Pinocchio (2022)

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Family;
Rated ‘PG’ for peril/scary moments, rude material and some language.
Stars Tom Hanks, Cynthia Erivo, Luke Evans, Guiseppe Battiston, Kyanne Lamaya, Lewin Lloyd. Voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Lorraine Bracco, Keegan-Michael Key.

Disney’s new iteration of Pinocchio is so devoid of charm or originality that it amplifies the question of if there’s any reason the studio continues to pump out live-action remakes of its animated classics aside from just being cynical cash grabs.

That’s doubly shocking in this instance considering the director is Robert Zemeckis, the cinematic visionary behind the likes of Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump.

The look and feel of the film is completely faithful to Disney’s 1940 animated version, which is so iconic that the signature tune of “When You Wish Upon a Star” has basically become the company’s theme song.

That song is central to this version as well, while Zemeckis and his longtime composer Alan Silvestri added some new songs that, while fine on their own, seem a bit too modern for the proceedings.

Another longtime Zemeckis collaborator, Tom Hanks, plays Geppetto the wood-carver, with make-up to give him the appearance of Disney’s animated version of the character. The live-action version adds some dark pathos to the character, making him a lonely widower who carves a puppet in the image of his dead son.

He names him Pinocchio because he carved him out of pine, and “Pinocchio” is a mash up of the Italian words for “pine” and “eye.” Characters then proceed to make several jokes about his name being such a play on words, while overlooking that in English it sounds like a combination of pine and oak, a double pun for something made of wood.

Anyway, Geppetto sees a bright star on a clear night, and makes a wish he doesn’t quite disclose, which in the original movie was for the puppet to become a real boy. In this version it’s probably for the literal resurrection of his dead son, which the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) interprets as bringing the puppet to life, and she does, though with complications. Namely, that being a puppet, Pinocchio starts out as a blank slate, so, as in the original, the Fairy names Jiminy Cricket as his conscience, with the understanding that if Pinocchio behaves and learns the values of right and wrong, he could become a real boy.

Jiminy, voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is doing his level best to bring life to the proceedings (no pun intended), also serves as the narrator of the story, giving him a kind of fourth-wall omniscience as he explains things to the audience. Luckily for him, Disney still won’t give him the fate he has in Carlo Collodi’s original book, when Pinocchio squishes him for daring to offer advice.

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Trouble begins when Geppetto decides to send Pinocchio to school, and the naïve puppet becomes so overwhelmed by the temptations of the real world he falls into all sorts of misadventures, just like in the original movie — a couple of con men sell him to the abusive puppeteer Stromboli, and he winds up at an amusement park that turns kids into donkeys for slave labor.

While the movie uses Geppetto’s collection of cuckoo clocks to jam in all sorts of references to other Disney movies, including Roger Rabbit, it leaves the most obvious opportunity for self-parody just sitting there in the form of Pleasure Island, which gets a new song but little else in the way of an update from the original film (remember, Disneyland wasn’t built until 15 years after the animated Pinocchio was released). Perhaps Tim Burton turning his Dumbo remake into a satire of Disney’s theme park empire right under their noses was a bit too much to bear.

The Stromboli sequence is perhaps the biggest deviation from the original, as Pinocchio meets a kind girl who once dreamed of being a ballerina before a leg injury left her in a brace, so she operates the ballerina puppet that Pinocchio seems to have a thing for, not realizing that she isn’t alive like he is. It’s amusing, and a bit sweet, serving to establish that Pinocchio as a wooden boy has abilities that real children wouldn’t.

Pinocchio disappearing from school kicks of the subplot of Geppetto setting off to find him (dragging his cat and goldfish along for some reason), leading to the famous scene where they all become trapped in the belly of a whale, which in this film is some sort of mutant sea monster that has swallowed enough ships his belly looks like a pirate’s cove.

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Using the original film as the template for the live-action designs, rather than using the original source material to re-interpret some of the scenes, just leads to some situations that animation can get away with seem especially bizarre in a real-world setting (aside from the central conceit of a magical living puppet). For instance, why are the con-men still presented as a fox and a cat who act like people, when other animals in the film are just animals, and why can some animals talk to each other while others can’t?

The main problem is that the film makes no case for why anyone should watch it instead of the animated version — the visual style is the same, the CGI isn’t integrated very well, and any differences don’t improve upon anything from the original, including a new ending that tries an end-run around audience expectations but is just abrupt and unsatisfying.

In the more than 80 years since its release, the original film’s primary motif of an artificial being striving to find humanity has become a staple of science-fiction and fantasy, providing ample fodder for a new Pinocchio to attempt to re-interpret, but this version barely even tries.

Female-Driven Anthology Series ‘Roar’ Debuts on Apple TV+ April 15

The female-driven anthology series “Roar” will debut globally with all eight episodes on Apple TV+ April 15.

Based on a book of short stories by Cecelia Ahern, the series is the first to be released under “Roar” creators and co-showrunners Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive’s (“Glow”) overall deal with Apple TV+. It stars Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae, Merritt Wever, Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Meera Syal, Fivel Stewart and Kara Hayward.  

“Roar” offers an insightful, poignant and sometimes hilarious portrait of what it means to be a woman today, according to the Apple TV+ release. Featuring a unique blend of magical realism, familiar domestic and professional scenarios, and futuristic worlds, the eight stories mirror the dilemmas of ordinary women in accessible yet surprising ways.

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In addition to starring, Kidman executive produces alongside Per Saari and their Blossom Films. Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky and Allie Goss executive produce on behalf of Made Up Stories. Author Cecelia Ahern executive produces through Greenlight Go. and Theresa Park executive produces for her Per Capita Productions. “Roar” is produced for Apple by Endeavor Content.

Fox Releasing ‘Widows’ on Disc Feb. 5

The heist-thriller Widows arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Feb. 5 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), and co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), the film focuses on four women with nothing in common but the debt their dead husbands left to a crime boss after a botched job got them killed.

The widows — Viola Davis (Fences), Michelle Rodriguez (“Fast & Furious” Franchise), Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale) — come together to attempt a heist to pay off the debt.

The cast also includes Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson.

The film earned $42 million at the domestic box office.

The Blu-ray includes a photo gallery and nearly 60 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, including “Widows Unmasked: A Chicago Story,” “Plotting the Heist: The Story,” “Assembling the Crew: Production” and “The Scene of the Crime: Locations.”

The digital download of Widows is expected Jan. 22, according to Apple’s iTunes.

Bad Times at the El Royale

While Drew Goddard’s latest directorial effort isn’t as memorable as his horror deconstruction The Cabin in the Woods, the neo-noir thriller Bad Times at the El Royale still offers a solid showcase for its talented cast, a soundtrack fueled by a dynamite selection of period-appropriate songs, and a quirky setting that serves the story well.

 

 

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 1/1/19;
Fox;
Thriller;
Box Office $17.84 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity.
Stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman, Shea Whigham.

Writer-director Drew Goddard scratches an itch to play in the noir sandbox with Bad Times at the El Royale, a breezy mystery that coasts on some nice directorial touches and the strength of its cast.

Not as engrossing or genre-bending as Goddard’s previous directorial effort, The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royale is more of a Tarantino-esque thriller that brings a group of strangers into a remote location and then reveals they aren’t quite who they claim to be.

Bad Times at the El Royale

The caper takes place at the El Royale hotel of the title, a former hotspot straddling the California-Nevada border that lost its popularity after losing its gambling license. The setting is apparently based on the real-life Cal-Neva Lodge, a Lake Tahoe hotspot that has seen its own troubled history. It also brings to mind the hotel managed by Tony Curtis in 40 Pounds of Trouble that was situated close enough to the stateline so he could see the Cali detectives waiting to nab him for missing alimony payments.

In the first scene we bear witness to Nick Offerman tearing up the floorboards in one of the rooms to stash a bag of what is presumably money, then restoring everything to its original condition before he gets shot by a shadowy associate.

Several years later, in 1969, a disparate group of travelers arrive, including a vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm), a priest (Jeff Bridges), a runaway (Dakota Johnson) and a lounge singer (Cynthia Erivo).

Thanks to flashbacks, a non-linear story structure, and a hidden corridor that looks into all the rooms unbeknownst to the guests via a two-way mirror, we soon learn their true identities, and what brought them to the El Royale (including who is after that floorboard cash).

Things heat up a bit with the arrival of a cult leader (Chris Hemsworth) looking for some missing “property” of his own.

In a good 29-minute behind-the-scenes featurette included as the only extra on the Blu-ray, Goddard discusses several reasons why he wanted to make this film. One was to assemble a talented cast and give him an excuse to pitch something to Jeff Bridges.

Another was the chance to explore the music of the genre and experiment with ways to tie the songs into the story. Goddard even refers to the film as a love letter to music and an appreciation for the ways it changed his life.

The featurette also provides some great insights into the production design and look of the film, such as how the filmmakers built the entire hotel on a soundstage in order to accomplish the shots they needed to get. There’s also some fascinating tidbits about the film’s use of (and in some cases, omission of) color — a subtle touch that helps establish the mood for a story that at times can get extremely dark.

We also get to see some of Bridges’ on-set photography, a tradition of his dating back to the production of 1984’s Starman.

Bad Times at the El Royale

‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Due on Digital Dec. 18, Disc Jan. 1 From Fox

The thriller Bad Times at the El Royale will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Dec. 18 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 1 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film earned $17.7 million in theaters.

In the film, seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption before everything goes to hell. Stars include Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth.

Bonus features on Blu-ray and DVD include “Making Bad Times at the El Royale” and a photo gallery.