Movie Review!: Cinderella 2015

Promotional poster from Disney with my graphic add ons

Promotional poster from Disney with my graphic add ons

My childhood took place during a time in Entertainment known as “Disney’s Golden Age” or “Disney’s Renaissance”. I was raised on princesses and sing alongs. I saw Beauty and the Beast in a movie theater at least 30 times, according to my mother. For Halloween I have dressed up as Chip (the teacup from Beauty & the Beast), Belle, Ariel (The Little Mermaid) both mermaid and wedding version, Megara, Esmeralda, Pocahontas, Snow White, and Jasmine. I was an Annual Passholder to Disneyland and later, Disney California Adventure for many years. I completed 2 internships with the Disney College Program and worked at Disneyland for 2.5 years. To say that Disney is part of my life is an understatement. More recently, my love for Disney has waned somewhat as their prices go up and my bank account gets smaller (thanks, college education!), but I knew I wanted to see their live-action version of Cinderella ASAP!
Without further ado…here’s my Likes/Dislikes/Final Thoughts & Rating which contains SPOILERS! if you’ve never seen any version of Cinderella. Proceed with caution…

Likes:
– The cinematography/graphics/costumes/hair/makeup of the film are really beautiful. Disney’s huge financial resources were definitely put to good use. Supposedly one of Walt Disney’s favorite scenes of animation was Cinderella’s transformation & they definitely did it justice in this version.

– Disney is famous for controversy because a majority of their stories revolve around conventionally attractive Caucasian women waiting for a man to save them. This is a sticky issue for me because I understand they’re trying to be faithful to the original source material which in this case was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. Obviously in this time period society had certain rules & expectations. He could only write about what he knew. However, as a modern audience we know more and want to see films that reflect society as we know it. So I say to Disney, if we can believe that fairies exist and pumpkins can become carriages, give your audience some credit that we could suspend belief a little more to include other races & get rid of certain gender expectations, even if they don’t conform to society at the time the plot takes place. Also, there are other Cinderella stories throughout history, Perrault is not the only author, he’s not even the earliest author. Many cultures have their own version of Cinderella that fits their customs. These tales could have been blended together. Like I said, it’s a sticky issue everyone has a different opinion on. Getting back to the movie! I thought it was interesting that they tried to include other races through the inclusion of a African American/Black Captain of the Guards/best friend to the Prince and a Latina Princess that is engaged to the Prince. They also kind of changed the genders of Cinderella’s mice friends. As I recall, in the animated version there is Jaques, Gus Gus, and Suzy. In this version, there is Jacqueline and Gus Gus. She might have mentioned some other names but I didn’t catch them. My bottom line here is I appreciated their small attempt to include other races and use female characters – because let’s be real, they certainly didn’t have to & people still would’ve seen the film.

– There was a scene when Ella’s father is leaving for a business trip & asks Ella what gift she’d like. Her stepsisters ask for frivolous items, but Ella asks for a sentimental item. That scene is certainly not in the animated version, but perhaps is from the source material or another version. I like this because there is a similar plot point from an original version of Beauty and the Beast. I took it as a nod to Disney’s next live action fairy tale & my favorite Disney movie, so I was happy with that.

– I liked this version’s Prince Charming aka Prince Kit. He stood up for what he believed in and took charge of his own destiny. I appreciated the realistic relationship he had with his father.

– I appreciated the effort Disney put into creating a more in depth explanation for Lady Tremaine’s hatred for Ella. The message of the movie was obviously, “Have courage & be kind”, but also how love makes life beautiful and helps people be the best version of themselves. There was a scene where Ella confronts her stepmother and asks why she’s so cruel to her. She responds with something along the lines of “Because you are young, innocent, beautiful” etc. She trails off, and the implied rest of that sentence is “…and I’m not!” She was a very bitter woman and in another scene she explains why. Her first husband was the love of her life and she was completely destroyed by his death, not only emotionally, but financially. She touches on some of the societal expectations for a single women in that time period – she was basically required to marry again in order to keep her family alive. Her marriage to Ella’s father was a business decision – not a marriage for love. Marriage for love vs. marriage for advancement is a huge theme in this film & many other fairy tales. Imagine how hard her life must have been, to live every day grieving over the death of her husband plus have it constantly thrown in her face that her new husband and step-daughter would never give her the love she was missing because they were still grieving over Ella’s mother. Lady Tremaine lost love & lost herself. While I don’t condone the enslavement of your stepchild, learning a little more of her backstory made her a much more sympathetic character.

– I liked this version of Ella because she knew the way she was being treated was wrong. Eventually she stood up for herself somewhat, which was a vast improvement over animated Cinderella who didn’t really ever complain, if memory serves me right. I always felt that animated Cinderella was an airhead. She let her family push her around and she accepted it all with a smile & a song. I never felt like that made her brave or kind, I just thought she was dumb. At the end of the film when Prince Kit comes to take her away, Ella looks back at her stepmother as she’s leaving the house and with a little smirk says, “I forgive you” & that’s the last we see of the stepmother. In some versions of Cinderella, she totally forgives the family and marries them to Lords of the Kingdom. In other versions, Ella is not as forgiving and has them murdered. This ending was the perfect amount of polite sass, like, “Thanks for all the abuse! It put me on a path to marry the King who, in a twist of great fate, I’m genuinely in love with. Bye, have a great life!!”

Dislikes:
– Everyone kept hyping up Lady Tremaine’s laugh like it was spot on just like the animated film, but I’m not sure what they were listening to. It didn’t impress me.

– As mentioned above, I loved the extravagant costumes used throughout the film. HOWEVER, they needed to get the Captain of the Guards/Prince Kit’s best friend a bigger uniform. He was a big dude & every costume they stuck him in looked extremely unflattering and uncomfortable with his belly hanging out over the top of his pants. I felt bad for the actor.

– The dress tearing scene was really tame compared to what I remember from the animated film. That scene was a chance to really show the cruelty of the family towards Ella & it just fell flat.

– While I enjoyed the cast as a whole, Lily James (Ella) reminded me too much of Mia Wasikowska (Alice from Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”). I know that’s random & not necessarily a bad thing, it was just odd. She did a lot of heavy breathing, a lot of chest heaving breathing throughout the movie that was kind of distracting. I kept looking at her collarbones moving around. I’m a weird person. I know that, & I’m fine with it.

– One plot point didn’t get resolved for me. Many wonder why Ella didn’t just run away/move out. In this version, Ella explains that she didn’t want to leave her house because that’s where her parents lived and all her memories of them were there. However, she didn’t seem to care about that ONE BIT when Prince Kit came to take her away. They never addressed what happened to her beloved childhood home after she left and she never hesitates to leave it all behind. I would’ve liked at least one line between her and Kit, or maybe her Fairy Godmother, about how the house doesn’t hold the memories, her heart does.

Final Thoughts & Rating:
I really enjoyed this film. It’s the right mix of modern and classic. I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for the Cinderella story, so I won’t be rushing out to buy this, but I still thought it was a well made film.
My Rating: B+

What do you think? Did you see Cinderella 2015? Are you planning on seeing it this weekend? Please let me know in the comments below – thanks for reading!

Movie Review – Delivery Man!

Last night I went to see Vince Vaughn’s new movie “Delivery Man”.

“Stats”: Opened on November 22nd to mostly mixed reviews. Notable cast includes Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, and Cobie Smulders. Here’s the trailer!

Plot: “Delivery Man” centers around a middle aged guy named David who discovers he’s the biological father of 533 children due to a mix up at a fertility clinic he donated sperm to in his 20’s. A group of the kids are suing David, contesting his right to remain anonymous. The film follows him in trying to figure out how to do the right thing for his current growing family and the kids who want to know their father. Along the way his journey is highlighted by picking out select profiles and meeting those kids and helping them in some way, while trying to remain anonymous. I think the trailer does a really good job of revealing the key plot points, while not giving too much away, so I won’t say too much more.

Thoughts: I thought this movie was a standard “drama-dy” (Drama/Comedy), but it was definitely NOT your typical Vince Vaughn movie…not necessarily a bad thing. “Delivery Man” had a good mix of sweet, funny moments, mixed in with some darker plot points.

Cons: This isn’t necessarily a con, but was something I found a little off. The “name brand” actors in this movie all played against type. I understand that’s not a horrible thing, but it was just so strange to see Chris Pratt, who I recognize from “The O.C”, playing a lawyer and father. Cobie Smulders, who normally plays Robin from “How I Met Your Mother”, was Vince Vaughn’s very serious/angry girlfriend with no sense of humor.

Pros: The highlights of the movie were definitely the stories when David interacted with his kids. I feel like the actors that played the kids in these “special” stories are on their way to big things, especially Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat, and Jack Reynor.
Dave Patten plays Adam, one of David’s kids who is pretty much the ring leader of the lawsuit to find out his identity. He plays a musician in the film and in real life is a talented singer-songwriter-musician who plays multiple instruments. He’s also a published author. His novel “Run of the Mill” is definitely on my book list! Also I swear I recognize him from something non-media related but I can’t put my finger on what it is.
Adam Chanler-Berat plays Viggo, one of the kids involved in the lawsuit who figures out that David is actually his father. He uses this information to his advantage to kind of blackmail David into spending some one on one time with him. Chanler-Berat is notable to me because he’s also well known for playing Henry in the stage show “Next to Normal” and Boy/Peter in “Peter and the Starcatcher”. “Next to Normal” also features two other actors I’m extremely impressed with, Aaron Tevit, probably most well known for being in last year’s film “Les Mis” & Skylar Astin, from “Pitch Perfect.” I just saw “Peter and the Starcatcher” in S.F (review coming soon!) and it was awesome – so I’m automatically enthralled with anyone who’s been involved in the show.
Jack Reynor plays Josh, one of the first of David’s kids that he helps. I think he gave a really honest performance…and he looks like Jesse Spencer (Dr. Chase from House). Reynor can be seen soon in the next Transformer’s movie, a series I generally enjoy, so I thought that was pretty cool too.

I’ve rambled enough…would I recommend this movie? Sure, I guess. I’m mostly enthusiastic about it for the performances from Vaughn and the above mentioned actors. The plot was iffy for me because it was all these kids complaining about how they didn’t know their dad so they don’t know who they are and they feel a part of them is missing. I was raised by a single mom, I don’t know my dad, and I don’t feel that way, so it was hard for me to connect with that part of the plot. Overall I’d give this film a B rating. Give it a go if you’re interested in seeing some new talent and a different side of Vince Vaughn. 

If you’ve seen the film, what did you think? Are you interested in seeing it? Let me know!

Movie Review – Pacific Rim – LATE POST!

Last one! Movie review 7 of 7!

Pacific Rim – released July 4th, 2013

Starring: Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman

Plot: This movie takes place in the future after Earth has suffered through many battles with aliens. Yes, aliens are real. We created giant robots, Jaegers, controlled through pilots, and we have peace for awhile, but the aliens start to get bigger and badder, and we stop winning. The UN decides to shut down the Jaeger program to focus on building a stupid wall…like that’s gonna work. The 4 remaining Jaegers are sent to Hong Kong to guard a section of ocean that doesn’t have any wall protection yet. The rest of the movie tells the story of one of the pilots, the leader of the Jaeger program, their team, and what they discover about the aliens, and how they can defeat them…or can they!?

My opinion/rating: LOOONG, oh my gosh, so long, but what do you expect from a Del Toro movie? This movie had an interesting premise, but ultimately boiled down to being a typical war/battle movie. You know who’ll live or die pretty much ASAP, the acting is not great, and the romance is embarrassingly sappy. It got really slow towards the middle, it definitely could’ve been shorter. I don’t think I’d watch this movie again by choice, but I wouldn’t be opposed to watching it if someone had it on. Overall rating – C. 

Movie Review – Despicable Me 2 – LATE POST!

Movie review 6 of 7…

Despicable Me 2 – released July 3rd, 2013

Starring: Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand

Plot with SPOILERS!: A sequel to the 2010 “Despicable Me” which featured the exploits of villain Gru and how he came to adopt 3 little girls. In the sequel Gru is no longer a villain – solely committing himself to being a family man and dealing with eldest daughter Margo’s impending trip through puberty and dating. A villain is causing problems for the Anti-Villain League, so they ask Gru to work with an agent named Lucy to find the villain and bring him down. The film follows them as they fumble through the investigation, eventually realize they love each other, and save the day!

My opinion/rating: Super cute and fun! I don’t think it was as good as the first movie, but my expectations were REALLY high because I love the first one so much. Still a really good film, not just for kids – there were people of all ages at the theater for this movie. Overall rating – B.

Movie Review – Monster’s University – LATE POST!

Movie review 5 of 7…

Monster’s University – released June 21st, 2013

Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Bonnie Hunt, Nathan Fillion, John Krasinski

Plot: A prequel to Monster’s Inc, another Disney/Pixar creation. This story tells how Mike and Sulley meet at college, overcome a bunch of obstacles and eventually work at Monster’s Inc as part of the Scare Team.

My opinion/rating: I was dragged to this by my Disney nerd roommates, not to say that I’m NOT a Disney nerd, just not for this film. I can’t even remember the story of Monster’s Inc, so I would’ve liked to watch that first before seeing the prequel. Some of the references may go over your head, but you don’t have to see Monster’s Inc to completely understand MU. This movie is just cute, not a lot of substance. There weren’t many adult/pop culture references, mostly the jokes were based on clever word play or college stereotypes. I think a middle school to high school aged person would be bored with this movie because they’d be in that middle age, too young to just blindly laugh, but not old enough to understand some of the adult humor. The story is, of course, heart warming, lots of life lessons, but I just didn’t really connect to it. If you aren’t in love with Disney/Pixar, or Monster’s Inc – wait for Netflix. Overall rating – C.

Movie Review – The Hobbit – LATE POST!

Movie Review 4 of 7

The Hobbit – released December 14th, 2012

Starring: Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood

Plot: To fully spoil the plot would take an endless amount of space, and this is already an obnoxiously long post so bottom line – this is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The Hobbit tells the tale of how Bilbo Baggins came to be in possession of THE RING and adventures he went on before Frodo ever came into the picture.

My opinon/rating: My fellow nerds are going to be very disappointed but, I fell asleep during this movie. LOTR is not my thing, I’m much more a Potter nut, so The Hobbit wasn’t really my first choice to see (again, this was Aaron’s pick) just because I don’t really know the story that well and the movie is QUITE LONG. In my defense, I’d just gotten off work when we went to see this, so I was really tired, but I really would’ve rather watched it at home…with lights on. What I remember of the movie was good, I’d definitely watch it again, especially for the parts with Gollum – he’s my favorite! If you’re a fan of LOTR or you WANT to be, you’ll enjoy it. If not – definitely skip this. It’s very long and full of LOTR/Hobbit lore that you will not find the least bit entertaining. Overall rating – B.

Movie Review – Gangster Squad – LATE POST!

Late movie review 3 of 7…

Gangster Squad – released January 11th, 2013

Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling

Plot: I do not remember. Basic storyline…Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling are bad ass cops trying to bring down a mob boss played by Sean Penn in old time Los Angeles. Emma Stone is Sean Penn’s girlfriend but she starts fooling around with Ryan Gosling. It’s probably not a good sign that I don’t remember any of the character’s names. JB & RG get together a rag tag team of other bad ass cops and eventually take down the mob boss. A bunch of the team dies, except for JB & RG who ride off into the sunset with their ladies.

My opinion/rating: Again, as you can probably tell by my thrilling plot description, I was totally enamored with this film…or not. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it. Reminded me a lot of the video game “L.A. Noir”, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a really romanticized era for L.A, and it’s fun because I live close to the area they’re referencing, so I understand the references for the most part. This was a very violent movie, pretty sad too, not really my type of movie, this was obviously Aaron’s pick. I’d watch this movie again, but I wouldn’t be thrilled with it. Overall rating – C.