Category Archives: Films

Disturbing Disney #20: Quasimodo is crowned ‘King of Fools’ (1996)

It’s a trope that’s almost guaranteed to appear in any Disney film: the young hero/heroine is admonished by an authority figure NOT to do something; they do it anyway and as a result they end up in big trouble. Such is the case in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). The sweet Quasimodo is compelled to live in the bell tower of the cathedral by his reluctant guardian Frollo on the grounds that the outside world is evil and dangerous (a similar argument is used by Mother Gothel years later on Rapunzel). Quasimodo wants more than anything to go out among the people, so when the annual ‘Feast of Fools’ comes around, the bell ringer can’t take it anymore and sneaks out to join in the festivities.

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From the moment I watched this film in the theater, I knew something bad was going to happen at some point. Either Quasimodo was going to get caught, locked up, or something. And when Frollo arrived in his carriage, I thought the moment was imminent. But then…nothing seemed to happen. True, Quasimodo was found out, but instead of being rejected, he’s crowned ‘King of Fools’ by the audience and paraded around the city (much to Frollo’s displeasure, though it seems he can’t do anything about it for the moment). For a brief moment, I actually believed that things were going to be okay…and then the real trouble started.

Quasimodo humiliated: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Suddenly, two guards lob tomatoes at Quasimodo, prompting the rest of the crowd to join in (I’m not sure if this is an annual thing or if this is just a case of mob mentality). So far the scene has just turned cruel; what makes it disturbing is when the crowd ties Quasimodo down to the platform when he tries to run away, spinning him around so everyone can get a good shot at him. Even the colors turn darker (starting when Quasimodo is tied down and his hump is exposed), highlighting how wrong and terrible this situation is.

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As someone who suffered from a lot of bullying in school, this scene has never failed to trigger me. Quasimodo’s perspective of viewing these people who were cheering him minutes ago and are now hurting him and laughing while they do it is just heartbreaking. It gets even worse when Frollo forbids Phoebus from intervening, stating that “a lesson needs to be learned here.” I don’t know why I felt surprised at Frollo’s actions; on further consideration, it’s likely he felt the crowd’s treatment was far worse than any punishment he could have devised for Quasimodo.

While it’s true that Esmeralda steps in to stop the abuse, the damage has already been done. The Quasimodo that stumbles back into the cathedral is broken now in a way that he wasn’t when the film started. Before, he at least had his dream of someday going out among the people, now he doesn’t even have that.

This scene is a classic example of why I started the Disturbing Disney series and it makes for a fitting entry (the 20th in the series!)

What do you think of this scene? Does it disturb you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a good day!

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Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #4: Dumbo loses his mother (1941)

Disturbing Disney #5 The death of Bambi’s Mother

Disturbing Disney #6: Faline vs. the dogs (1942)

Disturbing Disney #7: Cruella wants to do WHAT??

Disturbing Disney #8: The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met (from Make Mine Music, 1946)

Disturbing Disney #9: Dr. Facilier’s Fate (The Princess and the Frog, 2009)

Disturbing Disney #10: The rat in Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Disturbing Disney #11: Clayton’s Death in Tarzan (1999)

Disturbing Disney #12: The Bear from The Fox and the Hound (1981)

Disturbing Disney #13: “Smoking them out” in The Fox and the Hound (1981)

Disturbing Disney #14: The Salt Trap in The Jungle Book (1994)

Disturbing Disney #15: Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia (1940)

Disturbing Disney #16: King Triton destroys Ariel’s grotto

Disturbing Disney #17: Ratigan becomes a monster in The Great Mouse Detective

Disturbing Disney #18: The Queen’s assignment for her Huntsman

Disturbing Disney #19: Cinderella’s dress is destroyed (1950)

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The Great Mouse Detective “Let me be good to you” (1986)

One of my favorite Disney animated films is the underrated The Great Mouse Detective (1986) which should be held in high esteem because it paved the way for the Disney Renaissance to begin with The Little Mermaid. The story features several memorable songs, my childhood favorite being “Let Me Be Good to You.”

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The Great Mouse Detective “Let Me Be Good to You” (1986)

To recap: Basil and Dawson are searching for the hideout of the notorious Ratigan, who has taken little Olivia captive to ensure her father finishes a mysterious invention. Using his eccentric methods, Basil deduces that the entrance to Ratigan’s lair can be found at a seedy pub on the waterfront. Inside, a number of musicians are performing for the rowdy crowd with very little success, that is until a certain female mouse named Miss Kitty (Melissa Manchester) takes the stage.

“Let Me Be Good to You” starts off as a simple ballad with no hint as to what’s coming:

Dearest friends, dear gentlemen
Listen to my song
Life down here’s been hard for you
Life has made you strong
Let me lift the mood
With my attitude

Hey, fellas
The time is right
Get ready
Tonight’s the night
Boys, what you’re hopin’ for will come true
Let me be good to you

You tough guys
You’re feelin’ all alone
You rough guys
The best o’ you sailors and bums
All o’ my chums

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cozy
Your baby’s here
You won’t be misunderstood
Let me be good to you

The audience is clearly moved, but things are just getting started! After disappearing behind the curtain, Miss Kitty returns to reveal a burlesque outfit (to the extreme delight of the audience) along with a pair of backup dancers. The song transitions to a big-band style number (the piano is completely drowned out by the brass) and features a long instrumental break while a drugged Dawson finds himself onstage dancing with the girls.

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Hey, fellas
I’ll take off all my blues
Hey, fellas
There’s nothin’ I won’t do
Just for you

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cozy
Your baby’s here
Hey boys, I’m talkin’ to you

Your baby’s gonna come through
Let me be good to you

The craziest thing about this song is it nearly got cut from the film on the grounds that it was too ‘adult’ to be in a children’s film (to which I say “Seriously? And the messed up things in The Black Cauldron, Pinocchio and Dumbo weren’t??”). They managed to keep the sequence in by arguing that since the characters in question were mice and not human, young viewers wouldn’t make the connection to anything inappropriate. And that’s true from my experience: it wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realized what I was really seeing in this scene.

The animation on Miss Kitty is really well done, especially when she’s wearing her ‘sexy’ outfit. It’s drawn in such a way that it looks revealing but it doesn’t really show anything inappropriate (although one should remember this film is set in the Victorian era and showing this much skin in public was considered scandalous in polite society).

In my opinion, over thirty years later, “Let Me Be Good to You” remains one of the best sequences of the pre-Disney Renaissance era and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Let me know what you think about this song in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

The Great Mouse Detective “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” (1986)

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My Thoughts on: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

If you’ve never seen any of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films then let me tell you, you are missing out! They are masterpieces of animation with deep, thought-provoking stories and unforgettable characters. Thanks to a deal Studio Ghibli has with Disney, all of his films are readily available in the U.S.. Today I want to talk about one of my favorite Miyazaki films: Howl’s Moving Castle.

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Based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle tells the story of Sophie (Emily Mortimer), a young girl who runs the family hat shop and seeks no adventure in her life. One night however, she’s cursed by the Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall) and transformed into a ninety-year old woman (Jean Simmons). Forced into a new life, Sophie eventually finds herself residing in the magical castle of Howl (Christian Bale), a powerful wizard, just as a brutal war is starting to develop.

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There are so many things to love about Howl’s Moving Castle. As with all of Studio Ghibli’s films, the animation is superb; Sophie’s transformation happens so quickly that it takes you a moment to realize it’s happened at all. Calcifer (Billy Crystal), the fire demon that powers the moving castle, is one of my favorite characters with his smart-ass remarks (“May all your bacon burn…”). The castle itself is one of the coolest magical environments you’ll ever see. Inside (once it’s cleaned up) it looks like a perfectly normal house. But if you flip a switch by the door, you can walk out into different towns! The design of the towns is a mix of late-nineteenth, early twentieth century architecture with a bit of steampunk scattered throughout (just look at the cars in this film and you’ll see what I mean). Magic is also considered a fact of life, people go to see wizards the way we go to see a doctor.

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The big message of the film is about how terrible war is. As a powerful wizard, Howl is recruited by both kingdoms to fight, but he doesn’t want to, in fact it’s revealed he spends a lot of time sabotaging the armies to make it harder to fight. The film was strongly influenced by Miyazaki’s feelings regarding the war in Iraq.

Howl’s Moving Castle really is beautiful and I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it before. If you have seen this film, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

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Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Terminal (2018)

If you watch enough films, you’ll realize that there are some films that cannot be explained; they have to be experienced. After last night, I’m convinced that Terminal is one of those films. The film can best be described as an extremely twisted take on Alice in Wonderland (as the film is permeated throughout with references to the book). Terminal is mostly set in a train station late at night and follows a mysterious woman named Annie (Margot Robbie); a dying English teacher (Simon Pegg); two contract killers (Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons); and the peculiar cleaner that works at the station (Mike Meyers) as their paths converge in unexpected ways.

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One undeniable positive about Terminal is that it looks amazing from start to finish. Based on the noir style, the scenes contain vibrant pops of color set against dark backgrounds (my particular favorite is Annie’s bright red coat). There’s also a wonderful use of neon lighting. On the other hand, I spent most of the film watching this beautiful display of color and wondering what on Earth I was watching. The film’s biggest weakness is it takes a very long time to connect the dots and reveal how these characters are all connected. Now, that being said, once the film does reach this point, things begin to make sense very quickly.

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The final twenty minutes of the film are where things really get crazy (and that’s saying something in a film that’s full of crazy moments). Several twists are revealed in succession, from the expected (I pegged one twist about halfway through the film) to the “oh my god I did not see that coming.” In fact there are so many reveals at the end that it’s almost like watching a mini-movie separate from everything that just happened. There was probably a more straightforward way to incorporate these last twists but I can’t complain too loudly because the film made sure to cover every loose end.

If you’re willing to wait for the payoff, Terminal is a very enjoyable film. It’s not perfect by any means, but the flaws aren’t big enough to ruin the experience. If you’ve seen Terminal, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film/TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Meg (2018)

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When I first saw the trailer for The Meg, I thought one of two things would happen if I saw this movie. One, I would be scared out of my mind or two, I’d be laughing like crazy because of the ridiculous material. It promised to be a semi-interesting film at any rate, as it featured the oft-visited  science fiction scenario of a prehistoric Megalodon wreaking havoc in the modern world. Well, having returned from seeing The Meg, I wish I could say the film did one or the other, or was even a combination of both.

But I can’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good elements to The Meg. There are some gorgeous underwater scenes showing life in the Mariana Trench and a shot of a shark cage appearing very small in the vast ocean. Actually, the film even starts with a semi-plausible scenario that sets up how a Megalodon could have survived all these years in the modern ocean. And in terms of the cast, Jason Statham does an admirable job with the material he’s given. In fact, the show is almost completely stolen by child actor Shuya Sophia Cai. However, despite these good qualities, I can’t overlook the messier aspects of the story.

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The big problem with The Meg is, it doesn’t seem to know what sort of film it should be. At times it feels like a dark comedy, with any tension relieved by humorous quips (including a Finding Nemo reference). And yet there are also moments where it seems the filmmakers were trying to emulate the terror of Jaws or the scarier aspects of Deep Blue Sea (which might not be the best example but I got strong reminders of that film in particular). If the film had just committed one way or another, The Meg would have been a comfortably enjoyable B-film. Unfortunately it just didn’t work out that way.

And those are my thoughts on The Meg. What do you think of this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film/TV Reviews

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My thoughts on: Sunshine (2007)

Sunshine is a notable science fiction film for several reasons. For one, it has one of the best scores you will ever hear in the genre (it even gives Interstellar a run for its money). For two, it’s actually built on a fairly realistic premise; like Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Icarus II is a believable-looking ship with plausible technology onboard. Unfortunately, the third thing that makes it notable is that the entire plot goes to pieces in the last act (more on that in a little bit).

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The plot of Sunshine takes place in 2057 and centers on a plot to restart the sun after it begins to die, slowly freezing the Earth in the process. The plan is to launch a massive nuclear bomb into the Sun with the goal of bringing the star back to life. The Icarus II is the Earth’s last chance, as the Icarus I mysteriously disappeared seven years earlier. Predictably, the second Icarus discovers the first Icarus and things become weird once they link up with the other ship.

The fact that the ships are called Icarus should be a pretty big clue that things are going to end badly for the crew. In Greek mythology, Icarus was the sun of the inventor Daedalus, who could build all kinds of amazing things. In order to escape captivity, Daedalus built two sets of wings using feathers and wax. While flying away, Icarus flew too close to the sun causing the wings to fall apart and Icarus fell to his death.

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Just like in the myth, the Icarus ship gets right up to the sun and in the end, everyone dies. But it’s how the story gets to that point that bothers me. The thing is, up until the last act begins, Sunshine is a fantastic science fiction film with no real problems to speak of (it even includes Chris Evans in a pre-Captain America appearance). But when the film addresses what happened to the crew of the Icarus I…that’s where things go sideways in a hurry. In a matter of minutes, Sunshine goes from a reasonable sci-fi story to a slasher horror film where a mysterious killer picks off the crew one by one (the ones who don’t die by the killer’s hand perish due to a number of reasons, the most gruesome being exposure to the vacuum of space). I could almost forgive this sudden shift in the film were it not for the fact that it comes almost completely out of left field. There’s a small piece of footage early in the film that hints at a problem, but no real indication that the plot will go in this direction. It’s almost like the writers hit upon a great concept but weren’t able to come up with a satisfactory ending so they copped out and went the sci-fi/horror route. And this is why I will always say Sunshine is a good film that could’ve been great.

Despite its less than perfect ending, I still recommend Sunshine to anyone who hasn’t seen it before. Trust me when I say the music will blow you away. The cast also does an admirable job with what they have to work with.

What do you think of Sunshine? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard II’ (2012)

There are many film adaptations of Shakespeare that I enjoy, but my favorite would have to be The Hollow Crown, a BBC production of Shakespeare’s second tetralogy of history plays. The story begins with the reign and downfall of Richard II (grandson of Edward III) and concludes with the reign of Henry V as he attempts to conquer France. The series features an all-star cast and is a must see for fans of Shakespeare’s history plays.

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Richard II stars Ben Whishaw (the new Q in the James Bond films) as the titular king in the last few years of his reign. Richard, in my opinion, believes that he is a good king, but his actions are so ruled by his whims that it eventually drives the kingdom into rebellion against him. This rebellion is led by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), the future Henry IV, who is incensed that, after his father John of Gaunt (Patrick Stewart) died, King Richard ransacked his estate to pay for a war in Ireland. Henry returns from exile ostensibly to claim his birthright as Duke of Lancaster, but it quickly turns into an outright war for the throne of England itself. Stewart’s role as John of Gaunt (a younger son of Edward III) is well-played but ends rather quickly. It’s a shame, because it’s a pleasure to see Patrick Stewart performing Shakespeare.

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The contrast between Whishaw’s Richard and Kinnear’s Henry could not be more striking. Richard is presented as preening, elegant, almost effeminate. For most of the play he wears immaculate white robes, and on the one occasion that he does wear armor, it’s gold-plated (not exactly practical for fighting). Henry, by contrast, is burly and muscular, not afraid to get dirty if the job requires it. It is emphasized that Henry does not want to hurt Richard (who is his cousin after all), but is only doing what he believes is best for the kingdom. In the course of a monologue, Richard finally concedes the crown to his cousin and Henry is crowned Henry IV of England.

There are several liberties taken with the depiction of certain characters, most notably with Richard’s queen. Presented here as a grown woman, in truth she was only 10 years old at the time of Richard’s death (they got married when she was 7). There is also an appearance by David Bradley (Walder Frey in Game of Thrones) in the small role of a gardener.

In conclusion, Richard II is a good start to The Hollow Crown, one that I highly recommend. If you’ve seen Richard II, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

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