Cruella


Viewed – 08 June 2021 Disney+

There, I admit it … I have a bit of a crush on Emma Stone. As one of the most versatile, likeable and talented actresses around, it’s difficult not to fall for her charms. This latest vehicle, an origin story of notorious Disney villain Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmatian has Stone playing Estella, an orphaned girl with dreams of making it big in the fashion industry. However what starts out as a sort of ‘Devil Wears Prada’ tale turns into something else entirely when Estella finds herself pitting her wits against famed designer The Baroness who may or may not be linked to Estella’s mother’s untimely death.

You caught me on a bad day….

La La Land’s Emma Stone is clearly having a ball here, paired wonderfully with Emma Thompson’s Baroness, both of which chew up the scenery with their vivid characterisation. This has a throwback Disney setting with the cor-blimey-gov’nor of Mary Poppins London but given a dark Tim Burton-like twist. Stone’s journey from Estella’s street kid / thief to fashion rebel Cruella is an interesting one. Yet at times some of the one-upping and rivalry between the Baroness and Cruella gets a bit silly, and Stone’s forced upper-class English accent can grate.

However, with an engaging 70s soundtrack spanning everyone from The Clash to Nina Simone, plenty of energy and character (Cruella’s two sidekicks are great fun), and a wealth of fun dog moments (of course), this was still highly entertaining. It’s a bit long at almost 2hrs and 20 minutes but rarely drags and had enough story, twists and fun sequences to keep this viewer glued. One to watch.

Verdict: Recommended

Men In Black: International


Viewed – 29 October 2019 online-rental

I wasn’t expecting much from this but as a casual fan of the other movies (although I never got around to seeing the second movie), I suppose a desire for easy watching fun and the usual reliability of Chris Hemswoeth grabbed my attention.

This follows the story of a woman (Thor Ragarok’s Tessa Thompson) who following an alien encounter as a child has always dreamed of joining the top secret organisation that turned up that fateful night but didn’t do the mind-zap thing on her like they did to her parents. As an adult she gets her chance and is quickly recruited and given a job to join the London division headed by Liam Neeson. There she is quickly partnered with Chris Hemsworth’s cocky, reckless agent ‘H’ and stumbles on a new threat to the planet.

The story is weak here, something involving a powerful weapon, and is mostly an excuse for a fun if very predictable caper with some entertaining banter between Hensworth & Thompson. Although the twist this time around to reverse the roles and offer up plenty of female empowerment, sadly leaves Hemsworth (and generally any male) as merely joke-fodder or targets of female chauvinism. Oh, hasn’t equality come a long way?

That being said, action set-pieces are decent, production values high and it’s still fun. It just lacks anything beyond the points made above to warrant its existence following a fairly complete and finished trilogy. The failure to even mention Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones’ characters also seems a strange oversight. For die-hard fans only.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Saving Mr. Banks


Viewed – 26 March 2014  Pay-per-view

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.  I didn’t predict that, but such a versatile and skilled actor can seemingly inhabit the bodies of many characters you may never have pictured him as … Forest Gump springing immediately to mind.  This based-on-true-events tale tells the troubled history to bring much loved children’s book “Mary Poppins” to the big screen, and the difficult relationship that builds between the legendary studio mogul and author P L Travers (Emma Thompson).

Saving-Mr-Banks-008

From the start this is sprinkled with the whimsical, magical feel of the classic movie and has the timeless music and songs showcased throughout, albeit during their inception rather than being delivered by the stars.  Jumping back and forth between the onset of Disney’s acquisition of the rights to Travers’ creation, and her childhood back in Australia … I was swept away by a very moving and emotional story with a brilliantly cranky Emma Thompson at the top of her game.  Her performance may be at times unlikable and a tad annoying but expresses the complex personality and inner-demons of Travers well, and is equally mirrored by Hanks remarkable Disney … eye-opening for those not overly familiar with the man himself, and charming and likeable in a way only Hanks can achieve.  Paul Giamatti as Travers’ chauffer is also good, and his slow-burning friendship with Travers is one of the movie’s highlights.

For me I would have liked less flashbacks (despite a rather good Colin Farrell as Travers alcoholic father) and a bit more behind the scenes of Mary Poppins’ production (no look-a-like Dick Van Dyke or Julie Andrews?  A two second glimpse doesn’t count!). Yet this was still very sweet, uplifting and funny.  Well worth checking out.

Verdict:  4 /5