Walt Before Mickey

Who doesn’t love Disneyland and Mickey Mouse? The mysterious background of the Disney empire is unveiled in the park itself in several exhibits, in books, and other media. Unfortunately it has never graced the silver screen, until now.

“I am working on a new style of animation that I know you will be interested in.” -Walt Disney

Directed by
Khoa Le

Writing Credits
Arthur L. Bernstein, Armando Gutierrez, Timothy Susanin, Frank Licari

Cast
Jodie Sweetin
as Charlotte Disney
Jon Heder
as Roy Disney
David Henrie
as Rudy Ising

Who doesn’t love Disneyland and Mickey Mouse? The mysterious background of the Disney empire is unveiled in the park itself in several exhibits, in books, and other media. Unfortunately it has never graced the silver screen, until now.

This film is a delight to watch but I can’t say the performances are Oscar worthy. It actually presented like the kid of movie you’d see inside the park about Walt. The lines are delivered in a rote fashion and the characters are not  very developed. All this just goes to show you how powerful Disney’s story is. I enjoyed every minute of it.

We see into Walt’s early family life. His father was not supportive. Still later on, he did provide a small financial contribution to Walt’s first company. At one point Walt says, “We don’t know anything about business, but we’ll learn.” He and his hired hands do learn things at the school of hard knocks. He is cheated in a scandalous move by none other than the Felix the Cat creator.

If you ever wondered how Walt Disney got started, this is a good one to go see. Don’t go in expecting an amazing biography but you will see a compelling beginning of a miraculous man’s creative life.

Seventh Son

“Seventh Son” is a masterpiece replete with witches, dragons, shape shifters, “spooks,” creatures, and other engaging remnants from medieval mythology.

Seventh_Son_Poster

Seventh Son (2014)
Cast

Jeff Bridges as Master Gregory
Ben Barnes as Tom Ward
Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin

Directed by

Sergei Bodrov

Written by

Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
1h 24min

Can witches save the day? I suppose in “Seventh Son” they can try. Our age-old fascination with witches is shown on the big screen here. There is a new concept I hadn’t heard of called the “spook” profession. These are basically witch hunters. They are endowed and recruited through generations to destroy bad witches. Jeff Bridges is a powerful one. Ironically we find he once had a romance with a witch but he is evermore hateful of witches and his occupation is to burn them so they don’t cause cataclysmic trouble.

And so we have the backdrop for this epic tale. It’s more sorcery than good and evil. We learn that sometimes good witches watch over the land as other times, evil humans do more hard than any evil witch could ever do. This story line requires your full attention so if you’re a “multitasker” as you watch films, you’ll need to set your phone down and take in the foundation of the story which are very interesting indeed.

Like so many movies these days, it is based on a book. I can’t imagine a book being as visually stunning as this film is. I felt like I was on a swashbuckling roller coaster most the time. The effects didn’t come cheap, the film cost almost 100 million dollars to make. The good news for them is that it did well at the box office earning well above and beyond its costs. I gave this quasi-medieval action, adventure, fantasy a perfect 5 stars. I recommend it!

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

“Pull my neck back, I’ll pull yours.” -relatives posing for a photo

Sequels are rarely good and this one isn’t good at all. Written by comic, Nia Vardalos, it shows a definite need for a writing partner or team. It’s a redo of the gags from the first movie with no real “new” message for the audience. I was shocked to see this film was produced by Tom Hanks. I suppose he thought it would make him money based on the first film in the franchise. I wonder if he visited the set and offerred his advice to the director.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
Cast
Nia Vardalos

as Toula

John Corbett

as Ian

Michael Constantine

as Gus

Directed by
Kirk Jones
Written by
Nia Vardalos
Other Info

Comedy, Romance
Rated PG-13
94 min

The best part of a good date movie is one that makes your wife or girlfriend laugh. There is nothing more satisfying on a movie date than hearing her laugh out loud. There were just a few ties in this film I heard my wife laugh: so there you go. In the first movie, the Greek father showed how Windex was a cure for everything but even Windex can’t save this long movie.

It’s about another wedding but this time it’s her parents. They find out the wedding was never fully sealed since the priest was not fully ordained, or something like that. There are a lot of significant particulars in this movie that I just didn’t care about. The script goes all over the place and when it seems it’s too far afield, they just crack a joke from the first move assuming that will save the scene. It doesn’t.

I never walk out on a movie but when the old mother and father were planning their wedding it really was like fingernails scratching down a chalkboard: irritating. There were a few gags here and there that worked but overall it was a mediocre comedy moving at a snails pace. The angle of having the parents remarry could have been expanded thus making the movie better. Unfortunately the directors were content to show that Greek women do best married with children. It’s also shown that Greek men rely on their wives for too much and nothing really changes even now in modern times. There were a few laughs and it was a light-hearted movie. That only took me as far as to give it 2 stars though. I wouldn’t recommend this film unless you are just in love with the actors. It lacks the charm of the first film in the franchise.

Spring

Small budget films achieve suspense and horror through little or no financial means. That’s one reason I love watching them. “Spring” makes the grade as a love story with a spoonful of creepy … Make that two.

Spring is a 2014 American romantic science fiction horror film directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.[ The film stars Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker. Wikipedia

I’m in the zone of avoiding spoilers at all costs today. For that reason, this is a short review. Nothing in the film is interesting except the parts that would be spoiled. The girl is well cast, the guy is meh. Oh yes, and those spoilers we won’t mention. It takes place in beautiful Italy, mostly in the streets where slithering things can hide. It’s a romance/horror. Don’t let me spoil anything more for you. I recommend this film.

The House on Pine Street

This film starts out with the cliche haunted house theme. Soon however, the plot picks up. Emily Goss shines in this one. Plus there is some original, scary material here for horror fans.

The House on Pine Street (2015)
Cast

Emily Goss as Jennifer
Taylor Bottles as Luke
Cathy Barnett as Meredith

Directed by

Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling

Written by

Natalie Jones, Aaron Keeling, Austin Keeling

Other Info

Drama, Horror
Rated PG-13
1h 51min

I’m of the opinion that the haunted house theme, while cliche, is a really cool one for a horror movie. The tricks these days is to make it original in some way. “The House on Pine Street” (Pine Street) does that very well. Jennifer (Emily Goss) is pregnant and she and her fiance are moving into the house the the beginning of the film. As she looks around in disapproval, the spooky sounds foreshadow scary events are coming.

We get the idea they are a new couple moving in to a new life together in the house but as the dialog unravels and strange things start happening, we realize something different about the couple. Jennifer expresses her dislike of the town and the house and Luke (Taylor Bottles) seems very happy there as he tries to get settled in his new job. Incidentally, he is very nice to his mother in law Meredith (Cathy Barnett.) I suppose ou could call him son in law of the year.

Meredith is a very strong and odd character in the film. She is Jennifer’s mother and this is her home town. There are lots of scares here and there but nothing is really explained and expanded until the last 1/4 of the movie. As a horror movie, it makes the grade. The only thing that put me off a bit was how it took so long for things to start happening. I think they told the backstory too long. I really enjoyed the ending, not what I was expecting at all. I think horror fans will like this film for it’s creepiness. There isn’t much blood or gore but we see what energies in people (and houses) can do, it’s pretty scary.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

A gritty, believable Western with Cohen Brothers signature silliness, unfortunately. Now streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

No Country for Old Men (2007)
R | 2h 2min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 21 November 2007 (USA)
Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen (screenplay), Ethan Coen (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin

This western could have been many times greater if it didn’t have so much silliness from the Cohen Brothers. I loved Raising Arizona and I recognized way back then that these filmmakers had a gift for dark comedy and slapstick, deadpan humor. Unfortunately, since Fargo I have found their style less interesting. Sometimes the guy getting shot with a silencer ‘aint funny but it means something deep to the plot. I think of There Will Be Blood, not a Cohen film but it feels like a western such as this one. There is very little irony, just a story about a psychopath getting even with the universe. I think this film could have done better with less silly stuff. Having said that, I am a die hard Cohen Brothers fan and I feel like a dick criticizing their work. Nonetheless, I have to in this case.

It’s a cast of thousands here. Connect the stars. Tommy Lee’s character is wasted on funny local dialect. It’s cool at first but way way overdone. This same Shtick is done much more successfully in Fargo.

Javier Bardem allegedly spoke no English when he took this role. He did a lot of amazing memorization, if that’s true. He’s scary. He dies everything you expect him to do. Not very impressive but he is liked by most viewers so this is just a little hang up of mine I suppose.

Short spoiler: The ending scene is completely ridiculous when he pays the kid for a shirt. Huh? I thought this was Lucifer. What are they trying to say? He’s the truly honest one? I didn’t like that scene. Spoiler end.

As with so many crime thrillers, you have a guy trying to make it to paradise with a satchel of money and he ends up on a dark adventure.

This is a well made film and certainly entertaining but I found myself wanting more realism in just about every character and plot aspect. As a result, this isn’t my favorite.

6/10

Tusk (2014)

My podcast Talking Stars is recording an episode on Tusk in October. Here are some of the reasons I love this movie the way I do.

Tusk (2014)
R | 1h 42min | Comedy, Drama, Horror | 19 September 2014 (USA)

A brash and arrogant podcaster gets more than he bargained for when he travels to Canada to interview a mysterious recluse… who has a rather disturbing fondness for walruses.
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Stars: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment

I’ve talked about this film for well over a year but have as yet to review it on my blog. Here goes:

Kevin Smith has carved out an etched name for himself in the film world. Most film students will tell you about Clerks, his cult fame status film about some deadbeats who keep a store staffed, albeit half-aware. We all worked those types of jobs and/or some still do so it’s highly relate-able. Besides that, there is a undefinable quality to it people can only attribute to Kevin Smith as director. Red State is another film that people are ready to line up and give blood for. His influence on film is undeniable in my mind. He tried horror with Tusk and he went way out at that. It’s unlike any horror you’ll see in that it molds disgusting, repellent body horror images with sarcasm and flippant comedy. But there is a third element that doesn’t get discussed a whole lot and that is the literary theme of the sea and its dark foreboding nature toward humans. It’s a bit like Jaws in that way, without a shark.

Justin Long plays Wallace, a despicable podcaster who gathers followers by exploiting outrageous stories. The stories seem to involve the misfortune, maiming, and even death of his subjects. He cheats on his beautiful and kind-hearted girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and overall he is an asshole, and that’s what he’s meant to be.

Michael Parks plays Howard Howe, a retired Navy seaman who lives in a mysterious house and provides Wallace with what was to be one of his biggest exclusives yet. But alas, things are not always what they appear to be. Howe is obsessed with surgically creating walruses from living people and that’s the “guts” of Tusk.

This movie scared the hell out of me when I saw it in 2016. It stuck with me and I have seen it twice since. People either love or hate this film. I happen to fall into the former category. I love the horror and I love the comedy. Make no mistake, they exist at different parts of the film and much of it is no laughing matter. The idea of being abducted and having your body destroyed that way is chilling. At the same time, we have Kevin Smith comedy throughout reminding us of what this is about.

At time of writing this, my podcast Talking Stars is planning to record an episode on Tusk and body horror. I hope you can tune in. Watch the site for more details. After 72 episodes, I’ve never been this eager to do an episode. If you’d like to be on it, let me know.

10/10

Scouting for Podcast Guests – The Snowman Preview (Crime Thrillers)

Hi readers. We’re looking for some people to be on our show this week. Interested? Please let me know.

Dead Man’s Shoes

Revenge films can really be cathartic. I think it gets to our mortal core the same way some Shakespearean plays do. A big thanks to Emma and her excellent review that got me curious.

“God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.” Richard

Dead Man’s Shoes (2015)
Cast
Paddy Considine

as Richard

Gary Stretch

as Sonny

Toby Kebbell

as Anthony

Directed by
Shane Meadows
Written by
Paddy Considine, Shane Meadows, Paul Fraser
Other Info

Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rated R
1h 30min

Who hasn’t been wronged and dreamt of getting the perpetrator back? I think it’s essential human nature to enjoy a good revenge film. This is one of those. Richard is the elder brother of Anthony who is bullied and derided by a group of guys in the neighborhood. When Richard is away in the service, the jeering and mistreatment becomes more severe. This is revealed to the audience in flashbacks.

I like the rawness of this film. It was made on a shoestring budget and the actors are not well known in the US as far as I can tell. Paddy Constatine (Richard) has some work under his belt. It’s a film released in the UK so the cast may be more famous there. We find that Richard has developed skills akin to a mercenary fight while in the service. This is ample reason for the group who taunted and maimed to worry. Richard weaves his revenge slowly. I am reminded of the aphorism: “The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine.”

This is a film to see that will provide all sorts of discussion questions. After watching it, make sure you have time to get tea or coffee. It has a twist at the end that may not make sense at first and I certainly did not see it coming. It’s no Disney ending by any means. I think it’s well written and well made however, possibly more eloquent than Disney could ever make a revenge film.

I won’t watch this one twice, it’s a bit disturbing. Watching it once is a must for all movie fans but I think you’d have to be a bit twisted to watch this a second time. When you recover from a tidal wave do you hope for the next? There are many things here left open-ended about the perpetrators and even Richard himself. I think we are meant to play with the scenes in our head to put them into a sensible context. At the beginning we see Richard and Anthony together, in the middle we don’t and at the end there is a revelation altogether different about the time and what has happened since Richard left for the military.

There are some of the most heinous scenes in this. It wasn’t as bad as the “Snowtown Murders” but pretty close. Once threat scene is probably the most intense I’ve ever seen. Richard threatens Sonny, one of the perpetrators. The movie has some great scenes and that one is one of the best in my opinion. I pulled one star off because there could have been more character development and the time jumping around was a bit confusing for me. Other than that, this is among the best revenge films I’ve seen. I recommend it.

It (2017)

It (2017)
R | 2h 15min | Drama, Horror | 8 September 2017 (USA)

A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writers: Chase Palmer (screenplay), Cary Fukunaga (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Stars: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard

Hear my audio review at the player below:
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The director is Andy Muschietti. I did enjoy his work on Mama. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to catapult his name out of obscurity. Now, he has done it with his adaptation of It. There are excellent directing choices at every turn. He had a big job on his hands, selling this Stephen King novel to a new generation. Too much horror and you disrespect them, too much camaraderie coming of age and you bore them. I did miss the spiders. They could have done more with the way the fear manifests.

Bill Skarsgård portrayed a great It. He was scary and unyielding to the bitter end. The rest of the actors were top notch as well. They worked together to tell this story which is about 1/3 a “buddy” coming-of-age film and 2/3 horror and thriller. I think making that part a priority is what made this film so successful. It’s doing unbelievably well at the box office and it deserves as much. Too bad its over the ratings edge as an R film. I think kids 10-17 would enjoy this just as much. There are also some great lessons about love and living with respect toward others. Apparently, they are planning a chapter 2 as well at some point. I’ll hope to catch it.

9/10