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Dumbo, Do We Have Liftoff?

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This review will be two reviews in one. First off, will the kids like this movie? Boy, I am hard pressed to say one way or another. The audience I saw it with included a fair share of children and I didn’t hear much laughing, giggling, or gasps of glee. Maybe they were delighted within.

However, unlike the 1941 animated version, this Dumbo, nor Mrs. Jumbo his mother, speaks, so that needed connection between a kid and a character is solely dependent on the digital animators’ abilities to make the little elephant come alive through his big blue eyes. It didn’t work for me, but it may for your child.

As for the adults in the audience, particularly for all of us Tim Burton fans …. well, let me start at the beginning.

The first scene of the film, the tracking shots of the Casey Jones Junior train pulling into the circus grounds, all the animals and acrobats, the old and worn train cars painted with period advertisements, the Maxfield Parrish turquoise skies, were absolutely beautiful. Rick Heinrichs, the production designer that has been with Burton since his youthful days at Disney, from their first film together, Vincent, creates a world that hums with charm and the possibility of magic.

Danny Elfman’s music, as always, hits just the right note, a perfect alchemy of artful boldness, wry humor, and earnest pathos.

At this point, it’s looking good.

Then the actors enter the scene. Danny DeVito plays the nice Danny DeVito, as opposed to the creepy Danny DeVito. Colin Farrell as Holt Ferrier returns from the first World War minus an arm, but hoping to restart his life as a lasso-tossing trick rider. In his sad-eyed, laconic performance, underplayed as much as his touch of Texas accent, he steps out of the steam at the train station to meet his motherless children, his wife having died while he was away fighting in France.

Nice set-up, but the trouble begins with his children, particularly his daughter Millie, played by Nico Parker, in her first film role. A striking looking child, her acting is as wooden as the weathered boards on the side of the train cars. Playing a smart and scientific child, the young actress interprets that as speaking in a robotic, unemotional and unengaging  monotone, every line a concluding sentence. Her brother is a little more natural, but not enough for the two of them to be the empathic anchors of the film. Without being able to feel for and with the kids, it’s bumpy skies ahead.

Along for the ride is a group of low-rent circus performers, all pleasant as can be, and all representing the classic Burtonesque troop of outsiders … an African-American strongman and accountant, a plus size, sweet-singing mermaid, an Indian snake charmer, a married pair of Hispanic magicians … but they’re markedly bland, making me long for the earlier menageries of characters in Beetlejuice, A Nightmare Before Christmas, and Ed Wood.

And then there is Dumbo.

The first time he flew under the big top it was one of the film’s rare moments of magic, largely due to Elfman’s swooping score.

Other than that, again, pretty bland. For me, he was never a real character but rather a product of digital wizardry. Intriguing in the trailers, but incapable of carrying the emotional heart of  the film as he soared and flopped his oversized ears.

As for Michael Keaton’s big business man and promoter, V. A. Vandervere, this was a performance aimed at Johnny Depp freakishness (think Burton”s Willie Wonka) but missing the target by the width of this fair land. It was frankly an awful performance by a fine actor. It’s too bad, too, because Burton used to be so good at handling campy performances. Johnny Depp in Ed Wood Christoph Waltz in Big Eyes, or Alan Arkin in Edward Scissorhands come to mind. Alan Arkin actually plays a small role in this film, and to be honest, it was one of the few believable performances.

As for the story, it was written by Ehren Kruger, who also penned several of The Ring and Transformer movies. Here, too, he goes for high concept at the cost of an engaging connection to the characters and a plot that matters.

Did I mention the production design? I know I did, but I want to say again how great it is. The latter part of the film is set in an elaborate, Art Deco theme park, Dreamland, that in all its glitz, glory and consumerism is both a tribute to Disneyland and a (purposeful?) critique.
And it’s not the only critique in the film, for, in the end, Dumbo is a message film against animal cruelty and for animal rights, against corporate life and for diversity. It just isn’t very good, and for this Tim Burton fan, a real disappointment.

I would love to know if Tim Burton has any more original work in him. Who can forget Winona Ryder dancing in the ice storm of shavings as Johnny Depp craves an angel in Edward Scissorhands? (One of my favorite moments in all film historyOr Jack Skelton delivering creepy Christmas gifts in The Nightmare Before Christmas (shared salute to director Henry Selick)? Or Johnny Depp facing down the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow? Or the dark and bloody world of Sweeny Todd, for my money one of the finest screen musicals of last few decades. God, I miss that Tim Burton. How I miss Burton’s world. Please come back to it, Tim.

 

 

 

 

 

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Frogfathers lessons from the Normandy surf

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Frog Fathers: Lessons from the Normandy Surf” is a deeply moving documentary directed by Bob Whitney, narrated by John C McGinley, and presented by World of Warships and FORCE BLUE. It chronicles the journey of four Navy SEAL veterans revisiting the site of the D-Day landings to honor their forefathers and gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made during World War II.

The film’s strength lies in its raw emotional impact and historical significance. It blends personal narratives with archival footage, offering a poignant tribute to the bravery and resilience of those who fought on June 6, 1944. The veterans’ reflections and the cinematography effectively capture the solemnity and reverence of their pilgrimage.

While the documentary focuses primarily on the veterans’ experiences, it also serves as an educational tool, highlighting the strategic importance of the Normandy invasion and its pivotal role in shaping modern history. The film’s respectful approach and engaging storytelling make it a compelling watch for anyone interested in military history and the enduring legacy of the D-Day heroes.

Overall, “Frog Fathers” is a powerful and heartfelt documentary that honors the past while inspiring present and future generations to remember the sacrifices made for freedom 

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American Horror Story: Delicate

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As most of us are already aware, the 12th Season of AHS has been fraught with all kinds of differences to the previous seasons, mainly in that this is the first one to be based entirely off a novel, ‘Delicate Condition’ by Danielle Valentine. The first half of the season aired in October 2023 to mediocre reviews, while the SAG-AFTRA strike caused production and airing delays for the latter half of the season, and the episodes of Part 2 were all cut to less than an hour long apiece. And none of that is even getting into the disjointed attempt at storytelling for Season 12, so let’s dive into this! 

Meet Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts), former young ling star of Hollywood now struggling to recapture fame as an adult, who wants a baby, very very badly. Bad enough to drive herself and her husband Dex (Matt Czuchry) through multiple unsuccessful rounds of IVF (in-vitro fertilization), bad enough to keep trying no matter how crushing each failure turns out to be, bad enough to involve her purported best friend and bougie publicist Siobhan Corbyn (Kim Kardashian) in her struggles, and maybe, just maybe, bad enough to give up on a burgeoning resurgence of her career after interest in her comeback role for The Auteur begins garnering her Oscar-worthy attention. 

So, Anna and Dex are going to go through yet another round of IVF, likely one of their last attempts at it, from a different doctor, Dr. Andrew Hill (Denis O’Hare), and clinic based on Siobhan’s recommendation. And already, strange things are beginning to happen to Anna – her appointments that she set herself begin springing up incorrectly, a doom saying woman called Preacher (Julia White) shows up spouting warnings about trusting no one, dire warnings appear in unlikely places, and BTW, it seems as though long-suffering but good-nurtured Dex has a side-piece too. It doesn’t help that Dex’s new partner at his art gallery, Sonia Shawcross (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), bears a striking resemblance to his dead ex-wife Adeline, either. Those spiked emerald heels start appearing weirdly too, and it seems as though no one will listen to Anna as she grows more and more suspicious that some sort of sinister cult has designs on her as-yet-unborn baby. At the same time, Anna tries to live the life of a successful returning actress, attending parties and gallery openings while draping her rapidly-expanding middle in shimmering fabrics and actively ‘campaigning’ for that little golden statue that most actors covet. Competition is fierce, even among her co-stars of The Auteur, and while Anna wants to be supportive of her fellow entertainers, she clearly appears to be incapable of doing both at the same time – wanting the baby and the little gold award at the same time is too much to ask, apparently. 

Elsewhere, mostly in the past, various women in states of desperation formed from one situation or another are visited by sinister-looking women in prim black dresses, headgear reminiscent of – to me anyway – an odd cross betwixt birds and bunnies, my guess is an ostensive nod to fertility in general, and a general feeling of blood-bound witchery about them at critical moments of crossroad choices. 

Though the second half of the season moves a good deal faster than the first, the attempts at callbacks and reminder flashes to Part 1 hit with all the impact of a dropped bag of garbage onto their friends Talia’s (Julia Canfield) borrowed bougie kitchen floor – splat, into incomprehensible silence, from all parties, both characters and audience, concerned. Even the reminders that, in Part 1 of Delicate Dex’s mother Virginia Harding (Debra Monk) did indeed have perfectly valid memories of abuse at the hands of a black cult and Dex’s own father Dex Sr. (Reed Birney), the revelation pales and peels away in the face of Dex’s true parentage. 

Which brings us back around full circle kinda sorta, to the only real character worth a damn in this entire miserable season of strange feminism and aspirations of world domination through a kind of idiotic Rosemary’s Baby nightmare scenario, we should have known she’d steal the show when Kardashian was cast for it, Siobhan Corbyn, leader of the blood cult her high and mighty (old) self. Throughout the whole show her character has remained exactly the same, and it’s a wonder Anna can stare at her all stupefied while Siobhan does her villain speech at the end of the last episode. Siobhan never masked her ambition or greed, her mysterious protective vibe and even deep love for Anna, and can always be counted on to have secret plans of her own, already in motion, bitch. 

The idea that Anna herself was used as a surrogate for Siobhan and her incestuous eugenicist plans, plus the sweet little demon baby she just birthed, has an ironic the-world-is-tilting-the-wrong-way kind of witchy madness to it. Sure, Anna really can have it all, the baby and the golden statue, if only she joins the patriarchy-crushing cabal of blood witches with world domination plans, got it. 

I have questions, or I would have, but things are moving on and Anna is being saved by … Dex’s dead ex, Adaline the former member of the coven right okay her, she’s going to show back up and offer Anna a simple chant to Hestia her patron Goddess, and that is somehow enough to deal with Siobhan entirely – poof. And finally, after all that rigamarole, decades of planning and scheming and witchy plotting finally settled, Anna really can have it all as a White Witch of Hollywood, heaven help us, with her perfectly human baby and that damned little golden statue, clutched in an only slightly desperate grip. 

As with any season of AHS there are a great deal of statements that could be implied just under the skin of the season – the canker way of ambition, the millenia-old pain of a woman giving birth, the savagery and bloodshed that comes with bringing forth life, pushback against both the patriarchy and ultra-feminism, the absolute desperation of humans wanting to have a child, and perhaps strangest and most open to interpretation of all, what it means to be feminine. The worlds population of women who can’t or don’t or simply won’t have children, for any reason or none, are relegated to servants, expendable servants at that, for this new world order that Siobhan is proposing, and that is far too close a comfort to things like outright slavery. A dictator is a dictator, no matter how great she looks in those emerald spiked heels. 

It’s not the really beautiful grotesquerie that Ryan Murphy and his AHS gang are often known for, nor is it utterly terrible and should be burned at the stake. What Delicate should be, is put back together with missing and cut footage, an hour long per episode again come on folks, fleshed some more of Siobhan’s baby-stealing adventures in the past and given us an actual reason to like anything about the whiny Anna, at least the Part 2 we as longtime AHS fans deserve. Toss in some more spidery hijinks! Give us the actual origin of those weird feather bunny-ear headdresses! 

American Horror Story Delicate the whole season can be seen on FX! 

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Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery in a World Gone Prehistoric!

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Hold onto your hats, dino fans! The highly anticipated sequel to the adrenaline-pumping Camp Cretaceous saga is here, and it’s taking us on a wild ride six years in the making. Following the harrowing events of Camp Cretaceous, our beloved “Nublar Six” are back, but they’re not out of the woods just yet. In fact, they’re about to plunge headfirst into a world where dinosaurs roam freely alongside dangerous humans, and trust us when we say, it’s a Jurassic jungle out there!

Picture this: a world where survival isn’t just about avoiding sharp-toothed predators but also navigating the treacherous waters of human greed and deceit. As our resilient heroes reunite in the aftermath of a heart-wrenching tragedy, they quickly realize that danger lurks around every corner, and trust is a luxury they can’t afford. 

But wait, there’s more! Prepare to embark on a globetrotting adventure like no other as the Nublar Six find themselves thrust into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens not only the fragile balance between dinosaurs and humanity but also their very existence. From the lush jungles of Isla Nublar to the bustling streets of bustling cities, buckle up for a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions as our intrepid group races against time to uncover the truth about one of their own and, ultimately, save both dinosaur and humankind from certain doom.

So, dear readers, if you thought you’d seen it all in Jurassic Park, think again! With heart-stopping action, pulse-pounding suspense, and jaw-dropping revelations, this latest installment promises to be a game-changer in the Jurassic universe. Get ready to roar with excitement because Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery is about to take a bite out of your imagination and leave you hungry for more!

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