Advertisements

Cinemaholics: Winter Movie Preview 2017-2018

winter movie preview

On the show this week, I sit with Will Ashton and Maveryke Hines to discuss our most anticipated films of the Winter season. We each picked three specific films to highlight, listed out a few honorable mentions, and agreed to “share” our excitement for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which we’ll be able to review in full next week.

We also got a chance to briefly discuss some movies we’ve seen over the last week, though we didn’t have enough time for Mini Reviews. I brought up what’s become one of my favorite films of the entire year, Bad Genius, which is available for rental on VOD. I heartily recommend it, along with The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s new film hitting a wider release this month.

Go on…Cinemaholics: Winter Movie Preview 2017-2018

Advertisements

Cinemaholics Review: The Florida Project and Happy Death Day

florida project

We actually did more than review The Florida Project and Happy Death Day, but headlines can only be so long. This might be our biggest episode of Cinemaholics yet, with reviews for The ForeignerThe Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) on Netflix, The Babysitter on Netflix, and Mindhunter Season 1 on Netflix. In addition to all of that, I did a special On Tap segment with Alisha Grauso to discuss the Harvey Weinstein scandals and Hollywood’s sexual assault problem.

Needless to say, this is a Cinemaholics you don’t want to miss, especially because The Florida Project is gunning for my favorite film of the year, and from director Sean Baker no less, who also directed the 2015 gem, Tangerine. Keep your eyes on Baker for anything he does next, especially if it’s with A24.

Maveryke Hines and Will Ashton joined me on the show as always, and our reviews for The Foreigner and Happy Death Day were decidedly more divisive, but I wouldn’t have it any other way on this podcast.

Go on…Cinemaholics Review: The Florida Project and Happy Death Day

‘Moana’ Is Basically ‘The Little Mermaid’ In Reverse

moana theory

Time for another Moana theory.

A while back, someone on Tumblr wrote a fan theory about Disney movies (shocker), and it’s actually worth consideration (other shocker). The idea is that Disney’s Moana is almost a perfect inverse of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and let’s not forget that both films were directed by the same duo: Ron Clements and John Musker.

What do we mean by these two movies being the same, but also not at all? Well, it’s not a perfect theory in practice, but it does say something interesting about how creative teams can recycle old ideas in ways that still feel new. You can watch this entire Little Mermaid / Moana theory as a video on Screen Junkies News, or keep reading to get my personal take.

From the video:

Tumblr user Intergalactic-Ashkenazi noticed something strange about Moana. Basically, it’s the same story as The Little Mermaid, except every detail is flipped.

Now it’s certainly not every detail, but you can easily cherry pick a few compelling examples. And there are enough of them to argue that this Moana theory is at least somewhat intentional.

Moana and Ariel are both daughters of overbearing, powerful leaders.

I almost reacted, “Well, aren’t most Disney princess movies?” But that’s actually not the case when you think about it. Pocahontas comes close, but most other Disney “father characters” that are even around range in personalities from silly (Aladdin) to wise (The Lion King).

The video doesn’t directly mention this, but the immediate “reverse” for King Triton and Chief Tui is that one fears the land and the other fears the sea. Also, one is mortal and the other has a wicked trident.

But where Ariel is a sea-bound princess longing to venture onto land, Moana is a landlocked princess longing to venture on the sea.

Counterpoint: the directors copied their own homework but made enough changes to keep it from looking obvious.

Ariel goes to a “big scary ocean lady” who turns out to be evil.

Turns out? I don’t think anyone expected Ursula to be good, but I guess the point is that to Ariel, she seemed good, which only makes Ariel continue to look like an outright moron. The best inverse is probably how Moana turns out to be a way better protagonist.

While Moana goes to a “big scary land lady” who turns out to be good.

At first, I thought the idea was that Maui is the inverse of Ursula, but instead it’s saying that Te Kā fits the bill, which I think is correct. If you go further with this, you can say that Moana seeks out a man for help finding the female villain, while Ariel seeks out the female villain for help finding a man. Or something.

Both movies have a magical necklace with a spiral engraved on it. In The Little Mermaid it belongs to the villain, while in Moana it belongs to the hero.

This one’s slightly more of a stretch because the whole “reverse” thing seems selective at this point. On the one hand, the spirals on both objects actually seem to be the reverse of each other (different placement and one’s a shell while the other resembles a wave). And one’s a macguffin while the other is more of a “power.” On the other hand…was the “heart” in Moana ever a necklace? And is green the inverse of…yellow?

I’m officially overthinking this.

The Little Mermaid has a “small good crab,” where Moana has a “big evil crab.”

The video of course shows Sebastian from The Little Mermaid side-by-side with Tamatoa, the crab who sings “Shiny.” This matches up perfectly. Moana theory saved.

In [The Little Mermaid] a human sings about eating the crab. While in [Moana] the crab sings about eating a human.

You could also argue that Clements and Musker are big fans of dramatic irony that spans across their movies. Both theories are probably correct, and some good evidence for this one in particular is the fact that Tamatoa actually makes a joke about how a crab described like Sebastian is more likable than him in a scene after the end credits.

Moana returns to her people and leads them to a new life on the sea. Where Ariel leaves her ocean family for a new life on land.

Also, Moana has no love interest. In fact, you can read this easily as a shuffling of tropes just as easily as you would some big conspiracy. Moana’s mentor, Maui, is a god, while Ariel’s mentor, Sebastian, is the crab. Ariel’s father is the god, the Kakamora are…things…and so on.

But perhaps the most important detail…

What? What is it? What is this clincher?!

The Little Mermaid sings on a rock, while in Moana the Rock sings to her.

I’ll admit, I laughed out loud at this, but only after having a miniature personal crisis of faith. And that’s the Little Mermaid is basically the reverse of Moana theory. Chime in with your own examples of how this theory holds up (or doesn’t) in the suggestion box below.


Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my Mailing List.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ Really A Masterpiece? — Cinemaholics

dunkirk

Usually on Cinemaholics, we stick to covering one featured movie and leaving the rest for “mini reviews.” But for the second week in a row, the summer release schedule disagreed with us, so Will Ashton, Maveryke Hines, and I reviewed both Dunkirk and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets this week.

This was a more contentious episode than usual, with most of us differing quite a bit on both of these movies, particularly Valerian. If you’re at all interested in seeing either of these films, our conversation might prove useful.

Just two Mini Reviews this week: Aftermath (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Colossal (starring Anne Hathaway). The latter is a film I saw just this week as a blind buy on Will Ashton’s recommendation.

Go on…Is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ Really A Masterpiece? — Cinemaholics

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Theory: Why EGO Killed [Spoilers]

This theory about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 contains spoilers (obviously). But it will still be here when you’re done watching the movie, hopefully. This theory is available as a video (above) or as a transcription (below). 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was, in my opinion, a fantastic follow-up to one of Marvel’s best movies and much better than the usual MCU sequel. But there is one aspect of the movie that has been driving me and plenty of other fans crazy with confusion, and that has to do with Ego the Living Planet, portrayed in his human form by Kurt Russell.

As you may recall, we find out in the movie that Ego is Peter Quill’s biological father, and the two share genetics that allow them to channel a powerful godlike energy. At first, Peter is thrilled about the truth of his parentage, being promised to help Ego carve out a new world of their making. But he’s instantly broken from Ego’s spell when told the full, sinister story.

Go on…Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Theory: Why EGO Killed [Spoilers]

‘The Fate of the Furious’ Is Both Better And Worse Than Its Predecessors

fate of the furious

The Fate of the Furious is an easy film to understand just by taking a second look at its title, which feels designed for a hashtag (F8), rather than something new or creatively crafted. This is the eighth installment of a 16-year-long franchise that has more or less stayed alive and successful by finding increasingly silly ways to escalate its rising action to a series climax that has never been hazier.

In F8, we have what many 2017 films seem destined to use as a plot device: a hero of the series (Dominic Toretto, who long slipped into Vin Diesel simply playing himself) “goes rogue” and his former teammates have to team up to try and stop him.

At this point in the franchise, the “family” almost solely consists of former enemies Dom has picked up over the years, including an indefensibly sympathetic Shaw (Jason Statham) who is wrapped up with a retcon for the last two movies, pitting Charlize Theron’s “Cipher” as the real villain all along…somehow. And her isolated master plan is at least one that generates some intense moments, including a deluge of remote controlled cars that devastate New York City.

There seems to be a clear effort from director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta ComptonItalian Job) to ground this franchise in darker subplots that make the characters feel somewhat less immortal, not just in the sense that they’ll die, but also in how death wrecks the characters. But overall, the movie’s main thrust (being a Saturday Morning Cartoon for adults) never gives way to any of the semi-serious tone that now has to reconcile with Dom’s never-ending sense of family, a theme that has certainly run its course as a passable explanation for what brings these characters together.

fate of the furious

Yet F8 also consists of some of the most exciting and entertaining set pieces in the franchise to date, including some playful development involving Shaw and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson in a bigger role than Furious 7) charming their way to what is hopefully spinoff territory, or just a retooling of the series that lets these two action heroes take the reigns. Aside from them, none of the familiar characters here are given a shred of character growth, and F8 only advances the plot of their lives in superficial ways that feel tacked on. And that’s not even mentioning the sloppy effort to replace Paul Walker with Scott Eastwood. There’s no question Furious 7 handled Walker’s tragic death with class, so it’s strange to see F8 stumble with this just two years later.

As the various family members deal with having to take down Dom, there’s no learning, application, or self-reflection to get them there. They simply do what they’ve done before; Roman wisecracks, Leti is always there for Dom, everyone drives fast, etc. It’s surprisingly weightless, even for a blockbuster franchise that has won many people over for how accessibly fun it can be, while still having enough style and shiny lights to bring you back for the next one.

If that was the only goal, then F8 does its job fine. And at times, it’s truly a spectacle that deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible. But there’s no denying the early signs of a series that is running dangerously low on steam for the first time since 2005.

Grade: B-

Extra Credits:

  • Forgot to mention the Cuba prologue, which might actually be the movie’s best scene and one of the best street races they’ve done yet.
  • Seeing the previous movies helps quite a bit, as F8 has a lot of past characters coming back around (even Lucas Black was originally meant to have a cameo, but he had to drift out due to conflicts).
  • Yes, it’s pretty obvious that Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel hate each other in real life.
  • Kristofer Hivju (Tormund from Game of Thrones) needs to be in more movies.

Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Star Wars: The Force Awakens Isn’t Really A Remake Of A New Hope

force awakens

Every so often, a fan theory comes along to remind us how good fan theories can actually be when the work and time is put into them. Less than a year ago, EC Henry composed what I believe to be a masterful breakdown of The Force Awakens that (dare I say it) makes the movie just a little bit better.

Is Star Wars: The Force Awakens a remake of the original Star Wars (A New Hope)? I’ve always considered the movie to borrow voraciously from that original film, while also lifting plenty from the other two parts of the trilogy. But many reviewers like myself have talked ourselves breathless about how TFA features yet another “droid on the run” story with Death Stars, cantinas, and a modest chosen one.

But in EC Henry’s video essay below, the case is made that TFA is really a “creative remix” of the original trilogy, and there’s a strikingly good reason for this that might shed light on the future of the entire franchise. I’ll unpack the theory below (with some of my own observations), but here’s the quick 3-minute breakdown.

As EC Henry points out, nearly all of the similarities between TFA and A New Hope occur in the first act of both movies. BB-8’s story is parallel to R2D2’s, and we’re on a barren planet that slowly reveals our hero, Rey, who is reminiscent of Luke in some ways.

The Millennium Falcon departing Jakku, followed by meeting Han Solo and Chewbacca, is where the first act in TFA ends (roughly), which mirrors the end of the first act in A New Hope, when Luke meets Han and departs Tatooine aboard the same ship. Henry also implies that Greedo and Han’s antagonism is mirrored with Han’s confrontation with the mercenaries aboard the freighter.

At this point, TFA’s second act starts to mirror the second half of The Empire Strikes Back. There’s a monster-in-space encounter (Rathtars in place of the asteroid worm) followed by Han deciding to visit an old friend (Maz Kanata as a fill-in for Lando Calrissian). We also see Kylo contacting Snoke in the same way Vader contacts Palpatine.

To save for time, TFA converges the Luke/Dagobah subplot with the Cloud City subplot. Rey goes to a mysterious planet and learns more about her origins and destiny with Maz pulling double duty as a fill-in for Yoda. And just like in Empire, the villains show up to wreck things. Rey is defeated by Kylo Ren (a la Luke and Vader’s first fight) and is captured, similar to how Han is taken away by Boba Fett.

force awakens

From here, TFA mirrors the third act of Return of the Jedi. The Rebels/Resistance meet to discuss their rescue plan and discover “another Deathstar.” The story breaks in two with ground forces on Starkiller Base trying to break down the shields and Rogue Squadron attacking from space, just as the Battle of Endor had two fronts. There’s an epic lightsaber battle happening as the space assault reaches its climax, with the Jedi using fury to overwhelm the Sith (Rey slicing Kylo is quite similar to Luke taking down Vader).

As Henry also points out, there are exceptions to this where small elements of the original trilogy are mirrored throughout (the catwalk scene, for example), but there certainly seems to be a primary structure in place that combines all of the movies in a coherent way. But what’s the point? Why would Lucasfilm do a creative remix like this at all?

The expectations for TFA were always going to be astronomically high, so the strategy here makes some sense. Add all of the nostalgic fan service to TFA as a tribute in order to gain credibility for this new trilogy, so the next two movies can unfold in more creatively bold ways that aren’t enslaved to the source material. Put more simply: they started with a look at the past and ended with a strong look toward the future.

And in one strange way, TFA is basically the movie George Lucas intended to make in the 1970s. Rather than a trilogy, he envisioned the entire arc of Star Wars to be told in a single movie. TFA essentially fulfills that vision and authorial intent, so as someone who had a lot of problems with the film, I’m finding myself appreciating it more for what it manages to accomplish in light of what couldn’t have been done 40 years ago.

Did I miss anything? Add some of your own observations below. And if you like this essay, be sure to subscribe to EC Henry’s channel, and consider supporting him on Patreon for more great videos.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @@jonnegroni

%d bloggers like this: