Hacksaw Ridge

Posted: November 11, 2016 in Movie Reviews
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Andrew Garfield’s Desmond Doss rescues man after man in a barrage of flying bullets. 

Strength. Terror. Honor. Sacrifice. Brutality. Conviction. Every man—–from the most seasoned and war-hardened, to the first-day recruits—–learned under the most terrifying of circumstances what those words meant in their truest form. Strength: to charge into certain death. Terror: what they encountered. Honor: putting thier fellow soldiers before themselves. Sacrifice: either their very lives or, if fortunate enough, only a piece of it. Brutality: the thing that changed them forever. Conviction: something truly embodied by a man named Desmond Doss.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

When the world becomes engulfed in its 2nd world war, young Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield—–The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man) feels lead to enlist and aid his fellow man. He enlists, but with one stipulation: he will not use or even wield a gun, using his medical skills to save lives instead of taking them. Despite overwhelming derision from his unit and an eventual court-martial, Desmond remains steadfast in his beliefs. It isn’t until his deployment to Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa that his fellow soldiers realize how utterly wrong they were in assuming his cowardice.

Also starring: Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Rachel Griffiths, and Hugo Weaving  

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Conviction is a characteristic inherent to every human being. It’s something we all live by. Even those who don’t adhere to strict religious beliefs have conviction. We all live with personal beliefs; the belief in hope, the belief in better times, the belief in human goodness. But I wonder who has convictions so deep-seeded and steadfast as Private First-Class Desmond Doss had.

His convictions were simple: God says do not kill. While humanity has been riddled with death and tragedy over the centuries, Desmond was someone who refused to perceive his own life above someone else’s, no matter how heinous the other person was. This moral decision caused him a great amount of strife within his unit.

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Hacksaw Ridge poignantly describes the situations from Doss’ own life that turned him into such a pacifist. It also highlights something about him that we all must utilize in our lives—–he didn’t expect others to adhere to his same convictions. So many people today who follow certain religious practices or follow certain lifestyles expect others to live by those same standards, when it ultimately only causes unnecessary strife and anguish. Desmond realized that in an army of men training to kill that his own worldview would be looked down upon, to say the least. But he remained faithful to his convictions. Even if you don’t agree with his notions, you should always admire someone who sticks to their beliefs in the face of ridicule and persecution.

It’s what Hacksaw Ridge accomplishes in its last third that makes it such a massively moving film. Never before has a war film been so brutal and stark in its demonstration of combat violence. Imagine the opening beach scene from Saving Private Ryan and then nearly double that in terms of graphic depiction. Of course it’s no surprise that a film from the director of The Passion of the Christ would depict such explicit brutality, but it comes no less shockingly. As the camera pans over strewn bodies of men ripped apart from explosions, your eyes fill with tears realizing that these are not images from some fictional imagination.

But it’s on a deeply personal level that this film hits such emotional chords. It’s in the heroic and often miraculous efforts of Desmond Doss that you realize how much more a man with a satchel of gauze and morphine can accomplish than a man with an assault rifle and flamethrower. When the attack on Hacksaw Ridge concludes and his men retreat to safer zones, Private Doss, under the cover of smoke, scours the battlefield and rescues man after man after man. “One more,” he keeps on saying, “God, just let me get one more.” Though it’s uncertain what the final number was (with the real Doss saying around 50 and most of his men saying 100), it’s estimated that the “coward” Desmond Doss rescued 75 men in the course of a night. 75 men returned home to their families.

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In a nutshell:

It’s rare that a war film of this caliber comes along. Very rare. In fact, the last film of its kind that I would compare it to in terms of film-making and grit is Saving Private Ryan. Stark and bitter in its presentation but containing just enough base humanity to keep us engaged, Hacksaw Ridge is a pure example of brilliant film-making. Not only do I smell Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, but the performance by Andrew Garfield is one of the year’s best and certainly deserves a Best Actor nomination. In the wake of such political turmoil, how awesome it is to watch a film of this kind and be truly humbled.

9.5 stars

Doctor Strange

Posted: November 5, 2016 in Movie Reviews

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a bit multifaceted when it comes to its films. On the one hand you have the traditional “punchy” superhero flicks with the likes of Iron Man and Captain America, while recently Marvel has been pursuing more “otherworldly” titles. It began with Thor, the franchise’s first delve into the ethereal and mystical, and continued with its sequel as well as the zany Guardians of the Galaxy. This time around, Marvel probes even further into the mystic and explores just how much magic there is lurking behind other dimensions.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

When expert neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch—–The Imitation Game, Star Trek Into Darkness) is involved in a near-fatal car crash leaving his hands severely damaged, the demoralized doctor searches for any possible procedure to repair his life. When Western medicine proves a dead end, Dr. Strange turns to the East and its alternative methods. He finds solace in a group of sorcerers who teach him to expand his mind and broaden his view of the physical world. The result is a mystical journey into the inter-dimensions, a path that leads to great opposition and an enlightenment that Strange thought never possible.

Also starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, and Tilda Swinton   

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Tragic circumstances unfortunately plague many, and oftentimes the difficulty of resuming life normally proves far too daunting and implausible. Stephen Strange is a character whose incessant shaking of the hands disallows him to continue on with his livelihood, something that has come to define him as a person. And, like many, his inability to mend what has been broken leads to bitterness and eschewing of those who care for him.

In this sense, Strange is relatable. Certainly not at first, as his Tony-Stark-like ego and mega pride make him something to be looked at with disdain. But you ultimately sympathize with his desire to heal and be whole again, even if his prior life contained no sense of completeness. While the film’s first act is admirable and conveys with aplomb what it needs to, it’s after Strange’s first encounter with the inter-dimensional world that the film ramps up.

What we’re treated to for the film’s duration is a true visual feast, a kaleidoscopic experience enhanced with mind-bending visual splendor and an almost hallucinogenic sense of stupor. Imagine looking through a kaleidoscope on LSD while watching Inception or The Matrix. The film’s action sequences are unlike anything seen before, especially within the Marvel universe, as fractal shapes make you question the very fabric of reality. Look for this film to not only be nominated for its achievement in visual effects at next year’s Academy Awards, but to win—–and win big.

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But great visuals are only enhancements—–cinematic utensils for telling a grander story. Your films are only as good as your actors. Fortunately, Doctor Strange utilizes some of the best acting talent around, including three Oscar nominees and one Oscar winner. Benedict Cumberbatch—–a world-class actor through and through—–delivers perhaps one of his greatest performances yet. His sheer talent seeps into his performance, an accomplishment akin to Robert Downey Jr.’s in Iron Man. It’s the ease of comedy and cockiness of nature coupled with charisma that Marvel Studios pursues (think Thor or Peter Quill). And while Mads Mikkelsen’s villain isn’t as fleshed-out as he perhaps should be (a staple flaw of Marvel Studios), Mikkelsen still imbues the role with a never-bombastic and grounded performance.

In a nutshell:

Yet again . . . yet again . . . the immortal Marvel Studios proves that nothing is too outlandish (I was avoiding the word “strange”) for them to tackle. The road to Infinity Wars is ramping up, with this film’s time-bending Infinity Stone being at its focus. Well-acted, well-paced, and well-directed, the ethereal mysticism behind Doctor Strange lends itself well to the overall tone. Though you occasionally become a bit lost with talk of other dimensions and time continuum and spiritualism over matter, the character of Stephen Strange is always right there at its heart, reminding us that human will and dedication will always trump mysticism.

8 stars

The BFG

Posted: July 5, 2016 in Movie Reviews

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Story after story throughout the history of storytelling has revolved around friendship and its limitless boundaries. It’s an uplifting theme recognizable in any culture and society. Whether between man and animal or between people from two vastly opposing walks of life, the plethora of stories dealing with relationships all deliver the same consensus: friendship knows no prejudice. Based off of Roald Dahl’s children’s book, The BFG depicts a friendship between two people separated by two very different worlds.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

After spotting an enormous creature stalking the streets of London in the dead of night, young orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is plucked from her bed and taken to Giant Country. She quickly discovers, however, that this particular giant is indeed a friendly giant, a Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance—–Bridge of Spies). Unlike the other giants in the land, this peaceful giant doesn’t eat children, instead collecting dreams and delivering them to people as they sleep. But the other not-so-friendly giants in the land don’t share his morals. In order to save England’s children from being devoured, Sophie and the BFG seek help from the Queen to rid the land of such nasty brutes.

Also starring: Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, and Bill Hader

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The legendary Stephen Spielberg is among the most admired and respected directors of our time, a man whose multiple masterpieces of film will still be viewed centuries from now. We’ve seen him cover every genre from drama, war, animation, biopic, and family-friendly. Films like Hook and E.T. captured the spirit of childhood imagination. The BFG strives to accomplish very much the same thing.

The BFG is a film brimming with all the visual pizzazz and splendor that could derive from such a brilliant director. While a film of this type would suffer from an over-saturation of colors and CGI under most other directors, Spielberg manages to evoke the feeling of a fully realized set with authentic locations instead of a film modeled inside of a computer. Sure, there’s CGI aplenty, but it’s complemented by gorgeous imagery. But if there’s one standout aspect of the film’s visual splendor, it’s the motion-capture work done for Mark Rylance as the giant.

Coming off of his Oscar win for Bridge of Spies (also a Spielberg film), Rylance imbues the role with all the charm that could be given to a big, friendly giant. His pure charisma is coupled with some of the most gorgeous motion-capture work on a human character I’ve ever seen. Newcomer Ruby Barnhill plays her role with an equal amount of magnetism and sophistication. If there’s one thing that Spielberg accomplishes with aplomb in every one of his films, even the weaker ones, it’s coaxing the best performances from his actors that he possibly can. The young Sophie prompts just as much adoration and affection from the audience as E.T.’s Elliot.

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Where The BFG ultimately falls a bit short is in its narrative. The first two-thirds feel somewhat lost, with no immediate focus. The story plods along with only a slight feeling that it knows where it wants to go. It’s in the last third of the film, when the duo finally attempts to persuade the Queen for her help, that it finally kicks into gear. The previous events are in no way unwatchable, they merely lack the drive to make us completely invested. But the two characters blend together with such seamless charm that it makes the first hour and a half bearable.

In a nutshell:

If The BFG is trying to be merely a fanciful family film with levity and magical charm, then it accomplishes its goal. If The BFG is striving to be something more meaningful (as one would excpect under the direction of a filmmaker like Spielberg), then it falls a bit short. The performances are as heart-felt and genuine as they could possibly be, and it’s a visually gorgeous piece of work, but this film just doesn’t quite hit the mark that it was perhaps aiming for.

6.5 stars

 

Finding Dory

Posted: June 18, 2016 in Movie Reviews

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Back in 2003, Pixar Studio’s résumé was far less varied than it is now. Before the rat with culinary skills, airborne houses, linguistic cars, and mind-dwelling emotions, Pixar’s array of animated masterpieces were limited (“limited”) to talking toys, oppressed bugs, and energy-seeking monsters. Then along came Finding Nemo, a film brimming with warmth and vivacity, epic storytelling, memorable characters, and gorgeous animation that still looks just as mesmerizing as it did 13 years ago. Among its ensemble of memorable characters was Dory—–the charming blue tang with a knack for forgetting things. But now that Nemo has been found, Pixar has taken the opportunity to expound on Dory’s story.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

One year after her tumultuous journey across the vast ocean, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) begins to have flashes of her past. When she remembers a vital clue regarding her parents’ whereabouts, she sets off to find them after years of not remembering anything about them. Determined to not allow somebody else he cares about get lost, Marlin (Albert Brooks——Taxi Driver) and his son Nemo accompany her. But when Dory is scooped up from the water and taken to a California marine rehabilitation center, Marlin and Nemo head in after her, accepting help along the way from the most unlikely of allies.

Also starring: Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olsen, Hayden Rolence, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, and Sigourney Weaver

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Finding Nemo is among the greatest of Pixar’s prestigious achievements, so it only makes sense that its sequel would require just as much charm and whimsy as its predecessor. While the end result doesn’t quite deliver the greatness of the first, it does infuse it with enough of its best qualities.

As wildly entertaining as Dory is in Finding Nemo, she never seemed like the type of character that needed her own story. Sure, her past was an enigma, but we  really didn’t need to see it (of course, what film do we ever need to see?). I was a bit worried that this film would feel like a stretch, only existing for the sake of capitalizing on its predecessor’s success. Yet every time I doubt Pixar I almost always find myself wondering why I did. In fact, I would say that Dory is a more appropriate title character than even Nemo was.

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I was also pleased to see that characters from the first film are used sparingly (except, of course, for the main three), while some don’t make an appearance at all. I appreciate that only characters that truly added to the story were included. When a film like Finding Nemo makes such a big splash (no pun intended) with an audience, it’s just come to be expected that the sequel will throw as many of its favorite characters back onto the screen as it physically can.  But with Finding Dory, it uses a few of the old characters but utilizes the opportunity to develop brand-new ones, not merely relying on the nostalgia of the original to carry it forward.

The voice acting is simply splendid; each voice sounds distinct yet appropriate. But the real MVP of the film is Ed O’Neill who voices an octopus named Hank. Gruff in nature yet lovable at his core, Hank’s journey feels organic and not at all forced. His allying with Dory feels natural and wholly plausible. But overall, not one character in the film feels even slightly annoying or heavy-handed, an aspect that most animated films these days (even, on occasion, a Disney film) is guilty of. But if we’re talking about loveable characters, then the epitome of loveable in this film is baby Dory. Remember how adorable Squirt was? Multiply that cuteness factor x5.

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Another incredible aspect of this film is the animation, something that just keeps being repeated every time Pixar makes a film. Remember how utterly amazing the landscapes looked in The Good Dinosaur? How every tree, mountain, and river looked like it was filmed by a National Geographic crew? Well Finding Dory’s ocean looks just as incredible. Even the film’s opening short Piper (an immensely enjoyable little tale) utilizes a photo-realistic environment.

In a nutshell:

Not much can be said negatively of this film, other than the last act could’ve used the smallest hint of fine-tuning, and the film ends somewhat abruptly. Also, Sia’s song “Unforgettable” that accompanies the end credits isn’t anywhere near as appropriate in style as Robbie William’s “Beyond the Sea” was in Finding Nemo. But these are mere grievances that are easily forgettable. Finding Dory is a sheer delight from start to finish, infused with well-placed humor, even more loveable characters, a sparkling musical score, and all the TLC that Pixar can spare.

8 stars

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Against all inconceivable odds, the almighty Marvel Studios has successfully kept up with their shared cinematic universe for eight years now. It’s uncanny to conceive that with 13 films and roughly 16 main characters (that’s not counting villains, secondary characters, or supporting characters) that Marvel has managed to keep their universe free of major cracks and holes. After all, Fox Studio’s X-Men franchise bears a couple lackluster films and is littered with glaring inconsistencies (not to mention the failure of three Fantastic Four films). Even Sony’s Spider-Man franchise contains a few rotten eggs and has been rebooted twice now. With Marvel’s nearly unblemished record, it seems that they have the Midas golden touch. In Captain America: Civil War, two major storylines come to a head in what is both a conclusion to the Captain America trilogy and an aftermath to the most recent Avengers film.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

For four years the Avengers have basked in the glory of unprecedented victory in the face of domineering adversity. But when their seemingly-heroic actions are placed in a completely alternate light, their perceptions of war and glory and victory are quickly put into perspective. Their defeat of Ultron in Sokovia may have been triumphant, but their actions caused unprecedented loss of life in the process. It’s for this very reason that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.—–Sherlock Holmes, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) backs a multi-national treaty to place the Avengers under the responsibility of the United Nations.

Staunchly opposed to the notion is Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans——Fantastic Four) who claims that bureaucratic oversight will restrain the team from carrying out their duties as earth’s mightiest heroes. With the debate from every team member readily growing by the day, the Avengers quickly find themselves divided against each other as all-out war imminently looms ahead.

Also starring: Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, Daniel Brühl, Tom Holland, Martin Freeman, and William Hurt   

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Debate is a major facet of life. Whether discussing politics or the feasibility of film plots, conjecture and opinion is something we all engage in on a regular basis. And the higher the risk involved, the more heated the debate will be. Saving the world isn’t entirely a black and white issue. Marvel’s past films may have presented it in that way, but Civil War takes our perceptions of our favorite superheroes and places them in an entirely different light. Is Captain America truly the pillar of virtue we so admire? We know Tony Stark is a class-A narcissist, and dire mistakes aren’t out of his realm of possibility, but is he really the heroic billionaire playboy philanthropist we’ve been lead to believe?

Ever since we were introduced to the scrawny kid from Brooklyn who never shied from a fight, Captain America has always been our moral compass and rock of integrity we’ve anchored ourselves to. His patriotism coupled with his incessant hatred for injustice is what makes him not only a fan favorite, but the perfect leader for the Avengers to follow.

In The Winter Soldier, however, we learned that duty to country can make you blind to the hidden agendas that lurk just under radar, and that saving his old friend-turned-foe required him to deny all past sense of obligation and disobey higher command. These seeming “flaws” of Captain America carried over into Age of Ultron where his ardent passion for taking down the bad guy caused him to drag his team into an affair that ultimately cost the lives of countless innocents. Their death may not have been at his expense, but they died anyway.

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Ever since we were introduced to the weapons-manufacturing billionaire playboy who used his technology to stop those who sought to pervert his work, Iron Man has been the unofficial soul of the Avengers. His technology has provided incomparable aid to the team, and he’s the one who assembled the team to begin with. When he sees people in need, he doesn’t hesitate to intervene.

What I found most refreshing about Civil War is that it doesn’t strive to take sides. Its marketing urged us to do so, but the film doesn’t. Instead, it presents both Cap’s and Stark’s viewpoints in a balanced way. Cap claims that the world will always need to be saved, while Stark claims that the Avengers need to be in check. Cap claims that being in check will inhibit and ultimately dismantle the team, while it’s pointed out that Stark has only incited global destruction since getting into the Iron Man suit. Tack onto that the continuing storyline from The Winter Soldier concerning Bucky—–Rogers’ life-long friend. Though his friend has been involved in decades of stealth assassinations, he and Stark clash over whether he can be trusted.

These moral dilemmas make for the most indecisive Marvel film yet. Not because the film itself is indecisive in what it wants to convey, but because the characters themselves face perhaps their greatest challenge yet. DC made their interpretation of super-dispute a mere month ago with Batman v Superman; but where their film ultimately lacked, Marvel’s film once again showed how it’s done. Both films are similar in premise: two titans of power collide head-to-head. Another similarity is that, in both situations, the two sides are being coerced by a figure lurking in the shadows pulling the strings. That particular subplot doesn’t especially play out to the film’s advantage in Batman v Superman; and while it isn’t the strongest aspect of Civil War, it isn’t nearly as clear of a weakness.

But the largest difference between these two powerhouses of film is that we’ve had four films familiarizing ourselves with Rogers, two of which contained both Cap and Stark. These are characters we’re intimately familiar with and invested in. Batman and Superman, not as much. So when the punching and the fighting commences, we feel it on an emotional level. They’re not only fighting because they’re being tricked—–they’re fighting because they no longer see eye-to-eye. To witness that after years of camaraderie and friendship (though, granted, at first reluctantly) is difficult to observe.

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The film stuffs numerous characters, super and non-, into the story. While most films would have crumbled under the weight of so many characters, directors Joe and Anthony Russo create a truly perfect balance within the narrative. With 12 superheroes plunging head-on into the fray, it seems like Avengers 2.5 from the outside; but at its core it’s still a Captain America film. Each actor brings their all. But perhaps one of the standout aspects of the film is the new Peter Parker/Spider-Man. We’ve had Tobey Maguire, then Andrew Garfield, and now Tom Holland. Though I’ll wait for his upcoming stand-alone film before determining whether he’s the best incarnation of the character we’ve seen yet, I will say that this new Spider-Man definitely shows incredible promise.

In a nutshell:

While I can’t say for sure if it’s the greatest film from Marvel yet, I’d undoubtedly place it in the top three. Captain America: Civil War more than delivers on the promise of the trailers by delivering a film with breathtaking action choreography, impressive production design, heart-felt drama, and a fresh plot. If there’s any doubt about the Marvel formula growing stale in the near future, then this film eradicates all doubt. Captain America: Civil War does practically everything to perfection. But what truly sets this film apart from most others in the genre is Steve Rogers’ and Tony Stark’s final confrontation in the third act. If anything that precedes it feels even remotely comic-y, the truly heart-breaking end of the film will change your mind. Team Cap or Team Iron Man? The true victor is Team Marvel.   

9 stars

With the recent release of Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, the Mouse House proved indefinitely that not only are the animation-to-live-action adaptations a good idea, but that they’re here to stay. Of course The Jungle Book  was the fourth of a string of these adaptations that have ranged from good to mediocre.

Though many were dismayed at Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, I personally thought it contained a wacky charm that served Lewis Carroll’s book well. While Maleficent was by no means a poor film, and its focus on the villain was a great idea, the retelling of the classic fairytale didn’t translate well. Cinderella was beautifully made, retaining the charm of the original film while adding flair of its own. It was my favorite of the live-action retellings until The Jungle Book came along.

But above all, the live-action adaptations have proved a monetary boon to the Disney Company (with Alice In Wonderland alone garnering over $1 billion). So it’s no surprise that Disney has announced a slew of classic (and some non-classic) live-action retellings. The list includes: Pinocchio, The Sword in the Stone, Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia, The Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Mulan, Winnie the Pooh, Chip ’n’ Dale, Aladdin, and both a Tinker Bell film and an untitled “Prince Charming” film.

The films that excite me the most are The Sword in the Stone, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast (which with stellar stars like Emma Watson, Stanely Tucci, and Ian McKellen, is shaping up to be quite a film). While I have full faith in the Disney story brains, I’d just as soon throw out several of these films on this list and replace them with different classic Disney animations. While the three aforementioned films are at the top of the list of much-needed live-action adaptations, there are several films that would translate superbly onto the big screen (or at least more so than Tinker Bell).

The Rescuers Down Under

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 If there’s one word to summarize this film, it’s “adventurous”. The Australian outback would be a fantastic setting to film on location, and Disney proved with The Jungle Book and Cinderella that they can give non-caricatured animals all the charm and personality of their animated counterparts. I personally would be ecstatic to see Miss Bianca and Bernard interact with Joanna the monitor lizard. And the flight through the clouds atop the majestic eagle would be a spectacle to behold.

The Lion King

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 Prior to seeing The Jungle Book, I emphatically stated that The Lion King would be absolutely impossible to make due to its need to be 100% CGI. Then I was immersed in the photo-realistic jungle that looked and felt like it was filmed in the rain forests of India, and my mind was instantly changed. Now that I know that CGI is of no issue, my only hesitation is eradicated. The Lion King is already Shakespearean in style, so it would translate perfectly. Cherry pick the best songs as they did with The Jungle Book and you have another instant classic on your hands. Still not convinced? Envision this: that stunning opening shot recreated on the Serengeti plains, with those same stirring vocals of “Circle of Life”.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

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 Chances are you’ve probably never seen this film. It was released during the 2000s, which was a hit-and-miss decade for Disney. It comes highly recommended. Like The Rescuers Down Under, it’s adventurous. Its Jules-Verne-like method of storytelling and style coupled with its mythos makes for one exciting experience. And this is a film that the art directors and cinematographers and set designers could go to town with. The scene alone where the sea creature attacks the submarine—an already eerie scene in the animated film—could really turn out spectacularly if done convincingly.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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 Disney has shown that they’re not afraid to alter their storylines in order to tell a more palpable and heart-felt story. The already existing storyline of a man shunned by society simply for being disfigured and then used by a pernicious antagonist, with adjustments for affect, could be really enticing. Cast some great comedic actors to do the motion-capture for the gargoyles and you have the makings of a hit.

Hercules

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 2015 saw a couple bad to terrible iterations of the demigod, and to this day the animated film remains the best there is. This is Disney’s opportunity to make their live-action adaptation that could potentially become the defining Hercules flick. Though it wasn’t as instantly accepted as The Little Mermaid or Frozen, I feel that the animated film has grown in popularity over the years. Cast a great comedic actor as Phil the satyr and someone who can bring terror and humor to Hades, and the potential is there.

Treasure Planet

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 Like Atlantis: The Lost Empire, you’ve probably never enjoyed this film. It’s a retelling of the classic “Treasure Island”, except taking place among the cosmos instead of the high seas. A film of its kind has never been made, and it’s been a while since we’ve had a “Treasure Island” remake, so Disney seemingly as a staple on it. A live-action retelling would be a great way to introduce the populace to the animated film, and a romping adventure in outer space with that classic pirate theme sounds like a perfect project for Disney to sink its teeth into.

 

 

 

 

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Ask the average bum on the street to name a superhero and chances are that he’ll mention either Batman or Superman. With a combined 13 films (and that’s not counting any of the older cartoons, television shows, and animated films), Batman and Superman are the defining superheroes. Even with Marvel Studios churning out great films one after the other, nothing will ever defeat the might and attraction of these two titans of comic book lore. Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” comic is a cult classic in the fan community. Now, through the eyes of director Zach Snyder, the ultimate fight is finally realized.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

In the wake of the devastating assault on Metropolis depicted in Man of Steel, the world has a split view on Superman (Henry Cavill—–The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). Some point to his invaluable aid of the human race, while others emphatically point to the desolation and ruin he’s left behind him. As the political ire intensifies by the day, Gotham billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck—–Argo, Good Will Hunting) uses his technological prowess as the Batman to devise a plan to take down the Son of Krypton. Tempers flare on both sides as the two titans head into the greatest gladiator battle the world has ever known.

Also starring: Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, and Jeremy Irons

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How super is Superman? If his heroic actions save the lives of tens of thousands but leaves billions of dollars worth of damage, is it worth it? Can he even be trusted? The old Superman cartoons never bothered to answer these moral dilemmas, and they never needed to. They were upbeat, romping adventures of a superhero stopping bank robbers and blocking erupting volcanoes. But it’s 2016, and in a post-911 world with ISIS inflicting chaos, everybody and everything is under scrutiny. ­Batman v Superman seizes the opportunity to depict a modern world with an alien who can do extraordinary things.

The DC Cinematic Universe got off to a bit of a late start. The almighty Marvel Studios has been crushing it since 2008 with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers. Following the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, DC began their shared universe of caped crusaders with Man of Steel, a film that I personally loved but that received mixed reactions. Batman v Superman needed to be great in order to make people as receptive to the DC films as they are to the Marvel films. While the end result is admirable at times, it’s hardly great.

The film is titled Batman v Superman, therefore it isn’t implausible to assume that they’re gonna duke it out. And with a 2 hour 30 minute runtime, it isn’t implausible to assume that they’re gonna duke it out a lot. Perhaps not as long as Kal-El battled Zod in Man of Steel, but most likely a clash that is drawn out over two fights. You would assume that, wouldn’t you?

Unfortunately the end result hardly plays out that way. The two spend more time battling as friends (not a spoiler, it was in the trailer) than they do as enemies; which would be far less disappointing if the film were titled “Batman and Superman: Dawn of Justice”. The film hypes you up for this epic showdown for the ages. While the struggle itself is enthralling and grand in scope, it hardly constitutes as the gladiator battle we were so enthusiastically promised.

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In his second run as the Son of Krypton, Henry Cavill manages to progress his excellent portrayal, playing it even darker and a tad more brooding this time around. The classic Daily-Planet-reporter-out-saving-cats Superman he may not be, but for a hero who is being shunned and even degraded by society for his valiant efforts, he portrays the Superman adequate for this tone and style.

Amy Adams’ performance as Lois Lane is adequate, while not outstanding; Jeremy Irons brings us a different Alfred than we’ve seen in any Batman iteration: less of a proper English butler and more of a friend and accomplice to Bruce Wayne; Gal Gadot wows us with a strong presence as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman; and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is, well, shall we say an “interesting” rendition. Eisenberg clearly channels Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever (and maybe even hints of Ledger’s Joker) in several moments of the film. Perhaps he was going for the “mad, crazy bad guy that comes off as brilliant” approach, but unfortunately that method of acting didn’t pay off for him.

Where this film truly shines, ironically enough, is with Ben Affleck’s Batman. I say “ironically enough” because a year ago when Affleck was announced fans practically rioted in the street. Now, they’re all in unified agreement that he is perhaps the greatest aspect of this film. While multiple more viewings are required before it can be determined if he rivals Christian Bale’s Batman, I can say this: Ben Affleck is outstanding in this film. Absolutely remarkable. The presence and gravity he brings to both Batman and Bruce Wayne is absolutely perfect for this iteration of the Dark Knight. He’s an older, grizzled war veteran of Gotham crime. He’s been around the block more than a few times. He’s seen things that have likely rocked him to his core. But when he takes to the streets to take down the bad guys, he’s like a tank. His fighting is less grunt-punchy and a little more fluid.

Ultimately, where this film truly loses its focus is in the story—the single most important element of any film. The core storyline and motivation for the heroes serves the film well; it’s quite logical to assume that a Bruce Wayne embittered by the destruction of an entire city would view Superman as an alien, a loose cannon that could potentially wipe humanity from the face of the earth at any time. Therefore you sympathize with him. But you’re also well aware that Superman is no foe to humanity. So when the two battle to the death, you aren’t necessarily rooting for one person.

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But there’s a secondary motivation for these two clashing that links to Lex Luthor. While I won’t reveal it for spoiler reasons, it certainly is not the way the story should have gone. It’s quite unfortunate that Warner Bros. didn’t have the foresight to hire a new director and leave Zach Snyder as producer, because as much as I loved Man of Steel  (which partially had to do with Chris Nolan’s involvement in the project), I despise 300 and Watchmen.

In a nutshell:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits many of the right chords, just not the ones that truly matter. Epic in scope and thought-provoking in its morality, the end result is still enjoyable but hardly noteworthy. It’s worth the view, if not to relish the epic (but short-lived) battle between Supes and Bats. In the end, this film leaves me less excited for the subsequent Justice League films (especially considering Zach Snyder’s involvement as director) and ecstatic at the prospect of a Ben Affleck-directed Batman solo film with him starring. That is the film I’ll be eagerly awaiting.

7 stars