Saturday, August 24, 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold [2019]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

Dora and the Lost City of Gold [2019] (directed by James Bobin, story by Tom Wheeler, screenplay by Matthew Robinson and Nicholas Stoller based on the series Dora the Explorer [2000-] [wikip] [IMDb] created by Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh and Eric Weiner) is a fun family friendly movie that takes the fun / inquisitive Dora to both high school and the big screen.

In the film, Dora (played first, briefly, as a precocious 6 year old by Madalyn Miranda, and then ten years later as a teenager by Isabel Moner), is sent by her "Indiana Jones"-like / clearly "field-work" enjoying university professor / explorer parents (played by Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) from the Andean jungles of Peru, where she had grown-up, to her "tios" in Los Angeles, so that she could experience, well, "the indigenous peoples of ... high school" ;-).

A little disappointed that her parents wanted to send her away just as they seem to have made a breakthrough in their search of a lost Inca city, she nevertheless takes on the challenge of learning "a whole new culture" with the enthusiasm that one would expect of Dora from the TV series (and the daughter of ethnographers).  The problem of course is that, at least initially, "the natives" of random Southern California high school are not exactly open to being understood by / much less being friends with someone who seems to have come from another world.

A plot twist sends both her and a number of her classmates to back to the jungles of Peru where of course ... much ensues ;-), and the classmates get to experience something outside of their day-to-day experience and ... come to appreciate what Dora has to offer.

Like the TV series that it is based on, the film's got an unabasshedly positive message, reminding us that we all have something to offer, and generally speaking, if at first we don't get along with each other, it's because we still don't really understand them.

Hispanic families will certainly appreciate the care taken to present the role of the extended family -- the tios (uncles/aunts), primos (cousins) and the wise/respected/saintly/kind abuela (grandma) -- in Hispanic (and actually in most non-North American) cultures.

Overall therefore a quite excellent family film!

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Where'd You Go, Bernadette [2019]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (H. Rupprecht) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (M. Castillo) review
AVClub (J. Hessenger) review

Where'd You Go, Bernadette [2019] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Richard Linklater along with Holly Gent and Vince Palmo, based on the novel [GR] by Maria Semple [wikip] [GR] [IMDb]), though marketed as a Comedy is NOT REALLY that.  It's a Dramedy, I suppose, but it's serious enough to not really be funny at all.

The film is about Bernadette Fox (played quite thoughtfully by Kate Blanchett) a 40 something once promising young architect (in "sunny Southern California") who for reasons that become increasingly clear, left that world to marry a random if quite successful "development engineer" ("heading his own team...") working for Microsoft named Elgie (played by Billy Crudup).  So together they live in a rainy but wealthy enclave of Seattle among other highly educated 30 and 40 somethings and the two have a lively and almost necessarily naive teenage daughter named Bee (played by Emma Nelson). 

It's a wet golden cage.

And after the drip, drip, drip of the torment of clearly somehow previously frustrated dreams, Bernadette is ready to ... well, you get the picture.

Everything is still presented in a remarkably _gentle_ way (mediated by large amounts of money that most of the film's Viewers will not have), but ... a comedy?  No, there are some real issues being lifted up here.

Further, PG-13 rating notwithstanding, it's not really a film for kids or teenagers either.  It's for the Parents and deals with the central challenge articulated by Freud a century ago: balancing the fulfillment of obligation and desire.

What can religion (not present in the film at all) to the mix?  That (1) God does want us to be happy and (2) God doesn't care if we come to be "important" because God does love us all.  Finally, (3) as St. John Paul II already noted in his second encyclical Laborem Exercens (On the Dignity of Work) we were created by God to create.  It simply isn't good for us to "do nothing" no matter how rich or poor we are. 

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Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood [2019]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (4 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (B. Tollerico) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review

Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood [2019] (written and directed by Quentin Tarantino) is IMHO a well-crafted affair, taking full advantage of writer/director's strengths -- creating and more-to-the-point _extending_ suspense (here through the _entire length_ of the 2 hour and 40 minute movie) even as one _knows_ what is coming, and then his capacity to creatively and IMHO utterly satisfactorily "re-imagine" endings to otherwise well known stories -- and actually / thankfully quite "light" on the most problematic aspect of his films -- violence.

Indeed, I've mentioned to a number of friends that someone must have sat down with Tarantino and told him:

"Look the best part of your movies _isn't_ the over-the-top violence.  NO, BY FAR THE BEST PART of your films has been _your ability_ to "stretch out the coming of the inevitable" -- One thinks of the ridiculously long but _fascinating_ "bar scene" or even the earlier "cafe' scene" in Inglorious Basterds [2009] or really the entire film, The Hateful Eight [2015], the latter set largely in a random 19th century mountain lodge somewhere "near the Donner Pass in the High Sierras" during a seemingly unending blizzard, when _every time_ the conversation between the bored, but colorful and ever creatively lowlife characters reaches an some critical juncture, and _everyone_ reaches to their sides for their pistols, ... some _new_ interesting but creatively lowlife character comes barreling through the door from the blizzard outside, and ... everyone lets their pistols slide back into their holsters and ... the conversation/story starts anew ;-).  SO ... no need to 'push' much less _extend_ the violence.  By far the _best part_ of your story-telling is 'getting there.'" 

The current film is _exactly this_.  EVERYONE who knows ANYTHING about what this story is about (hint: it's about the Manson Murders [wikip]), KNOWS ... "what is coming" BUT .... WHEN??? ... AND ... well, "it's a Tarantino film" SO ... ;-)

To say _anything more_ about the film would do it a great deal of damage, except that all three of the main actors in this film -- Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and even Margo Richie as Sharon Tate [wikip] -- are brilliant in their roles.  They "earned their pay" and probably had a lot of fun doing it, yes, had fun starring in a film about the Manson Murders.  How??  Well, go see the film ;-).

And yes, Parents please be sensible.  It's a film about the Manson Murders (!), so do respect the "R" rating.  It's deserved.  But understanding that, a brilliant film.

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