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Showing posts with label 2017. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2017. Show all posts

Monday, March 5, 2018

Movie Review Coco Disney-Pixar

Movie Review - Coco             Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Coco - movies.disney.com
Coco

Coco
In Disney-Pixar's extraordinary adventure, a boy who dreams of becoming a great musician embarks on a journey to uncover the mysteries behind his ancestor's stories and traditions.

Reviews :

Written and directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo) and Adrian Molina (The Good Dinosaur, Monsters University), Coco is a wonder to experience. Dazzling, breath-taking animation, marvelous story-telling, engaging characters and so much heart that it's a film that's going to stay with you for a long, long time. This isn't just the best animated film to come out this year, it's arguably the best film of any kind to come out this year. It's the first film in years that I immediately wanted to see again after it was done, like just not leave the theater and watch it all over again. It's that good.

Coco takes place in Mexico on Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) an important holiday in Mexican culture that is celebrated every year from October 31st to November 2nd (All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas where families display photos of those in the family who have passed on, often going back for generations, then honoring the deceased using calaveras (decorated skulls made of sugar), Aztec marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and also visiting their graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at their graves. It helps to know this as background for the story, though the film does a good job of showing all of this as it goes on. It's all centered around the importance of family and of remembering those who have gone before you.

Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) is a 12-year-old boy who lives in a small rural village of Santa Cecilia with his elderly great-grandmother Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía) and three generations of her descendants. Miguel's dream is to play the guitar someday, much like his hero, the famous Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a nationally celebrated musician and actor who came from his village and whose mausoleum is a major attraction there.

However, there is a problem. Many years ago, Miguel's great-great-grandmother, the formidable matriarch Imelda (Alanna Ubach) was married to a musician who left her and their young daughter Coco to seek his fortune writing songs and playing music and never returned. Imelda turned to shoe-making to support herself and her daughter, and eventually shoe-making became the family business. She also began a ban on any and all music in the family - no singing, no guitar-playing, no musicians! - which has continued to this day, rigidly enforced by Miguel's take-no-prisoners grandmother (Renee Victor).
All of this serves as a major obstacle to Miguel and his dreams. Miguel does practice in secret though, watching old movies of the great Ernesto and teaching himself how to play, and decides in spite of everything to enter a talent show for the Day of the Dead.
A sequence of events however result in Miguel stealing Ernesto's guitar from the mausoleum, and the next thing he knows is that he's suddenly an invisible ghost to the living - but the returning dead can see him and he can now see them. Which in turn sets him on a journey across a mystical bridge from the land of the living to the land of the dead, a wondrously beautiful place but one from which he must quickly find a way to return before he ends up becoming one of the dead himself and having to stay there forever. He's helped along the way by a down-on-his-luck denizen named Hector (Gael García Bernal), who's in danger of being forgotten, and a number of other characters he encounters. His quest ultimately requires him solving a generations-old mystery and setting right a wrong that occurred long before he was born.

The musical score by Michael Giacchino (Up, Ratatouille) is as beautiful as the animation, shifting from lively to wistful as the scenes require, and young Anthony Gonzalez's singing voice gives heartfelt depth to Miguel's dreams of becoming a musician.
 
Disney has always been synonymous with great story telling, powerful artwork and animation, and having heart in most of their major films. Some of the great Disney movies have transcended time and are loved by different generations for that very reason. But then in 2013, Disney attempted to trademark "Dia de los Muertos", or Day of the Dead for one of it's upcoming movies, a move met with much deserved resentment and criticism from Hispanic writers, critics, and the public. To say that the Day of the Dead is the Mexican version of Halloween is incorrect. It isn't a holiday as much as a tradition which is embedded into the heart of many Mexican families to honor loved ones who have passed away.
Disney's trademark attempt was an insult to not only the day itself but to millions of people who honor that tradition. That being said, Disney dropped the trademark, and did everything right since then to fix their mistake. Many of the people hired to work on Coco were Hispanic, and after their blunder they also hired Lalo Alcaraz, a political cartoonist and Disney critic, along with Octavio Solis and Marcela Aviles as cultural consultants on the movie. They went from possibly being boycotted to having great international and domestic success, turning many into believers including myself. The end result being a culturally rich and emotional movie that left tears in everyone's eyes.

Unlike past Disney/Pixar movies I've seen, there are three layers of meaning integrated into this movie. The first layer is what every Disney story requires which are the characters, plot, visuals, settings etc. The second layer are the morals that Coco teaches, which any person watching the movie can learn from. These two alone are enough to call Coco a great Pixar movie in my opinion. However the third layer, which involves the integration of hispanic traditions and culture, is what makes this movie standout as special, memorable, and unique.
As a Mexican-American, this movie holds a special place in my heart because so much of this movie feels real and familiar. From the family dynamic that Miguel shares with the family, to the chancla (sandal) smacking grandma, and especially because of the music, this movie feels saturated with Hispanic customs and way of life. It is obvious from the first scene to the last that Disney listened very well to their cultural advisors for this movie.

Being a Mexican-American, I've learned that various aspects of Life, Death, and Family are handled and understood differently between all ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures. Coco involves several scenes in a graveyard, shows relatives returning from the afterlife as skeletal versions of who they once were, and has Miguel racing against the clock to return to his family before dying. These are cinematic occurences which some may not want to watch or explain to their children. My suggestion for anyone who hasn't watched this movie and is not of a Central/South American background is to be prepared and be open minded.
Though some parts of the movie could seem farfetched, myself along with all the Hispanic adults and children watching the movie in theatres were mesmerized to watch something you can identify with as a person and as a community. For many, this movie is all about seeing the world through another's eyes, and that's wonderful in itself.

Ultimately, Coco is a fantastic movie worthy of the Pixar/Disney brand which every family should enjoy. Prior to release, my two concerns with the movie was that it would be a heartless Pixar version of the Book of Life, and that Disney would take advantage and exploit the Hispanic culture in a distasteful way. I'm glad to say that besides focusing on music and honoring the Day of the Dead , similarities ended between the two movies.
I enjoyed The Book of Life, and had low expectations for Coco in comparison. The truth is (no disrespect to the movie or the people who made it) The Book of Life is enjoyable and relatable, not a cultural staple. Although both movies treated one of the most important Mexican traditions with dignity and respect, Coco's heartwarming interpretation will become an unforgettable treasure in the Hispanic community for generations to come.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves animation, great story-telling and characters that grab you by the heart and never let go.
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Coco (Theatrical Version) 2017

  • Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Animated, Comedy, Kids & Family
  • Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal
  • Supporting actors: Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Herbert Siguenza, Gabriel Iglesias, Lombardo Boyar, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Selene Luna, Edward James Olmos, Sofía Espinosa, Carla Medina, Dyana Ortelli, Luis Valdez, Blanca Araceli, Salvador Reyes
  • Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
  • Format:  Prime Video (streaming online video)
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Studio: Pixar
  •  

Movie Review
Coco: (Theatrical Version)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Movie Review The Line (2017)

Movie Review - The Line            Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

The Line - www.imdb.com
The Line (2017)


The Line - Movie 2017
The unstable new kingpin of a Tijuana drug cartel is targeted by an assassin for elimination.


The use of Mexican/US drug wars as a catalyst may have caused some viewers to think that this is a routine gritty crime movie but the writer(s) wanted something epic, life and death, which these ravaging drug wars are, to put the bigger theme of Family into high relief.

As to the casting, I appreciate it whenever actors challenge what they've already done twenty times, so I rather liked the choice that Andy Garcia made in particular, I do not think he was wasted at all. Liotta played his assassin's part almost as a mute - and that too is not an accident or a poor reading on his part, ie. who is his foil? It's the striking Mexican prostitute, her life is the battleground that all the other actors cross over, disrupt, shred, and yet she is the one who communicates to us, the viewer, what Liotta is going through, we understand him through her empathy with him. I think that this film is worth watching just to see how Liotta and Cruz pull it off. The title itself, the "line," is in my opinion, refers not to geography but the line crisscrossing over lives of real people like Cruz, it is her life encapsulated for us to see where the real terror and horror of these drug wars are fought, not some convenient metaphor of a border between countries.

However, of all the cast, and it was a remarkably competent one, the stunner for me had to be Pelon, every second of screen time Esai Morales was riveting, pathetic, tragic, and desperate and in many ways the male parallel of destruction in this environment that we see with Cruz's character. Even Assante's seemingly minor role became the pivot I never saw coming. It never ceases to amaze me how many gears this actor has to work with, be it over the top charm or almost a stunted shell of a man, merely existing on autopilot, he nails the human drama of that life every time.

So, don't view this film as some gritty routine action throwaway, as if it were Dumb and Dumber with guns. There were times when I did wish they had had a different film editor to better layer the many simultaneous story lines so that we wouldn't lose or confuse the underlying theme of Family. Then again, most films that endeavor to be a persuasive emotional and intellectual "experience" and not just a couple hours spent in leisure mode are not one-offs, view once and move on. They become a new film every time you view it, they grow as you do, they reveal details that you missed the first time. They may even change entirely once you do see it from say the perspective of Family or blood feuds or revenge or even exposing the moral decay of a human who no longer has family?

A final thought, any film that attempts to do things differently, from cast to writing, to choices in character development, to cultures too often passed over as one-dimensional, impresses me tremendously. Give this one a look, and let it tell you a story or stories, that you aren't telling the director is the one you want, but the one they want to tell you.
 
The plot line is hard to follow but it should be given the chaos of the subject matter. I was totally fooled by the ending. Knew the priest was up to no good early on but couldn't have guessed to what extent. Armand, I've never seen you do bad so well. Ray, I thought were washed up and over the hill. Excellent work. Brilliant. Thought you were dead! 
 
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The Line (2017)
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Movie Review The Line (2017)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Movie Review Wonder Woman

Movie Review - Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman - Amazon.com
Wonder Woman

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny.


The storyline in a nutshell: Diana leaves her paradise Island of Themiscyra that is magically hidden from the rest of the world to fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.

Wonder Woman is a movie that everyone can comprehend and accept, which is not brooding and polarizing like other DC movies. Unlike many comic book movies that make the main character one dimensional, I have never seen so many profound aspects in a fictitious superhero movie before. It is a movie beyond woman equality, history, war, ethics and even religion. It’s about honor, duty, good, evil, love and doing what is right.

Wonder Woman is a good mix of action helped by the back drop of The Great War/World War I. It is not just plain adventure but has a narrative focused on the increasingly treacherous world with diminishing tolerance and morality. While I don't consider it good to compare, it was inevitable to see similarities with Captain America: The First Avenger.
This doesn’t just create a good visual. After a three-movie streak of stinkers from DC studios, this moment demonstrates what makes superheroes, something Zack Snyder apparently doesn’t appreciate. Heroes represent, not the recourses we’re willing to live with, as with Snyder's Superman, but the aspirations we pursue, the better angels we hope to achieve. We all hope, faced with the nihilism of the Great War, that we’d overcome bureaucratic inertia and face our enemies head-on.

In some ways, this Wonder Woman, directed by relative novice Patty Jenkins, accords with DC’s recent cinematic outings. Diana’s heroism doesn’t stoop to fighting crime, a reflection of cultural changes since the character debuted in 1941. Ordinary criminals, even organized crime, seem remarkably small beer in today’s world. Crime today is often either penny-ante, like common burglars, or too diffuse to punch, like drug cartels. Like the Snyder-helmed movies, this superhero confronts more systemic problems.

But Snyder misses the point, which Jenkins hits. Where Snyder’s superheroes battle alien invaders, like Superman, or pummel the living daylights out of each other, Wonder Woman faces humanity’s greatest weaknesses. The Great War, one of humanity’s lowest moments, represents a break from war’s previous myths of honor. Rather than marching into battle gloriously, Great War soldiers hunkered in trenches for months, soaked and gangrenous, seldom bathing, eating tinned rations out of their own helmets.

This shift manifests in two ways. First, though Diana speaks eloquently about her desire to stop Ares, the war-god she believes is masquerading as a German general, this story is driven by something more down-to-earth. General Ludendorff’s research battalion has created an unusually powerful form of mustard gas. The very real-world Ludendorff, who popularized the expression “Total War,” here successfully crafts a means to destroy soldiers and civilians alike. He represents humanity’s worst warlike sentiments.

Second, this Wonder Woman doesn’t wear a stars-and-stripes uniform. Comic book writer William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman as an essentially female version of Superman’s American values, an expression externalized in her clothing. This theme carried over into Lynda Carter’s TV performance. But this Wonder Woman stays strictly in Europe, fights for high-minded Allied values rather than one country, and apparently retires to curatorship at the Louvre. Her values are unyoked to any specific nation.

Recall, Zack Snyder’s Superman learned from his human father to distrust humankind, and became superheroic only when threatened by Kryptonian war criminals. Diana, conversely, learned to fight for high-minded principles—which she learned through myths which, she eventually discovers, are true without being factual. Snyder’s Superman, in fighting General Zod, showed remarkable disregard for bystanders, his film’s most-repeated criticism. But Diana charges into battle specifically to liberate occupied civilians. The pointed contrast probably isn’t accidental.

Unfortunately, Diana learns, war isn’t about individual battles. She liberates a shell-pocked Belgian village, and celebrates by dancing with Steve Trevor in the streets. But General Ludendorff retaliates by testing his extra-powerful chemical weapons on that village. No matter what piteous stories she hears about displaced, starving individuals, ultimately, her enemy isn’t any particular soldier. It’s a system that rewards anyone willing to stoop lower than everyone else, kill more noncombatants, win at any cost.

In a tradition somewhat established by the superhero genre, Diana culminates the movie with a half-fight, half-conversation with her antagonist. Ares offers Diana the opportunity to restore Earth’s pre-lapsarian paradise state by simply scourging the planet of humanity. (Though Greek in language, this movie’s mythology reflects its audience’s Judeo-Christian moral expectations.) Diana responds by… well, spoilers. Rather, let’s say she simply resolves that fighting the corrupt system is finally worthwhile, even knowing she cannot win.

Wonder Woman’s moral mythology resonates with audiences, as Superman’s doesn’t, at least in the Snyderverse, because she expresses hope. Watching Diana, we realize it’s easy to become Ludendorff, wanting to not just beat but obliterate our opponents. Yet we desire to emulate Diana, standing fast against human entropy and embodying our best virtues. Diana is a demigod, we eventually learn, and like all good messiahs, she doesn’t just rule humanity, she models humanity’s truest potential.


This is by far the best DC to be made since The Dark Knight. Although I remain loyal to Marvel, I am pleased with DC success with Wonder Woman as it is one of the most well rounded, entertaining superhero movies to date.
 
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Wonder Woman

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