Friday, September 16, 2016

Pete's Dragon 1977

Pete's Dragon ~ Even with my interest in Disney, I doubt I would have seen this one any time soon if it wasn't for the remake in theaters recently. Even when I was a kid, it seemed kinda juvenile and just a bit silly. And that is just based on the images of Elliott the dragon and the television commercials I had seen. As I watch it today it's definitely meant for younger kids.

Based on an unpublished short story, a boy comes to town with his invisible dragon protector while pursued by his evil hillbilly parents. A live action film with only Elliot the dragon animated, presumedly his shadow being state of the art animation for the time, it's no Mary Poppins, despite its trying desperately to be. Elliott is cartoonish, pink and green, and voiced by Charlie Callas, an unfunny comedian best known to me for his silly noises and ruining Sinestro.

The musical antics feel like they might be better set on a stage than a movie, notably the score as well as one song were nominated for Oscars. Helen Reddy, Mickey Rooney, and especially Shelley Winters are all fun, but seem out of place here. The whole time the movie feels like it's just trying too hard. And I really wanted to like it, I tried, but couldn't get there.

Good for the kids maybe, but not for me.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pete's Dragon 2016

Pete's Dragon ~ We were lucky enough to be on board the Disney Fantasy when this remake of the 1977 Disney classic premiered so we got to see it in the Walt Disney Theater. No matter what the film is, there's really nothing like seeing one in one of those grand old-fashioned theaters of yesteryear.

Whereas the original was a musical lark made for the younger kids, this version is a bit more serious. This non-musical family drama has a boy raised in the woods coming to civilization after several years, and the green-furred dragon who was his guardian and companion while he was away. There is also an ecological subtext here as well but Disney doesn't press it too hard.

Bryce Dallas Howard, and Karl Urban as the not-so-bad guy, are good, and Robert Redford is fun as the old storyteller patriarch. Elliot the dragon is wonderfully rendered, with the scenery and the visuals the real stars here. That said, I'm not sure I would liked this one as much had I seen it on the small screen. It's a theater movie.

The 2016 version of Pete's Dragon is not just better than the original movie, it's a completely different movie, so really, there isn't a comparison. It's fun, definitely check it out, good for the whole family.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War ~ I will say it up front, this is quite possibly the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies so far in my opinion. Marvel's The Avengers, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: Winter Soldier all run a tie for a very close second. And it's notable to mention that Ant-Man and Avengers are probably only in that running because of my love for those characters more than the movie itself, but still I would rank them top five easily. But Civil War, thematically an Avengers film and an official sequel in the Captain America franchise is still the best of the dozen or so MCU flicks.

The film is very loosely based on the Mark Millar and Steve McNiven miniseries from Marvel Comics a decade ago called Civil War where Captain America and Iron Man divided the Avengers and the entire American superhero community to go to war with each other over philosophical issues. It was a real war, and lives were lost and destroyed, and one of Marvel's greatest friendships was splintered for many years.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder 1933-2016

I have a couple friends who say they learn of celebrity deaths from my blog, that I write about these things first. I don't want to, you know, and I especially don't like doing it when it's about someone I really liked and admired. Today we lost award-winning actor, writer, director, and author Gene Wilder, star of screen and stage. Yeah, one of the big ones.

I knew Gene Wilder at a very young age, from commercials for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to multiple viewings of Bonnie and Clyde when it came to television, a family favorite which later became one of my favorites. As a kid and later as an adult, two different levels of humor, I loved him in Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. As I grew older, I dug him in The Producers and when he got together with Gilda Radner, I even liked the charming but corny stuff they did together.

Wilder was a genius, a master of expressiveness and pantomime, a fantastic actor and a legend in his own time. He has been away for some time, but never forgotten. Gene Wilder will be missed.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Finding Dory

Finding Dory ~ The general parallels to the Star Wars franchise are hard to ignore here in this sequel to Finding Nemo. In the original movie it was a quest, a learning journey, with few signs of seriousness or darkness - not to say it wasn't serious - but this was a different movie than its sequel. Nemo was about parenting and about learning, but Dory gets downright dark and serious, much like The Empire Strikes Back. The fish have grown up.

We all laughed at the character of Dory, voiced by Ellen Degeneres, and her extremely short-term memory in the first film. As long as you don't know someone like that, or think about how she got that way, it's funny, but really, it's quite tragic. We find that like Marlin (Albert Brooks) lost his son Nemo and went to search for him, ultimately finding him - Dory wandered away from her parents, and never found them again, and never knew if they were looking for her. When you really think about it, it gives a whole new meaning to the film's title, Finding Dory.

The film begins with her losing her parents (or her parents losing her) in the past, then in the present day, follows her journey from there. After remembering one thing, she is off to first find her parents, and then save her friends. It's a fun road trip, but as I said, a bit darker than its predecessor.

I've been a fan of writer/director Andrew Stanton (also the voice of Crush) since John Carter, so I'll watch just about anything he's involved in. This was no disappointment, highly recommended, but be warned, tears alert. Also, don't forget to watch Piper, the Pixar short that accompanies it, it's awesome, as they all are.