Movie Review: Tarzan

 

Recently, our Film Club included this on the fall semester roster because Chris Buck, co-director for this and Frozen, will give a lecture at our school in a few weeks. I’ll provide more details later in future posts but I’d thought it’d be appropriate to have some further context for this review.

A human raised by apes meets his own kind and is torn between two worlds.

As a kid, I didn’t see Tarzan until a few years after the release. It was on one of those six-hour recordable tapes with Mulan preceding it; this tape vanished from the family collection last year for reasons I won’t get into. Aside from that, I saw it and thought it was an OK film for Disney and not necessarily a childhood favorite. I didn’t know that it was the end of the Renaissance. I grew up thinking that Disney always had great films but have since learned otherwise.

What’s immediately apparent is the detail in the scenery. Thanks to Deep Canvas, a technique used to make CGI sets look like traditional paintings, it provides a lush and rich texture to the whole film. It still holds up well today, though a careful eye will notice the difference between what is done by the computer and what is hand-drawn.

Another strong aspect is the music. Most people I know have memorized the lyrics to the songs. I’ve had moments with friends where someone will queue one of the songs and everyone in the room will sing along because why not. The instrumental sections have a strong focus on drums, typically associated with the jungle landscape. After all, this did spin off into a Broadway musical.

At the same time, I have found that even with a considerable gap between viewings that some feelings have not changed, like disliking the side characters. I never connected with Terk or Tantor as a kid and still don’t. I felt that they weren’t around adult Tarzan to support him when he needed it. It felt like it was hastily fulfilling a requirement to have at least two non-human sidekicks for the human protagonist like in some prior films, such as Mulan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Pocahontas. At times, I forgot that they were part of the film.

Clayton’s character is a bit unfocused. Sure, we know he wants to hunt gorillas but he retreats from the story at moments where he should have some moments in the spotlight. His conclusion, even when Tarzan allows him to live, isn’t that satisfying because there was not enough time for his character to develop, apart from “I kill things for cash because I’m greedy and heartless.”

Going back to the scenery, there were moments where I couldn’t find a focal point because of the large amount of detail. One instance in particular is where Tarzan looks out to the ocean and sees the ship sail away. Even though the foliage framed the moment quite nicely, I was more focused on the leaves than the emotional moment taking place. When I did look at Tarzan, there was not enough contrast for me to clearly distinguish between him and the trees.

Within my social circle, I appear to be in the minority where I don’t love the film. I do appreciate its place within the Disney canon and some well-executed aspects. It’s not high on my list of favorite Disney films, either from the era or all-time; probably towards the middle.

6/10

Winner of Best Original Song and Technical Achievement in the Field of Animation

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Movie Review: Eyes Wide Shut

 

There are some films that I will watch every chance I get because I enjoy them. Others will be given some distance between viewings because I didn’t like what I saw or that it it’s akin to a fine wine, only enjoyable in sips instead of gulps. Eyes Wide Shut is one of those fine wines, something I view every six months because of what it is.

A doctor fights with his wife and explores a sexual underworld, trying to figure out what it means to be faithful to a person.

This odyssey started when I was a sophomore in college, before I started to watch movies seriously. I bought this and a few other tapes at Salvation Army with the plastic wrap still on it. It had been opened and viewed at least once. I didn’t get around to it until the beginning of winter break. After the first viewing, I had to step back and think about what I saw.

At first, I noticed the one-point perspective used in other Kubrick films. But I saw the use of the specific red and blue in the first five minutes that would appear countless times throughout the rest of the film. From the neon lights to the apartment paintings, to the coats on the extras and even the hospital tiles, they were present. Since then, I have tried to figure out what each color means with some success that’ll be in a separate post.

The sequence that captivated me was the famous masked ball ritual scene. It’s so surreal that I could do nothing but stare, occasionally remembering to breathe. The strong reverence for this ceremony can be felt through the music and the slow tracking of the camera. The scene that followed was from the North American R-rated version with the superimposed figures, according to This Film is Not Yet Rated. Since then, I’ve upgraded to the two-disc version that contains the unrated cut just to update my collection.

I enjoy the soundtrack a lot. From the flowing waltz of Dmitri Shostakovich that bookends the film to the unnerving Gyorgy Ligeti piece from the unmasking scene, I cannot get enough of it. Sometimes, I listen to the masked ball music before bed because of how it sounds. I could listen to that piece for hours on end and never get tired of it.

Now, why do I prefer this over a film like Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom? It’s true that both films have strong sexual content. For me, Salo was an exercise in depravity by showing that sex equals power and without attachment or resolution. Here, the infidelity happened but it reached a resolution by the end of the film in a way that both characters could learn something. While I personally don’t agree with some of the content in either film (especially the former), I accept that it is what the director intended.

I have found a few peers who have heard or even seen this particular film. I’m not entirely surprised because it is an adult film and should be treated as such. It’s not one you watch just for kicks. There’s a serious commitment involved with choosing to watch this film. I find that it is one where it’s better to watch it alone than with other people.

As Kubrick’s last film before his death, it’s amazing. I know it’s not for everyone but I highly recommend it.

9/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Movie Review: The Sixth Sense

 

Today, it’s another birthday for me. I figured it was time to watch another movie that was released on this special day; this is one of them. Also, today happens to be M. Night Shyamalan’s birthday. I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse.

A psychologist helps a kid confront his fears.

This was my first (and, so far, only) Shyamalan film. I saw this for the first time last year and returned to it today. I had heard the criticisms about his recent films and reportedly how terrible they were. I had my doubts when I saw this had placed on the AFI Top 100 for 2007. Keep in mind that this wasn’t spoiled for me.

My first time through, I thought it was a slow film that, once I knew the twist, was another box ticked off my list. It wasn’t until I pored through the bonus features that there were a lot of things I missed, specifically the use of color. The second time around, I saw the signs and gained a better appreciation for them.

The story’s tight, but what about the cinematography? It’s very deliberate but treads close to being pretentious. The slow pan during the “pendant” conversation, while somewhat visually engaging, seems to ask for a series of over-the-shoulder shots by the end just to break up the mundane nature of the scene. At the same time, the shot length complements the atmospheric feel of the film.

As for the film’s legacy, I figure it has had its fifteen minutes. From what I remember as a kid, my friends would say “I see dead people” without meaning. I knew it was from the film but I wasn’t sure how it fit. I dismissed it as one of the plainest quotes. As time went by, the quote was parodied to the point that when I saw it in context, the power was diminished.

Come to think of it, all of the people I know of who talk about this film only mention the quote and nothing more. It’s like knowing who or what Rosebud is, protecting the spoilers. Not exactly thought-provoking.

In the end, I believe that this is a well-crafted film that holds up today. Even though it doesn’t rank high on the AFI Top 100 or my personal favorites, it’s worth a few viewings that are worth your time.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

AFI Top 100 (2007): #89

400 Noms for AFI Top 100 for 2007

Movie Review: Run Lola Run

I came across a secondhand DVD copy of this a while back. It was more of an impulse buy (something that I should try to curb) as I didn’t know when I would come across a copy of it in the future. I had seen a trailer for it before I bought it and all I could remember was the scene with the nuns. With the 1001 status and the intensity of the ad in mind, I sat down and watched it.

In order to recover 100,000 missing marks, Lola has to run through town and use her resources in order to save her boyfriend, all with different outcomes.

I enjoy these kind of films where we see the multiple outcomes, an application of the butterfly effect. Just seeing how one interaction can branch off into different choices. Each run starts off in the same house but as soon as we enter the television, anything goes. I tend to think like that every day, going through every scenario and trying to mentally approach things from a different angle.

The entire film plays out like a cinematic adaptation of a stand-alone graphic novel and yet this is an original work. There are some fantastical elements, like Lola’s scream or her stamina. In any other movie, I would have questioned the plausibility but it works within the movie’s universe.

The energy is present in the film, from the situations to the late 90’s techno soundtrack. But when it’s over in a little over 80 minutes, I sit there thinking “OK, now what?” It does end, there’s no denying that. It may be that, in a cynical viewpoint, that I watched three different cuts of the same film in one sitting. While there are differences, some life-changing through the use of literal flash-forwards, they become lost in the main part of the story.

The title sequence is a bit long, nearly reaching the five minute mark. The use of the clocks and the crowd of people help depict what obstacles Lola will face as she literally runs through the credits.

It’s a roller coaster that does take time to breathe inbetween runs. I hesitate to call it “light cinema” just because of the runtime but it doesn’t feel like time had advanced any farther from when I started. At the same time I can’t complain, especially with a busy work load and finding the time for a solid 110+ minute film is hard to do. It’s one to watch over a weekend or if you need something to watch as you come home from a long day.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Movie Review: Safe

I don’t know what exactly prompted me to watch this early in the morning. I had a bowl of microwaved soup and four hours of sleep under my belt. I didn’t exactly remember if this was on the list or not until looking at filmsquish.com for the answer. I had planned on watching Zero Kelvin but, for reasons that will be explained later, changed my mind.

A woman develops multiple chemical sensitivity and her life spirals out of control.

We start with a proto-Mulholland Dr. title sequence with similar Badalamentian music. This set my spirits high as the film revealed not only Lynchian trademarks but also some of Kubrick’s with the use of one-point perspective and tracking shots. Even Wavelength, as much as I didn’t like it the first time around, plays a part in some of the shots both forward and reverse.

The way the compositions are framed, I felt rather distant from Carol. There is one wide shot at the beginning where there’s a conversation at her front door and we hear the entire conversation clear as day. I wanted to get closer but the camera stayed put and lingered for a little afterwards. The distance between us and the conversation helps establish that Carol is distant in her life. The static nature of the shots helps increase the tension.

Much like the use of milk in The Decalogue, I consciously ended up drinking some during the movie. Carol even mentions that she is a “milkaholic” early on in the film. I figured I should follow suit for the film.

I was fine with the progression of her symptoms up until the seizure. If anything scares me in real life, it’s seizures. I have to leave the room when somebody has one, notably my autistic brother (another story for another time). The IMDB entry prepped me for that but it didn’t make that scene, less than a minute long, any easier to watch.

As I watched, I noticed some parallels with what I feel. While I do not have multiple chemical sensitivity, the sense of confusion and need for understanding is present as I continue to explore my identity on the spectrum. I am becoming more aware of my sensitivities and am working to have my needs met. Sure, people may not understand at first but it helps me function (can’t believe I just quoted one of my own films there). I seek to understand why things are the way they are and try to adjust. I know I am not alone but there are moments where it seems like it.

I enjoyed this movie in the sense that I liked the overall style; a sense of dread, unnatural static shots, and an unnerving soundtrack. I’m sad to hear that this is out of print because I want this for my library. It is a bit of a slow burn for two hours, especially after Carol enters Wrenwood. I would pass on watching the trailer as it comes off as a generic 90’s thriller. Also, the image of the masked figure in the field is nowhere to be found in the movie. Safe to say, it’s a good film.

8/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection