Disney

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge drew no attention from me, and offered very little to try and ‘woo’ me into watching it. Majority of my interest of this franchise was soon lost after the second instalment of Dead Man’s Chest. I find the Pirate of the Caribbean franchise entering realms of similarity with Fast and the Furious with the rinse and repeat formula.

Salazar’s Revenge is taking this rinse and repeat formula and caking it on by the pounds. I’ve become disenchanted with the figure of Captain Jack Sparrow, as Johnny Depp seems to be offering new to the character, but rather a further drunken stupor.

In the presence of rinse and repeat formula, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg have decided to take the Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner roles and replace them with Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites. However, Ronning and Sandberg had a role reversal, with Scodelario’s Carina Smyth as a smart young woman, who shows a deft hand at keeping out of trouble. Whereas Brenton Thwaites’ Henry Turner just offers the run-of-the-mill love story, replicated from the first instalment.

Majority of the performances throughout the 130(ish) runtime, are very mundane and uninteresting. Aside from Scodelario’s performance as Carina, I found myself bored with the characters as they fall into very two-dimensional characters and offer nothing new.

I imagine this is potentially down to the world building not being that immersive either. If anything Salazar’s Revenge offered a truly ridiculous world where pirates once ruled the seas. The film had lost me at the point where Salazar (Javier Bardem) releases undead sharks. I mean, come on.

Seriously.

Salazar in his own right was an intriguing character, but there was nothing built around him as Ronning and Sandberg layered the film with exposition and the cast pointing out the plot to one another over and over and over. His revenge of Captain Jack Sparrow could have been played out brilliantly, rather than becoming the lacklustre affair it is.

As for Salazar’s curse, there wasn’t that much to be invested in as majority of the screen time is faced with Jack Sparrow and his quest for the Trident of Poseidon to break his run of bad luck. And it seems as though the curse isn’t that original either with the undead wreaking havoc once more.

I think therein lies my issue with Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge as it becomes very lacklustre. I often found myself bored throughout the plus 2-hour runtime and very bored with the over-egged performance of Jack Sparrow. The plot doesn’t do a great deal of justice to the massive runtime, and doesn’t offer anything that hasn’t already been witnessed in the previous instalments.

I tried to go into Salazar’s Revenge with an open mind, but left still disappointed as I mentioned it did little to peak my interest in the first place. Aside from Scodelario’s performance, there was little else to enjoy about this film. I find the investment in this film just was not there for me. Everything that could’ve potentially immersed me, did not, from the characters to the CGI. It’s fair to say Salazar’s Revenge just did not do it for me.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)

I hold no dear memories to the animated feature length film of Beauty and the Beast. I vaguely remember watching the animated version, but for the life of me could not remember the story at all and why the beast was cursed, so I may as well have approached it as an entirely brand-new film.

Because of the increase in the quality of CGI-films, Disney have started to adapt their much-loved animated films to live-action features. These reboots were really kick-started with the live-action remake of Cinderella. I didn’t catch that one, but I did catch Jon Favreau’s rather impressive The Jungle Book.

Carrying forward with the reimagining of the Disney Princesses, Bill Condon bought Belle’s story into the 21st century but entirely in live action. Having previous footings within musicals, it seemed like a wise choice to have Condon direct. (Whether Chicago and Dreamgirls are any good, I cannot comment)

Questions were asked about Emma Watson and how good she was going to be in the lead role of Belle, but as the film stretches through it’s runtime, I found the performance very mediocre. But it doesn’t stop there for the casting, as the furniture like Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) were found to be very mundane too. The standout performance would have to come from LeFou (Josh Gad) and Gaston (Luke Evans) as they also drove the scenes they featured in with their comedic gestures towards one another and the blatant narcissism.

What was impressive was the incredible set design throughout the film, from the incredibly fancy opening ball room dance before the curse is placed, to the small-village feel of Villeneuve as Belle dances around during her opening number. Condon managed to create a feeling on solitude within the echoey halls of this once-vibrant castle which was impressive.

Condon’s reimagining of Beauty and the Beast doesn’t seem to stray from the path that was laid out in the previous film. He does however, manage to add the spectacle that is enhanced with the advancements in film today, creatively shown by the ‘Be Our Guest’ musical number as the film enters an almost hallucinogenic area with this song and dance.

But between the big extravagant musical numbers and the story that builds the narrative the film eventually checks in at around 130 minutes and for me, this felt far too long. The inclusion of the musical numbers is fine, because it gives this modern-day Beauty and the Beast the ability to hit the nostalgic nerve, but there seems to be plenty of ’empty space’ throughout the film, offering no progressive for narrative nor characters.

For me, there did not seem to be that connection with the characters throughout the story and this could be down to the characters not pulling in great performances. Aside from the occasional laughs through LeFou and Gaston, there wasn’t a great deal of narrative for the characters to sink their teeth into. It’s very much a run-of-the-mill love story, but that can’t be helped as Condon’s reimagining seems to be very truthful to the original feature film.

That being said, there was a sense of enjoyment from the film. But I didn’t leave the cinema spellbound by the remake. Although the CGI effects were incredible and in some instances making the Beast more terrifying that he ought to be, the effects are not backed up by the characters. Everyone is lost in Gaston and LeFou’s shadows whilst they are on-screen, but they seem to drive home their scenes, thus making them more enjoyable characters to watch.

I didn’t go in with any sense of a connection to the original as a child and I’ve left indifferent. It was impressive with the set designs and the incredible scenery of this rural landscaped France. And the mix of comedy and musical worked in areas, but found the music too overpowering for the songs which left me wondering what they were singing half the time. Although it was enjoyable, I still found Favreau’s The Jungle Book to be the benchmark of these live-action remakes thus far.

(that’s until Guy Ritchie has he say with Aladdin)

Life, Animated (2016)

People of my generation have generally grown up watching Disney’s animated features unfold on screen as one of their first experiences of films and the cinema. There was something about Disney films that just connected with our youths as we grew up around them.

The animated features were also a big part of Owen Suskind’s life and his growth into a young adult, but in a very different way. Owen was diagnosed with autism at the very young age of three, which is told in a way that juxtaposes the confident and intelligent young adult that was first shown on the screen.

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As the film was a documentary, it was always going to have that battle in regards to what direction to take. Do they take the route of discussing autism and it’s effects, or do they take the route of showing the quite remarkable story of Owen Suskind and his development.

Over the course of about 90 minutes, Roger Ross Williams opted for the latter of the options and showed the story of Owen Suskind and his ability to communicate with others through the medium of Disney. Owen’s father Ron starts to talk to him through a puppet of Iago, and this scene is beautifully animated which exemplifies Owen’s newfound ability. Amazingly Owen begins to talk back to Iago, which acts as a huge breakthrough for Owen and the Suskind family.

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In the opening segments, we see Owen as a confident and high functioning young adult as he nears his graduation, which also means he will be moving out to live by himself soon. Ron and Cornelia Suskind kindly invite us into their cherished memories of Owen, as we see him playing with his brother and father quite gleefully. Then immediately, this happiness is shunted out by the juxtaposing image of Owen exhibiting autistic traits, a far cry from the joyful young boy we saw seconds earlier.

What made Life, Animated an experience in film was not the story, but how they accompanied that story with beautifully crafted animation and with a soft use of soundtrack to really underline the story. As I mentioned, this story could have gone one of two ways, but with the route they have taken, it became joyous to watch.

In between the exquisite animation and comforting soundtrack, Ron Suskind fills us in what was so remarkable about Owen’s childhood and what made him blossom into the confident young adult he is today and that was down to Disney.

With the help of Ron, Cornelia and Walter Suskind, Roger Ross Williams kindly retells the difficulties and joys of growing up with Owen. It’s an intriguing look into how autism can affect individuals in a family, but also for future especially as Walter comes to terms with him being Owen’s only support going into the future.

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Life, Animated as I said was a really interesting watch as I was unaware that autistic people had that ability to recognise with the world through the medium of Disney, but also through a look at Owen’s life it relayed some interesting information regarding autism and it’s affect on children and to some extent, families too.

Roger Ross Williams managed to fill the 92-minute film with warmth through the Suskind’s care and cherishment of Owen as he enters a new chapter in his life. Through the investment in Owen’s story, the time does melt away as there is a certain joy and happiness throughout Life, Animated and it’s unsurprising that is has been nominated for an Oscar in it’s respective category. Life, Animated is a real triumph and joyous film, but I suspect Life, Animated was a bid to raise awareness for autism more than anything, whilst telling the heart-warming story of Owen.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Last year marked the rebirth of the Star Wars anthology with The Force Awakens. Disney announced the releasing of a Star Wars film every year until at least 2020. Rogue One marks the first of these standalone films in the extended Star Wars universe.

The first of these standalone films, Rogue One takes place in the chronology of order some time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. The story behind Rogue One also concerns the matter of how the rebel alliance got their hands on the Death Star plans in A New Hope.


As JJ Abrams took creative control of the The Force Awakens, Gareth Edwards is at the helm of this Star Wars story, having his own creative take on the franchise. He neglects to use the traditional Star Wars opening in the form of the famous scrolling text. 

As Edwards chooses to disregard the time-honoured Star Wars opening, he chooses to display the narrative via a series of snapshots around different planets and cities to gather speed going into the film. This is of course after the all-important opening stage to set up our hero Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as she watches her mother slain in cold blood and her father taken by the menace that is Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic.


As Jyn witnesses this, she is saved by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whittaker) and so begins the aforementioned snapshot around the planets fifteen years later. During this snapshot, an Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) has defected to deliver a message to Saw from Jyn’s father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen). Jyn has also been captured by the Imperials and is being made to work in a labour camp, until Rebel Alliance members Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his reprogrammed Imperial robot companion K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), rescue her from her captors. 

As you’re probably reading this, you’re thinking that is a humungous amount to digest, and you would be correct, as this happens within the opening fifteen to twenty minutes. Unfortunately, this makes the film falter in parts as it feels heavy and begins to drag over the 120+ minute run time, which has become a standard for Star Wars films.

As the film continues, it becomes a quest to discover what message the defected Imperial pilot has from Galen and whether it can help bring down the super weapon the Empire have been building. As they close in on the pilot’s location on Jedha, we can begin to see the familiar gorgeous expanse landscape that can be soaked up by the audience.


Rogue One quickly becomes a quest against time as the super weapon is used on Jedha, making the city erupt into a beautiful oncoming mass of dust and smoke. The message delivered by Rook is only seen by Jyn before the message is engulfed in a blaze of glory. Jyn learns there is a weakness to the new super weapon, which can cause a chain reaction to destroy the newly named Death Star. (Sounds a bit familiar all this, doesn’t it?)

I shall not reveal any more information, through fear I have divulged too much already. As a standalone Star Wars film, Gareth Edwards has created a solid filmmaking piece, which is enjoyable. However, it doesn’t come without some flaws, such as the pacing of the first two acts, which weighs the film down. Act three was the act that kept my eyes glued to the screen and wanting more.

As Edwards had creative control over this project, it must be said he has continued the beautiful expanses that I have really enjoyed in Star Wars films, including the almost-tropical landscape of Scarif, and the also the Tatooine-looking Jedha. The clear cut winner was the casting throughout this film though as Felicity Jones becomes a character you are invested in, which marks the second consecutive Star Wars film with a strong heroine. She is backed up by a strong following of  Luna and Tudyk, but I would’ve enjoyed to see more of Whittaker’s and Mikkelsen’s character as they seem all to brief. 


As the film does stand are plus two hours, it does become laborious in parts, until the third act, which steals the show and of course links perfectly into A New Hope. In my opinion the film could stand to lose around a half hour of runtime and still have been just as good as it flows into the third act. 

It has to be said though that act three of Rogue One included some of the best Star Wars scenes in memory, which was gloriously played out. As a standalone Star Wars film, this is the perfect dosage with the inclusion of certain characters like Moff Tarkin, the Red and Gold Leader fighers and of course the cameo of R2 and C3PO. Edwards has made an admirable effort for Rogue One and I’ll be interested to see what comes with the second standalone film in the Star Wars universe. 


Spoilers are ahead. 

These are not the spoilers you are looking for.

I warned you.

 

There seems to be a darker undertone throughout Rogue One that hasn’t been seen in the franchise before. Gareth Edwards deployed this dark tone perfectly by an abundance of considerable amount of deaths throughout the film, instead of one or two that is the usual choice in Star Wars. Not only this, Edwards had the questioning of intentions throughout the from and regardless of who is following orders how can they constitute what is good and evil if the objective is the killing of someone. This device was cleverly done and played out excellently by Luna and Jones.

Edwards take on this darker undertone made the film interesting with its themes, but the pacing still remains an issue for me. That being said, there is a certain beauty in this film as they discover the vast expanses of the differing planets, which continues to be one of my favourite things about the Star Wars universe.

End of spoilers.

Tangled (2010)

Now, let’s get one thing straight. I’m not huge on Disney. I grew up watching Godzilla, Jurassic Park and Space Jam rather than Bambi, Jungle Book and Lion King. However, after being urged by my friend to watch this film and it’s being on Netflix, why not?

I regret nothing.

It appears that recently Disney has started to create films that are aimed differently to the audiences of today’s youth than our youth. One look at Frozen, Tangled and Brave could tell you how different they are to Lion King, Snow White et al. Regardless, it’s still the same story, just a different approach.

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I had previously thought there had been an earlier version by Disney of Rapunzel, but to my surprise, there isn’t. (Or is there? Someone clear this up for me!) So for Disney this is a first timer kind of thing. And it was great. As far as the fairy tale of Rapunzel goes, the story is a little different and the ending being completely different too, but after all, the real tale is a bit grim with a prince falling from the tower and becoming blind.

As I had previously said, I’m not huge on Disney and one thing I grew knowing about Disney is there was always a prince. Always. To my surprise the leading male actor, is by no means a prince. The furthest thing from a prince you could possibly find. Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi) is as equal to the story as Rapunzel is, and he takes the reigns by providing the audience with how Rapunzel came to be.

 

The tale (from Disney’s perspective) goes that Rapunzel’s mother (the Queen of the kingdom) gets sick in labour and the whole kingdom sets out to find this magical golden flower that is currently being hoarded by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy’s voice) who sings a song to keep herself young. They find this flower and the mother gets better and of course the baby is born (Rapunzel). Of course, what’s a fairy tale without a bit of tragedy? Mother Gothel steals the baby realising that when singing the song her hair glows and heals her instead of the flower. She then raises the child herself in the tower but each year on her birthday sees the lanterns that are cast into the sky by the king and queen of the Kingdom.

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Of course, what’s a Disney film of old without the songs? Yes, there are songs. Even the present Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) opens up with a song. But more importantly after the song finishes, we meet the character of Flynn Rider, currently in the act of stealing a crown from the castle. The trio of the main characters is complete when we meet the present Mother Gothel, and her character is not very likeable. At all. But that’s the natural progression of these characters, right?

Regardless of the thievery that we see Flynn in the act of, he is still a likeable character. Taking in the scenery, wanting a castle of his own, making one-liners around the place. It’s good. It fits. It’s whats funny about this film, and of course the relationship between the palace guards and the two muscular brothers that want to hurt him as well. Flynn and Rapunzel are both the driving force of this film, due to the ability to be able to like both of them and not feel one sided about the whole affair.

I won’t bore you with the details of the storyline, because everyone should know the story. However, Flynn discovers the tower and subsequently forced into taking Rapunzel to see the lights to get his crown back, instead of a prince finding the tower and Rapunzel and said prince falling in love, like the tale we read in primary school. This is not the only change to the tale, one being the fact that in the original tale, Rapunzel wasn’t the daughter of a kind and queen, but that’s not Disney, is it? And of course, we have to remember the primary audience will be children, but I found elements in the film that would be rather enjoyable for the whole family, not just the kids. I was heartily chuckling at the scenes involving Flynn because he is the driving force of the comedy. (And Maximus, let’s not forget about Maximus now)

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“They just can’t get my nose right!”

This comedy, yes very slapstick and daft, but it works. Disney have made the correct call in the complete piece as there are elements there for the whole family to enjoy, even the boys and girls considering Flynn plays a bigger part in the tale than the usual fairy tale. The animation is great too, flowing and smooth, with the mix of the music being nothing special, but there to keep the movie going without the musical numbers. My only issue. I couldn’t tell how long Rapunzel’s hair was. Does it keep changing, or was that just me?

In all honesty, if the other recent Disney films are like this (I’ve not seen the other recent ones) then Disney have hit a decent stride with a mix of comedy, animation and storyline (regardless of them adapting a fairy tale) because it works for all audiences. And of course the old hardcore disney fans would enjoy this too, as many that have enjoyed Frozen have been my age and would’ve grown up on Lion King, Jungle Book et al. But most importantly and what I really enjoyed, was the inclusion of Flynn, being this thief, turned helper, and the story opening with him telling the story and of course closing the story. Rather than being an emblazoned 100 minutes of Rapunzel letting down her hair.

4/5

Snow White and the Huntsman

Yesterday, Snow White and the Huntsman was released in cinemas. Curious by this certain film due to the trailer, I decided to go and see it.

Usually, this film is not one that would take my fancy, but considering I had seen the trailer, it intrigued me. The producers had taken a fairy tale and changed some of the conventions that we’d usually expect, from the norm of Disney fairy tale films. The film, on a whole, worked.

However, the finer, nitty gritty parts were not so brilliant. Compared to the Disney tale of Snow White, there are no imitations at all, which I really liked. Instead, they chose to opt for the Brothers Grimm style, made obvious by the gritty and grimness witnessed throughout the film.

Rupert Sanders, rather than have the simple paradigm of having Snow White being cast out, helped out by the seven dwarfs and then marrying the prince, chose to change conventions, which I found more interesting. Firstly, some part of the narrative focuses on the evil queen Ravenna, played by Charlize Theron. He decided to opt for a more psychological sense of this character, showing her need for youth via her magical powers. This was interesting as this characterisation bought the viewer closer the movie and showed added depth.

Rather than having Snow White have this characterisation of a hapless young princess who cannot fend for herself, Sanders opted for that of a strong independent woman, as when we see Snow White of age, we see her escape from the castle rather than being led out to the black forest, which happens in the fairy tale. My only issue about Snow White’s character would be the actress playing her, Kristen Stewart, although my opinion cannot count to much as I’ve only seen her in Snow White and the Huntsman and Into The Wild. Chris Hemsworth, playing the Huntsman, playing the action man role is quite typical as he has played, Thor and George Kirk in the opening sequence of Star Trek, the 2009 version. Playing a man grief stricken man he does fantastically as he tends to be the hero, which is the typical convention inside this genre.

CGI-wise, the film is brilliant and does not hold back, but yet does not overload completely on the area of CGI. Most notably, the CGI is in the black forest where we see a number of close ups revealing the grimness, which adds to the uneasiness and grotesque feature of the black forest, the viewer will be taking away a feeling the black forest is a place to avoid. Also with making the dwarf characters played by actors such as Ray Winston, Eddie Marsan and Nick Frost, in which they added the comedic value of the film as they bought light-heartened feel on the situation with the songs of joy.

One thing that is possibly left unmentioned in a lot of films, is the score to accompany the film. Although there were no advances in this particular score, it was correct and really impacted the mood of the particular scene it corresponded with. This worked very well and I feel this was one of the triumphs for the film, and for some reason, stuck out for me the most.

Overall, the film worked, however it was not fantastic, but nor an awful cinema watch. Unfortunately, the timing of the cinema hit was unfortunate as there, in my opinion better films in the cinema currently such as Moonrise Kingdom, Prometheus (shortly) and Men In Black 3 which will more than likely storm the box office.