El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

When Breaking Bad ended I thought it was the best we would get for years. Even with so many great shows out there, Breaking Bad is without any rivals. It gave us the landmark for perfection. Nobody wanted the legacy of the show touched or messed with as it could potentially take away from it. But then creator Vince Gilligan shortly after the show’s end decided to make a prequel series that starred one of the favorites from Breakin Bad, with Saul Goodman. Everyone was skeptical about Better Call Saul and for all the right reasons. It seemed as if it would be a cash grab as Breaking Bad in the last couple of years took off and this would be a way to further capitalize on the franchise. It turns out that wasn’t the case. For one, Vince Gilligan could have gone on to do anything he wanted when Breaking Bad ended, and yet he stayed because he had more stories to tell in this realized world he created. When Better Call Saul premiered it was overall positive with some hesitation. The same was said about Breaking Bad when it premiered, and the further the show goes along the bigger the stakes and investments we have towards it. Today, Better Call Saul is heading into its fifth season next year and is servicing the characters in ways we didn’t expect. It’s not more Breaking Bad, but it’s close.

'El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie' film premiere, Arrivals, Regency Village Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Oct 2019

After the success of Better Call Saul, we were willing to go anywhere Vince Gilligan wants to take us and without question… until he confirms a movie post Breaking Bad. For a show that ended so perfectly, it’s sacrilege to us fans for him to touch it. As the movie nears we make exceptions for the movie if it’s bad, thinking we can just scrub it from our minds. However, when thinking about it the one person who would not want to ruin the magnum opus of a franchise is Vince Gilligan. That being said we know he would only do this if he had a great story to tell, and I’m happy he did.

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El Camino starts us off right where we left off in the finale of Breaking Bad. Walter White has just got his revenge against the men who killed Hank. Walt then saves Jessie. Jessie flees the scene as Walt dies. And here we are. The movie is about watching Jessie get himself away from the manhunt out for him. While Walt may no longer be with us he is still with Jessie. Jessie is using what he learned from Walt to access each problem head-on. Jessie is thinking three steps ahead and what we have with Jessie is still this sense of innocence. That’s something we lost with Walt near the end until he redeemed himself to us in the last episode. A lot of the movie is watching Jessie come up against dead ends and trying to escape. Every time it seems he may be stuck we see a flashback that helps give us context on how Jessie can see a way out. By the end, one may think this is it for Breaking Bad, but we’ve had so many returns to this world that I’m not so sure.

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There are many surprises to be found in El Camino and it keeps you nostalgic in a good way. It doesn’t hurt Breaking Bad whatsoever. If you thought you knew what happened to Jessie when he got in the car at the end of Breaking Bad, you would not have guessed this adventure. It made me so happy to see more Breaking Bad in every possible way.

El Camino is a perfect companion piece to the last episode of Breaking Bad and acts as a bittersweet epilogue to the series. Watch it on Netflix now.

Robert Ring

Fantasia (1940)

Disney made a smash hit with Snow White that gave them the funding to expand their studios and work output. While the profits of the first feature film went straight back into the business the budget of the next animated feature, Pinocchio was double that of Snow White. Sadly Pinocchio would only make back just over half of its budget. It’s clear by the sheer work that was going into these productions that Walt Disney was getting them as near to perfection as possible regardless of the money required. After Pinnochio was a financial failure at the time, it was but a blip on Disney as they had made one of the biggest films before that, and while Pinocchio was made at a loss, it was still a masterpiece. However, it was imperative for Disney to make money on the next animated feature because there were now higher stakes as the studio had moved to a bigger location and employed much more staff.

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Fantasia would have performed better on release if it could get into more theaters. Disney instead required the theaters to upgrade their sound systems to Stereophonic sound for Fantasia to run in them. Basically, it brought sound into modern times, and sound was only rather new in theaters back then. This sounds similar to when James Cameron basically did the same for 3D when Avatar came out and most theaters had a refurbish in at least one cinema to allow for audiences to have a slightly more immersive experience. That’s all Walt wanted, he wanted his films to be seen in the best possible way they could be. For Fantasia, it was to recreate the opera experience in an animated spectacle. Fantasia would also lose money at the time although it did play in select theaters nearly all year round. Between Fantasia and Dumbo, there would be a union strike from inside Disney that could have ended the company completely and would change Walt forever forward.

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To describe Fantasia, for the most part, is to describe a poem. Without knowing the context we draw our own emotions however close or far from the meaning they may be. Overall, what we get is the feeling of a mood. Fantasia has a fascinating opening. Deems Taylor, our narrator, walks forward and gives us a formal introduction to the different types of imagery we are about to watch. That could be music that follows a narrative, or just imagery that comes to the mind like a fever dream without a sense of direction. From here we are given some beautiful images of the orchestra being silhouetted against interchanging colored backgrounds. The music and imagery seamlessly transition to animation and we are carried along without question. There are eight segments that are self-contained and follow along to a piece of music. The most notable is before the midway mark is The Sorceror’s Apprentice, the one where Mickey wears the big sorcerer’s hat and animates a broom to do his chore. It’s still a splendid segment. It was originally the inspiration for Fantasia in the first place as it was created as a Silly Symphony, but came to cost way too much to be profitable in the short format. Now it’s the centerpiece of Fantasia, and the thing that I would say propelled Mickey into the icon he is today.

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Other than The Sorceror’s Apprentice we are treated to amazing visuals that take us to the heavens and to hell, and to the beginning of time itself. A Night on Bald Mountain is rather chilling and would have come across as terrifying on initial release as we watch this massive gargoyle take havoc over a small township. Or seeing dinosaurs brought to life for what must have been the first time on the big screen in the Rite of Spring. The parts of Fantasia that may seem abstract still keep you entertained. With a lengthy two hour duration, you may start to wiggle around in your seat just because it can be draining to move from narrative to narrative every ten minutes or so.

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Fantasia is a hard sell, and I might’ve rathered that we just jumped in without any introduction or understanding of what was to come. It would feel more like a piece of German expressionism then. All those films are still just as stylistic and memorable even after a hundred years. Walt Disney was putting a lot on the line so it must be assumed he didn’t want to alienate anyone what is, for the most part, an expensive experimental film. It’s hard to see how Snow White would have been a risk today, but Fantasia definitely still is, and Walt had plans for a sequel he wanted to start working on soon after. Walt may not have gotten his sequel in his lifetime but nearly sixty years later we would get Fantasia 2000

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Fantasia is not for all. It’s a film that might be more moving watching by yourself on a Sunday afternoon. I liked it and respect it a lot. I know I’ll get something different out of it when I watch it five years from now or twenty.

Previously Pinocchio

Next time The Reluctant Dragon

Robert Ring

Joker

When Joaquin Pheonix turned down the role of Doctor Strange fans were understandably upset, but then it all turned out in the end when Benedict Cumberbatch took the role. The thing is Joaquin Pheonix wouldn’t be able to work within the constraints of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. The character depth we’ve come to find in the MCU films are shallow and fit into archetypes we see all the time. They will never get a fast one over the fans, not really because we can see where the characters are heading. They also wanted to lock Joaquin down for a slate of films within the MCU. So why would he turn down Disney and later choose to do a character in a DC film? Well, Warner Brothers gave him freedom, and what we got is an amazing arthouse film centered around the greatest comic book villain of them all.

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Joker takes place in the seventies as we follow Arthur Fleck, the man who will become the monster we love to hate. Arthur works for a company that rents out clowns, so he will go from holding up a shop sign to cheering up ill children at the hospital. Arthur’s life isn’t much, but he’s satisfied that he’s on the right track as he thinks he’ll become a big stand-up comedian someday. Arthur struggles at connecting with society and tries to emulate others to become more accepted. This is usually due to his affliction for laughing at inappropriate times, he can’t help it and is even carries a medical certification of the fact when in public. After a number of bad turns, he is fired from his job and his life turns to disarray. The city of Gotham seemingly follows these bad beats as Arthur gets knocked down time and time again. While Arthur seems to not be able to gather the spotlight in comedy clubs he finds himself to be an icon for the downbeat that are sick of being treated poorly by Gotham. Arthur becomes like a martyr to Gotham and in his place, Joker is born.

Joker is a fantastic movie. Unsurprisingly, it has also opened the floodgates for media to shred it to bits. Joker is being misunderstood by people who have probably either not seen the film or are fitting it into a narrative that will generate views for their outlet. Joker is not a film that promotes violence, or a film that tries humanizing a monster. Here’s the thing… people are fascinated with monsters. You go to a bookshop and there is half an aisle dedicated to serial killers. People don’t read these books as to how to murder? but instead, we want to know what drove them to it. It’s not always clear what triggers these people to do the things that they do, and yet in a perverse way we are interested. We want to know what made the Joker become the villain of the story? There are also minimal deaths in this movie, way less than any action film. The reason people are holding this one to be so violent is that it feels authentic and resembles our world very closely, even more so than the Nolan films. Like most arthouse films, we are so close to Arthur in every shot that we are intimate with his character so much so that we see how his psychosis morphs into the Joker by the end. This film resembles something like the movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas as we watch over the course of a day his character shifts from a level headed individual to an unstable person on the brink. For these reasons don’t take your children, it’s not a movie for them and it seems that a number of kids are going into this movie.

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After watching Batman: Year One recently, my girlfriend said that this is what she would imagine a Joker: Year One would be and I tend to agree. Joker takes a lot of inspiration from the flashbacks filled within The Killing Joke graphic novel that sees his roots in stand-up comedy and home life. Todd Phillips may have directed Joker, however, it’s Joaquin Pheonix’s movie. You could not have created such a showpiece of what a superhero film could be with just any other actor. At the moment Joaquin Pheonix has a nomination spot for Best Actor in a feature film this year from this performance. And as the year begins to near its end he may keep it, if not win the Oscar. As much as I loved this film I hope it’s a one and done film with Joaquin Pheonix. I hope they do more of these standalone ventures that don’t feel the need to be threaded into a bigger narrative.

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I’m interested to see where everyone falls on Joker once the media blowback settles, like will it be atop of the superhero genre, or fall among the many others in time?

Robert Ring

Highlander

This is certainly one of the great 80s movies in my opinion.

Highlander is very much in the same vein as a vampire film, but more masculine. The difference being that Highlander has swords and Queen (the band). Highlander shows us a world with immortal beings that live through centuries and/or millenniums carrying the appearance of youth. While a stake to the heart won’t kill them a sword that swiftly takes the head will, and the victor will absorb the power of their kill. The immortals are few and far between, they live secretly amongst mortals and seek to take out other immortals because as the famous tagline goes, “There can be only one”. The last one standing is said to effectively be given the power to save the world or destroy it.

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Highlander starts in the present day with our protagonist Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) patiently waiting for a fight with another who has sought him out. The two pull out long swords in an underground parking lot and begin to fight to the death. It’s an absurd scene in the modern world that is filled with guns. But we intercut with the sixteenth century in the Highlands of Scottland. Here we see Connor slain on the battlefield. After some time he comes back to life and his clansmen exile him as they see him to be a devil in disguise. Learning this we understand why the battle in the present is so archaic. Throughout the film, we intercut from the present to the pivotal moments in Connor’s history that help us understand the mythology of the film and the immortals. Like any good vampire film, the hero will fall in love with a mortal and will be forced to outlive them or let them go. Connor also finds a mentor in Ramírez (Sean Connery) that teaches him the way of the immortal. The rest of the film involves Connor being hunted down by an evil immortal that has searched for him across centuries. And the question at the end is who will become the last immortal and win the prize destined to the last of their kind.

Highlander is a standalone film, and given the finale, it has a definitive ending. So it seems bizarre that it became a franchise of feature films, and a television show (with a spin-off show). From what I hear the second Highlander film is one of the worst films ever made, and the third film doesn’t acknowledge the second film’s existence. It has been years since we have had any new Highlander anything. A reboot has been in the pipeline for years now and even Tom Cruise was set to star in it at one point, but for now, it appears to be shelved. Highlander is a story with such great mythology that it could be rebooted into a series of films that could match the biggest franchises. There is so much more that could be fleshed out and expanded that wasn’t initially in the original film. The choreography is pretty dated by today’s standards and that could look amazing today as well as the special effects.

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While the Highlander reboot may be far away there is a whole Highlander universe I’m itching to explore, even if it has some low points. This first film is a seminal fantasy film of good versus evil, and if you haven’t seen it, do so.

Robert Ring

 

 

Batman: Year One

There are so many of these DC Animated films that I’m expecting to come across a bad one, and yet here is another one better than the last.

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Batman: Year One is a unique retelling of the Batman story parallel to Commissioner Gordon. This story shows Batman as he transitions from Bruce Wayne into Batman, and as Lieutenant Gordan becomes Commissioner Gordon. Throughout the feature, we glimpse the two evolving over a year starting from January all the way to December. However unrealistic that may seem, it probably does all those with OCD a favor in not going from say September to August. Still, it’s authentic enough. While the film is titled Batman: Year One, to me it’s Gordon’s film. We finally get to see why Gordon was made commissioner in the first place, and it’s a thrilling ride. At this point, Gordon is stirring up Gotham almost as much as Batman by sticking to his morals and not becoming a crooked police officer. From Batman’s side, we get to see how much of an amateur he was going headfirst into this solo crime-fighting venture. The two stories merry up and give us insight into why Gordon and Batman have a great relationship built on respect and understanding.

This is a must-watch for anyone that loves Batman. Hell, I thought it was just a great film and even persuaded my girlfriend to watch it. She loved it. Bryan Cranston voices Commissioner Gordon and I honestly think it’s one of my favorite roles from him and he has done so many great things. There is a great perspective of Gotham we aren’t normally privy to that lets us see what exactly the problem is with Gotham. If like me you always question why this city along with every other city never gets better with all the crime-fighting well this one helps uncover that question.

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If you have the Blu-Ray you are also treated to a 15minute short centered around Catwoman as she takes on a criminal circuit. Catwoman was in the movie and she was really cool so it was great that they included it. Batman: Year One is only sixty-four minutes long, so I think the Catwoman short was to make up for the shorter time of the feature. Alongside the short there is a documentary on the original graphic novel Batman: Year One by Frank Miller. It reveals what a turning point The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One had on the comic book industry as the baby boomers came back with these gritty and mature stories.

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If you haven’t seen any of the DC Animated features this is a good starting place. You won’t be lost and it’s not a time sink at just over an hour. I highly recommend it.

Previously Batman: Gotham Knight

Next Batman: Under the Red Hood

Robert Ring

Between Two Ferns: The Movie

YouTube is so packed with so much content from so many creators that it’s rare for any of us to be watching the same videos as our friends. That’s not to say that the stuff we watch is bad or mediocre, but YouTube now has niches within a niche. That’s why it’s great when we get a celebrity on YouTube making a show that is for one actually great. Zach Galifianakis being a celebrity makes him viral-worthy and we can share these clips with our friends and have these great watercooler moments.

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On Between Two Ferns Zach plays an exaggerated version of himself that is hilarious to watch as he mispronounces each celebrity on his cheap-looking talk show. The talk show is quite literally two chairs between two ferns. This makes it easy for them to recreate the sound stage anywhere. Apart from seemingly being aloof with his manners, Zach asks questions that make the guest celebrity feel awkward. As the years go on the show has slowed down quite a bit in what appears to be an effort for Zach to outdo himself. I mean he even had President Obama on the show. So how can you possibly beat the show?  Well, a movie of course!

Between Two Ferns: The Movie sounded too good to actually be good. We’ve seen this type of thing done before by others like Martin Short playing Jiminy Glick for years and yet his movie was pretty terrible. It has however worked well for Sacha Baron Cohen as he spun off The Ali G Show characters into their own movies. The thing that works about Between Two Ferns: The Movie is it’s like ten episodes of the show strung together with an interweaving plot. The entire movie is based on him getting ten shows of Between the Sheets recorded so he can have a “real” talk show. The interweaving plot is simple like a 90s Pauly Shore film, but it works well enough to keep our interest and flesh out Zach’s character.

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Overall, I am always up for more Between Two Ferns and I’ll be watching in whatever form it comes in. Please watch all the credits and the after-credits scene, it’s hilarious.

Available now on Netflix.

Robert Ring

Pinocchio (1940)

After the astounding success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney had the capital to make whatever they wanted, or so they thought. With a budget that almost doubled Snow White, Pinocchio didn’t make nearly as much money at the box-office as its predecessor. It didn’t even earn enough to cover the budget of the production. This was not really the fault of Disney, but things were changing in 1940 as the second world war was incoming. This was only the beginning of Disney’s financial woes as the next animated feature Fantasia later that year would make for an even bigger loss.

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The Adventures of Pinocchio was written in 1881 by Carlo Collodi. It was originally published in parts for a children’s magazine before being sold as a book a couple of years later. Many great works of literature were published in a similar fashion like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was first printed in chapters before being bound into a complete book. Like Snow White, the source material was much darker than the route Walt Disney went down, even with the terrifying transformation. The story was full of moral lessons that are thrust upon Pinocchio, being a naughty boy trying to fulfill good deeds so he can become a real boy. These adventures feed into Disney’s Pinocchio because you can essentially break apart the film into separate sequences.

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Disney’s Pinocchio begins with Jiminy Cricket playing narrator to the story of Pinocchio. Jiminy recounts how he wandered into the comfortable home owned by Geppetto. Geppetto is adding the final touches to the marionette, Pinocchio. As Geppetto lays in bed he sees a star shining bright and wishes that Pinocchio was real. Shortly after the Blue Fairy arrives and makes Pinocchio come to life, she explains that he can become a real boy if he proves to be courageous and good. The Blue Fairy appoints Jiminy Cricket as the conscience to Pinocchio. Up until this point, we have stayed in one scene for the first twenty-seven minutes. That’s a third of the movie, yet it gets us to be emotionally connected to Geppetto as his journey becomes important later on. The next scene is the following morning and already we are seeing that Pinocchio is led astray by Honest John. Honest John is a con man that convinces Pinocchio to skip school and join a traveling circus. The audience loves Pinocchio so the show owner Stromboli decides to kidnap him when he tries returning home to his father, Geppetto. The Blue Fairy comes to the aid of Pinocchio, but when he finally returns home he finds that Gepetto has gone in search of him. Again, Pinocchio has been led astray while searching for Geppetto, however this time he ends up on Pleasure Island. Pleasure Island is a place that instills fear in kids because it’s a place without rules and overindulgence, so there has to be a catch. The catch comes in one of the most terrifying scenes from a Disney film as we see the children turn into donkeys. The scene is Hitchcockian in its execution. Pinocchio escapes Pleasure Island and now heads for Monstro the whale, where he has heard Geppetto was in the belly of. In a scene that outdoes anything from Snow White, we see Pinocchio rescue Geppetto from the angered and charging Monstro. The story ends with Pinocchio having overcome so many personal obstacles that the Blue Fairy makes him a real boy and he lives happily ever after with Geppetto.

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There’s a lot to love in Pinocchio from the many memorable characters to the magnificent animation. In Geppetto’s house, we get to know his cat, Figaro. Personally, I think Figaro is my favorite character in the film, he’s cute and clumsy. Even Honest John is a great villain, particularly so as a fox because I just don’t think they were particularly great at drawing humans. Geppetto is the exception due to the voice actor being the inspiration for the character himself too. You may be surprised to find that on Pleasure Island Pinocchio takes to drinking and smoking. I like that Walt was able to really drum up the darkness of this place with such adult mannerisms. There is no way we would ever find this in a current Disney film, especially since there will never be any smoking seen in a Disney film again. The film as a whole has a Don Bluth feel to it, so I can only imagine he was greatly inspired by these early Disney films. Finally, the most lasting thing about the movie is the theme song When You Wish Upon a Star, which subsequently became the theme song for Disney’s company. The song is timeless and probably in the top ten film songs since the inception of film itself.

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Watching Pinocchio I couldn’t help wonder about a sequel where we got to uncover more about the mystery of Pleasure Island, and I would have liked a sequel where he returned to save the other boys. And maybe that was part of the planned sequel they were toying with in the 2000s. They’ve since moved on and are developing a live-action Pinocchio. There’s no shortage of Pinocchio films as Guillermo del Toro is directing one set for 2021. There is even a Pinocchio coming out this year starring Roberto Benigni as Geppetto, which is interesting because he himself directed a live-action Pinocchio in 2002 with himself playing Pinocchio.

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Overall, I like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs more as it resonates in the simplicity of the story much like The Wizard of Oz. Pinocchio is still a masterpiece that grows more timeless with age.

Previously Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Next time Fantasia

Robert Ring

Batman: Gotham Knight

Batman: Gotham Knight is an anime-inspired collection of short stories that involve the dark knight. What you might not have known is that these stories were originally intended to be in the continuity for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. They are supposedly set between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight as we see Batman learning his craft. If you don’t know this it’s not clear, especially watching it today when Batman has a common style across movies, tv shows, and games.

Check out the trailer below to get an idea of the style.

Each story is written by and directed by different people. Each individual brings a different style that culminates each story into an experimental package. In the first story, we see Batman through the eyes of some skater kids who each perceive what Batman is in different ways, and all are abstract. The second story follows two detectives that are handed a criminal that was brought into the station by Batman. One is a skeptic of Batman until they find themselves in the middle of a shootout. I would have loved if all six stories were similar to these two because it’s fascinating to see different viewpoints from the people of Gotham and what their relationship to Batman is. However, the next four stories give us interesting character insights into Batman. The third story, for example, shows Bruce Wayne getting a new gadget that shields him from bullets, but as Bruce finds there is a price to using this gadget. Each story is around fifteen minutes each and there’s something to adore from each one. Overall, Batman: Arkham Knight plays like a solid experimental film, more for fans than non-fans.

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This title was the first title from a boxset celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Batman. It contains eighteen animated films across nineteen discs. The special features on Batman: Gotham Knight includes a forty-minute documentary on the creator of Batman in Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story. I found it really interesting to see Bob Kane was similar to his creation of Bruce Wayne in life, and he was just as big as a character as Stan Lee. So if you do pick up the Blu-ray check out that feature. There is another thirty-minute feature on the villains of Batman in A Mirror for the Bat, which is fine, but I didn’t learn anything I didn’t know already about them.

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I look forward to seeing the rest of the animated films from the DC Universe in this celebratory year for the Dark Knight.

Next Batman: Year One

Robert Ring

IT: The Complete Story

I’ve been enjoying the last few years in this eighties renaissance we’ve been getting in film and television. Even though I was born at the tail-end of the eighties it fills me with nostalgia. IT (2017) is another example of how to properly give us that nostalgia. It gives off plenty of the vibes we got when Stranger Things first aired and you can see a lot of throwbacks to 80s pop culture. With all that said, IT doesn’t completely work for me.

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There has always been a lot of love for the original IT miniseries back in 1990 with Tim Curry as the iconic Pennywise. I never felt compelled to watch that version because it just sounds like a mediocre tv movie to me, and I hear it falls apart in the second half. IT (2017) on the other hand is a massive success financially and critically. The film follows a group of young teens that affectionately call themselves “the losers club,” these misfits came together after they were all targeted by the clown Pennywise. Pennywise is a shapeshifter, similar to Freddy Krugger, and messes with the kids in a similar way. Unlike Freddy, Pennywise is in the real world and can strike any time. The beginning of the movie starts with Pennywise seducing the child Georgie, brother to the protagonist Bill, into the sewers with him. This scene sets our expectations for the rest of the movie. Let’s just say that Georgie clearly doesn’t make it out, but neither do our nerves as we watch the scene executed. The rest of the movie has us learn more about Pennywise and our group of “losers” as they battle fear-inducing scenarios set upon them by the killer clown. The ending results in a battle that was thought to have been won.. at least for twenty-seven years.

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I think I’m going to be one of the rare people that like the sequel more than the original here. That being said there are a lot of little problems with the sequel. For one the opening scene is awful. The scene is just to let us see Pennywise again, but before we see him we are watching a scene full of dated homophobic slander and brutality. Next up we are given a glimpse into each of the kids all grown up twenty-seven years later. All of them have left the town that caused them so much pain and horror except for Mike. Mike wanted to keep an eye on the place in case Pennywise ever returned. Pennywise returns and Mike calls everyone from “the losers club” to bring them back so they can finally put an end to Pennywise. When they return it appears leaving the town years ago repressed all of their memories. After a night of bonding, most of the memories return and so does Pennywise. The movie then plays out structurally similar to the first, as each character must tackle a fear brought on by Pennywise.

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I really appreciate the way the two movies come together like bookends. I wouldn’t normally like flashbacks sprinkled into a movie, yet it’s just kind of nice to experience these younger characters again. There are a ton of throwbacks to the first movie which complements the second with locations, and characters. You will also find a lot of laughs throughout, but they’re there at the expense of the horror. After watching IT: Chapter 2, I think I appreciate the first one more. That rarely happens to me, although maybe that was the negative impact of splitting the story into two.

I recommend checking both films out when you can, and maybe you’ll float too.

Robert Ring

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

In 1937 audiences flocked to the theatres to see the first-ever feature-length animation. What was at first famously reported as “Disney’s Folly”, turned out to be the beginning of the Disney empire we know today. Walt Disney was already a known name before he started making this celebrated feature film. He first became a prominent figure in Hollywood for making short films that would play before features. These would include some of the first shorts to include Mickey Mouse in things like Steamboat Willie. The success of the animated shorts led Walt to expand his business and employ hundreds of people. As cinema was in its infancy Walt Disney saw an opportunity to take what his company had learned from making animated shorts and move into a long-form narrative that could match the quality of live-action films. More than eighty years later Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is very much still a part of pop culture.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs starts with the literal opening of the fairytale book as we watch this live-action scene bring us into the animated tale. We are taken into this harmonious world where Snow White is cheery to her life even as a princess dressed as a maiden in rags. She conducts the chores of the castle seemingly set by the Queen, her evil stepmother. The first song comes minutes into the film as the Prince stumbles upon Snow White singing, and what a song it is. The song I’m Wishing/One Song is such a great love song that you would have been satisfied with the two having their happily ever after then and there, but then there would be no adventure. After the Queen spies the two lovebirds she asks the mirror, “who is the fairest of them all?” to find out it is, in fact, Snow White. Considering that the queen would ask this often I’m led to wonder if it the change in fairest happened when Snow White found her true love or if it was the Queen’s jealousy in Snow White’s happiness. Regardless, the Queen sends the Huntsman to kill Snow White, which really kills the mood for the young princess, doesn’t it? The Huntsman finds it in himself not to kill Snow White and he instead banishes her, so she flees into the forest. The forest scene is probably the most striking scene to me, it’s terrifying as a kid. The forest begins to personify into abstract faces and shows how the young mind can exaggerate their fears of the unknown into physical manifestations. Through it, she finds that there was nothing to fear from the forest after all, but cute little critters. Next Snow White comes upon the home of the seven dwarfs. Those little men are in for a shock when they come home to discover the place has been cleaned. Each little men named after the trait they embody open their home and their hearts to Snow White. For the most part, the dwarfs have more personality and character than Snow White. It’s with them that we grow attached to emotionally, so when the Queen poisons Snow White with the apple, we also cry with the dwarfs at Snow White’s grave.

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So how does Snow White stack up to the source material? Well, Snow White was written by The Brothers Grimm as one of their many collected stories in 1812. The Brothers Grimm updated their stories over time as they became popular with children, so the evil Queen was originally Snow White’s biological mother and thus changed to an evil stepmother. If the story stayed with the original intentions it wouldn’t have resonated for generations. Walt Disney follows the narrative similarly, but it’s rather short so he extrapolates on it by realizing the characters, adding musical numbers and embellishing in the look of the world. The Grimm story was much darker in tone as the Queen ate what she thought was Snow White’s liver and lungs. The Queen also visited Snow White multiple times to kill her; first time in disguise she stitched Snow White up tight in a lace dress so she couldn’t breathe, next the Queen made a poisoned comb that administered itself into Snow White as it was combed through her hair, finally after two unsuccessful attempts the Queen gave her a poisoned apple. Snow White was thought to be dead and her body was placed in a glass coffin. Later a prince finds her and pleas to take the coffin because he must always lay eyes upon her. As the prince’s servants carried the coffin one trips and the poisoned apple lodged in Snow White’s throat becomes unlodged and she awakens. The tale turns incredibly dark in the end as the Queen is invited to Snow White’s wedding and is forced into iron shoes that were pulled off burning coals. She must dance in them until she finally dies. If you compare the source material to Disney’s feature you can see where Walt has turned a harrowing tale into a family film and continues to steer in that direction with each subsequent feature film.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has stood the test of time for a few reasons. Aesthetically, it has a very European style, especially in the backgrounds that draw audiences into this world of fantasy. There is also Snow White’s animation, which has a softness to the colors overall. This helps invoke the joyfulness in the atmospheres involving Snow White and the dwarfs. It also juxtaposes perfectly with the darkness when we’re with the Queen and in the forest. The songs are all memorable from I’m Wishing/One Song, Whistle While You Work, and Heigh Ho. Every character is endearing, with each dwarf full of individual personality. So there really isn’t one thing that makes the movie memorable. It’s an accomplishment to Walt Disney that his first film stands against any Disney film ever since, and there have been some great ones.

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Next time Pinocchio.

Robert Ring