REVIEW: Tomorrowland

11 11 2015

TomorrowlandDisney’s expensive attempt at an experiment, “Tomorrowland,” begins with a rather preposterous proposition: the company has some kind of monopoly on optimism and innovation. The takeaway is, essentially, you’re an earth-hating pessimist unless you chant “It’s a Small World After All” in your sleep. (I’ll only make a parenthetical note here that the Futurist art movement inspired Benito Mussolini and the Fascists in Italy.)

The relentless attempts of co-writer/director Brad Bird, as well as his fellow scribes Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen, to associate hope and positivity with the Disney brand makes the experience feel like enduring a two hour infomercial. Or like a feature-length entrance video at a Disney theme park. Fashionable thought it may be to bash the gloominess of the present day, such a simple-minded response to the challenges we face only makes those hurdles appear more imposing.

Even when putting this distressing ideology at bay, “Tomorrowland” still proves a dull, uninspiring experience. The two plus hours revolve around the teenage Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) as a pin leads her on an adventure that takes her to a different dimension with George Clooney’s curmudgeonly inventor Frank Walker. This separate space, known as Tomorrowland, exists as a haven for intellectuals to escape the growing chaos of the world.

Naturally, a discussion of the merits and downfalls of Golden Age Thinking ensues, but it feels entirely unconvincing and disingenuous. This propaganda piece of shameless branding offers a Disney answer, not a real one. C2stars

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LISTFUL THINKING: 10 British Actors Who Would Have CRUSHED Harry Potter

12 05 2015

With Eddie Redmayne now in official talks for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a spinoff of the “Harry Potter” series, I figured now was as good a time as ever to turn a long-gestating list into a published post.  (This has been a note in my iPhone for almost four years now!)

It is easy to forget that the “Harry Potter” series, among its many accomplishments, offered fine roles to a number of talented British thespians.  Pooled together, the cast has amassed 31 Oscar nominations – a number that seems mightly low when you consider the names who graced the eight films.  Kenneth Branagh.  Julie Christie.  Gary Oldman.  Ralph Fiennes.  Maggie Smith.  Emma Thompson.  (Alan Rickman is not included because he has somehow never been nominated for an Oscar.)

Recently, a number of stars have expressed remorse that they were not a part of the series.  Martin Freeman got sad about it with Jimmy Fallon…

…while Eddie Redmayne briefly lamented it before launching into a hilarious story about bombing his audition for “The Hobbit” films.

Redmayne on HP

But just because it did not happen for Redmayne does not mean I cannot imagine a few recastings that incorporates some more talented British actors.  Maybe some roles will have to make cameos in the new trilogy, after all!  And, heaven forbid, Warner Bros. might actually reboot the original books one day.

So, as the title of the list suggests, here are 10 British actors overlooked by the “Harry Potter” casting directors and the roles they could have played brilliantly.

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REVIEW: Arthur Christmas

24 12 2012

Arthur ChristmasSometimes, animated movies are so busy trying to be clever that they forget to be charming or – dare I say it – cute.  If they lack the effortless ease of Pixar and the occasional DreamWorks release, they seem to often think that the charm flows directly from the creativity.

Arthur Christmas” is all the evidence I need to believe that the hypothesis above isn’t true.  It puts a digital, industrial spin on the age-old Christmas story of Santa Claus delivering presents to children all over the world.  Moreover, it manages to make its version of the yearly phenomena both funny and plausible.

The opening scene, showing the delivery from the perspective of the elves frantically working in mission control to ensure a successful Christmas, was absolutely fantastic.  It’s ingenuity at its finest, and I was braced for a delightful ride full of holiday spirit.

But then the film shifted towards the family dynamics of the Claus family, led by the lazy patriarchal Santa Claus voiced by Jim Broadbent.  His son Steve (the voice of House – I mean, Hugh Laurie) is gunning hard for him to retire so he can fulfill his birthright.  Meanwhile, there’s Arthur (voice of James McAvoy) running around with an unfettered optimism and idealism, something his family shrugs off and attempts to marginalize.

“Arthur Christmas” depicts the wee hours of Christmas morning when the family fails.  Well, really, Santa fails first as one gift does not get delivered, and Arthur takes it upon himself to ensure it gets received.  Along with an overeager wrapping elf and his grandfather, a former Santa Claus (voiced by Billy Mack – I mean, Bill Nighy) that shares Arthur’s enthusiasm, their adventure is most definitely exciting.  But with weak characterization and an overemphasis on craftiness, “Arthur Christmas” is hardly a cup of Christmas cheer for all to enjoy.  C+2stars