Genre Grandeur – April and the Extraordinary World (2015) – 54 Disney Reviews

I was able to participate in the Genre Grandeur blogging series. The topic was ‘favorite movie based on a graphic novel’ and my answer is April and the Extraordinary World. Would love your thoughts and follow Rob’s blog. It’s amazing.


For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Graphic Novel Film Adaptations, here’s a review of April and the Extraordinary World (2015) by Rachel of 54 Disney Reviews

Thanks again to Vern of the Video Vortex for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Audrey of 1001 Movies and Beyond and she has chosen the genre of Movie Musicals.

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of June by sending them to MusicalAudrey@movierob.net

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Audrey!

Let’s see what Rachel thought of this movie:

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My choice for best movie based on a graphic novel is the 2016 film April and the Extraordinary World or Avril et le Monde Truqué in French. This film received good reviews (98% on RT) but it wasn’t seen by that many people, which is a real shame as it is a…

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Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Wonder Woman (TV 1976)

This week for Hit Me with Your Best Shot Nathaniel at The Film Experience has given us a fun challenge. In honor of Wonder Woman we were assigned a 2 part episode of the iconic 1976 Wonder Woman television show to pick a best shot from. The episode is called The Feminum Myystique and it aired November 6 and 8, 1976

I used to watch Wonder Woman reruns when I was a little girl but it had been years since I revisited it and I must confess I found it to be a complete delight. I may have to get this show on bluray!

Lynda Carter radiates charisma as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. Her smile disarms you immediately and yet she is no bimbo especially as Diana working in the navy. It is easy to compare her to Christopher Reeves’ Superman as both are strong, immortal characters with old fashioned charm but I never viewed Reeves’ Clark Kent as all that bright like Diana is. Anyway, they are both great.

In this double episode a group of Nazi spies are trying to get information on the latest US fighter jet.  Diana’s sister, Drusilla (Wonder Girl), comes to bring Diana back to Paradise Island but becomes abducted by the Nazis. Eventually Queen Hippolyta and the rest of the Amazons must group together to defeat these Nazis. This requires them to understand men and evil in a way they never had before.

I thoroughly enjoyed these episodes. I suppose I like traditional superhero narratives with good guys and bad guys facing off with little weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that we so often see now. It’s just simple smarts and goodness facing off against Nazis!

The best shot becomes difficult because it is shot in a fairly standard way without a lot of epic moments. So, the shot I have chosen is a more subtle one. Towards the end of part 2 Hippolyta tells the girls about lying:

“I know it’s impossible for you to lie but men don’t know that.

They lie all the time”

What I love about this moment is I feel we have lost the ability to be cheeky when it comes to the sexes. Everyone is always offended by everything. Look at the uproar over a lovely notion of a women’s only Wonder Woman screening? It has to be used as some kind of feminist revenge plot by idiotic men…

Anyway, we can’t tease each other or have fun any more. It’s all cries of misogyny from women and anger over radical feminism from the men. I include myself in this group.

I love being a woman and I don’t think we are the same as men- thank goodness. It’s ok to admit differences and tease each other every now and then.

Just have fun with freakin Wonder Woman folks and chill out!

Thoughts on the Pirates Franchise and Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

Who would have ever thought when they installed an animatronic ride at Disneyland about pirates in 1967 that 50 years later we’d be getting our 5th movie about said pirates but yet here we are. Such is blockbuster moviemaking today. So, this week I had the opportunity to watch the entire Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and I will share with you my thoughts as well as a review of the new film Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Curse of the Black Pearl- 

In this first entry we are introduced to Captain Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp in an Oscar nominated role (a lot of people forget that). However, he is just a supporting player to Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) story. This is about 45 minutes too long but it still holds up as a rousing old-school adventure movie like you might have gotten with Errol Flynn back in the day. Gore Verbinski knows how to stage spectacle entertainment and this is.

Overall Grade- B+

Dead Man’s Chest-

I watched this back in 2006 and did not like it at all. I particularly didn’t like the addition of Davy Jones who I coined ‘the booger pirate’. However, on the rewatch it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It has the spectacle that Gore Verbinski does well and when looked at as part of a trilogy the unending subplots become a little more tolerable. Maybe I am just stupid because I still found it incredibly confusing. If they just took a second to explain Davy Jones Locker or the curse of the Dutchman instead of making us learn it as we go it would be less frustrating. Instead you are trying to understand all this lore while trying to follow a massive cast all with differing motivations. Because you have that experience for nearly 3 hours it is less fun than it otherwise would be. It’s weird but a messy film can be just as boring as one where nothing happens and that is the case here. The music is the best of the franchise in this film.

Overall Grade- C-

At World’s End-

This was my first time watching this and Stranger Tides this week and I found it an improvement over Dead Man’s Chest but just barely. It still has the same problems of a myriad of characters but this time it is all part of a Pirates Council with members from all over the world to keep track of! Also we have Davy Jones Locker realized with about an hour of scenes where I was completely lost as to what was happening and why it mattered. I also have no idea the rules or what the heck is going on with the heart in the chest and when it is and isn’t destroyed. That said, it is the prettiest of the franchise with some amazing visuals, so if you can stop caring about what the heck is happening it is cool to look at. There are also some fun scenes like when Will and Elizabeth finally get married in the midst of a battle.

Overall Grade- C+

On Stranger Tides-

This directed by Rob Marshall and he knows how to stage choreographed action sequences. In many ways this felt like an Indiana Jones film more than a pirates movie. Elizabeth and Will are gone and so Jack has now become the lead character. He starts off on a quest to find the fountain of youth. Along the way he is joined by a lot of characters (it’s a pirates movie after all) but standouts are Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and Angelica (Penelope Cruz). I liked these 3 actors and it was a simpler story than the previous 2 entries. However, there’s just not enough meat on the bones for a 137 minute movie. Some of the humor feels forced and I was starting to get a little annoyed by Jack as a lead rather than a supporting player. Also a subplot involving a priest and some vampire mermaids is particularly laborious.

Overall Grade- C

Dead Men Tell No Tales-

So now we come to the latest entry. The reviews for this movie are super low and I have to say it’s not that bad. It’s basically exactly what you have come to expect from this franchise. If you like the previous entries go, you will like it. If you don’t then you’ll probably be bored and find it annoying. At least this film has some fun action set pieces in the first act. There is a scene with a guillotine that was particularly well staged. These sequences brought back some of the fun of the first film which was nice to see.

The action scenes of 2 and 3 had been so meshed together with the many plot points it was harder to enjoy them. These stand alone a little better.  We get to meet Will Turner (seen briefly) son (Brenton Thwaites) and an Elizabeth Swan copy-cat named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario). They are finel. Javiar Bardem plays the captain of another band of cursed pirates and he is fine. The last 45 minutes begin to drag as they search for  the Trident of Poseidon. I also felt Johnny Depp played Jack this time as too drunk. He’s always been drunk but self-aware and here he was just an imbecile.

Pirates 5 is one of those movies if you want to go to a Hollywood blockbuster and see some fun action and be moderately entertained you will be. It’s not something you will remember unless you are a hardcore fan of the series but if you are sick of your kids this Memorial Day weekend you could do worse. (Also don’t go to this movie to see Will and Elizabeth. You will be very disappointed).

Overall Grade- C+

So my ranking of the Pirates movies is

  1. Curse of Black Pearl
  2. At World’s End
  3. Dead Men Tell No Tales
  4. On Stranger Tides
  5. Dead Man’s Chest

What do you think of the Pirates franchise? Are they favorites of yours? If you see Dead Men Tell No Tales let me know what you thought?

For the record the only one I could really give a solid smile worthy is the first film

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Moonlight

I am very excited to tell you all that Nathaniel over at the Film Experience is bringing back the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series! This is a really fun series where he picks a film and then any bloggers who want to participate pick one screenshot that he or she feels best captures the film in question. I have really enjoyed participating when I can (content and time leave me out of a few of them) and I would encourage all of you to join in. It’s really neat to see what shots others pick. You can see my entire series so far here.

So, the choice to bring back the series is the recent Academy Award winner Moonlight. I did a mini-review of this film but never did a full blog post. At the time I gave it an A- and now I have seen it 3 times and I stand by that grade.

Moonlight is a tremendous film that allows you to walk around in the life of a gay black boy/man named Chiron. It is divided into 3 acts- Little (child), Chiron (teen) and Black (adult).  Chiron faces many challenges including poverty brought on by a crack-addicted mother. Of course, he also has sexuality that is not welcome in his community and an innate shyness that makes it hard for him to open up to others.

As we walk through the life of Chrion we see joyous moments where he connects with a man named Juan and his girlfriend Teresa. Juan teaches him how to swim and to avoid bitterness and anger at his mother. Then in the teen years Chiron develops a relationship with a schoolmate named Kevin. This is handled with tact, poignancy and devastation when he is eventually betrayed.

The final act has Kevin and Chiron reuniting and this was the only issue I had with the movie. Up until that point everything had been so vivid and realistic and I just didn’t buy these two men would come back together like they do. It honestly felt a little bit cloying when it should have felt empowering after all Chiron has been through. It’s not awful but just what separated an A and an A- for me.

All of the acting is amazing in Moonlight including Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and nominee Naomie Harris. The cinematography is intimate and beautiful and the music is perfect. I might even like the score better than the La La Land score.

For me the second act was the most moving. I guess because I have been bullied I related to it quite strongly and the highs and lows in that segment were very moving. I think Ashton Sanders as Teen Chiron should have gotten more praise for his performance because he is asked to go more places and show a variety of emotions.

So, now to my best shot. Because I loved the second act most I picked this shot of Chiron practically looking at the camera desperate for a way out. It’s like he is calling out to the audience to save him and I wish that I could…

Overall Grade- A- and definitely smile worthy

Current Mini Reviews

Every once in a while I get a little swamped with everything in my life and I get behind on reviews. This is when I need to do one of my mini review posts where I cover a bunch of films in a paragraph or two. Some of these I really loved so I hope to be able to do them proper justice in the future but at least this will give you some clue into what is or isn’t worth your time.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

This was my introduction to the Wimpy Kid series, so I have no attachment to the previous movies or casts (which I see on social media evidently is a thing of contention). What we have here is a basic family road trip comedy. I laughed a little bit and little kids will probably enjoy it. However, the gross out gags became a little bit too much for me.  There were also some really strange jokes for a kids film like an extended Psycho shower scene gag that kids won’t understand. Also the parents participate in distracted driving like texting while driving and it’s not part of a joke, which I thought was kind of odd. Still a few laughs. Probably best to watch on cable with the fam.

Overall Grade- C

Kedi

An adorable documentary about the cats of Istanbul. It sounds weird and boring but it’s really quite charming and I’m not a big animal person. You get to know 7 different cats and the various people who feed and care for them. The heart of the movie lies in the attachment the humans have to these mangy cats. One baker gives all his tips to the vet to take care of a cat. The entire family can watch this documentary and enjoy it together.

Overall Grade- B+

XXX: Return of Xander Cage

This movie starts with a scene of Xander Cage skiing through the jungle and I thought ‘this is going to be a blast’. I was hoping for a big over the top ridiculously fun movie. Unfortunately, the action sequences aren’t enough to prop up unlikable characters, the horrible way it treats the female characters and a self-seriousness that drags the movie down. I started to get annoyed by it when it should have been fun. Also I found it kind of shocking how hostile the movie was to soldiers who are bystanders. They are often mowed down for no reason.  All that said, I thought this was more entertaining than the recent Fate and the Furious.

Overall Grad- C-

Gifted

They had good intentions with this movie but it really annoyed me. The main flaw is the dichotomy presented to us is false. The girl is given two options she can go to public school and be socially adjusted (although a bully comes first day so don’t know about that) or she can go to a school of gifted and talented that is painted as some kind of prison. Bologna. There are so many options open to kids today to get a good education.

This movie reminded me of Patch Adams where they show one option as being perfect and another as evil when the truth is always in between.

The courtroom scenes are uninspired and boring. The whole thing just super annoyed me.

Overall Grade- C-

Their Finest

A film about the making of a film is always interesting to see and Their Finest has a lot going for it. Gemma Arterton is great as a young writer trying to figure out the ins and outs of screenwriting. However, Bill Nighy steals the show as a foppish seasoned actor. He’s hilarious and the movie is worth watching just for him. It took me a while to get into it but once I did I enjoyed it. It went a few ways I wasn’t suspecting and has a nice heart to it.

This is rated  R but it is pretty tame. There is a little bit of nudity and 3 uses of the f word.

Overall Grade- B

Casting JonBenet

I appreciated they tried something different with this documentary but I’m afraid it ends up coming across as more of a gimmick than a success. They have the actors auditioning for the parts of John and Patsy Ramsey (as well as other parts) talking about the case instead of any photos or talking heads.

My main problem is I felt like the movie was mocking its subjects especially the actors. This seemed unfair. Plus, you are dealing with the horrific death of a child and sometimes the tone didn’t address that. Also, I’m not convinced they didn’t coach or even write some of the comments from the actors. It sometimes felt a little bit too on the nose and perfect to just happen organically.

Overall Grade- C

Personal Shopper

A brilliant movie about a girl who works for a celebrity buying clothes and accessories. The problem is she is haunted by the ghost of her twin brother and a mysterious person begins to text and follow her. It is spooky, spiritual, heart wrenching, different, tightly written, and surprising. Kristen Stewart is wonderful and is able to carry the movie almost by herself. It reminded me a little bit of The Others, which I also love. The music and cinematography are perfect. I can’t wait to see it again and figure out even more I missed the first time.

There is pretty strong nudity in this one as she is trying on clothes and some blood.

Overall Grade- A

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

I watched both Baahubali films this month and thoroughly enjoyed them. They are loud, crazy and true spectacles. I wish that the major blockbuster studios were half this fun.  It’s a little hard to explain but basically they are epic stories of 2 generations of a royal family in India. In this second one we take off from the battle at the end of the first and follow Amarendra Baahubali and his son as the evil Prince Bhallaladeva fights for power.  The musical sequences, dancing, battles and everything else are magnetic and wonderful. The only downside to this film over the first is there isn’t quite as many musical sequences but it is a little easier to follow than the first.  Still, you get action, battles, special effects, romance, and everything else. Sure they are over the top but that’s what I like about them.

It is pretty bloody so not for everyone but again it is so fantastical it didn’t bother me. No gritty realism here!

Overall Grade- A

Alive and Kicking

A fairly standard documentary about the history and performers of swing dance. I loved watching all the dancing and that’s really where the joy of this film is. It is fast and exciting and I could watch it all day!

Overall Grade- B-

So there you have it. What sounds the most interesting to you of these films? If you’ve seen any of them let me know what you think in the comments. And if there is one you would particularly like me to write a full post on let me know.  Thanks!

Dreamworks 5: Antz

Today we get to look at one of the oddest entries in the Dreamworks Canon- their 1998 film Antz. This film was not only loaded with controversy but has more subplots, characters and ideas than it knows what to do with.

Let’s start with the controversy: After the success of Toy Story in 1995, Pixar began developing their next picture that would revolve around a colony of ants. This became A Bug’s Life. At the same time, executive Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney in a feud with then CEO Michael Eisner. Then in a very fishy move Dreamworks also developed their own ant movie under Katzenberg’s leadership, Antz.

In my opinion Antz is the inferior film over A Bug’s Life but aside from being ants they are actually quite different. A Bug’s Life is more of a traditional hero narrative where Antz is a hodge-podge of story elements focusing more on the colony than on one particular ant.

The lead character in Antz is a neurotic bug named Z voiced by Woody Allen. There are a lot of jokes meant for adults in this movie, and many of these come from Allen with his deadpan style of humor. It feels like such an odd choice to have Woody Allen waxing philosophical in a kid’s ant movie. I’m used to him as more of an R rated figure and so it’s a bit jarring to hear his voice and type of ramblings in a Dreamworks movie. However, the movie does move away from him for long stretches with subplots involving a soldier named Weaver, a princess named Bala and a worker ant named Azteka.

On the other hand, the main strength of Antz is how nutty and strange it is. It combines 8 different kinds of movies into one. It’s at all times a  romcom, war, dystopian, road trip, fantasy, prison escape and children’s movie all in one. This can make it unpredictable and fun to watch. I never know quite what it is going to do or what is happening next.

There are also a ton of characters in Antz. I counted 16 named characters with vocal work.  And not only do they have all of these characters, but they all look the same with the brown color palate. Most I wouldn’t be able to tell apart if it wasn’t for the voice actors.

While it can be fun to have all these plot points and characters. it can also be overwhelming. It’s tonally all over the place with a massive battle scene happening one minute and  playful banter at an ant landfill the next.

Some of the rules of the world building also don’t make sense. The ants are kept under strict routines and follow orders yet there is a long sequence at a bar where ants drink quite a bit including the princess (she’s sneaking but still). What kind of workers paradise is this place? I don’t know but it is just kind of all over the place.

With all the characters there are so many relationships and friendships to keep track. Because they all look the same the only way I knew who was who was the vocal work (one time when the celebrity vocal work actually helped Dreamworks). Still, for a kid it could be a very confusing film to watch.

The message also becomes muddled. Is it anti-war? Is it teamwork? Is it individualism or collectivism? Is it never give up and forgive others? Is it revolt against tyrants? All of that is in there but it feels very confusing.

A part of me wants to give Antz a smile worthy just out of shear strangeness. In a world of cookie-cutter movies at least it tries a bunch of weird stuff. It does score some laughs and is moderately entertaining but it is also a jumbled mess of a film. It’s not very rewatchable or visually appealing to me.

I am definitely much more of A Bug’s Life girl but I’m not going to give that many smiles to Dreamworks so this one is just barely entertaining enough to get one.

Overall Grade- C+

Everything, Everything Review

I’ll just say it- I love a good romance movie and we don’t get that many satisfying ones these days. Most are either of the 50 Shades/Unforgettable variety or the Nicholas Sparksian mold. It is with this in mind that I share with you my positive response to the recent teen romance- Everything, Everything. My niece loved the book and while I haven’t read it yet I intend to because I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

A movie like this depends largely on the chemistry of the lead couple and the believability of their journey together. In Everything, Everything Amandla Stenberg stars as Maddy a young girl with an autoimmune disease that forces to stay inside her house all the time. One day she meets through the window her next door neighbor Olly played by Nick Robinson and they become friends.

The film is very clever with how it stages their initial interactions. Of course, it is texts and emails but it feels intimate and real and the two actors have terrific chemistry. Director Stella Meghie did a great job staging the interactions in an authentic way and the screenplay avoids too much melodrama.

I kept waiting for the story to go off the rails with an evil person thwarting young love or a dramatic cancer diagnosis but it was more subtle than that. I am sure some critics will say it is predictable and cheesy but I think it could have gone way more off the rails many times. It worked for me.

The only real flaw I had with it was one character gets off the hook a little too easily but that wasn’t a huge problem. I also appreciate that them being a mixed race couple wasn’t brought up once. They were just teens in love, as it should be.

There isn’t much else to say except I really liked it. Great chemistry, well shot and the emotional manipulation feels very gentle for this kind of movie. I think if women go with their girlfriends they will have a great time. My friend who went with me had a great time also so it’s not just me.

Overall Grade- B+

As far as content there is one scene of sensuality but it is pretty tame.

Here is my youtube review

Anne with an E Series Review (Spoilers)

* A few spoilers ahead

Anyone who knows me knows of my love of Anne of Green Gables. Anne and her series of books was essentially my childhood’s Harry Potter. I read them over and over again and I loved the 1985 series with Megan Follows. So it was with great anticipation I heard a new version was coming on Netflix this week! Unfortunately I have viewed the 7 episode first season and not only is it not an Anne series but it doesn’t replace her with anything very compelling. I really didn’t care for this version of Anne.

It cannot be denied there is a darkness to Anne’s story. Many of her most attractive qualities such as her window friends or active imagination when you dig into them are coping mechanisms, survival strategies more than anything else. She had to create an imagination in order to live as a slave with the Hammonds or in the miserable asylum. So, on the surface I don’t have a problem with them exploring this darker side of Anne’s personality. However, what they forgot to show is how Anne is a survivor and how her optimism brightens all around her. The dark is good to show but the lightness is also important.

This is the main problem with Anne with an E- it’s unrelenting bleakness. Most of the series bears no resemblance to the novel and even the scenes that do, come across as cold and sterile where they are mixed to sweet in the book. For example, in the book Marilla accuses Anne of taking her broach. Anne confesses to stealing it even though she hasn’t because she wants to go to a party. Marilla finds the broach and asks Anne’s forgiveness.This is a tense but honest moment where the two become closer.

Unfortunately in this version Marilla sends Anne away to Charleston on the train back to the asylum for stealing the broach!! Gone are any chance to learn or have the characters bond from this simple sweet experience. Plus you have the ridiculous sequence of Matthew racing on a horse to find Anne like a knight in shining armor (and much more melodrama hunting her down in the city crashing into carriages and the like).

Another example can be seen in the school sequences. In the book Josie Pye is a snob that looks down on Anne because of the attention Gilbert gives her. In this series Josie is unceasingly cruel and the entire town talks about Anne and what a retrograde orphan she is. Anne literally has to go into a burning building to get anyone to trust her at all.

Even scenes that should be fun are made ponderous like Matthew buying the puffed sleeves dress. In this version he is confronted with the woman he once loved but couldn’t marry and then Anne must sell the dress back when the house is going to be foreclosed on. It’s just a joyless enterprise!

They even manage to work in themes of suicide, mental illness and abuse to make things really fun. And they are sooooo heavy handed with the modern messaging and feminism. Anne isn’t just as good as a boy but a boy is sent to protect her at one point and he literally gets beat up by thugs while she is unharmed. There is also a weird scene where she tells the other kids about sex and that Prissy Andrews and the teacher are making a baby together. I get the writers wanted to modernize Anne but in so doing they created an entirely different bland feminist character. I like Anne just the way she was!

It is nicely shot and the performances aren’t bad but that’s all I can really say in its defense. As it moved along I became less and less engaged. By episode 5 if I wasn’t podcasting about it I would have stopped watching. Like I said, it’s not just that they changed everything. It’s that they didn’t replace it with something compelling or engaging. It was just grim and joyless.

I would definitely not recommend Anne with an E for children and even teens should be warned. My advice is to watch the 1985 version and even better read the books. This is new series isn’t good. In fact, it is kind of awful.

Overall Grade- D (Yes, that’s what I really feel it deserves)

Check out our podcast on the series:

R Ratings and Seeking After the Good Films

Some thoughts on my standards and how I decide to see R rated movies

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

I’ve talked about my views on R rated movies several times on this blog, but I feel it is necessary for me to address the subject again. Ever since I started reviewing movies regularly I get lots of questions about what I will and won’t see. Just this weekend we have Alien Covenant coming up and I haven’t decided whether I will see it or not. It is rated R for “for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity” and Ridley Scott has said it is a “hard R”. However, I love the first 2 alien movies and liked Prometheus, so the decision to see it is far from an easy one. I could take the easy way out and refuse to see any R rated movies but that would be a cop out. There’s a difference between a film being mature and offensive. My job then…

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