Tag Archives: James McAvoy

Arthur Christmas

Merry Christmas.

You may have learned by now that Matt and I are therapists who specialize in crisis counselling. People can get depressed or suicidal at any time, around the clock, around the calendar, so our office never closes. IT NEVER CLOSES. Which means I’m at work today, and was at work yesterday too, and have worked through the holidays for 7 years running. And that’s okay. It’s not fantastic. I’d rather be at home, or with family, or in bed, or in Jamaica, or pretty much anywhere else, but this kind of work doesn’t come without sacrifice, and I knew that going in. I’ve made peace with it, although I always regret leaving Sean (a measly lawyer) home alone (we don’t live in the same city as our extended families) – albeit with a nice bottle of scotch, The Good Dinosaur on Disney Infinity, and a little droid called BB-8 (who is probably terrorizing our dogs).

The good news is, we do find workarounds. Since I’m working until 11pm on Christmas day, we had our Christmas dinner last night, when I got home from work (did I feel like cooking a big meal after a long day at work? you bet!). Then we settled into the hot tub with a bottle of wine. It was a full moon last night, and unseasonably warm here in Canada (a record high of 16 degrees, I believe – what was it like for you?), and it so we relaxed under a starry night to watch a movie recommended by Carrie called Arthur Christmas.

49251-arthur-christmas-best-both-worlds_0Arthur is the son of Santa, and the grandson of Santa too. It’s a job that gets proudly passed down in their family, and someday soon Arthur’s brother Steve will wear the suit. He already nearly runs the whole operation, having streamlined the process with his high-tech gadgets. Grandsanta is enjoying his retirement but Santa’s still loving his Christmas Eve missions and is reluctant to pass the torch. Arthur, meanwhile, too clumsy and keen to ever seriously be considered for the role, works in the letter department, answering all the kids who write to Santa. This Christmas Eve, Steve runs an impeccable shift and 2 billion presents are delivered, almost without a hitch. Almost. End of day, an elf comes across one ARTHUR_CHRISTMAS_15undelivered present. Steve is comfortable with their error margin and Santa’s ready for bed, so it’s up to Arthur, Grandsanta, and an androgynous elf named Bryony to somehow get a bike to Gwen before she wakes up and thinks Santa forgot her.

The movie’s a lot of fun, with just the right amount of saltiness in the sweet to make me happy (not many holiday movies have a Santa threatening to euthanize himself with a rock). Plus the voice cast is top-notch: James McAvoy as Arthur, Hugh Laurie as Steve, Jim Broadbent as Santa, Bill Nighy as Grandsanta…actually, the list goes on like crazy. Have fun trying to recognize them yourself.

This morning Sean and I had a Christmas brunch and gave the dogs each a Christmas steak. No one will ever make a Christmas movie about our non-traditional celebrations (although they tried – it’s called Mixed Nuts), but we did manage to put a little merry in our hearts. And hey – working on Christmas isn’t all bad: I came armed with cheeseball.

Happy holidays.

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Best Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

TMPIt’s Thursday again and you know what that means – this week we’re being asked to list our favourite live-action fairy tale adaptations. Not such an easy feat for some of the Assholes, but we’re giving it a go! Thanks, Wanderer, for your inspired themes.

 

Jay

It’s probably telling that though we owned copies of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, I was never a very Princess-oriented little girl. Even as a kid, I preferred darker stories, and so my go-to fairy tale was always and still is Labyrinth.

I’m sure you know it: it’s about a teenaged girl (Jennifer Connolly) who makes a stupid wish that actually makes her baby brother disappear. Realizing her mistake, she has to win her brother back from the Goblin King by solving his labyrinth in just 15 hours. This movie combines two labyrinth-2_1389186934things that are so awesome I might call them otherworldly, and putting them together just multiplies their effect. First, David Bowie as the Goblin King: absolute perfection. To this day you couldn’t cast it better. The hair, the pants, the eyebrows! Second, Jim Henson. He brings some fairly complex puppets into the mix, some inspired by the genius work of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. Henson surrounds Bowie with a cast of Goth Muppets that create this hyper-real fever dream. The story’s fairytale roots stoke the fires of Jim Henson’s imagination beautifully, and we’re absorbed and suspended into a world where anything can happen.

For my second pick, I’m going with Penelope. Penelope is lovely girl (Christina Ricci) from a wealthy family who was born with the face of a pig. The pig-face is the result of a curse put on her family by a witch in retaliation for their rejection of a  house maid turned away when a penelopemember of the house impregnates her. Generations later, Penelope bears the brunt of her family’s indiscretion. To break the curse, Penelope must find “one of her own” to love her. Her suitors (including a roguish James McAvoy), however, may be more interested in her money than in true love. The movie gives life to the other side of the tale, a modern girl born only to be hidden away in shame, and what that has meant in terms of self-worth. I think it’s also an interesting example of how, with a little suspension of disbelief, we can invest in a fairy tale without a lot of big-budget effects and other trappings familiar to the genre. The fairy tale is made much more accessible and relatable on this plane.

I’ve been waffling over this third pick for a while. I felt like maybe I should go with a more classic adaptation, but damn it to hell, I’m going with a Cinderella story because it’s one that’s been told more than 700 times, in many different ways, all around the world. We just saw Disney’s live-pretty-woman-GCaction effort last night (quite good), but the one that will still stands out to me is Pretty Woman. It’s actually a pretty faithful adaptation, if a little modernized: a young woman with no family is forced into a life of hard work (prostitution, if you will). She meets a handsome prince (or millionaire businessman) and they start to fall in love, but she’s not from his world, so neither of them thinks the love with last. However, with the help of a fairy godmother (called Visa) she is magically transformed. But the prince must love her for who she really is, so she feels, and he follows, searching her out on her turf, his heart (and possibly other organs) swollen with love. And because this is a fairy tale, the ho and the ethically-questionable businessman live happily ever after. We assume.

Matt

If you joined us last Thursday, you might have noticed that I gave Luc a bit of a hard time about his lack of interest in black and white movies made after (or even before) 1970. Well, I’m hoping he loves live-action fairy tale adaptations because I can’t seem to find the same level of enthusiasm this week. It’s not that I object on principle. I don’t see any reason why stories that have so often inspired such great animated films can’t be reimagined as great live-action ones, especially with less pressure to conform their content to a G rating. Maybe because we can’t bring ourselves to set aside our cynicism for even two hours without the obviously manufactured world of animation but it’s a lot harder to believe in magic when it is Elle Fanning- not Sleeping Beauty- who can only be woken by True Love’s Kiss and almost every recent film in this sub-genre is almost embarrassing to watch. Still, after thinking about it all week, I have managed to come up with 3 worthy exceptions especially when allowing myself a little leeway with the rules.

Babe- When I say that Babe is one of my favourite films of the 90’s, I don’t mean “favourite babe-james-cromwellfamily movies”. I don’t know if it can be called a fairy tale under the strictest definition but it seems to think of itself as one. There may not be any fairy godmothers, pixie dust, or spells, but there are singing mice, scheming cats, an unlikely hero with the most innocent of hearts, and one of the most genuinely magical experiences of its decade.

 

Hook-  Steven Spielberg makes my list two weeks in a row. Technically more a Peter Pan sequel than a peter Pan adaptation, Spielberg’s 1991 film is one of his most underappreciated. Now a cynical corporate lawyer who hates flying, Peter Pan (Robin Williams) is all grown up and has literally Hook-1forgotten about Neverland. With the help of Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts), he must learn to fly again to save his young kids who have kidnapped by Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) who is still holding a grudge. Hook makes great use of almost every one of Williams’ many talents and Hoffman is brilliantly cast and will likely put Garrett Hedlund to shame in this summer’s Pan.

Into the WoodsSome of the most memorable fairy tale characters of all time meet in the intothewoodswoods in last year’s extremely entertaining adaptation of the Broadway musical. The stories take on a darker tone than we might be used to but the spirit of the stories survive.

 

 

Sean:

The Princess Bride: the best of the best. This is a fairy tale that a teenage boy could not only princess_brideenjoy and relate to, but could talk about with other teenage boys. The Princess Bride is endlessly quotable, sincere but not serious, and effortlessly original while remaining true to the essence of a fairy tale. I still love this movie and I expect it will be one that continues to be discovered and enjoyed for as long as we watch movies.
wizard-of-oz-original1The Wizard of Oz – this is a timeless movie that still holds up. Even the changing technical limits of the day add something to the movie, being in black and white initially, with colour then appearing once Dorothy gets to Oz. It’s so well done, the songs are catchy, the characters are memorable, and the big reveal at the end is one of the best twists ever. One of my favourite parts about the movie is that even after the curtain is pulled back, everyone still gets to live happily ever after, the very definition of a fairy tale.
Cinderella (2015) – we just saw this last night and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. rs_1024x759-141119042502-1024_Cinderella-JR-111914No surprises, no changes, no updates to the classic Disney tale, and that’s probably for the best. It was the definition of a fairy tale made into a live action movie, line for line, shot for shot, and mouse/horse for mouse/horse. At our screening, all the little (and some not-so-little) girls in their princess costumes clearly loved this movie and I could see exactly why they did. I would have said Cinderella is this year’s Frozen except that this year’s Frozen is going to be Frozen Fever, the short accompanying Cinderella, which made a little girl in the theatre gleefully exclaim, “Look at those dresses!”

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I watched this movie with Jay on our way to Paris and it was awesome. Guardians of the Galaxy is still my favourite superhero movie of 2014 but Days of Future Past was almost as good, and I was not expecting that at all.

I read X-Men as a kid and loved it (it was probably my 2nd favourite comic behind Spider-Man). Then in my early 20s, the first X-Men came out, and I loved that! And the 2nd movie was possibly better than the first. And then the third movie came along, and it was so awful it ruined everything that had come before. It was very similar to the Matrix trilogy in that way. But unlike the Matrix, this franchise has done the impossible and resurrected itself.

This movie works in a lot of ways. It is a bridge between the entertaining prequel (X-Men: First Class) and the original trilogy. It is a standalone timetravelling adventure starring a bunch of familiar faces (it was very cool to see so many people from the previous movies make appearances, and all of them felt natural rather than squeezed in). And it is probably the most satisfying reboot I have ever seen. Too many superhero franchises have been rebooted lately, for no real reason other than a lack of imagination. I don’t need to see Peter Parker get bitten by a spider again. I didn’t ask for a new take on the Fantastic Four whose only purpose seems to be retaining the movie rights. But I was satisfied, and even excited, to see the slate wiped clean here and feel that the future for this franchise is brighter than ever. I am looking forward to see where they go from here (and apparently it involves Apocalypse!!!).

By the way, please stop putting extra scenes in the credits. It was alright once or twice but it’s played out at this point, and for the last several movies I have had to look it up onYoutube after the fact.

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable movie, though probably too dense and convoluted for someone who isn’t a fan. But better that than another origin rehash! It gets 9 angst-filled outcasts out of 10.