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.

Group
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.

Rats
“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.

The Little Prince

I have never read or heard The Little Prince book before, but that because I had an empty childhood. Just kidding, I had Pokemon and that was enough for me.

I did, however, play a board game The Little Prince: Make Me A Planet before though. Only once. And like, three years ago. But it apparently stuck with me, so that many elements present in the game I was able to remember and notice in the actual film version of The Little Prince.

But let’s get to the issue. This took way too long to get released in America. It was released in the summer of 2015 last summer in France! Agh! Not America! It was supposed to be released by Paramount in March in America, but a week before release they suddenly decided to drop it from their schedule as well. No news on distribution or eventually released. Sometime later, the pros at Netflix said they would handle it and gave it a nice worldwide release, finally in America and other countries. All hail Netflix, bringer of tales, singer of stories.

Prince Prince
They took one long look at the script and declared the crazy old writer to be a genius!

As you would have guessed from the title, The Little Prince is a story about a girl. The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy) is being pressured by her mom (Rachel McAdams) to get into a very good school for kids. The interview does not go well, so they decide to move into a house in the school’s neighborhood, getting in by proxy. The girl’s whole life is scheduled by the mom, to ensure future academic and financial success.

The reason they were able to get the house is because it was next to a shoddy house. In the house lived an old man, an aviator (Jeff Bridges). He was constantly fiddling with his plane and making a racket. Eventually The girl goes and talks to him, finds out he also is an artist. Over time, he tells her the story of his encounter with The Little Prince (Riley Osborne), a boy who lived on a planet barely big enough for a single person.

The aviator learns of his travels around the galaxy, learns some life lessons and so on. And you know what? The little girl is going to learn some lessons of her own.

Also featuring the voice work of Marion Cotillard, Paul Rudd, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Bud Cort, Paul Giamatti, and Albert Brooks.

Modern
“Trust me little girl, I’ve got a beard!”

The Little Prince was unlike most other animated films. Yes, it is accessible to families and kids of all ages, but it seems like something an adult would learn more from than their kids. We have a story within a story, where the inner story is the normal The Little Prince story. The added elements of the overworked girl are completely original and the entire last third act is all about her and her own adventure.

I was worried that it would be too complex for kids but a 5 and 6 year old seemed to enjoy it throughout, despite the slower beginning. The layered stories kept me interested, but the ending wasn’t as good as the beginning and middle.

The animation was different for the different story parts as well, with the animation for The Little Prince segment being unique and fantastic. The rest of the animation is pretty standard CGI and a bit uninspiring. It makes sense for the animation to be different, but one would hope that the animation for the majority of the film was just standard.

The Little Prince is still worth your time, although book elitists may get annoyed at the extra material. My only real annoyance was that the new material wasn’t as interesting in the very end and that the animation was a bit uninspiring in an otherwise inspiring story.

3 out of 4.

The Boxcar Children

Ruining child classics is one of Hollywood’s favorite past times.

But this is not one of those examples. Because Hollywood is not behind this movie, just some low budget independent company. That’s right. The Boxcar Children, a book made in the 1920s and repopularized in the 1940s, it then spawned 159 follow up books and specials. WHAT. More impressively, they are are still making more. Four of them came out this year and a few are scheduled for 2015 already.

Of course, that series after the first book decided to go completely boring and make it a strange good-natured mystery series.

But hey, I read The Boxcar Children in like, second grade. In fact, it is the first legit book I have read. It had zero pictures, something called chapters and I didn’t read like 8 of them in one reading session.

So bring on the kids who do good things and live in the woods.

Winner?
And who are as happy at winning as that one spelling bee kid.

Four kids. All brothers and sisters. And no parents. Wandering around, sleeping in bakeries, paying for bread with money they presumably earned by helping old ladies cross the street.

We got Henry (Zachary Gordon) 14 and technically the leader because he is oldest. Next is Jessie (Joey King), 12 year old girl, who is the mom figure and thus the cook. She runs things when Henry is out earning change for a living. After that is Violet (Mackenzie Foy) who I have nothing of note to say outside of the color purple and she is kind of weak and useless. But not as weak and useless as Benny (Jadon Sand) who is six and has no redeeming qualities outside of being cared for by others.

They are wandering around because their mom died or something and they don’t want to go to their mean old grandparents home. So they literally ran away, walking from town to town, being runaways with a 6 year old kid.

They are afraid of getting put in orphanages so they run into the woods afraid of some baker couple. And hey look, a box car from a train on an abandoned track for some reason. K. So they live there.

And story. Also with voice talents from Martin Sheen, J.K. Simmons, D.B. Sweeney, and Audrey Wasilewski.

Slackers
They literally have to drag that kid along it looks like.

And now, my analysis where I talk mostly about how creepy the movie looks.

Man, this animated film is super creepy. Not like, uncanny valley creepy, like it is so close to human just a slight step away. No, it is just creepy because the animation is really really bad. Like, worse than video game bad. Like worse than Hoodwinked Too!. Like beyond terrible. Like before PSX graphics bad. I just don’t get it. The Snow Queen was an independent movie from like Russia and they had better animation than this one.

Watching characters eat or grab things, but having that object floating next to their hand and not holding it. And the animation was especially bad with water. And unfortunately they seem to awkwardly interact with it throughout the movie.

Gah. The animation. Gah gah gah.

The story itself? Well, it follows the book pretty darn closely. That is good for your purists. But it also turns out that the book doesn’t have a whole lot going on for it. It is a pretty boring story. But if you liked and remembered the books, then you might enjoy this not completely shit animated film version of it. But I am disappointed in that a nice live action version is something I might enjoy more. Then it won’t feel so damn creepy.

2 out of 4.

Interstellar

The Interstellar hype train is so hot right now, you could light a candle off of its ass. That might not make a lot of sense, but it sounds like something Matthew McConaughey could say really sweet in his voice, so I ran with it.

But seriously. Christopher Nolan is one of the more well liked directors today. The movie has had wonderful trailers. It has the capability of being as beautiful as last years Gravity, especially in an IMAX 3D setting.

But wait. Controversy! It turns out Nolan doesn’t like the fancy IMAX digital camera nonsense. No, that man likes himself good old fashioned film and filmed a lot of movie that way. Most filmmakers prefer digital cameras, as they are actually cheaper and easier to get 3D/CGI stuff with them. But a few others think that digital film making makes the movie lose a certain artistic touch.

So it turns out Nolan has released his film in two ways. In an actual film reel, which a lot of theaters have gone away with, and digitally. Not only can you watch the film in 35 MM like normal, but he also has a 70 MM version meant for IMAX screens. Nolan wanted that reel touch to his movie, given some of the themes in it, so I can tell you the movie version I watched was film. Just didn’t get to see the film IMAX version.

Space People
Enough talk about specifications, let’s talk about space people!

This film is set in the future, where things are not looking so great. The Earth has gotten kind of pissy with the wastefulness of its citizens. Tech went too hard too fast and well, a lot of people died. Now most of their crops don’t work due to diseases, all they have left is corn.

In fact, some tech people are now looked down in disdain. They don’t need fighter pilots, they need farmers and mostly farmers. So NASA has been working in secret, looking for other planets to move to, because Earth kind of sucks. And it has been going poorly. But thanks to worm holes and higher tech, they have 3 planets to check out. They just need a sweet ass pilot.

Oh hey, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). Now a good farmer, used to be a pilot and all, before the tech haters happened. And well, he is the only guy for the job. He is just going to be gone for a few years, not a high chance of survival, not a high chance of success either. Kind of intense odds. But he has to. But does he?

He does, after all, have family. A son and daughter (Mackenzie Foy, yes she is more important than brother enough to tag). Can he leave them behind? Or can he help save humanity?

Also starring a lot of people! Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, David Gyasi, and John Lithgow.

Surfers
Oh sweet, and they go surfing. Every movie needs a surfing scene.

Intestellar, if anything, is definitely a visionary achievement. The scope is grand and intense with this movie. It is about 2 hours and 45 minutes long, leaving a lot of room for plot, exploration, and some hopefully good acting.

And there is some good acting! From McConaughey. And from Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain. And uhh. After that it seems to get a bit muddled from what I can tell. Because unfortunately, I had some issues with Interstellar too.

Without going into big details, the last 25 or 30 percent of the movie felt rushed, despite the long run time. The ending was full of explanations, almost pounding your head in the wall to make sure you understood things instead of letting the movie tell the story naturally. Some extremely awkwardly acted moments came out of no where. One conflict scene came near the end seemingly out of nowhere on Earth. A character died in the laziest and most “wat? really?” way possible.

Just a bunch of minor things that ruined a little bit this very very excellent film.

Now, these are the type of minor things that one can probably normally ignore, but only in that I saw so many of them, it just made it a bigger issue. It is a beautiful film, and probably even prettier in IMAX. It tackles some complex subjects in the science field and has nice allusions to the Dust Bowl. It was certainly entertaining. It just wasn’t perfect film for me.

3 out of 4.

The Conjuring

The Conjuring is the second horror movie to come out during the 2013 Summer Season (the other being The Purge) and I can honestly say I didn’t see this one coming. Seriously. I saw zero previews for it in the theater. I didn’t even know it existed until about a week ago. The good news is that I never actually watched the trailer ahead of time, which is a rarity now in my position, so the movie could be a completely new experience for me.

Check out the rating for The Conjuring. It was rated R “for sequences of disturbing violence and terror.” You hear that? It was rated R literally for being too scary. No nudity, no language, no gore, no sex, no drug usage. Just R on terror alone. As a well established coward, let it be known that I am freaking out already.

Matches
Shit, matches in the 70s used to be awesome as shit.

The Conjuring tells the “true story” of a case studied by Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) in the early 1970s. I agree that those two were real human beings, with Ed being a Demonologist, and Lorraine a clarivoyant. They traveled around, helping with exorcisms, clearing houses of spirits, and other similar activities. They are most famous for helping the Amityville people.

The family they end up helping in this film are the Perrons: Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their FIVE daughters (Kyla DeaverMackenzie FoyJoey KingHayley McFarlandShanley Caswell). Poor Roger, you can tell he needs help before the ghosts come.

Well, strange things start occurring around their house. All of their clocks stop at 3:07 am. Their dog died, birds fly into windows, their daughters get tugged on at night, sleep walking, ghostly spirits. Not to mention doors slamming in their faces and literally having demonic ghosts jumping on them.

They cannot move, having put all of their money into this house and land. Sucks to suck. Thankfully the Warren’s agree to help. They bring along their crew (Shannon Kook), set up cameras, microphones, and other devices, pre-modern day ghost hunters. After confirming that there are indeed spirits in the house, they set out to determine if they are sinister or just playful.

Feet
Yo dawg, there are rancid feet behind you. DO YOU NOT SEE THAT?

To me, The Conjuring felt like it was celebrating horror at its most basic roots. The story itself combines a bit of Poltergeist with The Exorcist, but into its own unique tale. The major elements in this movie are things we have seen before, but the smaller details are what make it something special.

I always talk about how hard it is for me to figure out a rating for a horror movie. Presumably it is based on some hidden formula combing entertainment and scare factor. After all, people go to horror movies to be scared, so if it ends up just being entertaining, you will be disappointed, and if it is just scary imagery, you will be confused.

I think The Conjuring combines these two elements in a pretty even fashion. It didn’t make me jump out of my seat every minute, but after the intro, I found myself at the edge of the seat until the credits rolled. The chill that something could go wrong at any moment stayed with you. It teased really well, and similarly had well placed humor moments just to throw you off guard.

The Conjuring proves that ghosts and hauntings are still scary. but even more surprising is that this movie was also well acted with a decent plot, truly the scariest thing about it. Similarly, this is the first horror I have given this rating in the last two years of hardcore movie watching.

4 out of 4.