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Everything old is new again.

That’s the attitude we’ve been seeing from the folks at Disney over the past few years. Leaving aside the omnipresent churn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ve also been witness to the company’s ever-increasing tendency to find ways to revisit and recycle pieces from the vast store of intellectual property they’ve amassed over the decades.

For instance, the trend of crafting live-action(ish) remakes of beloved animated classics. From “Cinderella” to “Beauty and the Beast” to “Aladdin” to “The Lion King,” the back half of the 2010s was littered with these remakes. Some were good, some were … less good. But they all made truckloads of money at the box office, and so the hits keep on coming.

An outgrowth of that trend saw movies like “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “Maleficent” and its kind-of-terrible sequel. Those films weren’t remakes per se, but rather attempts at reimagining and retconning a classic Disney character. Again, not necessarily creative triumphs, but largely commercial ones.

It’s that outgrowth that has given us “Cruella,” Disney’s gritty prequel treatment of Cruella de Vil that is currently available both in theaters and at home via Disney+ Premium Access. With an absolutely stacked cast led by Emma Stone as the titular Cruella, it’s an effort to backfill the story of a character who is, quite frankly, one of the most cartoonishly evil in the Disney rogues’ gallery of cartoon evil.

And it’s … kind of good? Almost unexpectedly so?

It’s a super-stylish period piece that attempts to show us how Cruella became the unrepentant force of sinisterness that we see in “101 Dalmatians,” painting the titular character as a wounded young person who grew up seeking to find avenues to express her fashion passions and the door-kicking proto-punk rock path she took to finally get there … as well as revenge on those who wronged her along the way. It features a great aesthetic and some great performances; while the screenplay definitely has its issues, the overall effort is largely a successful one.

Published in Movies

The pop culture zeitgeist is in constant flux. What’s popular and exciting changes with ever-increasing rapidity; today’s hot commodity is tomorrow’s passé cliché.

Ten years ago, zombies were hot. There were all manner of properties devoted to the horror subgenre; comic books and movies, TV shows and novels – the works. Into that world was delivered “Zombieland,” a zom-com with a dynamite cast that embraced the inherent humor while also leaning into the more visceral and graphic aspects of zombie tales. Basically, it was funny and gross and a hell of a good time. It was also a significant financial success, more than quadrupling its budget at the box office. So it stands to reason that the powers that be would want a sequel.

Only it took a little longer than anticipated.

Now, a full decade later, we’re finally getting that sequel. Titled “Zombieland: Double Tap,” this movie lands in a much different pop culture landscape than its predecessor. It’s tough to argue against a degree of zombie fatigue when it comes to our entertainment; the saturation point was passed long ago.

Published in Movies

One of the joys of awards season is the opportunity to not just see excellent films, but to see films that are excellent in ways that you hadn’t anticipated.

Take “The Favourite,” for instance. It’s a period piece set in the court of England’s Queen Anne in the early 18th century; it tells the story of two women battling to curry favor with her. There are phenomenally talented performers in those three leads and excellent actors up and down the roster. Sounds pretty straightforward, no?

But then you learn that the director is noted weirdo auteur Yorgos Lanthimos and that the central conflict has a healthy amount of psychosexual manipulation and a little slapstick anachronism to accompany the palace intrigue and things are DEFINITELY not straightforward anymore. Excellent, for sure, but not straightforward.

“The Favourite” is an odd amalgamation, a sex farce in costume drama’s clothing … and it works wonderfully. It is sumptuously filmed and audaciously performed, an utterly fearless and unapologetically strange film. It is a cracked-mirror Merchant-Ivory production, a great piece of cinema that arrives at that greatness via paths both conventional and surprising.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 12:29

Play like a girl - ‘Battle of the Sexes’

The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs is a legitimately important historic moment – one of the most important to ever spring from the world of sports. It was a blow struck for feminism and women’s rights, a blow that still resonates today.

Frankly, it’s remarkable that it has taken this long for it to receive the cinematic treatment.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 12:35

Celebrating cinema with the Academy Awards

Predicting the Oscar winners for 2017

Published in Cover Story
Sunday, 08 January 2017 18:29

'La La Land' is la-la-lovely

Movie musical a wonderful blend of old and new

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 13:34

Gangster Squad' looks better than it is

Film puts style over substance

There's a lot of fun to be had with period pieces especially when you've got an enthusiastic cast. It's interesting to see that even the most well-regarded movie star can get a little giddy when you tell him to put on a fedora, brandish a tommy gun and talk tough.

That's the new movie 'Gangster Squad' at its core. It's an undeniably stylish film visually striking with a cast that can't help but delight in the movie that they're making. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of substance here; the characterizations are weak and the story is thin. It's all sizzle and no steak.

Published in Music

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