Dial Tone

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Seriously, what’s the final title?

I am seriously at complete odds with what I just saw-who in their right mind okayed the script for this new version of Ghostbusters? Before saying anything further, I am a feminist and this movie is like a flat, heated bottle of Diet Coke that has gone out of date by about five years. Let the idea of that simmer on your tongue for a second or twelve. It isn’t appetizing, is it?

The all-lady cast of Ghostbusters (or is it Ghostbusters: Answer The Call? Set the title straight, Sony!) is not the problem with this reboot, either in decision or performance. Rather, I reiterate, it is the lousy script, whose writers seem wholly uninterested with making a feminist blockbuster, or making a good movie at all, and instead focus on laying groundwork for a sequel and spinoffs.

It starts out innocently enough — Columbia University professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig, The Martian) is dragged back into a past she’d rather forget when a book she co-wrote on the paranormal resurfaces online, thanks to her estranged childhood friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids). Tracking her down leads her to a haunted house nearby, where a spontaneous experiment conducted by Abby leads to the both of them stumbling upon the discovery of a malevolent ghost. Caught on camera professing her findings, one thing leads to another, and Erin is fired days short of receiving tenure, and more or less forced to join forces, as it were, with her girlhood chum and her partner in scientific experimentation, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live). Together, and with new recruit Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones, The Company We Keep), they set out to rid New York City of a rising threat.

It sounds better than it actually is — this is boring. So damn boring, and boy, does it show. While the new ladies in the jumpsuits are damn good with this lousy script (particularly Ms. McKinnon, a knockout!), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), as the receptionist, is as dead as a doornail/knob/knocker. He reads every single line in the style of the lead in a middle school play. Between this and the reboot of Vacation, he should never do a dedicated comedy again — his taste is ass. Renowned English actor Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) is in two scenes in the opening and is gone for the rest of the picture — why cast an actor of his caliber if you won’t use him to his fullest? The same applies to actors Michael Kenneth Williams (RoboCop) and Andy Garcia (The Ocean’s Eleven Trilogy), both in dry, one note roles. Even though no one made them take these blasé parts, why couldn’t they have been better utilized? The kingpin insult committed by this film is the use of the original Ghostbusters actors (sans Harold Ramis, God rest his soul) in pathetic wink-and-nod cameos. Bill Murray’s is the best-written of the bunch, but that’s not saying much, while Sigourney Weaver’s is insultingly relegated to the end credits scenes. So much for a feminist blockbuster.

Further, the script – it’s as if Sony got pitched an all-female Ghostbusters and gave writers Kate Dippold and Paul Feig (the latter of whom is also the director) final cut and no script doctor. Riddled with a bland villain, broken PG-13 sexual epithets and lousy gender and ethnicity jokes, this film offends more than it inspires, and its ending is the worst finale to a summer movie since Spider-Man 3Almost as bad as the script are the visual effects. While other films make you believe in ghosts, this film gives you no reason to — Slimer and his ghoulish crew look like they belong in a PlayStation 2 full-motion video cutscene. These paltry effects are utter hogwash, and while I didn’t see the film in the director’s intended format of IMAX 3D, I shouldn’t have to shell out extra cash just to get a better experience, not that an added dimension could save this film.

The final insult is that Sony intends to make a shared universe of Ghostbusters films, as evidenced well before its post-credits scene by a logo for a subsidiary company they’ve set up – “Ghost Corps, A Columbia Pictures Company.” Really, Sony? Filching the multi-film universe shtick is pathetic in and of itself, but to do so with Ghostbusters signifies the first of many nails in the proverbial coffin.

Under the circumstances, the crew behind this Ghostbusters had a lot to work under — salvaging what could have been Ghostbusters III, balancing the expectations of new fans with the disappointment/rampant sexism of old fans and filling the pocketbooks of studio suits, but the fact is that they weren’t forced to make this film and, in the end, it still sucks. It isn’t one of the worst films I’ve seen, but it is, hand to heart, the biggest disappointment of the year.

Rating: 1/5

I Can See Clearly Now

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Oh Alice, dear, where have you been?

I rarely go see a sequel to a film I hated, let alone one I hated on a cellular level, but Alice Through The Looking Glass is a horse of a different color in that it greatly improves on the previous film and still keeps much of the same creative team intact.

Continuing where the 2010 pseudo-remake left off, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska, Crimsom Peak), now Captain of her late father’s trading vessel, the Wonder, has returned to London at the turn of the century from a three-year voyage across China and finds her benefactor dead (and his funding in the hands of her ex-fiancee), her home and her ship under the threat of repossession and her mother less proud of her than before. All seems hopeless before the reappearance of Absolem (Alan Rickman, Galaxy Quest) — a butterfly friend of hers from Wonderland, who leads her through the proverbial looking glass back into the world of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, Black Mass), who is not at all well. To help him, she must gain the assistance of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen, The Brothers Grimsby) himself and, together with the White Queen (Anne Hathaway, Interstellar) and her subjects, face her old nemesis, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech) once again.

Like most films on the Disney release slate, I had been following Looking Glass since it was announced, but it really took my eye when the studio announced that James Bobin, director of 2011’s The Muppets was signed to direct — if anyone could save the sequel, it would be the man who, temporarily, revived Jim Henson’s brainchildren. Sure enough, he does, making the jump from puppets to CG quite nicely, even if some visual effects (i.e.: the destruction of Time’s castle) are milked for amazement a bit too much. The performances are sound, with Depp and Hathaway slipping effortlessly back into their respective roles, but the true stars of the film are Wasikowsa’s Alice and Lindsay Duncan as Helen Kingsleigh, Alice’s mother. Having found her voice in the previous film, Alice has found her place as a strong woman, completely disregarding the norms of the year she lives in, and Wasikowska plays that brilliantly (perhaps having played a contrary sort in Crimson Peak helped!), while Duncan’s Helen, no longer in mourning for her husband, seems to gradually learn from her daughter’s adventurous spirit and is now a character worth rooting for!

For what little time the late, beloved Alan Rickman has in the film, it is still nice to hear his dulcet tones one last time in a new release. Bonham Carter seems bored with the Red Queen, and, forgive me if this is uncouth, peeved to be working alongside her ex-husband again, even with him as producer? Cohen, however, brings to this his finest feature film role in nearly a decade — his protrayal of the mysterious Time parts Ludwig Von Drake and John Cleese circa Fawlty Towers. He’s worth the price of admission alone! Also, keep an eye out for small roles portrayed by Rhys Ifans (Anonymous), Richard Armitage (The Hobbit Trilogy), Andrew Scott (Spectre) and Ed Speelers (Downton Abbey). It’s a real treat to see them, even for a moment!

The script, once again written by Linda Woolverton, is much more coherent, but does seem to borrow from other fairy-tale properties — the plot point of the Hatter dying due to Alice not believing him reminded me all too much of Peter Pan (I distincly remember she even says to Hatter, ‘I’ll always believe in you.’ Hmm.). Also, the aforementioned mother-daughter relationship is a little reminiscent of Woolverton’s own Maleficent, which I loved, but pangs of fear of familiarity ran through my mind for a bit. These fears were more or less unfounded, but the ending did seem a bit similar in tone. Nevertheless, the film is greatly satisfying and empowering without being suffocating. While the film’s dismal box-office gross so far probably won’t grant it a sequel, it’s good enough where it ends here.

I was surprisingly satisfied with Alice Through The Looking Glass, leaving the theater feeling warm and fuzzy inside, and if you’re one of the many who saw the first film, please do yourself a favor and see this one, even if you’re not that interested — it’s very much worth it!

 

Rating: 3.5/5

The War of Iron Aggression

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SLIGHT SPOILERS WITHIN

Captain America: Civil War is an excellent palate-cleanser for Avengers: Age of Ultron. That being said, I have too many questions after seeing it:

 

Why is the Sandman Ex Machina (i.e.: this is your [family member]’s real killer) re-used from Spider-Man 3?

 

Why does this new Peter Parker look like Jamie Bell’s stand-in?

 

How did the Marvel brass not know that Alfre Woodard was already cast as a different character in their own series, Luke Cage?

 

What happened to most of Elizabeth Olsen’s Eastern European accent?

 

Why cast Daniel Brühl as your villain if you’re barely going to use him?

 

Was the creative team that ashamed of The Incredible Hulk that William Hurt is barely even acknowledged?

 

Why is so little of this actually compelling?

 

Anthony and Joe Russo give good direction, but the end result is befuddled. Further, the script falls like a CEO who’s lost everything. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely write very well for Captain America and his team, but they failed Iron Man miserably — one photograph of a dead college kid shouldn’t have been enough to change his politics. The character has seen death countless times over eight years, both his own and the Avengers’ fault, and this only hits him now? I hope the hiatus from now until Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 clears the minds of all involved.

 

Rating: 2/5

A (Bare) Necessity for Anyone

It’s as gorgeous as it seems!

If you had doubts of Jon Favreau’s directorial capability post-Iron Man 2, or are not a fan of Disney remaking their animated films in live-action, you can put those doubts and dislikes to eternal rest — the new adaptation of The Jungle Book is one of the finest films of this young year, and it would truly make Walt Disney and Rudyard Kipling proud. You may think you know this story already, but rest assured, there are numerous differences about, most of which shall remain unspoiled in this review.

Firstly, Favreau’s Jungle Book is one of the most gorgeous films I’ve seen so far this year. Almost entirely computer-animated, this film shines with the brightest polish I’ve seen. It begs to be experienced on the largest screen near you, preferably in 3D. Further, the 3D conversion for this film is luscious; the gap between films shot in the format versus those converted has truly been bridged — I will be buying the Blu-ray 3D edition if it is made available.

All the major actors in the picture shine — Neel Sethi is a talent unlike any other, and his portrayal of Mowgli radiates with charm and bravery. I guarantee you that the film industry hasn’t seen this good of a child actor since Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland! As for the voice actors, Bill Murray (Groundhog Day) brings the requisite warmth and brightness to Baloo, while the stern schoolmaster teachings of Bagheera are well-controlled by Ben Kingsley (Ghandi). Somewhat underutilized are Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) as Shere Khan and Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Age of Ultron) as Kaa — Elba has the glorious position of being the film’s central antagonist,and he’s marvelously controlled in a role most would be twirling their mustaches in, yet I somehow wonder if he couldn’t have twirled a little bit — sometimes, he sounds a tad disinterested. Johansson makes a great Kaa — there were times I reeled back in my seat for fear of being eaten — but is only in one scene and, unlike the 1967 original, does not have a second appearance. Still, what time she has is terrifyingly grand. However, it’s Christopher Walken (Sleepy Hollow) who truly shines as the fire-desiring King Louie. Try to imagine less Louis Prima and more Idi Amin by way of Atlantic City, and you’ll be as frightened as I was!

Finally, the screenplay, written by Justin Marks, is golden. While allusions to the previous film were inevitable (i.e.: Baloo and King Louie singing their signature songs), the additional material seen here, both from Kipling’s books and those written specifically for this film, craft a new narrative that, I daresay, blows the original Disney take out of the water, and it is equally thanks to Marks as it is to Favreau that we have this lovingly-crafted box-office success — if this is Justin Marks’ apology for having written Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, then he’s forgiven a thousandfold in my eyes!

Truly, the 1967 adaptation of The Jungle Book is not among my favorites, but within the first half hour of this year’s adaptation, I was in tears, which is something that cannot also be said of Stephen Sommers’ 1994 version (which owes more to Edgar Rice Burroughs than Rudyard Kipling). If you go to see this brilliant new take on an enduring classic, you will leave the theater cheering!

Rating: 4.5/5

Unbirth of a Nation

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…or, “Bloodlust in the Dust.”

I didn’t stay past the Intermission for the 70mm Edition of The Hateful Eight, and with good reason, too. I went primarily out of curiosity, to see what all the hubbub was regarding a 70mm presentation and if the film was a definite awards contender.

To cut to the chase, Quentin Tarantino has proven himself to be far less than a film director — he’s this generation’s far more racist D.W. Griffith. The script is soused with the N-bomb, and just because Samuel L. Jackson’s character allows it doesn’t make it any better, nor does its use make Tarantino a grittier, “realistic” auteur. At one point, Jackson’s character takes great delight in telling a Confederate general of the vulgar way he killed his son (and forced him to perform fellatio), all while the Christmas carol “Silent Night” plays on an out-of-tune piano in the background. It may seem satisfying to some, seeing a post-civil war black man enacting vengeance, but the fact is that racism is racism any way it is performed; I don’t care who got hurt first, and also, you must surely admit that playing “Silent Night” while the audience bears witness to murder and oral sex is tasteless as can be.

Tarantino doesn’t even make use of the 70mm format. By his own admission, he was inspired to shoot the film in 70mm when he saw the chariot race in Ben-Hur, but there is no sequence tantamount in majesty to that; there isn’t a single added benefit to seeing it in its roadshow release beyond the fact that you get to use the bathroom after two hours.

From a director who decries cops as murderers, I think Tarantino should take a good look in the mirror, because with a film like this under his belt, he is bad as the men and women he vilifies. Skip it.

Purpose of Evasion

In theory, selling one’s soul does have many benefits — getting all that you desire and then some in exchange for one small thing. The key words in that sentence are and then somebecause once you have it, can you really be content with what you have, or do you have to go deeper? Questions of a similar ilk are asked in Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace)’s stellar new film, Black Mass, about the ill-advised and ill-fated deal struck between the FBI and Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.

Too often with biographical pictures, you remember that you are watching A-listers playing real people. That being said, in a way that few other actors have before, Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) excels in his portrayal of Whitey Bulger, with all the innocence of a playground bully and all the terror that Satan himself could ever possess. It doesn’t take long to forget that he is an actor — he becomes the scariest bastard you’ve ever seen. If he does not win Best Actor next year, then the Oscars intelligentsia will have royally screwed the pooch.

Joel Edgerton (The Gift)’s portrayal of FBI Agent John Connolly is one of a man broken by his own allegiances, one of a childhood friendship with Bulger, the other to the bureau and, by association, the United States of America. Choosing the former drags himself deeper into willful ignorance and pathetic nihilism, leading him to his ultimate fate. Edgerton pulls off this role with aplomb, and wisely makes no attempt to appeal this character to the audience.

Going from Masterpiece to Massachusetts is Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) as Senator Bill Bulger, brother of Whitey and as complicit as Connolly. Cumberbatch masters the Boston accent and, in raising his voice ever so slightly, also convinces the audience of being someone other than himself — it’s little things like those that can make the performance all the more convincing.

Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris), making his entrance in the third act of the film as Fred Wyshak, a federal agent who, unlike Connolly’s entourage, cannot be bought and seeks to bring Bulger down. In the midst of all the corruption taking place, his appearance is a breath of fresh air to a viewer trapped in putrid darkness. That being said, the light in said darkness is David Harbour (Quantum of Solace)’s portrayal of Agent John Morris, a confidante of Connolly’s who, under pressure of a guilty conscience, exposes his superior and Bulger’s shady deal and everything in between.

The creative crew behind the film does a fine job, particularly cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (The Grey), with gritty close-ups populating the film and almost experimental focuses, but the real lynchpin of the film is, in point of fact, its score, created by DJ-turned-film composer Tom Holkenborg (Mad Max: Fury Road). Muted yet powerful, it enhances the story and actions onscreen, in the same way that his instructor, Hans Zimmer, did with his score for Frost/Nixon.

Black Mass is a brilliant showcase of the horror in ignorance and the shame of dealing with the devil, even if he is your boyhood chum. This movie comes highly recommended, for the aforementioned reasons and education come next year’s Academy Awards.

Rating: 5/5

Shining at the End of Every Day

(Change of plans, dear reader: I will be swapping back and forth between old flicks and new releases every other Sunday; in this way, I hope to keep up-to-date, both with this blog and my personal life. Feel free to hassle me if I fall behind.)

Luscious, isn’t it?

Since his sabbatical from Pixar Animation Studios after Ratatouille, director Brad Bird made his debut into live-action filmmaking with 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. While a runaway success, I feel the film was a total letdown in its script and performances, which is a crying shame, as it featured luscious cinematography, daring IMAX scenes and stunts that flowed like mercury. I really wanted to like it — twice. Now, like a shining light comes Tomorrowland, the brainchild of Bird, Damon Lindelof (Star Trek Into Darkness, Prometheus) and newcomer Jeff Jensen. Of course, the film owes its existence to the mind and talent of Walt Disney and the Disneyland Imagineers, past and present, but this film is far from brand plugging — rather, it both tells a story that inspires and serves as a guide for the human race of today.

In the film, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson, The Longest Ride) is an optimist in a time — as of this writing, that time is now — when everyone has just about lost hope in their own future, even her own father (Tim McGraw, The Blind Side), who is about to lose his job at Cape Canaveral. However, everything changes when she receives a pin that transports her into another world — a great, big, beautiful tomorrow, if you will. Hindered by the pin’s limitations, Casey seeks the help of Frank Walker (George Clooney, Ocean’s Eleven), a jaded inventor and gains the assistance of Athena (Raffey Cassidy, Snow White and the Huntsman), a little girl who is not all that she appears, to find the world that she yearns to be a part of, and save it from a sinister force.

To get my only two gripes out of the way, there is, to my eyes, so much product placement — I’m not talking about Disney products, I mean outside sponsors — General Motors, Nabisco, The Coca-Cola Company — I’ve never felt my attention become stammered by product placement until now, but since they’re spaced few and far between, it doesn’t matter too much. Secondly, the script plays out smoothly for the most part, but toward the end, loses definition in its detail. Perhaps this is a casualty of the cutting room floor, or maybe the words sounded better on paper, but the movie still succeeds in its narrative, and that’s really what matters.

Now to all who worry about when I said that the film “serves as a guide,” be not afraid — this is not a message movie; you will find no WALL•E-style, studio-mandated preaching here. If anything, I see the film as a kick in the federal government’s pants to get America back into the space race, as well we should — at the least, more tax dollars need to go to NASA, and not the pockets of money-born Senators. This film and Interstellar should be given back-to-back screenings outside the U.S. Capitol.

On its technical merits, Tomorrowland shines, both in regular theaters showing it in the 2.20:1 aspect ratio (giving the feeling of a 70mm epic of old) and its Digital IMAX version, presented in 1.90:1, which fills the screen. The visual effects are luscious and grand, which  begs the question as to why the film wasn’t shot/converted to 3D. I feel it would have fit like a glove, but given the amount of night shots in the film, I’m also glad it wasn’t, lest it resemble the 3D presentation of last year’s Maleficent.

As for the cast, Clooney fans may be shocked to know that though he carries top billing, he’s not in the film as much as Robertson is, and that’s exactly how it should be — this is a story for the impressionable youth of today. On that note, it’s great to see Robertson carry the story in a sci-fi film that doesn’t require her to wear salacious clothing or wield a sword or gun. Some would call it boring, and under lesser talent, it could be that, but with Brad Bird at the helm, it works, and Robertson brings the requisite kindness and earnestness to her performance. Remember, she’s a high schooler who wants to build a better world, accent on “build.” As Athena, Raffey Cassidy just about steals the show, and holds her own among Clooney, Robertson and all others in the film. Her innocence and bright, girlish glee give the story the feeling of a kids’ adventure film in the vein of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and more recently, Super 8. She’s surely got a bright future ahead of her, I just hope she doesn’t burn out like so many other young actresses. You may be wondering if this film has a definitive villain, so I’m going to tell you this: yes, it does, and go see the film to find out.

I highly recommend Tomorrowland — it’s not perfect, but it has a heart of gold and never stops loving the future that isn’t guaranteed, but is absolutely possible. Go see it in any way you can, but any giant screen is your best choice!

Rating: 4/5

Buy Tickets at Fandango

Pre-Order on Amazon

No Skies of Gray on that Great White Way

SIDENOTE: This is (hopefully) to be the first in a weekly series through July, reviewing classic films that often get brushed under the rug. Enjoy and encourage!

A cinematic breakfast snack of some kind!

A triumph! A cinematic breakfast snack of some kind!

As renowned actor Ciarán Hinds said in a January 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal, movie heaven is “anything with James Stewart or Cary Grant, plus regular doses of Singin’ in the Rain.” What that wonderful man seemed to forget was most of the MGM musicals, even before Arthur Freed’s arrival at the studio, are enjoyable romps that, at the very least, come close to the glory that is Singin’. The film in question for this week’s lesson is one that, in this reviewer’s eyes, equals it — Broadway Melody of 1940. The final completed film in MGM’s Broadway Melody series, 1940 strikes a tone that seamlessly blends Leopold Stokowski, Glenn Miller and Spike Jones in a bright and joyous trip down Melody Lane.

Two down-on-their-luck dancers, Johnny Brett (Fred Astaire, Holiday Inn) and King Shaw (George Murphy, later a California Senator) are both dancing for peanuts and actively avoiding the long arm of the IRS when talent agent Bob Casey (Frank Morgan, The Wizard of Oz) asks to meet with Brett, the better of the two dancers. However, Casey doesn’t know Brett from another, and when the latter mistakes the former for a tax collector, Brett introduces himself as King Shaw. In the days to follow, the actual Shaw accelerates to the top of the dancing world, gaining ground with Clare Bennett (Eleanor Powell, TV’s The Faith of Our Children), a rising dancer whom Brett is quite sweet on, causing a rivalry that builds as many bridges as it burns.

Truly, 1940 is the first of my viewing any of the Broadway Melody series, but unlike The Big Broadcast, Paramount’s competing series of yearly musical revues, MGM’s is focused on telling a story first, whereas Paramount seemed to build up the ensemble and songs first, then tack on a story to link them all together. The difference between them is akin to Yeston & Kopit’s Phantom and Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera — one expounds, the other extends. That being said, 1940 is cute, fluffy stuff that makes one laugh and cheer at all the right moments.

Astaire is in fine form, as usual, in dancing up a storm and, on occasion, singing sweet tra-la-las between taps. He also brings a fair amount of pathos in playing Johnny Brett, clearly jealous of his partner’s rise to fame and quite angry at himself for giving Shaw’s name to Casey. Powell, purportedly one of the few dancers who could out-dance Astaire (causing him to fear her), performs on equal footing with her leading man, and they share some impressive routines together, from a tap number in a café to a luscious Harlequin masquerade waltz toward the end of the second act. As for Murphy, the only thing I had seen or heard of his work was a bitingly funny song named after him, composed and sung by Tom Lehrer, so while it feels wrong to criticize him, I will say this: he is no Astaire or Powell, but anyone who can keep up with either of them in a number is respectable in that regard. Morgan gets some of the best gags I have seen in a musical revue, usually having to do with the absurd talent he attempts to bring in for his shows, the best of which is a thoroughly mutilated take on Il Bacio akin to a performance by Spike Jones and his City Slickers — I want more.

After Broadway Melody of 1940, a planned Technicolor installment was planned for 1943 (bizarrely enough, 1940 was designed to shoot in color, but was filmed in black and white). One tap number was filmed with Powell, but the film was cancelled not long after, and the footage was reworked into another ensemble picture, Thousands Cheer. A shame it never came to fruition, and an even bigger shame that musical revues are shunned from Hollywood today, barring jukebox musicals filled exclusively with creations of the last fifty years (i.e.: Rock of Ages, Mamma Mia!, Across the Universe), because if they would only go back a few decades further, they would find a myriad of brilliant compositions in film and music that could only help the film and music industries as a whole. Why settle for “Wrecking Ball” when you could “Begin the Beguine?”

Rating: 4.5/5

Buy the DVD from Warner Archive

Sinemascope: Why Certain Aspect Ratios Need To Die

Looks familiar, don’t it? Well, TIME TO DIE!!!

In layman’s terms, a film’s “aspect ratio” refers to how wide and/or tall the film appears. The aspect ratio that measures 2.35:1 or 2.40:1 is colloquially known as the Cinemascope aspect ratio — a way of framing the film so that the screen appears wider (remember, appears). This technique was pioneered in 1953 by Twentieth Century-Fox with biblical epic The Robe and medieval fantasy Prince Valiant, as a method of getting moviegoers away from their TV sets to experience something that could only be seen on the silver screen. The problem with this luscious backstory is twofold:

1. 35mm film, on which Cinemascope originated (later 70mm), has a native aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (i.e.: old TVs), and even though the Cinemascope ratio has grown slightly since The Robe, by cropping the film to such a degree that it does, you lose not only valuable space, but also resolution. This principle still applies in the digital age, where cameras shoot a native ratio of 1.78:1 — the same size as a widescreen TV, which brings us to…

2. The Cinemascope Aspect Ratio (hereon referred to as CAR) looks awful on a widescreen TV — two black bars on the top and bottom of the image says to the viewer that you don’t care about the home viewing experience, and that if they wanted to see your movie, they should have done so in the theater. Speaking of…

3. The CAR looks even worse on an IMAX screen. Digital IMAX theaters show at an AR of 1.90:1, close to 1.78:1, and if you cram a CAR film on that screen, it doesn’t make use of the format one bit, particularly if the film is in 2D only — rather, it looks like a mere blowup of the standard version.

On top of this, all but one of the theaters in my area widen their screen to fit the CAR; the rest of them shrink it, proving the CAR’s obsolescence. What I should like to see happen in the land of smoke and mirrors is, to drive my point home, more blockbuster and mainstream studio films shot in anything other than the CAR. Sure, there have been a few — Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Marvel’s The Avengers and upcoming films Jurassic World and Ant-Man, but this is simply not enough. Other aspect ratios should not be reserved for comedies (romantic or otherwise), dramas and Oscar bait. Cinemascope was designed to pull audiences away from their televisions, and I fear that keeping it around is only going to push them back.

I Am Satisfied With This Film

And the best part is that he's not cloying or annoying in any way!

And the best part is that he’s not cloying or annoying in any way!

This review is Spoiler-Free, proud-to-be!

Up until Big Hero 6, I hated all animated films made post-2010 (i.e.: Tangled, Toy Story 3). Given how Pixar has turned to milking toy money from their “art” (see also: Cars 2Brave, Monsters University, and so on), Walt Disney Animation Studios hadn’t fared much better in my eyes — Wreck-It Ralph was nothing more than a commercial for both GameStop and Nestle, and Frozen pushed the agendas of both radical feminism and toy moneymaking over a story for everyone.

My hopes for Big Hero 6 were beneath contempt when I went to see it today, and for the first act, my hopes were met. It’s not unlike Oz, The Great and Powerful, where the first act is stagnant with exposition, full of needless wordplay and references to preexisting material, and there is little care given by the creative team to like the characters you see — at least for an adult; as children, it’s a given that you love everything you see in a theater. That being said, like Oz, the film kicks into high gear in the second act, when the motives of the characters change under the presence of a threat and a chance to stop it, and it only gets better from there — if you wanted a Disney movie with the panache and wit of Wreck-It Ralph, but also the heart and soul of Meet the Robinsons, this is the one.

I must also give kudos to the film’s directors for not casting celebrities as these delightful characters — too many animated films today are riddled with big names (i.e.: Epic, The Book of Life) just to get cash from adults who would otherwise not see the film. The real star of this cast is T.J. Miller, whom I found insufferable as a token comic relief character in Transformers: Age of Extinction (and, in said film, was glad to see him get bumped off in the first half hour!), but is hilarious without chewing the scenery and unpredictably warm in this film! The weak link in the cast is not so much about performance as it is about sound — relative newcomer Ryan Potter voices Hiro, the lead in our story, and while I believe his character’s convictions and motive, I don’t believe that he sounds like a fourteen-year old kid. His voice is just too deep, and I wish that someone with a more youthful voice could have been chosen instead… or, at the very least, some computer alterations would have helped.

Big Hero 6 is not the best animated film of the year; that award belongs to The LEGO Movie. That being said, this is not a film to be missed, particularly in 3D, and it represents a return to form for Walt Disney Animation Studios. After all, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!