations please visit AMC’s site.

Home Alone Again, Naturally

Christian Martyn strikes the classic pose (Christian Martyn Facebook Fan page)

I like to when possible post an update on a prior story. It seems nearly impossible in this day and age to make a speculative list because anything is fair game from the inspired to the ridiculous. Even when joking the sensitive movie fan has to be careful because every thing is possible.

I say all that as a brief introduction to this factoid: a while back I did a list of franchises which could use a reboot. On this list I included the Home Alone series. It was included mainly for two reasons: one, it was largely conceptual to begin with once the McAllister family was no longer in the mix and two, because the third installment proved rather enjoyable.

A while back I heard randomly on Twitter that there was a casting announcement out for Home Alone 5 and much to my surprise it started filming soon thereafter. So yes, it’s on its way and that one can come off the list.

What’s good to hear is that there seem to be some good names attached Peter Hewitt directing (Thunderpants, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) and very importantly in the cast the underrated and underutilized Debi Mazar and as the kids who are alone there is Christian Martyn a talented and affable actor I first saw in Snowmen and Jodelle Ferland whose had brilliant turns in Case 39 and on the Hub Network’s The Haunting Hour.

Now with the element of having two kids stuck and the subtitle Alone in the Dark this installment seems like it’ll add a few more wrinkles to the equation but come closer to the its original roots than part 4 did. This film is slated to air on TV in December of this year. This post will be updated if and when developments occur.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 10. Be Open

One of the many adaptation of this classic tale. (Paramount)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

Typically if I like a character I want as much of that character as I can get in as many possible incarnations as I can get and clearly there are some who feel this way just look at film franchise and the entire comic book world, which is based on characters crossing-over and being attached to multiple titles. If you want to see a character as much as possible wouldn’t it stand to reason you want to see them more than one way?

Not necessarily misrepresented but rather reinterpreted? Ultimately, the question boils down to: do you savor variety?

Of course, you want the movie to be as good or better than the source but why on earth should it be identical? If you want the same story, read it over again. Be open a change or to a different vision. If all you want is regurgitation you’re just feeding the sequel and remake machine. If a film takes a risk and re-envisions a character or story go with it. Give it a chance it may surprise you and you may surprise yourself.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 9. Remember What it is You Liked

Gracie Films

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

I mentioned this in a previous entry but it deserves its own entry because it deserves to be addressed almost like an aside. Here’s the deal: sometimes it seems like people like to complain just to hear themselves complain and then they go back to the box office over and over again just to be disappointed all over again. The first tip is if you’re really that irate stop going.

All this nit-picky complaining certainly didn’t get the source material beloved so again there seems to be some of a higher bar set for the film, as if should it not match the source material it’s a sin. At the end of the day it’s just a movie. There are plenty of bad ones out there, terrible ones too but rarely am I angered. If I am angered it’s usually the film has reached incomprehensible levels of godawfulness.

Now granted sometimes complaints or issues are what stick with us even after a good film but if you keep going back for more like a glutton for cinematic punishment you should stop or refocus your energy. If you don’t see what it is that made you like a given story in the first place then fine, however, if you admit the spirit of the tale is still there but you’re obsessing over the omitted minutiae then you’re missing the forest for the trees.

Short Film Saturday: The Brothers Quay

Here again I present to you one short, somewhat representative work of brilliant, bold, experimental, surrealist animators. This short is the results of a BBC commission that was subsequently rejected. No doubt it was a case of not truly understanding who the artist are.

For more information on them visit their Wikipedia page. If interested there are several collections of their work. You can purchase, rent or look them up online.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 8. It Won’t Change a Thing

Jeremy Sumpter and Rachel Hurd-Wood in Peter Pan (Universal)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

The problem I think a lot of people have, and it’s a nasty trap that I’ve seen ensnare many, is that people seem to think that films are somehow definitive; as if that’s the final word on the work and that’s how it will be remembered for all eternity. While it’s true in a theoretical sense that film may be the most concrete and immutable art it by no means claims to be the coda, furthermore the verdict on the worth of a given piece of narrative.

Your favorite book or comic is being adapted into a film and you are pissed? Why bother? What for? I’ll explain why and this even works for remakes to an extent. It still doesn’t change an iota of the written piece that you love so dearly. If you disliked the mini-series based on Stephen King’s It the words in your copy won’t smear.

That’s an extremely hyperbolic example but surely you catch my drift. It’s all about perception and those can change as much as anything. So while it will be next to impossible for the film adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye to match the book in terms of acclaim I won’t deny it’d be interesting to see.

Not only is it waste of your ire to rail against an adaptation of something you love, it also is to an extent pointless, that piece you hold so dear is still there.

I’ve seen The Little Prince butchered on film. It’s still one of my favorite books and I can always turn to it and know that the story will turn out in my head just the way I see it. Just the way I interpret Exupéry’s words.

And that’s another thing: every adaptation is just an interpretation of a director’s vision regardless of how involved a studio is. It is by no means definitive, lest you agree, it’s just a variation on a theme. I personally think P.J. Hogan perfected Peter Pan and Spike Jonze got Where The Wild Things Are, others may disagree.

We all have baggage; it’s best to check yours before entering the auditorium lest it weigh you down.