MOVIE REVIEW: Christopher Robin


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 113: The Jungle Book (2016)

This episode marks the first of a two-part crossover event celebrating the classic Rudyard Kipling tale, The Jungle Book. We’ve brought in the guys from the Retro Rewind Podcast, Francisco Ruiz and Paul Powers, to talk about Jon Favreau’s 2016 live-action/CGI update of the 1967 animated Disney feature, and we’ll be covering the latter on Retro Rewind Podcast together as well. 

The Jungle Book Review – 0:04:40

The Connecting Point – 0:51:13


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Episode 112: Paddington 2

Grab a marmalade sandwich and get ready to smile as we discuss the surprise hit of 2018, a beary special, family-friendly film called Paddington 2. We also chat some about the adorable bear’s first adventure before getting into all of the reasons this sequel has charmed viewers old and young, critical and casual alike.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:21
(Aaron – Paddington, Adrift, Upgrade)
(Patrick – Paddington)

Paddington 2 Review – 0:16:39

The Connecting Point – 0:57:29


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Episode 111: Solo-A Star Wars Story

In appropriately numbered Episode 111, we talk all things Han Solo, and we do mean ALL things. With so many origin stories there is plenty to discuss.  We talk about which ones worked, which ones didn’t, where Star Wars spin-off films go from here, and how sometimes it’s okay to just have a little fun at the movies.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:10
(Aaron – Star Wars marathon)
(Patrick – Monsters)

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review – 0:19:36

The Connecting Point – 1:23:05


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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You Should Be Watching: May 24-30

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found. This week, I’m recommending one of the most classic of Westerns, a film about the love of cinema, and Don Bluth’s magical animated directorial debut about mice and rats. Also, among the films coming and going Coco arrives on Netflix this week and I, Tonya on Hulu.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


High Noon

Year: 1952

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Genre: Western

Cast: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Otto Kruger, Lon Chaney Jr., Harry Morgan, Ian MacDonald, Eve McVeagh, Morgan Farley, Harry Shannon, Lee Van Cleef, Robert J. Wilke, Sheb Wooley, Jack Elam, John Doucette, Ted Stanhope, Lee Aaker, Guy Beach, Larry J. Blake, John Breen, Tex Driscoll, Herschel Graham, Paul Kruger, William H. O’Brien, Roy Bucko, Russell Custer, Nora Bush

 

<i>High Noon</i> is the epitome of the classic Western, featuring a small Old West town with a virtuous good guy lawman named Will Kane (Gary Cooper) and a formidable bad guy outlaw (and his gang) named Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), who is headed for town to get revenge against Kane for sending him to prison. To complicate matters even more, our hero, Marshal Kane, has just turned in his badge so he could marry his love, a pacifist Quaker named Amy (Grace Kelly), and with the news of Miller’s gang having arrived with Miller soon to follow, the newly married couple are rushed out of town in hopes of avoiding bloodshed. But Kane is torn between the love he has for his new bride and his duty to the unprotected town he was to leave behind, even though he struggles to find anyone willing to help him defend it.

This film is tightly scripted and tension-filled with the ever-present clock serving as a ongoing countdown towards the likely demise of both Kane’s life and his young marriage. And Amy’s discovery of “another woman” only makes matter worse. With each minute that passes, and with each request for help that’s refused, the desperation grows. Gary Cooper is a perfect fit for the Marshal role, stoic but heartfelt. Grace Kelly, in only her second film, delivers a wonderfully complex performance as the bride who loves her husband dearly but also has her own values to which she is fiercely loyal and refuses to sit around waiting for him to get killed.

EXPIRING: Last day to watch is 5/31


 

Cinema Paradiso

Year: 1988

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore

Genre: Romance, Drama

Cast: Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Marco Leonardi, Salvatore Cascio, Agnese Nano, Antonella Attili, Enzo Cannavale, Isa Danieli, Leo Gullotta, Pupella Maggio, Leopoldo Trieste, Tano Cimarosa, Nicola Di Pinto, Roberta Lena, Nino Terzo, Brigitte Fossey, Mariella Lo Giudice, Beatrice Palme, Franco Catalano, Giuseppe Tornatore, Giorgio Libassi, Mimmo Mignemi

 

If you love movies, if you love the cinema, if seeing the magical images flicker through the darkness on the screen in front of you fills you with the greatest of joys, <i>Cinema Paradiso</i> is for you. The film opens by introducing us to famous fictional film director Salvatore Di Vita receiving the news that Alfredo has died. Who is Alfredo, and what was his relationship with Salvatore? Flashing back to Salvatore at age 6, shortly after World War II, that story begins. Even at that young age, Salvatore, played with the utmost of precociousness by Salvatore Cascio, develops an intense love for the movies by practically living at his village’s local theater, the Cinema Paradiso, where we first meet Alfredo. But as the seasons of Salvatore’s young life go on, we learn he is no stranger to tragedy and must learn how to overcome. All the while, he continues to explore the world of film and develop the skills and experience that would turn him into the the master filmmaker he ultimately becomes. Over the course of the story, we experience various seasons of his young life and ultimately discover the positive and lasting impact one can have on a child’s life simply by taking the time to invest in him.


 

The Secret of N.I.M.H.

  

Year: 1982

Director: Don Bluth

Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, Fantasy

Cast: Derek Jacobi, Elizabeth Hartman, Arthur Malet, Dom DeLuise, Hermione Baddeley, Shannen Doherty, Wil Wheaton, Jodi Hicks, Ian Fried, John Carradine, Peter Strauss, Paul Shenar

 

Don Bluth, the animation director perhaps most famous for the prehistoric classic <i>The Land Before Time</i> came out of the gate swinging with his directorial debut <i>The Secret of N.I.M.H.</i>, a brisk adaptation of the novel <i>Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H.</i>. Creatively combining science and dark fantasy with surprisingly mature themes such as the imminence of death and the ethics of animal experimentation, Bluth created a magical, vibrant, world rich in mythology and full of stunning hand-drawn animation that rivals most Disney features and will appeal to young and old alike. It’s inspiring to see the lone mother and widow Mrs. Brisby, voiced by Elizabeth Hartman, doing everything within her power to care for her children and save her sick son. While there is a tone of mystery and wonder throughout, unlike in many animated films, the audience is not spoon-fed information. Viewers are expected to pay attention, and they will be rewarded for doing so. Just for fun, listen for a very young Shannen Doherty and Wil Wheaton as Mrs. Brisby’s firstborn daughter Teresa and son Martin.

EXPIRING: Last day to watch is 5/31


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

May 27
Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)
Middle of Nowhere (2012)

May 29
The Jungle Book (2016)

May 31
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)
Men In Black (1997)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Oldboy (2003)
Scarface (1983)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Resurrection of Jake the Snake (2015)
Training Day (2001)

 

AMAZON PRIME

May 30
1984 (1984)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Breakdown (1997)
Chaplin (1992)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Manhattan (1979)
Regarding Henry (1991)
The Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982)

May 31
From the Rocky Collection:

Rocky (1976)
Rocky II (1979)

From the James Bond Collection:

Dr. No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
Goldfinger (1964)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

 

FILMSTRUCK

May 25
Brighton Rock (1948)
Carol Reed:

The Fallen Idol (1948)
The Third Man (1949)

May 31
High Noon (1952)

June 1
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
A Night At The Opera (1935)

June 8
Christopher Guest:

Best in Show (2000)
Waiting for Guffman (1996)

Elia Kazan:

On the Waterfront (1954)
A Face in the Crowd (1957)

 

HULU

May 31
1984 (1984)
Breakdown (1997)
Manhattan (1979)
The Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Cargo — NETFLIX FILM (2017)
Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Small Town Crime (2017)
The Survivor’s Guide to Prison (2018)

 

AMAZON PRIME

Beatriz at Dinner (2017)
The Black Stallion (1979)
Death at a Funeral (2007)

 

FILMSTRUCK

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

 

HULU

Beatriz at Dinner (2017)
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

May 29
Coco (2017)

May 31
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)

 

HULU

May 31
I, Tonya (2017)
Rain Man (1988)

 


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

MOVIE REVIEW: Solo: A Star Wars Story

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

2 Hours and 15 Minutes (PG-13)

I’ve been on record as worrying quite a bit about Solo: A Star Wars Story (henceforth in this review know as Solo, because a one-word title just makes sense doesn’t it?). The first Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One, significantly underwhelmed me, and here a second prequel was attempting to unnecessarily go back and fill in gaps in the Star Wars timeline. But this time it required the dangerous risk of recasting one of the most iconic characters in movie history. I love Han. We all love Han. And Harrison Ford is Han. So, I’ve been pretty skeptical that Alden Ehrenreich could step into those enormously talented shoes and deliver a compelling enough performance to make us truly believe that he, too, is Han.

But folks… it happened.

It wasn’t right away, though. Solo wastes no time in introducing us to young Han the scoundrel, but despite an exciting chase sequence and Han trying to talk his way out of a pickle, Ehrenreich just wasn’t connecting for me. As the story went on, though, my expectations and presumptions about how young Han should act began to decline and he slowly transformed. When Han meets Lando, I was all in, having witnessed enough smirks, snark, and charm to really believe in this new version of the character. And by the time the credits rolled, I had to repent. Because maybe he’s not perfect, but young Han he is.

The thing to remember first and foremost about Solo is that it’s not a Star Wars saga film and thus doesn’t abide by the same storytelling rules. The question isn’t IF Han will make it out of situations safely, it’s HOW he will make it out. This is an intergalactic heist film and an origin story. Seriously, we learn the origin of EVERYTHING. Han’s lucky dice? Covered. Han’s blaster? That too. The Kessel Run? It’s definitely mentioned. How Han met Lando and Chewie? Of course. And so, so much more. Honestly, it could have been overkill. Maybe for some it will. But for me it struck the perfect balance, giving me depth and insight into a beloved character without ever stopping the plot to draw attention to a reference. All of it was woven seamlessly into the narrative. It made sense, and I loved every single wink and nod to the stories we all know so well.

Another strength of the film is that Solo doesn’t go solo. The film features a host of flat-out wonderful supporting actors and droids. Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is a fantastic addition to the canon and through her we are able to learn about Han the lover and what kind of woman he’s attracted to. Beckett (Woody Harrelson) provides Han with a mentor of sorts, someone who teaches him tricks of the trade and many life lessons. Then there is Lando, played as perfectly by Donald Glover as you’d expect, showing us how the two young smooth-talking smugglers came to their complicated friendship. The chemistry between Ehrenreich and Glover is definitely present and if I had one gripe it would be that I just wanted more of this duo together. Paul Bettany chews up scenes wonderfully as a bigshot gangster and leader of crime syndicate Crimson Dawn, the perfect subtle villain for a smuggler’s origin story. And L3-37 (yes, that spells “leet”), Lando’s droid, is hilariously liberal while also playing a surprisingly touching role in the tale.

The adventure itself is a ton of fun. Han, as you would expect, gets himself into a situation that involves stealing, smuggling, fancy flying, and generally getting shot at along the way. But it isn’t just fun, it’s a well-written story that thoroughly explains how the swashbuckling rogue became the man who may or may not shoot first, doesn’t trust anyone, and primarily looks out only for himself. All of the action pieces are also wonderfully done, from the big set pieces to the brief one-on-one fight sequences, and the cinematography is just as gorgeous as always. The film’s score stands out, too, with John Powell bringing a hint of his How To Train Your Dragon sound to the familiar Star Wars themes, particularly when the Millennium Falcon is speeding through the galaxy.

VERDICT

Solo: A Star Wars Story is one of the best origin stories ever told. It fills in details for so much of a beloved character that you may be shocked they could cover it all. The action and adventurous tone make for one heck of an enjoyable movie experience and Ehrenreich importantly embodies young Han, growing into the character over the course of the film. Though some may find parts to be cheesy or unnecessarily connected to past films, my expectations were thoroughly surpassed and as the final scene played, I found myself wanting to cheer. Solo is a great example of the kind of light-hearted, fun stories that can be told in this universe and further continues Disney’s fantastic year of blockbusters.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 110: Big Trouble in Little China

In Episode 110, Aaron takes a break to continue Seattle International Film Festival coverage, so Patrick calls in a friend of the show who is well-versed in the movies of old, Francisco Ruiz from Retro Rewind Podcast. Big Trouble in Little China has become a cult classic and there is a lot of admiration present as the guys discuss John Carpenter’s famous fantasy-comedy-adventure.

Big Trouble in Little China Review – 0:02:28

The Connecting Point – 0:42:17


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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MOVIE REVIEW: Lu Over the Wall

LU OVER THE WALL (2018)

1 Hour and 52 Minutes (PG)

Lu Over the Wall is the newest animated feature from visionary anime director Masaaki Yuasa, and tells the story of a small fishing village that is impacted by the appearance of a mermaid who comes ashore to join a middle-school band. It’s a twist on the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid and features elements that will remind viewers of other films, too – specifically Miyazaki’s Ponyo, Best Picture winner The Shape of Water, and the under-seen musical hit Sing Street. Yes, it’s a little bit insane. But while these references seem similar on the surface, Yuasa’s film forges its own path and becomes some entirely unique.

The biggest thing that sets Yuasa apart from other anime giants like Miyazaki, Shinkai, and Takahata is the animation style. Visually striking and lavishly colorful in the present, it melts into an older style of animation when characters recall the past. The animation is also very busy and moves fast. At times it can be so frantic that it’s hard to follow and feels like you’re staring into a rapidly spinning kaleidoscope. Always, though, it provokes a sense of joy and wonder. Full of character designs like you’ve never seen before (mer-dogs!), if it doesn’t give you a headache the art style will most certainly captivate you and hold your attention.

As for the story, Lu’s friendship with Kai and his middle-school rock band Siren is at the center of the narrative. In this world, mermaids are attracted to music. Naturally, not everyone in the village likes mermaids. While some want to use their existence for profit in the tourist industry, others want to kill them all, and a select religious few wish to live in harmony alongside them. The conflict arises out of these differing opinions, but relational issues exists between Lu and her bandmates as well. This is where the heart of the film lies and the way it tackles feelings of depression, friendship, love, and chasing dreams is beautifully woven into this fantastical tale. That being said, for the most part it keeps things light, but there are elements of the plot that deal with some tougher emotions. In trying to juggle quite a few sideplots the film does seem to get away from Yuasa and perhaps go on a bit long.

VERDICT

Lu Over the Wall is a great reminder of why we watch movies. Yuasa is a director willing to take chances and it is exciting to participate in a cinematic experience like that. This is a beautiful film, overflowing with cuteness, and filled with solid positive messages. It is also a musical that will have you humming along and tapping your feet whether you fully follow the plot or not. Unforgettable animation is rare, but Lu Over the Wall is just that and therefore is a must-see experience.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 107: Avengers Infinity War

After 10 years and 18 films, Marvel’s ambitious, unique interconnected world of superhero films comes to this, a team-up movie the likes of which we have never seen before. Historic in its scope and in its box office success, Avengers: Infinity War is a special blockbuster and one that provides plenty to discuss. We’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about this one, its place in the MCU, and where Marvel goes from here.

Avengers: Infinity War Review – 0:02:33

The Connecting Point – 01:27:30


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MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

2 Hours and 29 Minutes (PG-13)

Marvel and The Russo Brothers had a very daunting task before them. Paying off the culmination of a decade of build-up and backstory, stretching over 18 films, is a challenge unlike any studio or director in Hollywood had ever faced. And to accomplish this feat, they worked with what has to be the largest cast of known stars ever assembled for a movie. The ambition of Marvel and its commitment to the cinematic universe it pioneered is worthy of praise and respect.

If there’s one thing I was looking for in Avengers: Infinity War, it was raised stakes. Much like the comic books these films are based on (in which characters rarely die and cities are destroyed without much afterthought), Marvel films have not fully dealt with loss in a way that seems realistic. Right from the start of Infinity War, though, Marvel makes it very clear that has changed. The potential consequences of a Thanos (Josh Brolin) victory are evident and the film progresses with an emotional weight and sense of urgency that it could not have attained if the studio followed its same old formula. This also creates much more investment in characters and the worlds they inhabit, and thus pays off quite a few very moving scenes in a much bigger way. If you haven’t cried in a Marvel movie before, you’re not alone, but this may be your first. I had genuine chills a few different times. But don’t worry, that trademark Marvel humor and witty one-liners are still there and won’t have you depressed for too long at a time.

Another area that Marvel outdoes previous films in their own franchise is with Thanos himself. Make no mistake, this is his film and his story. He is a fully developed villain with more screen time than any before him, and it helps to create a character with whom the audience can both despise and yet struggle with feelings of empathy for. Brolin’s talent is very obvious in this performance despite the incredible looking CGI that encompasses him. His Thanos is not just some loud, angry, destructive villain. He is intelligent and calculating. He is nuanced. He is cold, yes, but when he gives his reasons for what he wants to do with the Infinity Stones and why, in a very warped way it makes some sense. His presence as the foil to the Avengers and Guardians gives this film something unique and memorable.

With a cast this large it is inevitable that not everyone’s favorite will have the responsibility or amount of action they hope for. The Russo’s do an admirable job of balancing these heroes, however, and somehow left me feeling satisfied. Sure, a little more backstory or deeper character moments for them all would be nice, but it’s also unrealistic to expect in a single film of this length. By managing to give everyone at least one small moment in the sun, the Russo’s succeed where I believe many would have failed. Another result of keeping most character development small is that the film moves fast, pausing a few times for majorly impactful storyline beats, but mostly cutting between different groups of heroes working to accomplish different tasks. By keeping the heroes in smaller groups, we get to feel more focused when we’re with them, and enjoy the new forms of dialogue that emerge between characters who previously had not interacted.

The action in Avengers: Infinity War is, as expected, fantastic. Seeing heroes fight together with new gear and weapons, or teaming up in ways never experienced by movie goers before, was a huge treat. In one major battle that involves a host of heroes and countless alien attackers, the Silvestri score and rising stakes create a feeling similar to that in the Battle of the Pelennor Field from The Return of the King. While Avengers: Infinity War never quite reaches that level of epic, it comes much closer than many (myself included) ever thought possible.

VERDICT

If you’re thinking that this review is a but vague, please know that is by design. Fans have waited 10 years for this and going in with as little information possible is going to result in the best viewing experience. Avengers: Infinity War isn’t entirely unpredictable, but it’s got some surprises too. The historic puzzle that the Russo Brothers have put together is nothing short of amazing and will lend itself to multiple viewings. Perhaps that’s the highest praise possible for a film of this kind, that after it finished I immediately would have sat through those 2.5+ hours again. To sum it all up, Avengers: Infinity War lived up to the hype by being both entertaining and emotional. Well done, Marvel. Well done.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.