Saturday, November 26, 2016

MOANA - Familiar Formula, Fresh Hook

If you're more than passingly familiar with the Disney Renaissance of the 1990's, then the names Ron Clements and John Musker may ring a bell. These two men were veterans of the "Dark Age" when the studio almost closed down Disney Animation for good, and not only did they direct 2 films that arguably kicked off and then firmly cemented the House of Mouse's comeback - with 1989's The Little Mermaid and 1992's Aladdin - but they also helmed the studio's final (to this date) 2D animated Princess Feature in 2009's The Princess and the Frog.

To put it mildly, these are film-makers who know the Disney Princess gig like the back of their drawing hand, and could probably do an animated film about a feisty heroine who goes on a journey of self-discovery with animal sidekicks and magical companions in their sleep.

And you'd be forgiven for assuming this is just what they did with Moana, but you'd be mistaken.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Welcome Back, Tim Burton

There are times when addressing a film-maker's personal ticks textually in their films can be a bad idea. Super 8 tried to be both a semi-autobiographical look at a young director and a tribute to the director's obvious influence of E.T., but J. J. Abrams wasn't quite able to meld his two narratives together. Zack Snyder was so well-suited to lurid superhero deconstruction of Watchmen that putting him in charge of the "playing it straight" icons of the DC Comics fiction has proven an increasingly bad idea.

But for all that Tim Burton's recent doubling down of his own aesthetic (when not necessarily to the benefit of the story) has resulted in a rather sour quality record since 2003's Big Fish, something finally woke him up. And while he's always been a filmmaker who's aesthetic sensibilities and storytelling quirks have seemed a bit unstuck in time, his most recent Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children doesn't just play with that idea, that's the literal plot of the film.

And here, it does work.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN - Swaggeringly Proficient

Cowboys were the original superhero. Before caped crusaders and super soldiers, before men of iron and gods and monsters, a costume was a wide-brimmed hat and a set of six-shooters. In fact, given the undeniable influence of Zorro on the creation of Batman, you could argue the cowboy as the a direct predecessor to the larger-than-life icons of our modern blockbuster cinema.

Now that masks and mutants rule the silver screen, it seems more than appropriate that, when tasked with remaking The Magnificent Seven, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) approached it like a superhero movie that just happened to be set in the old west.

And it works.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS - Shape Your Story

I wouldn't be surprised if 2016 goes down as an absolute banner year for animation. Not only have films like Zootopia and Finding Dory proven that Disney and Pixar have still very much "got it," and this year saw the stateside release of near-legendary anime films Only Yesterday and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time as well as the new Mamoru Hosada joint The Boy and the Beast, but now. . .

Well, now a studio that has already gotten more than a few kind words from me in the past may well have made their masterpiece.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

STAR TREK BEYOND - To Infinity, Boldly

The guy who made 3 of the 4 best Fast & Furious movies just released probably the best Star Trek film in at least 20 years.

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. But I'm not joking.