Robin Hood (1973)

Disney’s Cinderella has more cat-and-mouse antics in it than us grown-ups tend to remember it having; Disney’s Robin Hood, similarly, seems to have more marching in it than I would have thought possible. It’s a charming story, though, possibly in part because of all that celebratory marching!

I love the despicable babyishness of Prince John, the adorable aspirations of the rabbit kid who wants to be just like Robin Hood, Marion’s demure wistfulness about her childhood sweetheart… and the way the snake somehow has eloquent body language despite not having a body. (Snakes are so awesome!)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/robin-hood/id656527876

Keep reading for a detailed plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat as well as a few other thoughts on the movie.

This post is part of a series on versions of the Robin Hood legend.

Continue reading Robin Hood (1973)

Robin Hood (2006–2009)

It’s cheesy and historically inaccurate, but this Robin Hood series has its moments.

The scenes that take place outdoors in the forest are more convincing than the ones that use the same indoor and outdoor sets over and over; Sherwood Forest, though, is very much a character in the show and an important presence. Regarding the human characters, I would definitely say that the bad guys were more interesting than the good guys by a mile.

I would recommend the show if you’re looking for some lighthearted entertainment with some interesting characters and can overlook the show’s obvious flaws. Or if you’re just interested in any and all variations of the Robin Hood myth.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/tv-season/robin-hood-series-1/id275354656

See below for more about the characters and why they’re interesting, even if they do make a lot of Evil Overlord mistakes. (No specific spoilers.)

Continue reading Robin Hood (2006–2009)

Inferno (2016)

In Inferno (2016), Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) and some woman follow a trail of clues that are tied to European religious art and history, as in The Da Vinci Code, only this time the focus is Dante, and Langdon doesn’t know how he got to Italy or why there are people chasing him. The movie doesn’t seem to be popular with viewers or reviewers, but it was plenty entertaining, if you ask me.

What makes the complicated puzzle plot work for me? Partly, it was Langdon’s initial puzzlement about what’s going on, which puts the audience right in the thick of things—we’re not looking over the shoulder of a pompous art expert, we’re looking over the shoulder of a confused victim. We catch glimpses of memories or dreams but, like Langdon, we can’t quite catch hold of them, and whether or not we know where we’re going, we have to keep moving.

Partly it was the amazing Italian settings. I mean, hiring Tom Hanks is expensive, but the filmmakers also apparently rented every major tourist attraction in Florence, and one or two in Istanbul as well, stopping in Venice along the way. Or they just recreated a bunch of famous places in a studio in Budapest, one or the other. (Actually, some of both.)

Partly it was the freakishly believable terrorist, an extremely rich but extremely delusional white guy who gave a bunch of TED talks about how humanity cannot allow the world’s population to double again and who took it upon himself to try to solve the problem by developing a virus that, when released, would cause immense amounts of pain and suffering but also ensure the survival of the race… by cutting the world’s population in half—decimating it, one might even say—like the Black Death did when it made way for the Renaissance.

Partly it was that I particularly liked one of the secondary characters. While I found the villain’s death cult genuinely threatening, I found his pragmatic mercenary quite amusing. (In this much at least, reviewers seem to agree with me.)

Why wasn’t the movie liked?

Maybe it was too cerebral and not actiony enough. Thrillers have to have Bond gadgets in them, not Renaissance paintings.

Maybe, as more than one reviewer says, it’s the related problem that Tom Hanks’ talent is “wasted on the role of Dr Robert Langdon, an academic who is sort of a brainier, duller Indiana Jones.”

Or maybe it’s just that Dan Brown’s novels aren’t very different from each other (or particularly deep), and it hasn’t been long enough since the last installment for people to find his offering very, well, novel.

Anyway, upshot: if you don’t go in expecting the art-historical conspiracy-theory trail-of-clues plot to resemble what spy movie heroes and real-life detectives typically do to prevent catastrophes and solve crimes, respectively, then you may, like me, be entertained. The plot of Inferno is needlessly complicated and fundamentally illogical, but (unlike that of Point Break) it’s still coherent.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/inferno/id463979057

Keep reading for a detailed summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Inferno (2016)

Deadpool (2016)

I knew what to expect since the folks who knew the character from the comic books went out of their way to warn the rest of us that Deadpool would not be NOT a family-friendly Marvel superhero movie.

Although the crude language, the blood and violence, and the explicit sexual messages of the movie did not appeal to me, there were aspects of the movie that did.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/deadpool/id1078111961

See below for more on the movie, including SPOILERS.

Continue reading Deadpool (2016)

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Beauty and the Beast is one of my four favorite Disney animated films. I love the wistfulness and bookishness of Belle, the over-the-top bluster and brawn of Gaston, and the romance that’s anything but love at first sight. The talking objects, frankly, I could do without, but the ballroom scene with its unbelievably realistic computer-generated architecture and magical blue and gold colors will never cease to be utterly breathtaking.

I don’t remember whether I saw the movie in a theater in 1991, but I know I had the VHS tape because I still do. I also have the soundtrack. I watched the relaunch with the superfluous song scene (“Human Again”) in 2002 in the IMAX Theater at Navy Pier in Chicago with my then boyfriend, now husband. I am looking forward to the 2017 live-action version with Emma Watson; I enjoyed Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), so I assume they won’t mess up this remake either.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/beauty-and-the-beast/id439510925

See below for some things I noticed on this rewatch, including SPOILERS, as well as what I learned from an entire DVD’s worth of Bonus Features.

Continue reading Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Madagascar 3 (2012)

The cover of my DVD of Madagascar 3 features a quote that says, “Easily the best one yet!”

Do not be fooled.

It is funny from time to time, and it must have been spectacular in 3D, but it lacks emotional depth. It made a ton of money, though, unlike Rise of the Guardians, which came out in the same year, and which must have been equally spectacular in 3D, and which personally I liked a lot better.

The premise is that Alex and friends get tired of waiting for the penguins and chimps to come back from Monte Carlo and take them to NYC, so they go to Monte Carlo to look for them. However, an animal control woman who can sniff out animals like a bloodhound and who has always wanted a lion for her collection of stuffed heads starts chasing them. They escape her temporarily, but crash land before they’ve gone far. How can a group of animals move around Europe without attracting notice? By running away with the circus, which becomes an all-animal circus when the penguins and chimps buy out the owner.

The whole thing gives me the impression that some committee decided to make Cirque de Soleil, in Europe, using the Madagascar characters, plus some Europeans with funny accents, and then hastily wrote a complicated, ridiculous plot that included all of the group’s ideas, instead of all of the group’s best ideas.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Not only do kids deserve good stories, kids especially deserve good stories.

Sigh.

At least they got a good light show.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/madagascar-3-europes-most/id909794795

More thoughts, with SPOILERS, below.

Continue reading Madagascar 3 (2012)

Mechanic: Resurrection (2016)

Okay, so when I chose to see Mechanic: Resurrection at the theater, I didn’t realize it was a sequel. To a remake.

Maybe someday I’ll see The Mechanic (2011) and The Mechanic (1972). I’m not in any huge hurry, though. This movie was clever but a bit bloody for me. Plus, bald-with-stubble is not exactly my preferred kind of action hero.

The premise is that a highly skilled assassin is blackmailed, by means of a rather shallow-seeming relationship with a lovely woman (who herself has been blackmailed, by means of some orphans in Cambodia) into doing some dirty work for a criminal boss guy. He is given three targets spread out around the world and some really really tight time constraints, and told that, as usual, the kills must look like accidents. Much cleverness and death ensues. I liked the resolution of the conflict, though the conclusion felt a bit tacked on.

Given what a male-centric kind of plot it was (it is an action movie, after all), I was impressed with how much the untrained woman tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to resist her kidnappers. She also managed to communicate a helpful clue to her rescuer. Moreover, she didn’t come across as an overly exaggerated Strong Female Character like Jane in the recent Tarzan movie.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/mechanic-resurrection/id1142118992

The Infiltrator (2016)

I expected The Infiltrator to have more tension, violence, and fear than it actually did. At the heart of the movie is (the real-life story of) a friendship betrayed; the core of this movie is not danger, or even justice or remorse, but sadness. I wasn’t expecting that.

They picked the perfect actor for the role; here you have Bryan Cranston again transforming (albeit temporarily) from a mild-mannered husband to an absolutely driven liar, imposter, and corrupt kind of dude (you know, like he did in Breaking Bad).

The deadly game that the character Robert Mazur plays is reminiscent of the antics seen in Catch Me If You Can (2002), only the consequences of exposure aren’t jail, they’re much, much worse. Bob is in the car when a contact he was meeting with is shot dead and the car flips over. So it’s not as if there’s no fear, no tension, and no violence at all.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-infiltrator/id1133650155

Keep reading for a detailed plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading The Infiltrator (2016)

Turbo (2013)

Well, race fans… What to say about Turbo. Not a favorite. Too many characters and subplots. There are comparisons one could draw between this movie and Pixar’s Cars (2006) and the less obviously related Ratatouille (2007), and Disney’s Planes (2013)… but none of those comparisons favor Dreamworks.

Among the Dreamworks disasters, I liked Rise of the Guardians better than Turbo; I vaguely think Sinbad and El Dorado were okay; I haven’t seen Mr. Peabody & Sherman or Penguins of Madagascar.

Turbo’s premise, which is proclaimed insane throughout the movie itself, is that a garden snail from somewhere in California accidentally gains superpowered speed (and miscellaneous other irrelevant attributes of being a car), finds a human sponsor, and goes to compete in the Indianapolis 500 against his childhood idol, a famous French driver. Throw in Samuel L. Jackson, a Latino, grown-up version of the charmingly oblivious fat boy in Up, more antagonists than you can shake a stick at, and a clip from the hit song “Eye of the Tiger” and you’ve got a mess of a movie.

I thought the filmmakers had passed up the world’s most obvious chance ever to make the old “look at that S car go” joke until I noticed that Turbo’s race number is ‘5’, which looks an awful lot like the letter ‘S’. Kudos, guys! I was expecting the joke and you still got me.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/turbo-2013/id666620766

Keep reading for more on what didn’t work and why, including SPOILERS. (Ha ha, get it? Spoilers!)

Continue reading Turbo (2013)

Types of futures in movies

In my post on Total Recall (2012), I said:

Perhaps because the future is like an exotic place, in American movies, the future is believably exotic when it’s Asian.

However, Asianness is not the only kind of exoticness that the future exhibits.

Sometimes, for example, the future is architecturally minimalistic (Gattaca) or brutalist (Total Recall 1990). Or it’s just the West in the present—or the 70s, as the case may be—but with better gadgets (Predestination), better weapons (Edge of Tomorrow) or “technology” you can’t help but call magic (Wanted). Or it’s a desert wasteland (Mad Max), possibly with flooded, buried, damaged, or overgrown skyscrapers (AI, Oblivion, Divergent, I Am Legend). Or at first glance it’s indistinguishable from the far past (Cloud Atlas). Or it’s not the future, it’s a magical parallel world that’s full of true-to-life European buildings but also has steampunk “technology” (The Golden Compass).

In The Expanse, interestingly, New York has walls to protect it from elevated sea levels. That’s an optimistic kind of future: we’ll have problems, but we’ll solve them in such a way that the past will be preserved rather than destroyed—or transcended and forgotten.