Beauty and the Beast (2017)

The final part of the Toronto ComiCon weekend meet-up with Drew is our Friday’s night movie going adventure to see the live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Drew and I both have Disney segments on our respective blogs and it really highlights how much we love it in general. Plus, we just finished our 90’s Blogathon so hey, it all fits perfectly together. As objective as we would like to be, it is hard to not compare it to the original animation. I am just going to be honest here before we start.

Lets check it out!

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

beauty and the beast

Director: Bill Condon

(Voice) Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ian McKellan, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson

The beauty of animation is how magical they can be because they are imaginative and creative. To bring something like that to life creates a lot of challenge. There has be matching music and atmosphere and most importantly, the magical chemistry that we can feel with these characters which is usually easier to believe when its animation than in real life. I would be lying if I didn’t go into Beauty and the Beast optimistically skeptical. Why? I haven’t watched anything from Emma Watson since Harry Potter series ended and I only know Dan Stevens as the creepy dude in The Guest and an extremely small part of Season one of Downton Abbey. Not a lot to compare to and I didn’t really look too much at the voice actors either. The question now, after a few days of the initial excitement and thinking about it: does it live up to its original? The answer is no. I have to reluctantly say that because of a few aspects. However, I also never expected it to live up to the original so I still had a lot of fun with it.

Beauty and the Beast 2017

Beauty and the Beast’s best part is creating its atmosphere and the world. It is absolutely gorgeous. The effects and CGI put us right into the setting of the town and especially the castle and forest areas. There was a darker tone however, it does manage to capture a great part of the magic that made the first one great. Of course, the original animated film offered up some of the most beautiful animation with its rich colors and catchy musical tunes. That comes to the second part that gives this movie something more. While retaining a lot of the music from the original, they manage to put a few new songs in. The nostalgia and magic of the old music still is the fun parts of the movie plus it shows a true determination of creating a animated film with this one that stays true to a musical with actually not a lot of dialogue.

Beauty and the Beast

Belle is one of my favorite heroines/Disney princesses. To be honest, Emma Watson did a decent performance. I can’t say that she was particularly memorable though. She fit in well because she had a good enough singing voice and the movie’s overall magical appeal swept me away. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like her. I just can’t really pinpoint a part of hers that stuck out to her. On that note, her chemistry with the Beast worked well enough that the story made it easy to fall in love with the story again even knowing what would happen and in that final scene where there’s that twist, I had tears in my eyes, which was definitely unexpected. Turning over to Dan Stevens as the Beast, his face was pretty much CGI and yet perhaps it is because of that, it was easier to keep it imaginative. When he was angry at the beginning, there were moments of fear and later as he softened, his features also made it so much more gentle. There was so much more to love in how Dan Stevens portrayed the Beast than Belle which seems to be the opposite of how I remembered the Disney animation.

Beauty and the Beast

The stars and the most dynamic characters of the original was almost always these supporting animated enchanted characters. Who knew that clocks and candelabras and teapots could make us fall in love with them, right? That is something that really stands out also in this live action. The voice cast is a fantastic ensemble with Cogsworth being voices Ian McKellan, Lumiere by Ewan McGregor, Mrs. Potts by Emma Thompson and of course, the man who tends to sneak into every movie in some supporting part and almost makes it shine, the grand piano (Maestro) by Stanley Tucci. I loved them the most in this live action adaptation (or is it a remake?). There are so many similarities to the original but somehow their enchantedness makes it easier to imagine them in this way.
Beauty and the Beast

Finally, we can’t not talk about the most self-absorbed villain, Gaston. I honestly like Gaston quite a bit and his sequences especially the Gaston songs and bits are quite humorous in the animation and I’m pretty happy about how they approached this character and Luke Evans take on it. There were a lot of funny moments and it helps a lot. The ending battle with the Beast was a little underwhelming but it was never meant to be overly long even in the original. Gaston isn’t really a true threat ever. I’m not sure any believes that he’ll amount to anything too much especially not when his right hand man is Lefou who is just there for comedic relief. Josh Gad didn’t quite stand out as much either.

Overall, Beauty and the Beast is a decent live action take of the original. In comparison, it is hard to meet the original’s masterful animation however there is still a lot to love especially because this one takes good care in creating a beautiful environment and magical atmosphere. The winter and snowy landscape with the dark but beautiful castle captures lots of mystic, especially watching the take on the castle falling apart as the magic wears away from each rose petal falling. While some characters are a little underwhelming in their portrayal, the majority did a pretty great job however the magic of the story itself did carry itself and shadowed the shortcomings in the moment.

Have you seen Beauty and the Beast?

Backcountry (2014)

Backcountry (aka Blackfoot Trail) has been a movie on my radar for quite some time. Something about the wilderness being our enemy seems always so intriguing. Think about Frozen, not the Disney animated film but this one here. Maybe not intriguing but the unpredictability is threatening at times because we can’t quite anticipate what to do, except try to prepare the best possible for it. Plus, I love to support Canadian films.

Let’s check this out!

Backcountry (2014)

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Director (and writer): Adam MacDonald

Cast: Missy Peregrym,  Jeff Roop, Eric Balfour, Nicholas Campbell

An urban couple go camping in the woods and find themselves lost in the territory of a predatory black bear. – IMDB

Backcountry is a story about survival based on a true story. A couple goes out to the woods lead by boyfriend, Alex who wants to take his busy girlfriend, Jenn to Blackfoot Trail to not only get away from the urban life but to a specific spot he remembered was really pretty when he was younger. Except to finally realize that they were not only lost but with a bear following their tracks. So much thrill can come from this concept and don’t get me wrong, it does because the story takes its time to let us know our characters before putting them into danger and while the thrill of outsmarting nature is great, it is hard to ignore the basic common sense. Please do note that I do not know the true story and never read up on any details so this write up is just from a standalone.

Backcountry

For people who are beginner hikers, or beginner anything really, we all know to go in prepared. This is where we already know where the story will go because Alex, upon being offered a map to the trail and against all caution, decides to go without taking the map. This is about as spoiler as I will get, I promise. How do you cheer for someone who doesn’t even know to protect themselves and have all odds on their side? Now, Jenn doesn’t even pay attention on anything else or listen in on what the ranger says so she just walks in trusting it is all good. I’m all about trust but like I said, you can never be prepared. However, the first part (or half) of the film is really about character development and letting us learn about who these two people are. The decisions they make define who they are and probably what will happen to them. Perhaps also take their story as a cautionary tale.

Backcountry

Early in the film, we start realizing that there a presence of a bear in the area. However Alex chooses to ignore it even when a few more things happen. If I was them, I wouldn’t have continued. No matter how beautiful the scenery is mostly because its more disappointing to die than to wait to come back and enjoy it when its safer, something our two characters really are quite naive about. However, here is where I will stop talking about the main characters but about the introduction of danger. The creepy feeling of camping and having something outside and how sometimes we can’t predict or even know they are there actually creates the fear in the audience before our characters do because we know more than they do at that current point in time. Definitely one of the finer aspects of Backcountry is creating the gruelling and threatening atmosphere and giving it time to slowly build up.

Backcountry

There are a few other characters in this film. The ranger plays a cameo role with just one short scene. The other is an Irish hiking expert (forgot the actual term) Brad who poses as a intimidating person. What is the meaning of his character? That is the question we should ask ourselves if not to simply inject a slightly bigger name because it is played by Eric Balfour. This character is deep and hard to grasp and it makes his short appearance so much more powerful when we see how Alex and Jenn reacts and the strength in our mains. I honestly believe that was the purpose because it shouldn’t be to divert our attention since most do know, especially with the posters, what this movie is about, I’m guessing (which I could be wrong). In many ways, his character managed to intrigue and create mystery.

 Overall, Backcountry is a slow-burn wilderness survival cautionary tale based on a true story. The main characters are given time to develop and for us to know them better while letting the dangers slowly approach. While the atmosphere and intrigue and urgency of the situation is done very well, there is a part of me that can rationalize bits that escape common sense however, still wonder if its just my way of wanting the characters’ decision to make sense. There are some quite brutal sequences and the second half is much more engaging than the first which is mostly about building up our characters before breaking them down.

Have you seen Backcountry?

Ella Enchanted (2004)

Ultimate 90’s blogathon is done and wrapped up. It is time to embrace some movie reviews. I have to admit that I actually didn’t watch a lot of movies over the last three weeks. I took the opportunity to catch up on TV series and gaming, which was a really nice change in pace.

I am a fan of Anna Hathaway and especially in those Princess Diaries days and I am also a sucker for princess/Cinderella stories which makes Ella Enchanted all the more fantastic. It has been a while that I’ve wanted to see this one so I was excited to see it land on Netflix! Lets give it a go!

Ella Enchanted (2004)

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Director: Tommy O’Haver

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver, Aidan McArdle, Joanna Lumley, Lucy Punch, Jennifer Higham, Eric Idle, Vivica A. Fox

Ella is under a spell to be constantly obedient, a fact she must hide from her new step-family in order to protect the prince of the land, her friend for whom she’s falling. – IMDB

Ella Enchanted is an innocent fun movie, actually much more than my first impressions that I remembered of it back when it released. While it does give a Cinderella-esque story, Ella embodies quite a few princesses we are familiar with. She does have an evil stepmother who brings two stepsisters and they do push her aside but Ella also has a fairy in the household and ends up getting a curse, like Sleeping Beauty except her curse is one of being obedient. While it seems great as a baby for their parents, as she grew up, it started to cause her to do many things she didn’t want to. Ella lived with no choices and under people’s desires because of this curse. However, she is very kind and accepting. It is hard to not cheer for Ella when she sets out on her journey to find Lucinda, the fairy who granted her this “gift” and feel bad for her predicament when she gets caught up in bad situations.

Ella Enchanted

Anne Hathaway does a great job at being Ella. There’s a bit of the whole innocent and Princess Diaries’ vibe in her at this point. It is a likeable trait and shows lot of potential in being more as an actress. We do know that she is capable of bigger and more mature roles nowadays. Most of the scenes with Ella as some of the best because she is so fun to watch. Along with the fact that her and Hugh Dancy have pretty good chemistry that it makes their love story even more appealing. I haven’t seen Hugh Dancy in a lot of movies. The one I remember slightly might be a few years ago when I saw Confessions of a Shopaholic (and then IMDB tells me that I’ve also seen him in Blood and Chocolate and The Jane Austen Book Club, oh well). He is a charming man for sure and fits well in the role of Prince Char. Perhaps the most entertaining part of Ella Enchanted is watching these two characters. While over the top to a certain degree, still manages to remain believable.
Ella Enchanted

Aside from our main characters, Ella’s crew of friends that she makes along her journey probably are the silliest. She has a magical book that is her household fairy, Mandy’s (played by Minnie Driver) boyfriend. There’s an elf who wants to be a lawyer and not sing and dance. There’s some silly orcs (I think) and of course, some friendly giants. The story is that Char’s uncle is ruling over the kingdom before he comes into coronation, which is pretty much when the story is set and he has decreed rules that make the other species feel repressed and treated cruelly. These friends while filled with a heart of courage and help with making this funny, sometimes can be a little off beat from the story. It still is fun and innocent especially seeing as this is a truly harmless story and one that we’re pretty familiar with.

Ella Enchanted

Finally, our villain. All fairy tales have one. Ours is none other than Char’s power lusting uncle Edgar played by Cary Elwes. And he also has a sidekick which is a magical CGI snake called Heston. Are you sensing an Aladdin’s Jafar feeling here with his Iago? Either way, Ella Enchanted is very lighthearted and even in its most sinister and dark moments still manages to keep it light and funny. Edgar is completely comedic in many ways. The other villain, in some ways, is the stepsister played by Lucy Punch who really just wanted Ella out of the way in order to get her hands on Prince Char for herself. Nothing too threatening about this character other than the fact that she’s merely a pawn in the whole ordeal to Ella’s dilemma. What makes sure that we are definitely watching a mash-up princess movie and not Cinderella is that our villain isn’t the stepmother who would mimick the role of Lady Tremaine but really has a small role here and who is not at all threatening.

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted is an innocent and fun movie. It never lets us forget that we are watching a fairy tale story with an impressive heroine geared towards a younger audience. It keeps it light by staying comedic and making it a funny affair to watch. There is good chemistry between Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy who are clearly the strength of this film. The story is familiar and simple and quite predictable and yet, there’s something charming about it. Perhaps it is because fairy tales, especially live action ones nowadays are getting so dark that its nice to visit one that remembers to keep it fun and fantastical.

Have you seen Ella Enchanted?

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Anastasia (1997) by Starry Traveler’s Road

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Next up is not only a blogger but also a childhood friend of mine, Phoebe from Starry Traveler’s Road with her review of Anastasia! This movie is one of my faves also. However, if you haven’t been to her blog, she posts pretty casually but she has posts on being a mom of a newborn, otome reviews and recently, some movie reviews called Movies with BunBun segment. For those who don’t know, we’re also starting up a new collab segment that will be here soon. We’re wrapping up some preparation work and it’ll be a food segment. Remember to head over and check out her blog after you’re done here.

Take it away, Phoebe!

Anastasia

Movies with Bun Bun: Anastasia (1997)

Hello everyone! Big thank yous to Tranquil Dreams and Drew for hosting the Ultimate 90s Blogathon! The Ultimate 80s Blogathon was so much fun that I decided to give movie reviews another try!

Looking back, I never quite understood why I have always had a keen interest in studying royal history since I was young. Unlike some people, I never dreamt to be a princess though it is a fact that I have always wanted to be a historian. The Russian royal family was one of the three families that I studied as a hobby. While powerful rulers like Catherine the Great fascinated me, the whole mystery surrounding Tsar Nicolas II’s family during the Russian Revolution mystified me, especially when the news revealed two bodies were missing in an excavation all the way back in 1991. (For those who do not know, the whole family and their servants’ bodies are all accounted for in 2009.)

First thing that came to my mind was: who is this mysterious Grand Duchess Anastasia? The more that I read about her, the more I found that she was quite interesting. When this animated movie came out, I wondered how Anastasia would be portrayed and how her ‘story’ would unfold if she managed to escape from captivity. Anyway, enough rambling and on with the review.

The last surviving child of the Russian Royal Family joins two con men to reunite with her grandmother, the Dowager Empress, while the undead Rasputin seeks her death. – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118617/

There was a lot of things that I loved about this movie as I felt back then that Disney’s animation started to go downhill since Beauty and the Beast. I was particularly fond of Anastasia’s graphics and storyline. The characters are very well drawn and developed though I always wished Pooka the dog would appear more often. The dialogues and bantering between characters, especially Anastasia and Dimitri, were very entertaining. As a historian who understands this is a fictional movie, I cannot say that I imagined that Anastasia would end up in Paris, the City of Love, out of all the places in the world to reunite with her grandmother; but hey, there must be some mushy romance thrown somewhere in the story! The locations are so well illustrated that I really want to see them for myself, especially the Catherine Palace! Music was amazing to the point that I owned the soundtrack and often played Once Upon a December, Journey to the Past, Learn to Do It and At the Beginning on repeat. (At the Beginning was chosen as one of the songs played at my wedding.)

Fast forward a few years and boom! My daughter, bun bun, appeared. I am still trying to figure out bun bun’s opinion on this movie as it took us around 5 times before we managed to finish the movie. Unlike An American Tail from the last Blogathon, she was more interested in running around, pressing buttons on my keyboard, climbing on furniture and testing my patience. The only things that caught her attention was Anastasia’s dog, Pooka, and the faster songs like A Rumor in St. Petersburg. I thought the soothing and haunting melodies like Once Upon a December would appeal to her as I often sang them to her; but no, she danced to Rasputin’s In the Dark of the Night! It is obvious that our taste in music differs and she is ready to party as if she is 18 even though she is only a toddler, but we have one thing in common: we both love Pooka!

Anyway, I asked myself what I should do when I reintroduce this movie to an older bun bun. Should I let her see this movie only as an animated movie or should I try to explain the real person/history behind the fictional movie? What do you think?

Thanks to Phoebe for a wonderful write-up on Anastasia! 
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews tomorrow for the next review in the blogathon!

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: The Sweet Hereafter (1997) by Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews

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Joining us again in this next entry is Charlene from Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews with her second review for the Ultimate 90’s blogathon with her choice of The Sweet Hereafter. If you missed her previous review of The Adventures of Priscilla: The Queen of the Desert, head over to see it HERE.

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Grief is an unfortunate yet unavoidable process. This can be related to and can include loss of a relationship, job, or physical or emotional loss of a loved one. While there are various stages of grief, each individual handles it differently. They may exact revenge, anger, guilt, or detachment. Regardless, these events are life-altering. They halt the anticipated course of our life trajectory, interrupting any previous sense of rationale we once held. “The Sweet Hereafter”, a 1997 Canadian film directed by Atom Egoyan, explores the complex web of emotions associated with grief and bereavement following great tragedy impacting a rural community in British Columbia.

Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm), an outside lawyer with a complex and contentious relationship with his daughter Zoe (Caerthan Banks), ventures to a small Canadian town during a harsh winter. He is representing a group of citizens in a class action lawsuit for negligence against their own town and a bus company. We quickly learn the true, heartbreaking nature of this lawsuit – a bus accident claiming the lives of fourteen children. Carefully paced, Stephens unearths the raw reality, fears, and new challenges of those affected by the crash, wrestling with his role in Zoe’s battle with drug addiction.

There are many techniques enhancing storytelling used in this devastating yet beautiful film. Firstly, it is crafted such that the story is out of sequence. This aids to juxtapose between a sorrowful present and a once joyful past, but also to highlight parallels between Stephens’ suffering and that of the community. In addition, “The Pied Piper” is incorporated into the story, showcasing similarities between a legend known to many and this town’s tragedy. Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polley) narrates, and her role as “the lame child” serves as a metaphor for her own fate. As a whole, these techniques enhance the palpability of the film’s catastrophic truths.

The Sweet Hereafter” is spoken within a phrase near the end of the film. Nicole recites that the once united community is now emotionally disbanded, living separate “strange and new” lives in the “sweet hereafter”. I initially felt that there is a great sense of irony in the title, as the future following a mass casualty seems quite grim. However, in the process of grief, acceptance is generally deemed as the final stage. I do not believe that we “move on” from tragic events as they will forever be imprinted in our memories, but we try to create a new sense of normalcy through an understanding and acceptance of our past. Through this, we may be able to find peace and meaning in the new paths we forge.

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 Thanks to Charlene for her beautiful review of The Sweet Hereafter! 🙂
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews for tomorrow’s entry for Ultimate 90’s Blogathon!

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Batman Returns (1992) by DB Movies Blog

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Next up is DB from DB Movies Blog with a sequel of the 1989 Batman by Tim Burton, Batman Returns! One of my personal faves because it has the fantastic Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. DB Movies Blog has a range of film-related posts from reviews to trailer to lists and awards recap, etc. Lots of great material to check out! Without further ado, let’s pass it over to her to talk about her choice!

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Batman Returns (1992)

Three years after directing “Batman” (1989), Tim Burton came up with yet another Batman film “Batman Returns”. Visually stunning and well thought-out, the film is about the rise to power of Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Danny DeVito), who has been hidden away and shunned by society for 33 years in the city of Gotham. In his quest to become the mayor of Gotham, Penguin is unwillingly helped by a dishonest businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) as the Penguin’s freaky followers intermittently wreck havoc on Gotham to discredit the present mayor and eventually make it look like the Penguin is fighting crime. Meanwhile, Shreck’s shy secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), finds out too much about Shreck’s illegal activities, causing Shreck to try to get rid of her, and the result of his efforts is Selina’s transformation into a Catwoman. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton) is also not indifferent to the crimes orchestrated by the Penguin and is determined to stop the Penguin and his gang while having a love-hate relationship with Selina/Catwoman.

From the very first scenes of the film, we are intrigued. We are confronted with a Dracula-inspired-setting and gothic surroundings as we see a couple who gives birth to a deformed baby, and then some time later, on a cold Christmas night, rushes across a Gotham park to throw their newborn baby into a river crossing the park. The eerie wintry landscape and the menacing soundtrack by Danny Elfman complete this picture as we then see a crib of a baby-monster floating down the sewer of the city.

Prior to “Batman Returns”, Burton also directed “Beetlejuice” (1988) and “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), already establishing himself as the director for shooting the themes of supernatural, odd, unknown and dark. In that vein, Burton makes “Batman Returns” his very own. With Burton’s flair for presenting a Gothic fantasy, “Batman Returns”’s cinematography is moody and grim, now reminding of “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) or “Sweeney Todd” (2007), but with a comical twist, a freaks-show setting and more stand-alone odd characters. Burton transforms the city of Gotham into a lavish wintry high-buildings landscape populated by mysterious pale-faced personalities, odd freaks and brave anti-heroes. In his prior and forthcoming work, Burton relied heavily on the old German expressionist cinematography and “Batman Returns” is no exception. From the very first scenes, the film is all about sharp dark edges, futurism, and the macabre, similar to “The Cabinet of DrCaligari” (1920). We also see the skyline of the Gotham City, and the tall buildings, grim atmosphere and fog reminds of “Metropolis” (1927). The elaborate sculpture work of the Gotham Zoo and the camerawork are also similar to the camerawork and the town scale model found in Burton’s “Beetlejuice”.

Action-wise, “Batman Returns” is also great. From the firebombing of Shreck’s department store to a faulty Batman car racing, the action is fast-paced with great visual effects. Add to this a rich animal symbolism, distinctively-gloomy, but deliciously macabre cinematography and a thought-provoking ending and it is safe to say that Burton has probably crafted the best Batman movie ever.

Having said that, “Batman Returns” is, primarily, a character-driven film. Michael Keaton reprises his role of the Batman, but the spotlight is not on him and he has to give way to “more interesting” and “crazier” characters. Keaton’s performance is unimaginative and unenthusiastic, though he is a very dignified and “intellectual” Batman; that kind of a Batman who will snug in on a weekend in front of a fireplace with a book rather than practise his combat moves in front of a mirror.

Every imaginable Hollywood actress was considered for the role of the Catwoman: from Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman and Jodie Foster to Cher and Meryl Streep. In the end, Annette Bening was cast, but was replaced by Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer is perfectly cast and gives a very convincing, almost iconic performance. She is good as a sexually-frustrated shy secretary Selina and as a confident and blood-thirsty Catwoman. Selina’s duality and her transformation into a Catwoman are particularly well-presented. We see something close to the nowadays “Black Swan” transformation, because Selina is first surrounded by her pink soft toys and immaculate kitchen and then goes berserk and lusts for a dark and mysterious side of life. Her chemistry with Bruce Wayne is also very good, and it is interesting to watch how the pair is mentally trying to figure out each other’s true identities and thoughts.

The real revelations in the film are Danny DeVito in the role of the Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot and Christopher Walken in the role of Max Shreck. DeVito’s Penguin is very memorable: he is hideous, totally demented and power-hungry. Walken’s Shreck is also a show-stealer. Cool, strange and menacing, Walken as Max Shreck makes the atmosphere very uncomfortable, and it is a pity that the Shreck’s energy aspirations idea is left underdeveloped in the film.

It is true, however, that “Batman Returns” is not a perfect movie. We hardly get to know anything about the title character and his personal development (a hero’s journey) is questionable. The reason why Batman as a character is so neglected in this film is maybe because Burton/Waters/Strick is not really interested in him. In fact, Burton agreed to do “Batman Returns” only on condition that the studio gives him more creative control over the material and that Daniel Waters, a screenwriter known for his black-comedy “Heathers” (1988), comes on board. The influence of both is evident in the final product.

Another weakness of the film is that it has too many villains which form surprising partnerships, but the biggest criticism at the time of its release was that Burton’s version of a Batman movie was too gloomy and grotesque, sexually too suggestive (e.g. the Catwoman finds herself often on top of the Batman) and violent (e.g. child-kidnapping takes place on a regular basis). There are valid points, but should be seen in a perspective. Unlike the Superman and even the Spiderman series, the Batman series is all about the dark nature of humanity, mysterious personal duality, masks and camouflage, the colour black, unclear freaky characters’ origins, underlying childhood trauma and gloomy settings. Taking this into account, Burton’s gothic, macabre and dark take fits the Batman adaptation perfectly.

Batman Returns” may not be the film to immediately spring to mind when you think “the films of 1990s”, but its unusually presented-superhero theme, advanced computer-generated special effects and the director’s distinctive influence on the style and plot of the film are the features which later came to define films shot in 1990s (wasn’t it the decade of the rise of independent cinema after all?). “Batman Returns” is a Tim Burton film through-and-through. Rich in visuals, it is grim, dark, fantastical and strangely enticing. It also a film which is very entertaining: it has an interesting plot, perfect casting, great soundtrack and a very memorable presentation of such oddball characters as the Penguin and Catwoman.

8/10

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Thanks to DB for a fantastic review of Batman Returns. Definitely a great title (with its flaws) from the 90s!
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews on Monday for the next entry!

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Pump Up The Volume (1990) by OC Movie Reviews

Ultimate 90's blogathon

Our first participant of Ultimate 90’s Blogathon is Mark over at OC Movie Reviews. If you don’t know him, OC stands for Operation Condor and over on his site, you can find tons of fantastic movie reviews. He starts us with a movie that just steps in the very beginning of the decade, Pump Up The Volume! If you don’t follow OC Movie Reviews, you should head over there and give him a follow.

Let’s hand it over to Mark!

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Pump Up The Volume Review – Talk Hard. So Be It.

“Do you ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely f*cked up? You know that feeling? The whole country is like one inch away from saying ‘that’s it, forget it!’. Think about it, everything’s polluted: the environment, the government, the schools – you name it.”

That is Happy Harry Hard-On’s opening line from the 1990 sleeper hit Pump Up The Volume. As opening lines go it’s pretty cool, it’s also quite apt for now or pretty much any decade you choose. You could even change America for your own country.

Hard Harry is played by Christian Slater, who had already enjoyed some success with Heathers in 1988 and would go on to star in Young Guns II, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, True Romance a host of other film and TV series and most recently Mr. Robot.

Slater plays Mark Hunter, a new student at Hubert H. Humphrey High School – hence the name of his alter-ego – in Phoenix, Arizona. Having moved with his parents from ‘out-East’ he is now a loner, struggling to make friends. His parents buy him a short-wave radio to talk to his friends back home (before the days of the internet) but he can’t reach them and so, instead, he begins broadcasting his teenage angst on the pirate airways.

What he doesn’t realise at first, is just how many people this angst is resonating with and more and more teens begin tuning in and hanging off his every word. He almost brings things to a halt when one student kills himself after speaking with Hard Harry on-air. Instead, he tells his listeners that suicide is not the answer and to rebel instead. Rebel they do, spraying graffiti over the school, microwaving possessions and more.

As the trouble reaches a crescendo the FCC are brought in to pin-point the radio broadcast and put an end to it. At the same time, it’s revealed that the school’s principal, played by Annie Ross (Superman III, Throw Momma From The Train) has been expelling problem kids but keeping their names on the books to get money from the government and make the school look better.

Despite not doing that well at the box office in the US, it has gone on to be a cult classic. Perhaps because its message that, if things aren’t ok, change them, speaks to people young and old. It’s also a message that doesn’t age, unlike some of the outfits and hairstyles in the movie!

Slater is brilliant in the DJ chair. He seems genuinely excited to be talking to whoever is listening and makes you believe in what he’s saying. The juxtaposition between that and this nerdy, awkward teenager in school, is a wonderful transformation (although physically it’s a bit Superman – just wear glasses) and another reason why it resonates so well; a lot of us can related to being different people at different times, whether that’s home and work or home and school.

Being a pirate DJ you’d expect the music of the film to be good. As an opening song, Hard Harry uses Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen but other than it’s more talking than music. Having said that we do get glimpses of cassettes (remember them?) of: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Soundgarden and many more.

Although supposed to be teenagers Slater was actually 21 when he filmed the movie whilst his female accomplice who discovers his true identity was actress Samantha Mathis (Buried, Broken Arrow, The Strain, Under The Dome) and she was 20.

Quite a few people in the film went on to have careers within the Hollywood machine. The guidance councillor who takes quite a bit of stick from Hard Harry is played Robert Schenkkan, you’ll probably know him as the writer of Hacksaw Ridge and The Quiet American. Ellen Greene plays English teacher Jan Emerson. Green is probably best known for her role as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and was also in Naked Gun 33 1/3, Leon, The Cooler, Pushing Daisies, Heroes and many more.

A ‘blink and you’ll miss her’ role is also had for Holly Sampson who, well, she, erm, that is, well she went into the adult entertainment industry, where she has certainly been busy, according to IMDB. Star Trek fans can catch sight of Alexander Enberg, best known for Ensign Vorik in Voyager, Gregg Daniel from True Blood and Nigel Gibbs whose been in everything from Breaking Bad, House, Veep, The Shield and practically any other cop-based TV show you can think of, also show up.

Perhaps the best ‘look who it is’ moment is saved for Seth Green. You’ll know Seth Green from his voice work these days on Family Guy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robot Chicken to name but three. Prior to this he did used to show his face and was in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Sh*gged me and Buffy The Vampire Slayer amongst others. In Pump Up The Volume he sports the most magnificent red haired mullet you will ever see, truly glorious!

Writer and director Allan Moyle went on to direct Empire Records and Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story. Perhaps all his angst was used up on Pump Up The Volume? Who knows.

Whilst Pump Up The Volume isn’t perfect, and is often overlooked in 90’s films, for me, and anyone I know who’s seen it, it remains a true great. Whilst the technology may have changed, the angst felt by those young and old hasn’t: we want to be heard, we want to talk hard. But if Pump Up The Volume remains a great film under the radar, so be it.

Thanks to Mark for putting together this fantastic review on Pump Up The Volume! 🙂
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews tomorrow for the next Ultimate 90’s Blogathon review!