REVIEW: LADY AND THE TRAMP (2019)

Justin Theroux and Tessa Thompson in Lady and the Tramp (2019)

Starring

Thomas Mann (Project X)
Kiersey Clemons (Flatliners)
Yvette Nicole Brown (Mom)
Adrian Martinez (Army of One)
F. Murray Abraham (Last Action Hero)
Arturo Castro (Narcos)
Ken Jeong (The Hangover)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)
Justin Theroux (Bumblbee)
Sam Elliott (The Ranch)
Ashley Jensen (Ugly Betty)
Janelle Monáe (Rio 2)
Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)

Justin Theroux and Tessa Thompson in Lady and the Tramp (2019)Disney’s glossy live-action update of Lady and the Tramp, like the majority of the studio’s other IRL remakes, exists purely because it has to rather than because it should do, a product born not from a creative brainwave but from a commercial inevitability. The hugely profitable, and mostly tiresome, trend of dusting off handcrafted classics and rehauling them for a new audience has sped up this year with Aladdin, The Lion King, Dumbo and a Maleficent sequel all released theatrically, the underwhelming box office of the latter two hinting at growing audience fatigue. The decision to premiere Lady and the Tramp digitally, morphing it into a TV movie, launching Disney’s splashy new content platform Disney+, is therefore a wise one and taken as such, it’s adequate if wholly unnecessary entertainment, ending up somewhere between a lady and a tramp.Justin Theroux and Tessa Thompson in Lady and the Tramp (2019)The story, still simple and still effective, tells of romance across class borders between two dogs: Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson), who lives a comfortable life as the surrogate child of a human couple (Kiersey Clemons and Thomas Mann), and Tramp (voiced by Justin Theroux), a street-dwelling loner whose day-to-day depends on whatever scraps of food he can find. Lady’s domestic bliss is sent into a tailspin when an actual human baby arrives and through a frantic set of circumstances, she finds herself on the street, roughing it with her unlikely new friend.Justin Theroux and Tessa Thompson in Lady and the Tramp (2019)There’s some low-stakes enjoyment to be had here, benefited largely from the film’s Disney+ drop. It’s certainly slick and boasts higher production values than the average streaming premiere but it’s a comparatively modest Disney remake that would have felt dwarfed, in a number of ways, on the big screen. The 1955 original was a breezy 76 minutes and in updating, The Lego Ninjago Movie director Charlie Bean has added almost half an hour, a considerable amount of padding and one that didn’t do Kenneth Branagh’s 38-minute-longer take on Cinderella any favours. It’s a smoother expansion here, the film’s laid-back pace pairing nicely with the Savannah setting and a jazzy soundtrack, even if the extended plot doesn’t add a whole lot more of notable worth (although thankfully the uneasy orientalism of the Siamese Cat Song has been replaced with something far less problematic).Lady and the Tramp (2019)The central dogs are impressively trained and cute to watch but there’s a lingering problem that also affected this summer’s big-budget remake of The Lion King. In trying to make talking animals look as real as they can, there’s an emotional depth missing from their expressions when they’re speaking. Thompson and Theroux, along with fellow voice actors Janelle Monáe, Sam Elliott and Ashley Jensen try hard, but there’s something not quite, ahem, animated enough about their on-screen incarnations.Lady and the Tramp (2019)There’s also a frustrating waste of Clemons, who was so incredibly charming in last year’s little-seen music indie Hearts Beat Loud, stuck here with little to do, or sing, as the human lady of the house. But perhaps the strangest thing about the film is that it was co-written by the “godfather of mumblecore”, Andrew Bujalski, an indie auteur whose acclaimed lo-fi films often feel improvised in nature, given his rejection of so many traditional scripting standards. His influence is sadly invisible here and any hope that the film might have followed in the footsteps of 2016’s exceptional Pete’s Dragon, a remake from similarly mismatched arthouse staple David Lowery, is left out on the street. The script, like so much of the film, is serviceable at best, never once explaining to us why Bujalski would want to get involved other than for financial reasons, which one wouldn’t begrudge him given the scale of his output to date.Lady and the Tramp works well enough on its own simple terms as watchable, competently made home viewing.

REVIEW: FLATLINERS (2017)

Starring

Ellen Page (The Umbrella Academy)
Diego Luna (Rogue One)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)
James Norton (Rush)
Kiersey Clemons (Bad Neighbours 2)
Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys)
Beau Mirchoff (I Am Number Four)
Steve Byers (Immortals)

Ellen Page, Martha Girvin, Beau Mirchoff, Nina Dobrev, Emily Piggford, and Jelena Savic in Flatliners (2017)A medical student, Courtney (Ellen Page), is obsessed with the idea of the afterlife, wanting to find out what happens after death. She invites fellow students Jamie (James Norton) and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) to join her in an experiment, in an unused hospital room: using defibrillation to stop her heart for sixty seconds while recording her brain, and then reviving her. She assures them they would not be held responsible for any accidents. Sophia is against this, but Jamie does it anyway. After sixty seconds, they panic as they are unable to revive her, but eventually manage to with the help of fellow student Ray (Diego Luna). Later, Marlo (Nina Dobrev), a rival of Ray, arrives and learns of the experiment.Ellen Page in Flatliners (2017)Initially Courtney begins to recall memories of past events such as her grandmother’s recipe for bread. Courtney experiences increased intelligence and euphoria, being suddenly able to play the piano after 12 years and answer questions in class perfectly. Envious, Jamie flatlines, but has a disturbing near death experience as he meets his ex-girlfriend. Marlo and Sophia follow suit and flatline, for an increasing number of minutes. During Sophia’s turn they are nearly caught and flee the hospital and arrive at a party. Courtney and Jamie start seeing visions of past mistakes, but do not tell the others.Ellen Page and James Norton in Flatliners (2017)It soon turns into a living horror as those who flatlined find themselves haunted by their visions: Courtney is haunted by her dead sister Tessa from a car crash she caused because she was using her phone. Jamie is haunted by the baby of his ex-girlfriend whom he got pregnant and begged to get an abortion. Marlo is haunted by a man named Cyrus (who was stung by jellyfish) whom she killed when she accidentally mixed up his medication, and Sophia is haunted by a girl named Irina whose life she ruined out of jealousy by hacking her phone and sending out her nudes. This allowed Sophia to become valedictorian. They realize there is a downside to flatlining.Kiefer Sutherland, Ellen Page, and Nina Dobrev in Flatliners (2017)The hauntings get more and more intense. Courtney, traumatised by her visions, records a message apologising for the consequences and admitting that her interest in flatlining was due to the death of her sister, not for scientific discovery. Shortly after, she is chased by visions of her dead sister and falls to her death from the fire escape of her apartment building after her sister’s ghost appears in front of her and pushes her off. The others are devastated when they learn of Courtney’s death and then panic when they realize they may be implicated if anyone discovers their experiments. After attempting to remove all notes and evidence from Courtney’s apartment, Marlo is sent to the morgue to find Courtney’s phone. She is once again haunted by visions. Meanwhile, on his boat, Jamie again hears the cries of a baby and a woman weeping. He falls out of his boat and swims to the dock where a figure stabs him in his hand.Diego Luna, Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev, and James Norton in Flatliners (2017)The group watches Courtney’s recording and find out that she had encountered similar hauntings. They come clean to the mistakes that they made and soon come to the conclusion that the hauntings they’re experiencing are their hallucinations because of guilt from their past sins, not paranormal beings. Ray, the only one who didn’t flatline, initially disbelieves what’s happening. The group takes action to stop the hallucinations by fixing their past mistakes. Sophia visits Irina to apologize, which Irina accepts. Jamie visits his ex-girlfriend and discovers she didn’t get an abortion, but kept the baby; he apologizes and promises to provide for his son. Later, Ray and Marlo get into a fight when Ray finds out Marlo covered up the real reason Cyrus died and she refuses to come clean. Marlo hallucinates being suffocated while driving and crashes her car. Tired of being haunted by her hallucinations, Marlo flatlines on her own in the hope of asking forgiveness of the patient that died due to her mistake.Kiersey Clemons in Flatliners (2017)Ray, Sophia, and Jamie rush to stop her and are successful in resuscitating Marlo after she sees an apparition of Courtney who tells Marlo that she needs to forgive herself. In the end, Marlo, Ray, Sophia, and Jamie reminisce about Courtney and celebrate their friendships in the little restaurant they hang out at, where there is a performance of the piano piece that Courtney played. The movie ends with Jamie proposing a toast, honoring Courtney.Nina Dobrev in Flatliners (2017)Flatliners is never boring, capturing the fun lives of the up and coming professionals of tomorrow, and the horror of when things go terribly wrong. The latter however is not given the depth it deserves, and coupled with its weak conclusion, the richness of the films potential goes largely untouched.

REVIEW: NEW GIRL – SEASON 4

 

Starring

Zooey Deschanel (Bridge to Terabithia)
Jake Johnson (Jurrasic World)
Max Greenfield (Veronica Mars)
Lamorne Morris (Game Night)
Hannah Simone (Oldboy)
Damon Wayans Jr. (Let’s Be Cops)

Jessica Biel and Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jessica Biel (Next)
Reid Scott (The Big C)
Hina Abdullah (Margaret)
Ciara Hanna (Power Rangers Megaforce)
Chasty Ballesteros (The Internship)
Kaitlin Olson (Finding Dory)
Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust)
Rob Reiner (ED:TV)
Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Julian Morris (Pretty Little Liars)
Erinn Hayes (The Watch)
Curtis Armstrong (American Dad)
Angela Kinsey (The Office)
Brian Posehn (The Big Bang Theory)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield)
Alexandra Daddario (Texas Chainsaw)
Amber Stevens West (22 Jump Street)
Lisa Bonet (Angel Heart)
Greta Lee (Money Monster)
Rebecca Reid (I Live With Models)
Billy Eichner (The Angry Birds Movie)
Barry Bostwick (Spy Hard)
Nasim Pedrad (Scream Queens)
Zoe Lister-Jones (Band Aid)
Sarah Burns (Life As We Know It)
Ben Falcone (Tammy)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween)
Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers)
Meaghan Rath (Being Human)
Josh Gad (Frozen)
Nora Dunn (Bones)
Kiersey Clemons (Dope)
Artemis Pebdani (Son of Zorn)
Jack McBrayer (30 Rock)

Max Greenfield, Damon Wayans Jr., Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris, and Jake Johnson in New Girl (2011)Romantic relationships remain the primary concerns of Jess, her four dude roommates, and her best friend Cece (Hannah Simone). In season three, Jess and her cute slacker roomie Nick (Jake Johnson) made good on the will-they-or-won’t-they? dynamic teased in the previous seasons and are already peaceably broken up at this point. (The episode “Goldmine” nicely addresses the difficulty of getting people not to bail on dates with each of them after learning that they live in the same apartment as their ex.) At work, Jess has made it up the ranks from schoolteacher to vice principal, which is all well and good until she gets a crush on a new British teacher (Pretty Little Liars’ Julian Morris) with the saucy name Ryan Geauxinue (pronounced “Goes-In-You”); unfortunately for Jess, administrator-teacher couplings are a no-no, so she tries to ignore the hunk. (That doesn’t happen.) Nick finds Kai (Greta Lee), a lady who likes to lay about the apartment as much as himself; rookie cop Winston (Lamorne Morris) “investigates” her behavior for his roommate and decides she must be homeless. (She’s not.)Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (2011)The show’s other key couple, former-model-turned-inept-bartender Cece (Hannah Simone) and metrosexual would-be player Schmidt (Max Greenfield), continue their pas de deux; Schmidt starts off the season overwhelmingly obsessed with Cece while she just wants to move on. As the season continues, Schmidt cools it a bit and finds a way to be Cece’s friend… which, of course, just makes her remember why she liked him in the first place. Unfortunately, by this point, Schmidt has started up with manipulative, career-driven city councilwoman Fawn Moscato (Zoe Lister-Jones). Fawn’s power excites Schmidty, but is this duo built to last?Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (2011)Wayans was a “recurring” cast member in season 3, but he’s a full-fledged co-star in season four. His presence in the show — besides demonstrating that non-“niche” sitcom ensembles can have more than one black dude in them — is wonderfully layered with jock-y braggadocio, hidden tenderness, and amiable goofiness. Coach also reacts to relationship strife in the most entertaining ways possible, whether it’s emotionally breaking down as he tries to describe fertilization in a health class he’s teaching or attracting a bar full of ladies to grind up against him to the strains of Alannah Myles’s “Black Velvet.”Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (2011)That just leaves Winston, who occasionally takes a break from studying for his police exam and from being in love with his cat to try to woo a human lady. I have to admit that Winston’s decision to become a cop just keeps reminding me of the later seasons of That ’70s Show, where Kelso’s decision to join the police academy also felt fairly arbitrary and strange. This is addressed in a subplot in the episode “Par 5,” which was actually co-written by Lamorne Morris, in which the character feels forced to hide his profession when he starts dating a woman who actively protests the LAPD. This episode tries to add a little nuance and depth to Winston’s choice to be a policeman.Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (2011)For a show with so many semi-arrested characters, gaining maturity and finding worthwhile career paths are unsurprisingly also an ongoing component of the show. Jess and Winston, of course, seem like they’re right where they want to be career-wise with the vice principal and police gigs respectively. Nick continues to flounder professionally, but eventually teams up with Schmidt to start their own entrepreneurial concern, and while their first concept — a suit made out of sweatsuit material — is a dud, the show seems optimistic about them finding fulfillment in working together. Cece finally goes to college, with some financial help from Coach and Winston, who consider it an investment that they expect to see repaid. When they find out Cece uses the opportunity to take somewhat esoteric liberal arts courses, the fellas are duly perturbed.Zooey Deschanel and Julian Morris in New Girl (2011)Once again, the show opens its doors to a number of excellent guest stars, including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson as Jess’s former classmate and potential stepmom (Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis return as Jess’s divorced parents), Jessica Biel as a romantic rival for Jess, Billy Eichner as a stressed-out, catty airport employee on Christmas, Childrens Hospital’s Erinn Hayes as a promiscuous school nurse, Lisa Bonet as the touchy-feely leader of a teachers conference, Nora Dunn as Schmidt’s overbearing mother, and on and on. Justin Long. Josh Gad. Michaela Watkins. Barry Bostwick. Sarah Burns. Kurt Braunohler. Regis Philbin. Funny people! The ensemble cast truly shines in this newest season of New Girl. Some episodes come in a little below expectations, but overall the season offers some interesting developments for the characters and oodles of great jokes. If you like the show, keep liking the show.