Tag Archives: Christopher Walken

Disney Movies Based on Rides

I am no fan of Johnny Depp, or Orlando Bloom, or stupid movies, so when Pirates of the Caribbean came out, I didn’t need another reason not to see it. But a movie based on a ride? What does that even mean? Of course, at the time, I’d never been to Disney World, so I didn’t understand to what lengths Disney goes to actually tell a story with its rides. This was not such a stretch. Nor was it the first of its kind. In fact, unknown to me, there were several movies based on rides coming out at the same time.

The Haunted Mansion is a much-loved ride at Disney. Sean remembers it from anigif_enhanced-5175-1444687916-5childhood, but the ride is even older than he is – it opened in 1969 in Disneyland, and 1971 in Disney World, and both are still operating today. You ride in a doom-buggy through a dark, spook-filled mansion. To this day, Sean is disappointed that his little sister ruined the ride for him – her little body occupying the space between Sean and his dad meant that they didn’t see the ghost in their cart, but two-person carts are treated to a spectral sight between them, among many other spooky tricks.

The movie The Haunted Mansion (2003) managed to come out to so little fanfare that I never knew it existed. Its story doesn’t really draw much inspiration from the ghosts that are known and loved for the WDW ride, but anyone who’s ridden it in Paris might find something more familiar. Eddie Murphy plays Jim Evers, a real estate agent who works alongside his wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason). He’s a mv5bnzc4nwyzzjctytm5os00odqylwfiyjetmdkyzgezndexnmrhl2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzq2odyxodq@._v1_workaholic and they’re supposed to be at the lake with their kids this weekend, but instead he can’t resist a detour to check out a potential listing – a cobwebbed, derelict mansion. Its “master” Gracey (Nathanial Parker) is reclusive and his butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp), is…protective. Jennifer Tilly, Wallace Shawn, and Dina Waters round out the the mansion’s creepy staff.

While the ride manages to mix horror with humour, the movie doesn’t quite manage either. In fact, I was constantly distracted by the memory of Eddie Murphy’s stand-up routine wherein he avowed that no black person would ever star in a haunted house horror movie because they would have sense enough to just leave the minute they saw anything supernatural. The Evers family does not leave. The audience feels very much like they have overstayed their welcome. Guillermo Del Toro was rumoured to be remaking this film, and I cannot overstate how very welcome that would be, but he has since parted ways with Disney so the film seems increasingly unlikely. Boo.

Country Bear Jamboree is a bunch of ursine animatronics who put on a country the-country-bear-bear-band-bears-now-in-high-definitionmusic spectacle, and have done so in Walt Disney World since 1971 – and they do to this day, in a slightly revamped version. I find it fascinating that park-goers in 2019 continue to be entertained satisfactorily by “technology” that was obsolete before most of them were born (if the popularity of the Millennial Pink Minnie mouse ears are any indicator of the park’s demographics). And yet the bears can still be found strumming banjos and talking to taxidermied heads in Frontierland.

The Country Bears  (2002) is beary disappointing. The bears are basically just people wearing dopey bear costumes, and the movie is live-action, with bears and humans mixing unreservedly. However, little Beary Barrington (voice: Haley Joel Osment) knows that he is different from his human brother and human parents. He’s detail.9e4f2ff3adopted. The only kinship he feels is toward The Country Bears, a defunct country-rock band made up of bears, who have since broken up. When Beary runs away from home to The Country Bears’ favourite venue, he finds it derelict, and about to be torn down. In a bid to save it, he tries to reunite the band for a fundraiser reunion concert. It’s a bafflingly bad film with zero laughs. I don’t know how it got made, I don’t know which 17 people went to a theatre to see it, and I don’t know how The Muppets got away with stealing this exact plot line 9 years later. And yes that’s Christopher Walken in the photo.

Advertisements

Irreplaceable You

As a little girl, Abbie knows what she wants, and she goes out and bites it. That’ll make sense when you watch the movie. What Abbie wants is Sam, and they’ve been together since they were 8. They’re extremely until-death-do-us-part, headed toward marriage and newly pregnant, except they find out what she’s pregnant with is a belly full of tumours, and she’s going to die, soon.

Abbie’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) last days are preoccupied with finding Sam (Michiel Huisman) a new partner. She’s grieving, she’s preparing, she wants to leave him settled, imageshe wants to know that he’ll be okay. But it’s creepy and invasive and neither Sam nor his prospective dates are super into this idea. Even Abbie’s support group is pretty skeptical. They’re also a pretty good source of humour in a movie that may have been overwhelmed by its maudlin theme. Thankfully the likes of Steve Coogan, Kate McKinnon, and Christopher Walken, all favourites of mine that I never dreamed would somehow end up sitting in the same little circle in the same film, go a long way to providing some comic relief.

The script, by Bess Wohl, is kind of terrific. There are lots of unexpected little nuggets of joy, such as the wonderful Merritt Wever’s truth bomb about the world’s only monogamous fish. Watch and learn. Frankly, I would have liked to see director Stephanie Laing push the film even further into black comedy territory. Instead its tone is confused and we’re never sure whether to laugh or weep (I had no problem doing copious amounts of both, but your experience may be different). On the whole, I liked this movie very much. I like Gugu Mbatha-Raw very much and she makes this character flawed instead of the saintly dead wife that almost any other movie would have made her out to be. Her character inhabits our worst fears while being relatable enough for us to confront them in some sort of comfort. Sure it’s tear-jerker porn, but it’s the best kind as long as you have plenty of soft, name-brand tissues to see you through.

Father Figures

On her wedding day, Helen (Glenn Close) lets loose a secret bombshell to her grown, fraternal twin sons, Kyle (Owen Wilson) and Pete (Ed Helms): their deceased father is not in fact deceased, or in fact their father. Their actual father, she confesses, is hard to pin down, since she was a bit of a slut. So they do the only thing a couple of twins who can scarcely stand each other can: they embark on a quest to find out their true parentage.

First stop: Terry Bradshaw. First, but not last stop on a long tour of hearing about how MV5BYWZjNDdmMzctZDI0Yi00NGVhLTlmY2EtOWRmNmJmN2FmMjM1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc3NTA3NzI@._V1_much of a cum dumpster their mother was.  The movie suffers an identity crisis very early on: is this a raunchy comedy? A movie full of surprise twists? Sentimental slop? Buddy stuff? A road trip movie? Or just an excuse to slut-shame sex-positive Glenn Close?

It wasn’t awful, let’s start there. I laughed, probably more than I laughed at almost any other comedy this year, with the notable exception of The Big Sick. But a loose collection of vacuous laughs don’t really amount to much. Father Figures can’t even replicate the success of The Hangover, or Wedding Crashers. It’s just an intermittently funny movie that you’ll forget, possibly even while you’re watching it – the movie goes off on enough side tangents that it’s hard to keep track.

Owen Wilson and Ed Helms are good, but they’re acting against such an inconsistent backdrop it’s hard to really gain any traction. There’s no urgency to seeing this movie and certainly no reason to see it in theatres – at this time of year there are much better options. Pick any.

Nine Lives

How bad was it?

There was never any question of it being good. You knew it, I knew it. We went because it’s the last drive-in weekend of the season, and this is what was playing (double-billed with The Mechanic, and I bet you can’t wait to find out which was worse). We also brought some pizza and 4 dogs. In my little Beetle.

690Fudgie the 6 pound Yorkie growled every time the cat came on the screen. And the can comes on screen a lot. You know why? Because it’s Kevin Spacey. And I don’t just mean voiced by him, I mean the movie does a Freaky Friday switcheroo where Kevin Spacey’s human character somehow gets transposed into the body of a cat (while the real him is in a coma).

The movie looks as bad as it sounds, the production values shouting Disney channel, and made for TV. Jennifer Garner plays the put-upon wife but the poor thing can almost never get anyone to take her seriously as an actress so she’s used to this kind of mistreatment. She may not even realize she’s in a bad movie. This probably isn’t even the worse thing she’s in this year. And Christopher Walken is just feeling lucky to still be invited. To keep things simple they’ve had him reprise his role from Click. He’s the guy who makes you reevaluate your life by trapping you into a very unhappy scenario. He’s basically the modern day Ghost of Christmas Past. Kevin Spacey, however, is an Oscar winner. What’s his excuse?

In this movie, he plays a gross caricature of a businessman. He’s an egotistical, money hungry 960absentee father with zero nuance or dimensionality. When he gets turned into a cat you feel he got off lightly. And then he does every “help I’m a man trapped in a cat’s body” joke my 5 year old nephew could have come up with given some light prompting and a box of crayons. It’s horrible. It’s beyond horrible. Even the effects animating the cat are horrible, and mistakes are visibly noticeable. Cringe.

So, to recap, a short history of Kevin Spacey’s career:

1995: The Usual Suspects, a career high

1999: American Beauty, wins him another Oscar, this time lead

(long, hard fall, involving lows such as K-PAX, Fred Claus, and Horrible Bosses)

2016: Nine Lives, utter bottom

Why? Why has this happened, Kevin?

a) He owes someone at the production company serious money.

b) He mistakenly thought the script was ironic and\or symbolic.

c) He got paid a lot of money for probably like 10 days worth of work, and that subsidizes his true love, working in the theatah.

Nine Lives is bad. As bad as they say, and worse. But it has at least one fan: about 3 cars over from us, with its windows rolled way down, a little boy was laughing his guts out.

Eddie The Eagle

everything-you-need-to-know-about-taron-egerton-s-new-movie-eddie-the-eagle-823764Dear god. Is this the cutest kid in the whole wide world? Little Eddie has Olympic-sized dreams. He’s not much of an athlete but he’s always a-training. He’s got a tin to hold all his medals but so far all it holds are the glasses he breaks while working out (did I mention he’s not much of an athlete?).

If they gave a gold for perseverance at the Olympics, Eddie would have a neckful. They don’t (I checked. And probably so did he.). But eventually he finds his niche: downhill ski. He’s still not Olympic material (so says a man with a friendly hand on his shoulder) but he does remain mostly upright. So if he’ll never make the downhill team, should he just get on with his life already? Not Eddie. Eddie’s a dreamer. And a finder of loopholes. Turns out, England doesn’t have a ski jump team. Know what that means? No competition! Even if he’s the worst, he’s the one and only, which also means he’s the best, which means automatic qualification! Kind of genius, eh?

Eddie Edwards is a real person and you may remember his story. As a character on the eddie_the_eagle_114967screen he’s incredibly likeable and his optimism is incurable and catching. If optimism was VD, he’d be positively syphilitic. But his country’s not behind him. Heck, even his coach is reluctant at best, and a bit of a drunk (hello, Hugh Jackman!). Meanwhile, Taron Egerton as Eddie is nearly unrecognizable but instantly warms you to the role.

Is this a feel-good movie? Yes it is. And normally I’d say that with a smirk. But this is the kind of feel-good that doesn’t make you want to poke your eye out. The movie avoids biographical truth in order to cling to sports-movie cliches and I still can’t fault it – it’s simple, it’s predictable, and by god is it endearing.

The Jungle Book

I hate being right.

Haha, okay, no I don’t. I love it. I knew I’d hate this movie, I avoided it like I feared it might give me Zika, and when I finally did break down and watch (because it was the fare being offered on the first night of drive-in season), I hated it even more than I’d anticipated. That uptick is maybe partially your The-Jungle-book5fault. It’s received some fairly positive reviews so I had hope that it wasn’t as bad as my gut was telling me. But now I know the truth: either the movie-going public are idiots, or they talk up a bad movie in order to trick others into paying to see it too, thus assuaging their guilt and annoyance at having sat through it themselves.

Self-righteous, much? Yes, I enjoy being that too. But I truly did loathe this movie. I had little to no interest in seeing this movie and was relieved when Matt said he’d cover it for us (being a boy scout, he felt he had some personal connection to the material). But guess what? Matt never saw it, the chump, and he’s left it to me to attack people’s childhoods. I can only assume that’s what it’s about. I don’t have any warm fuzzy feelings attached to the 1967 animated version of this one. I could have hummed some of the bars of the more popular songs, but couldn’t have told you the plot. But the minute  I heard it was live-action, I was out. Forget it. Realistic-looking animals that still for some reason talk? I couldn’t fathom how this would be done well.

Neither could Jon Favreau, as it turns out. And the thing about realistic-lookingThe-Jungle-Book-Special-Shoot_SHERE-KHAN_max-620x600 animals is that they’re still cartoons. They’re very accurate, very expensive cartoons, but it’s just some fancy animation that makes it harder for me to anthropomorphize but doesn’t stop them from breaking out into song. The tiger is so menacing looking you can practically smell the rotting meat caught between his yellowed 3-inch teeth, yet he has the velvety smooth voice of Idris Elba. Bill Murray was a nice choice for the more playful Baloo, but let’s remember that Baloo is still a bear. A sloth bear, sure, but a bear’s a bear. Sloth bears are usually known to be docile for a bear, but they’ll still attack humans who encroach upon their living space, and Mowgli doesn’t just encroach, he fucking rides him! And thejunglebook56b918f52fcee+%25281%2529then there’s King Louie, the big-ass scary mother fucking ape. Modeled after Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kurtz, King Louie is a gigantopithecus, an ancestor of the orangutan, who in real life would have been about 10 feet tall and over 1000lbs. He’s hostile AF but he’s oddly voiced by Christopher Walken. Now, I love Walken almost as much as his mother does, but it was a weird and jarring choice. King Louie is scary, but Walken’s voice is far from it. He’s got the voice of a stand-up comedian or a jazz band leader, it’s one of the most recognizable voices out there, and it didn’t belong to this ape. And then he breaks out into a show tune, which is NOT something Colonel Kurtz would be caught dead doing, so the tone of the movie just falls apart like the chain falling off of a bicycle, and the whole thing just stinks. Stinks! And not just because it’s a temple full of monkeys.

So why bother making a “live-action” version of the movie when there’s only a single live thing about it? Neel Sethi as little Mowgli is pretty charming, but he never met a single animal during the filming of The Jungle Book – which is a good thing, because seeing a small boy in the arms of how-the-beautiful-visual-reality-of-the-jungle-book-was-made-on-an-la-sound-stage-954479a black panther makes most adults want to scream “Run you little idiot!” In fact,  Jim Henson’s Creature Shop was brought in to make puppets for Sethi to act against, but those were completely replaced with CGI versions later. And as for the lush Indian landscape, it’s 100% phony too. The whole thing was filmed on a back lot in smoggy Los Angeles with a blue screen and some Styrofoam painted to look like jungle.

Tonnes of people loved this movie and I’m not one of them. If you’re going to maxresdefaultgive me talking animals, that’s fine, but they’d better also have careers and pants and fart jokes. If an animal looks real and normally eats people, I don’t want to see him dancing around with a man-cub. I have zero tolerance for this movie and as far as I’m concerned, King Louie can kiss my ass.

One More Time

960Christopher Walken in the role he was born to play: a lady-killing crooner. Paul’s on his fifth, maybe sixth, maybe seventh wife. He’s one of (maybe even THE, depending who’s version of his Wikipedia page you believe) most romantic singers of all time, but his star’s been fading of late. It’s not quite the kind of album kids are buying these days, and when he’s asked to open for The Flaming Lips, it’s ironically. He’s living in the slums of The Hamptons for crumb’s sake!

But this is not (just) a movie about an aging artist. Paul is also a failed family man. He has hqdefaulttwo daughters – the dependable Corinne and the mess Jude (Amber Heard), who actually kind of takes after him. So of course they hate each other. He can’t resist giving her advice about her fledgling musical career, and she can’t help reminding him of the many ways he’s disappointed her. And the other sister mopes about hoping any of her soaring, impressing achievements will be noticed by someone, anyone.

giphyChristopher Walken is genius in this. You know you want to watch him sing and swing his little hips, so stop resisting. You must see him do this. The surprise is that Amber Heard is not awful. And believe me, I’d written her off as a floozy. And maybe this was just a fortuitous role for her, but she really seemed to have some substance. You know it pains me to admit that. Plus, her Walken impression is SNL-jeopardy-worthy, and I do mean that from the bottom of my heart.

 

p.s. To avoid confusion, Paul Giamatti was busy, so the role of agent\manager\lawyer will be played by Oliver Platt, who was perfectly serviceable in the role.