Monthly Archives: February 2014

Aladdin

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Who Bought It?: MEGAN!

Why?: DISNEY! But also, I found a copy of the 2004 2-disc special edition in perfect condition for $5 in a gas station bargain bin. If that’s not a miracle I don’t know what is.

Non-Buyer’s Response: Do you believe in miracles!? YES!!! (Still bitter about Olympic hockey).

Megan’s Thoughts: I’m a Disney fan and that’s never going to change. I love the heart-warming stories, the humour, the song-and-dance. It’s nostalgic, it’s simple, it’s lovely. That being said, it’s a WHOLE NEW WORLD (all the pun intended) to re-watch these classics from my childhood now that I’ve graduated with a degree in Screenwriting. Max and I found ourselves pointing out each moment in the story that lined up with Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” structure (which although I despise the “greater-than-thou” tone of the book, I can’t deny is the best book I’ve read on screenwriting.)

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Oh, hello Cat. Here, let me save you.

Jasmine is one of the more badass Disney Princesses, so the feminist in me didn’t have too hard a time stomaching the way she’s treated as a piece of currency for awhile and has literally no waist. Aladdin (voiced by DJ Tanner’s high school boyfriend) even used the word “smart” to describe her before going on about all the physical attributes that made her the love of his life.

Aladdin in all his real-life glory.

Aladdin in all his real-life glory.

Also, I’m proud to say I am no longer terrified of Snake Jafar. What up, mid-20s! We conquered that fear!

This is a big ‘ol keep for me.

Max’s Thoughts: Speaking of fear conquest: I used to be terrified of anything and everything pertaining to the Cave of Wonders. First of all, it speaks with a voice like James Earl Jones crossed with a thunderclap. Second, there’s the lion-head entrance that can just…like…close its mouth and disappear once you’ve gone in. And third, the floor is literally lava.

Turns out my favourite childhood imagination game coming true is a total nightmare.

Well apparently I’m over that. This has been a big year for me. I made it past the thunderstorm in Jurassic Park for the first time in my life and I didn’t get scared of the Cave of Wonders (or Snake Jafar).

Aladdin is like every Disney movie in that there’s a Princess with a miniscule waist, a would-be Prince who has to go through some journey to become a Prince, and several sentient animals. Oh and there’s also the obligatory super-racist character art.

Ehhhhhhh!

The thing that jumped out to me this time was that while the world and the characters around them were distinctly Arab (or distinctly Arab caricatures), Jasmine and Aladdin are very much white people with some extra shading. They are the only characters who speak without accents and the only ones without comically big noses, comically big turbans or comically big scimitars. Also as soon as Genie is freed, he sprouts an outfit that all but confirms he’s going to Disneyland. Thereby teaching a generation of children that when one vacations, one does so at Disneyland.

But let’s go back to fear for a second. Both Megan and I apparently had some intense childhood fears from this movie. Watching it as an adult I can see why. The entire movie feels like a 90-minute hallucination and a few sequences are downright nightmarish. Even a scene like “A Friend Like Me“, one that’s clearly supposed to play on the lighter side is kind of terrifying in a way similar to an unexpected acid trip.

Look, we’re keeping this movie. Disney is so stingy with DVD/Blu-Ray releases, I have my doubts that we’d ever find another OG copy of Aladdin if we chucked this one out. Plus, there’s a few easter eggs for discerning eyes looking for visual references to past and future Disney movies (Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and background art that would appear years later in Mulan). You just can’t hate on classic Disney, no matter how racist it is or paternalistic it is toward its many princesses.

Verdict: Keep!

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Admission

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Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: Uncontrollable lady-boner for Tina Fey.

Non-Buyer’s Response: “The only reason this doesn’t surprise me is that you recommended Date Night.” – Max

Follow-up Buyer’s Response: Date Night is an EXCELLENT movie and I can’t wait to watch it again when we get to the D’s.

Follow-Up to the Follow-Up: Yeah. Can’t wait to get to the D’s. That’s what she said.

Megan’s Thoughts: Admission is a cute movie. It’s got a cute premise and a cute romance and a cute cast and it’s just so pinch-your-cheeks-until-they-ache cute. Which is nice, if you’re into that sort of thing. Tina Fey rolls out the awkward comedy and doesn’t disappoint as Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan and I was pleasantly surprised to see Lily Tomlin as Portia’s off-the-grid mother, Suzanne. Paul Rudd rounds out my favourites of the flick as the loveably goofy (does he play anything else?) John. Watching Rudd and Fey play off each other was a satisfying moment for comedy.

But is it just me, or is it always a mistake if Tina Fey doesn’t write the material she performs? There’s that “Fey Flavour” I crave, as a huge fan of both Mean Girls and 30 Rock. I want that so-mean-but-doesn’t-make-sense insult, I want pop culture references, I want gay jokes that don’t make me cringe. That’s my fault for wanting something that Admission never promised to deliver.

And to be frank, I wish Portia had been written with more balls. Throughout the movie she’s either chasing after a man or a child and when she’s not actively chasing, everyone interrupts her and she can’t get a word in edgewise. I yelled at the TV a few times to try and help the poor lady, to no avail.

I do think it’s worth one watch, but I’m not gonna go back for seconds. So let’s put this DVD out of its misery and give it a toss. (I’m so sorry Tina, please still love me?)

Max’s Thoughts: Megan covered most of it. As strong as Tina Fey is as a real person and as strong as her characters tend to be, Portia is everything that feminists hate in female leads. She has a great, secure job and is very intelligent, but despite that, she clearly needs both a man and a child to validate her sense of self. I don’t like it.

The raw charisma of Rudd and Fey carries 95% of this movie, and the few scenes that neither of them are in just don’t work. The only scenes I really laughed out lout at were scenes that featured both leads. Fey and Rudd are undeniably talented and great, and The Princess Bride’s Wallace Shawn was an inconceivable breath of fresh air, but that’s not enough to make this a good movie.

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He’s going to Yale? Inconceivable!

There’s a few twists beyond the normal rom-com (all of which Megan called about 10 minutes in) that made it not terrible, but beyond the redeeming qualities of Fey, Rudd, Tomlin and Shawn, there is not a ton worth keeping. Thus LET’S TOSS IT MEGAN!

Verdict: TOSS IT! 

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Across the Universe

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Who Bought It?: It’s always Megan. Every damn time.

Why?: Honestly can’t remember if it was given to me or if I bought it.

Non-Buyer’s Response: I never would have bought this movie. Every damn time.

Megan’s Thoughts: I remember how excited I was to see this movie when it came out in theatres. My musical theatre friends and I spent months watching the same trailer over and over. We researched Julie Taymor (who is an inspiring power-house of a woman). We saw this movie the weekend it opened.

I was disappointed when I saw it in theatres, but was also impressed by the production values of the film (I suppose I should have been, with the estimated $73 million budget.) This time around, my disappointment was harder to ignore.

Though I think the Beatles lend themselves well to a musical, it was as if Taymor played a game of “how many songs can I shove into 133 minutes. The answer is: a shit ton and not all of them belong, even if they were probably super fun to sing and stuff.

Having just seen Absolute Beginners, I found myself having similar thoughts of confusion and boredom during the movie. Though I suppose it’s a movie about Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), we sidestep into at least five other characters lives that take us down distracting detours from what, at its heart, is a love story?

I have so many questions, and so few answers, and now they’re all buzzing in my head and I will probably lay awake for an hour tonight just trying to understand why, when Jude was kicked out of the states, he was able to get back in on a whim. Or why Prudence was even a character. Or why Max (the character) was all bugged out with his PTSD and then suddenly was ok and driving a cab again and isn’t life grand? Or why we got on a bus with Bono.

Because I suppose what got to me the most, what I couldn’t get behind, was that I think Taymor was trying to make me believe that “all I need is love.” And I’m not buying it. I feel like if I was more familiar with The Beatles, if I was truly a fan instead of a casual observer of their work, maybe I’d feel differently. But that’s why this is a toss.

Though it’s almost worth keeping for Joe Cocker.

Max’s Thoughts: Megan mentioned Julie Taymor. Powerhouse or not, she’s the director responsible for the beautifully boring Frida and the stunningly gory (but somehow still boring) Shakespeare adaptation Titus. After seeing those two flicks and now seeing Across the Universe I have concluded that Taymor’s aesthetic is much better suited for the stage, where she produced the brilliant musical The Lion King. Megan covered most of what’s wrong here: there’s simply way too much going on. At around the 35 minute mark we were introduced to a new character (whose name I still don’t know, but he was the black guitar player) and I said “Who the fuck is this guy? I don’t even know the British dude’s name yet!”

Maybe this is what watching Game of Thrones is like for people who haven’t read the books.

Across the Universe is the classic story of a boy and a girl from two different worlds. Boy meets girl, boy licenses a bunch of Beatles’ songs and uses them to woo her, girl loses brother to The War, boy loses girl, girl gets arrested for protesting The War and everyone is dancing, terrifying puppets.

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Seriously you guys. Nightmares. All the nightmares.

Seriously, how much did this movie cost? Between licensing the music and building about a thousand motorized sets and then the costumes, there was clearly not enough money left in the budget for actors. Eddie Izzard (above, being terrifying as Mr. Kite) is arguably the film’s biggest and best star, and it shows.

Taymor doesn’t handle her inexperienced actors well (this was Sturgess’ first major role and it remains Joe Anderson’s only major role). So much attention is paid to blocking and choreography, it comes at the expense of the actors’ ability to perform. Amidst all the dancing and clockwork-like human movement, there is little true emotion or humanity. Everyone’s going through steps. Everything’s a dance. Everyone plays their part in that machine nicely, but it leaves the movie feeling like there’s a vacuum where its humanity should be.

Bonus brownie points for a few great moments. I’d never realized how much I needed to see Joe Cocker as a Cuban (Puerto Rican? Italian? Dominican?) pimp until now. Taymor also committed to film two of the most hilariously inaccurate sports scenes I’ve ever come across, one of football and another of bowling.

But my favourite moment from a movie I want to toss is at the end, when Jude returns to America to the tune of “Hey Jude” (yeah, this flick doesn’t use the songs in a particularly creative way), Max first sees him while singing the screamy “HEY JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE WAAAOWWW!” part of the song. That was awesome. But still. We’re going introduce this one to my silver hammer.

Verdict: 

It’s just really tarnished.

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Accepted

Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: The humour really spoke to me when I was 17.

Non-Buyer’s Response: No criticism. I saw this movie a while ago and liked it.

Megan’s Thoughts: Baby Jonah Hill! Justin Long! I don’t know why I have such an obsession with Justin Long. Actually, I do. But it doesn’t make any sense. My reasons are: he was in Galaxy Quest (which I’m gonna go ahead and say, spoiler alert, we’re keeping that one when we get to the “G”s) and he dated Drew Barrymore for awhile, and she is in my top five favourite actresses of all time.

But the reason I’m pondering my love for Justin Long and using exclamation points when I talk about Jonah Hill is because I don’t really know what else to say about this movie. I had a couple laughs, it was a good enough time, but considering how many movies I love that I don’t have in my collection and how many movies I haven’t seen that have made their way in, I’m surprised that this one, of all movies, landed on my shelf.

Thumbs up for some giggles and an all around well-cast flick but I need the shelf space and probably don’t ever need to see this movie again. It did make me feel pretty good about all that time I spent struggling to get into University though. But I say toss it.

Max’s Thoughts: Who doesn’t want to run shit? Everyone wants to. I think that’s why this admittedly mediocre movie speaks to me. Justin Long’s Bartleby doesn’t get in to college so he just says “whatever” and starts his own college. It’s goofy, and watching Jonah Hill in this movie from 8 years ago is a nice reminder that he was always great, even before he was “two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill.” It’s Hill who carries most of the big laughs for me in Accepted, but that’s a fact that I believe speaks volumes to Justin Long’s abilities as a straight man.

There’s only one role in Long’s career that I can remember him playing for overt laughs. When he was gay pornstar Brandon St. Randy in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, he stole the few scenes he was in. Other than that, he’s been the straight man in everything from those Mac vs. PC commercials to Waiting. And he’s great at it. Other than the timeless comedic duo of chubby-goofy-guy (Hill) and attractive-goofy-guy (Long), there’s not much great about this movie. Despite that, I want to keep it, because of how good Long and Hill are together.  Oh, and also because Lewis Black is given like…20 minutes of screen time to yell and spit.

Verdict: Keep it.

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