Within every fairy tale is a morality tale. The purpose is to teach our children (and our adults) how to behave.
The new film, Pinocchio is a live-actionreboot of the 1940 film of the same name. Based on the story by Carlo Collodi, Geppetto (Tom Hanks) has one wish: for a child of his own. He gets his wish when the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) brings Geppetto’s newest creation, a puppet to life. Named Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), he wants nothing more than to be a real boy and make his father proud.
But like any child, temptation pulls him in other directions. Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to guide his charge to do the right thing, but he can only do so much. Will this puppet become a real child or is his fate to be just pieces of wood that only slightly resembles a human?
There is a nice balance of updating the narrative for our time while remaining true to the original cartoon. As usual, Hanks is the MVP, playing a complete 180 from his last film.
I noticed a couple of things that I obviously would not have seen as a child. The first is praying to a higher power or the universe (whichever one believes in), may actually bring in the desired results. The second is that you have to work for what you want. Pinocchio was not automatically turned into a human being, he had to earn it.
I haven’t seen the 1940 film in decades, but the message came through loud and clear. Though the story could be seen as slightly moralistic, the idea of listening to your gut applies to anyone of any age.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Pinocchio is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.
On the other side is Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a lawyer for the government whose job is to ensure that a guilty verdict is obtained. On the judge’s bench is Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella). Judge Hoffman is more than eager to see the men thrown in jail.
Though the movie takes place in the late 1960’s, the comparisons to 2020 are too obvious to ignore. The cultural and political divisions back then were as rigid as they are today. If nothing else, it is reminder that there are some things in this world that are constant. The details may change, but the basic frame is unchanged.
Narratively speaking, the tension goes a bit slack in the middle of the film. But other than that, the movie is well done and worth watching.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is available for streaming on Netflix.
The best teen movies are the ones that transcend their genre and generations. Regardless of our age and how old we were when these movies were released, we can still relate to them.
Two of my favorites are based in classic literature, Taming Of The Shrew by William Shakespeare and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. They were also rebooted into Broadway musicals, Taming Of The Shrew remade into Kiss Me, Kate and Pygmalion remade into My Fair Lady.
10 Things I Hate About You is the story of the Stratford Sisters. Biana (Larissa Oleynik) is extremely eager to be popular and date Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan). But her hilarious and cringe inducing overprotective father (Larry Miller) will not allow Bianca to date until her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is dating. Kat has no interest in dating anyone. Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is new to the school and falls in love with Bianca instantly. He uses Joey, who pays Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), to date Kat, so he can go on a date with Bianca. The end result is very interesting and very entertaining.
I love this movie. The screenwriters kept the Beatrice and Benedict relationship between Kat and Patrick (as well as some of the Shakespearean language from the play) while dulling the sexist and misogynistic language of the original text. The late Health Ledger (pre Batman and pre Oscar for Brokeback Mountain) has a massive potential as an actor, that potential shines through in his later roles. Julia Stiles is another up and comer who proves that she has the talent to go very far.
She’s All That starts at the tail of senior year. Popular Zach (Freddie Prinze Jr) has just been dumped by his girlfriend (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe). Zach’s friend Dean (the late Paul Walker), makes a bet that Zach can turn any of his female classmates into prom queen. Zach’s choice is Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook), the artsy outsider.
I love this movie. It’s one of those movies that I can find on cable and brought back to that time in my life. The coup that makes this movie stand out from other teen movies of this era is that Zach and Laney are each dealing with their own internal pressures. As their relationship grows, they find a way to deal with those pressures. This is another movie full of then up and coming performers (Usher, Gabrielle Union (who also had a part in 10 Things I Hate About You), Anna Paquin, Dule Hill) who have had steady careers since then.
Both of these movies have quotable lines and soundtracks that fit in so perfectly with era that they premiered.
Tonight, I saw the writing and directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film, Don Jon.
Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a twenty something Italian male from New Jersey who is fixated on the external images of himself and his world. While he has no problem finding female companions, he prefers pornography over the real thing.
He meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) at a club and they start a relationship. But Jon is still addicted to porn, despite his promise to Barbara to stop. She also encourages him to attend night school where he meets Esther (Julianne Moore).
Included in the cast of characters are Jon’s friends, Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke) and his family. His parents, Jon Sr, (Tony Danza) and Angela (Glenne Headley) and his sister Monica (Brie Larson).
There is a first for everything. While the lead character is certainly compelling, it is a very stereotypical view of Italians and more specifically, those of Italian descent who live in New Jersey. To paraphrase another reviewer, the character is almost out of Jersey Shore.
It an admirable first film for Gordon-Levitt, as a writer and director. But it not the best film I have seen this year and I hope he will take both the good and the bad from this film and apply those experiences to future films.