Cinema Dispatch: Cruella

Cruella and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Now I’m sure that 101 Dalmatians is a classic and that Cruella is a great villain in it, but the fact is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I just don’t have any attachment or fondness for it.  What I DO have attachment and fondness for however is Maleficent which was a brilliant deconstruction of the fairy tale mythos and made an otherwise one note villain into a complex character with depth and pathos.  It’s clear that this is the template that Disney is using for this reimagining of Cruella De Vil with a sprinkling of Joker throw in for good measure, and frankly that’s what got me interested in this movie more than whatever connection it has to the Disney classic.  Does it manage to be another outside the box interpretation of the Disney formula, or are they scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find anything else that people want to see again?  Let’s find out!!

There once was a girl named Estella Miller who had really awesome black and white hair and she knew that one day she would become a world famous fashion designer!  That or a professional MMA fighter because every day in school she was getting in fights with the boys and telling teachers off for being fools which eventually forced her beleaguered mother (Emily Beecham) to take her out of the countryside and to the town of London where she may find her place.  Along the way however, her mother makes a stop at an old friend’s house, and… well this IS a Disney movie, so it’s not long before things spiral out of control there and Estella is left an orphan through rather ludicrous means.  Without anywhere else to go, she heads to London and meets up with two street punks who take her in and as they survive the means streets of London by pick-pocketing for their bread; and this is BEFORE Thatcher’s Britain!   As is wont to happen, Estelle does grow up into a bright young woman (Emma Stone) who gets a job working for the biggest fashion designer in the city simply known as The Baroness (Emma Thompson) and for reasons that I shan’t spoil here, Estelle gets VERY cross with The Baroness and decides to assume an alter ego as the Fashionista Cruella who will take London by storm at the expense of her current employer!  With the help of her two ruffian friends Jasper and Horace (Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser), will she become the fashion icon that she always dreamed of with getting back at The Baroness as a fun bonus?  Is this Estelle just lashing out at the unfairness of the world around her, or perhaps is Estelle the mask that Cruella has been forced to wear this whole time?   Perhaps there’s a little Cruella in all of us; just yearning to tell the collective bosses of the world where to shove it!

“Today was a good day! Not GREAT, but you know, I think we accomplished a lot and we’ll do even better tomorrow!” “Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.” “Yes. It most certainly is…”
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Cinema Dispatch: I, Tonya

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I, Tonya and all the images you see in this review are owned by Neon

Directed by Craig Gillespie

We can’t have an Oscar Season without at least ONE off the wall biopic, right!?  Sure, you’ve got the more straightforward historical dramas like The Post and Darkest Hour, but despite Scorsese striking out with The Wolf of Wall Street at The Oscars, it still made a huge impact and many have tried to recreate its success since then.  Not only that, but the fact we’re starting to look back at the nineties in a historical context with at least two recent OJ Simpson projects getting a huge amount of critical praise, it’s no wonder that right after him we get to the other big crime story of that decade; the assault on Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding’s possible involvement with it.  Does this reexamination of one of the biggest names in nineties pop culture end up being a phenomenal look at her life and the decade around it, or is this a cynical cash grab trying to get a jump start on Gen X and Millennial nostalgia?  Let’s find out!!

Back in the early nineties, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) was one of the most prominent names in Women’s Figure Skating; having come from a very poor background and taking a lot of her social upbringing into her performances.  Despite Figure Skating being a sport that prizes tradition and perfection in its (none of that uncouth “rock and roll” music!), they could not ignore Harding who was a natural on the ice and the first American female figure skater to land a triple axel (a feat accomplished by Midori Ito and Mao Asada from Japan a few years earlier).  Still, it wasn’t an easy road as she had to deal with her abusive mother LaVona Fay Golden (Allison Janney) and her just as abusive husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan); both of whom seemed hell bent on making her life miserable despite swearing they were only looking out for her best interests.  Things get complicated though when Tonya’s anxiety and even paranoia start to get to her as the weight of her modest celebrity as well as the skills of other skaters made her quite distressed.  From here, we start to get speculative about what happened, but the general idea is that one of Jeff’s friends Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) has a friend of his attack one of Tonya’s rivals Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) and the big mystery surrounding it is just how much did Tonya know about what was happening.  Did she orchestrate the attack herself?  Was she aware that it was going to happen but said nothing to stop it?  The movie addresses these questions and more as this dramatized retelling of her story gives us not only a look at the facts as we know them of the case, but the media circus that built up around it and the… interesting characters that were involved.  Oh, and there are a few skate numbers as well!

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“TA-DAAAAAAAA!!”

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