Showing posts with label Fantasy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fantasy. Show all posts

Friday, March 29, 2024

Review: "GODZILLA X KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE" is Entertaining, Imaginative and Extraneous

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 of 2024 (No. 1962) by Leroy Douresseaux

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024)
Running time: 115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for creature violence and action
DIRECTOR:  Adam Wingard
WRITERS:  Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Jeremy Slater; from a story by Terry Rossio, Simon Barrett, and Adam Wingard (based on characters owned by Toho Co., Ltd.)
PRODUCERS:  Alex Garcia, Eric McLeod, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, and Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Seresin (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Josh Schaeffer
COMPOSERS:  Tom Holkenborg and Antonio Di Iorio


Starring:  Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Dan Stevens, Kaylee Hottle, Alex Ferns, Fala Chen, Rachel House, Ron Smyck, Chantelle Jamieson, Greg Hatton, and Kevin Copeland


-- Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is as visually stunning as the two previous MonsterVerse series films, and the monster-fight action is awesome.

-- However, the story is not compelling, and the characters feel like props.  Thus, Godzilla x Kong is really for fans of the series.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is a 2024 monster movie and science fiction-fantasy adventure film directed by Adam Wingard.  Produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, this film is the fourth entry in the “MonsterVerse” film series, which began with Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire brings the two ancient titans together in order to fight an ancient, prophesied threat to the surface world.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire opens some time after the defeat of Mechagodzilla (as seen in Godzilla vs. Kong).  In the “Hollow Earth,” Kong is in the process of establishing his territory, which means defeating vicious predators.  Monarch has planted a base in Hollow Earth, Monarch Outpost One, in order to monitor Kong.  That outpost itself is monitored on the surface by a Monarch base in Barbados, which is where Kong expert and Monarch scientist, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), lives with her adopted daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last living member of Skull Island's indigenous tribe, the Iwi.

Jia is deaf and communicates with Kong via sign language.  She has begun experiencing dreams, flashbacks, and hallucinations that seem to be related to a signal emanating from somewhere in the Hollow Earth.  Godzilla, who has been romping across Europe is also sensing that signal, and the King of the Monsters is absorbing energy in preparation for some unknown, coming battle.

Kong explores a sinkhole near his home and discovers an uncharted region hidden within the Hollow Earth.  Exploring it, he finally encounters other giant apes like himself, including an adolescent giant ape.  However, these giant apes are aggressive and apparently serve a mysterious alpha giant ape leader, and this leader controls something that not only endangers the Hollow Earth, but also the surface world.  Only Kong and Godzilla can end this threat, but will the Earth's two greatest Titans join forces or just try to kill each other, again?

The “MonsterVerse” is an American multimedia franchise that includes movies; a streaming live-action television series (Apple TV+) and a streaming animated series (Netflix); books and comic books; and video games.  It is a shared fictional universe that includes the character, “Godzilla” and other characters owned and created by the Japanese entertainment company, Toho Co., Ltd.  The MonsterVerse is a reboot of Toho's Godzilla franchise.  It is also a reboot of the King Kong franchise, which is based on the character, “King Kong,” that was created by actor and filmmaker, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973).

In preparation for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, I watched and reviewed the previous four films in MonsterVerse series.  They are Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire has a hard act to follow in the previous film, Godzilla vs. Kong, and while the new film is entertaining, it never really establishes the stakes of the conflicts it depicts.  To me, the threat didn't really seem like it would lead to the end of the world.  Godzilla x Kong is loud and proud, a true monster movie built on sensations, muscular CGI, and visually stunning visual special effects.  Godzilla x Kong is big, bigger, BIG, and it probably should be seen on IMAX, but its story is no bigger than a mini-max.

Godzilla x Kong exists because Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Entertainment want it to exist as a product designed to make a lot of money now and to continue contributing to the MonsterVerse revenue stream for some time to come.  It's not that I did not enjoy Godzilla vs. Kong.  I laughed several times, and it did hold my attention.  It is probably the least dark film in the series, but it is also the least important.  Honestly, I think Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire director Adam Wingard made a much more compelling film with his 2011 feature, You're Next, which was made for .007 percent of Godzilla x Kong's budget.  [You're Next's screenplay was written by Wingard's frequent collaborator, writer Simon Barrett, who is also a co-writer on Godzilla x Kong.]

Another strange thing about this film is that the characters all feel unnecessary.  Kaylee Hottle's Jia is very important to Godzilla x Kong's narrative, but Jia often feels like a prop.  Dan Stevens' Trapper is a generic character, played by Stevens with generic verve.  I liked Brian Tyree Henry's Bernie Hayes in Godzilla vs. Kong, but here, he feels too frantic and forced.  I get that Hayes is comic relief, but has become too much comic relief.  Hayes is utterly wasted here – half chatterbox, half-on-the-edge-of-being-substantial.

I pushed Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire from my mind as soon as I got up from my seat in the theater.  Still, fans of the MonsterVerse films will likely really enjoy it.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Review: "GODZILLA VS. KONG" Rocks 'n' Roars

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 17 of 2024 (No. 1961) by Leroy Douresseaux

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language
DIRECTOR:  Adam Wingard
WRITERS:  Terry Rossio and Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields; from a story by Max Borenstein and Eric Pearson (based on characters owned by Toho Co., Ltd.)
PRODUCERS:  Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia, Eric McLeod, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, and Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Seresin (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Josh Schaeffer
COMPOSER:  Tom Holkenborg


Starring:  Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Bryan Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Lance Reddick, Kaylee Hottle, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Ronny Chieng, Demian Bichir, and Kyle Chandler

Godzilla vs. Kong is a 2021 monster movie and science fiction-fantasy adventure film directed by Adam Wingard.  Produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, this film is the fourth entry in the “MonsterVerse” film series, which began with Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla vs. Kong finally brings about the long awaited confrontation between Godzilla and Kong.

Godzilla vs. Kong opens three years after the dragon-like extraterrestrial King Ghidorah awakened the monstrous “Titans” around the world before being defeated by Godzilla.  On Skull Island, Monarch has imprisoned Kong within a game preserve that is covered by a giant dome where they monitor him.  Skull Island has been taken over by the storm that previously kept it hidden from the world.  Kong has befriended Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the island's last native human and the young adopted daughter of Kong expert, Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall).  Jia is deaf and communicates with Kong via sign language.

Across the world, at Apex Cybernetics in Pensacola, Florida, CEO Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir) is up to something sinister, and that has drawn the attention of Godzilla, who reappears after three years and attacks the facility.  That doesn't stop Simmons, who travels to Denham University of Theoretical Science in Philadelphia, in order to recruit former Monarch scientist, Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), to lead a mission into the legendary “Hollow Earth,” which is Lind's area of expertise.  But the mission needs Kong, and that's where Ilene and her daughter, Jia, come in.

Meanwhile, Bernie Hayes (Bryan Tyree Henry), an Apex Cybernetics employee and a Titan conspiracy podcast host, is investigating Apex's activities.  Hayes finds a kindred spirit in Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), daughter of Monarch scientist, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), who is also suspicious of Apex.  With her friend, Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison), in tow, Millie joins Bernie on an adventure that will take them halfway across the world to where Apex is hiding its most sinister secret, one that is tied to the mission into the Hollow Earth and its secrets.

The “MonsterVerse” is an American multimedia franchise that includes movies; a streaming live-action television series (Apple TV+) and a streaming animated series (Netflix); books and comic books; and video games.  It is a shared fictional universe that includes the character, “Godzilla” and other characters owned and created by the Japanese entertainment company, Toho Co., Ltd.  The MonsterVerse is a reboot of Toho's Godzilla franchise.  It is also a reboot of the King Kong franchise, which is based on the character, “King Kong,” that was created by actor and filmmaker, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973).

The fifth film in the MonsterVerse series, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, is due to be released March 29, 2023, so I have decided to watch and review the previous four films:  Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and 2021's Godzilla vs. Kong (which is the subject of this review).

Godzilla vs. Kong is, thus far, the best of the “MonsterVerse” films.  Each film is its own thing, although they are all monster movies.  Godzilla 2014 is a science fiction mystery film.  Kong: Skull Island is a lost world story, thoroughly wrapped in pseudo-science and weird fiction.  Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a VFX-slick, CGI-fuel-injected, modernized take on the original 1950s, Japanese Gojira/Godzilla films.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the monster movie as an old school science fiction-fantasy action-adventure film that has been all gussied up with CGI and dazzling, glowing, supernatural special effects.  I could feel the science fiction mood through Tom Holkenborg's score which reminded me of Daft Punk's glorious score for Tron: Legacy (2010).  Godzilla vs. Kong's “Hollow Earth” subplot is the film Fantastic Voyage (1966) wishes it could have been.  Godzilla vs. Kong is wall-to-wall adventure.  It is a sci-fi travelogue from one end of the Earth to the other, whether it is breathlessly racing from Florida to Hong Kong for a mecha showdown or plunging into a mind-bending journey inside the deepest reaches of the planet.

As for the confrontation between Godzilla and Kong: the first one in this film is an impossible battle that is a work of genius on the part of everyone involved.  What is more shocking is that the second confrontation, which occurs in the film's last act, is even better and even more eye-popping.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the ultimate monster showdown spectacle.  I was not able to turn away from it, and a day after seeing it, I'm still buzzing from it as I write this review.  Godzilla vs. Kong is peak “MonsterVerse,” and I pity the films in the series that come after it.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Friday, March 22, 2024


TRASH IN MY EYE No. 16 of 2024 (No. 1960) by Leroy Douresseaux

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024)
Running time:  115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for supernatural action/violence, language and suggestive references
DIRECTOR:  Gil Kenan
WRITERS:  Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman (based on the film, Ghost Busters, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and directed by Ivan Reitman)
PRODUCERS:  Jason Reitman, Jason Blumenfeld, and Ivan Reitman
EDITORS:  Nathan Orloff and Shane Reid
COMPOSER:  Dario Marianelli


Starring:  Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Celeste O'Connor, Ernie Hudson, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Emily Alyn Lind, James Acaster, Dan Ackroyd, Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Bill Murray

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a 2024 supernatural comedy, action and mystery film from director Gil Kenan.  It is the fifth entry in the Ghostbusters film franchise, and it is the third sequel to the original film, 1984's Ghost Busters (now known as “Ghostbusters”).  In Frozen Empire, the old and new Ghostbusters must take on an evil force unleashed from an ancient artifact.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire opens in New York City in 1904 where a group of fireman enters a hotel suite and finds an entire party frozen solid in the middle of an extremely hot summer.  In the present day, Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon) and her two children, son, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and daughter, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), have moved from Summerville, Oklahoma to New York City, with Phoebe's former summer school teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), in tow.  The four live in the old Ghostbusters' NYC firehouse that had been maintained by original Ghostbuster, Dr. Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson).

Now, Phoebe, Trevor, Callie, and Gary are the active Ghostbusters, but a particular Ghostbusting case leads to significant damage in the city.  That brings them to the attention of the mayor and leads to Phoebe being forced out of the Ghostbusters because she is underage at 15-years-old.  But the world of the supernatural does not stop because of the human world's concerns.

Original Ghostbuster, Dr. Raymond “Ray” Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), has come into possession of a peculiar artifact, which he turns over to Winston Zeddemore's top-secret research lab.  Meanwhile, Phoebe, sidelined as a Ghostbuster, is trying to find her place in the world of the Ghostbusters.  Then, Garraka, an ancient god, is freed.  He wants to gather all the ghosts ever captured by the Ghostbusters and turn them into his personal army as he brings about a new ice age.  Despite her troubles, Phoebe will have to figure out how to stop the ancient evil that is Garraka before it's too late.

I was a huge fan of the original Ghostbusters films, Ghostbusters (1984) and its sequel, Ghostbusters II (1989).  I enjoyed Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), and I thought that film's teen characters, siblings Phoebe and Trevor, and their friends, Podcast (Logan Kim) and Lucky Domingo (Celeste O'Connor), made a great foundation for the new Ghostbusters.

Thus, I was surprised to see Phoebe and Trevor playing Ghostbusters with the adults, their mother, Callie, and their quasi-stepfather, Gary.  Honestly, I find Carrie Coon's Callie and Paul Rudd's Gary to be extraneous here.  I have no interest in their characters beyond what they did in Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  In fact, this film has too many characters.  Bill Murray's Dr. Peter Venkman, Annie Potts' Janine Melnitz, and William Atherton's Mayor Walter Peck are also mostly irrelevant.  Pretty much everything these characters do could have been passed off to other characters or deleted because it wasn't important enough to clutter up the narrative.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire spends much of its first half meandering around assorted relationship dysfunction, including one involving a ghost.  Then, the film rushes to a forced satisfactory conclusion that wastes a truly scary monster in Garraka.  I am glad that Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore has a substantial part in this film, especially because Hudson spent the first two films fighting off Columbia Pictures' executives and Ghostbusters cast mates who were determined to sideline his character.

As a franchise, Ghostbusters needs to move on from its past or just die.  The young characters:  Phoebe and Trevor Spengler, Podcast, and Lucky Domingo are the franchise's present and true future.  When this Ghostbusters film focuses on them, it feels alive and is fun.  When it doesn't, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is frozen and freezer-burned.

[This film has one mid-credits scene.]

5 out of 10
★★½ out of 4 stars

Friday, March 22, 2024

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



Amazon wants me to inform/remind you that any affiliate links found on this page are PAID ADS, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on affiliate links like this, MOVIES PAGE, and BUY something(s).

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Review: DreamWorks' "ORION AND THE DARK" Takes on Childhood Fears

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 12 of 2024 (No. 1956) by Leroy Douresseaux

Orion and the Dark (2024)
Running time:  93 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
MPA – not rated
DIRECTOR:  Sean Charmatz
WRITERS:  Charlie Kaufman (based on the book by Emma Yarlett)
PRODUCER:  Peter McCown
EDITOR:  Kevin Sukho Lee
COMPOSERS:  Kevin Lax and Robert Lydecker


Starring:  (voices): Jacob Tremblay, Paul Walter Hauser, Colin Hanks, Mia Akemi Brown, Ike Barinholtz, Nat Faxon, Golda Rosheuvel, Natasia Demetriou, Aparna Nancherla, Carla Gugino, Matt Dellapina, Nick Kishiyama, Shino Nakamichi, Werner Herzog, and Angela Bassett


Orion and the Dark is a unique animated film that is about a child learning to accept fear as a part of life without letting it control him.

Orion and the Dark has an eclectic cast full of surprising characters, but Orion and Dark are this film's winning pair.

Orion and the Dark is a good family film, especially for parents and for children who are of middle grade age and younger.  I find it to be too deep in its feelies, but it will tug on the heartstrings of its intended audience.

Orion and the Dark is a 2024 animated fantasy-adventure and comedy-drama film directed by Sean Charmatz and produced by DreamWorks Animation.  The film is animated by French production company, Mikros Animation, and is also a “Netflix Original” that began streaming on Netflix February 2, 2024.

Orion and the Dark is based on the 2015 children's book, Orion and the Dark, from author Emma Yarlett.  Orion and the Dark the movie focuses on a boy whose active imagination causes him to be scared of everything and on the entity that takes him on an incredible journey.

Orion and the Dark introduces 11-year-old Orion Mendelson (Jacob Tremblay).  He is a severely anxious child with a long list of irrational fears.  He is a schoolboy with a fear of speaking in front of class, being bullied, ending up in a toilet, and a fear of speaking to Sally (Shino Nakamichi), the girl of his dreams, of course.  Outside of school, he also has a bunch of fears, including the fear of getting eaten by a shark, but at home its is worse.

Orion is afraid of the night, especially of the dark and of all the dark places in his bedroom.  Orion's father (Matt Dellapina) and mother (Carla Gugino) have a difficult time getting him to bed.  One night a giant, smiling creature slithers into his room.  He introduces himself as “Dark,” the embodiment of Orion's worst fear, the dark.  Tired of hearing Orion's constant complaints about him (the dark), Dark takes the 11-year-old on an adventure to help him overcome his fears and to appreciate the benefits of nighttime and of the dark.  But there are plenty of dangers along the way, including Dark's rival, “Light” (Ike Barinholtz), and Orion's own deep-seated fears.

Orion and the Dark is a beautifully animated film with simple, but evocative character and concept design.  It took me awhile to remember that Orion and the Dark reminds me of the 2014 DreamWorks Animation film, Mr. Peabody & Sherman.  Both films share a visual aesthetic, possibly because artist and designer, Timothy Lamb, served as the production designer on the two films.  Both films also convey their fantastical settings and surreal environments via eye-appealing art and design that have a children's picture book quality.  

I do have one gripe about Orion and the Dark.  The film does have a heart – a center – which is that both Orion and Dark have to learn something about themselves and to overcome self-doubt.  The film, however, also has sentiment, and it is, at times, exceedingly sentimental, which can be both heartwarming and saccharine.  Orion and the Dark is sometimes too much in its emotions and feelies, so much so that by the end, I thought the film was trying to give me an insulin attack.  Orion and the Dark pounds on its parent-child themes and dynamics with schmaltzy consistency.

I want to avoid spoilers.  Still, I will say that Orion and the Dark does have a time-travel subplot courtesy of screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind), who is known for creating elaborate, twisty, meta screenplays.  Orion and the Dark has several interesting supporting characters, especially Dark's fellow “Night Entities,” so many so that I could see it becoming an animated television series.  Orion and the Dark is unique and quite well made, and many may find its heartwarming insistence just what we need in these dark times.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Amazon wants me to inform/remind you that any affiliate links found on this page are PAID ADS, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on affiliate links like this, MOVIES PAGE, and BUY something(s).

Friday, February 16, 2024

Review: Hysteria Aside, "MADAME WEB" is Quite Enjoyable

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 of 2024 (No. 1954) by Leroy Douresseaux

Madame Web (2024)
Running time:  117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for violence/action and language
DIRECTOR:  S.J. Clarkson
WRITERS:  Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless and Claire Parker & S.J. Clarkson; from a story by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless and Kerem Sanga (based on the Marvel Comics)
PRODUCER:  Lorenzo di Bonaventura
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mauro Fiore (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Leigh Folsom Boyd
COMPOSER:  Johan Soderqvist


Starring:  Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O'Connor, Tahar Rahim, Adam Scott, Emma Roberts, Kerry Bishé, Zosia Mamet, José María Yazpik, and Mike Epps



Madame Webb is not the worst film ever, and even with its corny and eye-rolling moments, it is a fast-moving action movie.

Madame Webb and the three young women she protects carry this film past its weirdness with their energy.

Madame Webb is for comic book movie fans looking for entertainment rather than culture war conflict.


Madame Web is a 2024 superhero fantasy, horror, and action film directed by S.J. Clarkson.  The movie is based on the Marvel Comics character, Madame Webb/Cassandra Webb, that was created by writer Denny O'Neil and artist John Romita Jr. and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #210 (cover dated: November 1980).  This is also the fourth film in “Sony's Spider-Man Universe” (SSU) series.  Madame Web the movie focuses on a NYC paramedic who starts having visions of a shadowy figure hunting three young women.

Madame Web opens in 1973 in the jungles of Peru.  There, scientist Constance Webb (Kerry Bishe) searches for a rare spider deep in the Amazon.  At her side is her assistant, Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), who has plans of his own.  They are also surrounded by legends and rumors of “Las Arañas,” a secret Peruvian tribe in which its members have spider powers.  In the end, discovery leads to betrayal, death, and birth.

Thirty years later, New York City, 2003, Constance's daughter, Cassandra “Cassie” Webb (Dakota Johnson) is a paramedic.  An accident causes Cassie to start having strange visions, which she comes to believe are clairvoyant.  These visions of the future feature three young women:  Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O'Connor) being hunted by a mysterious figure.  This man wears a costume; he has enhanced strength and speed; and he can crawl on walls and ceilings like a spider.  Forced to confront her past and her psychic abilities, Cassie must safeguard these three young women before this deadly adversary murders them.

Madame Web is fourth film in Sony's Spider-Man Universe following Venom (2018), Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021), and Morbius (2022).  In my estimation, dear readers, Madame Webb is the second best of the quartet behind only the original Venom.

In fact, Madame Webb isn't the “worst film ever,” “absolutely horrible,” or any of the over-the-top things haters and trolls are saying on social media.  It isn't a great film, but Madame Web is quite entertaining.  However, I have ideas about why this new film is getting so much hate.  One reason is that there is a corner of social media that is dedicated to dissing films that are largely led by women characters.  We saw this in the vitriol and invective directed at the 2016 Ghostbusters film and Marvel Studios' recent target, The Marvels.  There are also some structural and narrative reasons that might irritate some viewers, and in order to talk about them, I will have to give you, dear readers, a...

SPOILERS WARNING:  Madame Web is a hybrid of superheroes, dark fantasy, horror, action, and mysticism.  On the superhero end, only the adversary trying to kill the three young women wears a costume.  Sometime in the future of Madame Web's timeline, Julia Cornwall, Anya Corazon, and Mattie Franklin will each be a version of the hero, Spider-Woman, but now they are not.  We only see them in their respective costumes in Cassie's visions of the future.  Still, in the main body of the story, each actress plays her respective character as if she takes her role seriously.  The trio is fun and rebellious, and their energy makes this film hop when it starts to drag.

On the action end, Madame Web has car chases and crashes and eye-crossing fights.  The film's mystical angle comes across as a bit hokey, especially when Cassie talks about her powers.  However, when Cassie's visions kick-in, they are trippy, confusing, and disorienting; they come and go in so many alternate versions with horror movie intensity.

Madame Web certainly could have been a better film had the main male characters had more development.  Screen time isn't the issue.  Adam Scott's Ben Parker, to whom you should pay attention, is more errand boy than friend, and the bad guy often comes across as a stock villain.

That said Madame Web is an entertaining film, and Dakota Johnson is good as Cassie Webb, considering neither her character nor this film in general has the benefit of a strong screenplay.  Madame Webb is a slightly above-average comic book movie, and it should entertain most fans of superhero movies... except those with culture war agendas.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, February 16, 2024

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



Amazon wants me to inform/remind you that any affiliate links found on this page are PAID ADS, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on affiliate links like this, MOVIES PAGE, and BUY something(s).

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Review: Pixar's "TURNING RED" is Universal and Unique

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 of 2024 (No. 1952) by Leroy Douresseaux

Turning Red (2022)
Running time:  100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPA –  PG for thematic material, suggestive content and language
DIRECTOR:  Domee Shi
WRITERS:  Domee Shi and Julie Cho; from a story by Domee Shi, Julie Cho, and Sarah Streicher
PRODUCER:  Lindsey Collins
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  Mahyar Abousaeedi and Jonathan Pytko
EDITORS:  Nicholas C. Smith with Steve Bloom
COMPOSER: Ludwig Goransson
SONGS: Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  (voices) Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, Jordan Fisher, Finneas O'Connell, and James Hong

Turning Red is a 2022 animated fantasy and comedy-drama film directed by Domee Shi and produced by Pixar Animation Studios.  It is Pixar's 25th full-length animated feature film, and it is the first to be solely directed by a woman.  Turning Red focuses on a teen girl who is dealing with her demanding mother and the changes of adolescence when she suddenly discovers that becoming really excited causes her to turn into a giant red panda.

Turning Red opens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2002.  It introduces a Chinese-Canadian girl, 13-year-old Meilin “Mei” Lee (Rosalie Chiang).  She lives with her parents, mother Ming (Sandra Oh) and father Jin (Orion Lee).  Mei is a dutiful daughter to her mother who calls her “Mei-Mei,” and she helps take care of the family's temple, “the Lee Family Temple,” one of the the oldest temples in Toronto.  The temple honors the Lee family ancestors instead of gods, and it is dedicated to Mei's maternal ancestor Sun Yee.

Mei is also dedicated to a trio of girl friends:  Miriam (Ava Morse), Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), and Abby (Hyein Park), and all three of them are dedicated fans of the boy band, “4*Town.”  Life is busy, but it's about to get complicated.  The morning after a night of humiliation, Mei wakes up to discover that she has been transformed into a giant red panda.  This is a condition that happens when Mei is overly excited, but it can be cured.  But what does Mei really want?

In the early days of the Disney+ streaming service and in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Walt Disney Company released three Pixar feature films as direct-to-streaming releases:  Soul (2020), Luca (2021), and Turning Red, declining wide theatrical releases for the films.  These were and still are three of Pixar's greatest films, but they are finally getting belated theatrical releases in early 2024.  [Soul in January 2024; Turning Red in February 2024; and Luca in March 2024.]

Turning Red is an incredible coming-of-age story, and like Pixar's Oscar-winning Brave (2012), it is a story of transformations and of mother-daughter relationships and all the love and support and trials and tribulations that come with it.  Its beautiful, terracotta-like colors amplify the film's sense of magic and magical realism.  The variety of faces, body types, skin colors, hair styles, and clothes and costumes are a testament of how culturally expansive Pixar's films set in the human world are.  Everything about Turning Red invites the entire world of moviegoers to come along on this timeless, universal tale of a child coming into her own and learning to love herself as she is becoming and to love her parents for what they were, are, and can be.

Domee Shi and her co-writers, Julie Cho and Sarah Streicher, have created a character, a world, and a scenario of which I believe I can be a part.  I am an old-ass Black man, a million miles away from a 13-year-old Canadian girl of Chinese descent, but Turning Red makes me understand that what the girl experiences are in some ways similar to what I've experienced.  In a way, I am jealous of Turning Red and of Meilin Lee because I could never embrace the messy strangeness in me to the extent that she does.  I definitely did not want my freak flag fluttering in the wind too much.

There is so much to like in this film.  As usual, the animation is up to Pixar's astronomical standards, and Ludwig Goransson's score infuses itself into the film so much that it seems as if the animation is performing a concert.  Speaking of music, I'm embarrassed to admit that I like 4*Town, the band, and its three songs performed in the movie, which are written by the sister-brother team of Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell.  And I couldn't love the movie if I wasn't crazy about actress Rosalie Chiang's multi-layered and energetic voice performance as Mei.  Chiang makes Mei feel like a real girl, genuine child in the throes of change and transformation.

Some have said that Turning Red's setting and its lead character, Mei, make the film not timeless and universal like Pixar's other films.  They can go screw themselves.  Turning Red is universal like other Pixar films and also unlike other Pixar films.  Turning Red is Pixar high art and Disney magic, and it is a truly great film that I plan on watching again and again.

10 of 10

Sunday, February 11, 2024

2023 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Domee Shi and Lindsey Collins)

2023 BAFTA Film Awards:  1 nominee: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Domee Shi and Lindsey Collins)

2023 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nominee:  “Best Motion Picture – Animated”

2023 Image Awards (NAACP):  1 nominee: “Outstanding Animated Motion Picture”

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



Sunday, December 10, 2023

Review: Prime Video's "CANDY CANE LANE" is an Unexpected Delight

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 52 of 2023 (No. 1941) by Leroy Douresseaux

Candy Cane Lane (2023)
Running time:  117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPA – PG for language throughout and some suggestive references
DIRECTOR: Reginald Hudlin
WRITER:  Kelly Younger
PRODUCERS:  Brian Grazer, Charisse M. Hewitt, Karen Lunder, and Eddie Murphy
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Newton Thomas Sigel (ASC)
EDITORS:  Kenny G. Krauss and Jim May
COMPOSER:  Marcus Miller


Starring:  Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jillian Bell, Genneya Walton, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Madison Thomas, Nick Offerman, Chris Redd, Robin Thede, David Alan Grier, Ken Marino, Timothy Simons, Danielle Pinnock, and D.C. Young Fly

  • I watched “Candy Cane Lane” on a lark, and I did not expect much from it.  Boy, am I surprised. It is so shockingly charming and endearing that this must be some kind of Christmas magic.
  • Eddie Murphy is quite good in family-oriented films, and even his fans who don't ordinarily like Murphy's family films will probably find something to like in “Candy Cane Lane”
  • The story is ridiculous at times, but “Candy Cane Lane” is the best Christmas movie I have seen in a long time.  I recommend it without reservation.

Candy Cane Lane is a 2023 comedy, fantasy, and Christmas film directed by Reginald Hudlin and starring Eddie Murphy.  The film is an Amazon “Prime Original” that began streaming December 1, 2023.  Candy Cane Lane focuses on a man who is so determined to win the neighborhood's annual Christmas decorating contest that he makes an unwise pact with a rogue elf.

Candy Cane Lane introduces Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy), a husband and father who crafts his own hand-carved Christmas decorations.  Every year, a local television station hosts the “Candy Cane Lane Spectacular,” a contest to judge the best decorated house.  Chris has never won, and he is jealous of his neighbor, Bruce (Ken Marino), who has won several times.

Shortly before Christmas, Chris' employer, the industrial plastics firm, Sydel Twain, lays him off.  When Chris learns that this year's Candy Cane Lane prize is $100,000, he becomes desperate to win the money for his family, although he wife, Carol Carver (Tracee Ellis Ross), has a very good job.  Chris is also oblivious to the lives of his two older children, Joy (Genneya Walton), a high school senior and track star, and Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson), a tuba player and budding musician.

Looking for Christmas decorations and supplies, Chris and his youngest child, daughter Holly (Madison Thomas), stumble across “Kringle's,” a mysterious Christmas shop filled with all kinds of beautiful decorations, including model buildings, ceramic figures, and a strange Christmas tree.  Chris is so enchanted by all that he sees, believing that these decorations could help him win Candy Cane Lane.  He unwarily signs a deal with Kringle's eccentric shopkeeper, Pepper (Jillian Bell).  However, Pepper is more than she seems, and so is the receipt Chris signs.  Soon, he will need all the help he can get from his family and from a trio of diminutive new friends in order to keep himself out of Pepper's clutches.  And he also has some Christmas lessons to learn.

Audiences first came to know and love Eddie Murphy from his stand-up comedy career; his stint as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” (1980-84); and his R-rated comedy films, such as 48 Hrs (1982), Trading Places (1983), and Beverly Hills Cop (1983).  Much to the chagrin of the those fans, Murphy's film career as an A-list star eventually led him to make innocuous family-friends films, especially Dr. Doolittle (1998), Shrek (2001), and Daddy Day Care (2003).

Those fans will not be pleased with Candy Cane Lane.  It is a family movie, an absurd fantasy film, and a Christmas movie full of holiday lessons to learn.  For me, Candy Cane Lane is one of the best absurd movies that I have ever seen.  Its concepts and ideas are as imaginative and as inventive as they are ridiculous and preposterous, yet I find the film endlessly lovable.  Every time I tried to dismiss it, I found myself drawn ever deeper into its delicious, addictive fluffiness.  Candy Cane Lane is a true feel-good movie.  It shouldn't work, yet it works to perfection.  Considering director Reginald Hudlin's past directorial efforts, I was (and still am) shocked that he could pull of this kind of Christmas movie, which is, for the most part, a warm cup of cocoa.  If anything, Candy Cane Lane suggests that screenwriter Kelly Younger is certainly inventive.

Nick Offerman, Chris Redd, and Robin Thede are a delight in their voice roles, and David Alan Grier is sly and smooth in his surprise role.  Jillian Bell is nearly perfect as Pepper, except for a few moments that are too over the top.  I think Madison Thomas needed more screen time as Holly Carver, and Timothy Simons and Danielle Pinnock are a winning pair as TV co-hosts, Emerson and Kit.

Eddie Murphy barely breaks a sweat as Chris Carver, and neither does Tracee Ellis Ross as Carol Carver.  Still, they work well together as a screen couple at the center of this delightful family fare.  Despite what some fans may think, Eddie Murphy has the magic touch when it comes to family films.  Murphy passes on the lessons that Chris has to learn with a knowing wink and a nudge, and I was willing to buy it all.  I think I'll be watching Candy Cane Lane again, if only because, for two hours, it made me believe in that Hollywood bullshit called “Christmas magic.”

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Review: First "MORTAL KOMBAT" Film Has Not Lost its Immortal Charm

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 50 of 2023 (No. 1939) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mortal Kombat (1995)
Running time:  101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for non-stop martial arts action and some violence
DIRECTOR:  Paul Anderson
WRITER:  Kevin Droney (based on the video game created by Ed Boon and John Tobias)
PRODUCER:  Lawrence Kasanoff
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  John R. Leonetti (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Martin Hunter
COMPOSER:  George S. Clinton


Starring:  Robin Shou, Christopher Lambert, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, Trevor Goddard, Chris Casamassa, Francois Petit, Keith H. Cooke, Steven Ho, Gregory McKinney, and the voices of Frank Welker, Ed Boon, and Kevin Michael Richardson

Mortal Kombat is a 1995 martial arts and action fantasy film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.  It is the first film in the Mortal Kombat film franchise, and is based on the video game series, Mortal Kombat, which began in 1992.  Mortal Kombat the movie focuses on three martial artists who find themselves entered into a martial arts tournament that will decide the fate of Earth.

Mortal Kombat opens in the dreams of Liu Kang (Robin Shou), a former Shaolin monk.  Kang dreams of the death of his brother, Chan (Steven Ho), at the hands of Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a powerful sorcerer.  Now, Kang is determined to avenge his brother's death, and to do this, his most enter the tournament, Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat is a martial arts tournament that is held once every generation between the representatives of the realms of Earth and Outworld .  There have been nine previous editions of the tournament, and the realm of Earth has lost all of them.  If the warriors of Earth lose this tenth tournament, the realm of Outworld and its Emperor will invade the realm of Earth.

Although Kang's former comrades in “the Order of Light” are reluctant to have him represent them in the tournament, Lord Rayden (Christopher Lambert), the god of thunder and defender of the realm of Earth, believes Kang is the right choice.  In addition to Kang, Rayden has chosen two other entrants, Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), a movie star who wants to prove that his martial arts skills are legitimate, and Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), an American special forces operative, who is hunting another entrant in Mortal Kombat.  That would be Kano (Trevor Goddard), a criminal allied with Shang Tsung.

Kang, Cage, and Blade travel to Shang Tsung's island where they meet Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto), the Emperor's adopted daughter, who wants to ally with the Earth warriors.  With its strange rules, Tsung's weird warriors, and lurking danger, Mortal Kombat will test the warriors from the realm of Earth to their limits.

I first saw Mortal Kombat when it was initially released to theaters in August 1995.  I liked the movie, but at the time, I was not overwhelmed by it.  I do remember it fondly because I saw it with coworker who was a fellow college student and also a dear friend for many years.  Since then, I have grown fond of Mortal Kombat, and I have wondered why over the years.

The Mortal Kombat video game and subsequent film adaptation are hugely influenced by the legendary Bruce Lee's classic 1973 martial arts film, Enter the Dragon.  There seems to be some kind of mental and dream time connection in my mind and imagination between this first Mortal Kombat film and Enter the Dragon, which is one of my all-time favorite films.  [However, I have only watched the 1997 sequel, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, in its entirety once, and I have not seen the 2021 franchise reboot, Mortal Kombat.]

Mortal Kombat is by no means perfect.  Some of the dialogue is stiff, and is made stiffer by the actors' deliveries, especially in the case of Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade and Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage.  However, the two aren't always bad, and I find them rather likable.  Christopher Lambert is unfortunate as Lord Rayden, I'm sad to say; everything about his character is forced and contrived.  Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is over the top and melodramatic as Shang Tsung, but I really dig his performance and his character.  I think there isn't enough of Tagawa's Shang Tsung.

The two best things about Mortal Kombat 1995 are Robin Shou as Liu Kang and the film's soundtrack.  Shou, an underutilized Hong Kong-born actor, is magnetic as Kang, and Shou is the one that makes the film more than just a standard martial arts/action-fantasy film.  Mortal Kombat also features The Immortals' single, “Techno-Syndrome,” with its signature yell of “Mortal Kombat!”  It lifts this movie any time a few strains of it are played, and the music certainly creates a sense of anticipation for me.

So Mortal Kombat is by no means a great film; it may even be a mediocre film.  For me, however, it seems to get better each time I watch it.  I think I hear the opening notes of “Techno-Sydrome” now.  “MORTAL KOMBAT!”

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Monday, December 4, 2023

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Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Review: "SCOOBY-DOO and the Witch's Ghost" is Kind of Witchy

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 48 of 2023 (No. 1937) by Leroy Douresseaux

Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost (1999) – Video
Running time:  66 minutes (1 hour, 6 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Jim Stenstrum
WRITERS:  Rick Copp, David A. Goodman, Davis Doi, and Glenn Leopold
PRODUCER: Cos Anzilotti
EDITOR:  Rob DeSales
COMPOSER:  Louis Febre


Starring:  (voices) Frank Welker, Scott Innes, Mary Kay Bergman, B.J. Ward, Tim Curry, Kimberly Brooks, Jennifer Hale, Jane Wiedlin, Bob Joles, Tress MacNeille, Peter Reneday, and Neil Ross

Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost is a 1999 straight-to-video, animated horror-comedy film that was directed by Jim Stenstrum and produced by Hanna-Barbera Cartoons.  It was the second film in the Scooby-Doo straight-to-video film series that began with 1998's Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.  It was released on VHS on October 5, 1999, then on DVD on March 6, 2001.  In the film, Scooby and the company get involved with a famous horror novelist and his ancestor who was rumored to be a witch.

Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost opens with Mystery Incorporated: Fred Jones (Frank Welker), Daphne Blake (Mary Kay Bergman), Velma Dinkley (B.J. Ward), Shaggy Rogers (Scott Innes), and Scooby-Doo (Scott Innes) solving a case at a San Francisco museum.  There, they meet the famous horror novelist, Ben Ravencroft (Tim Curry).  Velma Dinkley is a huge fan of Ravencroft, so he invites her and the rest of the gang to his hometown of Oakhaven, Massachusetts.

Upon arrival, Ravencroft and Mystery Inc. discover that the town's Mayor Corey (Neil Ross) has transformed Oakhaven into a tourist trap.  The town is even putting on a concert featuring an all-female gothic rock band, the Hex Girls: Thorn (Jennifer Hale), Dusk (Jane Wiedlin), and Luna (Kimberly Brooks).

Oakhaven is like an amusement park with a theme based on the ghost of Sarah Ravencroft (Tress MacNeille), who is an ancestor of Ben Ravencroft.  Ben describes Sara as a “wiccan” who used herbal remedies to heal the poor and less fortunate.  In 1657, the townspeople of Oakhaven believed that Sarah was a witch, and they persecuted and executed her.  Ben has spent years searching for Sarah's medical journal, which he believes will help him prove her innocence.

But now, the ghost of Sarah Ravencroft is really back, and she wants revenge.  Scooby, Shaggy, and the gang are about to discover that this mystery turns out to have plenty of twists and turns.

Like a number of the early straight-to-video Scooby-Doo movies, Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost has a tone that is darker than the franchise's usual fare.  In this film, the supernatural elements are “real” as compared to the usual fake supernatural shenanigans committed by the adversaries in Mystery Inc.'s cases.  Still, I was surprised that the film takes such a benevolent attitude about the modern pagan, earth-centered religion, “Wicca.”  The film's story goes to some lengths to separate Wicca from “witchcraft,” which is generally seen as the use of magic for nefarious purposes.

Beyond that, Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost is a standard Scooby-Doo film.  I find the “ghost of Sarah Ravencroft” to be less impressive than the “fake ghost witches” of earlier Scooby-Doo cartoons, such as “The Witch” in the “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” episode, “Which Witch is Which?”  I can say that the film does have a nice twist involving Sarah Ravencroft that does darken the film's tone a bit more.

However, as a Scooby-Doo fan, I consider almost all Scooby-Doo productions to be must-see.  And while, it isn't special, Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost is entertaining.  And the Hex Girls are quite nice.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Review: Walt Disney's "ROBIN HOOD" is the Non-Classic Disney Classic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 44 of 2023 (No. 1933) by Leroy Douresseaux

Robin Hood (1973) – animation
Running time:  83 minutes (1 hour, 23 minutes)
PRODUCER/DIRECTOR:  Wolfgang Reitherman
WRITERS:  Larry Clemons; based on story and character concepts by Ken Anderson
EDITORS:  Tom Acosta and Jim Melton
COMPOSER:  George Bruns
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  (voices) Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Roger Miller, Peter Ustinov, Terry-Thomas, Monica Evans, Andy Devine, Carole Shelley, Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, and Ken Curtis

Robin Hood is a 1973 animated musical-comedy and fantasy-adventure film produced and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman.  It is also the twenty-first feature-length animated film from Walt Disney Productions, part of a line also known as the “Disney Classics.”  The film is based on the English folklore character, Robin Hood, and the stories that have grown around the character.  Disney's 1953 Robin Hood film depicts the legendary outlaw and the cast of characters around his legend as anthropomorphic animals (animals that talk and act like humans)

Robin Hood opens with the story's narrator, Alan-a-Dale – The Rooster (Roger Miller), saying that there are many stories of Robin Hood, but that the one he is about to tell takes place in the world of animals.  He introduces Robin Hood – A Fox (Brian Bedford) and Little John – A Brown Bear (Phil Harris).  They are outlaws and live in Sherwood Forest.  They rob from the rich in order to give gold coins to the overtaxed citizens of the town of Nottingham.

The Sheriff of Nottingham – A Wolf (Pat Buttram) tries to catch the two, but he fails every time.  The sheriff's failure to capture the outlaws irritates Prince John – A Lion (Peter Ustinov).  John is the “Prince Regent” of England while his older brother, King Richard – A Lion (Peter Ustinov), is out of the country fighting in the Third Crusade.  Prince John and his advisor, Sir Hiss – A Snake (Terry-Thomas), plot to end the nuisance of Robin Hood.  Prince John also demands that the Sheriff tax the poor townsfolk of Nottingham excessively, driving many to abject poverty.

Meanwhile, Robin's attention is not entirely focused on robbing the rich.  He wishes to reunite with his love interest, Maid Marian – A Vixen (Monica Evans), who is also the niece of King Richard.  And Prince John's latest plot to catch Robin Hood may just reunite Robin and Marian.  Can their love survive an increasingly enraged Prince John?

As “DVD Netflix” prepares to shutdown, I've been racing to catch up on certain films that I have never seen or have not seen in a long time.  I recently decided to sample some films in which 2023 is the fiftieth anniversary of their original theatrical releases.  That includes such films as Woody Allen's Sleeper, George Lucas' American Graffiti, and the Bruce Lee classic, Enter the Dragon.

Walt Disney's Robin Hood is one of those films celebrating a 50th anniversary, and it is one of the Disney animated classics that I had never seen prior to now.  I am a fan of Robin Hood films, especially the 1991 Kevin Costner vehicle, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  I also like Ridley Scott's 2010 film, Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe in the title role.  I found some enjoyment in Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse, a 2012 direct-to-DVD film.  [Robin Hood makes a small appearance in director Richard Thorpe's “Best Picture” Oscar nominee, Ivanhoe (1952), which I have seen a few times on Turner Classic Movies.]

Disney's Robin Hood is an odd film.  First, it isn't an origin story, and takes place, apparently, well into Robin's career as an outlaw.  While Alan-o-Dale mentions “the Merry Men,” Robin's legendary band of outlaws, Little John is the only one that appears in this film.  Friar Tuck – A Badger (Andy Devine) does appear, but he seems to be purely the priest of Nottingham – more a beneficiary of Robin's outlaw activities than a participant.  For me, this makes the film seem under-developed, as if it we are getting half of the intended story.

Apparently, using the the American “Deep South” as a setting for this film was considered, but ultimately the chosen locale was Robin Hood's traditional English setting.  However, Roger Miller, who provides the talking and singing voice of Alan-o-Dale, is best known for his honky-tonk inflected country music and novelty songs, so much of Miller's performance here seems out of place.  Miller's Alan-o-Dale has the flavors of America's rural South, which somewhat clashes with the English setting.  Still, I tend to like Miller's narrating and singing in Robin Hood, although this film's best song is the Oscar-nominated “Love,” written by George Bruns and Floyd Huddleston.

To begin, Robin Hood feels muddled, and it really does not find its narrative flow until about 37 minutes into the film.  At that point, the characters really emerge as they take their places within the story.  The action turns lively, and the animation and animation effects start to stand out.  The voice performances overall are good, but not great – nothing that I would call memorable in the context of the great performances in other Disney animated classics.  Walt Disney's Robin Hood does not exactly miss the mark, but it does not hit the bullseye, either.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

1974 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Music, Original Song” (George Bruns-music and Floyd Huddleston-lyrics for the song “Love”)

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Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Review: "LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY" is in the Sky with Diamonds

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 41 of 2023 (No. 1930) by Leroy Douresseaux

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta – original Japanese title
Running time:  125 minutes (2 hours, 5 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Hayao Miyazaki
WRITER:  Hayao Miyazaki
PRODUCER:  Isao Takahata
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hirokata Takahashi
EDITORS:  Hayao Miyazaki, Yoshihiro Kasahara, and Takeshi Seyama
COMPOSER:  Joe Hisaishi


Starring:  (voices) Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, Minori Terada, Fujio Tokita, Ichiro Nagai, and Hiroshi Ito

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a 1986 Japanese animated, action-adventure fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  Laputa is also the first film fully produced by the Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli.  In North America, the film is known simply as Castle in the Sky, the title by which I will refer to it in this review.  Castle in the Sky follows the adventures of a young boy and girl who must race against time, pirates, and foreign agents in a bid to find a legendary island that floats in the sky.

Castle in the Sky opens on an airship.  Aboard the aircraft is a young girl, Sheeta (Mayumi Tanaka), an orphan girl abducted by the government agent, Colonel Muska (Minori Terada).  The airship is attacked by Captain Dola (Kotoe Hatsui) and her gang, “the Dola Pirates” (all of whom are apparently her sons).  Dola is seeking Sheeta's necklace, which holds a small orb made of pure “etherium” crystal.  Attempting to escape, Sheeta falls from the airship, but is saved by the magic of etherium in the now-glowing crystal, which lowers her slowly to the ground.

On the ground, Sheeta is caught by a young boy, Pazu (Keiko Yokozawa).  Soon, Pazu is on a mission to protect Sheeta from both Dola and Muska.  Pazu and Sheeta's goal is to reach the mythical flying island, “Laputa,” which is connected to both children's past, but in different ways.  The mystery of Laputa is what exactly is it – a paradise, a treasure trove, or something dangerous.

I have previously reviewed the following Miyazaki-directed films:  The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), and The Wind Rises (2013).  As Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail division, I am hoping to get to the Miyazaki films that I have not previously watched.  This is the first time I've watched Castle in the Sky.

For me, the most wonderful thing about Castle in the Sky is that it is steeped in Hayao Miyazaki's affinity for flight, a theme that dominates many of his films.  He fills this film with wonderful flying contraptions, such as the government's flying fortress, “Goliath,” and the Dola pirates' airship, “Tiger Moth.”  Even the robots of Laputa can become wonderful flying machines.  As with many of Miyazaki's films, Castle in the Sky is breathtaking, visually stunning, and mind-blowing, especially when the narrative takes to the air.

One of the film's most dominant themes is the innocence of children, as seen through the eyes of Pazu and Sheeta.  That shows in the two characters' resilience and determination in the face of constant turmoil and ceaseless obstacles.  Their relationship is the counterbalance to the film's darker elements, especially its focus on on humanity's relationship with nature and with technology.  Most of the film displays technology in harmony with nature, taking place in a fantasy version of the nineteenth century.  There is a “retro-future” aesthetic that finds a balance between mankind's technological creations and the natural world at large.  Castle in the Sky would go on to have a strong influence on the then emerging science fiction sub-genre known as “steampunk.”

I believe that if you, dear readers, have never seen a Miyazaki film, the first one you watch will validate the great things you may have heard about him.  When you see your second Miyazaki, you will certainly become a true believer.  Castle in the Sky is the kind of animated film that will make just about any movie fan a true believer in Hayao Miyazaki.  It is one of the greatest adventure films ever made, and one of the greatest animated films of all time.  Castle in the Sky mixes vivid imagination, eye-popping inventiveness, and stunning beauty in a way only the best animated films do.  Every frame of this film belongs on a wall in a museum.  If it were a Disney animated feature, Disney would call Laputa: Castle in the Sky an instant classic.  It certainly is a classic.

10 of 10

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

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Friday, August 18, 2023

Review: "BLUE BEETLE" is a Family Affair

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 38 of 2023 (No. 1927) by Leroy Douresseaux

Blue Beetle (2023)
Running time:  127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, language, and some suggestive references
DIRECTOR:  Angel Manuel Soto
WRITER:  Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (based on characters from DC Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Zev Foreman and John Rickard
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Pawel Pogorzelski (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Craig Alpert
COMPOSER:  The Haxan Cloak


Starring:  Xolo Maridueña, Bruna Marquezine, Damien Alcazar, Adriana Barraza, Belissa Escobedo, Elpidia Carrillo, Raoul Max Trujillo, Modesto Lacen, and Harvey Guillén, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez, and  (voice) Becky G

Blue Beetle is a 2023 superhero and action-fantasy film directed by Ángel Manuel Soto.  The film is based on the DC Comics character, Blue Beetle/Jaime Reyes, that was created by Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner and first appeared in the comic book, Infinite Crisis #3 (cover dated: February 2006).  Blue Beetle the movie focuses on a young man who finds himself chosen to be the symbiotic host of an alien artifact that gives him a suit of armor.

Blue Beetle introduces recent college graduate, Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena), who is returning to his hometown of Palmera City.  He receives a warm welcome from his family:  his father, Alberto Reyes (Damian Alcazar); his mother, Rocio Reyes (Elpidia Carrillo); his Nana (Adrian Barraza), his younger sister, Milagro (Belissa Escobedo); and his uncle, Rudy Reyes (George Lopez).  Jaime soon learns that his family will lose their home due to financial difficulties and to Alberto's poor health.  Still, Jaime is optimistic that he will quickly get a job and make enough money for his family.

Some time later, Jaime meets Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), the daughter of Ted Kord, the currently-missing CEO OF Kord Industries.  Jenny is at odds with her aunt, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), the current CEO.  Jenny discovers that Victoria has dark plans for her recent discovery, an alien artifact called “the Scarab.”  Jenny steals the Scarab, and not knowing its true nature, she passes it on to Jaime.
As soon as Jaime touches the Scarab, it activates and attaches to him, creating a suit of armor around him.  The suit gives Jaime extraordinary powers, such as flight, super-strength, and invulnerability, but those powers are unpredictable.  Now, Jaime's family calls him a “superhero.”  However, Jaime isn't sure that he wants to be a superhero, and Victoria Kord will do whatever she has to do – including murder – to regain possession of the Scarab.

The Blue Beetle first appeared in Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics #1 (cover dated: August 1939) and was the secret identity of a young police officer, Dan Garrett.  The second Blue Beetle first appeared in Charlton Comics' Captain Atom #83 (November 1966) and was Ted Kord, an industrialist and owner of KORD Industries.  I mention this because Dan Garrett is referenced in this film.  Also, Ted Kord, with a new origin, is a major subplot in this film, although the story is that he has been missing for years under mysterious circumstances.

However, this is Blue Beetle/Jaime Reyes' film.  He comes across as a normal young man in his early twenties.  Warner Bros. didn't even cast some muscular young android-like actor for the role.  Xolo Mariduena's body is in good shape, but he looks more like a high school kid still in physical development.  Everything about Xolo comes across as boy-next-door, which makes him more relatable to a larger segment of the audience.  After all, Jaime seems so vulnerable that even an alien suit of armor doesn't seem capable of completely protecting him.  If there is a superhero of the people – the champion next door – Xolo makes Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle fit the role perfectly.

Like Warner Bros.'s 2019 DC Comics film, Shazam, Blue Beetle emphasizes family, and the Reyes are delightful.  George Lopez's Uncle Rudy is a scene stealer, and I'm glad the story reveals that there is so much more to him than meets the eye.  Of course, one can judge how good a family is by placing it in contrast with a problematic family, and that is the Kords.  Susan Sarandon plays the evil aunt, Victoria Kord, with relish, although she doesn't really go over the top.  The film puts Jenny Kord, smoothly played by actress Bruna Marquezine, at the center of the good family (the Reyes)-bad family (Victoria Kord) dynamic.  Which will Jenny ultimately choose?  Like Shazam, Blue Beetle shows how cool an extended or surrogate family can be, especially to someone in need.

I like what director Angel Manuel Soto does with his collaborators, cast, and crew.  Blue Beetle is an easy-going superhero film that is fun for a family audience, even with the sometimes intense action and dark plot elements.  I'm surprised that the film has as its themes, “imperialism in the name of democracy” and “militarized capitalism,” neither of which are ever portrayed as a good thing.  Uncle Rudy even calls Batman a “fascist,” which has caused a stir in some Internet circles.  This film definitely has an anti-authoritarian streak.

That aside, Blue Beetle is hugely and surprisingly entertaining, and it sparkles with humor.  By focusing on Jaime Reyes as much as it does on the Blue Beetle armor, the film gets to center on the most winning aspect of it story, family and friends.  Blue Beetle won't get the attention of bigger superhero film productions, but it has more heart than most of those other films.

[Blue Beetle has two extra scenes during the end credits.]

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Friday, August 18, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



Thursday, August 10, 2023

Review: "NAUSICAA IN THE VALLEY OF THE WIND" Soars to the Animation Heavens

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 36 of 2023 (No. 1925) by Leroy Douresseaux

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Kaze no Tani no Naushika – original Japanese title
Running time:  117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPAA – PG for violence
DIRECTOR:  Hayao Miyazaki
WRITER:  Hayao Miyazaki (based upon the manga by Hayao Miyazaki)
PRODUCER:  Isao Takahata
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Yasuhiro Shimizu, Koji Shiragami, Yukitomo Shudo, and Mamoru Sugiura
EDITORS: Naoki Kaneko, Tomoko Kida, and Shoji Saka
COMPOSER:  Joe Hisaishi


Starring:  (voices) Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Ichiro Nagai, Hisako Kyoda, Yoji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Iemasa Kayumi, Kohei Miyauchi, Joji Yanami, Minoru Yada, Mina Tominaga, Mahito Tsujimura, and Rihoko Yoshida

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a 1984 Japanese animated, post-apocalyptic, fantasy film from director Hayao Miyazaki.  The film is based on Miyazaki's manga (Japanese comic), also titled Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which first began publication in 1982.  Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind the movie focuses on a princess who is both warrior and pacifist and her desperate struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and her homeland.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind opens one thousand years after the event known as “the Seven Days of Fire.”  It was an apocalyptic war that destroyed civilization and caused an ecological collapse, creating something called “the Sea of Decay.”  This is a poisonous forest of fungal life and plants that swarm with giant mutant insects, the largest and most dangerous being the the trilobite-like and armored “Ohm.”  The poison from the plants can kill humans, and every day, the Sea of Decay spreads, encroaching on what little open land remains.

Nausicaä (Sumi Shimamoto) is a teenage warrior and princess of the Valley of the Wind, a land that has remained, thus far, free of the Sea of Decay.  Riding the wind and sky in a powered glider, Nausicaä explores the jungles of the Sea of Decay and communicates with its creatures.  That is how she is reunited with the explorer and great swordsman, Lord Yupa Miralda (Goro Naya), who has returned to meet with Nausicaä's father, Jihl (Mahito Tsujimura), the King of the Valley of the Wind.

But tragedy strikes.  The Valley of the Wind is soon at the epicenter of two warring nations, the Kingdom of Tolmekia and PejitePrincess Kushana (Yoshiko Sakakibara) has led the Tolmekian Frontier Forces into the Valley.  Thus, Nausicaä must forge a relationship with Prince Asbel of Pejite (Yoji Matsuda), but there is something worse than two warring nations.  Destruction is headed towards the Valley of the Wind, and it will take all of Nausicaä's talents, skills, and tricks to save her home.

I have previously reviewed the following Miyazaki-directed films:  The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), and The Wind Rises (2013).  As Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail division, I am hoping to get to the Miyazaki films that I have not previously watched.

Apparently, the work of the legendary French comic book creator, Jean “Moebius” Giraud (1938-2012), influenced Miyazaki in the creation of his manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  The influence of Moebius remains with Miyazaki's film adaptation of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  I also see the influence of the famed animation director, Ralph Bakshi, especially of his 1977 fantasy film, Wizards.  J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings novels (1954-55) are clearly influences, and Frank Herbert's famed science fiction novel, Dune (1965), is also an influence.  In fact, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind the film would arrive in theaters almost nine months before the first film adaption of Herbert's novel, director David Lynch's 1984 film, Dune.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a beautifully and practically designed film in the sense that the environments have both a sense of naturalism and realism to them while the insects are fantastical creations that seem more practical than impractical because they are based on real insects.  This makes the world of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind seem like a credible future world or at least genuine post-apocalyptic future.  Yes, Nausicaä's glider is impractical, but the animation gives it such beauty in motion that I believe in it and I believe in the way Nausicaä flies it.

The film's plot and subplots are strongly environmental and ecological and the conflict is a series of familiar tribal tropes.  However, what carries plot and narrative are the inventive and engaging characters.  Every players, regardless of the size of his or her role, is inviting and intriguing.  Yes, Nausicaä is a star born, a heroine out of fairy tale, folklore, and mythology who captures hearts and holds our imaginations captive.  Still, the denizens of the Valley and the feuding and conniving citizens of Tolmekia and Pejite are a delightful bunch, not good and evil, so much as they are selfish, but likable, each in his or her own way.  The legendary Yupa, like Nausicaä, stands as a typical heroic figure, although he stands behind Nausicaä.

A long time ago, I told a fellow Miyazaki fan that Spirited Away was my favorite of the director's films.  He insisted that I see Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  Now, I'm not so sure which is my favorite.  Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is like no other animated feature film, and I certainly consider it one of the greatest that I have ever seen.

10 of 10

Thursday, August 10, 2023

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