Current Mini Reviews

As many of you know I have been hard at work watching every Christmas movie of 2018 (over 50 new releases already!) for my Hallmarkies Podcast. However, that does not mean I am slacking off on the regular releases. I’m doing the best I can to fit them in as well. I am also still doing monthly obscure animation and Talking Disney over on my other podcast Rachel’s Reviews. We just posted one talking all about Mary Poppins I think you will enjoy.

Anyway, I thought it was about time for another one of my Current Mini Reviews post where I catch you up on the quick thoughts on recent films I’ve seen. Obviously this will not include films like Ralph Breaks the Internet where I have a full written review. Let me know your thoughts on these in the comments section.

widows

Widows

With such an amazing cast and a great director like Steve McQueen it is difficult to go into Widows without very high expectations and maybe that is part of my problem. While I certainly didn’t hate Widows, I found it kind of frustrating. The writing for the characters isn’t deep enough to be a compelling drama and the heist isn’t fun enough to be an engaging heist movie. Instead it is some pretty camera work and good acting that doesn’t have much to say and was a little plodding. I also thought the lighting on the women didn’t do them any favors. It seemed to me it was being shot to take away their femininity and make them look pasty and ugly which is a very strange choice for these stunning women. Even the love scenes felt very masculine and strange. I guess that could be interesting but it didn’t work for me.

Frown Worthy but other people love it so I guess decide for yourself

93 out of 135

christmas chronicles

The Christmas Chronicles-

Netflix has stepped up their Christmas game this year and Christmas Chronicles is a really fun entry from them. Starring Kurt Russell as a kick butt, cool Santa who ends up taking care of 2 kids who have lost their father. It was funny and had a nostalgic charm to it. Some of the bits go on a little too long and the thugs are a bit too violent for my liking but it’s a lot of fun. I also thought the elves were adorable.

Smile Worthy

43 out of 135

creed2

Creed 2

While not as fancy as the first Creed film I really enjoyed Creed 2. I enjoyed all the storylines between Adonis and his fiance and him and Rocky. The match-up with the Dragos really worked and I honestly didn’t know who was going to win the final boxing match (and I would have been happy with either winning which is tough to do in a boxing movie). I guess it doesn’t reinvent the boxing genre but what it does it executes very well. I think it’s a little underrated for this year.

Smile Worthy

19 out of 135

mirai

Mirai-

2018 hasn’t had as many indies and anime films as some years but Mirai is certainly one of the standouts. It’s a very simple movie from Mamoru Hosoda about a little boy struggling to adapt to a new sister in the house. Through a series of magical realism events he learns about his family and that he is loved and it is thoroughly adorable. The animation is so fun and the message sweet it really works. It reminded me a little bit of Takahata’s Only Yesterday, which I love.

Smile Worthy

16 out of 135

power of usPokemon: The Power of Us-

Last year we got a reboot of the Pokemon series with Pokemon: I Choose You and this year we get The Power of Us and fortunately both are solid entries in the series. I Choose You has more stunning animation but the plot in The Power of Us is less convoluted. Either way, I enjoyed both. If you are a fan you have to see it!

Smile Worthy

68 out of 135

green book

Green Book-

I love stories about friendship and Green Book is a great example of how to do it right. Both men obviously have racial differences but they have many other differences including class, sexuality, tastes and everything else. I thought it was great seeing the 2 overcome their differences and become friends through their road trip. Some people are mad at this movie for not starting a movement or telling the entire black experience. That’s not what it was trying to do. It was just portraying this one friendship and it did a great job. I love both lead performances and the script is excellent. Loved it.

Smile Worthy

9 out of 135

everyday

Every Day-

Every Day has an intriguing premise that probably works better as a book than a movie but I still enjoyed this YA film. The idea is our young girl meets a boy who wakes up each day in the body of another person for just that day. Naturally this makes having a relationship difficult but the overall message about loving who a person is rather than their outward appearance is a good one and all the acting is sincere and sweet. In the world of dopey YA films, this is a solid entry.

Smile Worthy

56 out of 135

instant family

Instant Family-

In Instant Family director Sean Anders tells his own story about when he and his wife adopted 3 siblings and the challenges/blessings that went along with that. This film is easy to disregard if you are only paying attention to the trailers with pratfalls and cheap humor but I loved it. It doesn’t shy away from how hard adoption and foster care can be but the emotional sections really worked for me. I was balling when I left the theater. I mean ugly, got to compose myself, kind of tears. These kids are out there and they need to be loved but they can be so hard to love. I liked all the performances and when the credits showed the Anders family and all the other adoption and foster care families involved in the film I lost it. It’s really good.

Smile Worthy

12 out of 135

the grinch

The Grinch-

Illumination Studios is the junk food of animation. They provide commercially appealing, brightly colored films that make a lot of money and are instantly forgotten. Such is the case with The Grinch. It’s not awful like their previous attempt with Seuss, The Lorax, but it’s just super bland and lacking in creativity. None of the jokes landed for me and they change the message from Christmas doesn’t come from a store into loneliness is bad, which is a definite downgrade. It has some nice traditional carols in the soundtrack and there’s nothing offensive about it. It’s just super mediocre and bland.

Frown Worthy

90 out of 135

 

tea with the dames

Tea with the Dames-

If you are an anglophile like myself you have to check out the documentary Tea with the Dames. It’s very simple. They just gather Dame Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith together to talk about their careers and lives. They have some naughty language and can be very catty but it’s all delightful. It will make you want to call your old friends and catch up.

Smile Worthy

30 out of 135

butterflies

Butterflies-

I actually saw this Turkish film at Sundance but I thought I would give you my thoughts really quick. Butterflies is about 3 estranged siblings who have to journey to bury their recently deceased father. What follows is a bit of a dark comedy with some poignant moments between the very good lead actors and some hilarious bits. I particularly died laughing every time a set of chickens meets their maker (I won’t spoil it for you but it was LOL).

Smile Worthy

24 out of 135

robin hood

Robin Hood-

I was hoping this would be a silly action movie but I don’t know what they were thinking with this disastrous adaptation of the classic story. Almost every choice from the accents, to the action, to the special effects are terrible. I knew it was going to be really bad when the opening sequence is a long Medieval take on American Sniper...Every performance is either bland or way over the top and the story is so dumb. It’s violent and yet the script expects you to care about these ridiculous characters….

Frown Worthy

128 out of 135

Robin Hood is the worst of this grouping and Green Book is the best! Some fun times at the movies. Let me know what you think!

Advertisements

Most Rewatchable Disney Canon Films

I will be seeing Big Hero 6 in the next 3 hours! Oh boy!

I was talking with a friend about Robin Hood and told her despite its problems it is one of the most rewatchable Disney’s.  What I mean by that is some movies are masterpieces but more weighty than the kind of thing I want to watch over and over again .

So what are those movies that I don’t mind repeat and frequent rewatching?  What’s the one that if I’m feeling like a movie that will entertain but not challenge me what do I pick?  I will add that I seem to have a unique high tolerance for repetition.  Other people tire of music, movies, food, books and I just don’t.  If it is something I like than I like it forever and repeatedly.

That said, some films like The Lion King I love but the intensity makes it tough to rewatch again and again.

I will also say that all of the Pixar movies with the exception of Brave (yes even Cars 2) are very rewatchable.   That’s why I’ve struggled to write up reviews of Pixar ,movies . How many ways can I say masterpiece?

pixar

 

Here goes in no particular order:

1.  Tangled- romantic comedies are probably my favorite genre to rewatch.  Tangled is funny, light, joyous, beautiful and a terrific villain.

Tangled_rapunzel_poster_20

2. Robin Hood- Maybe not the most ambitious Disney film but the humor makes it very rewatchable.  I love the voice performances and while it is a bit too long it is so much fun I enjoy rewatching it.

robin hood poster

3. Jungle Book- I hate the ending but other than that it is charming, funny, and the music is the true star.  It clips along so well with moments of real heart.  It is certainly up there in the movies I’ve seen the most.

1967_80sRR_JUNGLEBOOK

4. Emperor’s New Groove- Again not the most ambitious but so full of laughs that it is great to rewatch.  Comedies are often the best for rewatching as we don’t always feel up to an intense emotional experience.

emperors poster

5. Aladdin- Another comedy makes the list but Aladdin is so much fun with the manic energy of Robin Williams.  Every time I see it I spot a new impression or moment I had missed before.  It will entertain both boys and girls equally and it is just one I wouldn’t mind watching on most any day.

aladdin poster

6. Frozen- I can see many of you roll your eyes because you are sick of this movie.  I repeat I don’t get sick of movies.  If I like them I like them and I like Frozen.  I could listen to the music all day and the humor is great, pacing a lot of fun and I just enjoy watching it most any day.

Frozen-movie-poster

7. Lady and the Tramp- sweet, simple, romantic and with some tension and laughs.  Just something so pleasant I can’t think of a time when I would not enjoy watching it. As the poster says the ‘happiest motion picture’ from early Disney.

Lady-and-tramp-1955-poster

8. 101 Dalmatians- A lot of of humor with Cruella,  fun lively story, lots of great characters.  Dry with with Horace and Jasper.  Always at the top of my rewatch list.

101 dalmations

9. Lilo and Stitch- Probably my most emotional film on this list but it is so lovingly told and Lilo is such a real kid I am drawn to the picture despite my dislike for Stitch.  Maybe part of it is I find the Hawaiian local and music so relaxing it’s an easy rewatch for me..  It brings back many happy memories.

lilo and stitch poster

10. Mulan- Another movie with a lot of humor, romance, heart, and excitement.  Just thoroughly entertaining and not too deep or morose like other less rewatchable films.

Movie_poster_mulanHonorable Mentions- Beauty and the Beast although it feels a little long for a frequent rewatch, Little Mermaid because of my nostalgia for it, and Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which is probably the most rewatchable for little one’s.

 

Off to see Big Hero 6!!!!

Movie 21: Robin Hood

robin hood poster

(This review ended up being less about the story of the movie but more about the things I learned in my research and how I feel about individual scenes.  I hope it works for you guys)

Robin Hood is a movie as soon as I heard it was on blu-ray I went out and bought it. I really do love it.  That said, I do have to look at films a little bit objectively or what’s the point in even reviewing them?  It can’t be all based on nostalgia even if that is a factor.

So, let’s talk about it.

Production-

robin and little johnThere isn’t a ton of production info on a lot of these movies from the 70s.  Honestly I poured through the internet trying to find out the thought process behind the writing, art, songs, etc in Robin Hood but found very little.  However, I was able to piece some interesting tidbits together, and really enjoyed rewatching it again.

First thing to know is Robin Hood is the first movie to be made without any involvement from Walt Disney.  (Walt had signed off on the Aristocats before his passing).

Released in 1973 Disney had moved its focus away from its animated division in the late 60s and all of their capital and energy was going into Walt Disney World in Florida.  We are used to it now but at the time Epcot was a herculean task and another example of Walt Disney dreaming big!

But the budgets on the animated films suffered for a long time.  We didn’t see Disney invest real money into a picture until 1985 with the Black Cauldron, which was also their biggest flop (kind of excited to see that one!).

Robin Hood didn’t always start out as a comedy.   Lead writer and storyboard artist Ken Anderson (who is given writing credit on the feature even though he hated it) was commissioned by Disney to come up with a story based on Reynard the fox, a fearless creature known throughout France.  He gave his drawings to Disney animators and I read multiple places he ‘wept when he saw that his “character concepts  had been processed into stereotypes for the animation in Robin Hood”

raynold fox

It is the first Disney movie to have all anthropomorphic creatures.  The Rooster says at the beginning it is ‘the animal kingdom’s version’ of the story.  Not sure why they did it this way but there were shows and stories featuring all anthropomorphic creatures for kids successful at the time. On the anthropomorphic note doing this research I came across a group called the furry fandom which have an unhealthy love for anthropomorphic creatures.  Let’s just say I have nightmares! 😉

They also give us a really long intro with the character name, type of animal, and the celebrity voice which is new to Disney.  Before Jungle Book Disney had not used celebrity voices, but had relied on talented voice overs actors like Verna Felton and Sterling Holloway. Even now when celebrity voices are very common I still don’t recall them having a character introduction like in Robin Hood.

Recycling Animation-

Something surprising I learned in my research is Disney has admitted to recycling animation (I didn’t know you could do that) from other films to make Robin Hood.  I’m not sure I really care but it is kind of disappointing.

This recycling or ‘limited animation’ is defined as- “Limited animation is a process of making animated cartoons that does not redraw entire frames but variably reuses common parts between frames

It is for this reason that Disney as a company kind of hates Robin Hood and many other films from this era, despite them being very popular.  I’ve always thought it was interesting how little attention they get in the park and I think this recycled material explains why..  .

Humor in Robin Hood-friends

The thing I liked as a child and still like today about Robin Hood is its humorous script.  There is a ton of funny dialogue like when Prince John tells the guards to ‘seize the fat one’ or when Little John says ‘who’s driving this flying umbrella?’ This scene at the tournament is full of classic physical comedy.  We even get a pie in the face.  Some may think that is cliche but to kids watching they haven’t seen those bits before and they are put together so well.   It still makes me laugh:

There is also humor with Robin Hood and Little John dressing in drag to steal from Prince John.  Again the scene uses classic comedy tropes including some sexy music but it works. I repeat it still makes me laugh:

One Disney site I found said Prince John’s humor had been based on The Smother’s Brothers, which makes sense.  They were a very funny comedy sketch team that produced popular comedic albums and had The Smother’s Brothers Comedy Hour from 1967-1969 but it was deemed as too edgy and taken off the air.

Listen to this bit and see if it reminds you of Robin Hood.

As I was watching it today I kept thinking about a Muppets sketch from the 70s I had seen a few days ago.  It felt very similar in tone and cadence to Robin Hood and it made me wonder if the two were connected in some way?  I did some research and found out Sesame Street started in 1969.  Real work on Robin didn’t start till well after that date.  I could be wrong on the Muppet connection but it just feels like a similar form of comedy.   The Muppets are very bawdy in their humor, they have all different animals behaving like humans and they have sincere moments like Rainbow Connection. I think Disney saw the success of Muppets and decided to apply it to Robin Hood.

When I saw this clip my opinion was even more confirmed.  From season 1 or 2 of Sesame Street:

I am spending so much time talking about the writing because I think that is what is special about Robin Hood.  The animation clearly has problems but even if it is recycled, the humor still works.

The Music-

The music is pretty good.   Following the lead of the Aristocats and Jungle Book, they used recognizable singers including Phil Harris and country singer Roger Miller who wrote the songs and serves as narrator.  (A folksy feeling soundtrack may also be a nod to the Smothers Brothers who played guitar and sang in their act).

The introductory song is my personal favorite and I pretty much have it memorized.  It’s not a song that will change your life but I kind of like it.

The Love song is pretty 70’s corny so it isn’t my favorite.  I do like Phony King of England song even if it is recycled animation. (What about you guys?  Does knowing that make you like it less or do you not care?)

Characters-

Another thing I like about Robin Hood is you get introduced to a lot of characters. In 83 minutes (long for Disney those days) we have little vignettes with the sheriff, Prince John and Hiss, Clucky and Maid Marian, and the rabbits and friends, etc.

cast

I don’t know if there is a more morose moment in Disney than the ‘Not in Nottingham’ number because it affects so many people. I remember as a child being less interested in the last third of the movie and I still kind of agree with that assessment.  The scenes with Nutsy are fun but the jailbreak we don’t really get any action that is better or different from the tournament scenes earlier so it is less engrossing.

That’s a pretty sad song but I like it.   The score is nice by frequent Disney collaborator George Bruns.  They use music for a lot of the sound effect cues so instead of a bonk on the head noise, it is a noise worked into the score.

There is also no attempt in the movie to give accents to any characters but Prince John and Hiss (who is totally a rip off from Kaa down to the hypnotizing eyes but he has a lot of great lines).  Everyone sounds like they are from Chicago but it is less distracting than in the Aristocats because it wasn’t supposed to be London.

I love Hiss’s dialogue like “What cheek! Creepy? Buster? Long one? Who does that dopey duke think he is? or “Sire, you have an absolute skill for encouraging contributions from the poor”

Prince John is also funny with lines like “Yes, my reluctant reptile, and when our elusive hero tries to rescue the corpulent cleric” and “You cowardly cobra! Procrastinating python! Agravating asp! Ooh, you eel in snake’s clothing!”  That’s pretty high vocabulary for a kids movie and it totally works. It still makes me laugh.

prince john and hiss2Clucky is one of my favorite characters.   In one scene she fights off a bunch of rhinos football style and it is very funny. football cluckyThere is also a lot of sadness with Robin Hood with taxes, and people going to prison and one particularly cruel scene where the Sheriff steals the last farthing the church mice have given to the poor.

Movie Review/Conclusion-

So what do you do with a movie like this?  Is it an artistic masterpiece? No.  Do I get why Disney is embarrassed by it? Kind of but not really.  It’s not like in recycling they were stealing from other animation studios artwork.  I get why it may not be your greatest achievement but if it makes people smile than that’s an accomplishment however crudely it is accomplished.

Maybe part of it is Disney had been the first so they didn’t have to recylcle ideas or formulas from any one else.  They were then what Pixar was in the 2000s.  Everything at the beginning had been so great, like Pixar, that when they are less ambitious it feels like a failure even if lots of people like the end product.

I guess when it comes down to it making kids laugh isn’t all that easy, and I think Robin Hood does a good job with that.  I like the vocal performances.  I like the action scenes.  I like that the characters use big words and challenge kids a little bit with ideas of social justice and taxation.

So even acknowledging its flaws I still love Robin Hood and think it is one of the most rewatchable Disney movies.  The artpiece films are amazing but a good laugh goes a long way!

Overall Grade- B+  (I’d give it an A but I do think that last act drags a little)

What do you guys think about Robin Hood?