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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Princess and the Frog

A return to Disney's former glory days?

I’m a child of the 90’s. I was a Disney kid. Sure, I remember the day that my mother gave us the ultimatium: you can keep The Disney Channel or the Sega Channel and we chose the snazzier, more interactive option, but regardless, I was at just the right age during the era fondly known by some as “The Disney Renaissance.” I remember singing “Hakuna Matata” on the way home from the movie theater after “The Lion King” and I couldn’t tell you how many times I rewound my VHS tape of “The Little Mermaid” so that I could memorize the words to “Under The Sea.”

But as much as I loved those films, and as colorblind as I was to them when I was a child, I can still remember my mother express her disappointment upon seeing trailers for “Aladdin.” The film featured some of the first Disney characters with darker skin, and they weren’t what she considered ‘black’. Of course, “Aladdin” was (and still is) an amazing movie, and I still respect the film for what it is, but as a child, Disney had yet to get around to creating a Disney Princess who looked like me.

And then Disney stopped making traditionally animated movies altogether. When Dreamworks started churning out Shrek movies and Pixar enjoyed year after year of both critical and box office successes, Disney’s contribution to the market were films like “Chicken Little” and “Meet the Robinsons”. While they were still decent kid movies, for me, the name Disney no longer brought to mind yearly mini-musicals, chock full of as much thinly veiled adult humor as kid-friendly sight gags.

That is, until about a year and a half ago, when I caught wind of “The Princess and the Frog.” With Disney now under the creative control of Pixar’s John Lasseter, and the news that the movie would be helmed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the team responsible for “Aladdin”, I was looking forward to the movie before I even knew the cast, the plot, or that Randy Newman would be creating the music. Even as the inevitable racial controversies emerged over the title of the film (then, “The Frog Princess”), the heroine’s name (then, ‘Maddy’) and station (then, chambermaid), and the fact that a ‘black princess’ had coincidentally emerged just as America embraced their first black President (though some people forget that animated movies take far more than year to make it from conception, to script to actual theatrical release…) I had faith that Disney had the right pieces in place to become the creator of quality and classic animated film that I remembered so fondly from my childhood.
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With its dazzling trailers, full of renowned actresses and flashy dance sequences, accompanied by Fergie’s rendition of “Be Italian” and a new song written for Kate Hudson, Rob Marshall’s stage-to-screen adaptation of the musical Nine is certainly eye-catching.

Inspired by Fellini’s film 8 1/2, Nine is the story of Guido Contini, an Italian director played by Daniel Day-Lewis, and the many, many women in his life, primarily his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his lover Carla (Penelope Cruz) and his muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman). Standing on the other side of forty, Contini faces failure after a long and successful career, suddenly faced with the disintegration of his latest movie and his marriage alike. Judi Dench and Sophia Loren round out the cast in this star vehicle as Contini’s mentor and mother respectively.

With only two weeks left before its Christmas day release, Nine seems full of promise. The soundtrack, recently released digitally, however, suggests otherwise.

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extractjasonbatemanjksimmonsw500h950-thumbI love Mike Judge. I feel that I should throw that out there before anyone gets confused and thinks that this is a giant hate-fest. It’s not and isn’t going to turn into one any time soon.

That being said, it’s not a post of praise either.

A devotee of Judge’s twisted (yet right on the money) sense of humor since I first saw Office Space years ago before I even knew what an office and a regular job was like. Time has passed and even now that I knew the terrifying realities of normal work, I can still get a laugh from that movie. Perhaps there is something charming in the guy who just won’t get it in his head that he’s fired emerging the overall “winner” or the scene in which they beat a fax machine into bits and pieces. Whatever it is, I love it despite the fact that I am probably not the target audience. (more…)

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There's a reason she's trying to escape.

There's a reason she's trying to escape.

As (500) Days of Summer begins, this, we are told by the narrator, “is not a love story.”

I hate to disagree right from the start, but let me tell you, that narrator’s a liar.

It’s true, (500) Days of Summer isn’t a love story in the conventional sense of the phrase nor does it want to be. In fact, if there’s a downside to this film, it’s how blatantly it revels in its own supposed unconventionality. Honestly, you give some guys a stack of French films to reference and let them run their scenes out of order and they think they’re geniuses or something. From its annoying parenthetical title (neither edgy nor meaningful, it just wants you to think it is) to its tongue-in-cheek coincidence-meets-fate ending, this is a movie that strives to make you believe that it’s breathtakingly original.

I’m sorry, but I can’t give it that. No one can. Don’t get me wrong, though. Just because it’s not the masterpiece of indie quirk it would like you to believe it is doesn’t mean this isn’t a good movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns out the kind of excellent performance I’ve come to expect from him and Zooey Deschanel is… well, she’s Zooey Deschanel, the darling of the precise set at which this movie is aimed and with reason. It just isn’t the movie it claims to be.

And that’s probably why I loved it.
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While there are surely dozens of things that go into the making of good film or television, it’s certain that just the right song can make or break a scene. The right soundtrack can not only compliment any given scene in sound, mood and words, it can bring out new sides to the characters, evoke emotions, tie scenes together and forever cement a moment in your memory. There’s no one in the business who does it better than Alexandra Patsavas.

Patsavas’ work as a music supervisor has spanned projects too numerous to be named, and even now she juggles four or five hit TV shows with movie soundtracks, but she first became truly known for her work on The O.C., where she impressed the creators so much, she was brought back for subsequent series Chuck and Gossip Girl. Her skill for matching music to mood is unparalleled, as is her talent for discovering musical gems from previously unknown artists and bringing them to the screen.

But there’s only so much you can say to convey the depth of her ability. It’s better just to let her work speak for itself, and to that end, we here at PCR have voted on our fifteen favorite musical moments from her career.

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The big news in the pop culture realm today, is, of course, that Katy Perry got mistaken for Zooey Deschanel in LA.

Wait, no, that’s not it.

Oh, some company called Disney bought some firm called Marvel that makes books with pictures, that’s right.

Reactions have been… mixed. Mostly, I suspect, because none of us can quite get a handle on what this means, so it’s either Chicken Little style running about, ‘The censorship rating is falling, the censorship rating is falling!’ or jokes about Bambi joining the X-Men.

That second one is courtesy of Warren Ellis’s twitter, so it’s nice to know it’s not limited to just the fans, there.

But does it mean Tony Stark’s new industrial competition will be the worrisome Scroogetech, run by the only man (well, duck) to survive the fall of the banks because he kept his money in, you know, gold coins in a giant vault? Will the discovery that Billy Ray Cyrus is bent on world domination drive Hannah Montana to join the Runaways? Are the Pet Avengers going to team up with Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers?

(…okay, that last one I wouldn’t actually mind seeing. Disney, take notes.)

Courtesy of io9: Mobile Organism Designed Ultimately for Creative Killing

Courtesy of io9: Mobile Organism Designed Ultimately for Creative Killing

But probably not. Courtesy of Disney’s president, we know that they’re taking the Vetinari family motto approach, Si non confectus, non reficiat. If it ain’t broke… To be fair, we only have their word on this, but what else have we got? They took over Pixar, and Pixar still makes, for example, Up.

So the possibility is that it just means Marvel suddenly has a powerhouse behind them. They may have signed on with the devil, but the devil can rewrite reality, so that’s handy. More money for the movies, more marketing pushes to shine a light on their new properties, these are not necessarily bad things. Personally, on this front, I’m hoping that it may also mean that Disney, all consuming devourer that they are, will want to get all Marvel properties back under their wings: Marvel Studios didn’t have anywhere near the pull to get the X-Men and Spider-Man back from Fox and Sony, for instance. Disney might. I find even the slightest possibility that the Marvel Cinematic Universe might encompass everything it should encouraging.

Similarly on the movie front, word is Marvel and Pixar are talking. Look at that sentence again, people: Marvel. Pixar. How is this not beautiful?

But that’s the best case scenario. What could go wrong? Well. A lot. It’s a giant inhuman juggernaut consuming… well, another inhuman juggernaut, I guess, but one we like that makes X-Force. Can we expect to see an X-Force that actually matches that puppies and rainbows joke cover? Will, say, Northstar, Teddy and Billy end up shunted into a corner to be tokens to be pointed to as indications of inclusiveness but not actually used because we can’t have that, that’s not family friendly! I hope not. In fact, this entire article could be said to be me trying to harness the power of positive thinking, because this deal has me very nervous. It just happened, and we don’t know what they’re going to do. Will it just be sticking Beast in the new Kingdom Hearts game, or will it be something more sinister, like putting Wolverine in the new Kingdom Hearts game? We don’t know!

Stay tuned, True Believers. This could turn out to be our very own Dark Reign.

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We’ve all heard it said, so many times now that it’s practically a cliche in its own right: Hollywood is out of ideas.

It seems like nothing being made these days is original; it’s just a steady stream of adaptations, homages, sequels (I’m looking at you, Tron) and remakes. And it’s that last category that seems to be growing increasingly out of hand. The Powers That Get Things Made are interested in what sells, so in a painfully transparent attempt to capitalize on what’s already proven successful, they no longer simply turn back to the classics to devise a formula: they just remake them. It worked the first time, so why not the second time?

Well, because a movie’s more than a storyline that sells tickets and the fact that an audience liked it the first time isn’t a guarantee they’ll enjoy it on the second take. If anything, people seem less inclined to see these remakes than other movies. They already saw it done right once — why see it butchered by a new set of actors and updates? Take a look at a few of projects currently made or in the works:

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