Wednesday, May 22, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Six Animated Disney Movies That (Probably) Won't Be Getting Live-Action Remakes

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

Come this Friday, the newest in an onslaught of live-action remakes of classic animated Disney movies arrives in the form of Aladdin. It's not the last one of its kind we'll see in 2019 either, with The Lion King, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Lady and the Tramp all on the way in next six months while 2020 will deliver Mulan and Cruella. There's no end in sight for Disney's new excuse to print money (so long as it doesn't star Dumbo, at least) but even Disney is bound to have limits in terms of just how much of its library of animated classics it'll turn into modern-day live-action blockbusters. Below, I've compiled six animated Disney films the studio probably won't be turning into live-action movies anytime soon, the first of which is...

Wine Country Delivers A Vacation That's At Its Best When It Comes To Easygoing Comedy

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey, Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer are the six leading performers of Wine Country. That's quite the roster of talented folks to headline a movie and Wine Country finds plenty of amusing comedy out of just the camaraderie of this troop of actors interacting with one another over a single weekend. Interestingly, though, the biggest problem with Wine Country is how it doesn't lean on such simple comedic pleasures enough. Instead, its story ends up leaning too hard on predictable conflict-laden storylines between the individual six leading characters that make one yearn for more grounded sequences of just these six performers trading witty dialogue back-and-forth. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Knock Down the House Is An Inspirational And Humanizing Exploration of American Politics

Let's not sugar-coat it, the last week of American politics has been a particularly vicious form of disheartening, which is saying something given how the last two-and-a-half years have been the physical manifestation of a nightmare. We need an ounce of hope wherever we can get it and goodness knows movies have always functioned as a go-to format for providing stories that offer up some hope to the world in times of crisis. For the Rachel Lears feature film Knock Down the House (which is now streaming on Netflix), hope is offered through a documentary that follows a quarter of female politicians looking to shake the status quo in American politics.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Cuts To The Emotional Bone With Its Harrowing Performances And Camerawork

When the Hayes Code, a set of restrictions placed on what could or couldn't be depicted in American cinema in order to "protect the sanctity of the family", fell in 1964, American cinema suddenly had a golden opportunity on its hand to explore darker and more adult-oriented storytelling that had been off-limits for decades now. Studios didn't rush to make the filthiest movies they could imagine, but they did start to test the waters with what exactly they could do under the heavily reduced amount of restrictions placed on their art form. Come 1966, the Mike Nichols directorial effort Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? would help push those boundaries with a movie that wasn't afraid to talk about grim matters that would have been unspeakable had it been made in the Hayes Code era.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Lynne Ramsay And Samantha Morton Deliver A Mesmerizing Portrait of Coping With Grief In The Excellent Morvern Callar

And so, having now finally watched Morvern Callar, I've seen all four of Lynne Ramsay's feature-film directorial effort. Though Morvern Callar might be the weakest of Ramsay's movies, that's a lot like saying that a specific Carly Rae Jepsen song is her weakest. Jepsen's songs, like Ramsay's directorial efforts, are just varying degrees of exceptional, there really isn't a dud in the bunch. This Morvern Callar is yet another impressive and harrowing piece of filmmaking from one of the best directors working today, one that sees Ramsay turning her artistic focus on people's mental-based struggles in the wake of tragedy onto the story of a woman grappling with her boyfriend's suicide.

Like Many of the Best Time Travel Tales, See You Yesterday Merges Sci-Fi With Intimate Human Experiences

There are plenty of drawbacks to Netflix's method of releasing its movies with little in the way of prominent promotion but it also has its benefits, most notably in how it can lead to the fun experience of a whole bunch of people across the world discovering and enjoying a new Netflix original movie and watching them spread the word about it across social media. Watching that word-of-mouth work to turn a previously unknown film into something everybody's talking is utterly fascinating to watch. If there's any justice in the world, the cleverly concocted time travel tale See You Yesterday will be the next Netflix film to receive that kind of treatment from audiences.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum Has "Excellent!" Opening Weekend As A Dog's Journey Goes Nowhere And Sun Is Also A Star Burns Out

In just one weekend, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum has exceeded the entire $43 million lifetime gross of the original John Wick movie. This guy really is worthy of his legendary reputation. Grossing $57 million this frame, John Wick: Chapter 3 nearly doubled the opening weekend of the second John Wick movie and scored the biggest opening weekend ever for a Lionsgate movie that doesn't belong to either the Hunger Games or Twilight franchises. It's been fascinating to see the John Wick movies grow from being a sleeper hit to being a ubiquitous element of pop culture capable of opening to such hefty box office figures. Needless to say, these impressive opening weekend figures ensure that we'll be seeing plenty more of Baba Yaga in the future.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Intruder Is Insultingly Forgettable


Scott Howard (Michael Ealy) and Annie Howard (Meagan Good) have decided to step away from city life and buy up a home in the Napa Valley so that they can raise a prospective family in a more serene environment. The humble abode they've purchased previously belonged to Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), a widow who has spent decades taking care of this house that now belongs to the theory. See, Charlie Peck just won't leave the couple alone. First he shows up to mow the lawn, then he keeps popping up every day to do odd jobs around the house. Annie thinks he's harmless but Scott has a bad feeling about Charlie Peck that turns out to be more accurate than either of them could imagine.

Friday, May 17, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum See's The John Wick Series Continuing To Slay

What a wonderfully out-of-nowhere creation this John Wick series has become.  Not based on any pre-existing source material, the first movie was quietly filmed in 2013 and didn't start its marketing campaign until two months before its October 2014 debut. It was flying so far under the radar yet it ended up becoming a sleeper hit and deservedly so, it was a blast of an action movie that made good use of both Keanu Reeves and well-shot action sequences. Nearly five years later, John Wick has turned into a full-blown saga that continues onward with John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum (that title is the worst thing to emerge from this series) and manages to maintain the level of quality that made the first two movies such joys.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mrs. Miniver's Historical Bona Fides Are More Intriguing Than Its Own Characters

As the Turner Classic Movies pre-movie introduction helpfully clarifies, the historical context for Mrs. Miniver is utterly fascinating. This American financed movie set near London was released in the summer of 1942 but had been in production for well over two years beforehand. This meant the film was constantly being tinkered with, even after whole scenes were shot, to keep the movie relevant to what was going in this worldwide conflict. This likely resulted in a tumultuous process of filmmaking but it did manage to also result in a movie that resonated deeply with both general moviegoers and famous world leaders of the era.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

In Laman's Terms: The Live-Action Dog Family Movie Is Back! In Pog, Er, Josh Gad Form!

American pop culture loves to dig up popular things from the past so it shouldn't be surprising to see stuff from the 1990s like Pokemon come back in modern forms attempting to capitalize on nostalgia. Even with that being such a go-to method for printing money, though, who would have thought that the 1990's craze of live-action dog family movies, sometimes featuring dogs "speaking" by way of celebrity voice-overs, would be making such a resurgence at the tail end of the 2010's? After lying dormant for most of this decade, 2019 has delivered three new entries (including this Friday's A Dog's Journey) in this subgenre and it's doubtful they'll be the last modern-day entries in this genre.

Rafiki Is A Wondrously Crafted Romantic Tale In Every Way

Kena (Samantha Mugatsia), the lead character of Rafiki, is a teenager in Kenya who lives a seemingly normal life. She's working towards becoming a nurse in between helping her father, John Mwaura (Jimmy Gathu), who is running in a local election. His primary competitor, Peter Okemi, has a daughter named Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), that captures the attention of Kena and the two begin hanging out. It isn't long before they realize they share a romantic attraction to each other, which is an issue since homosexuality itself is outlawed in Kenya. But societal disapproval, as well as the disapproval of their rival parents, be damned, Kena and Ziki are in love and the two of them bring out the best in one another in the time they spend together.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Meek's Cutoff Is A Western Deconstruction Like No Other

As Meek's Cutoff opens, director Kelly Reichardt makes it apparent this movie will be adhering to a  transcendentalism style of filmmaking. Some of the core tenants of this filmmaking style, namely prolonged extended takes concentrated on minimal activity, turn out to be a perfect way to capture the experiences of the lead characters of Meek's Cutoff as they gradually make their way across the American frontier to an unspecified locale that's supposed to provide them all with prosperous riches. This is a journey that's arduous and slow with little in the way of actual progress to speak of so it's fitting that Reichardt opts to capture this voyage in a filming style that places an emphasis on slower pacing and minimalism.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Beyonce: Homecoming Is Both An Exhilarating And Insightful Documentary

If somebody's still puzzled as to why Beyonce Knowles-Carter has become such a phenomenon in the modern-day pop culture scene, Beyonce: Homecoming, a feature that captures Beyonce's 2018 Coachella performance, should provide a handy-dandy summation for why exactly she's risen to such a legendary status in the modern era. Just the crowd's reaction to watching her perform live alone should say why Beyonce has become a pop culture force to be reckoned with. Many of these audience members don't get their experiences properly represented frequently in music nor does music often tell them explicitly that they are amazing because of the traits that society ostracizes them for. Self-empowerment anthems are common in American pop music but Beyonce takes that format and skews it through the lens of black culture and especially through the lens of black women empowerment to create self-empowerment anthems that don't just resonate with people but are quite unlike anything else we've ever seen in music.

Katherine Hepburn Delivers Top-Shelf Work In The So-So Feature Morning Glory

Morning Glory is a film that covers a mighty familiar storyline. It’s a yarn about a girl from a small town who comes to New York City to fulfill her dreams of stardom, which was a well-worn cinematic narrative even in 1933 (its initial year of release). However, an extra layer of meta-importance is injected into the feature by way of it being an early star vehicle for Katherine Hepburn, who would receive her first Oscar nomination for Morning Glory. We’re not just watching a fictional character ascending to stardom in Morning Glory, we’re also watching Hepburn do the exact same thing.