Category Archives: Kick-ass!

Paddleton

Michael and Andy are a couple of awkward, misfit bachelors living one on top of the other in an apartment complex. They moved there to be alone, but they found each other. They’re not lovers, they’re just two men coexisting in companionship and friendship. True, abiding friendship, the kind that exists in the space between frozen pizza and kung fu movies and thousand piece puzzles and a game they made up called paddleton.

But then Michael (Mark Duplass) gets diagnosed with cancer. The bad kind – the dead in a few weeks kind. Maybe a few months. In lots of pain. So Michael resolves to get his hands on a prescription for death with dignity, pills that will allow him to die at home, on his terms. That prescription isn’t available just anywhere, so Andy (Ray Romano) agrees on a road trip to procure the pills. As you can imagine, Andy has some conflicting feelings about this mission, and his best friend’s plan.

This is a quiet and unassuming movie that manages to say more about friendship MV5BYzg0YzJiNDAtY2JlZi00ODViLTkyYTAtYjg3NjQ3MjE3ZDFiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_between men than maybe any movie before it. With Duplass and Romano in leading roles, you may assume this is a comedy, and you’d be wrong. Not entirely wrong; it does have its moments of levity, but this slides more toward the melancholy end of the bitter-sweet scale. And it takes its time getting to where it’s going. Which is okay, really, since the terminal station is literally terminal.

How do two men who exist outside of social norms express their love to each other? What does a farewell tour look like for a single man with no family, no friends, no meaningful employment or significant other or passion or ambition. There’s no bucket list. There’s just pain, and a ticking clock. Goodbyes are hard.

In the end, it’s not a big movie moment. It’s not beautiful. It’s not redeeming. But its humanity will touch you.

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Stan & Ollie

Better known to the world as Laurel & Hardy, two things are communicated with the title Stan & Ollie: 1. There’s another side to this comedy duo, a lesser known side, and we’re about to be privy; 2. This is a more intimate look at the team, an insider’s look as we are invited to know them by their first names.

In the 1930s, at the height of their career, Stanley Laurel (Steve Coogan) & Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) were like a 90s-era boy band and Hal Roach (Danny Huston) is their Lou Pearlman. Laurel and Hardy were as manufactured and packaged as any boy band; they started out as strangers, but when producers threw them together, their careers became inextricably combined. They became the most famous comedy duo on the planet, but the trouble was, they didn’t own any rights. Their movies weren’t their own. They drew salaries but never saw profits akin to their success. Producers and managers pocketed their millions.

When Stan’s contract was up (and Ollie’s was not), he saw it as an opportunity to 2negotiate – or leave. He got himself a better deal elsewhere, but the problem was, Ollie didn’t walk with him. Too afraid to risk his small piece of the pie for the whole damn dessert, Hardy stayed behind, and even allowed himself to be reteamed with someone else. Ultimately their careers tanked and that was the end, or nearly the end, of Laurel & Hardy.

Which, interestingly, is where the movie begins. It’s been 15 years since those unsuccessful contract negotiations, and the world has assumed that the pair have been retired.  Laurel & Hardy mount a comeback tour over in the UK, supposedly culminating in a movie deal. But the grueling tour is humbling, the small theatres not selling out, the world having moved on. Plus, Hardy’s health is no good. Can his body even do this anymore, even if the people showed up? Not to mention the resentments quietly roiling beneath the surface. Both are nursing hurt feelings.

This movie is a really interesting look at what it takes to forge a creative bond with someone. And what it takes to stay together! Though their job was to make the people laugh, it often came at a cost to them. This movie isn’t overly anxious to uncover dirt, it’s got a tread about as heavy as their soft-shoe routine. Small in scope, it’s actually better than the average biopic, focusing on the lows rather than the better-known highs experienced in the spotlight.

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are well-matched. They certainly make us believe in a shared history and an easy\uneasy rapport. They’re both a lot of fun to watch, despite this movie being more about their despair and their failings. Stan & Ollie is a peek behind the clown’s smile, and the truth is that grease paint is slippery and imperfect, but it makes a helluva compelling story.

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

As you might have guessed, we’ve been so busy at Disney World lately that our movie nights have been few and far between. But now that we’re back from Florida, we are trying to catch up as best we can!

The-LEGO-Movie-2-The-Second-Part-Official-Trailer-2The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is a movie I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Picking up right where The LEGO Movie left off, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part follows Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and the rest of the Bricksburg gang (Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman and Alison Brie) as they battle against the DUPLO invaders. After five years of war, Bricksburg has become an apocalyptic wasteland (and aptly renamed Apocalypseburg). When a new type of invader drops out of the sky and kidnaps Emmet’s friends, Emmet blasts off to the Systar system in hot pursuit.

Sequels are often hard to critique, and I assume even harder to create. Stay too close to the first film and you risk feeling stale. But stray too far from the original and you might lose the magic that drew your audience to you in the first place. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who wrote the original, both return for The LEGO Movie 2 (bonus points to Lord for also writing the outstanding Into the Spider-Verse).  Lord and Miller chose to stay close to the original, and the result is a comfortable ride through familiar territory with a (very) few new characters joining the existing gang. I think it’s the right choice.

The unique feeling of the first movie can’t be replicated, because this is now the 4th LEGO-ish movie, and because I had high expectations coming into the sequel (instead of my zero expectations heading into the original). But the charm, the wit, and the warmth remain. It’s nice to spend more time in the LEGO Movie world, because it’s the world I used to play in with my LEGO as a kid. Except way more professional looking, of course, but the feeling remains exactly right, where adventures are everywhere and where your own creations are more important than the original police station from which most of the blue pieces came.

That bottled nostalgia is the best thing about The LEGO Movie 2. And that’s saying a lot because it’s also smartly written, beautifully animated, and just a whole lot of fun. Sure, it’s not as “fresh” as the first time, but if that’s the only bad thing to be said about this movie, that says a lot.

Brave

Merida may be a princess, but she’s no lady. After reluctantly performing her royal duties, she’s happiest riding her horse and shooting her bow and arrow – not feminine pursuits, according to her mother, but Merida is a daddy’s girl, and he indulges her. But even the King can’t save her when it’s time for each of Scotland’s clans to send forth a suitor to compete for her hand in marriage. It strikes Merida as almost as barbaric as it does you and I, but Merida’s mother has some very convincing myths to back up the obligation, and anyway, nobody really has any choice – for crown, for country, for glory and all that.

Anyway, Merida’s father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) is a big beast of a man, whoMV5BMTYxNzE3NzA5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQ4MTc3Nw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_ loves to tell the story of how he lost his leg fighting Mor’du the bear at a family picnic, protecting his wife and baby daughter. The Queen, Elinor (Emma Thompson) tolerates his boastful storytelling, and only rolls her eyes a little when Merida (Kelly Macdonald) embellishes right along. But Elinor knows that this betrothal stuff is serious business.

And Pixar knows that to Disney, this princess stuff is serious business. Still, they challenge the notion of what a princess should be, with Merida mucking out a horse’s stall herself, her fiery, unruly hair streaming behind her, big ideas broiling in that red head of hers. When it comes time to compete, Merida competes for her own hand in marriage, ripping the seams of her dress in order to win the day. Does her mother find this an ingenious solution? She does not. Still, Merida is Disney’s first princess without a love interest (but not its last – hello, Elsa!). Anyway, mother and teenage daughter fight, predictably, only Merida has something most teenage daughters luckily do not: access to a witch (Julie Walters). She conjures up a special potion which, when fed to her mother, will “change her fate.” And indeed it does. By turning her mother into a bear.

Pixar, as always, gets a lot right: Merida’s hair is gloriously animated (they had to invent new software to properly render it), the sun dappling is gorgeous, and there’s this moment of goofy pride on the mother bear’s face that just warms the haggis in my heart. If we must life in a world full of princesses, may they be more like Merida – brave enough to stand up for themselves, to stand on their own, to pursue their own ends.

This week Sean and I are at Disney World with my sister and her husband and her two sweetie pie boys, who are probably running through the parks like adorable hooligans, leaving us adults gasping for breath. If we have a spare moment, we might even meet Merida herself. Aside from appearing with other characters from the film in one of Disney’s many parades, she meets and greets wee lads and lassies inside Fairytale Garden, where you can also try your hand at archery, colour your own tapestry, or a picture of her horse, Angus.

b3f42e8969b8336c2c6fcc907310b529Brave came out before either, or in fact any, of my nephews was born, so I’m not sure if we’ll stop to get a picture with her – although the pair are armed with autograph books, so who knows. When a “cast member” of the Disney parks becomes a princess, one of her most important duties is practicing her distinct signature. Merida’s looks appropriately auld. There might be dozens of women who play Merida at Disney World, but they will all sign her name exactly this way. Disney is rather strict about its magic.

 

 

Finding Nemo/Monsters, Inc.

Nemo first appeared as a stuffed toy in Boo’s room in Monsters, Inc. (2001). Finding Nemo went on to tease two more future Pixar films: A kid in the dentist’s office is reading a Mr. Incredible comic book, and Luigi the little Fiat who runs Luigi’s Casa Della Tires in Cars drives by outside. But most of all, Finding Nemo gave us reason to love clown fish again. Marlin is a neurotic widower and overprotective single dad. His young son Nemo has a fin deformity thanks to a childhood accident but isn’t nearly as crippled by it as Marlin’s panic would indicate. Still, when Nemo is kidnapped by a dentist and hauled off to a fish tank in Australia, it’s kind of not great. Marlin has to confront his fears by navigating an entire ocean in order to save his son, and his only help is a forgetful sidekick named Dory.

You may have heard that Sean and I are at Disney World this week, with our two young nephews, Brady, age 7, and Jack, who will turn 5 while we’re there. The last mrrayand only other time I’ve visited the park, we were with Brady, aged just 18 months; Jack, though it’s hard to imagine life without him, wasn’t more than a twinkle. Finding Nemo was already wholeheartedly represented in the park. There’s an excellent 40 minute musical in Animal Kingdom, where large puppets are manipulated onstage. Epcot has a 5.7 million gallon saltwater aquarium filled with live sea creatures and Finding Nemo’s real-life counterparts. You ride a clam-mobile, and the ride simulates the animated characters swimming alongside the real fish, searching for Nemo, who really should dl-dory-applesknow better by now. They’ve also got Turtle Talk With Crush, which is a big hit with kids. Crush is the really cool sea turtle brimming with surfer dude wisdom. Kids see him animated on screen, and by the magic of Disney, he’s able to speak to them directly. Some guy behind a one-way mirror provides a live, interactive experience. It’s thrilling for kids when Crush says “Hey little girl in the green dress – I like your pigtails, dude!”

There’s a similar experience over in the Tomorrowland section of Magic Kingdom. It’s called Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and like Turtle Talk with Crush, it’s digital puppetry, with live actors performing voices behind a large digital screen, while computer-rendered monsters appear with the actors’ voices. Mike Wazowski hosts a stand-up comedy routine. You may remember in the movie, Mike and Sully are a team working for a factory where monsters sneak into children’s bedrooms to scare them, and collect their screams for power. By the end of the movie, the monsters file_9f77fec9have made friends with a child, and it is discovered that laughter yields ten times more power than screams ever did. Hence, a comedy club, where monsters are brilliantly using Disney World patrons to collect their laughs. When Sean and I were there 5 years ago, I was the audience patsy. I somehow got roped into the show, and there was some light roasting in my direction, but the actors behind the screen kept calling back to me throughout the show, much to Sean’s (and my brother-in-law’s) amusement. These are pretty cool attractions – the interactivity means they have to be manned (or peopled, or monstered) by some well-trained talent round the clock. These people have to be good at improv, but they also have to stay in character, and work the crowd, and keep in mind they’re turning over audiences every 10 minutes.

Disney does such a great job preserving our favourite films, and bringing them to file_560d1b9flife via not just rides, but all kinds of wonderful small detail in the park – check out these Finding Nemo candy apples, or this Monsters-inspired dress, which okay, spoiler alert: I am wearing. And the matching Mike Wazowski purse that I am probably right this very minute weakly resisting buying. And even more exciting, check out these themed rooms available at Disney’s Animation resort. We’re staying in a Cars suite with the boys, because it’s their absolute favourite. Everything at Disney is kicked up to 11.

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Up

Although this may be my favourite film in the universe, I have never been brave enough to attempt a review. The last time I was at Disney World, I was tickled to bring home a piece of the film – a pencil drawing signed by the artist, of Carl and Ellie as goofy, gap-toothed, be-goggled kids. I liked the drawing so much I had it tattooed on my shoulder. I have a grape soda pin so I can also be part of the club. I 980xhave an adventure book that is filled to bursting with our travels. It’s safe to say I’ve had a love affair with this movie, and with Carl and Ellie, who are not unlike Sean and Jay – he mostly silent, she effervescent, talkative enough for two. Though we have not experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage (which has got to be the most poignant, most difficult, most gut-wrenching scene in any cartoon in the history of the world), we are in the same way just a couple of explorers looking to get lost in the world.

Carl and Ellie are brilliantly animated in that his body is basically square, and hers is basically round. Everything around them mimics their distinct shapes. Carl’s recliner is square, while Ellie’s chair is round. His glasses are square, and hers are oval. It’s only when we meet a villain that we start to see triangles. Sean is a definite tall drink of rectangle himself, and I am the round little sausage beside him.

Recently widowed, Carl is also facing the loss of his home; pushy developers wantc09e23050e099ba42b93a7d02aeca25d him out, and he’s the last holdout in his neighbourhood. Carl isn’t ready for Shady Oaks Retirement Village, but it doesn’t look like he has much choice, so he breaks out the only weapon left in his arsenal: a tank or 3000 of helium (Pixar estimates he’d need between 12 and 25 million balloons to actually do the trick; they’ve animated 10286). Carl sets his sights for Paradise Falls, the destination he and Ellie always meant to visit but never did.

[Sidebar: Roughly 5 years ago, Sean and I were on a cruise in the Bahamas, and we were taking a shuttle van toward some excursion. There was an elderly couple also in the van, the old man riding shotgun needing several little hops before he made it into the passenger seat, and his wife sitting beside me in the mid section. They were very excited to finally be taking this dream vacation, and the old guy advised Sean on how to properly live his life, ie, by saving diligently so that he could afford to take me to the Bahamas when we were retired. Never mind that we were already in the Bahamas. Only come to find out, his was was actually his second wife, and the poor wife who had responsibly saved her pennies her whole life had passed before earning her reward. This has always struck me as the ultimate tragedy; perhaps it hits close to home because with my disability due to autoimmune disease, I likely have a vastly shortened lifespan. That’s why Sean and I are always traveling. That’s why we’re in Disney World right now, just a month after Mexico, because I’ll be damned if I let his second wife get the Bahamas trip. Bitch.]

Anyway, the one thing Carl doesn’t account for is a stowaway. Wilderness Explorer
Russell has been trying to earn his “assisting the elderly” badge, and just happened to be on or under Carl’s porch when the house took off. Russell is unaccountably adorable, and when you pair him with super dog Dug, the effect is positively cuteness overload. Dug wears a dog-to-English translator, so we know he says things like “I have just met you, and I love you” and that’s exactly what a dog WOULD say! This movie is Jay kryptonite. It murders me right in the emotions.

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So you can imagine the puddle of feels I’ll be when I meet Russell at Disney World. In fact, I already have – and Dug, too. But since I’ve been, they’ve added UP! A Great Bird Adventure (presumably after Kevin, the infamous snipe), so I’ll be trying to keep it together in the front row in my pretty Up dress. Yes, I’m a sucker. A sucker for love. And for doing second-wife stuff during my first-wife tenure.

WALL-E

I never appreciated just how dark the opening to Wall-E is. The landscape is littered not just with trash, but with the busted skeletons of old Wall-E models that have met their doom while relentlessly cubing trash. In fact, Wall-E sizes up one robot corpse and swaps his worn out tracks for the newer ones on the dead body of his comrade – very reminiscent of war movies where soldiers are always on the lookout for newer boots, and the soul-crushing way they’ll pry them off a bloated corpse if necessary.

Wall-E, by the way, is the last functioning trash-compacting robot (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class) on Earth. All the humans fled 700 years ago when the Earth was overwhelmed with garbage. The whole living in space thing was thought to be temporary (5 years), but no amount of Wall-Es could get the job done, and eventually all but our Wall-E became trash themselves. Wall-E is a bit of a hoarder; he collects MV5BMjZkODJmYzktMDYzNi00NWQ3LTllZTMtMWVhOTgxY2U4ODA3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzA4NzQyMjk@._V1_human treasures much the way Ariel does in The Little Mermaid. He’s got a Rubik’s cube and an Atari and he loves to watch Hello, Dolly!, which keeps his romantic streak alive despite living a pretty solitary life. But then one day a lovely robot named Eve (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) gets sent to Earth to search for signs of life. Having found a seedling, she jets back to the Axiom where humans have been living for more than 250 000 days, despite some “slight” bone loss. Enamoured, Wall-E follows her there, where her positive probe engages a return-to-Earth protocol. Unfortunately, the ship’s autopilot computer has other ideas.

The first 20 minutes or so of Wall-E are dialogue-free. This put many people off the film, but I didn’t even notice, so enraptured was I by stunning visuals. Cinematographer Roger Deakins was consulted to see how he might light and shoot the scenes, and he was happy to oblige. Those opening scenes therefore look like some of his atmospheric, sepia-hued stuff, and it’s no accident.

Wall-E has a magic that cannot quite be explained. It’s a sci-fi epic that manages to give us a glimpse into the future through the telescope of a current issue, while maintaining a nostalgic reverence. It’s Back To The Future, but with robots, and gelatinous blobs that used to be human (which begs the question: when a blobby human falls out of their chair, and literally cannot right himself without robot assistance, how in the heck are they still fucking?). Minor qualms aside, Wall-E is exhilarating and beautiful. You may know that I’m reviewing Disney movies this week because I’m at Disney World with my two sweetheart nephews, who are sure to make the experience a memorable one. It puts a literal pinch in my heart to say this, but they’re both born after Wall-E came out. Gulp. So they may not be searching for signs of Wall-E in the Magic Kingdom, but I will be – or I would be, if Wall-E had any presence at all. Sadly, he does not. Which is weird, because Wall-E was a huge movie in 2008, and it went on to score 6 Oscar nominations, a feat that had only been equaled by Beauty and the Beast, and you can be sure that both Belle and the Beast are featured heavily in these parks. In fact we’ll be dining on “the grey stuff” in the Beast’s castle, whether or not the boys get the reference because their mother and I grew up on 90s Disney, and the last time I checked, it was our Visas doing the heavy lifting.

Speaking of which, I have in fact visited Disney World once before, when the older of my two nephews was but a babe of 18 months. I had heard about this magical place all my life, and it didn’t matter that my first visit was as an adult, I went at that bitch with childhood wonder, delighting in Mickey-shaped ice cream bars, waving at the mascots on parade. I was obsessed with finding the perfect set of Mickey ears, but only knew about them from my elementary school classmates who brought them back without fail, embroidered with their names, from their own Disney vacations. I didn’t realize that today there are hundreds of dozens of possibilities: ears for every occasion, for every character, for every film, for every ride in every park. It was so overwhelming I spent my whole vacation embarrassingly ear-less. This time I’m anticipating being crippled with indecision and I’ve done two brilliant things:

  1. I’ve warned Sean to bring ALL the money.
  2. I’ve given myself permission to buy new ears each day.
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I’ve already pre-scouted these Wall-E ears that will be very hard to resist. But I think we can all agree that they only work if I can convince Sean to wear the other pair. And though the man is smart enough to never say no to me, he also doesn’t have a whimsical bone in his body and i’m just not sure I can do it to him. But probably I can! After all, this is the place where dreams really do come true.
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