Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dumbo (2019)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Tim Burton Productions

Dumbo – Film Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

Director: Tim Burton

Synopsis: When an elephant in the care of a struggling circus gives birth, the young creature is born with rather large ears. When it’s discovered that he can fly, the circus makes him its newest attraction to turn around its fortunes…

Review: It is very hard not to look at most of these live action re-imaginings of classic animated Disney films of yesteryear as nothing more than cynical cash grabs. For some of these films, you look at them and just think, there is no reason for these films to be remade. However, in the case of Dumbo, since the original film came out over seventy years ago, a remake does seem warranted.  However, with three live action remakes set to grace the big screen this year, Disney is only just getting started, and everyone’s favourite big eared elephant is the first one in its sights.

It is 1919, and Holt (Farrell) has just come home from the First World War, a war that has taken a heavy toll on him. In his absence, his kids Millie (Parker) and Joe (Hobbins) have been enduring a difficult time, with their circus, led by Max Medici (DeVito) really falling on hard times. However an opportunity to revive their ailing fortunes presents itself with the arrival of an adorable young elephant, who happens to be born with unusually large ears. Initially the subject of much derision and ridicule, most notably from Medici, this turns to awe when it’s revealed that this young creatures’s ears give him the ability to fly. This soon attracts the attention of V. A. Vandevere (Keaton), the owner of a much bigger circus/theme park.

Cuteness overload…

Given that humans didn’t feature in the original, and that the original film was just over an hour, Ehren Kruger’s screenplay has to expand on the source material. As such the human characters become the main focus of the film, and not the titular little elephant. Given that they’re the focus of the plot, the screenplay tries to give the humans something substantial to work with, and the results are mixed. DeVito is on reliably entertaining form as Medici, but it’s Holt’s daughter Millie who steals the spotlight as she is the most fleshed out character. She is a very strong willed young woman who has a keen interest in science, as well as taking care of Dumbo and helping him adapt to circus life, alongside her brother.

Parker’s performance shows that she has inherited those acting chops from her mother Thandie Newton. By contrast, none of the other human characters are really given much development, despite some of the stellar names in the cast. Michael Keaton’s character especially feels really out of place, with an accent so peculiar it’s hard to fathom what accent it is or why he’s speaking in that manner. One quick glance at the filmography of Tim Burton, and you would quickly realise that his imagination as a director is as dark and eccentric as they come. With that said, he doesn’t seem to be the most natural choice to bring Dumbo’s story to a new generation. Given the target market of the film, there’s obviously nothing as macabre or as freaky that Burton’s imagination has previously brought to the big screen.

Though, as one might expect with Burton, there are some dark undertones. Yet the direction for the most part feels very safe and doesn’t really take any risks, which feels like a missed opportunity as the scope was there to explore a dark side to the circus. The CGI for Dumbo is really well done and, as you would expect, Dumbo is completely adorable and above all else, in spite of the glittering array of talent in this cast, it’s this sweet little elephant that you find yourself rooting for the most, if only he had that little bit more screen time.

The cast try their hardest, but an indifferent script and the mismatch of tones prevent this live action re-imagining from soaring, but, thanks to the adorable titular elephant, it does get off the ground.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale
Image is property of Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures

Casino Royale – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Tobias Menzies, Jeffrey Wright

Director: Martin Campbell

Synopsis: Having recently acquired his double 0 status, Bond is tasked with the mission taking down a terrorist funder, which may involve a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale, with several millions on the table.

Review: So for the 21st film in this remarkable franchise, we go back to the beginning, to the very first novel that Ian Fleming’s literary career. A fresh take on the character for the 21st century audience. With this reboot, came a new face into the iconic role, that of Mr Daniel Craig and a script by frequent Bond screenwriters Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, with the addition of Paul Haggis, with the director of Goldeneye Martin Campbell on board, these combinations were a match made in Double O Heaven! The usual elements come into the mix, of stunts, exotic and beautiful locations, women, cars and exhilarating action scenes that truly get the heart pumping. It’s the perfect mix of classic old school Bond, fused with modern elements.

Having recently obtained his Double 0 agent status, in a rather explosive intro scene, Bond is ultimately tasked with bringing down a man who provides funding for international terrorists. The introduction sets the pace going immediately and the action is fast paced but it is not relentless. There are moments to let him catch his breath and fall in love with another seductive and sexy Bond lady, played by the gorgeous Eva Green. Like many Bond ladies, she’s charming and beautiful but she is a woman of mystery with some secrets of her own. The chemistry between the two of them is fascinating and great to watch them exchange banter whilst falling deeply in love, and Green’s performance certainly puts her up with there with the very best of the Bond ladies of the past.

Facing Bond is the terrorist banker Le Chiffre, played by an electric Mads Mikkelsen. This man is the cold and manipulative villain who while displaying ruthless villainous traits shows a sense of vulnerability, which centres around his own beautiful and lethal lady friend. As the financer for the world’s terrorists, he is forever looking his own shoulder and in many ways you almost feel for him. Mikkelsen gives a tremendous performance and while not quite being the best villain the franchise has ever seen, he more than holds his own. Of course Judi Dench provides a stern and authoritative, yet compassionate turn as M once again.

When Craig was cast, he was met with a little bit of backlash from the fans, with some threatening to boycott the film in protest over his casting. However, with film this he certainly proved he was more than capable of holding his own in the role and he has since established himself as among the very best of the actors who have had the honour of donning the dinner jacket, firmly silencing the doubters. He also shows he’s capable of handling the action scenes, pulling off his best Tom Cruise with his running style. While there are some slow scenes for sure, it allows the audience to catch its breath. The poker scenes are brilliantly filmed, with tension filled moments a plenty.

The directing, score and cinematography are all excellent and this film proved to be the much needed reinvention of the franchise after the disappointment that was Die Another Day. The perfect start for Craig, and reinforcement of Martin Campbell’s credentials as a Bond film maker, having successfully launched the careers of both Craig and Pierce Brosnan in the role as the suave agent with Goldeneye. Bond was back, and his accuracy was on point, and aren’t we all glad it was?

The perfect reinvention for the franchise with some incredible action, intriguing and tension filled dialogue with Craig proving himself in the role and a tremendous showing from Eva Green, the perfect start for Craig. 

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