Tag Archives: Robin Williams

Jumanji (1995)

Sean thought Jumanji was just the movie for viewing on Halloween night. Sean had fond memories of having watched it repeatedly in childhood, whereas I hadn’t seen it at all, but understood it to be a film marketed towards children. In fact, it is a little spooky and a little scary.

In 1969, a little kid named Alan Parrish finds an old board game buried deep in a construction pit and ropes his friend Sarah into a game. The game, Jumanji, is more than they bargained for. The board game claims Alan, sucks him right up, and he’s never seen again.

Cut to: 1995. Judy (Kristen Dunst) and little brother Peter (Bradley Pierce) move into what used to be the Parrish family home, which as been abandoned since Alan vanished and his parents left heartbroken. Jumanji still sits in the home’s attic, where it soon calls to them. They start playing, which once again unleashes the beast, but does have one small bonus: Alan pops back out of the game, now a fully grown man (Robin Williams), after having spent some 26 years fending for himself in what I believe he describes as both “a jungle” and “hell.” But he hardly has time to reflect because the game must be finished, which means Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) must be tracked down, and horrible creatures and terrible catastrophes must be survived because every roll is a different kind of doom.

Having seen only the 2017 reboot starring The Rock, I didn’t realize that this movie wouldn’t bring us inside the game, rather the game would escape into 1995: flash floods, angry lions, quicksand, spiders the size of basketballs. It’s actually disappointing that we just gloss over Alan’s 26 years of board game purgatory because he certainly insinuates that shit. went. down. And it feels like there might be an interesting story about innocence lost and the good of the group vs. the good of the individual – there’s stuff to be mined if only we had time between elephant stampedes. And of course it’s hard for 2019 eyes to watch 1995’s CGI, which more or less looks like someone cut pictures of monkeys out of a National Geographic magazine, drew silly faces on them, and called it special effects.

Anyway, I’m pretty jazzed to have seen this one if only to give context to a future rewatch of 2017’s Welcome To The Jungle (and 2019’s sequel). Is that a sad thing to say? Sean says that we actually see Alan’s treehouse in the 2017 film, and that might actually mean something to me now that I know who the heck Alan is. Of course it also makes me wonder what 2017 Alan is up to. We know that in 1969, young Alan and Sarah chuck the game, weighted, into a river. Which is dumb. That game is evil and needs to be destroyed. We also know from the end of that movie that of course Jumanji washes up on a shore somewhere and is discovered by two little French girls. However, the 2017 iteration contradicts this: it tells us that in 1996, Alex Vreeke’s father found the game washed up on the beach in the same New Hampshire town. Alex isn’t over taken by the game but when it magically turns into a video game cartridge, he loads it up and gets sucked inside. He basically pulls a 20 year vanishing act, just as Alan had done. At the end of original Jumanji, Alan is alive and well in 1995 and still living in New Hampshire, so I have some questions:

  1. How did the French girls find the game in 1969 or soon after, play it or not play it, then throw it back into the ocean…only to wash up in the exact same New Hampshire town from which it originated?
  2. How does grown up 1995 Alan hear about Alex’s vanishing and not put two and two together? Or Sarah for that matter, who lived through his 26 years of disappearance being called delusional for her insistence that he’d been drawn into a board game?
  3. And where is Alan in 2017 for that matter? I realize that Robin Williams is dead so a cameo is more or less impossible, but it would have been nice.

Anyway, it seems the 2017 movie managed to weave in some interesting elements from the first movie, references I may actually catch now that I know about them, which is kind of the catch with references.

Which is not to say the 1995 movie is trash. It was obviously loved enough to spawn a sequel 20 years after the fact. Robin Williams is always a joy to watch, even if it takes a third of the movie before he’s actually on screen. Jonathan Hyde plays both Alan’s father and Jumanji’s main bad guy, Van Pelt – “that’s symbolism,” Sean tells me. And he’s not wrong.

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Aladdin (1992)

Of course I watched Aladdin when I was little. Disney’s renaissance era was such a great time to be kid: The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King. Instant classics, all. I remember my aunt giving my little sister Jana a pair of Princess Jasmine pajamas – gauzy and midriff-bearing. They were an instant source of jealousy (we were four little girls, but Jana was the smallest and the blondest and the default cutest, and I suppose the rest of us felt that our chubby little bellies were not deemed worthy).

MV5BMTYwODYyMzY5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzg4MjY5NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1710,1000_AL_But I hadn’t watched Aladdin since I was young, on VHS, naturally. On DVD I’ve fallen in love all over again with the movie. Gosh it’s crisp, the animation looks beautiful. I find that I still know every word to every song (it probably helps that I have the soundtrack on vinyl).

It’s a sad story if you stop to think about it: Aladdin is a homeless youth who is so hungry he resorts to stealing even though the punishment is having your hand chopped off. Jasmine, the resident princess, has never been hungry a day in her life, but is far more eager to escape her life of confinement in the castle and the pressure to marry a prince before her next birthday (at which time she turns all of 16). The two meet in the market where they also get in some trouble. Jafar, the nefarious vizier to the sultan, tells Jasmine that Aladdin has been executed (to death!), but actually he’s going to use him to break into the Cave of Wonders and steal the magic lamp.

As you know, Aladdin does get his hands on the lamp, and imagine his surprise when out pops a big blue genie (voiced by Robin Williams). Genie turns Aladdin into a prince so he can court and marry Jasmine, but there’s a lesson in there about being your true self, and the lesson must be taught.

Anyway, Robin Williams recorded his part while on breaks from Hook and Toys. He’d call up Steven Spielberg, who was filming Schindler’s List at the time, and make him and the cast and crew have a much-needed laugh. So much of the movie was ad-libbed by Williams, it no longer qualified for best adapted screenplay at the Oscars. Not that anyone complained: animators literally added whole scenes just because Williams said something too brilliant not to use.

Robin Williams was reluctant to even do the movie. He wanted to try his hand at voicing an animated character but he balked at the whole Disney merchandising machine. Eventually he agreed to do the film for scale (!) on the condition that his voice not be used for merchandising, and that the Genie not take up more than 25% of space on posters, billboards, and trailers. The idiots at Disney did not abide his rules so Williams was actually mad at them for years. Michael Eisner even tried to apologize to him with a Picasso, but Williams turned it down. Only when Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired and replaced by Joe Roth did things thaw: Roth apologized publicly.

If Jasmine and Aladdin look familiar to you, you’re not wrong: Jasmine was modeledMV5BMTgzNDI3ODUyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDg4MjY5NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1416,1000_AL_ after Jennifer Connelly, and Aladdin after Tom Cruise, which has to make you wonder – does Tom Cruise not have nipples either? I met Princess Jasmine recently. I was having dinner at Cinderella’s castle (at Disney World), and quite a few princesses drop by to say hello. She asked me if Sean was my diamond in the rough and I must have scrunched up my nose quite skeptically because she amended it to “Diamond in the scruff?” – in fact, Sean has a no-razors-on-vacation policy, so I let that one stand even though it wasn’t the rough I objected to.

Anyway, we gave this one a re-watch because Guy Ritchie is doing a live-action remake hitting theatres later this month (May 24). Although I was disappointed by both Mary Poppins Returns and Dumbo (both of which I’d hoped would be good but weren’t quite) already this year, I’m going to go ahead and reserve some moderately-sized hope for this one. They can’t all be bad, right?

 

Noel

This movie’s got more Oscar winners and nominees than most, so I can’t quite figure out how I’ve never heard of this movie before. Alan Arkin plays a creepy cashier who’s obsessed with Paul Walker, who plays a cop who’s crazy-jealous over his super hot girlfriend, played by Penelope Cruz, who thinks she may be pregnant with her crazy-jealous boyfriend’s baby and she’s feeling so insecure she confides in a lonely woman played by Susan Sarandon, who’s completely alone for the holidays other than her comatose mother and a complete stranger she meets while visiting another patient, played by Robin Williams, who’s an ex-priest having a crisis of faith.

penelope_cruz_noel_still_2004_OGXxLss.sizedThis holiday movie has something for everyone: spirituality, homophobia, reincarnation, crippling depression, dead babies, and more. But in its heart of hearts it’s really just about a bunch of people who don’t want to end up alone – on Christmas, on their deathbeds, in the world just generally. Some of us feel encumbered by all our obligations to friends and family over the holidays but others are completely bankrupt when it comes to people who care, and for them, the holidays can be really, really hard.

If you’re one of those people, maybe opt for something a little more cheerful. And if you’re already feeling cheerful, why bring a good mood down? This is possibly just too depressing for Christmas fare, and that’s not even counting the fact that it stars two men now dead in real life, one of whom also expires on camera. It’s a real corker! Contrived doesn’t begin to cover it; Noel is a stocking full of sadness hung by the chimney with despair. But it does have Penelope Cruz dancing around in lingerie, so.

 

Contract Negotiations

The rich and famous are rich and famous for a reason – their unreasonable demands. Turns out actors are not immune. The following are actual clauses found in movie contracts.

Samuel L. Jackson has it in his contract that he gets a break during filming to play golf twice a week. Priorities!

The late Garry Marshall was so close to Hector Elizondo that he put a clause in his contracts stipulating that the actor was guaranteed a role in all Marshall films. Elizondo never knew about the clause but obviously benefitted, appearing in all of Marshall’s films, up until the director’s death last year.

Steve McQueen had a crazy grudge against Paul Newman. When the two starred in The poster_0Towering Inferno in 1974, McQueen demanded that he not only have top billing, but also the exact same pay as Newman—and the EXACT SAME number of lines, which seems like a pretty shitty way to write a script. The two fought it out about the top billing and eventually producers settled on a compromise for the poster: McQueen’s name is first, but Newman’s name, while second, is slightly higher up. Also the picture of McQueen is on the left, but Newman’s picture is again slightly higher up. This coined the term ‘diagonal billing’ because you know movie stars have egos and this shit definitely has come up again.

While working on (the now defunct) Eloise in Paris in 2010, Uma Thurman insisted on receiving heavy discounts if she decided to buy any clothes and\or wigs used during the shoot. Also, “no other cast member [may] receive more favorable dressing rooms.”

Roger Moore asked for and received “unlimited” Montecristo cigars on his James Bond films – I mean, what better way to get into character?

Will Ferrell, who takes pride in being an ass, demanded the following:

1 Electric three-wheel mobility scooter
1 headset microphone (Janet Jackson style)
1 flight of stairs on wheels
1 fake tree on wheels
1 rainbow (can be painted on canvas) on wheels
Guinness beer
Smart Water or Fiji Water
Coke, Diet Coke, 7Up
Raw roasted almonds
Protein bars: Peanut butter chocolate Zone Bars, Peanut Butter Power Bars

Just the necessities, obviously!

Will Smith had a two-and-a-half million dollar trailer built for himself. His contract makes sure the trailer has a spot on every movie set. It sits on 22 wheels, has 14 televisions, and $30,000 worth of leather upholstery. It has a full kitchen with over $$100,000 worth of granite countertops. It has sliding doors like the Star Trek Enterprise, which lead to a wardrobe room. It has pistons that allow it to transform to have a second story, which houses a screening room for watching dailies. There’s a shower in a $25,000 bathroom that has a magic glass door, which can go between opaque and transparent with the push of a button. Sean and I saw this monstrosity on the streets of Manhattan while he was filming MIB3, and you bet the locals were complaining about its size and its generally fucking up traffic, and blocking out sunlight in the surrounding apartments.  Charming?

Lindsey Lohan, known for being oh-so modest, demanded a private jet with a hairstylist, a makeup artist, and a manicurist onboard. She also insisted on a 1-year Russian visa, a Ritz-Carlton penthouse suite, and a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, and that was just to appear on a talk show. I think she may be overestimated her cachet.

While filming Gravity in Surrey, George Clooney insisted on a custom-made beach hut complete with hot tub, private landscaped garden, and basketball court built next to his trailer. He let production pick up the £100,000 tab while making $20M for the movie. Life is fair!

Tom Cruise’s “thing” is as weird as he is: thongs. He’s got thongs written into every contract – up to 50 of them per movie since he only wears them once. He feels they’re imperative for shooting action scenes, keeping him loose and unrestricted. I have a feeling that my underwear is not what’s holding me back. I also doubt the thongs are helping him out all that much, but it’s a nice justification for your fetish, isn’t it?

But just to leave you with something positive, not all contract riders are inspired by selfish greed. Robin Williams always wrote in his contract that on every film he made, production had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. Remember that next time you watch one of his old gems.

Night At The Museum: Something About A Tomb

Wow did this suck balls. Like, no redeeming factors to report at all. The effects are brazenly shoddy. Embarrassing. Was this movie shot entirely in front of a green screen? Is there even a museum in New York?

My problem is, I don’t like Ben Stiller. My other problem is, Ben Stiller likes Ben Stiller. So much so that he conferred upon himself another character, just so he can have the pleasure of interacting with himself, green screen on green screen on green screen. Is nothing sacred?museum

I love Rebel Wilson but she’s falling into the Melissa McCarthy trap here – genuinely funny women that are reduced to one-note obnoxious roles that wear thin quickly. Not quite as thin as Ben Stiller as a caveman (haven’t we seen that before?), but still. She was wasted. But this movie wasted actors like it was going out of style (and if this is indeed the third and final chapter, then I guess it is) – Ben Kingsley! Hugh Jackman! Ricky Gervais! And y’all know that I love Steve Coogan but for the love of monkeys, throw the man a bone. He and Owen Wilson and floundering with oodles of screen time but nary a point. I felt bad for them.museum3

There was a single workable joke in the whole entire thing:

Ben Kingsley (as an Egyptian pharaoh) to Ben Stiller, half-Jewish: “I love Jews! We owned 40 000 of them. They were very happy. Always singing with the candles.”

Ben Stiller: “Yeah, they really weren’t happy. They left. Spent 40 years in the desert trying to escape. We have dinner once a year to talk about it.”

So now that I’ve ruined the one funny bit for you, you don’t have to watch it.

You’re welcome!

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!”

License to Wed

I know that watching movies sometimes involves a certain about of suspended disbelief, but this movie would require a lobotomy.

Robin Williams plays Reverend Frank, the man in charge of preparing Sadie (Mandy Moore) and Ben (John Krasinski) for holy matrimony. Ben wanted to elope to the Caribbean, but Sadie’s always dreamed of getting married in the family church, and to do so, they have to pass Reverend Frank’s marriage prep course.

Now, let’s take a minute to appreciate the absurdity of an unmarried man assuming any kind of authority on the subject. I mean, really. But Reverend Frank’s particular brand of marriage counselling is made just for movies. It involves ridiculous group activities and the deliberate baiting of in-laws. This is why we say in my business that no counselling is preferable to pastoral counselling. They don’t know what they’re doing, they push the god agenda above anything sane or healthy, and they’re grossly unqualified. Frank is all of these, yet the Sadie blindly accepts everything he says, because he’s her beloved minister. And that might be fine if this was a satire, but it’s not. It’s just a vehicle for Robin Williams to shock and awe – say all the naughty things that a man of the cloth most definitely should not. Sadie doesn’t blink an eye when he bugs their apartment, asks her what she likes in bed, has her drive into traffic blind-folded. Nope, just normal pre-wedding stuff, nothing to see here!

Are there a couple of chuckles to be had? Sure there are. It’s Robin Williams. But to be honest, it looks like a much better time in the blooper reels than in the film itself. On the plus side, the last 20 minutes of the film are a commercial for the Sandals resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, so at least everyone got tan while making this piece of crap (the same one that Michael Scott visited in The Office; there are 4 series regulars in this film, and director Ken Kwapis directed several episodes). I am 100% certain that John Krasinski hates that this is on his resume, and he regrets even more saying “Do you wanna walk the midget?” It may have been 2007, but that was never okay.