Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

By now we should know the story of Pinocchio, a wooden puppet, who was magically brought to life. After all, this is the third adaption that we’ve had this year alone. And how can we forget the original 1940’s Disney classic? So I won’t bore you with the plot details. What I will say is that there was a lot of hype surrounding Del Toro’s version as it was considered to be the most unique of them all. I can’t say that I disagree!

The best part, hands down, has to be the way in which this was filmed. Stop motion animation is something that we don’t get to see all too often anymore. To have this featured throughout was so refreshing and interesting that it kind of took my breath away at times. Seeing each character, location and object come to life in this way was really cool.

All the characters that we know and love were brought to life by some wonderful voicing talents. Ewan McGregor as Cricket was by far my favorite, who served not as Pinocchio’s guide and conscious, but also the narrator of the story. Alongside him were David Bradley as Geppetto, Cate Blanchett as Spazzatura, Christoph Waltz as Count Volpe and Tilda Swinton as Wood Sprite. Each brought something special to their roles.

Before settling in to watch, it is important to keep in mind that this version of Pinocchio is very different than anything we’ve seen before. There is a much darker element that I wasn’t quite prepared for. In some ways it worked – for example, learning about Geppetto’s life with his son Carlo and the horrific way in which he died added some oomph to the story and broke my heart into a million pieces. But there were other areas in which I thought it was overdone.

I don’t know what I expected going into Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, but it wasn’t what we got. There were some aspects that I really enjoyed and overall I do believe it’s the best adaptation we’d had this year. That being said, I spent a lot of the movie feeling confused. Who was the target audience supposed to be? At times it felt it was geared towards children, but then there were scenes that even I’m sure will give me nightmares. I also don’t think setting it in fascist Italy worked as well as it could have.

My opinion may be an unpopular one, but oh well. Maybe I’m just ready for an entirely different Disney classic to be adapted.

Rating: ♥♥♥

Something From Tiffany’s

Based on the novel of the same name by Melissa Hill, Something From Tiffany’s is a charming new romcom that is perfect for the holiday season. It follows Rachel Meyer (Zoey Deutch), a restauranteur who has been waiting longer than she’d like to admit for her longterm boyfriend Gary (Ray Nicholson) to propose to her. When a crazy mix up happens that lands Gary in hospital and his gift for Rachel is accidentally mistaken for someone else’s, Ethan Greene (Kendrick Sampson) enters the picture. Planning to propose to his own girlfriend Vanessa (Shay Mitchell), he’s stumped when she opens a set of earrings instead of a diamond ring. Can he and his daughter Daisy (Leah Jeffries) fix this in time for Christmas?

The first word that comes to my mind when I think about this movie is cute. Super duper cute. It has all the perfect ingredients for a feel good romantic comedy that is so necessary at this time of the year. With the New York City backdrop, I was sucked in from the get go. It was as if the city served as its own character. Seeing the twinkling lights, beautiful decorations on storefronts and buildings alike and the Christmas trees, I really felt that holiday spirit.

Deutch and Sampson had great chemistry together. As soon as their characters met, I was anxiously awaiting how their journey would carry out. While it took awhile to navigate and figure out, I am glad that they were able to lay some ground work in regards to their relationship. Starting off as friends and realizing over time that they actually had feelings for one another was done well. I also liked the way in which Rachel connected with Daisy over the fact that they both lost their moms at a young age. They developed a lovely friendship themselves and Rachel even taught Daisy how to bake bread!

As soon as I heard about Something From Tiffany’s, my interest was peaked. Especially considering the fact that Reese Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine were producing it. I knew it wasn’t going to rock my world by any means, but I enjoyed it for what it was. It was just what I needed at the time and I look forward to revisiting it in the future.

Rating: ♥♥♥

Slumberland

For as long as she’s been alive, it was Nemo (Marlow Barkley) and her father Peter (Kyle Chandler) against the world. Living in a lighthouse on a little island, they didn’t need anyone else but each other. So when Peter is lost at sea one night after a horrific storm, Nemo’s life is turned upside down. Having to leave behind the only home she’s ever known, she goes to live with her uncle Phillip (Chris O’Dowd) in the big city. Adjusting to her new normal is no easy feat; all she wants is to be reunited with her dad. That dream becomes a reality when, at night, she finds herself in Slumberland, a magical place where anything is possible.

I was originally going to give this film a miss, simply because when it came out, I had four other movies I needed to watch. But then I found myself with nothing to do this weekend, I figured why not check it out after all? The premise sounded interesting enough, it was filmed in Toronto and Jason Momoa was in it. That seemed like more than enough reasons for me.

The cinematography was stunning. The various locations that Nemo visited on her dream quest were ever-changing. They always offered something new and exciting and I’d find myself wondering where we would be transported to next. Larger than life outlaw Flip (Momoa) not only served as a guide to Nemo, but also helmed a colorful cast of characters.

What I thought would be an average run of the mill movie about a girl on an adventure soon turned into something else entirely. Yes, a large part of the film is just that, but there was more to it too. At the end of the day, Slumberland is about loss and how we deal with it. As a child, it’s difficult enough formulating thoughts and feelings, but learning how to deal when someone we love is no longer with us is a completely different matter. Unfortunately I could relate to Nemo all too well as I also lost a parent when I was young. Perhaps if a movie like Slumberland had been around for me at the time, it would have helped me.

Rating: ♥♥♥.5

She Said

Harvey Weinstein was one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Not only was he head of a major motion picture production house, he could make or break your career without a second thought. That was the case too, especially when the women he worked with did not do what he wanted. She Said, based on the 2019 book of the same name, is about the true events of Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) who broke the story at The New York Times which ultimately started the Me Too movement.

While there were some aspects I knew about this case, there was also a lot that I didn’t know. Starting from the very beginning and breaking down bit by bit the process of how this story was born made it easy to follow and kept me interested. To discover that these assaults started back in the nineties was crazy, especially since it took so long for somebody to come forward about them. As the pieces were uncovered by our fearless journalists, I waited in bated breath for it to all come together. It seemed like they just kept getting worse.

I thought it was such a great idea to get some real life victims to portray themselves. Ashley Judd, Judith Godrèche and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name a few, are some of biggest names in the industry. They all played important roles in breaking the story so having them here, whether it was on screen or off, just added that extra realistic factor. One who was missing was Rose McGowan, who opted for someone else to act on her behalf (Keilly McQuail). It was also very cool having the movie filmed in the actual New York Times building. This was a first for the building.

With brilliant supporting performances from Patricia Clarkson as Rebecca Corbett and Andrew Braugher as Dean Banquet working along side Mulligan and Kazan, She Said is a movie that is not to be missed. It may be niche in that you know what to expect going into it, but that won’t stop you from leaving with a mixture of heartbreak and inspiration. The harrowing stories recounted by brave women are something I won’t be able to get out of my head for a long time.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

The Menu

Welcome to Hawthorne.

The most exclusive restaurant around, only a select few are chosen to come and dine. On this particular occasion are couple Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) as well as food critic Lilian (Janet McTeer) and her editor Ted (Paul Adelstein), wealthy couple Richard (Reed Birney) and Anne (Judith Light), movie star George (John Leguizamo) and his assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero) and business partners Soren (Arturo Castro), Dave (Mark St. Cyr) and Bryce (Rob Yang). What starts off as an evening of excitement soon takes a dramatic turn. It will be a night none of them will ever forget.

Where do I even begin with The Menu?

My expectations for this were sky high. At this point in time, it’s safe to say that I will gobble up everything and anything that Anya Taylor-Joy touches. She always chooses roles that are not what you’d expect and I love that about her. In such a large ensemble, she held her own and was mesmerizing the whole time. But the real stand out was, unsurprisingly, Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). His performance was unlike anything I had ever seen before. At some moments he was terrifying while others charming and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to hate him or love him. All I knew was that I was completely enthralled with everything he said or did. Another stand out was Elsa (Hong Chau). I’d never seen her before, but she was such a great addition.

I liked how the movie started off as one thing and became something else entirely as it went on. The way in which it was broken down into various sections – the amuse bouche, first course, second course etc – was absolutely genius. Neither parts were too short nor too long and each was integral to the progression of the story. Naturally as it continued, it only grew more and more insane.

Although I’d gone into the cinema having just eaten dinner, my stomach grumbled as each meal was presented to the guests. Some items I had never seen or heard of before and they looked amazing. One of my hobbies is to visit new restaurants and try exotic foods, so this was right up my alley. Just don’t be comparing me to Tyler please.

With all this said, The Menu has become one of my favorites of the year. The comedy, insanity and mouth watering dishes was something I never knew I needed in my life. The way in which it perfectly encapsulated our society and the way we obsess over things was spot on. I will be thinking about and singing this movie’s praises for a very long time.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Spirited

We all know Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol. A somewhat awful person is visited by the ghosts of past, present and future in hopes that they will learn from their mistakes and become a better person. Spirited is the modernized version. Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds) is considered to be irredeemable; he doesn’t care what anybody thinks about him. But Present (Will Ferrell) wants to give Clint a chance to turn things around. And so begins a most magical adventure…

I feel like we’ve been waiting for Spirited to release for forever. It’s been sitting in the coming soon section of Apple TV+ all year long. Luckily it did not disappoint.

Although it took some time for me to become invested in the story, once I got there, it was all smooth sailing for me. I wanted to know why Clint was such an asshole and I doubted whether or not he really could change. It was such a breath of fresh air to have Reynolds play a different kind of character. The same can be said for Ferrell. He didn’t bother me like he usually does and his scenes with Reynolds were so entertaining.

The film would not be complete without Octavia Spencer. As Kimberly was a great addition not only as Clint’s work colleague, but also as a love interest for Present. I also loved seeing the different ghosts. I wish Past (Sunita Mani) had been featured more as I found her important to the story. Yet-To-Come (Loren G. Woods and Tracy Morgan respectively) was probably my favorite due to the fact that his looks and voice did not match whatsoever. And then of course there was Marley (Patrick Page) who audiences may remember from the original.

Turning this into a musical was a brilliant idea. The songs were catchy and the choreography exceptional. Combine the two with a Christmas backdrop and you have a winner. I may have been unsure about some of the actors’ singing talents, but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised.

Overall, Spirited is a holiday treat for the whole family to enjoy. Despite the slow start, it really picks up and whisks you away for two hours. It has a good moral and some twists along the way that keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rating: ♥♥♥.5

The People We Hate At The Wedding

When Alice (Kristen Bell) and Paul (Ben Platt) receive invites to their estranged half sister’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) wedding in England, they couldn’t be more disappointed. They may have been close when they were kids, but something happened that prompted the three to lead separate lives. Their mother Donna (Allison Janney) hopes this occasion will get them to reconcile.

Sometimes a comedy is just what the doctor ordered and although The People We Hate At The Wedding was pegged as so, the genres did get a little muddled along the way. Mostly over the top and not at all realistic as a result, I couldn’t help but laugh at certain antics our characters found themselves in (the bachelorette party comes to mind). However, as the layers are peeled back and we learn about the events that transpired between the three siblings, the film takes a turn for the dramatic. I’m not sure if the shift in tone actually worked or if it ruined the vibe it otherwise had.

The all star cast of Bell, Platt and Janney is what initially drew me. Bell and Platt, in particular, as a snarky brother sister duo sounded like a dream come true. I only wish I could have been warned as to how unlikable these characters were! At the beginning, the audience feels like they need to root for them and in turn dislike other sister Eloise. However, as the film progresses, we start realizing the opposite. I think this would have been even more impactful had we had more insight to Eloise’s life in London and how she always felt left out.

At least the supporting cast and Eloise are a breath of fresh air. On the plane ride to London, Alice meets Dennis (Dustin Milligan). He’s clearly introduced as a love interest, yet its unfortunate Alice spends most of the time yearning after her married with a baby boss. Then there is Donna’s first husband and Eloise’s father Henrique (Isaach De Bankóle), who’s there to stir up trouble.

Overall, The People We Hate At The Wedding started off strongly and did manage to keep me entertained the whole way through. It’s just a pity that it lost the bite it had from the get go. I understand what they were trying to do, but it wasn’t executed properly.

Rating: ♥♥.5

Disenchanted

Ten years after the events of Enchanted, the storybook opens once more on Giselle (Amy Adams), Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino). After the birth of baby Sofia, Giselle thinks its time they move somewhere new. Unfortunately, Morgan is anything but thrilled at the idea of leaving behind her beloved New York for Monroeville. When the two get off on the wrong foot in their new home, Giselle makes a wish that changes all their lives forever. Can every day really be a fairytale?

Getting all the gang back for the sequel that fans have been waiting years for was a wondrous sight. Amy Adams is the epitome of Giselle. Her mannerisms and high pitched voice complete with her charming innocence it was makes her so lovable. This time around, it was interesting have her go through a complete transformation unlike anything we’d seen before. Another bright point of the film was having more time with Nancy (Idina Menzel) and Edward (James Marsden). I always felt like they needed more time in the original so this was a treat for me.

Amongst the returning cast were the newbies. Maya Rudolph portrayed the role of wannabe evil queen Malvina. While I’m not a fan of Rudolph’s, I have to say that she was perfect here. The way in which she worked off of Adams made for some really fun scenes. I wish we could have learned more about her and her minions Rosaleen (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Ruby (Jayma Mays).

In typical Disney fashion, I was transported into a land straight out of my dreams. The bright and vibrant color palette really worked and I loved how that only changed as the plot turned into something more dark and sinister. On top of that was the delightful costume designs; I basically envied every single one of Giselle’s outfits. And who can forget the new, catchy soundtrack?

Enchanted is one of my all time favorite films. I remember the first time I watched it and it still makes me tear up at the end. I always thought it was genius to play off of typical fairytale stories and then putting a new spin on them. There was no way that Disenchanted would be better. I hoped it would come close and there were elements I really did like. For the most part though, it seemed like some of that magic was missing. Maybe it was the tired evil stepmother trope that did it. Regardless, I did finally get a glimpse into Giselle and co.’s lives post happily ever after so I guess I can’t really complain.

Rating: ♥♥.5

Christmas With You

Pop star Angelina (Aimee Garcia) used to be on top of the world, but she hasn’t felt that way lately. When the head of her label suggests she write a Christmas song, Angelina is beside herself. Ever since her mom passed away a couple years ago, she’s struggled to find the holiday spirit. But when she stumbles upon a video of one of her fans on social media, Angelina feels her luck may be changing. Cristina (Deja Monique Cruz) and her dad Miguel (Freddie Prince Jr.) are surprised when the superstar seeks them out. Learning that Miguel writes music, Angelina believes that all her problems will soon be over.

I had high expectations for my second Christmas film of the season, though if I’m being honest, I really wanted to watch this because of Freddie Prinze Jr. My teenage heart could hardly contain itself when news broke that he was finally coming back to the silver screen. A heartthrob then and now, I enjoyed nothing more than being able to watch him for an hour and a half uninterrupted.

Having previously starred in Netflix’s Lucifer, being able to see Aimee Garcia in something new was a treat. The role of Angelina could have been an interesting one, but at times I felt like something was missing. It was as if the emotions weren’t as genuine enough and her lines didn’t quite meet the eyes. At least she can sing! I wish she had better chemistry with Prince Jr. too. The familial relationship between Miguel, Cristina and Frida (Socorro Santiago) was fine enough, but it felt all too familiar after having just watched Falling For Christmas a week ago. That being said, I did appreciate the heavy Latino influences and learning more about a quinceanera. Additionally, the role of Monique (Zenzi Williams), Angelina’s dutiful assistant provided some much needed comedic relief.

Christmas With You had all the ingredients for a fabulous holiday movie and while there were some cute moments, I expected more. The fact that the storyline was very similar to this year’s Marry Me didn’t help as that was such a home run for me.

Rating: ♥♥

Armageddon Time

A coming of age story based on the life of director, writer and producer James Gray, Armageddon Time chronicles the life of a Jewish American family. The son in particular, Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), is a kid who dreams of becoming an artist. He struggles to understand the expectations not only within his family but society too, especially when he befriends the rebellious Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb).

Where this movie really did well was in its performances. To have big names such as Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong star along aside each other was something in itself. And to think that they were all supporting roles who still managed to shine whenever they were on screen. This does not take away whatsoever from the acting chops of Repeta and Webb. As the story is primarily told through the eyes of both children, we see them most of all. I was worried I wouldn’t able to relate to them, but I have to say that the contrary happened.

Paul is different from those around him. His two favorite things in the world are drawing and his beloved grandpa. He doesn’t understand why he has to go to school or why he can’t be friends with the only African American in his class. The fact that he always tried to stick to his guns and stand up for what he believes to be true, at his age, was something I admired.

Unfortunately the story itself gets a bit muddled throughout. There is no clear direction or incident that moves the pace along. It is very much a character driven story and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I kept waiting for something big to happen. The same could be said for the way in which the film ended. It was left open for interpretation and I’m not sure I liked that too much.

At the end of the day, I’m very glad to have seen Armageddon Time. While not originally on my radar, it was an interesting portrayal of a time gone by, but still held true to how life is today.

Rating: ♥♥♥.5