Pixar’s COCO exceeds expectations

The trailers for Pixar’s newest animated film “Coco” aren’t particularly captivating.  At first glance, the story seems confusing and vaguely reminiscent of last year’s motion-capture feature “Kubo and the Two Strings”.

As it turns out, trailers can be misleading and skipping “Coco” would be the biggest mistake of the year.  Miguel’s (Anthony Gonzalez) search for his father through the land of the dead is a visual masterpiece.  The production design is rich with detail and the character design is fabulous. Whoever first imagined skeletons could embody a range of emotions as sympathetic characters had tremendous foresight.  “Coco” is a prime example of Pixar at its finest.

Aside from the look of the movie, it’s the themes and story that push it over the top in the best possible way.  “Coco” explores what it is to follow your dreams, respect your family and that seeing is not always believing.  Similar elements exist here as in the other Pixar success stories as well; death and sacrifice are significant and, as was so beautifully expressed in 2015’s “Inside Out”, while emotions may guide us, they shouldn’t define us.

The movie also stars the voice talents of Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt.

For more about “Coco” and how the color design influences the film, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Walt Disney Studios / Pixar.

VICTORIA AND ABDUL Star Interview and Full Review

Judi Dench has played so many queens that she should be honorary British royalty.  In Victoria & Abdul, the time period is 1887 and Queen Victoria (Dench) is floundering.  The most powerful woman in the world, she languishes from personal loss, sleeps through her own banquets and suffers the indignity of reporting her bowel movements.

Enter Abdul (Ali Fazal)–literally.  He’s honored with the job of presenting a ceremonial Indian coin to Queen Victoria alongside Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), a last-minute fill in who wants nothing to do with the task.  Following an arduous journey from India, the pair receive strict instructions about protocol.  They are props just as much as the coin.

After giving Queen Victoria the coin and backing away as etiquette dictates, Abdul breaks convention and locks eyes with the monarch.  A tense moment ensues: how will she react?  Declaring him handsome, the queen decides both men should stay and thus marks the beginning of their relationship over the final 15 years of the queen’s life.

The chemistry between Dench and Fazal is integral to the course of the film and the pair’s on-screen ambiguous relationship.  Why exactly is Queen Victoria so taken with Abdul, whom she elevates from servant to teacher/advisor over the course of their years together?  Is it a matter of physical attraction or something more?

There’s a beautiful moment in the film when the queen and Abdul dance together on the verandah.  An interview with Fazal reveals the words were scripted, but the action was not.  He says director Stephen Frears asked them to dance while saying their lines, a move that results in Fazal beginning by reaching out rather gracelessly–an entirely real moment that appears in the final cut of the film.

What didn’t make it into the film?  Dench and Fazal slapping their faces as a multitude of mosquitoes swarm them in a boat.  Fazal says even coming from a country like India where the pests are everywhere, these were intolerable.  The scene with the boat remains in the film, though Fazal can’t help but laugh in memory at the outtakes.

For more about Victoria & Abdul directly from Ali Fazal, along with a discussion about themes and symbolism in the film, take a look below:

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Focus Features.

LEAP! Review & Analysis

Leap! is a charming movie about two young children who don’t run away from their orphanage as much as they run towards fulfilling their dreams.  There isn’t a lot of backstory to flesh out the characters, which is okay pending a willingness to accept the premise.  As with life, the genesis of our dreams is not always as important as doing our best to fulfill them.  Many adults, alongside the children they bring to the theater, could learn from Felicie (Elle Fanning) and Victor’s (Dane DeHaan) boundless confidence.

One of Leap!‘s great strengths is illustrating that success doesn’t come easily; hard work is imperative in any endeavor and sheer desire, while important, isn’t the only element in achievement.  While Felicie and Victor hit the inevitable bumps that come in any movie script–not to mention life itself–they pick themselves up again and keep trying.  This is The Little Engine That Could as two orphans from the country.

Leap! also stars the voice talents of Mel Brooks, Kate McKinnon and Carly Rae Jepsen.

For more about Leap!, including a particular animal that makes repeat appearances, take a look below:

 

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All photos and video are courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

PATTI CAKE$ Writer/Director/Star Interviews & Review

Danielle Macdonald nearly turned down the lead role in Patti Cake$: she’d never rapped before.  She accepted the challenge, and watching her performance it’s hard to believe she’s not a veteran of the genre.  Macdonald practiced rapping in her closet (acoustics were better) and after hearing her Jersey accent on screen, learning she’s Australian only further emphasizes her skill.

Patti Cake$ is an underdog story about Patricia (Macdonald), a rapper who doesn’t look the part but perseveres anyway.  While there’s a unifying theme of loss among the leads, the overarching message is one of finding strength within.

Writer/director Geremy Jasper spent years on this ode to rap.  He utilizes a combination of shooting styles that complement each other well, further emphasizing the more magical elements of the story.

Patti Cake$ also stars Cathy Moriarty, Bridget EverettSiddharth Dhananjay and Mamoudou Athie.

For more about the movie, including exclusive interviews with writer/director Geremy Jasper and stars Danielle Macdonald and Cathy Moriarty, take a look below:

 

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All photos and video are courtesy of Fox / Fox Searchlight.

BRIGSBY BEAR *Interview, Review & Analysis*

Brigsby Bear is a comedic ode to nostalgia, friendship and acceptance.  When James (Kyle Mooney, Saturday Night Live) discovers he was raised by kidnappers and is returned to his biological family, he strives to take control of his life again.  Harnessing the only thing he knows, a Brigsby Bear television show which his kidnappers created just for him, he decides to write and shoot the final chapter in his beloved bear’s story.

Rather than turn James into a joke, everyone around him embraces the project and takes it on as their own.  In the process, each of them discover elements that had been missing from their own lives, like the police detective (Greg Kinnear) who always wanted to act.

Brigsby Bear also stars Mark Hamill, Claire Danes, Matt Walsh, Andy Samberg, and Michaela Watkins.  It was co-written by Kevin Costello and directed by Dave McCary, Mooney’s childhood friends.

Brigsby Bear and the friends behind it had some bumps–or learning experiences–as they worked to complete their first feature film together.  For more about Brigsby Bear, including an interview with Mooney and McCary about the movie and their process, take a look below:

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

SOLACE Movie Review & Analysis

SOLACE is the story of FBI Agent Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who asks his friend and former colleague John (Anthony Hopkins) for help in solving a series of bizarre murders with the use of his psychic abilities. They soon realize they’re on the hunt for Charles (Colin Farrell), another psychic, who may have abilities more powerful than John’s own. The movie also stars Abbie Cornish.

The overarching theme in SOLACE, as evidenced by the title itself, is comfort: who needs it, who gets it and who gives it.  Also, what does it mean to provide comfort to someone and how can that action mean different things?  The point of the movie, though, is for a bit of self reflection since sometimes it’s possible to gain more from the act of comforting than the recipient does.

The cinematography is really interesting in SOLACE as well. Not only are there a lot of unusual shots, but mirrored reflections are frequently used.  In traditional film analysis, when you see a character’s reflection in something it’s supposed to symbolize another side, either a piece of themselves that they might be hiding from the other characters or even from themselves.  Pay attention to the characters who wind up in mirrors or on reflected surfaces the most.

This idea of reflection and having another side is further emphasized in two other ways.  First, watch when Joe wears glasses and when he doesn’t.  Glasses, similar to a reflection, generally show that a character either has something to hide so they are like a disguise—think of Clark Kent and Superman.

For more about glasses and how religion is employed in SOLACE, take a look below:

 

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

 

FINDING DORY Review & Analysis

Movie critic Zoe Hewitt discusses themes, symbolism and eagle-eye details to watch for in FINDING DORY.  Don’t worry–there are no spoilers ahead!

–>Direct link to the video here: https://youtu.be/RUVC8G6bTPA

HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS Review & Analysis

Movie critic Zoe Hewitt discusses HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS with regard to themes and eagle-eye details to watch for in the movie.

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