Posts Tagged ‘Walt Disney Company’

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2015

Posted 27 Feb 2016 — by Ezra Stead
Category Animation, Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

This is always a difficult thing to do, and this year, just like every other year, I left out plenty of movies I really like, even from the Honorable Mentions. This is a particularly interesting year in that I actually really like all the Oscar nominees that I’ve seen, which is relatively rare for me. Anyway, of the 107 new movies from 2015 I managed to see in time for this list, these are my (completely subjective) favorites.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – it’s always a treat to have really high expectations for a movie and then to see them exceeded. George Miller’s return to the wasteland of his career-defining trilogy is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The first time I saw it, though, Fury Road appeared to only meet my expectations, a rare enough feat in its own right. It was the second viewing that made me realize that this was not only my favorite movie of the year, but also my favorite Mad Max movie, and quite possibly my favorite movie of the last two decades. Then I saw it three more times in the space of about two weeks, and I noticed something new about it every single time. The rich, detailed world-building not only rewards but demands multiple viewings, and it’s a testament to Miller’s craft that the movie doesn’t rely on a lot of expository dialogue and other hand-holding devices to make sure the audience can keep up. Max Rockatansky’s world of “fire and blood” has its own language that is every bit as evocative and original as its eye-popping visuals: War Boys, Blood Bags, Bullet Farms, etc. This is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material (The Road Warrior being the original Mad Max movie it most closely resembles). What seems to be overlooked in all the talk about its incredible visual effects and stuntwork (which makes a better case than any movie I can think of for an Oscar category devoted to the people who risk their lives to make movies awesome) is the quality of the writing and performances. Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult are especially great, but there is also a surprising tenderness and depth to Tom Hardy’s performance as Max, a man of few words and great stoicism, and Melissa Jaffer managed to break my heart with just a few minutes of screen time as the Keeper of the Seeds. Critics and skeptics say this movie is just one long chase scene, which is reductive, but even if that were strictly true, complaining about that misses the point of how amazing it is that a movie this compelling could be made from a single long chase. Others might say it doesn’t belong in the Best Picture Oscar race because it’s not serious and important enough, but its themes of feminism and environmentalism are extremely relevant; they’re just not belabored to the point of didacticism. Fury Road’s vision of the destruction of the Old World, in which water was plentiful and “everyone had a show,” seems all too plausible, despite its over-the-top visual antics, and there’s a funny/scary comparison to be made between the film’s main villain, Immortan Joe, and a certain current Presidential candidate. I have no doubt this movie will ride eternal in Valhalla, shiny and chrome. It is perfect in every way.  Read More

I’ve Been Everywhere (As Told By Luke Skywalker)

Posted 30 May 2015 — by contributor
Category Movies I Got

By Mike Shaeffer

I've Been EverywhereI was totin’ my pack along the icy frontier of Hoth, when along came a wild-eyed pistol waver a-ridin’ on his tauntaun. He said, “If you’ve heard of the Millennium Falcon, with me you can ride,” then he sliced open the tauntaun, and then I settled down inside.

He said he made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. I told him that a parsec is not a unit of speed but a unit of distance equal to approximately three and a quarter light years, and then I looked right into his frostbit face and said, “Han, ol’ buddy… I’ve been everywhere, man.

“I’ve been everywhere, man. I’ve crossed the deserts bare, man. I’ve breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel I’ve had my share, man. I’ve been everywhere.  Read More

Ezra’s Top Ten Favorite Movies Of 2013

Posted 01 Mar 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Behind the Candelabra is a delightfully decadent look at the life of Liberace, brilliantly played by Michael Douglas in one of his very best performances. Every year, I struggle with the relatively arbitrary process of ranking movies, so this year I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of a traditional Top Ten list, I’m grouping two thematically connected films together for each place on the list, resulting in a hopefully more interesting Top 20 list. I’ve also included a more traditional Top Ten below that, for all you “too long, didn’t read” folks. One final note before we get to the list: it should tell you a lot about my credibility as a film critic that I liked Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa more than most of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees for 2013.

10. THE WICKER MAN: FINAL CUT / JURASSIC PARK 3-D – BEST RE-RELEASES. Obviously, this category doesn’t really count, as both of these films were originally released decades ago, but I can’t deny that each of them provided one of the most enjoyable experiences I had in a movie theater in 2013. This new cut of the original 1973 classic The Wicker Man adds some nuance and more musical numbers to an already great film. Most crucially, it opens with a scene of Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) praying in church, emphasizing his piousness from the very start, which enriches the events to follow. Jurassic Park, on the other hand, is quite simply my favorite movie (it has the most dinosaurs in it – I rest my case), and seeing it on a big screen again, in 3-D no less, made me fall in love with it all over again.  Read More

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Posted 02 Jul 2012 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, USA / United Arab Emirates, 2011

Directed by Brad Bird

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol stands well enough on its own, and as part of the series. It’s worth noting that Tom Cruise performed all of his stunts in this film, as well as the other three Mission: Impossible films. Sure, there are bits of CGI, though seamless, and I’m sure a large team of medics and nets and other things were around to make sure he was alive at the end of the day, but that’s really the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, it really is the tallest building in the world, and that really is Tom Cruise dangling off its side, thousands of feet in the air. And that’s not even the most impressive set piece in the film.

You don’t necessarily have to see the first three M:I films to get this one and enjoy it, but it can’t hurt. Here’s a brief recap just in case you missed them:

Mission: Impossible – they make the hero from the TV show the bad guy in the film.

Mission: Impossible 2 – they do some stuff with motorcycles and Thandie Newton.

Mission: Impossible 3 – There’s an actual story involving Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his now late wife, involving her death, and a couple other intricate missions. Probably the only important story of the three, even if it’s not the best film at that point. Up until now, the first adventure remained the most startlingly well-made of the series, but, with the inclusion of Ghost Protocol into the canon, those three seem a mite irrelevant in the world of filmmaking.  Read More

Absolute Corruption – Three Films About Power

Posted 29 Jul 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews

By Ezra Stead

Citizen Kane has been widely cited as the greatest American film ever made. Citizen Kane, USA, 1941

Directed by Orson Welles

Scarface, USA, 1932

Directed by Howard Hawks

Beauty and the Beast, France, 1946

Written and Directed by Jean Cocteau

Never before or since has any director made such an impressive feature film debut as Orson Welles did, at the astonishing age of 25, with Citizen Kane (1941). Despite having no prior experience in filmmaking, Welles was given carte blanche on the film, and he delivered the most original, innovative and provocative film of its time. Even today it is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and it is a standard by which all other films are judged. According to the great critic Andrew Sarris, as quoted in his 1967 book Interviews with Film Directors, “Citizen Kane is still the work which influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since Birth of a Nation.” Read More

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – A Little More Penzance Than Last Time

Posted 19 Jun 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, USA, 2011

Directed by Rob Marshall Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a 2011 adventure fantasy film and the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

In what could be called “Captain Jack and the Last Crusade,” we say goodbye to Will and Elizabeth Turner (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, respectively) and hello to a more expensive look, drearier set pieces, and a more puzzling plot line. However, one benefit of the Pirates films is that no matter how twisted the story may be, and no matter how questionable things may get, everything seems to fall into place. The franchise has always had a firm rooting in faith, spirituality and things seemingly happening for a reason, with the hint of a moral compass always guiding the way, so in that aspect the film gives itself room to take outlandish turns, so long as everything fits. On Stranger Tides is certainly no exception to this rule, but At World’s End (2007) had that market cornered.

I have to say, and I know I’m one of the few, but I missed seeing Bloom and Knightley side by side with Johnny Depp. I always took them to be the crux of the trilogy, especially because their stories were the forefront: them meeting, discovering more about their pasts, getting married, having a baby, etc., all while Captain Jack Sparrow gets himself in one scrape and out of another. But, inevitably, their story drew to an end in At World’s End, giving this film more of a chance to focus on Sparrow’s past – lost love, old friendships, all that. As the film opens, Captain Jack (Depp, as savvy as ever) impersonates a British judge to escape hanging for crimes he may or may not have committed, though he probably did; he’s just not ready to hang for them. The opening of the film tells us this: Jack is in London looking for a ship and a crew. This is true, but not in the sense that everyone thinks it is; in fact, it’s an impostor posing as Jack. Her name is Angelica (Penelope Cruz) and she’s the only one with enough guts to impersonate the infamous captain and get away with it. She’s an old love, or as close as Jack has gotten to it. Meanwhile, Jack is looking for the Fountain of Youth. The catch is, so is the Spanish kingdom, the British Navy, helmed by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, back from the first film and looking barely alive), and Blackbeard (the performance of the film, from Ian McShane), along with his daughter, Angelica. Spoiler? Not really. Read More

TRON’s Legacy – Not That Far Ahead

Posted 03 Jan 2011 — by Jason A. Hill
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Jason A. Hill

TRON, USA, 1982

Written and Directed by Steven Lisberger

TRON: Legacy, USA, 2010

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

tron legacy movies i didnt getTRON: Legacy has its moments and I admit it is entertaining, but the film falls flat on a weak plot that is little more than a facsimile copy of the original. The original TRON had interesting characters to carry its plot, but Legacy‘s characters will need the 3D dressing to un-flatten these performances. If you saw the original, nothing in this film will surprise you. It seems to be playing on old TRON fans’ curiosity of what they can do with the new CGI, whose best achievement is a young Jeff Bridges’ face. As for new viewers to the franchise, it may entertain but this film plays more like an all-night rave than a plot to save the world from digital oppression.

When the original TRON was released in 1982, computers were still a new thing in pop culture and video games were enchanting a new generation of gamers. It was able to capture a wave of interest in the new technology, as well as the culture, of imagination and the possibilities of technology. The film invented a new form of special effects and took CGI mainstream in a way that didn’t exist before. People often wonder why a film like TRON, with its fairly pedestrian plot, became such a cult phenomenon, but the original TRON was well ahead of its time in every way. Read More