Sunday, November 27, 2016
Dir. John Musker & Ron Clements
For nearly eighty years, starting with Snow White, Disney has found success with adapting fairy tales under a familiar template - typically involving a naive, but ambitious young girl who ventures outside her safe home, finding her destiny and identity in the dangerous world outside while singing catchy songs and a cute sidekick or two tags along. Moana, the latest in Disney's "princess" canon, follows this same formula to a T and then some, but the difference lies in the execution: here the story beautifully captures ancient Polynesian myths that provide a unique backdrop as yet unseen in a film like this and a handful of songs developed by Hamilton's Lin Manuel Miranda that are sure to get some Oscar attention this year.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Dir. David Yates
The Harry Potter series was one of the biggest, most reliable cash cows ever for Warner Brothers Entertainment. Every year or so saw another guaranteed box office hit with a rabid built-in fan base and studio execs were showering themselves in gold doubloons a la Scrooge McDuck. But look - uh oh - there aren't any more books left to adapt in J.K. Rowling's Potter series! Now how will the executives pay for their third or fourth beach houses?! The answer lies in returning to the wizarding well in a new form: the spin-off/prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Though it may be a fresh property not based on an existing book, featuring a whole slew of new characters, Fantastic Beasts still feels like one of the most calculated movie productions this year, manufactured to be a hit.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Dir. Scott Derrickson
The fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange is in many ways one of the most formulaic origin stories we've seen in the series so far - BUT it's also one of the most visually inventive, with mind-blowing special effects that will cause the heads of viewers on LSD to explode like that guy from Scanners. Paralleling Tony Stark's character arc from the first Iron Man, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is also positioned as an arrogant genius who becomes humbled through his superhero journey - and coincidentally rocks the same goatee. In this case, Strange is a world-famous surgeon whose hands become damaged after a brutal car accident. In the aftermath, he seeks healing from a faraway Eastern secret society that practices the "mystic arts" under the tutelage of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). It's there that Strange's scientific mind learns about worlds and dimensions he never thought possible. Replace Iron Man's technology with trippy-dippy Inception-inspired reality-manipulation and you've got Doctor Strange: a routine, but mind-meltingly cool looking Marvel movie.