Tag Archive for 'Fantasy'

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (6/29/15) British Airways: LAX -> LHR (2014 ***) Directed by Shawn Levy, starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais and Rebel Wilson as Tilly. When The Museum of Natural History’s animation-bestowing Tablet of Ahkmenrah goes on the fritz, Larry Daley and the “we come to life at night” gang travel to London to search for a fix. There is an element of pure fun to the Night at the Museum movies that is undeniable. They don’t ask their audiences for much, other than to sit back and enjoy the ride. This one offers a few nice touches, like (A) a caveman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ben Stiller and… (B) Rebel Wilson, who — in my humble opinion — didn’t get nearly enough screen-time. This film was released a few months after Robin Williams’ suicide, and so it was impossible to watch his scenes without that in mind. He will be sorely missed.

Finian’s Rainbow

Finian’s Rainbow (6/28/15) TCM (1968 ***1/2) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the musical by E.Y. Harburg, Fred Saidy and Burton Lane, starring Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele and Don Francks. When Finian McLonergan steals a leprechaun’s pot of gold and travels to America’s deep South, it doesn’t take long before the rightful owner shows up and demands its return. While it certainly doesn’t seem that long ago, I’d previously watched and reviewed this film back on 3/1/06, and described how it became one of my sentimental favorites. While it’s not a perfect movie, I’m so glad to report that its place in my heart hasn’t changed much since childhood. I haven’t much to add other than this time around I noticed some similarities to The Muppet Movie (1979). Specifically, compare the Muppets’ “Moving Right Along” to Keenan Wynn in “The Begat.” In addition to that, I also began to wonder if Finian‘s original musical was influenced to any degree by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Curiously, googling the obvious search terms shed absolutely no light on the matter. (Favorite)

Game of Thrones, Season 5

Game of Thrones, Season 5 (6/15/15) HBO (2015 ***1/4) Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, based on the books by George R. R. Martin, starring Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams and many others. 10 episodes, originally aired 4/12/15 – 6/14/15. Will Westeros’ favorite dwarf ever make his way across the sea to meet with the mother of dragons? The fifth season finally answers that thorny question! While the show remains enjoyable, its scope makes it hard to adequately advance all 10,000 storylines within the constraints of a mere ten one-hour episodes. And I personally didn’t find the storylines this season all that interesting or entertaining. In fact, the storyline featuring Arya and Tywin, who remain my favorite characters, was especially lacking and often frustrating. Now don’t worry, because I won’t reveal anything particularly spoiler-ish, but the “shocking” season finale had the internet positively abuzz! Due to problem with our home DVR I had to avoid Facebook for 24 hours to avoid spoilers.

Once Upon a Time, Season 4

Once Upon a Time, Season 4 (5/16/15) ABC (2014-15 ***) Series created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, starring Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlyle. 23 episodes, originally aired 9/28/14 – 5/10/15. Emma Swan teams up with Frozen‘s Elsa and Anna to fight the evil Snow Queen, then Gold teams up with Ursula, Cruella De Vil and Maleficent to change the fundamental narrative, allowing villains to have happy endings. I don’t believe I’ve commented on (or upon) it in reviews of previous seasons, but there is definitely something elegant about breaking 23 episodes into half-seasons, each with its own self-contained storyline. The charm of the show when it began was how the writers would integrate all the different Disney universe characters and storylines into a weekly fantasy drama format. This time around, they chose a far more recent “classic,” tapping into the characters from Frozen. While it made things a bit tricky continuity-wise, especially considering there is a theatrical sequel in the works, I applaud the inclusion of these characters with relatively few alterations for live-action consumption. As for the second half of the season, its villainess-trio gimmick never really paid off. In particular, the inclusion of a magically-powered Cruella De Vil seemed like an awkward stretch.

Doctor Dolittle

Doctor Dolittle (2/26/15) Encore (1967 ***1/4) Directed by Richard Fleischer, based on the books by Hugh Lofting, music by Leslie Bricusse and Lionel Newman, starring Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley, Richard Attenborough and Geoffrey Holder. A British veterinarian with the ability to “talk to the animals” and less-than-polished people skills goes on a voyage to find the Great Pink Sea Snail, as one does. I reluctantly acknowledge that, by objective standards of cinematic quality, Doctor Dolittle is not a great film. I say this even though it was nominated for Best Picture. However, it remains a sentimental favorite of mine, and watching it again after all these years conjured forth fond memories of childhood. I particularly loved the music and fetched by wife to listen with me to “Fabulous Places,” a song I’ve come to associate with her and her love of travel. (I was delighted that as the characters sang that she was able to say “been there” time and again.) Another personal tidbit: As a child, I had the LP of the film’s songs as performed by… Alvin and the Chipmunks. Some of the songs from that album can be found on Youtube.com, and I highly recommend checking them out.

Fairy Tale: A True Story

Fairy Tale: A True Story (2/6/15) Movieplex (1997 ***1/2) Directed by Charles Sturridge, starring Florence hoath, Phoebe Nicholls, Harvey Keitel and Peter O’Toole. At the height of the first World War, two young English girls take photographs of fairies, photos convincing enough to intrigue Harry Houdini and make Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a true believer. I’ve been vaguely aware of the famous “Cottingley Fairies” for some time. According to Wikipedia, the cousins admitted their photographic trickery sometime in the early 1980s. Though I knew that going in, I still enjoyed the film’s somewhat fictionalized take on the events, and I will happily give it credit for playing my emotional harp with a deft hand. One thing I am curious about: Just how prevalent were/are fairy sightings amongst young children? My own mother, who passed away less than a year ago, claimed to have seen fairies herself as a young girl.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (1/4/15) HBO (2013 ***) Directed by Peter Jackson, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkein, starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly and Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug. Ring-of-invisibility-bearer Bilbo Baggins tests out his burglary skills in the treasure-cluttered lair of a dragon named Smaug. I’m sad to confess that though this movie was released a year ago and has been on video for some time, I had very little interest in watching this, the second of three installments of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. I’m far from alone in having objections to the elongated 9-hour adaptation of a relatively short book. Those objections were absolutely warranted, and as I watched The Desolation of Smaug, it truly did feel dragged out throughout. Minor sub-plots and action set-pieces were obviously expanded for no reason other than time-filling. My principle reason in watching this film at all was at the request of my wife, who has an interest in seeing the final film in the theater. I confess that I have little personal desire to do so.

Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick

Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick (10/10/14) Comics (2014 **1/2) Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky. Originally published in serial form as Sex Criminals #1-5. Susie’s adolescent sexual awakening comes with a startling revelation: Every time she has an orgasm, time stops. Later, as an adult, she has sex with a Jon, who shares her odd superpower… and suggests they collaborate on a bank robbery. This book was heavily promoted on Amazon.com, and reading the description it seemed like a pretty awesome premise. I only wish it had been exploited in a stronger, more engaging way. The book began with an “on-screen” narration by Suzie, in which she appeared as a ghostly adult version as her younger self discovered masturbation and her sexual super-power. Unfortunately, the device (on-screen narrator), interesting at first, was overused and wore out its welcome. I also must admit that Zdarsky’s artwork, though proficient, left me flat. I also took a dislike to his effects for “The Quiet,” which were used to indicate that time had stopped. I can honestly say I wish I’d liked the book more, but there was little in the way the book ended (Susie & Jon’s antagonists held little interest) that made me want to read a second volume.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (10/2/14) HBO (2013 ***) Directed by Ben Stiller, based on the short story by James Thurber, starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott and Shirley MacLaine. A daydreaming negative assets manager at Life Magazine is forced to step way outside his comfort zone to track down a photograph for the magazine’s final issue. I watched and reviewed the 1947 Danny Kaye version about a year and a half ago, and while I gave it 3.5 stars, it was more because of Kaye’s performance than for the film’s story. Because the stories of the two film versions are so radically different, it would be a waste of time to compare them. Much of what stood out for me about the new Ben Stiller version was how beautiful the cinematography was. It was certainly a well-crafted film. I’ll even forgive the film’s blatant product placement, which included eHarmony, Papa Johns Pizza, Cinnabon and, of course, Life Magazine. Though there was a great deal to like about the film, which was, as I wrote, quite beautiful, I wish it had contained more surprising twists: My wife and I predicted an unusually high number of plot elements (including the film’s ending) well in advance of them coming to pass. As the poet once wrote: “We saw them coming from waaaay down the road.”

Adventure Time, Season 1

Adventure Time, Season 1 (9/21/14) Netflix (2010 ***1/2) Created by Pendleton Ward, featuring the voices of Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Hynden Walch and Tom Kenny. 26 episodes, originally aired 4/5/10 – 9/27/10. A human boy named Finn sets out each day on a surreal adventure with his best friend Jake, a dog with magical powers of elasticity. My impetus for watching this animated kids’ show was an article I read several months (possibly a year) ago in Entertainment Weekly describing various TV shows available on Netflix and other Video On Demand services worthy of binge-viewing. I was intrigued by its description of Adventure Time as evolving and maturing over time, and I wrote a mental note and pinned it to a cork board in the back of my brain. There definitely is something about the show that is addictive, made even more so by the fact that the episodes are about 11 minutes each in length, which made them bite-sized enough to watch on my iPhone in-between other activities. It also meant the total viewing time for the first season was under five hours. The key to the show working was the relatability of the main character Finn, and to a lesser degree his canine pal Jake. Finn feels like a real teenager, and seems driven by normal teenage problems and priorities. Given that solid foundation, the show’s setting in a surreal, vaguely post-apocalyptic world was all the more interesting. As of this writing, Adventure Time is currently in its fifth season, and I look forward to watching more. However, I’m saddened to see that it only appears the first two seasons are available on Netflix. Boooo!! Finally, two warnings to the uninitiated: (1) The show is quite addictive, but it takes a few episodes for that addiction to build; (2) The opening and closing theme songs are category five ear worms that will lodge themselves into your brain and only release their grip in the event of emotional trauma or singing The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” aloud.