Saturday, December 28, 2019

Jojo Rabbit (2019) film review

Year: 2019
Running Time: 108 minutes
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Taika Waititi and Christine Leunens
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin Mackenzie, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant

Jojo Rabbit is now showing in cinemas everywhere thanks to 20th Century Fox. 

The concept of Jojo Rabbit as an anti-hate satire is proving to be a hard one for many people to grasp. Despite this being the categorisation given to the film by it's filmmaker, Taika Waititi, it is perhaps not the best choice of words as it implies that we should be seeing something as awful as Nazi occupation in Germany as being funny. Thankfully, this is not what Waititi is attempting to achieve despite his choice of words.

Jojo Rabbit is an incredibly moving coming of age story that takes place during one of the darkest times in history. It is a tale of savouring the innocence of youth in Germany during the second World War, when boys were forced to be men and girls and women alike were forced to abandon their hopes and dreams. Jojo Rabbit draws extraordinary comparisons to 1940's The Great Dictator, another film which was criticised for it's controversial subject matter by many and praised by others for it's brilliance.

In 1940, Charlie Chaplin released The Great Dictator, his film which announced in spectacular style that The Little Tramp was no more. Chaplin not only directed the film, but also starred in the film as two characters who were victims of mistaken identity. One of these characters was a dictator of a fictional country, Tomania and was named Adenoid Hynkel, a character that is unmistakably based on Adolf Hitler. As the film was released before World War II, Chaplin received an incredible amount of criticism for not only making fun of, but also demonising a world leader in a time when Hollywood was quick to blacklist outsiders. Chaplin himself identified as an atheist, but Sydney, his older half-brother whom he was very close to, was Jewish. However, The Great Dictator was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in A Leading Role, and received wide acclaim, as well as the intense criticism.

Fast forward to 2019, Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit is met with much of the same reception as The Great Dictator, although Waititi is far less subtle in his portrayal of Hitler than Chaplin was. The film has rattled those who feel that nothing about World WarII was comical, and that it should not be portrayed that way. This could not be more true, making light and encouraging an audience to laugh at one of the worst time periods in the modern world would be a terrible idea for a film. However, Waititi is certainly not asking you to do this. The eccentric filmmaker is himself of Jewish descent on his mother's side, so it is highly unlikely that he would be wanting to make Hitler or life in Germany during the war humourous.

Jojo Rabbit is a view of Nazi Germany through the eyes of a ten-year-old, an age where boys and girls tend to start trying to prove they are older, but still have the mind and wonder of a child. Roman Griffin Davis gives a magnificent breakout performance as Jojo, a young boy in Germany who's family has been torn apart by the war. At such a impressionable age, he has been conditioned to believe that the Nazis are the true heroes of the war and that Jews are a type of otherworldly evil. Jojo is really just like every other ten-year-old, and particularly one who does not have a male influence in his life as he is being raised by his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson).

His hero is Adolf Hitler, who he constructs in his mind to represent everything he is missing in his life as a result of missing his father and brother. Hitler (portrayed by Waititi as a middle finger to the long deceased dictator, who would be turning in his grave knowing that a Polynesian Jew is playing him) becomes his imaginary friend. He is playful, comical, supportive and comforting, things which children crave in their life. History tells us that Hitler was not any of these things, but all he is the visualisation of Jojo's imaginary friend, as he was a type of untouchable celebrity to German children growing up in the occupation. It would not be too far-fetched to believe that there were many children during this time who were just like Jojo and seeing Hitler as their imaginary friend.

The darkly comical side of Jojo Rabbit is not just reflected in Hitler, but also in the characters who are part of the Nazi regime. In particular, Captain Klezendorf (Sam Rockwell), Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson), Finkel (Alfie Allen) and Deertz (Stephen Merchant) are all given humourous qualities and are found in comical situations. It is here that Waititi has taken on a practise that is not uncommon to Quentin Tarantino. In his films such as Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained and Once Upon A Time in...Hollywood, Tarantino takes on history and adds his form of black comedy to these villains to expose the nonsensical nature of their evil. Waititi has done this with the Nazis in Jojo Rabbit. He, like many others, sees this group of people as being idiotic as well as evil, and relishes in the chance to expose them for what they are/were. Another point that is to be made where the comedy in Jojo Rabbit is concerned, is that it is important to understand Waititi's brand of humour. The filmmaker has had an incredible career thus far due to his very specific and original brand of comedy that resonates through his films. It is unlikely that if you are not a fan of his previous work, that you will enjoy this satire.

Something else which Waititi is an expert at in his films, is the theme of family. In Jojo Rabbit, he once again takes on this subject with an endearing combination of love that is as whimsical as it is heartbreaking. Jojo Rabbit is classified as a comedy, but it absolutely does not shy away from the harsh reality of the time. It addresses the loss of innocence in the children, grief, terror and unrelenting frustration felt by families during the time period.

Like The Great Dictator before, Jojo Rabbit is a wonderful achievement in film-making. However, it is important to understand where Taika Waititi is coming from to be able to completely recognise that we are not being asked to laugh at Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany to lessen to severity of the war. We are being asked to see World War II through the innocent and untainted eyes of a child.


Monday, December 9, 2019

Knives Out (2019) film review

Year: 2019
Running Time: 130 minutes
Director/Writer: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford, LaKeith Stanfield, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome.

Knives Out is now showing in cinemas everywhere thanks to Studiocanal.

Rian Johnson's murderous affair, Knives Out is a return to the glory days of the whodunnit. With it's atmosphere of dread and intrigue combined with a spectacular cast who all deliver captivating performances, Knives Out is a reminder of how much fun cinema can really be when everything comes together with perfect timing.

Knives Out feels like Johnson's tribute to Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot stories. In particular, the film follows the formula of Murder on The Orient Express with it's grand cast and their intriguing and colourful characters, each with a motive for committing the cruellest of crimes. The location here, which is incredibly important in such a story as it needs to have just as much character as the humans, is the exquisite, atmospheric and often quirky Massachusetts manor of bestselling author, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). After his untimely death following his 85th birthday party, private eye Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called in to investigate his death. Even though the easiest conclusion to make about the cause of death is to rule suicide, Blanc believes that one of the family members has something to hide and that Thrombey's death is the result of creative foul play.

The film is a rare type of multi-layered mystery. It plays very much on the idea of things aren't always as they seem and even when you know that things aren't as they seem, how they aren't still remains a mystery. There is a certain level of predictability to Knives Out, but at the same time, it manages to be unpredictable from another angle.

However, it is Johnson's storytelling that is the keeps the film flowing and intrigue high despite whether it is predictable or not. The screenplay is airtight with extremely witty and entertaining dialogue. This characters are all unique and, despite the astounding situation, are relatable as far as personalities in big families go. No family gathering involving money and alcohol is ever a quiet event when there are clashing personalities the way there are in Knives Out. There is no doubt that in the film that Harlan's nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas) is perhaps the purest of souls and has the bad luck of being involved in situations beyond her control. The other characters have large personalities and have all been tainted by Harlan's money, which in turn has made them all dependant, greedy and, to an extent, bitter. Each has a motive to kill, but it is the journey of getting to know each of the characters and laughing at their qualities that makes Knives Out as fun as it is.

The stellar cast give their all when bringing these highly entertaining characters to life. Again, the film is very much like an Agatha Christie novel with Daniel Craig leading as the famous Benoit Blanc. He is indeed entertaining and full of life, but it is Ana de Armas as Marta who the film revolves around and she is such a gentle and endearing leading lady. She immediately earns the audience's love and respect, which is consistent throughout the film. Chris Evans gives new life to the stereotypical spoilt rich kid-adult as Ransom and, like any narcissistic character wishes to do, is the star of every scene he is in with his impeccable timing and enduring sarcasm. He is a fantastic presence in the film and undoubtedly an audience favourite. Michael Shannon, Jaime Lee Curtis and Toni Colette are all also extraordinary characters, who unfortunately don't receive as much screen time as the previously mentioned.

Knives Out brings back the lost art of making the murder mystery fun. With it's individual form of black comedy and host of brilliant characters, it is a film that transports you into a wild world of family turmoil that has never been so enjoyable.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Frozen 2 (2019) film review

Year: 2019
Running Time: 103 minutes
Directors: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Writers: Marc Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (story), and Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (screenplay)
Cast: (voice) Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton

Frozen 2 is now showing in the United States and opens in Australia on November 28, 2019. 

Frozen 2 is not only an absolute delight with it's charm and stunning animation, but it unexpectedly debunks the "happily ever after" myth that Disney themselves so actively promoted with their earlier films. Rather than following the usual formula of such a sequel, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee's follow up to their 2013 phenomenon is a coming of age story that tackles the inner-turmoils many of us feel when wrestling with change, trusting ourselves and finding the strength to keep going in the darkest of times.

The wonderful thing about Frozen 2 is that despite it's inherent fairy-tale nature, it is far more relatable, passionate and inspirational than anyone would have ever thought possible. Anna and Elsa, voiced once again by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, are two of the most popular, if not the most popular Disney princesses with little girls of this generation and with good reason. They are of course marketable, especially Elsa with luscious locks and her gorgeous and regal dresses, but the girls and their feelings are also very real and their issues incredibly human..

It is common protocol for fairy-tales to end on the high note of "and they lived happily ever after", which is always a comforting and reassuring notion that this may be possible for you if it was for Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, Ariel and many others. However, it is also common knowledge that "happily ever after" is an unrealistic concept that once tainted our little minds. Reality is filled with ups and downs, left and rights that contort the original pathway that we set for ourselves. If Frozen gave us a "happily ever after", Frozen 2 gifts us with the very real notion that nothing is ever perfect forever and we must courageously embrace and accept change.

One of the first musical numbers in Frozen 2, "Some Things Never Change" (sung by Kristen Bell's Princess Anna) is an indication of the direction the film will head as it is very tongue-in-cheek, much the same as "Love is an Open Door" was in the 2013 film. Both the princesses in the film are victims of the system and are unknowingly so. The two spend a great deal of time doing what they believe is right, but not what they believe is true in their hearts. While this may seem like a basic formula for a family film and something that a Disney film would have traditionally dealt with as lightly as possible, there are some very deep thoughts and ideas presented that are as important for children as for adults.

Despite Elsa saving the day and regaining her seat as Queen of Arendelle, she still feels as though she does not belong and is searching for someone or something that will give her all the answers. Now, low self esteem is not something that Disney generally deals with, but that is exactly what is happening here. In the first Frozen, we witnessed Elsa as a young girl being hidden away from the world by her parents because she has been told that she is different and dangerous. She is finally brought into the eye of the world and saves the kingdom and her sister, but in only a fairy-tale would that be the end of Elsa feeling like an outsider or like there is something wrong with her.

Of course, she would have recurring feelings of not fitting in or feeling like she is doing something wrong.  Thankfully, the sequel arrived to correct this wrong as it is damaging (and unfortunately, very common) to believe that one event will cure all your destructive inner dialogue. We all know Elsa is amazing, and even Anna says to her "I wish you could see yourself the way I see you", but she continues on her dangerous quest to find out who she really is despite Anna being against this as it would mean change.

Change is a thing that many people are frightened of, and will often go to great lengths to avoid. Although Elsa knows within herself something must change in order for her to find peace within herself, Anna is terrified of change as she is worried she will lose her sister again. Both Anna and Elsa were forced into change when their parents died and their loss and grief is looked at more in this film than in the first. Anna speaks for the first time to Mattias (Stirling K. Brown) about her dark days and ponders how you keep going in those times, which is something we all feel at one time or another. His response is perfect, "You just put one foot in front of the other".

In earlier Disney films and even in Frozen itself, these issues are avoided where "happy ever after" is concerned. However, it is a wonderful thing that Frozen 2 breaks down this myth and reminds both children and adults alike that your "ever after" requires change, resilience and acceptance to be happy and that things will never be smooth sailing.

Another thing that Frozen 2 does to avoid the usual sequel formula, is that it doesn't take the things that worked in the original film and exhaust their appeal. There are several similarities between the first film and the second, such as another big theme song as sung by Idina Menzel in "Into The Unknown" and the sparkly and incredibly stunning visuals of the mountains and forest. Olaf (as voiced by Josh Gad) was an absolute winner with audiences the first time round, and he returns and brings the biggest laughs of the film. It would have been so easy to have overdone his character this time around (eg. the Minions after their success in the first Despicable Me), but his screen time is not overdone in the slightest. Another character who really has his moment in Frozen 2 is Jonathan Groff's Kristoff. Kristoff was the good guy in Frozen, but his character and his love for Anna are fleshed out in this film, complete with his 'Lost In The Woods" power ballad. He steals the heart of everyone watching the film when he asks Anna what she needs from him, which is what everyone wants their partner to ask.

Frozen 2 is an absolutely wonderful follow-up to the 2013 film. It avoids the usual pitfalls of a sequel, and uses being a sequel as an opportunity to continue the story in the most relatable, moving and human way as possible for both children and adults alike.


Thursday, November 7, 2019

"Last Christmas" (2019) film review

Year: 2019
Running Time: 102 minutes
Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Emma Thompson (story and screenplay), Greg Wise (story) and Bryony Kimmings (screenplay)
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh, Lydia Leonard, Boris Isakovic, Peter Mygind

Last Christmas is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Universal Pictures.

Paul Feig's latest, inspired by George Michael's Christmas anthem, Last Christmas, may be as cluttered as an over-decorated Christmas tree. It is as predictable as a holiday movie can be, but is nevertheless a fun, uplifting, and heartwarming addition to the genre.With the exciting combination of Feig's direction and Emma Thompson's screenwriting, Last Christmas delivers everything a Christmas film promises with it's story, themes, music and visuals all in the holiday spirit.

Last Christmas is an interesting take on a Christmas film, as it attempts to blend the stereotypical features of such a film with social issues and themes that are not so typical. The film tries hard to do perhaps too much and is very busy as a result, though it is still admirable how much it gets done in it's 102 minute run time. Of course, the film ticks every box of a Christmas genre film and how comprehensively this task is completed will strike many as completely tiresome, though it will be a Christmas lovers delight.

Our down-on-her-luck heroine, Kate (Emilia Clarke) is living a destructive lifestyle while begrudgingly working in a London Christmas store as an elf. While attempting to chase after her dream of being a singer with no luck or great commitment, she meets a charismatic and mysterious stranger, Tom (Henry Golding) who helps her see the magic in life and inspires Kate to turn her life around. It's a story which we have seen many times before in countless rom-coms and Christmas films alike. Although the story itself isn't at all unpredictable or exhilarating, it is executed in such a way that it still manages to hit the mark and be uplifting, inspirational and moving.

At the Sydney Premiere of Last Christmas, Feig spoke of the unquestionable star power of Emilia Clarke and that is exactly what she exhibits in the film. Kate takes the leap from being an unlikable character to one that the audience completely falls and feels for, especially when it comes to her relationship with Golding's Tom. Yes, the screenplay plays you as it wants you to connect and relate to Kate, which can feel manipulative and irritating. However, in the holiday spirit it is forgiven and it is a credit to Clarke's performance that she is able to create a warmth to her character. Golding, who is the picture perfect love interest, lifts his performance to meet Clarke's and the two have great chemistry which adds to the audience's emotional investment in the film.

Despite the constant onslaught of fairy lights, colourful tinsel, disturbing Christmas tree decorations sold by Santa (Kate's boss hilariously played by Michelle Yeoh) and expected festive music, Last Christmas does try to be more than a holiday film that ticks all the boxes. The film is not only based on the 1986 Wham! classic that is played in every shopping outlet approximately 500 times during every holiday season, but it is a tribute to George Michael and his musical legacy. Last Christmas features not only the song it takes it's name after, but also many of his hit singles and a newly released song never heard before. There are also several Wham! and George Michael Easter eggs throughout the film, making this film a less obvious cinematic tribute to the man who passed three years ago this Christmas.

The film also touches on, but does not venture too far into, the effects of immigration, health problems and homelessness (an issue that was close to George Michael's heart) on families. With Kate's family moving from Yugoslavia when she was younger to escape the war, her family still struggles with adapting to a new life in the United Kingdom. Her father cannot find work in the profession he was trained in and her mother (played by Emma Thompson) struggles to let go of her old ways, both which are having a negative effect on their family. Emma Thompson convincingly plays the eastern European mother, taking quirks that many will recognise from their own mothers and turning them into comedy.

Last Christmas does unfortunately not get to the true heart of any of it's more serious themes. The reason behind this is that it really does try to do too much. The screenplay brings us to the brink of these more serious issues (especially the homeless epidemic), and then pulls us back so that we remember that this is first and foremost a Christmas film. This is the greatest downfall of Last Christmas. It really tries to be a Christmas movie to set it apart from other Christmas movies, but instead it just becomes a very, very busy Christmas movie that tries to say more than it does.

However, the bottom line is that Last Christmas really is an enjoyable and uplifting film for the holiday season that will be a staple for December viewing for many years to come. It is evident that Paul Feig and Emma Thompson have really tried to bring more to the table with this comforting reminder of how wonderful it is to be alive, but it is simply a case of trying to do too much and ending up with too much noise playing alongside the Christmas carols.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) film review

Year: 2019
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Producer: Gavin Polone
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Zoey Deutch, Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Thomas Middleditch, Avan Jogia
Zombieland: Double Tap is now in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Sony Pictures.

Zombieland: Double Tap is exactly the type of movie needed if you, like so many others, need the right amount of silliness and apocalyptic zombie violence to get you through the annoyance of the world in the current state it is in. Never taking itself too seriously and having a clear sense of what it is, the sequel to 2009's Zombieland is a complete riot and brainless fun. Pun intended.

The horror sub-genre of zombie films has become overly saturated in recent years, and one would be forgiven for wondering why and if we really needed a sequel to Zombieland. The truth is that we never needed Double Tap and there is really no reason at all it had to be made as it doesn't offer anything new or different to either the genre or the first film. However, in the name of ridiculous and ludicrous fun, it is definitely not a crime against humanity that it exists. Zombieland: Double Tap offers up a form of violent and often random comedy with plenty of action-packed horror sequences that makes it entertaining and enjoyable.

Taking place a decade after we first met Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), the four are still surviving the zombie apocalypse and have arrived at the home to beat all homes, the White House. Their new place of residence is an amusing choice to have as in Zombieland's alternate universe (which would be our current reality), nothing happening in the White House is comical. So using this opportunity to lighten the tension felt towards American politics and turn it to laughter through this film is a blessing. The Double Tap screenplay really does not have much to offer that is different to the first film or unpredictable. It is another tale of survival in a world that has been taken over by the undead, while trying to maintain the need for regular human needs and wants and social interaction. As expected, the two often collide with each other. Breslin's Little Rock, in particular, struggles with still being the baby of the group, although she is now an adult and wants to have experiences typical to her age.

The film completely delivers on it's promise of action with various spectacular and gory forms of zombie death at the hands of Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, Little Rock and the fiery and heroic Nevada (Rosario Dawson). Double Tap also delivers on the promised laughs, but is still not immune to several attempted jokes falling flat, including the needless and ridiculous post-credits scene. Harrelson and Eisenberg deliver many of the laughs with their wit, as does Stone with her brand of sarcasm. While Breslin, unfortunately, struggles to keep up with the comedic ability of her co-stars with her character being completely bland and uninteresting.

Yet, it is Zoey Deutch as clueless Madison who steals the show in every scene she is in. Madison is stuck in the image of the late 2000's then Hollywood It girl, Paris Hilton, but is light years more hilarious than anything that was seen on "The Simple Life". The character is one that shouldn't work and would be painful and offensive if anyone else but Deutch had played her. Instead she adds to the hilarity and fun of the film, which is a credit to Deutch as a comedy actor.

It is true, Zombieland: Double Tap doesn't need to exist. However, a film that is as mindless as this with its thrilling action and comedy is a great thing to have exist in this world whether it is needed or not.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) film review

Year: 2019
Running Time: 118 minutes
Director: Joachim Rønning
Writers: Linda Woolverton (story and screenplay), Micah Fitzerman-Blue (screenplay) and Noah Harpster (screenplay)
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Harris Dickinson, Robert Lindsay, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Ed Skrein
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil  will be released on October 17, 2019 and is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 

Following on from the 2014 film about one of the scariest, if not the scariest and most infamous Disney villain of all-time, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil continues the live action fairy-tale with a new story in the Sleeping Beauty universe that speaks to the world we live in. With it's spectacular visuals and seemingly simplistic story that will delight children and entertain adults, the film by Joachim Rønning is deeper than it would have you believe with it's themes of inclusion and gender equality, and obvious parallels to current world events.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil continues the tale of the misunderstood Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and her goddaughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning) by keeping the re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty a story that is gloriously drenched in feminism, something the Disney 1959 absolutely was not. While the original animated film had a large number of female characters and outnumbered male characters, the clear message of the film was that women are the weaker sex that are there to raise and nurture (as seen by the fairies), but are also to be feared (Maleficent) as they are easily tempted by evil (Aurora and the spinning wheel). In the end, it is the man who will save the woman from herself.

2014's Maleficent was Disney's opportunity to undo this injustice and they did not waste this. While Jolie's Maleficent took on maternal qualities, she was also the one to save Aurora while the men in the film took the role as the villain (Sharlto Copley's Stefan), the follower (Sam Riley as Diaval) and the prince who did not have the power to break the spell and save his princess (Brenton Thwaite's Prince Phillip). It was about realising that our true love is not always a romantic love, but rather the love of a family member or friend. The film also presented a more sympathetic side to Maleficent by providing her origin story and making her far more likable and the hero of the story.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil continues with it's feministic retelling of the beloved, but flawed Disney classic with it's strong female characters who drive the story. Much to her godmother's dismay, Aurora finally says yes to marrying her Prince Philip (recast as Harris Dickinson) and two kingdoms are set to be united. However, it soon becomes evident that her new mother-in-law, Queen Ingrith's (Michelle Pfeiffer) intentions are not quite as honorable as her son's and she is not prepared to be at peace with Maleficent and the Moors.

It is true that these three lead characters are not quite as fleshed out as they could be, with Jolie's Maleficent being restricted by the screenplay and being not be able to truly showcase the thrilling and charismatic character she has made her own. Fanning's Aurora is also subdued and controlled, but also quietly unflinchingly strong. Pfeiffer is also a brilliant addition to the cast with another strong female character, but again wavers on the edge of giving her character true depth because of the whimsical nature of the screenplay. Her character of Queen Ingrith is not interested in the joining of the two kingdoms, but rather the destroying of a race which she believes is not equal to that of the humans. She exhibits qualities that are not unlike that of a dictator and in particular, that of Hitler and his attitude towards the Jews. Her views and actions in the film are similar to those of his and other current world leaders when it comes to those who are deemed different on the basis of race and religion. Along with gender equality, the message of inclusion and acceptance is a much talked about topic in society today and comes through in the film.

However, Maleficient, Aurora and Queen Ingrith are not only strong characters, but also strong leaders and the male characters merely take to shadowing these three. The fact that these three are leaders rather than the male characters (despite two of the main male characters holding royal titles) shows how gender equality has been worked into this extended Sleeping Beauty universe.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil's screenplay, which is written by Linda Woolverton, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, is deceptively flimsy and whimsical. While this is an inherent trait of the large majority of Disney fairy-tale films, it is commendable how it says so much while it appears to be simplistic and a typical family tale of good and evil. What the film also does so well is deliver incredible cinematography and breathtaking visuals, specifically those of the Moors and the Kingdom (especially in the later scenes). The costume design by Erin Mirojnick is absolutely exquisite with entrancing variations of Maleficient's costume and breathtaking gowns worn by Aurora and Queen Ingrith.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil may not pack the same punch that 2014's Maleficent did by way of it's lead character being as charismatic, but it continues with a story that is helping to bring to light issues that exist in the world today and promote the idea of inclusion as a way for us all to have a happy ever after.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Critically acclaimed "Stuck" coming soon to DVD and VOD

Vision Films Inc. in association with MJW Films and Little Angel Productions are delighted to present the heartwarming original pop musical film, Stuck on VOD and DVD for the first time. Taking place over one fateful day on a New York City subway, a group of strangers from different walks of life are unexpectedly brought together in an uplifting celebration of life and kindness through music. Directed by Michael Berry and adapted for the screen by Berry and Riley Thomas, the film that Variety says “benefits from a lot of heart and not being like anything else out there” enjoyed a critically acclaimed theatrical run earlier this year.

Produced by Mike Witherill (John Wick and Drinking Buddies) and Joe Mundo (Sunset Strip and Cardboard Boxer), Stuck will be released across all major VOD platforms on August 27 and on DVD Sept. 17, 2019.

Based on the stage musical by Riley Thomas of the same name which opened in Chicago in 2008 and played off-Broadway with the New York Musical Festival in 2012, Stuck stars Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), Amy Madigan (Gone Baby Gone, Field of Dreams), Grammy award-winning artist Ashanti, Arden Cho (Teen Wolf, Chicago Med), Omar Chaparro (Pokemon Detective Pikachu, Show Dogs) and Gerard Canonico (Be More Chill, Not Fade Away) as the New York subway commuters with stories to sing.

A New York subway train stops in the tunnel beneath the city with six complete strangers stuck inside the rear car. The strangers are a cross-section of New Yorkers of different races, cultures and ages. The emotions of the trapped, frustrated strangers simultaneously explode as the subway car becomes a kind of magical, musical conduit cell — a place where strangers reveal through song more of themselves than any of them could ever have imagined.

At center stage is Lloyd (Giancarlo Esposito), a homeless man who seems to be a fixture on the subway car. Lloyd is a mystery — a combination observer, prophet, mediator, artist, friend and psychologist. Or perhaps he is just a lost soul who is possibly insane. He is joined at various stops by five other commuters. Eve (Ashanti), a brooding but strong, intelligent, career-orientated African-American woman dealing with a troubling personal situation. Ramon (Omar Chaparro), a hard-working Hispanic man working multiple jobs to make ends meet for his wife and girls. Alicia (Arden Cho) a guarded and reclusive Asian dancer with a devastating secret. Caleb (Gerard Canonico), the young comic book artist who has been loitering at the studio where Alicia dances. And Sue (Amy Madigan), a college music professor still dealing with the heavy loss of a loved one.

The music and songs in the film are all original, with musical styles specific to each character — a lyrical and musical extension of their culture, thoughts, story and experience with the elements of pop, rap, rock, classical and motown — set almost entirely on the New York City subway.

Stuck will be available on digital on August 27 for an SRP of $4.99-$9.99 from platforms including iTunes, Vudu, Playstation, Google Play, Xbox, and FandangoNow, as well as cable affiliates everywhere and to buy on DVD for $19.95 on Sept. 17, 2019.

Preorder STUCK