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: Battle of the Sexes

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Battle of the Sexes and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Well THIS is certainly a pleasant surprise!  I may not know all the details, but I’m certainly aware of the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Robbie Riggs which has always stuck with me despite only knowing about it by watching the back half of a TV documentary around fifteen years ago.  I’ve always liked tennis as a sport and the build up to the phenomenal match was ridiculous and felt like a flash in the pan moment in history which did end up having a big impact on everything simply for how much confident men were that she was gonna lose and then had that whole perception shattered on live television around the world.  Is there any way that a film can do justice to this once in a lifetime event and remind us all of how important this was in the first place?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is about the infamous match between world renowned tennis player Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and world renowned FORMER tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) which was played up in the media as THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES and the match that would once and for all prove that women have no business competing in MAN PLACES like tennis; something that wasn’t helped by Riggs’s absurdly derogatory and over the top chauvinistic stunts.  Of course, there was a lot more to the story than the over the top theatrics leading up to it which includes the establishment of the Women’s Tennis Association, Billie Jean’s romantic relationship with another woman Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), and even Bobby Riggs’s financial woes that may have been the driving force for setting up this match in the first place.  So much was on the line for Billie Jean to succeed, yet with so much working against her, it was quickly becoming a task that seemed impossible to overcome.  Would she be able to find the strength to overcome the odds and prove herself once and for all?  How will she be able to maintain a relationship with another woman in a time when that was much more frowned upon and life destroying than it is today?  How can one person navigate all this nonsense being constantly thrown at them and STILL manage to keep from knocking all these jerkwads upside the head!?

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“I must break you…”     “Are you sure you won’t break a nail?”     “… I’m gonna enjoy this.”

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Cinema Dispatch: La La Land

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La La Land and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment

Directed by Damien Chazelle

Well this certainly jumped to everyone’s best of the year list, didn’t it?  Too bad I didn’t get to see it in 2016 as the wide release wasn’t until January, but hey, at least I get to see it AT ALL.  I mean who DOESN’T love song and dance numbers interwoven into a classic Hollywood love story, especially when it’s done as well as this one is supposed to be?  Does this manage to be a film for the ages like those it takes its greatest inspiration from, or is this a mere copycat that doesn’t have a true identity of its own?  Let’s find out!!

The movie takes place in present day Hollywood where we follow the struggling actress Mia (Emma Stone) and the struggling Jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they struggle their hearts out for their dreams and manage to find each other in the process.  While Emma wants to simply get her big break, Sebastian has much more specific aspirations as he wants to open his own Jazz club right in the heart of the city, which is gonna be difficult because he’s flat broke and can’t even keep a steady gig going because he doesn’t want to play the set list provided… because he’s an artist I guess.  Still, they manage to scrape by as they keep working towards their dreams while also putting on elaborate and non-diegetic song and dance numbers for our entertainment!  Will the realities of the business crush their spirits and drive them apart as more and more chances start to slip away?  Can a movie this unabashedly old fashion manage to work in a modern day context?  Did they manage to outdo Tarantino as far as movie references!?

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“What do you think?”     “It’s alright I guess.  Kinda derivative.”

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