The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

I saw a trailer for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, I was astounded by the screen in front of me.

I honestly didn’t know this was a movie coming out, and my first impression was, “…is this another goddamn Alice in Wonderland movie sneaking its way out?”

I have an easily hate relationship with those two movies. Alice in Wonderland was telling a story so awkward, because it decided to be a secret sequel, and Through the Looking Glass is just legit one of the worst films I have ever seen.

This film just seemed to be equally CGI heavy, with a British slant, and some sort of fantasy uncomfortable world.

But why a CGI fantasy movie about the nutcracker? Was there clammoring for a nutcracker based movie? I mean, it seems to only be loosely based on the play/ballet as well. It certainly is not going to be a ballet showcase. So, a serious non dancing version of a famous dance? Like…Why.

That would be like taking a Tony award winning musical and turning it into a not really musical movie. A very poor decision.

Speaking of poor decisions…the agents of these famous people!

This yarn is about a girl named Clara (Mackenzie Foy) who is really smart and charming in her own way. The kind of girl that boys will chase later in life when she is successful, not when boys are stupid and in school. Her mom died in the last year, and that made things really sad. She has an older sister (Ellie Bamber), a younger brother (Tom Sweet), and a dad (Matthew Macfadyen) who is trying to keep things normal by avoiding the issue almost completely.

So they are taken to a big Christmas Eve ball party for their British aristocratic friends and neighbors. Clara had received an early present before the ball of an egg with a lock, but no key. Her mom had left it for her before she died. Clara is more focused on the key than silly dances.

And sure enough, thanks to the plot, at some point Clara wanders into a different wintry world. No, this is not a world with lions and witches and wardrobes. This one has nutcrackers, mice that seem extremely intelligent, toy soldiers, and sugar plum fairies (Keira Knightley). A world of four lands that have come together to be swell together, or something. A land that her mom used to be the queen of and now it is her time to lead! Once she gets the key and fixes a few issues of course.

Also starring Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and also Jayden Fowora-Knight as a major role, his second role after Boy Playing Tennis in Ready Player One.

“Go my rat minions! Go and steal the cheese!”

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms…first, the title is terrible. Honestly, why did they not just call it The Nutcracker? That is good, iconic enough, and can get those ballet people in. This title is too hard. THE nutcracker and THE four realms. The first THE could be cut out and it works better. But they wanted the play title too badly. And the second half? The four realms? That does nothing for anyone.

Alright, this is a movie about the nutcracker and four kingdoms. Will we have very location specific places? Different worlds? One of candy, one flowers, one of ice? Yeah, probably. But guess what. Most of the film that takes place in our magical land, takes place just at a castle and one of the realms that is now forsaken.

I have no clue if the “castle” is actually one of the realms or not. Because we don’t do a damn thing with the other 2-3 realms. Why the fuck is the title and advertising focusing on four realms, when we don’t even get to play in four realms? What are they setting up? What is the point?

And the point is nothing. There seems to be very little point in this movie. I guess it is about a young girl who has to use her daring and smarts to save the day. Save the day of a fantasy kingdom that has relatively low stakes. And that effects her regular life about zero. Where no one is close to dying, and everything just feels…flighty.

Speaking of flighty, the only strong connection to the Nutcracker ballet (besides aspects of the story) is the soundtrack, which features music from the nutracker. Some of it is obvious, a lot you may not notice, but they did not fit the story that great. If the music takes out of the story, then it might not be doing its job.

Near the end, a scene with a giant robot fighting toy soldiers (sigh, yes) spliced with other action shenanigans ends up feeling dead. It felt like an unfinished movie. There was no sense of dread or suspense, and it just didn’t feel like it matched what was supposed to be an intense scene.

And you know what? To top it all off? There was a small dance scene to music, where the characters involved were dancing a waltz. But the music was not a waltz song. Come on guys. You’re not even trying.

This film is forgettable, regrettable, and probably something that Disney is really going to bury in the future. I expect no sequels, no great toy tie ins, and just a lot of disappointment from everyone involved.

0 out of 4.

Nocturnal Animals

I wasn’t able to see Nocturnal Animals before it came out, mostly due to screening conflict. But without knowing the plot of the film, I was interested in the cast alone.

But given that I wanted to see it, the title did a lot of work with only two words.

Nocturnal. Animals. It sounds mysterious, secretive, and of course, primitive. It riles up a lot of fears, especially for those people afraid of owls.

Jake Gyllenhaal already had a good year thanks to Demolition, so regardless of how this one went, I consider it to just be bonus Gyllenhaal.

And a bonus amount of this guy, who I didn’t recognize in the film.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is miserable. She lives in a giant house, with her husband (Armie Hammer). She is an art director, but feels like it is all junk. They are close to being poor, selling their items, waiting for a big business deal to come through, but she doesn’t care. She cares that her marriage is just a shell and pointless.

Then she receives a package from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). He is a writer, she criticized him a long time ago, he just didn’t write from his heart. But now he has a new story, one he says was inspired by her, to write from his heart, even dedicated to her. It is even called Nocturnal Animals, his old nickname for her to explain her insomnia.

The story is about a family, a husband (Gyllenhaal), his wife (Isla Fisher), and teenage daughter (Ellie Bamber). They are driving through Texas in the middle of the night, heading to a vacation, empty roads, no signal, simple. Until they do catch up to a few cars, who are up to no good and willing to make a few choices to ruin a few lives.

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Robert Aramayo, and Karl Glusman as some bad dudes, Michael Shannon as an older, smoking cop, and Laura Linney as Susan’s mom. Real mom in this story, not the book mom.

But also all of these people are fake anyways because: acting.

Nocturnal Animals made me feel a whole lot of emotions. Fright, scares, hope, sadness, angst, tension, extreme sadness, indifference, and even a bit of confusion. Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat from some parts of the film, and sinking into it later to try and escape the pain.

Nocturnal Animals tells a story, a story in a story, and it does both points so goddamn well. It both made me want it to never end, and to subsequently hurry up so that it could potentially become a sunshine, happy ending. But it sticks to its tone guns and it delivers exactly the perfect ending at the conclusion.

Everyone involved with this project should simultaneously be slapped and hugged because of what I imagine they had to go through to really convey those emotions. The acting, cinematography, directing, fuck, even the costumes, why not. It all just feels so planned to maximize the angst I felt inside.

This movie is extremely hard to talk about because in all honesty, it is something that should be experienced. It isn’t for the feint of heart, it goes into some heart wrenching areas. But if you give it a shot, you will get a smart film that doesn’t hold your hand, some of the best performances of 2016, and a story that will stay with you for a long time afterwards.

4 out of 4.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

For the most part, I try to avoid reading a book if I know it is going to turn into a movie. Or even worse, just try to read a book right before watching the movie. I can’t stand it, I will go into the movie with biases, and the movie won’t be able to surprise me.

I don’t know if I would have been able to cry during The Fault In Our Stars had I read the book! And those were some good tears.

But I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I think I read it in 2010, before I started writing reviews, with the actual book coming out in 2009. I read the entire book the whole way though, and then quickly got rid of it. I paid full price for it and gave it away for free. It was dreadful trash and I couldn’t stand it. I only finished it because I assumed it had to get better, there had to be reason for the success.

The book was about 80% original Pride and Prejudice and about 20% the author changing some scenes and throwing in zombie fights. Every time the author switched it was so jarring, going from well written to complete trash. All it made me do was appreciate Pride and Prejudice more and vow to not read any of the other mashups that would exist, no matter how popular.

Needless to say, I am going into this movie incredibly biased. And also I am in general surprised that it took 7 years for this film to get made.

Well, you know what they say. You cannot spell Slaughter without Laughter.

Oh that zany 19th century England. Full of lords, ladies, romance, guns, and zombies.

What is a patriarch (Charles Dance) and matriarch (Sally Phillips) gotta do when they have five daughters, all of viable marriage age, needing husbands to take care of them?

Their oldest daughter is Jane (Bella Heathcote), but everyone knows their best daughter is Elizabeth (Lily James), despite her strong wills. The other three daughters, Lydia (Ellie Bamber), Mary (Millie Brady), and Kitty (Suki Waterhouse), are around but not super important.

Jane falling for one Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) is important though, as he falls for her as well. Now the parents can meddle and force a marriage. When they meet Bingley, they also meet Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley), whom is seen as a pompous and arrogant person, but also wealthy as fuck. And you know, he can kill a zombie like no other it is said.

Can headstrong Liz learn to love another, more than her love of zombie killing? Can headstrong Liz keep her head strong enough to avoid zombie bites? Find out…well, in this movie.

Also starring Jack Huston as Wickham, Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Emma Greenwell as Carolien Bingley, and Matt Smith as Parson Collins.

Kicks to the chest also can be quite deadly, apparently.

Fuck. Just fuck. I feel like this movie was actually worse than I imagined. I imagined it would have bad acting, sure. I imagined it would shit on something I find enjoyable, yeah. I imagined the CGI wouldn’t be top notch and a lot of corners would be cut when it comes to fight choreography, of course. But on top of everything, I also didn’t think it would be Boring. As. Fuck.

Say what I will about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (and of course I did), but at least there was an inherent entertainment level there. At least I could sit in the theater and laugh at some of the more ridiculous scenes. But with watching this film on DVD, I found myself constantly wanting to pause to get a drink, go to the bathroom, spin in my chair. I wish my laptop worked so I could have laid down in my comfortable bed and fallen asleep to the movie, instead of actually watching all 90ish minutes.

I think it is notable to mention when you fall asleep in a film, which usually happens only in theaters for me. But I know I would have passed out for a lot of this movie if I was watching it while feeling any bit comfortable.

Everything about it is magnified so much, because of how interesting the story becomes. I get annoyed at the bad fight scenes. Annoyed at the acting. Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy? They picked a guy, who decided to give a raspy voice performance and absolutely no sex appeal in a role that is still very much technically in the romance genre? Riley is not my Darcy. The cast for most of the parts in this film is just the final nail in the coffin.

But let’s end this on a fun fact. Emma Greenwell plays one of the three younger sisters. I already forgot who. But she also was in the movie Love & Friendship, also out this year, and also based on a Jane Austen novella. How cute.

0 out of 4.