Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Reel Snippets of 3-8-16

Just in time for National Women’s Day is a movie that handles gender politics and prejudices, as well as many other issues, with remarkable ease. All hail the new animal kingdom.



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Reel Snippet – Cinderella (2015)

Cinderella (2015) is a very easy film to turn one’s nose up at, but the end result is surprisingly pretty good. It’s not great, but sometimes you’ve just got to take what you can get. I’ve had a long-standing philosophy that if a remake has to be made, it should be of a bad movie so that there can be some actual improvement. This seems to justify this film’s existence quite nicely because if memory serves, the original Cinderella wasn’t that good. For the most part, the story’s a lot more fleshed out, giving us an insight into Ella’s early life, her relationship with her parents, actual motivation for Lady Tremain and her daughters, character for the prince and his entourage, and what motivates everyone to do what they do. The story’s a lot less shallow too; Ella isn’t going to the ball to meet the prince because he’s a prince, but a friend she met in the woods that she became quite taken with. The stepsisters are also great fun, as they have a good comedic dynamic when they work off of each other rather than being stock bullies like they were in the original.

However, I think when the movie has to adapt the fantastical and kiddie parts of the original, it falls a little flat. Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother just doesn’t do it for me, feeling like she stepped out of a completely different movie. The stuff with the mice also felt very superfluous. I realize that they were a big part of the original, but it’s a real jarring shift when you go from the prince and his father talking about the future of the kingdom to the antics of CGI mice. By the way, those CGI mice were just creepy. Ella also felt a little too squeaky clean at times. I understand that she’s supposed to be a pillar of virtue in the midst of adversity, but the times where she was talking to animals and acting overly whimsical was just too much.

The film was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who gave us Thor and a previous Hamlet adaptation. His talent for gorgeous sets comes into full force here, as everything is extravagantly designed and adds to the fairy tale feel. Branagh’s influence also pulled in a lot of big British names to this production, all of them bringing their own bit of flair and class to the production (and while I don’t watch Downton Abbey, I’m sure a lot of fans will get a kick out of the two actors from the show essentially swapping societal classes for this). I’ve had a rather chilly relationship with Disney’s new trend of remaking old classics into live-action and this isn’t exactly going to set the world on fire, but I think it has a lot more reason to exist than Maleficent did (my heart’s hardened toward that one as of late). I don’t know if I’d see it again on my own, but I’d say it was worth the first watch.

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Reel Snippet – Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 was a huge treat to watch. While the plot may be a bit archetypical in terms of a superhero story, it plays it very smart and throws in some really clever twists. The world they present is also wild and colorful. Disney tackled China with Mulan, of course, but this is the first time I’ve seen them do a city with a heavy Asian influence like San Fransokyo. This is also the first time I’ve seen them put gambling and sneak drunken behavior into their film, at least since Dumbo and possibly Pinocchio. The characters are also incredible fun and distinctive, my favorite probably being GoGo for the attitude alone. And yes, Baymax is exactly the adorable show-stealer the advertisements make him out to be. It’s like if Big the Cat was written well. If you don’t get that reference, don’t worry, most Sonic the Hedgehog fans wish that they themselves didn’t.

Where this movie really takes off is showing off the futuristic angle. Anytime the movie shows some kind of technological or scientific advancement, it feels remarkable and, in my case, almost tear-inducing. You really believe that the future has arrived. While this is definitely a point to the writing staff for doing their research (apparently, most/all of this science is accurate and possible), the animation department gets huge props for making it come to life before your eyes. Said department also deserves props for a visual marvel at the end where my jaw actually dropped upon seeing it. I won’t spoil it, but it’s well worth the wait.

Is it as good as Frozen? No, because it doesn’t massively redefine its genre. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t spectacular in its own right. I might even say it’s better than The Incredibles and that Hiro is a better rough-around-the-edges and morally dubious protagonist than Aladdin. While the character of Aunt Cass kind of grated on me, it didn’t detract from the excitement, investment, and heartbreak that should come with a great childhood classic. I’ve been feeling this coming on for a while now since The Princess and the Frog, but now I’m certain: Disney is back.

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Reel Snippet – Maleficent

Maleficent is not nearly as subversive as it thinks it is, but that does not make it a bad movie. A friend described it as feeling like a pro-Maleficent fan fiction where all of the other characters are made to look horrible and I can see where he is coming from. The three faeries are borderline useless and the people in the human kingdom are dark and evil with zero shades of gray or redeeming features. The only good one are Aurora and Prince Philip, but the latter is so bland and uninteresting that he was almost a non-presence (though his counterpart from the original Sleeping Beauty was probably the least interesting Disney Prince, so at least they’re consistent). There were other problems too, like the fact that certain relationship progressions progressions were relegated to rushed montages, there is a very unnecessary narrator that is really hard to put up with, and a few serious scenes are nearly ruined by some unintentionally hilarious moments in them. But there are some superb moments as well. The characters of Maleficent, Diaval, and Aurora are wonderfully written and lend themselves to some brilliant and funny moments. On top of that, the visuals of the film are drop dead gorgeous and may be some of the most beautiful you see in a while. On top of that, the second half of the movie is really engaging and the twist on the end, while already done in a much better Disney movie, is still refreshing to see, as is the part where the Prince says that he wouldn’t feel right kissing an unconscious girl. Those who are sick of the Disney tropes will not have a good time, but there are still quite a few gems in here to prevent it from being a bad movie. Just don’t go in expecting Wicked.

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Reel Snippets – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a thrilling action movie and a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The thing I’m discovering is that each of the mini franchises in the MCU corners a certain niche that they excel at and the Captain America series’ niche is drama and heartbreak. Apart from some very strong 9/11 parallels that this movie touches upon, the characters of the Winter Soldier and Falcon are welcome additions to the world and there is a very strong theme of control vs. rogue elements running through multiple layers of the story. If I had to pick something to complain about, it’s that I found the shaky cam a bit distracting during some of the fight scenes and some of the male gaze scenes on Natasha were a little blatant. However, for the last one, you could argue that they were from Steve’s perspective and that there was an equal amount of female gaze shots present. Besides, both are minor nitpicks in what is arguably the second best film in the franchise and an absolute must-see.

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Reel Snippets – The Muppets

The Muppets is a movie that’s very odd for me to talk about, since I really liked it and yet still found it incredibly cheesy. And that was probably the whole point. Also, Chris Cooper raps. There exists a page on TV Tropes called Sweet Dreams Fuel for works that will put people in a good mood and make them feel great inside, which describes this movie perfectly. The sets and costumes are bright, colorful, and inviting, the entire cast plays well off of each other, and the villain, played by Chris Cooper, is cheesy and over the top while still being effectual. And he raps. There’s two ways to look at this movie. The first is as the anti-Ted; both have a human and a stuffed being living together in a state of arrested development that perturbs the human’s lady love, but not only is it a lot less raunchy and cynical than Ted, but in this case, it’s more of the stuffed guy’s journey that acts as the pivotal point for their relationship to work. Another is as a meta commentary of the Muppet phenomenon as a whole; in the modern day of the movie (as well as real life), the Muppets have fallen out of favor in the public eye and they have to put on a performance to try and win back the crowd and see if they can get enough money to keep their name alive. Taken out of context, that could easily describe the stakes of the movie itself. In which Chris Cooper raps. Apart from that, I don’t know what else to say. It’s the Muppets. It’s got songs, it’s got really witty humor, it’s got celebrity guests like you wouldn’t believe, it’s got everything that put the Muppets on the map in the first place. And it’s got Chris Cooper rapping. So after all is said and done, especially after the reprise of The Rainbow Connection brought actual tears to my eyes (something very few movies have achieved), I can’t give anything but a glowing recommendation.

Seriously, though, why did Chris Cooper rap? And why did I not know that I needed that in my life until now?

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Reel Snippets – Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks is a very moving piece that nearly brought me to tears. I have no doubt that several aspects of the story are romanticized as is expected of Disney’s films that are based on true stories, but that did not stop it from hitting a lot of the right notes. The cast is brilliant, especially Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, but I personally give credit to Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak as the Sherman brothers, which is a fun little cameo for anyone who knows enough Disney history. Whether the film is Oscar-worthy or not is up for debate, but any film that tugs at your heartstrings this much is definitely worth a recommendation.

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Reel Snippets – Frozen

Frozen is not only an enjoyable movie to sit through, but an amazing one to appreciate afterwards, which is surprising given the horrendous advertisements for it. This movie manages to completely subvert the Disney Princess formula that we have all come to expect, setting the standard for future generations. The animation is the best and most subtle I have ever seen, the songs are great and memorable, and the dialogue is sharp and witty. The only slight downside is that the comic relief feels a little out of place at times, but even then, there is still enough wit to them to still be enjoyable. I would honestly recommend this to everyone: fans of Disney, people who are sick of the Disney Princess formula, people who have never seen a Disney movie before. If it does not win best animated film at the Oscars, I will be very, very surprised.


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