Dumbo is the live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1941 animated feature of the same time. This time around, instead of revolving around mice, crows, and the nasty gossip of other elephants, Dumbo learns to fly by two children, Milly and Joe (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) brought up in the Medici Bros circus, run by Max Medici (Danny Devito). The movie opens with their father (Colin Farrell) returning from WWI missing his arm, and we learn shortly thereafter, the children’s mother died from the flu. This is a movie that tries to pull at the heartstrings.
The original movie is recapped within the first 40 minutes of this remake, leaving another hour and ten minutes devoted to the children, the circus, and the villainy of V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), the “King of Coney Island” who buys out the circus in order to feature Dumbo as his headliner. It’s this shift from the titular character to a subplot that does most of the damage to the movie. Written by Ehren Kruger, who is responsible for such masterpieces The Skeleton Key, The Brothers Grimm and three of the Transformers movies, Kruger provides shells of characters that are only a sum of their parts, but never fully fleshed out. It’s too bad, because Tim Burton knocks it out of the park with the direction and visuals. Vandevere’s Dreamland is brilliant blend of Art Deco and Burton-esque wonder that makes me wish it was a real place – though I have to admit there were many uncanny resemblances to 2K Games Bioshock.
The performances are adequate, but Colin Farrell’s thick Irish Brogue kept sneaking through his southern accent and Nico Parker’s scientific detachment comes across as wooden. Lucky for her she still has time to be coached by her mother, Thandie Newton. Keaton is great as V.A. Vandever and Eva Green does the best with what she’s given.
The remake makes sure to recapture all the iconic images from the first, and some of the songs appear as well, but it only feels as if their hitting these highlights to drive home the point that this is a remake instead of a reboot, which it most certainly is. In it’s efforts to modernize the story and protect today’s sensitive children from some of the more sinister plots of the first – ostracization by horrible acting adults, the cruelty of children, and the dangers of alcohol (those pink elephants still scare me!) – this reboot strips away everything that makes the original the heartfelt classic that it is today, and provides Disney with another nice, innocuous, forgettable moneymaker.
Judd: 2 stars
Swanner: In 1986 while on vacation, Adelaide had something horrific happen to her, so much that 33 years later it still haunts her. Now on vacation in the same location, someone is trying to get to her and her family and Adelaide must do whatever it takes to protect them. Even if it means to face the demons from her past. Jordan Peele writes and directs this follow up to his Oscar winning “Get Out”
Judd: In Us, Peele expands upon Get Out and wrote the lead cast as a well-to-do black family, which is uncommon for the genre and adds welcome and needed diversity. However, I knew next to nothing about the movie before going to the screening, and there was a half-hour span where I thought Us was going to take a blunt turn into the original Night of the Living Dead. Thankfully that did not happen. Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex play the lead family, as well as their doppelgängers that come to terrorize the family. The four of them are fantastic. Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss also get to shine playing the same dual roles.
Swanner: You can see that Peele was already thinking about his reboot of the Twilight Zone, jumping genres yet keeping everything cohesive. Mixing horror with action and sci-fi, the first half of the film is a balls out horror film that keeps the audience confused till Adelaide and her family fight back. At that point the film changes, like Alien did with Aliens, to all action. Even when Peele’s storyline goes a bit nuts, the audience is still invested because at this point we have to know whats happening.
Judd: On the horror/action front the movie is aces, but I thought the story and the twist were implausible to the point of absurdity. Without giving anything away, the whole existence of the doppelgängers is ridiculous. Their reason for coming out of the shadows was reasonable, but where they lived, how they lived, how they communicated, where they got their jumpsuits, scissors, and baseball gloves are huge (but seemingly trivial) questions that are left unanswered and only become more outlandish the more one thinks about them. You said you saw the twist coming from the get go, but the reason I think it went over my head is because the idea of it was so nonsensical, that any person applying a modicum of logic to the plot would have discarded the option up front.
Swanner: Sure, if this was the real world your questions would be valid, but this is a place where these things can happen. Call it a…movie, where the real world doesn’t exist. I mentioned The Twilight Zone earlier where we were taken to a place we’ve never been before. Like in Get Out where a Frankenstein storyline seemed perfectly palatable, here doubles hide underground waiting. Waiting in jumpsuits, constructing scissors. Is it a perfect film? No! Was it a lot of fucked up goodness? Yes!
Swanner: 3 stars
Judd: 2 ½ stars
Swanner: June is a young girl with a big imagination. Her big dream was to design an amusement park, so June and her mother spent hours making the best amusement park ever. When June’s mother gets sick and has to go away for treatment, June puts away all things childish, including the amusement park. While on her way to camp, the bus breaks down leaving June and her classmates stranded. While exploring the woods near the bus June comes upon an old abandoned amusement park, but once she looks closer she realizes that this is the park her mother and her designed.
As June looks around the park she meets the characters that she and her mom had made up, and they tell her that a darkness is taking over and destroying the park. Now June has to find a way to save the park, without her mother my her side. Dylan Brown directs from a screenplay by Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec. The film does feel a bit familiar in it’s themes, but the park itself is fun and exciting.
It’s nice having another female driven movie, especially a young girl looking to do something more than be a mom when she grows up. There is a big cast of talented actors including Jennifer Garner, Kenan Thompson, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Ken Jeong, Norbert Leo Butz, Matthew Broderick, and Brianna Denski who voices June. I do have to mention that the film is geared towards the under 10 crowd. The more adult situations are handled well for the audience, but some adults will find the film a bit too kiddy making it hard to connect. If you’re 8 years old, you should love it.
Swanner: 2 stars
Swanner: Julianne Moore plays Gloria Bell. A woman in what used to be her twilight years (50’s & 60’s), but in today’s world she is still a working viable woman, looking to have something in the second chapter of her life. Gloria has an ex-husband who has remarried (Brad Garrett, Jeanne Tripplehorn), an adult son (Michael Cera), and an adult Daughter (Caren Pistorius). She lives alone in an apartment with a cat she doesn’t own, and ventures out at night to meet men.
Watching the preview I immediately thought of Looking For Mr. Goodbar, a very different kind of film dealing with a single woman dating. The film follows a slice of Gloria’s life. She meets different men but ends up seeing Arnold (John Turturro), a divorced man who still has strong ties with his ex-wife and the two adult daughters who live with his ex. This is something older people have to deal with dating later in life: getting involved with someone who already has an established family, career, and past. They also have problems that turn them into someone Gloria doesn’t need in her life.
The film Gloria Bell takes a look at a group of people who have been all but forgotten, seniors. With people living longer, we see older folks searching for things they took for granted as young adults. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you’re not a sexual creature anymore. It’s hard to imagine your grandmother out hunting for men, but there are plenty doing it nightly. The film is based on Sebastian Lelio’s film Gloria, which followed an older woman in Chile. Lelio directed both films. The film isn’t a big downer. It does have it’s humor and romance, it also leaves hope for a generation that was once condemned to spend the rest of their lives alone. Julianne Moore is terrific in the film.
Swanner: 2 ½ stars