Sunday, May 24, 2020

Walt Disney, part XXIX: It's not easy to find magic in pairs


PETE'S DRAGON

1977
Directed by Don Chaffey
Written by Malcolm Marmorstein, Seton I. Miller, and S.S. Field

Spoiler alert: moderate

Friday, May 22, 2020

Walt Disney, part XXVIII: Who will rescue me?


THE RESCUERS

1977
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, and Art Stevens

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Walt Disney, part XXVII: When we were very young


THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH

1977
Directed by John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman

Spoiler alert: well, he's not eaten by heffalumps, is he?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Busby Berkeley: How?


WHOOPEE!

1930
Directed by Thornton Freeland
Written by William M. Conselman and E.J. Rath, Robert Hobart Davis (based on the musical play by William Anthony McGuire based on the regular talking play by Owen Davis)

Spoiler alert: high, but it's 90 years old, you don't care

Coffey was right


UNDERWATER

2020
Directed by William Eubank
Written by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad

Spoiler alert: moderate, maybe very very slightly high

Monday, May 4, 2020

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thursday, April 23, 2020

G-d Week: In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.


SAMSON AND DELILAH

1949
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Written by Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Fredric M. Frank, and Harold Lamb (based on the one book, and also the other book by Vladimir Jabotinsky)

Spoiler alert: "inspiration for Christ" doesn't imply a happy ending, does it?

Monday, April 20, 2020

G-d Week: Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, stripe for stripe


THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

1956
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Written by Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Jack Gariss, and Frederic M. Frank (based on the books by Philo, Josephus, various rabbis, Dorothy Clarke Wilson, J.H. Ingraham, A.E. Southon, and God)

Spoiler alert: he lets the people go; it all worked out great

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

G-d Week: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?


THE BIBLE: IN THE BEGINNING

1966
Directed by John Huston
Written by Christopher Fry (based on the book by P, D, and J)

Spoiler alert: oh, inapplicable

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Rock and roll never forgets


TROLLS WORLD TOUR

2020
Directed by Walt Dohrn
Co-directed by David P. Smith
Written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Elizabeth Tippet, Maya Forbes, and Wallace Wolodarsky

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Holla day


TROLLS HOLIDAY

2017
Directed by Joel Crawford
Written by Josh Bycel and Jonathan Fener

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The DreamWorks Ending: The Motion Picture


TROLLS


2016
Directed by Mike Mitchell
Co-directed by Walt Dohrn
Written by Erica Rivinoja, Jonathan Abel, and Glenn Berger

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, April 6, 2020

Walt Disney, part XXIV: How lucky I was that he had been out of the office, I would have felt really bad if I had told him to go to hell or something during what were the last few days of his life


THE JUNGLE BOOK

1967
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by Bill Peet, Larry Clemons, Ken Anderson, Ralph Wright, and Vance Gerry (based on the short stories by Rudyard Kipling)

Spoiler: well, he's not terribly likely to bang a wolf, is he?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Walt Disney, part XXII: A dark age indeed, one big medieval mess


THE SWORD IN THE STONE

More like Bored In the Stone, and that's still funnier than 90% of the gags in the film.

1963
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by Bill Peet (based on the novel by T.H. White)

Spoiler alert: he's the once and future king, bud

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Low fantasy


ONWARD

2020
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Written by Jason Headley, Keith Bunin, and Dan Scanlon

Spoiler alert: mild

Purple prose


COLOR OUT OF SPACE

2020
Directed by Richard Stanley
Written by Scarlett Amaris and Richard Stanley (based on the short story "The Colour Out of Space" by H.P. Lovecraft)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Terminatrix


ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL

2019
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Written by Laeta Kalogridis and James Cameron (based on the comic, like, all of the comic, Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kushiro)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Pacifics


RIDE YOUR WAVE
(Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara)

2019 Japan/2020 USA
Directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Written by Reiko Yoshida

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, February 17, 2020

Tears of a clown


BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)

2020
Directed by Kathy Yan
Written by Christina Hodson

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Reviews from gulag: And 2019's still stinking up the place, part 3

In this installment: I Lost My Body, Atlantics, and Penguin Highway.

I LOST MY BODY
I Lost My Body, always the most purely-theoretical of this year's five contenders for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, is indeed one of those cartoons—foreign, weird, comparatively modest—for which just being nominated really was an honor, the extra eyeballs drawn to it by an Academy Award nomination always the best-case scenario for its existence.  I won't say it don't deserve them eyeballs, either.  It's a fun and thrilling, even moving piece of work, driven by a nonsensical but novel premise that could probably only fully work in flat animation in the first place (Body is partly-rotoscoped, and highly CGI-boosted, albeit mostly only in terms of backgrounds).  Arguably, that premise justifies the whole exercise, and it's certainly bizarre enough to get you to stop and at least think about watching it: I Lost My Body's title is to be taken literally, for it is about a body's part, specifically a right hand, that has been violently separated from its owner, and which has come magically back to life, absconding from the medical fridge it's being kept in so as to undertake an arduous journey across a tough urban landscape to reunite with the body it has, as noted, lost.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The 2010s: Well, goodbye! Have fun on the other side of this door


Okay, yes: I'm not really done with the 2010s yet.  But, you know, I basically am, and am very ready to dispense with a little (actually, characteristically overlong) top ten for that departed decade.  Now, I should still have such a list for 2019, too.  And that's fair enough, considering there aren't any making it onto the list below.  Anyway, while it might seem strange—though I think you'll agree it makes sense—I'm a lot more comfortable with my top ten of the 2010s than I am just my top ten of this past year.  They've been a fairly stable bunch, particularly the top five.  I could have made the same list four weeks ago when it was perfectly of the moment.  I think I stuck it out in the hopes that something would muscle its way to the top of the heap; and, in defense of 2019, it made its most valiant efforts in its final weeks.  Perhaps the year's single strongest gesture only arrived on American shores shortly after it died.  But even if there were some close calls, there was nothing that truly changed my mind, and the odds against any of the films still remaining on my 2019 pile turning out to actually be mind-blowing masterpieces are so low I think it's pretty safe to disregard 'em.

So I should note the honorable mentions (which do include a couple of 2019 films).  They're basically an unsorted nos. 11-30, and some of them could have been higher, and in some cases it would be better for my credibility if they had been.  (Then again, in some cases, it would be even worse.)  In any event, they are truly wonderful films, and I celebrate them each and every one.  It's possible you may be able to guess from this when over the past six years I think my reviews rose to the level of "not terrible."  (If not, well, it was in 2015.)

From 2010: Rupert Wyatt's The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2011: Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life; Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
2012: Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained; Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom; Sam Fell & Chris Butler's ParaNorman; Scott Derrickson's Sinister
2013: Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby; Spike Jonze's Her; Michael Bay's Pain & Gain
2014: Eugenio Mira's (and Damien Chazelle's) Grand Piano; Chris Lord & Phil Miller's The LEGO Movie
2015: George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (oh, I know, I know)
2016: Martin Scorsese's Silence
2017: Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049
2018: Steven Caple Jr.'s Creed II; Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman's Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
2019: Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life; Makoto Shinkai's Weathering With You

Now here's where I say something that should never have to spoken aloud.  As always, "the best" only means "my personal favorite."  What the hell else could it mean?  There is no such thing as objectivity in the evaluation of art: any argument that "best" and "favorite" are distinct categories is supremely arrogant, and any expression of the notion in practical terms is almost by necessity dishonest.  If being honest means I also have to look a little stupid, that's certainly nothing new.  If it also means that my top ten list, or anybody's top ten list, is only mental masturbation—well, of course it would be.  And while everybody likes to masturbate, and some people like to watch, that doesn't mean anybody involved should pretend it's dignified.  So let's begin.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Reviews from gulag: And 2019's still stinking up the place, part 2

In this installment: Knives Out, Ready Or Not, and Black Christmas.

KNIVES OUT 
I mean, yeah: 2019 was definitely the year of Me Not Getting It.  But "not getting it" seems like an awfully weird sentiment to voice about Rian Johnson's Knives Out, which is mercilessly obvious in the "it" it intends you to get, while simultaneously committing (hell, if you listen to critics, you'd think Johnson had signed a pledge or something) to being the proverbial fun time at the movies.  It's not even not a fun time.  It's more like 130 minutes is a long span to spend having its particular brand of a fun time, much of which is dedicated to the overfreighting of a theme (singular) that still winds up slightly-incoherently expressed, and to a structure that spends the first half hour unproductively faking you out regarding the movie you're here to enjoy.  I mean, at bottom, it's basically an episode of Monk, right?  One of the ones where you know the broad shape of the crime but are left in the dark as to the rest?  What's so hard about that?  Heck, that would be great, I love Monk, except Knives Out is more than three times as long, still with roughly the same amount of content, and the Poirotish super-detective it showcases (I like Poirot too) is almost entirely uninteresting, just in and of himself.  It must be said: that this may start a franchise, and may have been intended to start a franchise—a franchise revolving around Benoit "CSI KFC" Blanc (Daniel Craig, and yes, these are the jokes, folks)—remains the most insoluble puzzle of the tale.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

After the rain


WEATHERING WITH YOU
aka Tenki no Ko (Weather's Child)

Chalk another one up for the most important animator working today, even if it's not as good as his other masterpieces.

2019
Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai

Spoiler alert: moderate

Friday, January 17, 2020

Army of two


1917

A technical juggernaut, 1917 nevertheless finds the soul beneath its spectacle and justifies itself, in every frame, as the death dream of a world lost in the trenches a century ago.

2019
Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Sam Mendes

Spoiler alert: high

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Reviews from gulag: And 2019's still stinking up the place, part 1

Happy (belated) New Year!  Before we get started with 2020, there's still a lot of debris to clear out from 2019.  In this installment: In Fabric, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged.

IN FABRIC
The Duke of Burgundy, Peter Strickland's second feature, was one of my ten favorite films of 2015.  Hell, it was one of my eight favorite films.  That's a lower bar than it would usually be—2015, as a cinematic year, has been exceeded in its lousy mediocrity only by the year that's just passed—but it's still a sign of some modest excellence to have cleared it, and I think it's a pretty great movie, an art-horror romance ribboned with surrealistic and absurdist touches that still has a real, genuinely emotional story of relationship dysfunction to tell beneath the opaque glaze of 70s-nostalgic Europastiche that represents its director's preferred, and only, mode of artistic expression.  In Fabric, Strickland's follow-up to The Duke of Burgundy, is rather more the follow-up you might've expected from Berberian Sound Studio, his first film.  That is, it's an ultimately-tiresome exercise in pursuing his various aesthetic interests which, in Strickland's conciliatory gesture toward his film being about something, or anything—and, in fairness, this does put it miles ahead of Sound Studio—winds up being about an absolute shitload of "somethings," which all add up to far less than the sum of their parts by the end.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Forever, or never


IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY

Very probably the apex of all independent animation, Don Hertzfeldt's greatest work is one of the greatest things ever.

2012
Written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt

Spoiler alert: moderatish but mostly inapplicable