July Review: Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.)

much-ado-about-nothing-movie-poster-1993“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever.
One foot on sea, and one on shore,
to one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so
But let them go
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all
Your sounds of woe
Into hey, nonny, nonny.”

Ah, William Shakespeare. The Bard. The muse of many. Stratford-Upon-Avon’s golden boy. The man who put humanity to prose and through his many poems, songs and plays revealed the nature of –

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I had a feeling this would happen.

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Now that I have your attention, let me say that I get what many of you are feeling right now. Chances are you were forced to read Shakespeare in your high school English class and you most likely found it the most dull indecipherable piece of literature to be praised as art since…well, take your pick of the other classics you probably had to read. Sadly, that’s the trap most English teachers fall into. Shakespeare wrote poetry, which is prime for studying and easy enough for most folks to understand, but he’s primarily famous for his plays, and plays aren’t supposed to be read like any other book – they’re supposed to be seen. Even I in my obsessive bookworminess had difficulty understanding what was really happening while reading Hamlet and Macbeth unless I read the side notes or my teacher put on film versions of the plays that we were reviewing.

I had a general grasp of how important the works of Shakespeare were and even had some interest in learning more about them unlike my bored classmates, but I was never quite able to appreciate the works of Will ’til long after I left the classroom setting. Much of that is primarily thanks to the videos of Kyle Kallgren and Overly Sarcastic Productions. Both reviewers have very distinctive styles – one an in-depth analysis that balances familiarity with the subject with pop culture playfulness, the other a speedy anime-drawn recap marked by a few snarky asides and often a gentle acoustic cover of a song related to the subject played over the end credits – but they both made me realize the reason why Shakespeare has persisted for over 400 years and is taught ad nauseum: his stories are universal. Be it love, war, vengeance, betrayal, magic, history, religion, family, legacy, the transition from youth to adulthood, gender and societal roles, or the very nature of being, the Bard has covered most every genre and theme known to man, and created some of the most popular stories and characters that have been revisited countless times by an infinite parade of directors, actors, cultures, and storytellers. One particular auteur was singled out by Kyle for revitalizing Shakespeare for the silver screen in the much latter half of the 20th century.

Disney's "Cinderella" World Premiere - Arrivals

Kenneth Branaugh, the finest slice of Northern Irish ham you’ll ever see on stage or screen, and one of the most highly regarded Shakespearean thespians of our time, having both directed and starred in lavish film versions of Henry the Fifth, Hamlet, Love’s Labors Lost, As You Like It, a filmed stage adaptation of The Winter’s Tale and the movie I’ll be reviewing today, Much Ado About Nothing – or as I like to call it, the blueprint for every future rom-com ever made. There’s fanciful innuendos, a main couple and a smaller less important couple that we both want to see hook up, a black best friend providing both sage advice and comic relief, misunderstandings that could easily be cleared up in a matter of seconds if they stopped to think about it, and much of it hinges around a “will they-won’t they” plot that you could probably guess ends with “they will”. Branaugh can be beautifully subtle in both acting and style, but boy can he bring on the bombast whether we want it or not. In this case his over-the-top hamminess and obvious love for the material makes this outing a fun ride.

If you’re concerned that this review is going to be too highbrow compared to my usual work, there’s no need to worry. In some ways I’m on the same level as you guys. I confess that I’ve never seen any of Shakespeare’s plays performed live, I’m not very familiar with some of the language and phrasing outside of what little I remember from high school and some Youtube videos explaining select passages, and sadly my Cine-Kyle is still in the mail, but that’s never stopped me from enjoying many of the Bard’s works as seen on film (nor has it stopped me from trying to sound smarter than I really am). Once you understand the actions behind the flowery language, though, it’s pretty simple to take it from there. Never fear, I will be acting as your translator in my own unique way throughout this review.

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Gravity Falls Review: “The Golf War” (S02E03)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Previously on Gravity Falls:
It’s been a tense few days for the Pines family. First the grand re-opening of the Mystery Shack is crashed by a horde of zombies, then Dipper almost unleashes a murderous shape-shifting creature on the world and is forced to come to terms with his one-sided crush on Wendy. Now’s as good a time as any to unwind with a wholesome family activity, don’t you think?

Mabel runs into the living room with exciting news: her fashion tips for squirrels are going to be featured in the newspaper! She unfurls it only to find Pacifica Northwest, her rival ever since she first came to Gravity Falls, has taken up the front page. Mabel deals with her rich competitor getting the best of her again in her own way.

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Mabel, we really need to talk about your OJ problem.

Dipper draws Mabel’s attention to a mini-golf course being advertised on tv. Apparently Mabel is a mini-golf savant, kicking butt since she could first pick up a putter. The Pines proceed to cheer Mabel up by taking her golfing. She does phenomenally, even attracting a decent sized crowd. But on the last hole, the one involving a windmill, the ball comes out in a random direction and ruins Mabel’s perfect hole-in-one.

To make things worse, who should come along but Pacifica and her family to taunt her. (“Soos, would it be wrong to punch a child?” asks Grunkle Stan. For once I’m with him.) Pacifica is also skilled at mini-golf, having been trained by a gold medal mini-golf champion named Sergei. She makes a hole-in-one on both the last course and the bonus round, and has the crowd passive-aggressively applaud Mabel for reaching second place.

A humiliated Mabel demands a rematch and screams that she’s a one-dimensional bleached blonde valley girl stereotype.

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Pacifica is ready to kick Mabel’s butt then and there, but a storm closes out the golf course. She tells Mabel to meet at midnight to end this grudge match once and for all.

The Pines stop for a quick bite where Mabel confesses she’s not feeling very confident about beating Pacifica. Mini-golf is something she’s excelled at for so long, the thought of Pacifica topping her makes her question her talents. Dipper reassures her that if she does beat Pacifica at her own game, then Pacifica could never make fun of her for anything again, leading to this bit of awesomeness.

With her confidence restored and Grunkle Stan leaping at the chance to break his family into somewhere after hours (nothing like a nice illegal family outing), they speed to the golf course as darkness approaches. And, in one of my favorite heartwarming moments from Stan, he gives Mabel a trophy sticker from her book and tells her to knock ’em dead.

Having arrived early Mabel practices on the windmill hole. Each ball she knocks through falls short of the hole, however. Dipper doesn’t understand how it’s possible, but then he hears something moving inside. He and Mabel investigate and uncover –

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Gravity Falls Review: “Into the Bunker” (S02E02)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Previously on Gravity Falls:
Immediately following the return of the Mystery Shack, Stan Pines (or Grunkle Stan to his grand-niece and nephew) used the enigmatic Journals to activate a portal, which attracted the attention of some government agents. Dipper tried to recruit the agents in his search for the unknown, but they didn’t believe him until he accidentally summoned some flesh-hungry zombies that ruined the Mystery Shack’s grand re-opening party. After fending them off, Grunkle Stan revealed to Dipper and Mabel that he knew about the supernatural happenings in town and he was trying to protect the kids from them by pretending they didn’t exist. Stan returned Dipper’s Journal on the grounds that they don’t use it to look for trouble. But on learning that there are hidden entries and details written in invisible ink, the sense of adventure is too strong for the Mystery Twins to resist…

Dipper is at Wendy’s house watching a old cheesy horror movie they both have fun giving the MST3K treatment. When Wendy is bombarded by texts from Robbie begging her to give him another chance, Dipper asks if she’s seeing anyone. To his relief, the answer’s no. He attempts to ask her on a date, but at the last second he chickens out and instead asks her to join him and Mabel on their next mystery adventure.

The following morning as Grunkle Stan goes over the damage wreaked on the Mystery Shack from the other night’s zombie attack, Soos, Wendy, Dipper and Mabel locate the tree where Dipper first found Journal #3. Mabel spots a branch that looks suspiciously like a lever and Wendy uses her boss lumberjacking skills that she learned from her dad (who’s Manly Dan, by the way) to reach it. The tree lowers to reveal a spiral staircase leading underground. Dipper makes everyone promise not to tell a soul about what they find. Wendy shows it by zipping her lips, just as she did in The Inconveniencing to show Dipper he can trust her (remember that now). Before they head down, Mabel pulls Dipper aside and points out how especially happy he is to have Wendy there. Dipper insists he’s over his crush on Wendy, but Mabel’s got her skeptic-les on.

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And the best part is you don’t need a prescription for these.

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Gravity Falls Review: “Scary-oke” (S02E01)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Welcome to Season 2 of Gravity Falls! What began as one man’s ode to the perfect summer his childhood self envisioned for himself and his sister has evolved into something greater. And what better day to return to it than on Alex Hirsch’s birthday? Let’s find out if Season 2 lives up to the hype.

Previously on Gravity Falls:
After finally reclaiming the Mystery Shack from their arch-nemesis Lil’ Gideon, twelve year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines and their seemingly clueless Grunkle Stan have moved back in and are about to reopen Gravity Falls’ favorite tourist trap. Grunkle Stan has taken Dipper’s mysterious Journal for his own unclear purposes. Combining them with the two other Journals, one of which he had been hiding all along, he has used their knowledge to begin operating a mysterious portal deep within the bowels of the Mystery Shack.

That very night, as the inhabitants of Gravity Falls sleep, Stan activates the portal. As the power slowly begins to build, Stan reminds himself he has to keep playing it cool so nobody will suspect a thing. Sure that there’s no one who can put a dent in his plans, especially now that he’s come so close to his goals, he puts the machine into overdrive.

But Stan isn’t the only one awake.

Miles away a government facility picks up activity the likes of which they haven’t seen in thirty years. And it’s coming from the one place that’s been on their radar since then – Gravity Falls, Oregon.

…Intro time!

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June Review: Clash of the Titans (1981)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.)

Clash-of-the-Titans-1981-movie-poster

“As long as man shall walk earth and search the night sky in wonder, they will remember the courage of Perseus forever. Even if we the gods are abandoned and forgotten, the stars shall never fade.”
– Zeus

I can’t recall if I ever mentioned it before, but I’m big on fairy tales, folktales and myths. I’ve always been fascinated by how different cultures interpret familiar stories, or use them to relay well-worn morals or their take on how the world was formed. When I was a kid a friend of my parents gave me a copy of D’Auliere’s Greek Myths (which is a must-own for anyone who enjoys these classic stories) and I ate it up like the diminutive bookworm I was, but it wasn’t my first exposure to the pantheon of Greek legends. No, that was a film I saw when I was just seven years old, one that has left an indelible imprint on the collective subconscious of anyone exposed to it at a young age and has since become a cult classic for its take on one of the most famous Greek myths of all time.

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Now I wouldn’t call Hercules one of my top ten favorite Disney films, but its zany animation, fun characters and catchy music make for a fun viewing experience. Of course, being Disney, they left out all the family-unfriendly aspects of the original tale and reshaped it into what’s essentially a modern-Grecian take on the Superman/Moses story, but I’m not one to complain about that. You try making an animated film where the main character kills his wife and family in a bout of insanity brought on by his jealous stepmother and literally works himself to death trying to make up for it. Truth be told, about 90% of Greek myths involving heroes follow a similar plot – Zeus gets it on with a mortal, has a child out of wedlock, said mortal gets punished by Zeus’ wife Hera (because victim blaming really is a centuries-old practice), and the new demigod is gifted with special powers or weapons to fight tons of foes but still winds up with a fairly ironic and tragic demise. The one exception to this is the story of Perseus, which is the basis of the film we’ll be looking at today.

Now mythology is no stranger to the man behind Clash of the Titans, legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. His other notable Greek outing, Jason and the Argonauts, is considered one of the most thrilling sword and sandal epics to have held up for the past fifty years, and is worth seeing for the skeleton battle alone (it also happens to be the favorite film of Sheriff Woody himself, Tom Hanks). In addition he created and animated puppets for the original Mighty Joe Young, the Sinbad movies, One Million Years BC, and more. Though he never directed any of them, these movies are forever associated with the name Harryhausen. CGI would eventually come along to push new boundaries in the field of effects animation, but his work has left an indelible imprint on many a future filmmaker, with big names like Pixar and Tim Burton namedropping him in some their own films. For a time Steven Spielburg even considered bringing many of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to life using stop-motion, clearly inspired by the dinosaurs that were featured in Harryhausen’s works.

Clash of the Titans was the last film Harryhausen made before he went into retirement, and it holds all his trademarks, both good and bad. So, did his career end on a high note, or does the movie fall to pieces like a poorly made Play-Doh sculpture? Let’s find out.

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Gravity Falls Shorts: Dipper’s Guide to the Unexplained

My last post on the Gravity Falls shorts produced during the series’ long hiatus focused about three disparate mini-series with only two shorts each. This one (and the next) had considerably more longevity with six shorts to their name. As much as I would have liked to have seen more of the previous ones, I understand that there’s only so many gags and short story ideas you can milk from a handful of secondary characters.

These shorts are framed as vlogs shot by Dipper chronicling some of the smaller unexplained mysteries of Gravity Falls. Also each one seems to end with a piece of a mysterious photo from the Journal…

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Your Movie Review for June Is…

Happy first day of June everyone! Apart from my crappy job, May was a lot of fun. I celebrated my birthday by being treated to the best homemade dulce de leche cake ever baked, started planning my next Disney World trip, and received some lovely feedback from longtime readers and followers. Thanks, guys!

Also, something interesting happened concerning the votes for this month’s review. Ties aren’t a common occurrence here but they have happened before, and now is another one of those times. Normally if there is one, I pick the winner from a hat. This time, however, the two movies in question are ones that would normally never get the spotlight when pit against most of the other films on the Shelf. Looking over both features I realized there’s so much I’d love to discuss, critique, and even joke around with that I couldn’t possibly decide between them. So, I’m making a bit of an unorthodox decision by reviewing one movie this month and the other in July. So this time around, we’re going to be voting for what’ll be reviewed in August. Everything still applies, one vote per person, perks with a charity donation, the whole shebang.

And now, your Movie Review for June is…
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Gravity Falls Shorts: Mabel’s Scrapbook, Fixin’ It With Soos, & Gravity Falls TV

I ended my last Gravity Falls review by pointing out a whole year passed between Season One’s finale and Season Two’s premiere. That gave plans plenty of time to form their own theories on the Falls’ biggest mysteries and lament the prolonged lack of new episodes. They weren’t completely starved for new content, however. During that long hiatus, Alex Hirsch and the Gravity Falls team produced a series of interstitial shorts for the Disney Channel and online. These vlog-style shorts provide equal doses of humor, mystery and charm in only a few short minutes. Also, keeping with Hirsch’s stellar continuity record, select things from the shorts either make appearances or play an integral role in future episodes. This is the reason why I’ll be looking at them in the weeks leading up to the return of full episode reviews. It won’t be your average in-depth review with call back and hilarity categories, just a minor retrospective with my thoughts. Let’s begin, shall we?

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