Review: Rob Marshall's 'The Little Mermaid' Enriches the Original
Yet another Disney live-action remake, yet another short preamble about the original flick before diving into this new one. For me personally, The Little Mermaid from 1989 was not an animated movie that marked my childhood. The memorable songs, underwater musical sequences, and the iconic animal characters kept my recent rewatch enjoyable enough, but unfortunately, the superficial, abrupt narrative and the extremely underdeveloped character arcs leave a lot to be desired. These are some of the details that I hoped might be improved in the modern live-action remake, which contains an extra hour on its runtime… Claiming that a remake matches or surpasses the original will always be controversial. And if it's related to movies that deeply impacted different generations, the nostalgia factor comes into play and blinds viewers who feel the almost uncontrollable need to protect "their film" against any other positive opinion about the new version.
› Posted on May 31 in Review | 3 Comments
Cannes 2023: 'Perfect Days' in Tokyo are Simple Yet Still Enriching
Everyone knows that famous Lou Reed song that goes, "Oh it's such a perfect day! I'm glad I spend it with you…" This timeless classic tune is where this film's title Perfect Days is from, but it's also an important part of the film - it's one of songs that Hirayama listens to a few times while at home or driving around in his little van. Perfect Days is one of the latest narrative feature films created by iconic German filmmaker Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire), a passion project that he has been working on for years. It just premiered in the Main Competition at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, and the wonderful Japanese actor Kōji Yakusho won the Best Actor prize at the end of the festival. It's without a doubt one of my favorite films from Cannes, and Yakusho absolutely deserves this award. The film reminds me in many ways of Jim Jarmusch's Paterson, one of my all-time fave Cannes premieres - both are poetic and quietly moving, while also being charismatic and nuanced in their deep understanding of the simpler lives of blue collar workers.
Cannes 2023: The Magical Brilliance of Alice Rohrwacher's 'La Chimera'
The tombaroli are my Palme d'Or picks from 2023! One of the best films that premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival is the sensational La Chimera, the latest creation from acclaimed Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher (best known for her previous films The Wonders and Happy as Lazzaro). It's been five years since her last feature film, and it's worth the wait, because it's clear she puts in so much time and effort into meticulously crafting and honing these films that each one needs time to develop into something special. La Chimera is another magical realism adventure, similar to Happy as Lazzaro with plenty of fantasy elements and a vintage Italian feel, but with an entirely different story about a band of tomb raiding archeologists. It's unlike anything I've ever seen, an astoundingly original creation that can't really be compared to much else before. I've already noticed some hasty comparisons to Indiana Jones (also shown in Cannes) but these two movies are so unique. I'm actually still buzzing from the initial high of experiencing La Chimera in Cannes.
Cannes 2023: 'How to Have Sex' Party Film Doesn't Discuss Anything
What can we learn and how do we become better if we refuse to have any conversations? One of the biggest disappointments for me at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival is this party film called How to Have Sex. Aside from the fact that this is not what the film is about (more accurately it should be called How to Not Have a Good Time Partying With Your Friends), it's a film that wants to have a conversation that it never does end up having. It seems that they had so much more fun making this than they did trying to create a compelling discussion within this film, and of course this means audiences will have "fun" with it as well. But that's not what the filmmaker is hoping for, there's a much more painful, sad story being told here. And in that regard, she fails at making an engaging, intellectually relevant film. It's frustrating in its blatant stubbornness, and never provides anything worthwhile to consider for viewers of any age, only that friends are bad influences.
Cannes 2023: Anh Hung Tran's 'The Pot-au-Feu' is Gastronomic Bliss
"Eating is not merely a material pleasure… Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship." –Elsa Schiaparelli. This is the first major masterpiece premiere at Cannes that I've encountered this year (so far) after watching 21 films at the festival. The Pot-au-Feu is Vietnamese-French director Anh Hung Tran's latest feature, an exquisite voyage through the world of French cuisine and gastronomy. It's bliss. Food heaven. I spent two hours in heaven and returned to tell the tale. There isn't a single shot in it that isn't perfect composed. There isn't a single scene I would change. It deserves a perfect score - the only one I've given so far in Cannes. The only issues that have come to mind since it ended have been dismissed after further analysis and discussion (will save this for another time as most of it involves spoilers that I won't publish now). This is one of the most magnificent, decadent, delicious food films I have ever seen. An instant classic, instant comfort movie favorite, instant inspiration.
Cannes 2023: Wes Anderson's Desert Trip to Downbeat 'Asteroid City'
I'm not usually a fan of writing a review while admitting that I haven't fully figured out the film and need to analyze and discuss it further. However, I need to get my thoughts out about this one – and something is bothering me about the film anyway that I need to get off my chest. WTF is going on in this film?! I've been a Wes Anderson fan for as long as I can remember, with my personal faves being Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I was not particularity fond of The French Dispatch, which premiered at Cannes 2021, it's just too dense and loquacious for me. Anderson's latest creation premiering in Cannes is a strange sci-fi drama called Asteroid City, set in the 1950s following an ensemble of eccentric characters stuck in this fictional desert town. It has all the usual quaint, delectable Wes Anderson ingredients thrown in – from precise camera movements to distinctly vibrant set design to off-beat characters delivering lines without skipping a beat. However, this one didn't turn out. There's just something oddly dispirited about it…
Cannes 2023: 'Mars Express' is an Incredible Animated Sci-Fi Creation
Every year at the Cannes Film Festival, there's one extraordinary animated film that quietly premieres in one of the side sections. Some of my other favorites from the past are: I Lost My Body (2019), The Summit of the Gods (2021), and Little Nicholas: Happy as Can Be (2022). This year's big animation discovery is a French animated feature called Mars Express, a hard sci-fi creation from director Jérémie Périn. At the fest there's also the animated film Robot Dreams, which I already reviewed and it's wonderful as well, but this one completely rocked me. Both of these films involve robots, which is a bit of a fun coincidence. Mars Express is pretty much a French update on the iconic Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell, featuring a noir story involving androids and artificial intelligence and hacking and robots galore. While it's not as great as GITS, it's as close as anyone has come in YEARS to making another great "what's hidden in the code" movie.
Cannes 2023: Aki Kaurismäki's Simple, Sweet Love Story 'Fallen Leaves'
For those that are not already familiar with Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki's films, I will say that they are an acquired taste. His dry wit and minimalistic dead pan style definitely won't work for everyone, and some viewers will be left wanting. I will admit that I'm not a fan of all of his films either - some of them I like much more than others. However, if there's a particular story or something appealing about one of them that interests you - it's worth watching just to enjoy some international cinema that is unique. His latest film is called Fallen Leaves (originally Kuolleet Lehdet in Finnish) and it just premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, where Kaurismäki is a regular. He's been attending Cannes (and tons of other festivals) since 1996 with Drifting Clouds. After so many heavy, dark, deep dramas, it's a joy to watch & enjoy something so upbeat and fresh and light. It's also a breezy 81 minutes, which is just the right length for this sweet love story. I can recommend this film to anyone looking for some feel good Finnish romance vibes at the cinema.
Cannes 2023: Finding the Truth in Jessica Hausner's Film 'Club Zero'
To believe in Club Zero, you must accept that your truth is not the right truth. The truth you knew before is no longer the truth. And you must have faith that you can achieve what you once thought was not possible. This is the way of Club Zero. Don't question it, just accept it, believe in it… Austrian film director Jessica Hausner returns to the 2023 Cannes Film Festival with a new film titled Club Zero, an intriguing thriller about a group of students who join a special program studying with Ms. Novak. She introduces a concept to them called "Conscious Eating" – which they learn is about taking the time to slow down, think about, and closely observe what they are eating, so that they'll eat less, become healthier, more energized, and perhaps save the world in the process (there's just too much eating going on). The students are weary at first, but quickly take to her ideas and slowly come to believe fully in her conscious eating concept. It is absolutely a commentary on religion and cults and brainwashing, but what else is this film digging into beyond just that?
Cannes 2023: 'Robot Dreams' is a Delightful Animated New York Story
One of the surprise animated films premiering at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival this year is called Robot Dreams, a Spanish production made by Catalan filmmaker named Pablo Berger. The delightful animated movie is an entirely dialogue-free story set in the 1980s in New York City, following a dog character known simply as "DOG" as he builds a relationship with his new robot friend. This is Pablo Berger's first animated film, after making the features Blancanieves and Abracadabra previously. It's a super sweet, uplifting story about friendship and even though there's not a single spoken word in the entire 90 minute film, it's still captivating throughout anyway. It's one of these off-beat discoveries from a film festival that I'm glad I took the time to watch. And more good news - Neon has already acquired the film for a US release later in 2023.
Cannes 2023: 'About Dry Grasses' is Yet Another Profound Ceylan Film
Anyone who has been watching the films of the extraordinary Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan knows that he is a master. It's a fact. There's no debating or denying that he is one of the best Turkish filmmakers in cinema history. His ninth feature film, titled About Dry Grasses (which is also known as Kuru Otlar Üstüne in Turkish), is premiering at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in France this summer. He has already won numerous awards at Cannes and other fests, including a Grand Prix for Once Upon a Time in Anatolia in 2011. There's no questioning his storytelling talents, it's only a matter of which films are better (or worse) and which films connect deeply with each individual viewer. Everyone will have a different relationship with each Ceylan film. He is consistently brilliant at writing, and every one of his film contains numerous scenes full of layered dialogue discussing different aspects of humanity. From our many flaws and imperfections, to relationships, politics, human nature, to the differences between cities and rural towns, and everything else.
› Posted on May 20 in Cannes 23, Review | 2 Comments
Cannes 2023: Glazer's Unsettling Holocaust Film 'The Zone of Interest'
We all know the Holocaust is an atrocity and there have already been hundreds of films made about it. The only other recent film to offer something new and different was the Cannes 2015 feature Son of Saul, which ended up winning the Oscar after premiering at the festival. After years of working on his project, British director Jonathan Glazer brings his latest film to Cannes - The Zone of Interest. It is another Holocaust film, very clearly that and not much else, telling a profoundly unsettling and hard-to-watch story about a German family living right next to a concentration camp. It is overpowering in its clarity and simplicity as a film - never showing any of the atrocities happening at the camp, focusing solely on this German family and nothing more. It is the cinematic epitome of the iconic phrase "the banality of evil," originally coined by writer Hannah Arendt after her investigations into the Holocaust and Nuremberg trial. It boldly eschews the caricature-esque depiction of Nazis and reminds us the truth about how casual they were being despicable.
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